Obliquely yours

After the last post, Zoë begged pardon and informed me that …cats are never assholes; it must be something indulged in by lower life forms, like humans. And dogs.

I told her the post was about tolerance, and the importance of humor and having a sense of perspective. She rolled her eyes at me and said, why didn’t I say so. Well, I mumbled, because I’m a writer and writers never write directly when they can write obliquely.

She then let me know that cats never do anything obliquely. Seeing the incredulous expression on my face, she haughtily sharpened her claws on my office chair, yawned, and looked at me. Oh. She then told me to go away and do it right this time.

Or else.


Zoë says Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Or else.

Photography Places


I renewed my Botanical Garden subscription as a Christmas Present to myself. I wasn’t going to renew it; I had planned on trying new walks next year. But the Botanical is a place of sanctuary for me — especially in the winter when I can have the place to myself.

Yesterday, though, there were dozens of parents and grandparents out with children to see the train show. I grabbed a few photos, though not many. The room was crowded, the lighting not great, and I didn’t want to block people from the displays.

I did want, so much, to get a picture of a grandfather showing his grandson the model trains. He would point at one coming around a corner or a building, and the child would stand their bug eyed with wonder; the image of the two of them, heads close together, was a visual joy. I only caught them indirectly, though, when taking pictures of the entire display. Like the natives who believe you steal a person’s soul when you take their photo, you do take something when you intrude on an intimate scene, camera ready to selfishly rip it away.

Instead, I’ll get my photos of small trains and fluffy cotton hills and tell you about the grandfather and the grandson. And the asshole.

Christmas model trains

The room was crowded, and the adults who came to see the show stood back from the table so that those with kids could get a better view. There was one woman, though, part of a an older couple, who seemed less interested in seeing the show and more interested in ensuring others did not.

She planted herself along the edge of the table and moved down the side, brushing children out of the way, complaining about how warm the room was, how tacky the display was and responding indifferently when her husband pointed out some novelty or other. She stepped into the way when people were taking pictures, and had a face like Jim Carrey’s Mr. Grinch–but less green. Which was too bad, in a way, as at least a green face would have added some touch of holiday spirit.

the train 2

She wasn’t the only person not interested in the display and along for the ride. But where others were patient indulgence, she moved and acted as if the room, and the people in it, were responsible for her present state of misery.

I remember being concerned that she would ruin the show for others, because people like her can. But I could see, across the display from her that when she passed, people would fill in the space left in her wake, children close to table, parents bent down (just to help the children, you understand), smiling adults in the back (discovering that there’s also a train running along the back, among the Christmas flowers — just for them).

trains are for boys, eh?

After the show, I walked around the grounds. It was a nice day yesterday — warm enough for Spring, though with dead things. There wasn’t much to photograph other than the greenhouse flowers and an oddity now and again.

A young couple was at the main pond and the man was breaking up chunks of ice with his foot and they were tossing them out onto the ice. I stopped to watch because they were having such fun. However, my presence made them hesitate and I could see they were wondering if I was going to get upset at them for tossing the ice about. I imagine if I had been an asshole, like the woman at the train show, I would have puckered up and looked on them with disapproval and ruined what was nothing more than an a moment to have a bit of winter fun.

Instead I called out to them to never mind me, and to continue; after all, it was only ice and they weren’t hurting anything. I eventually walked over to chat with them and watched as they had fun with the ice. They even offered me a chunk if I wanted to try it, which was nice of them.

ice on ice

Yesterday was a good day to walk about the Gardens–few distractions. I spent the time thinking about the lessons I’ve learned from this year that I want to take into 2006. During my musings, I found I could reduce them all to a simple two-part philosophy.

The first part is: The world is full of assholes.


This is a very important philosophy to have. The world is full of assholes. Contrary to how we may feel at times, we’re not asshole magnets and they’re not gathered solely around us–assholes are everywhere. As such, we’re never going to be free from them. We therefore have only one recourse and that’s accept that assholes are an inevitable fact of life.

You better not shout, you better not cry, you better not pout–I’m telling you why…because the world is full of assholes.

The lover that has left us is an asshole. The boss who has fired us is an asshole. The middle aged white guy who holds a technical conference and doesn’t invite women? Asshole, big time.


The politician who doesn’t vote the way we want is an asshole; the crooked judge, the bad cop, the robber, the killer, the racist, bigot, sexist, and molester–all assholes. But so is the clerk at the store who crushes our eggs, or the dog owner who doesn’t use a pooper scooper; not to mention the person who innocently takes the parking space we wanted.

That woman at the train show: asshole. Me at the pond–not an asshole. Yesterday.

Keep the world is full of assholes firmly in your mind. If every job we lose we tear ourselves up with insecurity over the rejection, we’ll die young. If, in the loneliness of our beds, late at night, we lay sleeplessly, listening to echos of “if only, if only”, we’ll go mad. We are not walking around with a cosmic “kick me” sign pasted to our butts. Or if we are, we’re all wearing the same sign.


What do you do with an asshole? You catch them, you cure them, you cage them. You make them clean up, grow up, shut up. You stay and fight, or you walk away. Most of the time, all you have to do is give them a few minutes. Whatever you do, you take away their power.

touched by light

At the train show, the people had two choices in how to react to the lady who was an asshole: they could have focused on her behavior, or they could focus on the show. If they had focused on her behavior, the show would have been ruined. As it was, she was nothing more than a minor nuisance, perhaps even someone to pity.

But enough about her: look at that train coming around! Can you hear the whistle?

the train

We seldom have an opportunity to change people. We seldom have an opportunity to agree on what needs to be changed. I may think a person is being an asshole because they see everything around them as a marketing opportunity; they may think I’m an asshole, because why should I care what they think?

If a person does act like an asshole, though, we can remember the people at the train show and the older lady who probably is not a very happy person. Whatever influence she had, she lost immediately because the people around her were just too busy having fun.


The world is full of assholes. What a philosophy to experience at a Christmas train show. What a philosophy to take into a new year! Isn’t this the season of good will to all? Where is the ’seeing good’ in humanity in a statement such as this?

You probably think I’m an asshole for saying making this statement, and this leads me to the second part of my philosophy; the part which adds, I think, both perspective and hope:

The world is full of assholes, and sometimes I’m one of them.

The world is full of assholes, and sometimes I’m one of them. Does a woman’s philosophy have to get more complicated than that? I don’t think so.

Whatever your religious belief or lack of one, Merry Christmas, assholes. You make my world a better place.


Six year olds

As most people exposed to children know, six years of age is a difficult time. You never know what a six year old will do.

Congratulations, then, to Dave Rogers on his weblog’s 6th birthday. May you have as much fun with your six year old, as others do with theirs.


Web 2.0

Jeneane Sessum is writing on Web 2.0 stuff. To her I say Blog! Oh, geez that felt so good! But I digress.

Jeneane writes about Web 1.0 and 2.0 terminology and says you can’t have consensus on the web. That’s an excellent point. We had agreement about the web. We agreed on the tech, the naming schema, the hardware, the protocols, and the languages–but that’s primarily because a couple of big players Pushed Their Weight Around at Strategic Times. But web and consensus–would this be the same consensus that rules at the Wikipedia? There is none. When there is, you’ll know because the Wikipedia will look like one great big Power Point presentation. Same with the web, only much bigger.

As for Web 2.0, I don’t care much now about what people use. After recent events including the disappointment about the SxSW panel, I lost a lot of my pugnaciousness when it comes to tilting at windmills. (More on this, later, in a separate post.)

No, the only thing I have against Web 2.0 is some of your crappy Web 2.0 code is getting mixed up in my web page, and I want you to stop. This all isn’t a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: I’m not peanut butter, and your misuse, abuse, and over use of technology just cuz is not chocolate; these do not work great together. Pretend for a moment that you want people to use your code, and for goodness sake, beta is not a permanent state: release something!

Speaking of releasing, Jeneane also writes about being able to Shuffle our bits about; by this she means being able to grab her Blogger entries and move them elsewhere, or as Doc Searls mentions, being able to upload photos to many places. (Question: why?)

When Jeneane had asked my opinion of BubbleShare, I replied that a drawback I saw to the service is it doesn’t have an API. Without an API, tools can’t interface to it, photos can’t be moved from other services, and we can’t move photos from outside this service. I would never add or upload to a centralized service that doesn’t give me an out.

But to focus: this is about Web 2.0. This is about a vote on not using this term anymore–which is about the most silly ass thing I’ve heard all month, even if the purpose for the vote is introducing yet another piece of ‘code’ to clutter our pages. We need our terms, Stowe–if we don’t have our terms, how will we separate the cool kids from the hacks with money? So, if Web 2.0 is now contaminated with all the ‘built to flip’ nonsense about, what about another name?

What about Web2.0? The Web, squared. Or even Web3.14159265–the Web, raised to the power of Pi? Maybe Web0, for Web, Sub-Zero. Too much like a superhero? Wait, don’t go! I have a million names! There’s…


But at least we can validate the Web 2.0 with the Web 2.0 Validator. Be brave, add your own rules. After all, this is Web 2.0–the read/write web.

Thanks to Zo for the link.

Social Media

The pedia me

There were a lot of good comments in the sock puppet post, and I’m going to just pull out bits without giving proper credit, because I’m a bit tired today, and actually not feeling all that great.

I am in the Wikipedia now. Does this make me an insider who is an outsider? Or an outsider who somehow sneaked in? I appreciate those who spoke up for me, and those who didn’t. The experience was illuminating. I don’t plan on following changes to the page frequently–watched pot and all–but I’ll also not hesitate to edit information in error, or add links to new material. This purist, “I never touch the stuff” is for wankers.

Oh, I don’t mean to be insulting to those with such high moral standards. But I’m not sure who invented this ‘rule’ of not editing your own entry, other than it, like most of the guidelines at ‘Pedia are usually preceded with “Jimbo says”. If you see an error in any page, shouldn’t you correct it? If it’s your page, dropping a note in discussion hinting that it would be rather nice to see so and so corrected strikes me as overly coy, and I don’t have much patience for coy.

The guidelines state that the Wikipedia reflects a neutral POV (point of view), but there is no neutral point of view. History is nothing if not colorful; forming, gradually, when each person daubs about with their own favorite hue. Wikipedia will either eventually end up the world’s largest list of bullets and be very, very accurate and very, very dull; or it will continue as it is: a mix of views, fact, and fiction; some cleverly written, some not.

As for the rest–the Jimbo says, Jimbo says, Jimbo says… I’m too old to be a follower, and too young to be led. I appreciate this toy, this weed, this wonder that Jimbo has loaned us; but hey, there you go: I can’t take anything seriously that starts with Jimbo says…

(Why ‘loaned’? Jimbo Wales position in the Wikipedia Board of Directors is not open for vote by members of Wikipedia. Ultimately he and two other non-elected members of the Board control the destiny of Wikipedia. As such, we can never consider Wikipedia anything more than a loan to the public.)

What interests me the most, though, is the interpretation of the individual editors about these ‘rules’ and guidelines. For instance, in the voting (excuse me, discussion page), my bonafides were established by the fact that I am an author with an audience of over 5,000 people. What validated this, though, is that O’Reilly is a publisher of several of my books; O’Reilly is, from what I could see in the discussion, a publisher that has already gone through some validation process, and therefore their validation added weight to my own validation, by association.

However, there was disagreement about my worth because I’m a writer of technology books–comparable to a person who writes toaster manuals. But if a toaster manual writer is successful, and with a high enough audience, does this preclude them getting an entry?

Regardless, I also found out during this process that entries for death row inmates invariably get accepted. If I get too much the big head, I can remind myself of this fact.

As for the openness of the Wikipedia, well, as we found there’s open and then there’s open. Is a hierarchy forming in the management of the Wikipedia? Yes. Does this preclude the occasional moment of rebellion? No.

Humility was also mentioned in the sock puppet comments, and that did catch my attention. It’s not that some people are pushing back at Wikipedia because of what it is, but what’s being said about it. We hail each new innovation as if we’re re-inventing the printing press. As mentioned, the concepts behind Wikipedia are not new–it is the execution that is unique, and that helped along by enough money to fund storage until the beastie took off.

I think, though, it would be wonderful to see more humility around our little efforts, but this is not a humble world. No, there is no such thing as a humble Wikipedia editor; nor, to be honest, a humble weblogger.

The truly humble person is a selfish git who would not dream of sharing. Luckily, we’re all less than perfectly humble, and perfectly willing to share. (Though some of us are persist in holding on to the ragged remnants of humility and will only share grudgingly, and with many caveats.)

I digress (I do this frequently in today’s writings). I did enjoy the discussion about deleting the page. I have a lowering feeling that the page, itself, will not end up half so interesting as the discussion about deleting it was. As such, I must link to the AfD — if only to add character to a page that sounds very factual, and, as a consequence, somewhat dull.

What else can I say about the Wikipedia page? No matter the facts listed there, it will never say as much about me as this weblog. If you ask me if all I write here is the truth, I’ll say, “Yes”. If you ask me if it’s all a lie, I’ll say “Yes”. However, I promise not to play such games at the Wikipedia.

Oh, but I must add the entry about being a masseuse in Salt Lake City…