Sometimes life screams at you. Sometimes it dwells in the background; the netherworld of your soul.


                                         I do 
                                       not have 

Aristotle's Ethics

I believe in the here and the now. I know that this instant, aided by a perception of the past and future, is the only instant that will ever exist. It is eternal, and I know that I must sieze it. The fact that I don't is a savage hypocrisy. I was fortunate enough to have a show-not-tell professor in college, and if I came away with one thing it was an understanding of Aristotle's concept of eudaimonia. I'm going to quote from the very well done writeup here by saying that eudaimonia is when an organism fulfills those capacities for action by acting in accordance with its nature. My professor put it a different way. It's when your actions act directly with the true desires of your heart and the true hopes of your mind. There is no doubt, no indecision. The entire organism is running at it's highest potential.

The Mezzanine

I was at a Squarepusher show at The Mezzanine in the City, and while the overload of the sound system absolutely killed the complexity of the music, a stranger slipped a note into my friend's pocket. It wasn't a hotel-room-key kind of note, but rather a I-like-the-color-of-your-soul kind of note. She was having a party/barbecue/potluck/rave/get-together at her place the following weekend and was wondering if we would like to attend. What!? A bunch of strangers getting together to do god-knows-what with god-knows-who in an area of town I've never visited!? Sure! We'll be there with bells on.

The Party

THe BE ll   dOe s  NOT  wOr k
     cAlL  uP to be   LeT   i  n

Enter the kindly Asian gentleman from behind us who obviously knows the host. I only mention that he's Asian because he has that traditional-looking long-mustache-that-flows-into-a-beard look, which is completed by his perfectly round glasses. Luckily a fellow party-patron is coming down the stairs with a smile on her face and lets us into the party. A sumptuous feast of kebab, grilled-bananas, vegeterian delights and coolers full of assorted beers greet our entrance. The crowd is all smiles that bob and weave to the rhythm of the reggae pouring from the speaker adorned iBook. With much ado about everything we eventually are accosted by the spiky-blue-haired bandit, Robin Hood. She is all smiles and likes to steal our personalities and give them to the poor but concise world of the ists. Turns out he's a doubt-ist and I'm a dimensional-ist. I like to take that to mean I'm multi-faceted, but I know I'm a doubt-ist too.

The Dude Abides

I watch The Big Lebowski and think, damn, now that's the philosophy for me! But like communism, it's really only good on paper or film as the case may be.

  • I want Will to Power
  • I want to leave inspiration in my wake
  • I want my actions to be in literal harmony with my soul
  • I want to choke hypocrisy with a piano-wire
  • I don't want to give in to addiction
  • I don't want to leave chaos in my wake
  • I don't want my actions to be knee-jerk
  • I don't want apathy to choke me with a piano-wire

I desire Eudaimonia

After several repeated attempts, I finally managed to secure a short date with the princess. I showered twice, shaved, brushed and moisturized, applied cologne, and found magazine advice on appropriate clothing. After several repeated gifts of flowers, she suddenly accepted my offer to see a movie. I waited, perched on the edge of the mattress with the movie in hand, for over an hour of over-prepared nervousness. Her royal guard brought her to my apartment and waited outside for her safe return. I rehearsed everything mentally, ran a checklist of necessities for most of an hour’s nervousness. The knock at my door ruptured my carefully designed pattern of breath so completely I forgot to measure my timing in answering. The knock at my door carefully ruptured me. She was there, quietly watching the door open, and she was perfect. Green eyes looking about, flaring melodiously when they met mine. She was there melodiously and my heart stopped perfect.

Greetings were made smoothly and I ushered her in only slightly less smoothly, by note of tripping slightly as I looked for the movie. Her royal guard awaited her swift return. I showed her to where I kept the movies, and asked her to pick whichever one she liked. Turning aside from where I kept the movies, she found the one I had misplaced and, picking it up with both hands smiled: this one. Despite tripping slightly, I ushered her in on a smooth note. The lights turned down, the screen lit up, and we lost ourselves in the world of the film. We laid ourselves on the bed that faced the screen, heads held up by pillows. On the bed that faced the world of the film, we were lost in the pillows and screen. Soon, my hand crept out and found hers. Soon, the royal guard would creep out and find her. I twisted my body and repositioned my head on her stomach. The movie played out to the peaceful feel of her rising breath.

The movie ended and we watched the credits together, although sitting up and apart. When the screen grew completely blank, I hurriedly turned off the screen. Sitting up and apart, I was suddenly fearful of it. She stood and walked to the door: I have to go. I rushed up to her: Dinner? I can’t: she sounded genuinely disappointed at having to go. Her safe return, the royal guard awaited. I searched the air for desperate words. She looked slightly crossed and annoyed: Okay. The air, slightly crossed, searched me for desperate words.

Dinner went by without a word, and with every moment that went by, I grew more frantic for something to say. As the food slowly left her plate, I began to desperately motion for words to flow; my hands went up to the quizzical study of her emerald gaze. Without a word, dinner went by. The food having slowly left her plate, she dropped her fork with a sad frown, silent. Even the fork did not emit noise as it bounced on the plate; it just slowly danced, to the quizzical study of her emerald gaze. She looked at me. I stood up, the tablecloth still clinging to my pants, and I opened my mouth to shout, but no sound could come out. Still clinging to the tablecloth, I searched the walls, hysterical for something to say.

I hope she I know we both felt remorse. She looked sad too when it we realized it wasn’t true. She did. She did. She did.

A soft warmth holds up the back up my head, rising and falling. Her breath. I crane my neck, and look at her. An annoyed expression? Loving? or just tired…. A couple on screen kissing. Breathe. Just keep breathing. Will you miss me when I wake up?

I prepared food for the princess’ arrival. I prepared and cleaned the apartment so that she wouldn’t be disgusted by the material apparition of my gruesomeness upon her arrival. I tripped slightly.

When I asked her to dinner at the end of our date it was in violation of code 437 of the Dating Handbook which I carried in my back pocket. The consequences of this violation exist in the forms of annoyed gazes and an overall state of displeasure in the air which points out my desperate words. I threw the fork at the plate. No sound.

Nothing pisses me off more than inconsistency. It's not so much change that bugs me, but random, inconsistent, nonsensical change.

Wasted trips, too, and that's what I got tonight. My wife was in a rare mood where she actually encouraged me to head out to a strip club for some time to myself. I had briefly mentioned Larry's Villa (in North Las Vegas) in my writeup about the Luxor hotel/casino, but I've removed that reference now as this place no longer deserves a favorable review.

The place has ads all over the city cheerfully exclaiming "no cover charge! No drink minimums!" On two prior visits to the out-of-the-way place, I had verified this was true. The thug at the door doesn't expect any money, and the waitress making her rounds only asks you once if you'd like something, and if you said "no," she left you alone.

Well, not tonight. I showed up, and the bouncer let me in without cover. So far so good. I even went to the bar and got some change. Handed the bartender a $10. She handed back a $5 and five $1 bills. I was impressed -- they weren't being presumptuous in expecting me to tip even ten bucks (understand, this is a cheap place; they didn't seem to be interested in bilking customers out of their money) in singles.

My world was at peace right up until the damned waitress walked up. She offered a drink, and I politely declined. Again, business as usual. This time, though, her reply was "well, you'll need to order something, even if it's just a water." Why, hello, drink minimum!

I did the only thing an intelligent, easily annoyed person could do. I walked out of the place without spending a dime. Didn't even see a single bare breast -- the dancer on stage was on her first song, and hadn't taken off her top yet.

Fucking dammit. It's too late in the day now to do anything else, either. It's not even worth trying to find another cheap(ish) club.

Lest I come off as a tightwad, first, I'll say "yes, I am a tightwad." But second, it wasn't the cost that bugged me, really. It's the dishonesty and inconsistency. This is now the second Vegas strip club that's spontaneously changed its mind about cover charges and drink minimums; Striptease used to be free as well (with pushy, but non-insistent waitresses). But when my wife and I showed up one night dressed nicely, suddenly they wanted $10 per person and a one drink minimum; we refused and left there, too). It's just not right to tell me "oh yeah, it's free, c'mon in!" then change your mind once I'm in the place. Bait-and-switch just doesn't work with me.

My name
is Jeff. I resist photography. I haven't got feet. I have three decks of cards, but one of them is missing the two of clubs, so how shall I tell my fortune? Maybe I'll tell yours instead. I see aliens in your future, possibly Italians, strong men subtracting your parts from the numinous whole. They are an advanced species. They have no addition, only subtraction. They've found a cure for butterflies and ghosts. They dissolve souls in burning liquor made out of sugar and wet slag.

They are not Italians. They may not even be European. They might be giants. They might be hiding in the armpits of pewter demons. And speaking of Italians, the Devil is Etruscan and very sorry about the vases. He will smash your soul, how sorry he is! They don't shave under there, and they don't wear cologne, and they all speak with lisps.

Such is hell. You'll hate it here. It's no fun, and they're mean, and the only money is spare change, and it's never enough, and it's all nickels. That's how entropy works, in fives, nickel by fucking nickel. What they owe you doesn't add up, at all. It falls apart in threes and twos. They don't believe in ones. There are cameras everywhere. If I hadn't gotten out, I'd have hanged myself from a burning rafter. Everything burns forever there, and they never let you down if you hang yourself.

I took me a souvenir when I left. Do you know how valuable brimstone is on the black market? I grind a little up and tell folks it'll get them harder than Chinese math, or cure SARS, grow them hair, grow them a sense of purpose, or I throw it in their eyes and take their money while they scream. It's that kind of thing, my father told me, that landed me in hell in the first place. Well, I got out of there, didn't I?

Had me a ladder. I set it on fire and climbed up to a service tunnel in rural Amercia. The power went out in seven counties, and they brought in the national guard to help combat the flames that erupted across the wheat fields. Millions will go hungry. I didn't mean for that to happen. But when you're in hell, all you know is, you have to get out. You'd do anything.

I left the burning ladder behind. Imagine all the people...

I've been meaning to put this up for awhile. Alas, the best laid plans may go awry. Anyway, in pursuing my research, I've come up against some of a theortical brick wall at points, namely, what is a "good" conversation. In the Slashdot context, how would I know that the comments occuring on Slashdot are happening in a good or bad way?

To help answer that question, I've spent some time looking at deliberation as a process. In June, I went to a conference in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University. The topic was software tools for online deliberation, which is similar to a conference I attended in D.C. about 2 years ago.

Anyway, one of the highpoints for me was a discussion of what is the positive outcome of deliberation. Vin Price, and Jenny Stromer-Galley were particularly helpful in this. As a note, the following lists are not necessarily, obviously, constrained to the online world. Some of these are well established in the communication studies literature, and others were hypotheses, brainstorms, and half baked ideas.

Individual outcome measures:

  • Argument repertoire: can the participants articulate what the major points being deliberated are?
  • Social trust: positive mental representations of other citizens.
  • An indication of future participation. Willingness to return to the same discussion space and/or engage with the same participants.
  • Community mindedness (similar to argument repertoire) often measured with attitude battery. This is mostly a concern for what happens to the group that came together above and beyond the immediate action of the deliberation.
  • Learning: this is more subtle than it sounds. New participants should be able to learn the rules of the space, the arguments that have already been articulated, the issues of the debate and so forth. However, for older members there should still be an overall increase in the information available for forming an opinion in the space.
  • Valueopinion consistency: does the opinion being stated by a participant match their stated (or implicit I guess) values?
  • Opinion-opinion consistency: does the same person present the same opinion over time? If person A changes their opinion radically it could be a total transformation of opinion (rare) or they are gaming.
  • Attitude strength, certainty: does the debate make a particular opinion more or less strongly held by a member? The fear is that people would polarize, that debate only serves to strengthen already held opinions. The reality is that people tend to move toward the middle.
  • Self disclosure: there's not much research on this, and it's not automatically something you want to encourage. Basically, the more self-disclosure participants feel comfortable with, the better indicator that the space can be re-tooled for purposes beyond the initial discussion.
  • Perceived legitimacy: do participants feel that this is good place for them to be spending there time?
  • Autonomy/Agency/efficacy/equality: a grab bag of subjective measures that to some extent equal satisfaction, or maybe perceived personal effectiveness, in a conversation.

Collective outcome measures:

These are all desired outcomes for the *group* engaged in the deliberative process.

  • Clarity of a path to action. How to act is clear and specific to all members.
  • Development of jargon.
  • Formed collective identity of discussion participants.
  • Range of considerations is wide.
  • De-polarization, in terms of groups rather than individuals. This means that the group attitude moves together, rather than individuals moving apart.
  • Decreased variance among group positions.
  • Opinion shift
  • Repurposing: if the conversation is effective, the participants should be able to mobilize themselves for other types of actions.
  • Resilience to “bad” actors.
  • Collective interests are adequately addressed and balanced.
  • Creation of structure. This is a very Anthony Giddens argument that basically says an outcome of discourse is the creation of organizational structure. Groups being the most obvious form of this, but more complex forms created suprisingly quickly.

This, and some excerpts for Stromer-Galley's dissertation, made me realize that this is a particular type of conversation, and I'll need to go deeper into the nature of communication to get a good hold of it. Blech.

The Bad News...

It is with great sadness and my deepest apologies to all the gentle noders who are members of the MCFKA group to announce that the Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis book currently on tour has been declared lost.*

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the project, for Christmas I asked avjewe my E2 Secret Santa 2002 for a copy of this small book of poetry and noders from around the world signed up to host it. So far it has traveled 16,754 miles and visited many exotic places with over 70 hosts and hostesses waiting to read it. If you would care to join please read about how to in the MCFKA write-up and let me know if you would like to be added to the list.

The Good News!

No sireee Bob ! We will not let this minor set back stop the E2 Christmas spirit of 2002! I am overjoyed and just astounded by the generosity of elem_125 from our ever-growing group who has tentatively volunteered in the community spirit of the project to purchase another copy and send it on its way. Yay!

More Good News!

A good friend and fan of this project has created a web page for the project and what an awesome job he did! I encourage you all to make a visit:

Welcome back!!

I hope you liked it. Send an e-mail and let us know what you think. My favorite page is the one titled On the cocoa trail. What a splendid idea for tracking the book!

Since the book is out of print it may take a little while longer to get the project back on its way. Watch my home node for further updates and many thanks to you all for being so patient and understanding.

* I will gladly accept any questions that you may have but at this time I do not wish to go into further details about how the book was lost. I think it is in the best interest of the MCFKA project and group members to please refrain from gossip and hard feelings. Like elem_125 and many others the hope is that we can move on with our new book in the spirit of reading, writing and most importantly the E2 community!

If it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
-Romans 8:12 (NIV)


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.