Who ordered the scrambled brains?

1994 Blog of the Year! (Albania Times)

$5 in Your Pocket

Why am I a bad student? For reasons like what happened just now, when I checked the calendar online and found that instruction doesn’t in fact begin tomorrow as I had thought, but on Thursday! Whooo! That’s like finding five bucks in a jacket you haven’t worn in a while. Which reminds me, I found $40 on the ground outside my apartment last night. Drug deal, (minor) ransom drop-off, or fluke, I took the money and never looked back. It all came together for me to finally book that dream vacation: a Monday-to-Wednesday stay in the presidential suite at the Hungry Valley Motel 6. Trust me, readers: some times, good things really do just happen.

Speaking of flukes, my laptop died last week. So we learn that bad things really do just happen as well. Luckily iBooks can startup in a limited Firewire hard-drive mode in which you can connect it to another Mac and access the hard drive. After a tense race against time, I finally got my laptop to the Apple store so I can hand it over to a so-called “genius bartender.” “Helpful neighborhood troubleshooter who doesn’t know anything more than what is publicly available on Google” is what I prefer to call them, or “HntwdkamtwipaoG” for simplicity. It’s being overnighted to Apple-land, where it will remain for seven days before they decide it’s easier to just send me a new one, sans-stickers (EFF, Amnesty International, Novell Linux Desktop which I’ll admit is close to ostentatious on a Mac, and homemade old-school stamped label “PORTABLE ELECTRIC TURING MACHINE“). (A Turing machine is really simplifed model of a basic computer.) I have extras of all the stickers except my EFF one; guess I have to donate again.

Well, as you rightly assumed, I had been taking time off the ol’ website. I’ve been using that time to try to get as many compounding chores done as humanly possible, trying to make my “summer vacation” productive if not relaxing. I decided to give Tadalist.com a try. Here’s my summer to-do list. I’ve made good solid progress on it. I’ve accomplished most of what I reasonably set out to by today. Now that I have THREE MORE DAYS there’s no reason I shan’t accomplish it all! Oh yeah, execpt I just got really sick last night. Maybe there was some germs on one of the 9 slices of pizza I had at the $3.99 Shakey’s buffet yesterday. (Please god don’t ever let that location close!) The other reason I wanted to try tadalist.org is because it’s built using the Ruby scripting language on the Rails web-server framework, known as “Ruby on Rails“. The whole idea of Ruby on Rails is that the majority of the database and data manipulation programming is constructed for you automatically, supposedly making it one trillion times easier to quickly create dynamic web applications. I ordered a book last week on the subject, and I want to use it to build a health-statistic and comparison website that people can use to motivate and monitor health of themselves and others. I’ll let you know when it’s up. I’m thinking about calling it “Vital Information Monitoring Commune” or “YouHaveNoPrivacy.com”, but I’m open to suggestions.

There’s this notion of “Web 2.0″ which refers to the general state and expectations of the Internet since about 2002 to now. For context, Web 1.0 supposedly referred to the fact that in the early-90’s, most websites contained static content, presented in mostly plain, boxy formatting or with haphazard behind-the-scenes arrangment; think GeoCities homepages. Web 1.5 supposedly referred to the rise of dynamic websites, such as Amazon.com and all the e-commerce crap, personalized content, and cleaner backend arrangement of data (more standards-based formatting); think My Yahoo! or newspaper sites. I say supposedly because the terms are mostly used by web-weenies that for example like to blog only about blogging and overuse technobabble and are your run-of-the-mill pretentious airhead. So Web 2.0 refers to the rise of well-designed layout (real-time AJAX-enabled like Google Maps), fanatical use of standards (RDF, XHTML/XML, CSS2/3), web-service enabled (other people can write programs to interact with the data stored on your website), and highly-social (technologies that promote individual identification, publishing and networking); think RDF, blogging, and MySpace/Friendster. Now what was my point in bringing all this up? Um, I guess I’ll just start responding to this all. First, I think it’s stupid nomenclature. Change in the usage of the Internet could be better described as the rising and falling tension between codependent technologies developing independently; usage during times when there is little tension between the various cooperating Internet standards and technologies is referred to by a stable product name, Web 1.0 for example. Usage during times of high tension, when a standard or technology changes drastically (advent of CSS, sudden explosion of broadband, or quick permeation of Firefox) is considered a time of transition from one stable product to another, like the beta development cycle between software releases. Which is stupid because the web isn’t a big product with a particular goal. Although the values associated with each “version” of the Web are considered ideal at the time, such ostensibly scholarly terms are condescending and alienating. And they oversimplify things. And they judge the past by the values of the present. Bleah, here I am jumping on the deconstructionist/post-modernist bandwagon, whatever that means.

And whenever I accuse myself of jumping on some ideological bandwagon, I’m forced to confront the idea that every set of ideals can be simplifed to a populist bandwagon, and every bandwagon has a bandwagon that’s waged against it with equally valid claims, and also that every bandwagon is conformist by nature. So you can be neither totally sure of the righteousness of your thoughts, nor considered as an independent thinker. There I went in the last paragraph bashing on the American predilection towards consumer-centric thought (hype, brand names, broad simplification), only to identify myself as a sheep in the flock of anti-consumerists. Is it hopeless to strive for true independence and individuality? Can you ever have a truly original thought or worldview? If this isn’t important, what is? Surely there have been truly genius genius scholars that crumble the foundations of thought (Freud, Marx, Foucault come to mind). And there are indeed many truly genius artists that redefine humanity and society in substantial and novel ways. It seems vain (and herculean) to accept such a goal as attaining that level of achievement for oneself, and elitist to expect it of others. Alternatively, I get the feeling that foregoing such lofty aspirations and merely participating in society is Kafkaesque at best, where we all feel lost in the looming beaurcracy the encompasses us, or at worst describable as mindlessly being a single “cog in the wheels” of society, as Weber put it. Perhaps I’m missing something. Either way, what self-indulgent drivel I’m writing. Feel free to disregard.

Despite all that, there’s one thing I don’t like about the current state of the internet, as evidenced by tadalist.com. All of my data is stored on their servers. That means I can only access it and manipulate it in whatever ways they choose to make available. On the other hand, I have my blog entries stored on the computer in my closet, along with my email. I can manipulate that data in whatever way I wish (given sufficient ability and desire to program such mechanisms). The same holds for Flickr (photo-sharing), Gravatar (roaming graphical identification), Xanga (blogging and networking) and MySpace (networking and blogging). Inherent in this arrangement is that these companies own the data you upload to their servers. But no one cares. Well, I guess some people do. For example, Blogger allows you use their blogging tools and configure them to store all the webpages and data on your own web server; you get the ease of use of Blogger’s tools to easily create a nice-looking simple blog, but retain the freedom and ownership of having the data stored on your own computer. If I had to, that feature of Blogger is what I’d call Web 2.5, where your personal data is stored not in their database on their servers, but on your own server. And Web 3.0 would basically see the full proliferation of Web 2.5 as well as the rise of the domestic web-server. That’s the (consumer-centric) name I gave the notion that in the future, it would be easy for any family to take an old computer, throw it in a closet, sign up for a domain name (thesmiths.com or thesmiths.residence or something) and have an easy to manage website, mail server, reliable RAID file server, VPN, other security services (that will only be developed after such a movement takes hold), and other general services of use to any tight group of individuals such as a family (household intercom by jabber, home property security monitoring, backup server, TiVo-style services and so on). The proliferation of online websites and voices will contribute massively to the vast information repository that essentially is the Web as well as drastically altering society, economics, and politics in subtle ways. Everyone will have an online presence which can be leveraged in potentially infinite ways (replacing your phone number, street address, social security number, blah blah blah). And everyone will retain the ownership of all this personal data. That’s the thrust of one of two major software projects of which I would ever hope to be part. (The other is to reconstruct the psychological model of computing which constrains the design of modern user interfaces.) Technosocial rant done.

Great weather lately. Crisp, cool. Rained last week with lightning. I don’t recall this ever happening in September. Will this winter match the record rainfall of last year? Strange things happening in weather, yessirree. Could be coincidence, or could be consequence of human action (global-warming). Which reminds me: Their should be an ordinance enacted that gives survival priority to all individuals who take effort to recycle waste and conserve energy, when the planet finally dies and we all need to fly to a fresh healthy unadulterated one. Anyway, I can’t wait till it snows ’cause I finally upgraded my snowboard and bindings from bottom-of-the-line crap to three-year-old above-average board (Burton 2002 Clash, 153cm, you can’t argue with a review like this), which I bought used off of my brother. WHOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!

Two more things I wanted to mention before I fall over dead at my keyboard. First is the eBay (capilization incorrect?) debacle. After the Basement Jaxx/Röyksopp concert I raved about in my last post, I went online to buy something to express my devotion to Basement Jaxx. They’re relatively unpopular so it was a great way for me to be unique. Short story short (more suitable phrase than “long story short” for Scrambled Brains, where I routinely make short stories loooong) I didn’t get the shirt for three weeks. I arranged a replacement to be sent out, but the Basement Jaxx t-shirt I had ordered was sold out so I had to pick a different one. I settled on a Belle and Sebastian shirt. (Again, unpopular band = uniqueness opportunity.) Three more weeks and no shirt. Finally arranged for a third shirt and it arrived last week. But it was too large. So I ended up with a second-choice shirt that was too big. Sucked. But I can’t fault the guys that sold it to me. I recommend them because if you end up having shipping problems, these guys will work with you! (Store, seller)

So I’m about to wrap up at UCLA. This should be my last quarter. …Wow. Let’s ponder that statement for a while. I started there in 1998 if you can remember that ancient time. Wide-eyed and full of life. Made some friends, lost some friends, was isolated, confused, and–I won’t use that overused undervalued attention-seeking D word, so I’ll just say sad. Got beat up. Got beat up some more. Got beat up even more. Gave up and switched to Political Science. And suddenly grew up. I don’t fully understand it yet. Suffice it to say I hate UCLA. From the conceited “students” that mistake UCLA for Harvard, cheat, and search endlessly for the easiest classes; to the cold administrative beauracracy; to the glass wall erected around the dorms and school services, I hate UCLA. Nonetheless, I’m about to finish a seven and a half year run at a degree here, and I’m starting to feel that it’s time I made amends with this place. With the people, the administration, and the society.

Sometimes I can still revive that breathtakingly dramatic sense of hope and pride and wonder that would overtake me every morning my Freshman year upon surmounting the crest leading to Royce Hall. Though now it’s a feeling drenched in sadness.

Update: So my laptop was returned today! Dropped off Sunday night, received Thursday morning. !!! Amazing. So the problem was the “logic board”. That’s Apple for motherboard. Maybe calling a circuit board by that word is offensive to people that don’t have mothers. Not sure. Anyway, they replaced it. Glad it was under warranty. Makes me think my laptop should be safe for a good couple years, statistically and all, since it had a problem early in life. Also Natalie bought an iBook similar to mine, same year (2004) but faster and with wireless card included. $699. But here’s the kicker: free iPod Mini. !!!

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