27 December 2007

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays.

I am totally, totally exhausted and New Years hasn't hit yet. Then again, I got to do plenty of night-time driving on Long Island expressways ... that I have never driven before ... in the rain ... with all the white stripes worn to nothing ... a navigator who had much to say about the questionable usefulness of the maps we had, but not much else that could be taken as productive ... and a complement of other drivers who alternately thought that 55 miles per hour meant 70 or thought that a rainy night meant the speed limit was 30. Guess which one was in front and which behind me at any given time.

By the time I was out of the City again and found a place to stop, my hands had to be pried off the steering wheel and my fingers uncramped. Any more and I would have been hallucinating a score counter in the corner of the windshield. So I surrendered the wheel to visiting peeps coming back to my place and passed out in the back seat.

I keep forgetting that there is a spur off to the east of NYC the size of a small state. I am pretty sure it is a willful act of forgetting. I think Robert Moses designed it to make anyone who didn't have to live there afraid of even approaching it so that the wealthy white people at the other end would be left well-enough alone. But I have relatives who have decided it is important to remind me of it's existence. So important that they moved there.

I hereby decree that from now on all relatives must be country mice, those that insist on remaining city mice will be replaced with more amenable relatives. The Hamptons do not qualify as country, even if I should suddenly have relatives who could afford to live there, since there is a city in the way.

Okay, love NYC, just having to pass through it to the other side that drives me buggy. So maybe if they win the lottery and buy me a pied-à-terre in Manhattan I will allow them to stay in Long Island. Then I can take a taxi back to a warm bed.

24 December 2007


Christmas comes but once
a year, bringing all good cheer.
Happy Holidays.

20 December 2007

When it needs to be perfect

Now, this is not something I would normally consider to be that big an issue, but the source is critical.

Check out the Web site for the United States Access Board at [http://www.access-board.gov/]. Ideally in Firefox, where you can turn on alt attributes in the Web developers' toolbar. Look at the alt value for the masthead: "banner with Board logo and photo of Board office".

They do have the name of the site above it, hidden away with CSS, for text readers, but still ...


Equivalent content! Equivalent content is content that serves the same function as that which is replaces. This equivalency is one of intent and meaning, not of visual appearance.

It is really annoying to be looking for what something is and find a description of what it looks like. Imagine the following conversation.

Bob: Hey, that's a great looking car you bought. I've never seen one like it. What kind is it?
Phil: It's a blue one.
Bob: I can see that, but what kind is it?
Phil: Well, it's a sleek little sports coupe.
Bob: Very funny Phil. Really, who makes it?
Phil: The company makes this sleek little sports coupe.

Depending on the amount of beer involved, Bob may or may not hit Phil at this point. This is the sort of thing that happens when you use alt attributes to describe what something pretty obviously is, instead of providing the needed information. We really don't need badly chosen descriptions mixed with beer leading to interpersonal violence.

Perhaps another example is in order more in keeping with the nature of the infraction here.

Bobbi: Hey, Philomena! I hear you got a new job.
Philomena: Yeah. I really like it.
Bobbi: Cool, where's it at?
Philomena: The company logo with the corporate motto forming a circle around it.
Bobbi: Oooo-kay.

Bobbi moves slowly away from Philomena, and Philomena later wonders why Bobbi won't go clubbing with her anymore. Another friendship destroyed by bad descriptions.

You get the idea.

Maybe it would be better if the alt text for the logo was exactly what the text in the logo is: "The United States Access Board - A Federal Agency Committed to Accessible Design". Then if the image doesn't load, there is something useful in its place.

Seems like a no brainer. Maybe not.

18 December 2007


why do we seek to
deconstruct identity —
self without being

why do we seek to
deconstruct identity —
being without self

five five five five five
seven seven seven sev —
oh poop, doesn't scan

My favorite haiku that I didn't write goes:
I wrote a haiku,
but it is not very good.
No, you can't read it.

17 December 2007


Okay, so what did I mean when I said that:

I think people are becoming so subsumed under their signifiers that their signifiers are becoming more real than they are. This was a category of non-existence that was once reserved for nobility, but is now available, if not actively imposed, on every person dealing with modern society.

More specifically, what did I mean about it being reserved for nobility?

Well, first off, that is not really true, it was reserved for nobility, clergy, and men of note (because, well, it was mostly men back then).

What I mean by a category of non-existence reserved for nobility has to do with the nature of social roles in society. Everyone always has (and presumably always will) played a role in society which labeled them as fitting that role. Historically, most of these roles directly related to the person and who they were: farmer, butcher, baker, beggar, highwayman. These roles described the person and who they were and were tightly integrated into the real being of the individual in a concrete way. A butcher does not represent butcher-ness, but rather is, simply, a butcher. The word butcher relates directly to a vocation. Same for many other social roles.

This was (and is) different for nobility and the clergy. A noble does not engage in in the vocation of nobility, rather they represent that which is noble. They are a signifier of which the signified is nobility. Whether they are an accurate signifier or a mockery of the signified, they are a signifier. They represent a concept.

The same goes for clergy, who signify, at least in Western culture, the word of god with a capital G. Once again their effectiveness as signifier does not change that this is what they are.

This is why, and how, nobility and religious orders could (and still do) stand above the common people. They are not people, they are signifiers of a higher, and purportedly better, state. This is where they metonymy comes in. The noble as person is subsumed under and replaced by the noble as signifier of nobility.

With the rise of the merchant class, and then the middle class, this notion of being subsumed under the signifier spread downward into the masses. More representations came, where people represented social concepts of worth. With the downward spread of the person as signifier, there also developed the increasing need for a clearly defined identity outside of the person through which to identify them.

With the developing notions of human rights, it becomes imperative that all people be given a clear identity that is, ironically, defined by the state. Otherwise rights become unenforceable and are merely dependent on the notoriously fickle goodwill of others. Remember that government systems not driven by any special caste are for and of the people. But to be so, people need to be subsumed into a model where they are defined as participant citizens of the state.

Okay, yes, that glosses over a great deal and makes oversimplification look like a model of intricate delving, but the point is there.

With the development of the welfare state, the notion of state-sponsored identity that represented some ideal moved from the mark of a good citizen to a requirement for anyone who is subject to the system. At the same time, this took the idea of identity through social roles and threw it out the window in favor of a legal fiction, something contrived to allow more effective oversight of the citizenry. So not only an abstract identity, but an entirely arbitrary one as well.

This, of course, raises the question as to whether the modern quest for identity was as much driven by consumerism as people may suggest, or whether it was a pre-existing condition caused by social change that abstracted the person from a concrete identity. This includes the notion of universal human rights, since equality is incommensurable with solidly defined social roles, and industrialization, urbanization, and their impacts on older social patterns. It also creates the expectation that the average person has an identity that represents some ideal that is abstracted from the self.

As such consumerism merely filled the gap, and promised us we could all be nobility if we purchased the trappings of nobility. If we cannot achieve the abstract ideal we are expected to define ourselves through, perhaps we can buy it instead. Without concrete definitions of social order that were tied to the social context of the self, we had to create social order through the trappings thereof.

12 December 2007


Okay, playing with templates is so totally addictive.

So you can ignore what I said before.

Excuse me while I play.


Silly template.

Took me forever to unbreak changes I made. Looked great in everything but MSIE, which still gets it wrong. So I gave up and formatted it so it looks right but different in MSIE.

Course it looks so little like the original that maybe I should have just created a new template for scratch rather than tweaking the one I had.

That's the next step.

11 December 2007


Playing with settings, excuse the mess.

Woohoo! All done. For now.

The font you don't get to see unless you have quite the collection is "Handwriting - Dakota". It's pretty.

Mom, dad, don't touch it! It's eeevil!

WoW is the root of all evil. That is all I have to say. Though I do now have a level 70 BE pally spec'd to tank.

That is all I have to say. Okay, that is all I have time to say, which is almost the same thing.

Deep thoughts continue to gestate. But I thought I would opt for the if you can't make time to say something profound, make time to say pithy little dorky things.

My Question of the day:

Why can people prove who they are with a legal document, but not prove who they are by being them? If we take a legal document to be the inscription of a legal fiction upon the world (the creation of a contrived state of being within an abstracted system or structuring reality), does that mean that any legal representation of identity is also a fiction? Furthermore, does that mean identity, in the sense of a legally binding one, itself is a fiction?

I postulate the existence of the metonymic person, a person whose very existence has been replaced by its own signifier, such that they no longer have existence outside the signifiers that represent this existence. Furthermore, I postulate that this is a very recent occurance.

This can be seen in obvious ways such as the number of places people are noted by an account number, or a driver's license, or a federal ID number. But I think it goes deeper than that. I think people are becoming so subsumed under their signifiers that their signifiers are becoming more real than they are. This was a category of non-existence that was once reserved for nobility, but is now available, if not actively imposed, on every person dealing with modern society.

Perhaps it is a factor of consumption, our real selves must be consumed under a legal fiction of identity into order to create the mental state necessary for us to consume new, ready made, identities.

Of course as a fictional character that only represents myself, perhaps I trend in the other direction, a signifier without a signified becoming the thing signified by caveat. But I am not sure that derives from the first point.

And here I said I wasn't going to say anything. Maybe I should say that more often.