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Worrying about the intelligence of the so-called intelligence community... 2003

Okay, so the FBI has warned us to be on the lookout for suspicious people carrying almanacs.

"The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning," the FBI wrote.

Y'know, a careful planner who likes to maximize his likelihood of operational success seems like the kinda guy who might just figure out what he was going to blow up before leaving the house instead of wandering around downtown with a big fat frickin' reference book.

But don't you feel safer knowing that the FBI will be dicking around hassling tourists, students and trivia buffs?

(Then again, all this snarkiness should really be directed at the news media who decided to run this story as "everybody look out for strange people with almanacs & report them to the Feds!" instead of "FBI Advises Law Officials To Make Note Of Suspiciously Annotated Reference Material Found In Searches").

Posted on December 29, 2003 at 05:17 PM in privacy | Permalink | Comments (2)

Are they or aren't they? 2003

As many who know me could attest, I have a soft spot for guys who like guys. I think it's sweet & sexy. Little surprise, I suppose, that I have lots of gay friends and decided to live in the Castro. It's not just that I am not homophobic; I'm positively homophilic. So, with, as Sir Ian McKellen puts it, the "gaggle of beauties" in the cast of the Lord of the Rings films plus all the deep affection between both the characters and the actors, it's not news that I as much as anyone else thought:

"Frodo and Sam have got to be a couple. What other interpretation could there be? Maybe they haven't done anything about this smoldering romantic passion, but, jeez, there's no denying the devotion between them."

And that remained my interpretation after seeing the first two films and rereading the first two books. But now that I've seen and reread Return of the King, I've changed my mind. Certainly, it's possible to imagine a romantic relationship between these characters - lines like Sam's (from the book) "I love him, whether or no" don't make it much of a stretch - but now I do not feel that is the relationship which Tolkien wrote or the filmmakers intended or the actors portrayed. And, most importantly, this lack of sexual attraction doesn't make the relationship any less significant.

To their credit, all of these storytellers (intentionally or otherwise) have left room for interpretation and personal reaction, but I believe that the relationship between Frodo and Sam which they describe is one for which we do not have a contemporary model. I've read of Sam as Frodo's "batman"; of their relationship as that between a WW1 officer and the enlisted man who acts as a servant to look after his belongings and take care of him. Oddly enough, that relationship, though it was known less than 100 years ago, is not as familiar and understandable to us today as that of a knight and his esquire.

What is essential to understanding their relationship is the context of a society divided by class; Frodo and Sam are unequal. They are master and servant, well-connected gentlehobbit and working-class gardener. It is Sam's duty, his role, to support Frodo in whatever way he can. Sam is not expected to understand Frodo or the great matters in which he has become involved. Today we would see that as unfair to Sam, as subjugation. "Don't worry yourself with matters above your station" is not an approach which we in the 21st-century West consider good or just. We want Sam to be recognized - by himself perhaps more than by anyone else - as Frodo’s equal. But with them as equals, we have no model for Sam’s unstoppable, selfless devotion other than romantic love.

Think about that for a moment. Our culture doesn’t have a model for that kind of love. It’s like not having a word for some concept in your language. What does it do to us not to be able to express an idea? Or imagine such a relationship? Perhaps our problem is that we use the same word, “love”, to describe many forms of affection, quite a few of which are completely non-sexual.

I am interested to see how these characters will be interpreted in the future as Tolkien’s intent, the model for the relationship, and widespread experience of friendly but class-divided relationships fades. Will the devoted same-sex friendships of Lord of the Rings create a new model for loving, non-sexual relationships? Will Frodo and Sam be claimed as role models for gays and bisexuals? Or will the current rifts remain? Will homosexuality remain something that the characters are “accused of”?


This topic all came to mind when I was rereading Return of the King and got to this bit near the very end:

When all was at last ready Frodo said: ‘When are you going to move in and join me, Sam?’
Sam looked a bit awkward.
‘There is no need to come yet, if you don’t want to,’ said Frodo. ‘But you know the Gaffer is close at hand, and he will be very well looked after by Widow Rumble.’
‘It’s not that, Mr. Frodo,’ said Sam, and he went very red.
‘Well, what is it?’
‘It’s Rosie, Rose Cotton,’ said Sam. ‘It seems she didn’t like my going abroad at all, poor lass; but as I hadn’t spoken, she couldn’t say so. And I didn’t speak, because I had a job to do first. But now I have spoken, and she says: “Well, you’ve wasted a year, so why wait longer?” “Wasted?” I says. “I wouldn’t call it that.” Still see what she means. I feel torn in two, as you might say.’
‘I see,’ said Frodo: ‘you want to get married, and yet you want to live with me in Bag End too? But my dear Sam, how easy! Get married as soon as you can, and then move in with Rosie. There’s room enough in Bag End for as big a family as you could wish for.’

That passage reminded me of a similar one in the last Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, “Thrones, Dominations”, in which two characters with a very similar relationship, Lord Peter and his manservant, Bunter, are deeply depressed by the prospect of having to part ways when Bunter marries. What I had forgotten until just now when I went to see if I could find the passage quoted on the Web is that it was not written by Dorothy Sayers half a century ago, but was Jill Paton’s relatively recent completion of Sayers' final unfinished work. Perhaps Sayers included the conflict and its pleasing solution in her notes, but it is equally possible that it is the invention of a mind of the latter half of the 20th century, perhaps even one which had been exposed to Sam’s dilemma.

Notes & additional reading:
1 - Nancy Marie Ott’s “JRR Tolkien and World War I”

2 - Web Behrens’ “The queerness of Hobbits”

3 - r. savage on “Forms of Love” and the tower of Cirith Ungol sequence

Posted on December 28, 2003 at 09:22 PM in sex | Permalink | Comments (11)

Let's not mince words 2003

"War is a sign of failure. A putative war leader is someone who has failed. Failed at diplomacy, failed at compromise, failed to make his point, failed to persuade. Failed."

- Sir Ian McKellen circa February 2003 (cited in a nice little interview in the Independent)

Posted on December 23, 2003 at 08:03 PM in quotes | Permalink | Comments (7)

Known Spammer IP Addresses 2003

Since I've been getting so much comment spam lately, I thought it would be useful to provide the list of IP addresses which I have banned from commenting on my site. If your software allows you to ban them as well, I encourage you to do so: comment spam 2003.12.23 Comment spam 2003.12.23 comment spam 2003.12.23 comment spam 2003.12.23 comment spam 2003.12.22 comment spam 2003.12.20 comment spam 2003.12.19 comment spammer 2003.12.17 comment spam 2003.12.15 comment spammer 2003.12.10 comment spammer 2003.12.06 comment spammer 2003.12.05 comment spam 2003.11.30 comment spam 2003.11.16 comment spam 2003.11.13 comment spammer 2003.11.12 comment spam 2003.11.07 Suspected comment spammer. Just didn't sound real or useful. 2003.11.07 Comment spam 2003.11.06 comment spam 2003.11.01 comment spammer 2003.10.03 spam comment 2003.09.28 blogspammer 2003.08.20

And I'm pretty sure these guys were comment spammers too, I just noted the post date rather than the reason for the ban. I don't recall ever banning anyone for any other reason, so you should be safe locking the door against them as well: 2003.04.07 2003.08.09 2003.02.16 2003.08.09 2003.02.09 2003.08.09 2002.11.07 2003.08.09 2002.05.31 2003.08.09 2003.07.05 2003.08.09 2003.05.17 2003.08.09

Posted on December 23, 2003 at 10:17 AM in warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (1)

No juice. 2003

Boy oh boy do I like electricity. Being without it for 29 hours this past weekend was very irritating. When I left home this morning we still had no internet connectivity, but at least we have power & heat again.

On the bright side, my fussiness over my cooking setup worked to our benefit since the gas stove allowed us to have a hot meal. Also the gas water heater provided hot water. I should mention as well my continued and usually unstated appreciation of clean water piped into my home and sewage piped away. Our weekend was definitely and annoyingly disrupted, but it could have been worse.

Posted on December 22, 2003 at 11:49 AM in tools | Permalink | Comments (1)

Did CPR training.

Posted on December 19, 2003 at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Day Is Finally Here 2003

I've been waiting for this day for 3 years or so. Today I get to see Peter Jackson's Return of the King. I know it will be the best of the trilogy. I know my expectations are very high. I know I won't be disappointed.

And I know I'm going to like the extended version even better - just one more year to wait for it!

It's 11am. I got up around 9:30 - hooray for a vacation day and making up for lost sleep - and I have a few hours to spend before the film. Gonna go buy some new eyeglasses. Maybe do a little holiday shopping.

Is it 3pm yet? No? How about now?

Posted on December 17, 2003 at 11:00 AM in Film | Permalink | Comments (2)

Boozy Goodness 2003

I forgot to mention last week when it came out that I have another piece in the Bay Guardian. This one is about my friendly neighborhood wine shop.

(Note to editrix: A, I have the next column written, I'm just letting it breathe before I give it a bit more polish. Should have it to you tonight. -D)


For archive purposes here is that column from December 10, 2003:  

Drink and be merry
Indie wine store Friendly Spirits has something for everybody.

By Metagrrrl

IF YOU'RE LOOKING for a festive bottle of wine for one of the many holiday parties you'll attend in coming weeks, I recommend you visit the lovely corner wine shop Friendly Spirits (572 Castro, S.F. 415-864-2262). The bustling store is a shining example of how to do small business right, and I consider myself blessed to live just a few blocks away from its great selection and excellent service. The store is stocked with interesting goods, infused with personality, and staffed by warm, intelligent people.

In their eight years running the business, owners Ken McDonald and David Jessup have mastered the delicate art of balancing high quality and good prices. You may not find a bottle of Two Buck Chuck here, but Trader Joe's isn't going to offer a "take care of half your holiday shopping in one 'swell foop' " deal like the one Friendly Spirits has going from now until Dec. 15. If you buy any 12 bottles, including champagne and liquor, you get 20 percent off the lot. And this isn't just any random assortment of boozy beverages: the choices are great. It's this combination of quality and low-key neighborliness that really makes the store shine.

I spoke to McDonald about the challenges of selling wine and spirits. It's one of the most heavily regulated forms of retail, so if the thought of licensing, Health Department regulations, and alcohol sales laws gives you the heebie-jeebies, this is not the business for you. It's also an entrepreneurial venture that sometimes leads to unwelcome surprises. Recently, as part of the push for safe festivities in the Castro, Friendly Spirits and other liquor stores in the area were asked to close on Halloween night, normally one of their busiest nights of the year.

McDonald told me that holiday ups and downs are always a big challenge: the wine shop also has to be "on the pulse of the seasons" and follow food trends as well. Wine is closely tied to gastronomy, and they don't call those little drinks aperitifs for no reason. Fortunately, the Friendly Spirits folks have what it takes. As with any good small business, the true value of the store lies not only in the merchandise but also in the knowledge of the people behind the counter. Have a question about wine decanters? Ask Jessup. Want to explore Australian wines? Stop by some night and let Mark pick out a bottle for you. Hoping to learn more about the difference between merlot and zinfandel? Sign up for one of McDonald's classes. Through skill, hard work, and a great attitude, Friendly Spirits truly lives up to its mission statement: "Provide the best quality product at the best possible price and sell it in the best possible way." So stop by to learn from its example, and while you're there, pick up a bottle or two. If you're going to go into retail, trust me, you'll need a stiff drink. Friendly Spirits is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and also sells online at www.friendlyspirits.com.

Posted on December 15, 2003 at 01:00 PM in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

Less Shush, More Lush 2003


[A wonderful shirt design which was put forward by some fine librarian folks who then got too busy to keep making them. Alas! is2.dal.ca/~mdelia/tees/shush.html. Shared on Flickr on this February 26, 2004.]

Posted on December 14, 2003 at 09:15 PM in librarianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Happy to be your info bitch. 2003


[A wonderful shirt design which was put forward by some fine librarian folks who then got too busy to keep making them. Alas! is2.dal.ca/~mdelia/tees/shush.html. Shared on Flickr on February 26, 2004.]

Posted on December 14, 2003 at 09:15 PM in librarianship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Good Cat Seeks Home 2003

For the second year in a row I am assisting with finding a home for a sweet little black cat. This one is a 6-year-old male, but unlike Oban last year is not named after a single-malt scotch. He currently goes by Licorice, but I'm sure, being a cat, wouldn't mind if you wanted to rename him Laphroaig.

He's short-haired, very loving, but somewhat shy right now. The only home he's ever had was with my aunt's mother, who had to move into an assisted living facility, and he couldn't go with her. He likes to be brushed and purrs a lot.

He's boarding at the Feline Bed & Breakfast in El Cerrito (near the Target store), and my aunt could arrange to meet anyone who would like to consider giving him a home.

Please drop me a note or leave a comment if you're in the San Francisco bay area and interested in giving him a home.

A little more about him from my aunt:

Licorice would love to be an indoor/outdoor cat, I think. The place where my Mother lived before the rest home didn't allow outdoor cats, so he was indoor - but he got out occasionally. He would wander around the golf course, probably using the sand traps for purposes the maintenance crews didn't appreciate, and then return home when he got hungry.

He lived with another black cat, Tiger, and they got along quite well - sleeping cuddled up together, sitting in the window together, etc. Tiger, though, made his escape during the moving process and hasn't been seen since. He's somewhere in Albany, and I hope some kind soul took him in.

I go to see him every week, and take a brush with me. He purrs and rubs his head on my leg while I brush him. Then I leave him in his little room, and he looks so sad....

Posted on December 14, 2003 at 09:05 PM in friends & family | Permalink | Comments (1)

Catching Up, Sort Of 2003

I just deleted about 250 email messages from my inbox which I have read and don't need to keep or do anything with.

That brings me down to 977. *sigh*

Posted on December 14, 2003 at 06:56 PM in mundania | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rotten Apple 2003

Apple makes really swell hardware, but sometimes their software really pisses me off. I was just removing one of the Mail accounts (in Eudora speak, a "persona") which I had used to grab mail off my server without going through Knowspam (and more about my Knowspam experiment later). I didn't read the warning message carefully enough and failed to notice that deleting the instructions for downloading from an account will also delete all the messages in your inbox which came to you through using those instructions.

There does not appear to be any way to undo this mistake.

Apple's Mail program doesn't move the mailbox it deleted into the trash; it's apparently just gone. One not too obvious warning that this doesn't work like other mail programs you may have used in the past and then "Sorry, Charlie. You lose."

Bad user experience.

(By the way, if you've sent me email since November 30th and want me to respond to it/have it to keep, please send me a new copy. Thanks.)

(p.s. Yes, I'm switching to Eudora)

Posted on December 13, 2003 at 12:04 PM in tools | Permalink | Comments (5)

A Great Try 2003

I'm sorry Matt isn't mayor. Very sorry, but not disheartened. Not at all. One quarter of this fair city came out to support Gonzalez's vision of a progressive, inclusive, creative, vital and compassionate community. Just because he isn't our mayor (yet!) doesn't mean we can't work towards that vision.

We have his clear statements of specific actions to take to make this city a better place. Let's act on them. Let's do what we can in our neighborhoods to effect the kind of change we want. We don't need the mayor's office to tell us what San Francisco needs. We know.

Posted on December 9, 2003 at 10:09 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (1)

How the vote tilts 2003

I'm supporting Matt Gonzalez for mayor of San Francisco. Mostly because I agree with his politics in general, but also because I believe that real positive change takes time and Matt will stick around long enough to make it happen. I do not think Gavin Newsom would be satisfied with his career if he were still mayor of San Francisco in 12 years. I think Matt loves this city deeply and will continue to work to make it the kind of place I want to live for many years to come whether he wins the election or not.

But in the runoff for District Attorney, I was much less committed to a particular candidate. I didn't know much about Terence Hallinan other than that those who lived here longer than I seemed to have strong opinions both pro & con. I met Kamala Harris very briefly while volunteering at the Castro Street Fair and thought she seemed nice and committed to communicating with the electorate (and she accepted a Dean for President sticker from me). I voted for her in the election. Since then, I noticed that Gonzalez is endorsing Hallinan and that Harris has endorsements from Willie Brown and Dianne Feinstein. Hmm, not looking so attractive now. This morning I was thinking of maybe voting for Hallinan in the runoff, but was still undecided.

Tonight I have been bothered with two pre-recorded calls endorsing Harris. Plus we got another piece of mail from her campaign.

I don't recall getting a single piece of mail from Hallinan and his campaign certainly hasn't called.

At this point, I've changed my vote. Anyone want to try to swing me back to Harris?

Posted on December 6, 2003 at 05:47 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (3)

Chronological Clarity 2003

I've just added an extra indicator of the year of each post to make things clearer in my category archives. Now that this weblog is over 5 years old and I'm backfilling posts about the rest of my life, I think it's helpful to have a little more context as you start to read a post. (This idea came to me when I was reading one entry and thinking "Boy, I hope they realize I wrote this over 20 years ago...")

Posted on December 6, 2003 at 03:37 PM in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Busy can be wonderful 2003

It's been a busy week, but a very good one. I had my review at work and it was mixed. I've definitely made significant mistakes in my first 16 months at this job, but I've also had great successes and my average work is good. It was a tough review because I really had to face some deep-seated bad habits. This time, with the support of my boss, my sweetheart, my family and friends, and some reserve of strength I found in myself, I've finally turned a corner. I recognized that I have been taking the lazy, painful way out by kicking myself and feeling shitty when I blow it, but not doing the much harder thing of actually changing my behavior. This time I decided to change. I didn't decide to try to change; I just did it. It feels really great. I am much less stressed, more productive and happier.

I just watched the special features about the Weta Workshop design team and the stunt team for Lord of the Rings on the extended edition DVD of The Two Towers (which finally came today) and I am so inspired and grateful and proud. These films make me proud to be human. We are wonderful creatures. To create something so amazing, so rich and deep and powerful, is the best thing in the world. It's the same feeling I get from seeing Cirque du Soleil or hearing incredible musicians. This is us at our best. And it doesn't have anything to do with race or creed or gender or nationality. The best happens when we set those things aside to make something together.

Yeah, of course I think "gee, if only I'd stayed a theater arts major, I might have ended up working on the costume team for these films". Sure I want to make magic. But then again, I make the gateway to magic. Librarians link people to ideas, to stories, to the tools that enable people to create. Making software for libraries isn't so very far away from other kinds of creativity.

And I never have to wear prosthetic makeup, work in the middle of the night for 3 months straight, and fall off 30 foot walls. There are some compensations for taking the tamer path.

Posted on December 3, 2003 at 10:23 PM in work | Permalink | Comments (0)

On the tip of my tongue 2003

I don't remember enough of this quote to find it via Google apparently, so I'll try the more quirky power of human memory. I think it was from an interview with a comic book writer, Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore, and it was something about how it was no surprise that superheroes were always beating each other up what with those tight spandex outfits, incredible bodies and never getting any sex.


It was funny when he said it.

Posted on December 2, 2003 at 08:29 PM in quotes | Permalink | Comments (1)

World AIDS Day 2003

"According to UNAIDS estimates there were 38.6 million adults and 3.2 million children living with HIV at the end of 2002, and during the year 5 million new people became infected with the virus. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35. 95% of the total number of people with HIV live in the developing world. But HIV still remains a threat to people of all ages and nationalities." Avert.org
Use a condom

Get tested

Link and Think

Learn more

Posted on December 1, 2003 at 10:17 AM in health | Permalink | Comments (0)

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