The Hustle and Bustle of Everything Thinging

A sunburn in a place that was previously impervious to sunburn is a big hint. Yes, the hairline, she is a-receding… Ah well. I know enough about heredity to have failed to imagine myself impervious to it… All the men on both sides of my family had that going on. I do wonder if a bald spot is on the way up upon the crown? Meh. Hair… whatever.

Sunburns do suck the glee out of things for a while, though. Nonetheless, the trip I made to the beach with a co-worker and her husband was cool and worth it. I’ll put pictures up sooner or later.

But for now, I need to go for my walk and pick up some milk. I cleaned out the espresso machine with some diluted vinegar and tons of water and the coffee is once again tasting like heavenly wonderful stuff. Ours is cheap enough you have to just keep running water and vinegar through it, I don’t see an obvious way to open it, and I guess I’d let it go a bit longer than usual.

(It doesn’t take too long for weirdness to build up inside the pipes. It was an eye-opening experience to see what came out of the machine where there were no beans in the portafilter. I think I’ll be cleaning it out a lot more often from now on, like every couple of weeks or so.)

Anyway, the coffee comes out nice, but we’ve run out of milk, and we usually have nice cappucinos at various points during the day. So I must pick some up, now, at the wonderful hour of twenty past midnight.(1)

Then it’s back to working on my paper. Actually, I’m going to rewatch a movie I’m discussing in the paper — Yesterday , isn’t that an interesting choice of title for a futuristic SF movie? Like so many, it ends up being about a historical schism and trauma, for reasons that may be obvious if you know South Korea well, but which deserve some unpacking in an SFnal context, especially since it actually works well in The Host or Save the Green Planet but not so well in a number of other movies  — and write a little more, and then go to bed and read the latest Greg Egan fior a while, till I drop off.

By the way, recently finished Richard Morgan‘s Market Forces and just today finished Cory Doctorow‘s Little Brother. Again, I’ll have something to say about each when I’ve finished getting this paper together. I’m doing for five of six Korean SF movies what I did for The Host here, but in one-tenth the space, with lots of citations and enough smartypants language to make it palatable to academics. You know, it’s actual work.

(1) Er, wait, now that the post is nearly done, it’s quarter to one in the morning. All too much distraction with the cat, who went nuts in the middle of my writing this. She was hissing and swatting when I tried to get her and bring her to my offfice, where her noisy protestations wouldn’t keep Lime awake, as she’s working early tomorrow! But now she’s here, and I shall go for a bit.

4 thoughts on “The Hustle and Bustle of Everything Thinging

  1. I read Little Brother and enjoyed it but Doctorow’s views about freedom and privacy are a little too strong in the book for me.

    I can accept that the department of Homeland Security is probably making a lot of mistakes nowadays but if there were a second attack on the US, as described in the book, citizens would not so likely question the government’s actions. In the current, real-life situation of the US having been attacked seven years ago, sure, but not so much after two attacks.

  2. Brian,

    Well, it’s certainly your right to disagree. That’s one thing a true civil libertarian type like Cory would never deny you: the right to disagree. (Whereas those his novel criticizes — real and imagined alike — are much less accepting of disagreement, and seem to love to label people treasonous. EDIT: I’ll admit some civlibs in real life are pretty brash, and might emphasize what they feel is the stupidity of a dissenting opinion, but I think if they deny you a right to it, they’re not really civlibs anymore.)

    But I think two things bear pointing out: first, a lot of the novel simply points out that counting on people like the DHS to defend freedom is unrealisticly trusting in not just their inclination to do so, but also their competency (sadly, from what we’ve seen the last few years, there’s little competency to speak of) and the realistic feasibility of anyone doing so.

    (Cory’s and Schneier often point out that any security system you build can be broken, because there’s always someone (or a group of someones) cleverer than yourself out there. IT’s the same thing with national security: should it be built upon secrets that only a few know? Isn’t that a profoundly bad way to ensure security? And isn’t the risk of manipulation of that system to erode other liberties crucial to democracy too great?)

    And secondly, it’s SF. Like much SF, it’s clearly about our world, for the audience of the novel is people living in the real-world America. Which I hasten to point out is an America where another attack hasn’t happened, yet where the DHS (and the administration that spawned it) is doing similar things to in the book, but with even less justification (and almost as much cynical manipulation of the media). That’s not mistakes, it’s outright incompetence, it’s outright violation of human rights. Mistakes is not the honest word for swatting away habeas corpus, jailing people without a trial, illegally detaining and spying on civilians, or any of the other fun the DHS has been having in the last few years. I’m sure there are some good people in the DHS working hard. It doesn’t mean we should trust them (our anyone) with the say-so on when human rights can be suspended, whether torture is a crime, or the rest of it.

    (I’m willing to disagree about some things, but not that!)

    I’m not saying it’s a perfect book, mind you. (I’ll say more about that when I actually review it.) But I do think the particular criticism you make misses the mark. Oddly, the main message, to me, was that geeking out and getting into the guts of whatever OS or tech stuff turns you on is almost a sacred duty, and that freedom is another, and the two, in our era, are intimately bound together.

    Which reminds me of this video, which articulates the connection between this and freedom a little better. (Doctorow sees the assault on freedom much more generally than just in the context of the DHS, for example. And I have to say I agree, in large part.)

  3. I bought the book because I am a fan of Doctorow’s message and have followed his interviews and discussions online. I agree that we need to be protective of our liberties.

    I just think that having the populace keep its distrust of national security agencies through a period when national security is at issue, is unlikely.

    If the kids were picked up during their computer game and taken away and had these terrible things happen to them, everything else in the story would be stronger, for me, at least.

    It might even fit. For old guys like me, the game they play sounds made up and ridiculous.

  4. Brian,

    I see. Well, I think the populace has a very good reason to distrust the DHS, given its record to date. They’ve complicated a lot, and it doesn’t seem to me that anything’s changed: America’s still susceptible as it ever was, except the very few holes they’ve plugged.

    (Actually, an article I published only a few short months after 9/11 (PDF here argued as much: that planes were not going to be the means of the next big attack, because that trick was used up. But it’s not like our sewage systems are secure, is it? Are the switching stations of the world guarded with armed guards?

    One thing that Charles Perrow argues in Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies is that no matter how many cracks you fill, there are too many to fill them all, say, for example, with relatively well-designed complex technological systems like nuclear power plants.

    When you have people actively conspiring against you, many more cracks are likely to open up too. (Though thank goodness a lot of religious extremists tend, broadly speaking, to be somewhat lacking in the imagination department.)

    As for the populace’s distrust, well, I took that as being something only young people and a few radicals shared. I figured most people were much more like the protagonist’s father, and that only sustained pressure by the Xnet kids changed that. It’s SFnal, but only mildly so: if you could impose the inconvenience of idiotic security theater on everyone, eventually they’d demand it be taken apart. It’s only because a tiny percentage of people fly every day (or even regularly) that fliers have to put up with things like having to take off their shoes when going through security, or the ban on bottled water, of all things. If everyone were on a no-fly list, class action suits would be feasible. Since so few are, nobody can do much about their unconstitutionality.

    Funny about ARGing — I’ve never done it, but it’s close enough to a kind of internified AD&D or even LARP that it doesn’t seem odd to me. Then again, I know people online who’ve worked in the field before, so…

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