QC-L Version 4.0

Yes, welcome to my lair of evil thoughts and incorrect speech where I don't let go and move on and I talk about whatever I please. On a blog no one ever tells you to shut up. If you don't like what I say, just go elsewhere.

This blog now has a new background and a new theme. It is also using a remotely loaded style sheet. That is a first. It is lush, heavy, and uses a background that has a theme I have never used here before, though I have used it for pressies. Let the show go on! It always does anyway. And yes, we are powered by Blogger.

I am putting a temporary illustration here until I have a logo for this design. Watch this space.

temporary illustration


The Backfile: this blog's archives.

Ajayu, home of my story, The Sneezeweed Chronicles. Yes, I do fiction.

It will have Oneiro, my own little role play.

Unfettered Soul, my flagship site.

The Silk Purse, my play pretend Brainstorms.

Failed Messiah Religious news never sounded so good.

New York Times. Read the news and be smart.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I did some administrative work on Banging Your Heart. I accidentally glitched one of the fora, but I think it is fixed now. That is a relief.

Haldis also got to do some work her team at the Webleagues tonight.

I guess this is a night for tying loose ends together. I've started Linked by Barbassi and I find it to be filled with way more hype and far less substance than Watt's Six Degrees. Watt's prose could be a bit purple at times, but Barbassi is sensationalist. It is interesting to read what science people write when they write well. One of my favorite places to look for book reviews used to be JAMA. If I needed to find health related biology titles, I would still look there. Doctors are educated, and those who like to write pen excellent reviews that are in depth and fun to read.

Linked will be the last of Howard's course related reading. After that I want to read The Rebbe's Army. Also a colleague at work steered me towards a book on Cybercommunities written by someone at the University of Georgia or Georgia State. I guess my appetite for nonfiction is permament.

Right now it feels as if my world has ground to a screeching halt. It hasn't really. I had a family crisis and was gone Sunday through part of Thursday and spent Saturday night planning the trip and Thursday night recovering from it. I cooked, cleaned my bedding, and sort of am still getting my world back in order. None of that can be a bad thing. I don't want to discuss the family crisis on this blog, so don't look for the details. They won't be here. Sorry.

I guess it might not hurt to write about the secret elite. Can the secret elite ride a Greyhound? The answer is the secret elite ride in everything from sport utility vehicles to Greyhound buses, though the secret elite are more likely to put their teenage and college age kids on short haul Greyhounds than ride from New York to Atlanta as I did. On the East Coast in urban areas, there is a kind of small footprint urbanism that a lot of secret elite follow, but it is more likely that you will see secret elites on commuter trains, airport shuttles, and other short haul forms of public ground transit. I think the preference for this is more eastern and urban than secret elite, but since secret elite prefer large cities on the coast they are more familiar with public transit.

I have lost track of the tent city in Lebanon. I guess I could find out what is happening there. Is that place still around? Is the Prime Minister who was resisting the rabble still in power? I guess it is time to have a look. Of course we have the Daily Star. They should be covering the tent city or at least have word on what is going on. and there is Riemer's blog too. Well it looks like the tent city is still in business, as is the Prime Minister. I guess after a while all of this becomes old hat, unless of course one lives in Beiruit.

And yes, I'll comment on Saddam's hanging. There's supposed to be a bootleg video of it on the net, but since I can't confirm that it's real and I don't like linking to stuff like that, you aren't going to get a link from me. First, they shouldn't have hanged Saddam on a holiday weekend. We don't execute criminals on Christmas Eve or the Saturday before Easter Sunday. This weekend is Eid Al-Aha for Suni Moslems. Second, they should let Saddam's family have his body. They did that for Sloboadn Milosovitch and we do it routinely for murderers whom we execute. If people want to make a big deal over the funeral, well let them. It's cold consolation since the guy is dead anyway.

On R05 (Note: this is an MSN Group for which I am using a code so I know it's name and you don't.) someone started a thread about Saddam's hanging with the words: "The Monster is Dead." I suppose one could say that. Saddam was an evil dictator, but he was not evil to any one in the US unless we invaded his country and you were fighting his soldiers. Moreover he won't be around to be tried for the rest of his atrocities now that he has been hanged. I felt like asking the woman who posted the "Monster" thread whether she was a Shia or a Kurd or knew any. Those folks have a real right to revile Saddam. For the rest of us Americans, he was just a name in the news, and if your kid was sent to fight in Iraq, Saddam was in jail and powerless three years before he was hanged. If your kids have been fighting Suni insurgents (and Shia ones for that matter), it is another matter entirely. Those folks are nationalist or sectarian or both and they want a civil war. Our troops are now caught in the middle of a mess our government made. Sometimes nice tighty dictatorships are a lot safer.

Today feels like a total wipeout. I went to schul, and we didn't have a minyan. We would hve had one if we counted women. I felt sorry for the rabbi who had to soldier on before such a small crowd. I am going to make an appointment with the newer rabbi to discuss my family crisis. I figure I trust clergy more than I do my shrink whom I've only seen once. Also, a conservative voice is a good voice in situations like this. The rabbi's sermon was interesting. He quoted Rashi which makes the Book of Genesis read a lot like Dune. According to Rashi, whom I read in that very dark pariod between college and grad school, nearly all the major characters from Adam down to Moses were prescient like the Atredes clan. This makes me wonder if Frank Herbert ever read Rashi. He's available in translation which is how I read him. Rashi was around before Dune too, by more than several hundred years, I might add.

After schul, I went to Petsmart and saw them let the kitties out of their cages in to the enclosure. Then I caught the bus home. I had a forty minute wait, and the number two bus was crowded. I got home and collapsed in bed. I awoke and am now too lazy to clean the kitchen. I wonder where most of today has gone. Oh well, at least I am here blogging and that is good.

I managed to clear off the kitchen counter so I can clean the kitchen tomorrow. I guess I am starting the new year in a clean apartment. I want to see the Peach Drop tomorrow night. I figure, why not? I will probably be in a better mood if I do some going out. I know myself well enough to know that I'll feel better if I go out.

I also know that I'm not really at loose ends. Tomorrow, I'll have all day to pay bills, clean the kitchen, and maybe even go out to lunch or buy flowers. I owe my dad a thankyou note. I'll write it and get it in the mail. I know all this is in the future tenes. One thing I won't do is fast. I'm just not in the mood and the tenth of Tevet is a minor fast day. I, however, hate fasting and feel I need to get back to normal, so fasting just won't cut it.

In other news, Hertzel has learned to coo like a dove. It's a broop but it is very soft and rumbly, almost a purr. He did not make this sound when he was younger. He learned to meow socially from Georgia whom I still miss very much. No cat here broops so don't ask where the cooing broop came from.

Friday, December 29, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I finished Trippi this morning and I don't have the heart to tear him apart. He doesn't deserve it. Yes, Joe Trippi is full of himself. Yes, Joe Trippi managed to write a book, but in the end Joe Trippi got screwed and his followers or rather Dean's followers also got screwed. They contributed money and did not ever get to cast a single vote for their candidate in most cases. All that work for nothing is my first reaction. Dean of course is head of the Democratic National Committee. Joe Trippi and his internet and the volunteers made him. Did they get much back? Well, Joe got a book.

Joe is a member of the secret elite. How do I know? I'm going to quote him. The quotes are real, but I am too lazy to look up the pages. Joe is proud that Dean's campaign is the little guy against Bush' Rangers and Pioneers. You can see that all comparisons are relative. I have no beef with that, but Joe also says that during June of 2003, the average contribution to Dean for America was $112. Say that number again. Tack it to your refridgerator door.

$112 is not chump change and half of all contributions were larger. That's what an average means. If you live pay check to pay check, as many Americans do then this is the money you scrape together and pay off for months to spoil your kids at Christmas. This may be what you spend on Christmas presents. For a secret elite member, however, this is his or her discretionary dollar. This is true even if the secret elite member has less than $112. That he or she has money leftover for a political contribution says a lot.

Time is also money. Nonsecret elite college students can't take a year off from paid employment or a year of absence that lets the financial aid loan clock run to go work on a political campaign. The students who took a year off were young members or aspiring members (I haven't made up my mind) of the secret elite.

Needless to say ordinary working stiffs who have bills to pay and families to support also can't take a year off. Dean's campaign never made it from the secret elite to ordinary Americans. One place it appeared not to travel, at least according to Joe Trippi, was the deep south. There were no appearances in Georgia or the Carolinas.

In fact, the "people powered" campaign did not exactly leave a sweet taste to my mouth down in Columbus Georgia. Yes, a professor at the college who ultimately became head of the local Democratic party, and will probably be a change for the better, routinely ran meetups down in the historical district at 6pm on a week night. Any one with a late work schedule or who was on the other side of the sprawling city of Columbus was out of luck. The rest of the world was not on an academic's summer schedule, and that included academic librarians. I felt that the Dean campaign did not care about me. I never went to a meetup and supported Kucinich.

One last note Joe Trippi complained about receiving $165,000 for thirteen months of campaign work. How many of us are going to complain of earning a six figure income?

Now let's talk about nonsecret elite people and politics. They aren't always conservative though I could tell stories about that too. This story is fresher. I was on the Greyhound coming home from New York where I went to visit my mother. There was a driver getting a free ride home who had a long conversation with the driver. The two drivers talked about unionization. Two seats ahead of me was grassroots people powered politics loud and proud and it was not one bit secret elite. The bus drivers' union is the AFL-CIO which has since split so I'm not sure which half of the union it is. One driver was a union rep and trying to convince the driver in the front seat to be more active. I joined the conversation and told how the AAUP saved my own job and a colleague's job. Habermas can laugh, but unions are a big part of people powered politics.

I am curious about what parts of the AFL-CIO is on the web and how interactive their web site is. I guess it is time for a look, Here is the web site. It has no web board. It has a bloglike section for news. It has e-cards, merchandise, puzzles and games, plus a listing of unions. Interactive sites attract vandals, so I can understand not wanting to run one.

The right side of this blog is devoted to role play and interactive fiction. There are ways to manage it well and ways to manage it poorly. There are ways to role play well and role play poorly. We have new role players on Ghostletters, and I joined two adolescent run role plays on Invisionfree.com.

Good role playing requires inner directedness and presistence. There are going to be times when you don't get a response, but your characters have to continue their lives. Then you have to get out there and write despite the emptiness. You have to write on a slow list. Your character has to have a plot and purose, hopes and dreams. You do not have to write other characters relationships or plot. That's the other players job, and they'll know how to do it best. Writing your own character is what is most important.

Resorting to a jorunal or internal dialog often works in these situations. On Ghostletters characters have the option of using the first person voice so a Ghostletters post can begin: "It feels strange and sad to be here without my fellow conscripts in Liberty Executive Park. I am now well enough to commute to Oak Gardens Plaza, but when I return to my home base to get supplies or sleep in my own bed which I'm still supposed to do some of the time, the emptiness reverberates. Lisette Dumont is of coruse still here. She can't get back in her apartment. Her building is still sealed off as a crime scene. Lisette is looking after me as much as she can. Tonight I'm well enough to go to services at Rabbi Shimon's. I guess I have Lisette to thank for that as well as Dr. Morgan, our chaplain. I tell myself that things will only get better for 2007 but having been so sick for so many days and still not being all myself kind of puts a blur on everything and leaves it soft and grey around the edges."

Alise, the chaaracter in whose voice I just wrote, has recently recovered from a kidney infection that she got from calling down the wrath of God on drug gangs feeding them in to the hands of Washington, DC's finest. She still has a voice and even without response can speak about herself.

Most teenage run role plays are third person narration only and based on a Neopets style role play that resembles chat. When role plays move to boards, they get expanded intellectual freedom, but pay the price by going asynchronous. Role plays are slower and take place over days and sometimes you end up writing to an empty house. Having journals (first person writing) for characters helps, but even in third person, it is possible to keep giving a character voice. The trick here is a flashback: A flashback works like this. I have a character I am meaning to launch so I am going to use her for my example: "'Ahhhhh-Nicks, the kids in Wooly Worm house tended to twist her name. They twisted it without malice or hurtfulness. It was just more familiar to their American born and bred tongues to turn Onyx to 'Ahhhhhh-Nicks. Yo Ahhh-Nicks, can I have a gate pass. I'm coming home from services late tonight. Ahhhhh-Nicks, do you have any shoe polish? Ahhhhh-Nicks, can I borrow your stapler? Ahhhh-Nicks, do you know if the laundry room is open?' The kids were a decent lot and Onyx enjoyed being their head resident most of the time because once the kids started studying and buckled down they reminded her of herself reflected in a different color and sometimes gender. Sometimes though they hurt in ways she could not fathom. Her history was not theirs. At a bit more than thirty years of age, Onyx could dip back in that resembled a layer cake of assorted flavors held together with gooey filling. There was her early life in a village in northern Nigeria. Onyx' father had learned English in the high school in the big city and his wife was also eduated. He had only one wife, and both of them had given all three of their daughters' English names. At eight, Onyx, and her family immigrated to England after one year without her father. Onyx, outdid herself in school and found herself by age eleven going to the grammar school a long underground ride away and wearing an elite grey and blue plaid skirt and navy blue sweater vest with the school's proud crest. At thirteen, Onyx found herself in New York in the enrichment track of a junior high school which had no uniform. At fourteen she sat for another exam and attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, another long subway ride away. Then there was Cornell and University of Nebraska at Lincoln and now...There weren't a lot of regular jobs for a person with a PhD in Comparative Literature. Here she was head resident in Wooly Worm House."

Inner dialog is a different trick. Here is an example: "Leonie was not ready to call her parents. It didn't matter what Aunt Onyx said and that what Aunt Onyx said had made perfect sense. Dealing with the same old arguments would only make her feel painful inside along with feeling empty and kicked. Leonie wanted no fresh wounds. 'All we will do is argue again, Aunt Onyx. Don't you understand?' Leonie was not going to give an inch as far as going to services was concerned. If you are not going to fight for religion, for what will you fight? Leonie knew that asking that question sounded way too dramatic. When you had to fight for what you believed, it was a grubby tired business. Getting hurt by dealing wtih parents who hurt because they simply have more power, is not noble or virtuous. One fights over one's beliefs because it is something one has to do, not because it is noble or wonderful or principaled. Leonie was up to doing more fighting for her faith. She was sick of it." Internal dialog goes a long way. It is a way to make third person almost like first person.

For those running role plays (and this is not Ghostletters which is a mailing list), too much top down plotting or in a board environment planning will kill your story. Ghostletters, which uses a mailing list and so no premade categeries, is completely bottom up. Scribes create not only characters, but also their characters' environments and worlds. This has resulted in the convention that characters can and do inhabit parallel universes. This permits multiple futures and fictional pasts and alternate presents. This gets complicated and makes characters meeting for adventures that are not just correspondence difficult, but such is life. This very open bottom up architecture makes it very hard for new scribes to get started because each scribe begins with a completely blank slate.

On a conventional teen role play, characters to some extent share a common environment. I have seen some experiments multienvironment, polychronic, and connected role plays, but these are difficult to pull off. This still doesn't mean that owners and founders have to create the entire environment. It is possible to set up four or five general areas, for example for a boarding school role play (and this includes boarding school for magically gifted and college role plays) might include: classes, dormitories, elsewhere on campus, and off campus, and maybe an out of town, in addition to a variety of administrative categories. This is very broad on puropose so that scribes can build what they need and not leave a lot of empty categories as they ignore what they don't need. Chances are excellent that thinking scribes will need things you would not even create. For example, suppose a scribe creates a female character who is drop dead beautiful but makes her a talented horsewoman instead of a cheer leader. The new scribe has just avoided a cliche, and added a bit of diversity. Of course if you have made your campus or twon very detailed, your scribe will have to beg for an equestrian center and/or stable. If you are using the more open plan outlined above, your scribe creates the place she needs to ride and you have a happy creative scribe.

Preplotting is also another deadly sin. I know it is tempting because you have a story in your head, but use inner dialog and flashbacks to get going and don't depend on others to share your vision. Besides, you don't know what your scribes think. They may be able to write plots of which you never conceived. You may have a scribe who is learning a langauge who wants to write an academically heavy plot that includes the second language, or a plot about an exchange student who is bilingual. You may have a scribe who wants to write about a character returning to school after a long illness. Again, this was not your idea, but don't you want it? It is not easy to drop the reins, but think of it as building room for growth.

Finally, whether you are on ghostletters or a conventional teen role play, you are going to need to keep your characters going after those initial introductory posts so here is my last contribution for tonight. I call it SNOC. It stands for Strengths, Needs, Opportunities, and Challenges. You can SNOC any character, old or new. SNOCs will change over time. Here is how a SNOC might work for my flaghsip Ghostletters' character, Naama Roth. Naama is a seven year old character. She was nearly sixteen when I created her and she will be twenty-three May 31, 2007. Her SNOC reflects her age and some of her experience but not really her past. Here it is.

Naama's Strengths: Naama has always been an excellent students. She will also graduates with marketable skills, a BA in mathematics from Cornell combined with enough education (Ed psych) credits to give her a provisional 7-12 New York State teaching license. Naama is also an able and successful administrator of House #2 for Rose Among Thorns, a messianic religious movement with roots in Syracuse New York. Naama has a boyfriend named Caufeld whom she plans on marrying. The two have had a monogamous and healthy relationship for nearly four years.

Naama's Needs: Health comes to the top of Naama's list. She is cursed which means she loses weight at the top of a hat, meaning she often does not weigh enough to menstruate due to insufficient body fat. Naama is on antipsychotics, antianxiolytics, probiotics. She has had screaming nightmares and even at one point hallucinations. She has nearly died due to a miscarriage. Naama when she does menstruate is ragingly fertile. She wears an IUD to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. She is still quite ambivalent about becoming pregnant. Naama has the ability to "call souls." Naama saw the face of God the summer she was eighteen. This is an amazing power and Independent Rainbow has wanted to exploit Naama. Naama has been able to plead ill health but that may not last.

Naama's Opportunities: Naama wants to marry Caufeld. She would like to ultimately become a high school principal. She is well suited to acheive both of these goals. Naama's Challenges: Independent Rainbow would like Naama to work for them as a mage/priest. Naama has no interest in doing this and friends have been running interference for Naama. There are also a lot of powerful people who have a less than positive view of Rose Among Thorns, the messianic organization with whom Naama is a high ranking officer. Naama Roth has enemies and those who do less than wish her well or have her best interests at heart. On a day to day basis, getting teenage foster kids to stick to their studies and become useful working people is Naama's more pedestrian challenge.

There you have a SNOC. Give it a try.

Friday, December 22, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

It is interesting to see that the theoretical threads beneath the tapestry of Howard's course were tangled and contradictory. This is what happens when you read whole books instead of cherry pick at chapters.

Trippi and Habermas would not agree one bit about the public space. In fact, it would not surprise me if the practically minded pol, Trippi, would even know or care who Habermas was or is (He's still alive so I guess it's an "is.") but if he did they would come to loggerheads really fast. Habermas is a nose in the air Marxist. There are are few of those around in academia. He does not believe that buying and selling belong in the public sphere that breeds democracy.

Remember all those posts I wrote about the difference between a swap list, a garage sale, and the shopping mall. Well, Trippi, full of himself as he is, would agree with ME. He sites Ebay and Amazon.org as examples of the rudiments of the public sphere though he does not use the words. He says those two big retailers "ploughed the snow" to clear the roads to use of the internet for political purposes.

by Eileen Kramer

I guess I need to talk about Joe Trippi's The Revolution Will Not be Televised. While Watt's Six Degrees read like the job hunting boards at the Chronicle, Trippi is full of himself. He also made a slip that made me wince. Long ago, he lost an online friend he idolized. I have done the same. I wish I had more spirit contact with him. Yes, Gerald, I'm talking about you, but that is not the point here. What made me wince was that Trippi said that the great thing about the net is that it brought smart, idealistic, talented people together. What's wrong with that?

Well look up at the sky. There are only so many stars. Whbat about the rest of us? Most of us just aren't people with everything. We don't get fetted by software companies. We don't write essays that thousands of people want to read. We don't run major blogs, but we count too. That is why there are services such as MSN Groups. They are for the ordinary person on the net. Call it a trailer park. Well, I've got a great big double wide and you're inside it.

While Trippi, Rheingold, and other visionaries imagine and laud an internet world dominated by stars whom the rest of us follow because they are just so much hipper and smarter than the traditional media and government sources and who contribute to wonderful *ahem* collaborative efforts like Wikipedia, ordinary people are losing a major internet platform. This has happened with Homestead when it went from free to pay. Haldis lost one of her best fighters, Lou Kennedy of Lou's Garden of Dreams. At $120 per year, Lou could not restart her graphics heavy Homestead web site.

Now, I am not saying that MSN Groups is closing. They have given no date and may never. After all, Topica is still around. MSN Groups is degrading to death. Partial downages of more than a day are very common. There was a major rash of them over the weekend, and even now there are some groups coming up with blank pages, a sign of software trouble which is very scarey. All ready the failure rate for MSN Groups' servers and software is beyond normal and acceptible levels. the Veldt is part of a redudant system and not large enough that its loss would mean much. It's the death of a civil and accessible culture for ordinary users which Groups creates that is the real tragedy of losing Groups.

Well, the time is now. I have stood on the ramparts and for two and a half years sworn vengance against the elite who participate in places like Brainstorms and their comrades hiding in other secret venues. I have not forgotten. I will never forget. I will never move on. Tonight, I had a chance to leap from the ramparts and take you on. I gave it a very good shot. Who knows what the effect of that shot will be. If I am lucky and God willing I will be, I'll have a VENGANCE VICTORY beyond my wildest dreams.

Now there is one problem. It is painful to watch the people you are trying to help and whom you sometimes befriend shooting themselves in the foot. This is common when many people depend on one vendor to provide them with a platform. A big difference between bloggers who often have their own space and really need only the software, those with static web pages (again many providers), and even Myspace users (There are several similar platforms so if you don't like one...) and MSN Users and unfortunately Neopians is that you have thousands of people deeply involved in the net but also highly dependent on a single platform and vendor and also fairly isolated from what is common practice on the rest of the net.

Many MSN Groups users are weirdly grateful to MSN. I've seen this with Neopians who internalize the Neorules. Hey, folks, you can go elsewhere. It may take some work, but aren't relationships with people and a style of communicating worth defending? It's not quite a Stockholm effect but the last place I heard it was on the Neopian boards. I now play my pet independently or will again when I feel the need to have a virtual pet. It took selling myself and painting a pet to make me sick of the whole business.

MSN Groups is not Neopets, but its users also have that weird self-deprecating and guilty attitude I occasionally saw in Neopians. Among Neopians, it was considered perfectly acceptible to be "not too involved" with your pets. "It's only pixels," someone would say when you brought up people who starved their pets and did not invest in them. Well, my managers board at MSN Groups if full of people who say "go find something else to do" when MSN Groups does not work or talking about the evils of internet addiction, gained weight, dirty houses, etc... The jokes quickly become sessions in self flagellation. It makes me a bit sick to read it, not because such things haven't happened but because I think what happens to me on the net and social life on the net is important and we do have control of our environment and quite simply we need to fight.

I've seen Wallop the alternative to MSN Groups. If you know someone you can get in, but once your friends and faimly are inside, if you are not in with the right clique there is nothing to do unless you, like me, believe in play pretend or just want to listen to your music or visit random pages. The silence inside Wallop for someone who lacks the Brainstormish definition of "social capital" is deafening. By contrast, with MSN Groups, you search for a group by interest, apply to several and join. The same is true for Invisionfree.com boards though they are aimed at a younger crowd and sometimes for Yahoogroups (Their index includes pornography which makes it useless for people interested in other things.) You don't have to know any one to have a say or to be heard. Seventh grade ended years ago. Wallop, MySpace, and perhaps Delicio.us want to take us back there. This is why MSN Groups are worth fighting for.

I want to comment on this post on MentalBlog. The stories that I have heard at Chabad did not strike me as something I wanted as much as a kind of fantasy about something very real and social. I went away to college and would love to sit around and talk stories of dorm life with a bunch of teenagers or those curious about going away to college. It was unequivocally the best time of my life except for a few rough spots. It was surely the most exciting time of my life.

The Chabad rabbis and rabbis-to-be sitting there getting smashed at the kiddush table (Hey Judaism permits drinking in moderation.) went away to yeshiva and also sampled dorm life. True, my dorm life was co-ed, but most co-ed dorms are crowded places and far less hot beds of sex than people just trying not to step on each other. Besides, my dorm experience was co-ed by floor which meant boys were visitors and co-ed by wing in grad school. Again, it was a mostly female space. Co-ed by room is a different arrangement but even there, people get weirdly modest in close quarters.

Another fantasy I hear from the rabbis, and one I recognize from my boyfriend and his friends, is the cloistering fantasy. This must be a Y-chromosome thing. While it is not pleasant to be the only female among a bunch of guys (It is not awful. I've boarded in frat housses with weirdly lopsided sex ratios), I never had any desire for a single sex environment. Males are nice to have around. If you have a boyfriend, you can baby him and take care of him as well as love him. He can take you out dancing. To not have a chance to have a boyfriend would be sad indeed. T

There are men who think differently. I suspect this is what gives rise to all male hunting and fishing vacations where precious little blood sport gets done, men going in groups to ball games to cheer on their teams etc... The cloistering fantasy where men of a religious bent dream of hanging out and studying together and praying together is a variant of this or maybe the most extreme form of something I have seen but don't fully understand.

In to this mix comes a peculiar physical and spiritual dualsim. I think it is Cartesian but what I know about philosophy fits in a thimble and still rattles around in that thimble like dice in a box. All I know is that because I am not learned I often feel closest to God when I am doing something physical, fixing a meal (I get thankful for the food or it is pretty food. Most vegetables are pretty when bought fresh), or walking to schul. Ponce is a pretty street and I like looking at the state of the trees and plants in this sunny southern city. I am even grateful for the cold and glad to be free of a bus schedule and moving under my own steam, all four miles worth. I have time to get in to a reflective state of mind when I walk.

Now what they do down at Chabad is take my world view and torture it with a big cartesian axis. They tell me there is a spiritual and a physical and one is far superior to the other. I feel as if I am missing out in the first instance and also light years ahead of the rabbis since I seem to have no trouble fusing the spiritual and the physical. I also do a pretty good job fitting Judaism in with general knowledge. To me all knowledge is of a piece. What Ayn Rand says about sacrifice (It expletive deleteds big time!) may be right and one should avoid it. It is not noble. I'd like to believe joy is my right. Whenever I hear any one upholding sacrifice I wince. To me sacrifice is a necessary evil. I think about Camus (I read L'Etranger in high school! I had a very good high school education!) when the rabbi talks about the meaning of life and I think about Voltaire's Candide.

I have too many years invested in a secular education to say that the philosophers, anthropologists, and biologists should get pushed away from the table either because we are compartmentalizing today or because spiritual knowledge is so superior to physical knowledge it simply goes first in line. I won't say the idea is dumb. I just don't think the map of knowledge is laid out this way. If religious learning can't share with other ideas, it is selfish. If it can't hold its own with other ideas, then let's all go home and play on the internet. I do think spirituality and religious learning can hold its own and share with everything else. Call me an optimist.

Those in Chabad are not willing to let both types of knowledge coexist. The fact that they are creationists also sticks like a bone in my throat. My undergraduate major was biology and society. Besides a 5,600 odd year old earth does not mesh with what we know about civilization and archaeology. I'd rather have science with me than against me.

By the way, I am still undecided about schul shopping. December 23, the next Saturday is a sensitive one because it falls right on top of Christmas. Many Jews choose to disappear during Christmas by travelling. The wealthy athletic ones take ski vacations or go to resorts. I'm not sure how much this happens at Atlanta and how much it will effect Chabad or the big Conservative barn up in Peach Tree Battle. I don't count as a minyan member at Chabad, but I am a member of the audience. I will count as a minyan member but probably won't be needed at Peach Tree Battle, but the audience is likely to be small and my presence useful. Is leaving the house at 6:30am for 9am services too early? For Chabad which is a 9:30am to 10am start service, I can leave as late as 8am. This is going to be one tough decision.

In other news, I finally put up this page. Yes, it's more sig-files. Call it a different kind of act of faith and check it out.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Are you ready for more about the secret elite? Of course you are so here we go! The first question you might ask is why are the secret elite so secret? Well, to tell the truth, they are not secret because they require special codes, handshakes, or passes to find them. They are not secret because they live in gated communities though some of them might do that. When the secret elite talk, they denounce gated communities as a social evil. They also denounce sprawl, though some of them, especially peripheral members or wannabees might live in the far flung suburbs and make a long commute each day in their SUV.

The secret elite are secret because they hide in plain sight. They don't wear buttons that say "I'm a member of the Elite!" and they don't put up billboards. They don't have web sites that advertise their status and say they are only open to membership in their exclusive club, with the exception of Brainstorms. Most of the time, they don't ask the government to impose their will on every body else. Occasionally they do, but they are never acting in the interests of their group, but instead for the greater good.

What the secret elite practice from day to day or until they end up in positions of power is quietism. Most of the time, they have their own institutions. They may be out there publicly. You can find them if you know where to look, but do you look there? Another very good example of quietism is Orthodox Jews who have their own restaurants, schools etc... These are publicly visible from the road but you usually don't go there or even notice them because you don't look for them.

The same is true of the secret elite. Saturday night, I got to walk through a secret elite neighborhood called Little Five Points. It was filled with those "funky stores" that secret elite love and wonderfully restored old houses. There were concerts going on and the Arden's Garden stand which sells fresh squeezed juice for three dollars a glass was doing a rip roaring business. There was not a chain restaurant or big box store to be seen. Of course on the other side of the MARTA tracks was a normal shopping center with a Target (no Wal-Mart sad to say), Home Depot, Petco, Kroger's etc... Probably some secret elites sneak out there to shop but more likely the center's shoppers were working class blacks. Atlanta is also a racially segregated city.

Well, I'll get some pictures of Little Five Points for this blog, but meanwhile, I'm going to take you on a tour of secret elite web venues. I can not take you in to Brainstorms because it is locked, but we can go to visit The Perfect World.

The first thing any one who visits the Perfect World who is NOT secret elite or who has left secret elite venues notices, is the writing. It is nearly one hundred percent original. If someone posts an outside article or a link to it, the article is there to attract original comment.

Perfect Worlders write well, most of the time, and confidently all of the time. They do not write to "make other people laugh." or as a public service. They write to express their opinion, get a point across, or ask for help. If they "just vent" they get possible solutions to their problems. There is a prayer request board hidden away in an obscure corner of the Perfect World. It is not one of the busier boards.

Here is a good example of the tone of posts on some parts of the Perfect World. Perfect Worlders have no fear of "debate" or "drama."

By the way, feel free to take apart the Perfect World name. What kind of a place calls itself that anyway. By the way, I am a member over at the Perfect World and any one here is welcome to join.

MSN Groups are NOT a secret elite hangout. Like those who have traditional funerals or attend the local Baptist church on Sunday, members of the secret elite are very unlikely to know any one who participates in MSN Groups. MSN Groups have created an alternative online culture for those who are not secret elite.

While there are educated people who are clearly NOT members of the secret elite, most nonmembers find writing difficult. Secret Eliters by contrast are articulate and fearless writers. Facing a blank page is intimidating. Climbing on that soapbox is scarey. MSN Groups get around this with group games, ice breaker threads, and the use of small graphics or sig-files. This is what the late Gerald M. Phillips would call a glyphic culture, but it is a culture that is tackling very real problems and doing it effectively...well almost.

MSN is allowing its groups to degrade to death. For two days my group was unusable. It was impossible to add messages to the boards or to reply to existing messages. Two days downtime is exccessive and this is the second or third downage in three months. Most downages last more than a day. One blocked all the pages my group had. Most seem to interfere with the boards. On the Managers Group where I belong, managers gather to bemoan downages.

There are only two ways to react to a stability problem such as MSN's. When the problem becomes unacceptible, leave, find another vendor or combination of vendors. Fighting MSN is the other solution. Fighting means bringing outside attention to the problem whether that is upper echelon attention at Microsoft, shareholder attention, media attention, or advertiser attention.

Bloggers (not the ones with little Myspaces) tend to be secret elite members, but MSN members are something different and special. It is too bad they live and die by the whims of a company whose community software department is full of secret elite. I think now is the time to fight.

Here are the people to complain to at Microsoft.

Michael Delman
Corporate Communications
Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399

Joanne K. Bradford
Marketing and Sales Executive
Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399

Sunday, December 17, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

We've got a culture war. Now the next question is of course: "which side are you on?" or are you merely a spectator and between the sides. First, let's name the thousand pound elephant in the living room. He's there leaving his stinking excrement all over the floor. We can call him class. That really isn't the word because there are people with money and fairly decent educations in both cultural camps, but in our classless society we have a secret elite. They are not secret in that they meet underground and you have to know secret codes and passwords to find them. One of their online communities, Brainstorms (which does not get free advertising here) is fairly secretive, but the secret elite depends primarily on segregation and a kind of quietism to hide.

Brainstorms was my first brush with the secret elite. The reason it was my first brush was that I lived in Columbus, Georgia. Columbus Georgia is flyover territory. That means you have to go at least fifty miles to reach an airport. Most of my adult life has been lived in flyover territory. Flyover territory CAN NOT support a real secret elite. The reason is simple. You can have the most classist city around and that was Columbus. You can have your tony neighborhoods where the wealthy live. You can even have fancy intellectual activities and clubs that are usually work related like CALA and there's one for information science professionals. You can even have Toastmasters, but at night, we all shop in the same three or four shopping centers, the wealthy folks from Sears Woods and North Columbus, the Hispanic folks who have come to do who knows what (Publix even stocks pepitas.), the enlisted personnel from Fort Benning. Also, Columbus is a church going community and most members are Protestant. Churches can be segregated by class, but they can also act as equalizing institutions. Anyway, going to church regularly, especially a traditional church is not a secret elite trait.

It takes big cities on the East and West coast to support the secret elite. The cities have to be large enough for there to be physical segregation. Now who are these secret elite you may ask? How do I know one when I see one? Well, there are three traits that define the secret elite. The first is money, though they will deny this. Not all the secret elite are rich. Some had money as kids and have it no more. Some are rolling in dough. Most have enough to pay their bills and at the end of the day wonder how folks on the other side of the tracks run up huge credit card debts. The money serves two functions. First, it frees the secret elite from day to day worries of paying bills and just getting by. It also gives them some choice in where they shop. While they may not be able to afford big ticket items, a secret elite member can choose to spend, one, two, twenty-five, fifty dollars more if it suits him or her.

The second characteristic of the secret elite is education. One of the things having a bit more than enough money to get buy does is create choice and with choice comes liberal education. It feels like a luxury and maybe it is. I think it has intrinsic value in helping keep secret elite members afloat during hard times. Reading a book is far less destructive than going to a bar. Liberal arts education also makes one aware of choices and gives one a kind of nuanced thinking. Learning about other cultures in Global Studies is a classic example of this. Mathematics wtih fractions and ultimately calculus that tracks moving objects with derivatives and integrals all teaches about half measures and dynamic systems. Ecology teaches that there are many paths to survival and that if a niche works, why fix it. Liberal arts education also means learning a foreign language, a favorite adolescent rite of secret elite passage. College follows middle and high schools and usually involves a residential experience for most secret elite youth. Again, there are more "Distribution" or "Core" requirements. College also deracinates the secret elite adult so he or she fits in best with other secret elites. Putting a middle class kid in a 9 by 12 dormitory double and making her live that way for a year, breaks ties with the past, erases the sense of privacy and makes another great rite of passage. Secret Elite education is socialization and acculturation as much as it is preparation for a job. You may very well have sampled some or all of the secret elite education. I know I did.

The third secret elite characteristic is isolation and segregation. They will deny this to their shoe tops when asked about it, but the secret elite usually goes their own way practicing their own culture which is different than that in most of the US. Of course real segregation can not happen outside the major metropolitan areas on the two coasts and around the Great Lakes. These are really the only places that support a true secret elite. These cities have secret elite neighborhoods with those "funky little stores" that are so much better than big box retailers and qu'el horreur discuounters such as Wal-Mart. There are Arden's Gardens juice stands instead of Coke machines. There are no convenience stores except on the periphery of a secret elite neighborhood. If something is not in one of those "funky little stores" a fully acculturated member of the secret elite buys it online, via a variety of catalog merchants or Amazon.com Yes, you might see a secret elite member at Kroger's or Publix where shopping is always a pleasure, but you are more likely to find them at Whole Foods and Trader Joes when we get one in Atlanta. Big cities offer this kind of choice . Smaller cities don't.

The web boards at the Chronicle of Higher Education site often have questions about relocating away from the desireable cities and about "can I live in" such and such a place. This is talk by people with some secret elite traits about whether there is an infrastructure taht supports them far away from the usual secret elite neighborhoods and cities, and in some cases whether there are other members of the secret elite present in those far flung bits of flyover territory. Strictly speaking the answer is no, but it is possible to have some secret elite traits and not be a full blown member of the group.

Within the secret elite's home turf, it is very possible for a secret elite member to not personally know any one who buries their dead with a traditional funeral (unless it is an underling at work), goes to a traditional house of worship once a week, shops at Wal-Mart (Why would any one do that?), doesn't support their particular candidates, drinks sugared soda, stops at QuikTrip in the morning, eats McDonalds etc... The internet adds to this isolation. Secret elite can shop online rather than go near big box stores. They also can read their own news and blog and blog roll one another. They don't have to read what Jo Sixpack thinks because her friends and she are at MSN Groups (perish the thought). Her kids and the Secret Elite kids are over at Invisionfree.com too or in Myspace or better yet, Facebook. There are also secret online communities such as Brainstorms and Wallop, and there is a public but not heavily advertised community called The Perfect World and New Cafe and I'd even include Open Mic, though this last is pretty much a refuge for those thrown out of other secret elite communities.

The current secret elite fantasy is that they will use social networking to spread their ideas. One secret elite member can influence another and so on with political ideas. Moveon.org is attempting some of this with their email campaigns. Secret elite politics tends to be left of center most of the time. Joe Trippi discussed Gary Hart trying this as early as the 1980's. Joe Trippi tried this through Deanspace back in the 2004 campaign but it crashed and burned in Iowa.

Given the right talk in conservative political circles, the secret elite culture war will make for some very nice hot button campaign issues. It all ready has and secret elite members or peripheral secret elite wannabees or exmembers like yours truly, have sometimes considered them silly or responded with a high school civics lesson letter to the editor as I did in 2004. The issues are real. Let's look at a few.

Merry Christmas. Nonsecret elite Christians celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday that is nearly universal among them. What a surprise when the executives who have some secret elite traits or may be full blown secret elite members say please tone down the religious holiday greeting. Well, from their secret elite vantage point nothing could make more sense. They themselves when given a choice buy "Seasons Greetings" Christmas cards never go to church and are not sure that Christmas is more than just another day off.

School Prayer. Traditional religion is part of nonsecret elite life. Religion is a good influence. Wanting it in schools or some form of really decent values education in schools is a reasonable want. It may not be doable due to separation of church and state. Students are free to bring Bibles to school, pray privately, or even with other students at lunch time or during free periods that allow conversation. See You at the Pole is an excellent idea and perfectly legal. It is also anti-secrete elite.

English Only. &qut;What the...." goes the secret elite member who like the student on the curriculum committee who said that balancing equations was "fun." thinks we all learned a foreign language in high school, having a second language is fun, lets you travel, everyone should have one any way and maybe this will encourage it etc... Outside the secret elite, that great liberal arts education doesn't happen and the idea that one could or should have reading knowledge of a second language, just doesn't happen. It is also possible for nonsecret elite memmbers to seldom visit zoos or art galleries.

Food glorious food. Segretation and enough discretionary income for choice, means that secret elite members do not eat the same food as ordinary people. Ordinary people could buy that food. It is for the most part not outrageously priced. They choose not to. At a secret elite gathering that offers snacks and muunchies you will find: premade taco bean dip from Whole Foods or Trader Joes, humus and pita, greek leaves, salasa from Whole Foods or Trader Joes, sometimes sushi, sometimes fancy nuts, baked brie and fancy crackers etc... It is high protein, low carb, and the drinks may be water and ice tea and wine or beer, but you will seldom see soda any more. There will be no Chex Party Mix or other snack mixes, pretzels, potato chips etc... Older people may have rice snaps and more crackers. Younger ones eschew the crunchy things and the cold sweet drink to wash them down. A screte elite dinner or pot luck will include one vegetarian option or the whole thing may be "dairy" or &auot;veg&qout; which can include fish. You will ssee field green salads, humus and pita, wraps, and an assortment of premade casseroles from Whole Foods. Conspicuously absent will be pasta salad made with mayonaise, carrot salad (either creamy or noncreamy) made with raisins and fruit, cole slaw made with mayonaise, ranch dressing or Thousand Island dressing for the salad etc... Foods have styles and the secret elite have their own. It means secret elite and ordinary people have trouble sitting down at a table together.

Now, of course I have some secret elite traits. I don't have all of them. My apartment is in a middle class caucasian neighborhood in Atlanta. I am Ardsley High School Class of 1980 and Cornell Class of 1984. I have an MLS from Syracuse University, and can pay my bills at the end of the month. I am about seventy percent of the way there to fullblown membership in the secret elite. It is my experience with Brainstorms that soured me and asked me to seek vengance against all things Brainstormish, including the secret elite. I want to make sure that I can reach and associate with those who are not secret elite members. I shop at Wal-Mart, eat some nonsecret elite food, attend an orthodox synagogue weekly. I'm also in a bunch of MSN groups. I have a blog buddy in Mississippi in U02. We can carry on a conversation that is polite and friendly.

This essay of course is just an introduction. You may after reading this feel like a guilty almost member of the secret elite. I may have described you. I come pretty close to describing myself. You may want to quit being a member of the secret elite. Alternatively, you may be a secret elite member who is interetested in imposing your way of life and your political views on the rest of us. Well, you're going to have to figure out how to get outside your segregated and comfortable group to do that. If you read what I write, I might just teach you. I'm faced with ahving to do a lot of what you do in my own quest for vegance so feel free to take a lesson. As for those of you who are avowedly NOT members of the secret elite, don't feel bad because you are the majority. Just be aware that your boss (usually one or two levels above your actual supervisor. I'd pick the regional manager on one of the coasts or in Atlanta or Chicago.), college professor, candidate whom you support, may spring fron the secret elite and like all groups, the secret elite has their own interests at heart. I'll discuss more of this in other essays.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Well with Howard's course over, it is back to traditional vengance. I am not in the mood for a mast head, so you won't get one today. You wil get a VENGANCE VICTORY. I cleaned up Play Pretend Unlimited, gave a spammer his just deserts, and even posted there. Posting five times sure felt good.

I finished Watts last night and sure learned a lot. I learned that I have pretty much always worked for networked entities. That is what comes with working in academia. Libraries are networked. Think of OCLC (or RLIN for any Berkeley students reading this blog.). If you are in Georgia, think GALILEO, and if it weren't for GIL Express and reciporical priviledges I could not have gotten about a third of the readings for Howard's course. On the other hand, librarians tend to remain stuck in their buildings and not come out all that much, but nothing is every one hundred percent.

Watts also says that organizations that produce and distribute something as opposed to smart mobs that just make noise, swarm, and maybe get people to the polls, are to some degree hierarchical. Those that are networked have the employees solving problems routinely and communicating both laterally but to various others up and down the chain of command. More links means less likelihood of failure spreading. These are big complicated webs and hardly nimble. As for the smart mobs, terrorist networks, gorilla bands of leaderless cell phoning political activtivists, we saw with the Korean election how badly they govern should they get in power. They can not even keep their political parties together. Moreover, most groups have to do more than put words on the net and hope the oh-so-cool people with the right blogs link to them and amplify them or that they get in to the right social network.

By the way, Sunday night, I saw real anti-smart mob action at work. True, people call this criminalizing dissent and it hurt. On the other hand, if you have light, nimble, and sneaky mobs herded together by a network, putting up a wall in the right place and holding your event on private property effectively keeps the smart mob outside and the fat cats know the rules not to visit the protestors. As Southerners they like to stay in their warm cars anyway. Those vandals in Seattle gave legitimate protestors and dissenters a bad name.

I think the finest of most cities and private property, 9-5 jobs, and families will disable most smart mobs. I have to check up on events in Lebanon. Where is my Daily Star when I need it? No "Oh My News!" or its Middle Eastern equivalent for me! Last I looked the Hezbollah's smart mob was fast descending in to thuggish stupidity. They've been parked outside the palace for weeks.

I think social network communities are a lot more dangerous. I'm a Walloper and I intend to keep Walloping, but I'll probably use the community more for experiments. Don't worry, I'm my own guinea pig. If any one would like a Wallop invite, I have six of them, email me and I'll see you have one in short order. I'll be discussing both Wallop and my experiments in the coming days to weeks on this blog.

Meanwhile, I want to discuss hierarchy. I did not really know what it was but if it wasn't Brainstormish, hey it was good. After being booted out of a group that did NOT practice hierarchy or at least said they didn't, joining a group where those in charge clearly identified themselves, had set written rules, and demanded obedience and gave you a known rank with known priviledges and duties, sounded very appealing. You know something, it still does. Of course having to pass all messages up and down a chain of command is not exactly appealing. That's a moderated list and sometimes lists and fora need moderation, but that is another story. That is also not the hierarchy I was encountering.

In point of fact, Brainstorms, as I remember it practiced hierarchy. A group of senior members called Floaters took turns being in charge. They even attempted a parody of due process. What I wanted was for those in charge to be accountable. On most MSN Groups and Invisionfree fora and even most mailing lists they are. I also wanted clear and consistent rules. I did not care about due process as long as everyone agreed to play by the rules and not make them up as they went along and we didn't go back to middle school with those in charge simply free to ice others out because they didn't like them.

Web boards don't really practice hierarchy except in the form of having a leadership that is in charge. I like clearly defined leadership and fair rules. That hasn't changed, but a bulletin board system where people exchange messages or a mailing list (even a moderated one by the way), is not a strict hierarchy either. I'll keep wanting clear, responsible, accountable leadership. To me that is anti-Brainstormish and deserves my support.

Part of me wants to go up to Piedmont Park for the bar mitzvah this weekend. That is fine with me. I'll be lost in the crowd and have one more to time to watch those Chabad rabbis in action.

I'd like to take a moment to critique last week's sermon. It was a decent sermon. There was nothing wrong with the message. The rabbi whose name I won't use since I'm critiquing his work said we had to take our spirituality out in the world and make sure we lived in the physical world as well as longed for God. All right, that is fine as far as it goes, but...guess what, I live in the physical world six and a half days a week. If you consider synagogue services part of mundane existence, then I'm living in the world seven days a week and if at some point I did not realize that physical and spiritual existence were all of a piece related on some continuum, I'd be lost.

The hard part for me is getting spiritual which I can do if I'm in an aesthetic and reflective mood. The key here is aesthetic. That is why walking to schul feels so good. A nice walk in winter shows a lot of the world and gives one time to appreciate God's creation. Is the walk worth more than the service? Sometimes I feel that way, but not most of the time or I'd quit. I like to waste time, but only in ways that I enjoy.

Without aesthetics, the spiritual dies off pretty quickly for me. That is why the poor state of schul food bothers me and the fact that the rabbis wear the same color clothes every day. Maybe I start with thing one or step one or from a different place. I know people who think a bit like the rabbis. Maybe it's a Y chromosome thing. Maybe it's cultural difference. Once we admit the divide is there, how do, we, they, or I get across? This feels like a battle, I can fight but not win, so maybe it is time for a new schul.

This is a heck of a reason for voting with my feet. The odd part is there is something to sell at Chabad, community, a sense of belonging for those who did not inherit the religion. Some of us didn't. It has skipped two to three generations. Anomie is the enemy. I like my independence, but my schul is a refuge from anomie. The rabbis at this Chabad house, however, don't know that freedom from anomie is what they have to push. They are speaking of their own problems and their own cultural approach. I am learning something of their world view from listening to sermons, but the advice feels misapplied, hypocritical, and they don't appear to put their money where their mouth is.

Putting the spiritual and the physical together if I have quiet time and am not on autopilot, is not that difficult for someone from my background. It is probably the only way we can approach the spiritual or maybe the most comfortable way. In fact, I'm probably better at it than the rabbis. Where I have trouble is finding community. My culture with its high emphasis on independence leaves people like me feeling alone and it's not because I'm unmarried and childless. If I had a family, we'd all need some place besides our nuclear selves. My culture leaves me to twist in the wind and willing to walk those four miles to schul. Rabbi, that ought to tell you something.

Do I sound like I am ready to leave? Are the fat cats going to be any better at solving the anomie problem than Chabad or the folks in Toco Hills? My experience with nonOrthodox Judaism is that it often comes off inauthentic in the extreme. You can't just tell people to relax and be peaceful on Friday night. Rabbi Roth back in Columbus used to say that and my brain would go "what the BLEEP?" for good reason. If you've just rushed four miles from work on a Friday night you are too keyed up to relax. The synagogue in Toco Hills never told any one to relax on Friday night. They had singing. If you came in keyed up, they were all fired up and rearing to go. The singing did relax me, but the lively approach worked ten thousand times better than telling me to relax.

And yes, the home hospitality, for all its problems (and it had big problems, namely randomness), was a good faith stab at the anomie problem. How to create community without prying in to people's private business or excluding those who don't fit the mould is still a tough task. I'm not sure a conservative synagogue full of fat cats is going to do a good job at this. At this point, I'd like more shared values. Maybe a community starts with those. On the other hand, people for whom community is second nature might do a better job with community.

I'm still not decided about running or fighting. I do think I know the right question to ask the rabbi, yes he is my rabbi with all his faults. I think I am just starting to understand him. I respect him. I feel sad he does not have a real high school education to go with his religious training. From my sources which are confidential, I gather he has the rough equivalent of a ninth or tenth grade education. He has had to live by his wits and he has done a better job than I could do. I hope that does not sound like a backhanded compliment. I do wish he would try to understand me. When I am somewhere and I am lost, I ask questions.

Now what questions would I ask my rabbi? I might ask about his upbringing or his schooling. I guess that is a good place to start. I'd ask if he had any community service or volunteer positions available. I would like him to tell me why and how yeshiva/seminary is different from going to secular graduate school full time. There is a start. Can I fight this battle? I ought to stop worrying about winning or losing. That's not the right mind set, is it?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Oh I have the last reading of Howard's course right here.

The Rise of Netpolitics: How the Internet is Changing International Politics and Diplomacy The Aspen Institute.

After reading this piece of junk, I came to the conclusion that all the oh-so-cool blogging types who are big on soft power, social capital, saying the right thing, being linked in the right place, being well liked, and knowing the right people are a kind of echo chamber for each other. The reason is as follows: Even with instant media, CNN, and the internet, not to mention an FBI and CIA, 9/11 happened. Now one can say that Al-Quaeda is a networked organization, light and nimble, able to use the internet to its advantage while traditional governments are slow and awkward. Plus western democracies have lost their taste for war and conquest.

There is just one problem with all this. 9/11 did not happen without warning. In 1993, there was an attempt by Al Quaeda to blow up the World Trade Center. In 1999, Al Quaeda attacked US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In 2000, Al Quaeda attacked the USS Cole which was in port in Yemen.

Maybe our intelligence services needed Arabic speaking moles in some of the holes where terorists breed. This has to be cloak and dagger stuff becuase bad guys don't telegraph their news on web pages. There are secret mailing lists, encrypted messages, codes and ciphers etc... Maybe our FBI should have been paying attention to what some of its agents reported, suspicious activity by Arab students in flight schools. What kind of pilot just wants to learn to turn a plane around? Whatever it was, all that information did not include the right information which I guess says a lot.

Then we have government web pages. Our government does a fantastic job on the web. If you need basic information on foreign countries, stop by the CIA World Fact Book. Another authoritative source is Background Notes put out by the State Department. Librarians use these with students all the time. Third, we have Country Studies for even more detail and texture. True, these sources aren't as sexy as blogs or wikis, but they have sterling reputations and are workhorses for any one who wants to check facts or do research.

Last I want to comment on sites like Neopets (Sorry no link from me!) or Disney (same reason) acting as agents of soft power. Neopets is totalitarian and forms a large cul-de-sac. Nothing from outside gets in unless it is a paid sponsor or put there by a member risking his/her account. Users find themselves under a barrage of constant advertising and even can get paid Neopoints to view ads by playing sponsor games. There is power in Neopets' behaviorism. Don't ask me if it is soft or hard, but it is nasty all the same. Disney and Coca-Cola and McDonalds also have a way of getting foreigners to their side with products that feel modern and cool.... I'm not sure any of this makes the world a better place though I am a big supporter of the Free Enterprise system.

Finally, all the soft power in the world doesn't reach those who don't have electricity, decent computer access, or an internet hookup. Some of the media have penetrated in to these benighted backwaters, but mostly, they stay benighted. Are the people there conservative? Are they too exotic to be cool? Are real live peasants no different than Joe Sixpack in his trailer park or the Mexican construction worker getting a horchata smoothie at the QuikTrip? The masses are wonderful and romantic when one describes them in high minded values on a web site, but the real life ordinary Joe Sixpacks don't inspire that much admiration. The trouble is that in a democracy these folks votes so you have to really practice more than the "humility of listening to them." If listening to what Joe Sixpack has to say is a form of humiliation, then you realy are in trouble?

I finally ordered my dad's Christmas present last night. That means I have to wrap gifts and clean up the apartment. I don't have to worry about the schul switch until the weekend and can even postpone it one weekend due to next week's service being in the big pavillion in Piedmont Park due to a swanky bar mitzvah. I don't know the family. I'm just going to services. I know I have to arrive early or they'll be out of prayer books and if they are, there is no point in my being there.

I may try the two and a half hour commute to Achavat Achim. Is it too long? How will it feel to get up before sunrise in winter to travel via two trains, a bus, and a walk to get to a schul where I know nobody? There is also a conservative schul that is the liberal one with a charismatic rabbi. I liked his style. Am I ready for fat cat Judaism again. It is one of the things I avoid with Chabad.

This is kind of like the story about Jacob and the angel. Jacob solved problems by running away until he fought the angel. You always have a choice: run away or stand and fight. What would I fight for with Chabad? An improved kiddush table. Food is symbolic. More money where the mouths go. Hypocrisy has a stink and there is that gender issue I don't feel comfortable discussing on this blog. Don't worry. It's not what you think. Actually, nothing can ever clear up the education issue and that is my issue.

What I'd really like to do is hold a Nacerima (read that backwards if you want some fun) with some of the rabbis in training. The people who will come to Chabad to escape fat cat run schuls, learn to pray, enjoy a fairly gentle atmosphere and get a full Jewish liturgy without feeling like second class citizens because they are not rich, are not the same culture as the rabbis and the rabbis really do work across a cultural gap. I'd like to explain to them how my world and upbringing work.

Lesson one would be about a good public school education. Secular families DO NOT believe in cloistering children and back in my day, they generally did not shelter them. Starting in second grade, the school day in a good public school begins with Current Events. Third graders learn to write business letters so they can communicate with strangers in the proper way. Then we have high school. I read Voltaire and Camus as part of my high school education. I had Global Studies which meant I learned a fair amount of history. I read widely and well. I learned Darwin's theory of Natural Selection. We kind of glossed over macroevolution since no has that entirely figured out. I remember learning what causes menstral cramps: prostaglandins. I acquired the big vocabulary that a real immersion in secular high school gives you and the taste for good reading matter as well. Education on that level is life changing and a rite of passage.

Coeducation in college is harder to explain. Chalk it up to say I come from a culture where cloistering either sex, especially once they reach legal adulthood, is considered abberant. Males are lodged with females to reduce vandalism and keep the males in line. As for the rest, yes it happens but so what. There are worse ways to find a partner than have a few physical relationships. Why not marry someone you know well and with whom you are physically compatible? This way of doing things probably changes things more for men than it does for women. Having women as colleagues and classmates as well as partners makes them appear differently and puts men in a different seat than they would be if they spent a lot of time in same sex comopany and without female competition for doing the same work. For the women, our arrangement keeps the men in line. There used to be a ritual in college where you brought a new boyfriend home to your dorm or house and all the housemates or women on the floor got a look at him and gave you feedback. This was protective. The other women would let you know if they found something amiss in your choice. A rude or nasty boy could not sustain a relationship for very long with the bad press he would generate.

I know there are arguments for saving it until marriage. I think they are high minded and moral but not very practical. As for modesty, no where do you see more of it than in a co-ed dorm, than just about anywhere else. The sleeping/lounging uniform for females is either pajamas and a short bed jacket or a long night gown and long robe. A man venturing on to a female floor or sharing a floor with females is likely to see very little flesh except his girlfriend's. Men usually don't wear lounging clothes, but if they do, it is long pajamas.

I'll never get to give my Nacerima talk any more than I'll get a key to the kitchen. Besides I can't undo the damage of turning young men loose in the world with a tenth grade education and limited options. It is sad when one has to live by one's wits without knowledge. It is sad to see that system perpetuate itself. As an outsider who might pay dues or give a contribution, I help this system perpetuate itself.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Tonight was the soft power field trip. How did this trip happen. Well, a colleague at work told me that Paul Wolfowitz was speaking at Acahvat Achim Synagogue way up in Northern Atlanta. I decided this was worth seeing, and I figured out how to get there on MARTA. The synagogue was in a swanky neighborhood which meant that no MARTA buses serviced it on the weekends. This meant I had to walk in two miles to get to see the speaker. Of course I had no idea how to get in to the building and the police were less than friendly.

Then I saw the protesters on the sidewalk, and wondered if my colleague was among them. I walked over and looked. I did not see my colleague, but when I crossed the grass to go up and get checked in to see the speaker and the cops would not let me in. I ended up joining the protesters who were nice intelligent people. They were anti-war and Paul Wolfowitz is pro-Iraq war. While he is quite anti-Brainstormish, there are some things I can't stomach in the name of vengance and he is one of them, so instead of getting to hear abuot free trade and market based solutions for African debt, I got to protest the war in Iraq instead.

This was classic soft power at its best. We had signs that said things like: "democracy" and "freedom" and that Wolfowitz should atone and another sign calling him a noodnick. This was after all a protest at a synagogue so we could use both democracy and religion as legitimation. I got to tell my story about the evil cop to the press. We had tons of press coverage including Fox News and NPR.

There was only one problem. Our soft power outside did not reach inside very much. Most people who came to hear the speakers arrived in their cars, headed straight for the parking lot, and got inside. They never came near us on the sidewalk.

OK I have a reading.

Chapter 1: The Changing Nature of Power and Chapter 3: Others' Soft Power from Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics] by Joseph S. Nye. p1-p32 and p73 - p98

This reading had to come all the way from University of West Georgia, so it was the hardest to obtain reading of the whole course.

Well was it worth the effort? Fortunately, all I had to do to obtain the reading was fill out a form on GIL Express. I guess if I think of it that way, it was worth the trouble.

Soft power is the political equivalent of social capital. It is credibility, trustworthiness, and a kind of charisma that comes when a country supports popular values through its domestic and foreign policy and aligns itself with legitimating institutions. Having a domestic policy and culture that the rest of the world admires helps gain one soft power too.

That said, I found Nye's reading superficial in the extreme. China, Japan, Thailand, and India are not all of Asia. Asia includes basket cases like Myanmar and poor countries like Laos plus all those central Asian "stans."

Soft power is also problematic in that what is attractive in one place is not attractive in another. Israeli Zionism has a nearly fanatical following with a lot of American Jews who also have a kind of hard power NGO called AIPAC. Zionism may baffle nonJews, but word has gotten out through excellent public relations that to criticize Zionism is to risk being called anti-semitic and thus illegitimate. This is excellent soft power. It even keeps many nonJews silent and keeps Jews from criticizing Israel lest they be called self-hating.

Then there is Hugo Chavez. He is populist and loved in his own country, and if you detest Bush, his cheap shot of calling Bush the Devil and crossing himself first, was an excellent display of soft power. The enemy of one's enemy is often one's friend. If you don't like to see the President insulted and think it was a cheap shot, Hugo Chavez is a first class demagogue. Michael Savage classifies him as one of the hungry rats who will devour the fat rats, but I think this is flawed. Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected populist. He's a first rate demagogue, but I wouldn't describe him as the hungry type. I wouldn't even particularly describe him as a rat since he is well enough liked to win a sixty-one percent election victory apparently without swarming or cell phones.

Now Hezzbollah is in the soft power business uniting with the Christians for legitimacy and waving Lebanese flags (again another bid for legitimacy) and having a nonviolent tent city protest like the one in Kiev several years ago. Of course the Daily Star in Lebanon disagrees with me on this one and thinks the protests have a hard power edge that will wear down the economy and government. At some point even the softest power gets hard like a three day old stale roll.

Do I believe that the future movers and shakers can grab soft power and get what they want on the political stage just by having web sites, saying the right words, knowing the righ people and institutions, and of course being culturally cool? The answer is I am unsure. I think credibility is something one has to build in the real world. You also have to reach people who are very different from yourself if you want to do more than move other influentials. In a democracy nearly every one of legal age can vote. Say that three times fast and slow and at medium speed. This is very important because it means you have to do more than just influence those who are in on the joke whatever it is and who are culturally hip. You need to get to the trailer parks, and the bungalos, and the VFW halls. You need the ladies whose husbands hope they can bag a deer this fall and the husbands too. You need people who go to Friday night fish fries and those whose idea of great fried fish is catfish. And if you are working world wide, vast swaths of people aren't ever going to see your web page because they do not have computers and can't just traipse down to the local public library or school to use the machine. In fact, vast swaths of people don't have the electricity to run a computer and are lucky if they can share a phone. You have to do more than just be cool and charismatic and appeal to the right values to reach the broad masses of humanity who do give consent in a democracy.

I need a new schul. I can't tell the whole story here on this blog. No one is angry at me. I am not personna non grata anywhere. I've just done some thinking. It is not the food that is driving me away from Chabad. It is not the rabbi. I just want to experience a synagogue where the rabbi has a graduate degree and more conventional general education in his background. I also want to go where I can admit to living with my boyfriend and not have to pretend that such things are not done in the year 2006. My boyfriend may be moving back in with me.

The general education thing bears some explaining. Now Hella Winston who wrote the Unchosen is my source of information and she may be wrong. If she is wrong, it is a mistake of degree and not of kind. Here is what I learned from her book. Among Chasdic males (and in some communities females though not among the Lubavitch), general education stops around fourth grade. Now the Lubavitch may give their males more general education than this. It may be a year or two of high school. It may be all of high school, but they certainly don't go to college. Rabbis who are ordained by Conservative, Reform, or even most modern Orthodox seminaries in this country, have an undergraduate degree from a secular university, and go to seminary as graduate school.

Why is this important? It is first one of the reasons (there is another reason that has to do with history) that this particular Chabad house has no presence on either the Georgia State or Georgia Tech campuses. How can a rabbi to whom secular subjects are just "general studies" have empathy and understanding for an engineering student or a biology major or an art major? How can he or she understand someone who brings to the Shabbos table and the weekly parsha a background in competing philosophies or a familiarity with other religious mythologies? How can such a rabbi do marriage counseling when those he counsels have a world view influenced by psychology and social science that he himself has never studied?

Second, there is something very wrong about cutting off a boy's education at fourth, eighth, or even twelfth grade. High school is the time when kids acquire a knowledge of how the world works and the prerequisites to study any field of their choice in college and having a career of one's choice and even choosing to fashion one's beliefs in a way that agrees with one's conscience since there is a fair amount of choice out there. Cutting off a boy's education in all but religious subjects long before the outside world would put an end to formal education forces young men in to a very narrow variety of professions. It takes away the tools and knowledge necessary to exercise honest free will. It is a very rank form of social control and coercion.

Of course I have been telling myself that I am female and an adult and have no kids so the whole issue is none of my business. I can go to schul and pray and have fellowship and not support the social or educational system the Lubavitch have in their own communities, but can I? I wish I could write more about this topic. I have more to say, but this is a public blog and what I have to say gets very personal.

Mainly it gets in to gender issues, but it is not the standard oppression of women rant. Lubavitch females do not have to wear the same color shirt every day. They can design their own looks within fairly broad bounds. In the winter, tsnius is hardly onerous. They get a better general education and beyond that, they are opaque to me, except for two rebbitzens I've known and befriended. It's the men and the stories they tell that fascinate me. As I said, this is getting personal and I don't want to go further, but I have heard the stories before in a very different context. I wish I could go further with this topic. Some day perhaps I will.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I've got a reading.

The Web of Influence By Daniel W. Drezner, Henry Farrell on Foreign Policy

Put simply Denzer's silky smooth prose scares me. Why? Blogs aren't edited. Many bloggers are anonymous. Unlike traditional news organizations which have reputations to protect (well bloggers do too...) and real world contact addresses and a real life presence, it is very easy for a blog to be a complete and utter fraud.

With a good knowledge of local geography and some memory for detail, it is suprisingly easy to create online personnae out of whole cloth. While there are very legitimate reasons for wanting a fresh identity on line, reporting the news is not one of them.

Back in the early days of the Iraq War, Salaam Pax (Where's Raed?) was a side story. Many of us who opposed the war had made an educated guess about weapons of mass destruction. We fully expected something might be there. Whether it would be enough to justify our invasion of a country that had done nothing to us, was another story. I could not entirely say the weapons weren't there, so my eyes were on the wire services and later on Al Jazeera which published what the wire services and American media would not touch. There was also La Monde and the BBC.

Of course it's always fun to have a friend in the war zone. Back in 1999, I was on a mailing list called Mostovi which featured Serbians and other Yugoslav's during Clinton's aerial war there. My friend in the war zone, Zvonko, suffered a broken jaw when a bridge near where he rode his bicycle got hit. I republished Zvonko's correspondence in my site fighting reminders thus giving my friend in the war zone exposure to people he would never have crossed paths witih any other way.

More recently, I had a friend in the war zone this summer in Lebanon. He still comments. His blog is in Dutch and you'll need Babelfish to translate it. He has quite an entry on there today.

Like Zvonko, I met Reimer on one of my mailing lists and he and I were on Neopets together, so he was more than just a stranger with a good blog or even an indifferent one.

I would guess that any one who had done business in or lived in the Middle East or better yet Baghdad, could pull off being a fake Iraqi. Likewise for someone who has lived in Beiruit or one of the other Lebanese cities. If one adds links to media and knows the geography and flavor and speaks a bit of Arabic well so much the better. How would any one find out you are not real?

Though Denzer says that the blogs act as a filtering mechanism picking up tidbits from poor blogs and transferring them to rich blogs, doesn't garbage in garbage out apply? The net has a very poor record with regard to outing frauds. Be aware we only know about the frauds who get caught or who confess. Seignnthaler on Wikipedia is a classic example. The scurilous article sat there for nearly half a year before one of Seigenthaler's sons or colleagues caught it and Wikipedia took it down. It also got mirrored and propagated through several other web sites.

Here is another site about fraud on the internet. This one propagated across static web pages and through email rather than the blogosphere. I like this site (because I wrote it, but also) because it deals with fraud in general.

One can tolerate fraud when what the person publishing it asks you to do is minimal: a guestbook signing, a small graphic gift etc... A fraud may simply want to publish his or her fiction on an email discussion list.

A fraud who fakes a death, a serious illness, begs for money etc... is quite another story. I'm not sure what to do with frauds who fake news, but they have to be out there. A fraud on whom you are relying for authoritative opinion or simply the straighgt scoop on what is going on in the world has committed a grave breach of trust. Fraud can hurt.

In addition to fraud, it is excedingly possible that at least some bloggers are shils for corporations or governments. Again, there is a Bzzangent who recruits shils to hawk new products to their friends and families. Secret deoderent injected a shil player in to Neopets, and this fine coroporation has a forum that is positively crawling with shils. Why not create shil bloggers? Again if done properly, they are very hard to distinguish from the real thing.

What any of us can do is follow the instructions in handout I made. If your blogger is a real person or works for a reputable organization, he or she will have both a first and last name and contact information. I know there are some bloggers such as Shamayra who need to remain secret, but these are the exception that prove the rule. The larger blogs are more like zines and there are blogs associated with legitimate news organizations. Stick to those. If you have a friend in the war zone, he or she is a friend (not a journalist). Remember that. By the way, if journalists are relying on these anonymous characters who have blogs and could be fictional personnae, then the quality of our news is really in jeopardy.

I am on desk in nineteen minutes. I'm not sure what to do with the right side of this blog today. I have new images but I'm not sure they are the right size to go here. I guess we can try....

cormorant on a tattered background

He's only a bird in a guilty cage. I made him as part of a challenge. I can't really do tutorial challenges because I use GIMP rather than PSP for my graphics and also because I don't like all the complicated cookie cutter directions. I learn to use graphics software on a kind of ad-hoc, as needed basis. Occasionally I try a tutorial, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

play me

I made this a while ago. I like to do my own drawings with colored pencil. This takes care of any possible copyright problem. The inspiration for this graphic came from a similar toy on sale at the Vermont Country Store.

This reminds me that I still have to order my dad's Christmas present. I went up to Phipp's Plaza last night to buy some fancy soaps for my mom. That is an unbelieveable world of wealth and prosperity. I love just walking through that place, though I also like Dunwoody which has Perimeter Mall. Prosperity feels good and no I don't feel like a second class citizen for working in Decatur. I've seen it the other way. I lived in Utica, New York for ten years, and that was a third world city due to the poverty in the region. The water had a coliform warning on it. I could eat paletas and bucket drinks in Juarez Mexico and just got constipated from all the delicious white flour tortillas I ate. Having Mexican guts in Upstate New York is a sad state of affairs.

I don't really like shopping for my dad. I've finally picked out what to buy, but it is cynical. My dad yo-yo diets and often eats like a...well, a Kramer. He has the Kramer appetite which my mother who is not a Kramer also has. It's an appetite way to the right side of the curve. That is healthy, but the yo-yo dieting and overindulgence are just weird. Oh well, what do you think I buy my dad? Fattening food. He likes it. He thanks me for it. He eats it. This is the start of one very cynical holiday tradition. At least I know what to buy the man who has everything. Now I just have to whip out my debit card and place the order.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

This is Around the World in Eighty-eight lines, probably a few less, but you get the idea. I just read this...

Mobile Media and Political Collective Action by Howard Rheingold

It is stream of consciousness. A lot of the material is old. The Korean Elections were a razor thin victory followed by no coat tails, an impeachment, and the fissioning of the party that won. This is not a victory you want to emulate.

In the Philippines the army took the side of the protestors. It is easy to have "People Power" when the army is on your side. Also Jose Estrada had all ready been impeached but NOT convicted. Now I ask you, how would you have felt in 1998 if Republicans took to the street in a mass rabble because Clinton was impeached and not convicted? Just think about that one.

Now on to poll watchers. These existed in New York state long before cell phones. We carried rolls of quarters and used the pay phones. I've been a poll watcher and so have people I know. Your job is to report irregularities back to party headquarters. Both major political parties have poll watchers in New York State. It's nice to know they operate in other places too.

Now it is time for some real fun: The Spanish Election of 2004. Yes, Zapatero won but I asked myself: "What were those numbers?" This is turning out to be a favorite question of mine and for good reason. Numbers don't lie and they tell interesting stories. Fortunately, The CIA Fact Book is your tax dollars hard at work and very very enlightening.

First, Zapatero's election was NOT direct. The way elections work in Spain is the king ratifies the candidate who has the majority of seats in a two chamber parliament consisting of the Senate and Congress of Deputies. In the election of 2004, the PSOE (the Socialists) took a total of 245 seats and the PPP (Popular Party) took a total of 250 seats. Zapatero won because there are about twenty seats (maybe more that belong to mior party candidates). The Socialists forged a coalition. From these numbers it looks like the Spanish election was won due to horse trading in the National Assembly rather than all the pot banging and SMS texting. If you are going to talk international politics, it is always kind of nice to look up election results.

Now on to another of my favorite topics, preventing smart mobs. I've come up wtih several more strategies. First, gainful employment. If you are at work and get that urgent text message to go protest or swarm, can you do it if it would mean losing your job? Some people hold jobs where showing up full time is half the fun. Family, represesnts another obstacle to smart mob fun. You can't go down to the demonstration unless you can either take the kids with you or else get someone to watch them. If it's a dangerous demonstration, baby sitters are probably a necessity. The third obstacle to smart mobs is sprawl. Smart mobs may work wonderfully in Madrid, Manilla, and SanFrancisco, but try it in Opeleika, Alabama or Auburn, Alabama, Syracuse, New York or even right here in Atlanta and getting from one side of town to the other can take an hour.

Smart Mobbing and SMS rallying can also just fail. Howard mentions this with regard to Berlusconi. The vote for messages seemed no different than the SMS messages circulated by the cool young netziens of South Korea. Italians, however, may just not do what they are told as easily and have a lower tolearnace for what is almost spam.

Then remember to enforce existing laws and etiquette. If it's your business, you don't want it smashed by a roving band of anarchists. If it's my class I don't want students texting away when they should be paying attention to me. Cell phone conversations on public transportation are a nuiscence etc...

I think you all get the idea. I think as the young and restless idealists get real 9-5 jobs and can't spend all their time texting and sending email and can't leave their desks to mob, I think some of the dangers of smart mobs will abate of their own. At least I hope this is true. Kudos to the New York City police for containing the rabble during the 2004 Republican National Convention and to Faoud Sainoura for standing up to a Hezbollah smart mob in Lebanon.

I don't have much to put on this side of the blog except I went skating last night and hope to go again in the middle of the week. It is odd to be skating when you are an adult because you get very conservative about falling. I didn't fall once. I remembered how to keep my ankles straight. I also remembered how to balance after a few turns on the rink. I am still sore, particularly my feet. It was good to get out. Next week, I get to see a concert at Oglethorpe Friday night.

We have a whole bunch of parties at work and I have to buy a gift for my father and a couple of more things for my mother. The apartment is not horrendous, but still needs to be cleaned. I don't even mind.

I visited the kities in Petsmart this weekend. A mouthy cream tabby female named Pru, nuzzled me and purred and then growled at any cat that walked by beneath her second story cage. Some cats are just mouthy. I told the woman who worked with the kitties that if this were my cat, I'd teach her what a real hiss sounded like, but I did not want to set off a whole room full of cats. Verbal harsing really does work with cats. Lysistrata finally learned what "no" means and now no longer bites my chin or tickles me in the morning. She snuggles up next to my head in the place of honor.

Hertzel has a hot spot at the base of his tail. It is not a bad one. He still has fur there, but his tail looks like a white furry club becaue the fur on the spot is thinner than it should be. Why do I always have neurotic cats? By the way, my cats never hiss and rarely growl unless Little Pee Drops, the black long hair who hangs out around the complex, takes over the outside window sill. Since I don't want him leaving souvenirs, I'm glad when Lysistrata drives him away by screaming.

I am proud of myself for not eating out this afternoon. The falafel restaurant near whole foods is overpriced and the one I would have gone to instead is closed. That place is never open. I could have had pizza as a compromise. I caught the bus back home instead. I made spinach salad and had stuffed prezels with it. It was a very good dinner. I'll put peas on the soaker to make soup tomorrow. I figure with the temperatures getting frigid, soup will be a good choice. These are whole peas, by the way, nto splits.

Friday, December 01, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I just found I have more readings in Howard's course to deal with. Oh well, it's not my fault that the schedule gets jerked around at the last minute and that I prefer Watts. I now have to face a lot of stuff again that I need to sort through and comment on and Watts has a due date.

That said, I want to comment on an earlier reading or rather it's writer. https://courses.ischool.berkeley.edu/i296a-3/
is the page assigning the reading. This is the reading itself. Its inflamatory language inspired me to check out who wrote it. It has been very useful in Howard's course this semester to check out sources and this time was no exception. On Mr. Beam's site, I also found this essay. Put succinctly, Mr Beam does not believe that millions of Jews were murdered in Hitler's concentration camps. This is a link about Louis Beam on the Anti-Defmation League's web site.

It is a truism to say that in a democracy he is entitled to his opinion, but what baffles me is why Howard chose someone so irresponsible to describe leaderless resistance. An alternative reading on Leaderless Resistance which gives its history and context is available at First Monday. Was Howard looking for some incontrovertible bad guy to show how networks could be used for evil as well as good? Is Beam the father of Leaderless Resistance in which case he qualifies as a primary source? This would again be an excellent reason for including Mr. Beam as a source of readings. Did Howard merely enjoy the theatricality and heat of Mr. Beam's language? Face it whackaloons, like Beam do make interesting reading. I guess only Howard knows the answers to these questions.

I found the information on other current events presented in Howard's course to be interesting. I've all ready discussed the Korean elections on this blog, but for those who have read about them and the success of young people with their text messaging and SMS, the CIA World Fact Book gives the actual election results. Roh emerged with less than fifty percent of the popular vote and that is not much of a win. He also faced impeachment about a year later. His political party changed names once and fisioned after that in to something called URI plus its original form. Draw your own conclusions. Let's just say it pays to check facts.

Let's move on to the Spanish elections of 2004 which happened a day or two after a subway bombing. Yes, the government in power lied or made a mistake, but there were other issues, namely IRAQ and the fact that opposition to Spain's involvement in that war ran close to ninty percent. You'll have to use LexisNexis to retrieve these articles, but here they are:

Iraq war looks like a dud in Spain vote, The International Herald Tribune, March 8, 2004 Monday, NEWS; Pg. 1, 1222 words, John Vinocur, MADRID:

OPPOSITION LEADER WARNS SPAIN WILL PAY "HIGH PRICE" FOR BACKING IRAQ WAR, World News Connection, March 30, 2003, A2003040124E-43F4-GNW, 1907 words

IRAQ PROTESTS: ITALY AND SPAIN SEE MASSIVE ANTI-WAR TURNOUT, IPS-Inter Press Service, March 20, 2004, Monday, 880 words, By IPS Team, ROME, Mar. 20

As certain also-ran Republicans in this country no, there is nothing like a war-weary electorate and a little corruption does not hurt either. While we are on the subject of elections, let's not forget mobilizing the "values vote" to reelect Bush in 2004. Face it, churches are about as social as it gets. Someone knew about social networks and got the word to percolate as Watts would say. Of course Bush was at that point a POPULAR war President. You can kind of say the US was the opposite of Spain. Oh well, I have more readings to do, though again, I'd rather be reading Watts.

I want to add something more to tonight's entry. As of right now this is the news on the latest smart mob if indeed Hezbollah is acting as a Smart Mob. Now are they a network for good, evil, or a mixture of both. I'd say they are a mixture. Right now though I think of them as pretty evil, and I hope and pray that President Sainora of Lebanon has the power to hold out against them. Unlike the mob in the Philippines, this one DOES NOT have the army on its side. In addition, Lebanon is a divided country much as the US is.

Also, coevolution happens. I think Howard hints at this in the reading I'm going to be making up. After enough smart mob attempts, governments and corporations develop counter tactics even if they are just sitting tight and barbed wire. I know that the WTO held one round of its talks in Doha, Qatar which is one of the most difficult spots to reach in the world. Prey learn to outwit the predators at least some of the time. Predators in turn develop new techniques. I'll know more as I read more.

I don't want to fight over a bunch of bok-choi, but right now I am having a fantasy of doing exactly that. Yes, it is Shabbos. Who said I was strictly shomer shabbos. You all know me better than that, but that aside, I do keep kosher and bok-choi is a vegetable and you can wash those bit thick stemmed leaves. Therefore, it is kosher. Case closed.

Now, here is the fantasy playing out in my head this Friday night. I get control of the kitchen. I am now the official schul steward, yet while I know food and have a pretty good category for keeping kosher (fixing stuff from scratch), I know my Chabad bosses are stricter than I am and in fact downright picky. This leaves me asking lots of questions about whether something is all right especially for somethings in bottles or cans.

Unfortunately, a memory haunts me. The summer of 1985, I had a first rate plot at the Ithaca Community Gardens and the star of that plot was a very productive chard yard. In my chard yard, grew rhubarb chard with red stems and nice big green leaves. Chard is a delicacy that tastes a bit more refined than beet greens or beet tops. It made my diet much healthier and while I was dirt poor it was something I could give away. I decided to repay Rabbi Silberman for his kindness with a huge bag of chard. I figured chard is a vegetable. Fresh vegetables are kosher. I felt as if someone (yes, sorry this is how I felt) had slapped me in the face when either the rabbi or rebbitzen told me that they don't eat chard or other green leafy vegetables.

So in comes the bok-choi. Bok-choi makes excellent salad. Bok-choi is also a relative of cabbage which is permitted and which also can have bugs living in it. The rabbi who dislikes my stewardship even though I can outcook his wife with one beringed hand tied behind my round rumped back now has his moment. He is not sure the bok-choi is legal. He regards it with suspicion. I defend bok-choi's absolute kosherness. I'm going to wash each leaf before cutting it up. "Why eat bok-slaw instead of coleslaw?" he finally asks. "Isn't cole slaw good enough?"

My first answer back is "why not?" The rabbi is not satisfied. "Who taught you to tea bok-choi?" he asks. Vegetables have interesting mesoros. I tell him about the delicious bok-choi salad served at the DeKalb Farmer's Market. No, the market cafeteria is not kosher, but there is no reason bok-choi salad can not adhere to dietary laws. "Did your grandparents have bok-choi?&qout; the rabbi finally asks. Now we are getting somewhere. I tell him that if it had been available, they no doubt would have bought it. Grandma Senecoff, my mother's mother who lived to be 102, made schav from frozen spinach and served it regularly. Grandma and Grandpa Kramer learned to eat peanut butter late in life because I introduced it to them, and Great Grandma Magid who arrived in this country in 1902 at the age of sixteen used to make bran muffins from the recipe on the side of the Raisin Bran box. Her night school had included "domestic science."

I do not tell the rabbi of my other culinary adventures which include smoked octopus on crackers or smoked muscles which were a bit more common. These were Saturday afternoon lunch treats before I kept dietary laws. I leave out that my mother's signature dish was corn crisp chicken which meant dipping the chicken in milk before dipping it in Kellog's cornflake crumbs or that for my eighteenth birthday, my father introduced me to frog's legs as he had promised.

I would not eat any of the above today, but I would not keep kosher if I could not enjoy a wide variety of foods or still preserve some sense of culinary innovation and adventure. Fruits and vegetables and grain products provide the adventure. "Rabbi," I finally break down. "You're not going to believe this but there is more than one way to keep kosher. The result is roughly the same but the road to get there goes a very different route." I then think of comparing the different ways people approach kashrus to ecological niches, but the Rabbi has never had a course in ecology and does not believe in natural selection or evolution. I'll save my rant in favor and praise of "general education" for another day. Maybe the place to start is a fight over bok-choi. Some of us eat bok-choi. Some are afraid of it. We can all, however, be observant Jews. By the way, I have no bok-choi in the house and am jonesing for it right now.