Musings on DHL

To consider: in my old life, if I were sick and spending a day at home, a knock from a courier usually meant something exciting was about to happen. A book I ordered two weeks ago? A replacement part for a nearly-abandoned project being shipped from Hong Kong ($0.99 and Free shipping!) via the slowest route possible? In my new life, packages I order come from "the Amazon" and arrive a few days later, with barely a knock on the door; the courier who knocks on the door is delivering a priority-express-document package from some third-world country with important documents for my wife to look over (pertaining to the immigration case of some desperate individual.) [sigh]

Friday, the 13th (part n.)

The thirteenth is a day of Christmas choir performances, half-watched DVDs, and reading obscure novels during long drives.

It is a day of not-quite-functional washing machines, gas heaters that blow themselves out, and toaster ovens that don't quite hold all four slices of pizza at once.

The thirteenth is a day of leftover pizza, stolen french-fries, and chocolate chip cookies that were freshly-baked when you left home and invisible by the time you go to bed.

It is also a day of "I'm tired let's sleep in", of "it's too cold for t-shirts but much too warm for sweaters," and of "I think I might still be fighting off that stomach flu, maybe the pizza was a bad idea." 

The thirteenth is, in short, just another Friday. But *what* a just-another-Friday it is.

Posted via Blogaway

Posted via Blogaway

22 November

It's been 50 years since Jack said farewell. He was 64.

Arise my body, my small body, we have striven Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven. Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go, White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow, Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light, And be alone, hush'd mortal, in the sacred night, -A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up, Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness. Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent To weariness' and pardon's watery element. Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death; Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.
Professor Lewis was granted a space in Poets' Corner today; while some think he's not exactly a poet, I think the description is just fine.

Tradeshow Games

Making it through the not-terrible eggs, half-decent sausage, and really-nasty hashbrown without getting ketchup on anything while at one of those standing tradeshow-floor tables feels like a real accomplishment.
Proceeding to the post-breakfast-coffee tables and getting your hands sticky from the quite-good danish, now without recourse to the paper napkins you felt so good about not needing only moments ago, feels a defeat worthy of Sophocles.


Although I walk in dead of night
My mind in places far away
The snowflakes glint in pale moonlight
Now absent fear, joy remains

To Thine Own Self Be True

Alone, in the dark, far from home.

Definition. The last bastion against meaninglessness. When all seems upended, perverted, and mistaken, we define our world with defensive reflex, write a song of lament for what is, was, could have been.

And so, in throes of desperation,
When all else resists my definition,
I turn my weary words inward
And cry out to define myself

Alone, in the dark, far from home.

"Above all beware of excessive day dreaming, of seeing yourself in the centre of a drama, of self pity, and, as far as possible, of fears." The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis V1: Family Letters 1905-1931

in lieu of originality

IF you were coming in the fall,
I ’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year,
I ’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed,
I ’d count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s land.

If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I’d toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity.

But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.

-Emily Dickinson

You Don't Need to See His Identification

Went to Star Wars: Identities at the Edmonton Space & Science centre today (yes, that *is* the correct name, corporate sponsors can jump in a snowbank...) with my protege, "Z." The prop and motion-control-model displays were very, very cool to see, and probably worth the price of admission, while the multimedia/interactive aspects of the presentation were only fair to middling.

The show is really set up to showcase a few ideas about identity, some of which I thought bear comment:
(For those who haven't heard of this thing before, it's a travelling exhibit of Star Wars props that incorporates ten interactive kiosks which allow you to build an "identity" profile based on the traits and factors discussed in the educational talk-along and supplemental video.)
First, the consideration of genetic factors is limited to asking participants' skin/fur colour and force ability. I find this strangely comforting (no asking about heritable dispositions toward addiction, psychiatric disorder, etc.? How quaint...) and at the same time somewhat ironic, given that it highlights the biggest cop-out in the whole Star Wars scrip process. (I.E.: if Anakin is predisposed to force-use because he was "fathered" by the force, Lucas wasn't forced to make force-use into a caste-type social scenario, and was also able to write a character with no personality strengths whatsoever and still make him the most intuitive/powerful force-user in the universe.) Thus, your genetics selections at the beginning of the show have no effect whatsoever beyond appearance, unless there's some kind of adaptive stat-checking in one of the other stations that factors force-power before presenting you with options.

Other factors include native culture, parental style, intellectual/physical aptitude, traumatic events, occupation, personality, value system, and the inevitable "dark vs. light" decision.

Personality seems to be the station with the most forethought put into it, basically it's a big-five / OCEAN model for personality traits. Again I didn't feel like the choices were really important to the "result" at the end of the tour, but it was clear the people who put this thing together were at least familiar with the commonly used personality assessment tools (even if they put no effort into the statistical instruments usually used to get some verifiability into vague test questions like "how much do you like people?")

The most interesting thing about the entire tour was seeing how much importance some people place on the decisions, or more specifically how *little* weight Z. gave any of them. Z.'s mom tagged along with us for the day and she practically begged him to let her watch as he selected his 'personality' answers. She tried to let him choose without steering his selections, but couldn't help questioning a few of his decisions. Z., being the impulsive twelve-year-old he is, retaliated in a few places by flaunting his ambivalence toward the meaning of such questions as "are you efficient and organized, or easy-going?" She clearly put a great deal of weight into the "results" of his answers (which, in a battery of questions so limited, are simply a read-back of the input you give...) while he didn't even bother to read them.

I've seen this in Z.'s attitude before, in the slightly-but-not-entirely different realm of Role-Playing Games. Z.'s history with games, up until about a year ago, centred on the simplistic (if in some cases well-designed) action-shooter genre. In the past year, he's played Fallout 3 and it's difficult for me to get a sense of what he really wants out of a role-playing experience. (I'll not that I've always expressed concern over the suitability of some of the games Z's parents have bought him, but it's a losing battle and so long as he's not playing them during our outings or telling me blatantly unhealthy things about them I try not to be overly negative about it, since it *is* something we can actually have fairly deep conversations about.) This really shouldn't surprise me, since I often have similar problems on a lesser scale (how do I collect all the best stuff in the game without resorting to outright burglary and banditry???) but it's funny hearing about his slowly-developing cognitive dissonance:
 "It was really hard buying supplies or anything, since every town I went into everyone started shooting me on sight."
"Really? What did you do to get them that mad? Usually they only do that if you shoot first..."
"Well, the first time I went into a shop I picked up a rocket launcher and started blowing things up..."

RPGs are still quite limited in terms of the moral possibilities they offer (non-player-character scripting is still pretty limited in terms of motivation and response to binary and obvious triggers like being hurt by the player, political allegiance of the character, etc.) but in contrast to the magazine-quiz format of typical personality profiling tests, I think they offer real potential. Sure, gamers who are focused on winning will always use the "min-max" approach and create unrealistically one-dimensional characters to make the game easier to play, but in a way that's *more* indicative of real personality traits than even the most honest answer to "on a scale of one to five, how honest are you?"--if my only goal in the development of a character is the ability to win more battles (at the expense of exploration or social skills) I've expressed in a very clear way my intention and priorities. The trick with RPGs, though, is that they give people the option to explore multiple possibilities on different playthroughs. You can't look at the decisions a player makes in a video game as a definitive or reductive evaluation of values or even traits, but you *can* pull qualitative correlations from multiple playthroughs together with post-play interviews about player motivation and problem-solving strategies. Not saying the RPG should be the next thing in personality trait assessment, just that it's a very interesting tool that could probably be put to work in a laboratory setting to get a much different kind of result than the typical self-reporting (and thus only marginally verifiable) multiple-choice results.

[Ed.: I am beginning to see a strong correlation between the number of hours I'm awake, the amount of time I spend standing in lines, and the number of incoherent sentences I can type in one sitting.)