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User Journal

Journal Journal: [VT] Tentacles of violence 16

(Reposted from Multiply.)

Mostly I've been able to block out thinking too much about Blacksburg and Cho the past few days just by plunging into work, dealing with the kids, joking around as usual and so on, while still at least symbolically wearing my Hokies stuff (I have a number of T-shirts, a sweatshirt, and a couple ballcaps).

However, it's hard to relate how much Blacksburg means to me personally. It was my childhood home, and I had about as ideal a childhood as it gets. It was (and I suppose still is) the place I always wanted to return to someday. It was, for me, as close to heaven on earth as I could imagine, as crazy as that may sound to some people. Thus it is all the more maddening when unwanted associations creep in when I think about it.

Just now, I was reading a bedtime story to the kids. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, an old favorite. Which I read over and over again as a Newman Library on the Tech campus while my parents hit the books for their graduate studies. But rather than think of happy memories, I think of a maniac brandishing guns and rambling into a camera.

And that's just what he wanted. So in a sense he (or the demons within him) "wins". And that pisses me off.

As an aside, it also shows how around the bend he was rambling about Mercedeses and whatnot in Blacksburg. Most people would think of Blacksburg as being borderline hick town. (The surrounding area would be real hick town for most outsiders.) To call people there snobbish or wealthy is nothing short of amazing. Tech is very much a middle-class school.

The other thing, though, that actually hurts on top of it all is the media coverage, which has been astonishing for its insensitivity and aggressiveness towards the people in Blacksburg. Every interview I have seen, whether it is with professors, students or staff, has been of an accusing tone, as if they are to blame. Cho's roommate was practically called negligent for not telling the school administration Cho didn't talk to people. Some anchors have openly called for people to file lawsuits. One professor, a poet and English professor who had been one of Cho's teachers, was cut off in an interview for not going along with all the second-guessing. The utter lack of human decency in the name of ratings combined with inane commentary on the level of verbal diarrhea has been shocking.

The thing that does at least restore some balance to it, however, has been the support from "rival" universities, not all of it symbolic, either. Florida State and the University of Miami are contributing money to Tech memorial scholarships as just one example of many I've heard of. Naturally that doesn't get reported in the mainstream media, who are apparently only interested in second-guessing the entire Tech administration and community, not even giving them the chance to grieve while sticking microphones in any face they can find. (My parents wrote some scathing letters to MSNBC and CNN tearing into them over the coverage.)

Other small gestures have helped, too. The spontaneous decision of the Washington Nationals to wear Tech ballcaps during the Braves game was a nice touch earlier in the week. Students at various schools around the country have started wearing maroon and orange. And as much as I dislike his politics, I appreciate President Bush coming down for a visit.

Tech itself has also done some gestures that are nice. The students who died will all get their degrees posthumously at Commencement. There will be scholarship funds started for both of the murdered professors. Students will also get generous terms for completing their studies this semester.

For what it's worth, tomorrow has unofficially been declared Hokie Nation Day -- wear maroon and orange if you want to show you care and show sympathy for the victims and their families.

Even so, it still hurts when an innocent moment of reading a book to my kids instantly leads me to think of the deaths of over thirty people and the ravings of a madman...and, for all the overwrought sense of it, of "paradise lost".
User Journal

Journal Journal: Mass death in my hometown 10

(The following is reposted from my blog on Multiply.)

I practically grew up on the campus of Virginia Tech. My dad was a cadet there for a year; both parents were grad students there (as a result I spent much of my early childhood in the university library); my mom worked there for several years; I studied there a year myself. Of all the places where I have lived, Blacksburg is the one I consider to be "home", even though I haven't really lived there since I was small (though I lived in the vicinity until I was 12 and was in a dorm when 18).

When I went to Tech, I went to classes in Norris; I had friends who lived in West AJ.

Blacksburg is an idyllic place. It is quiet, up in the mountains, with a couple nice lakes and lots of hiking trails nearby. Nice people, too. Great place to raise your kids. I'll always fondly remember it.

That something as monstrous as the outright cold-blooded murder of (as of now, according to CNN) over 30 people could happen in a place like Blacksburg is almost unimaginable to me. Seeing the campus I know like the back of my hand even now on German TV with policemen carrying around bloodied bodies is surreal to the point of making me nauseated.

Needless to say, my mom called earlier and is in tears. Just total shock and disbelief. The worst school shooting in US history, possibly the worst mass shooting in US history, period. In Blacksburg, of all places.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Multiply vs. /. 14

The JE title is deliberately misleading. ;-)

I'm not going to try and provoke a flamewar over the two sites -- if anything I'm thinking about how to link them.

A thought occurred to me. Since there are a number of people who have said they can't or won't make the move to Multiply, I could hack up an RSS feed reader to put their JE headlines on the group's central page over there. I already did that for the /. front page over there, and it works more or less; I could set up a fake user here to friend those who won't be coming along so the /my/amigos RSS feed would pipe in their JEs to the Multiply group's page.

A few people have contacted Multiply to get full RSS support over there, so my hack shouldn't be necessary after a while (hopefully). And for that matter maybe /. will at some point support RSS feeds from elsewhere, in which case the Multiply group's feed could show up here.

The point being that this could actually keep the group from splitting. Indeed it could actually make it potentially get huge -- as it is the level of activity on Multiply from those who've moved is pretty striking...

Whaddy'all say?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Measuring Ethelredness 9

In another Slashdot discussion, IamBMETammy asks what the measure of a man is.

I was kind enough to provide an answer, but she apparently wanted to order a brochure with further information, because she asks (and I answer) as follows:

How does one measure Ethelredness factor? Or is it only visible to the enlightened (ie: Ethelred).

Essentially it is the futile attempt to compare the hawtttness of a given mortal male to my own glory, and assign a number to it.

I begin to be curious how other men on /. measure up

What a silly question. They don't.

of course I also wonder what the scale is.

From null to Ethelred.

Is this a 0.02 out of 1? or 100? Is it even possible for the pathetic flesh of a human to contain an Ethelred factor of over 5 without exploding?

The sole time anyone actually got over 0.03, the person nearly died in a spontaneous combustion.

Remember when Michael Jackson's hair blew up in a Pepsi commercial? That's what happened. And now look at what's left of him.

Thus only I am capable of containing pure Ethelredness in my person while not causing thermonuclear explosions (except in the throbbing hearts of adoring women-folk).

At this point I would smell my armpit, but I would run the risk of falling madly, totally in love with myself. (Not that this has happened already.)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Infinite Monkey III 5

Blog update over there.

Too lazy to post here. Meh.

If you haven't yet gotten a Multiply account, then you are like sooooo 90s and we cool people haughtily wave our private parts at you. Meanwhile 49 others are in the new-fangled Circular Refuge. This is because I promised them each a state of their choice when I seize power.

I lied, of course. They all get to fight over Iowa.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Die Super Bowl kommt im Fernsehen 5

As an addendum to my remarks on the German coverage of the Super Bowl yesterday, here are a few more things that annoyed the hell out of me. (Yes, yes, I'm whining and ranting, but hey, it's all for your amusement.)

One good thing about the show was they didn't have any ads. Nada. The bad part is that because of the many pauses in the game, they would fill the gaps with inane and often totally irrelevant commentary, and generally demonstrate how little they really understood the game. (There has been German coverage of NFL Europe for some years and there are German players who've been in the NFL, not to mention there is a German professional league, so you'd think they could have found someone who knew their heads from their asses and could assemble intelligible sentences.)

The lack of knowledge about the game was at times glaring. One example was how Indy would line up with a single running back behind the QB (which, oddly enough, is called a "single-back formation"), and the announcer would say "Indianapolis is lined up in an I formation". They did that repeatedly. They also frequently seemed to have to think of the right terminology -- "we're nearing the end of the, uhhhh, second quarter".

What made it additionally strange is they stuck to the habit of NFL Europe announcing where they don't translate hardly any football jargon into German, so a typical sentence would be "nach dem incomplete pass und dem abgelehnten penalty ist es third and eight, mit sechs Minuten to go im second quarter". Come on, either speak English or speak German. Otherwise you're just giving me a headache.

Boris Becker seems to have been included because 1) he plays a sport 2) he speaks German 3) he happens to live in Florida and 4) once played golf with Peyton Manning. (They actually mentioned the latter two repeatedly.)

They also repeatedly pronounced Billy Joel's name as "jo-el", i.e. rhymes with "Noël" and with a very Gallic "j". OK, he's not as well-known here as in America, but still.

And naturally for the singing of the national anthem, they had to make stupid editorial remarks to the effect of "and in this extremely patriotic country, singing patriotic songs is part of their strange customs". Look, you're reporting American football. You may as well remark on the arrogance of Paris waiters when covering Zidane. WTF relevance does it have?

A good example, though, of just how amateurish the whole production was: They frequently needed filler for the commercial breaks, and once in a while showed a graphic displaying a revolving Vince Lombardi Trophy.

With smeared fingerprints on one side. Somehow that spoke volumes.

Of course, I should be grateful, because I could watch the Super Bowl live. Thing is, this was on one of the state channels, which means I'm paying subscriber fees to these idiots. Thus I'm not in a very forgiving mood.

The one bit of good news: They mentioned that the NFL Europe is considering expanding, and Hannover is a leading candidate. I imagine that the successful German Bowl in Hannover last year must have gotten their attention -- Hannover's a relatively minor city, but it has a huge stadium and has a couple cities close by with German professional and semipro teams (Braunschweig Lions and Hildesheim Invaders). The bad omen, though, is that Hannover's own semipro club, the Hannover Musketeers, closed the pro-level team for lack of money and now only has youth teams...

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Super Bowl thus far 21

Has to be the weirdest Super Bowl I've ever seen. Good Lord, any more turnovers and I'll think this is an NFL Europe game.

That first kickoff return was fscking awesome, though. I thought it was kinda funny how it looked like he was watching himself on the 40' display.

Unfortunately the Bears offense looks about as limp as the weather. Losing your RB with a ground-based offense is also Not Good(TM).

So while I'm an old NFC guy (go 'Skins!) and thus am rooting for da Bears, I have to say it looks like the Colts are going to win it as they wear the Bears D down. If I can keep my eyes open for the rest of the game, that is (since it's now 2:30 am). Yeesh.

And while I've never been much of a fan of Prince, I have to say that halftime show rocked.

Unfortunately the Krauts seem to have sent a bunch of complete utter amateurs over to do their production. All kinds of weird cuts and camera angle choices, nonsensical commentary, and for God's sake Boris Becker as a commentator (WTF?), with insipid remarks on the number of players with German last names. Their man on the field just sits at one end of it and never leaves his spot, and they occasionally cut down to him for information about injuries or whatnot, and he just rambles on about how he's getting soaked, while having no useful information whatsoever (even when directly asked about something, he just whines about being soaked).

Thus if any of you ever complains about Madden or Theismann or whatever, it could be much worse.

UPDATE Rex Grossman (hey! a German last name! :-P ) has to be the worst quarterback ever in a Super Bowl. And with that I'm off to bed. Congrats in advance to the Colts.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Of mountains and pilots and family lost 1

For pythorlh's granddad, Sol's dad, and my aunt and great aunt:

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

Crossing the Bar, Alfred Lord Tennyson


United States

Journal Journal: Analyzing the State of the Union 8

Or, more accurately, analyzing "The State of the Union". That is, analyzing the text of the speeches from George to George.

One thing is blatantly obvious from that (rather nifty) app: the downward trend in reading level in speeches. Washington's first was at 22.4, that is, postgraduate level. Dubya's bump around in the lower high school years (the most recent was at 10.1). Somewhat surprisingly, Clinton's were even lower.

Yep. The dumbing down of America, in graphic style. *sigh*

User Journal

Journal Journal: "Christian" Democrats in Germany 8

I have often been bemused at how the conservative populist party in Germany is called the Christian Democrats (CDU) -- Angela Merkel's party -- when they seem to have precious little actual Christianness about them. I don't mean that in a snarky way as I would with, say, Dubya. I mean they just don't seem to have terribly much to do with Christianity at all, even though their origins were in the old Catholic Centre Party before the war.

Just today I had a classic example: The suburb where our parish is located had a mayoral election recently, and the winner -- who's from the CDU, like most of his post-war predecessors -- invited our priest (along with the other clergy and hoi-polloi in the suburb) over for a "get to know you" reception.

On Sunday. At 10 o'clock in the morning.

Our priest felt obligated to go (mainly to curry favor in hopes of getting the town to get its nose out of our church building project), so we had to make do without him in today's service. Those present at the reception remarked to him that it was the first time any of them remembered that any of the clergy had shown up for such an event, which is traditionally on Sundays at 10 o'clock, and they remarked on how that struck them as odd -- without a hint of irony. (Trust me, Germans are not good at irony. Bronzy and goldy maybe, but not irony.)

What's also funny is that the new mayor is (supposedly a practicing) Roman Catholic and thus duty-bound to attend church every Sunday. Yet it didn't occur to him why a Christian clergyman would possibly have better things to do on a Sunday morning.

What is additionally ironic, and adds to the Bizarro World character of it all, is how prominent members of the (left-liberal environmentalist) Green Party are also avowed Christians (one example is Katrin Göring-Eckardt, vice president of the German Parliament, who was very visible at the recent German Protestant Church's national synod). There is even a special committee for them in the Green Party.

Meanwhile the Social Democrats, as befits a party with roots in Marxism (though it's now rather more centrist, with the Greens and the Left Party occupying the left wing), remains very skeptical of faith in any form.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ethelred's thoughts on televangelism 11

Turns out, to my shock and horror, The Hour of Power is on the boob tube in Germany as well.

Well, one advantage less to living in Germany.

See, where I grew up in Virginia -- as my brother puts it, in the buckle of the Bible Belt -- on Sundays there was nothing else on TV except televangelists of various stripes. 700 Club, PTL, Hour of Power, you name it -- every channel had some quasi-pious mucketymuck asking for money.

Well, there was one other thing that was on TV on Sundays. Pro rasslin'. Which, come to think of it, may be morally better to watch, because at least them rasslers ain't claimin' to be honest about it all.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The world just doesn't understand 11

Stargoat whines that we should have a Passenger Bill of Rights. To which I say, Harrumph!

Once again I must confess to being baffled by these half-hearted solutions to common problems, particularly when insisting on creating new lists of rights for people, when it would obviously be far simpler for the world to submit itself to my arbitrary rule. No more lawsuits (I'd just tell people to settle it themselves with weapons of their choice, starting with the lawyers), no more wailing about lack of punishment (I'd be sure to issue plenty of that), no more complaints about respecting each other's rights (because I'd make sure there are no rights, except for my own, of course)...well, you get the idea.

What's so hard to understand about that?

Bah! I'm going to retire to my lair and crush some lackeys under my heel until you fools finally get the point.

PS: Meanwhile, another anonymous person has sent me tribute in the form of a three pack of animated LOTR movies, for which we grant a lackadaisical royal wave in gratitude. See, some people around here are starting to get the point!

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