So, once in a while my mind produces an ethical brainfart. I'm thinking it comes from a cousin of the Cow Watcher, since the idea/question comes to me in the same way as most of Cow Watcher's ideas for plots, stories or characters: not quite out of the blue, but finding a basis in a strange concoction of unrelated subjects occupying my mind. I can usually trace down pedigrees or roots of such light bulbs (or halo spotlights in the face interrogation style, depending) but most of the time I don't even want to.

The latest ethical brainfart is:
So, Stephanie Meyer. She's famous. She earns lots of money with crappy writing concerning a subject she confessed (or self-proclaimed) to know nothing about.
I can see where an agent and/or editor grasps the novelty of her ideas with both hands, but surely at one point one of those "professionals" must have also grasped the ideas that while the books are aimed at a public that will easily forgive crappy writing and the novelty would easily make the series a major hit (ka-ching!), the backlash at Meyer's creation and person would be enormous. Let's not forget that the backlash was already huge on J.K.Rowling who at least is a better writer.
The main ethical problem being: agents and editors are all about their darling authors and how they really like to treat them well and have long relationships with them and such, but the Meyer case seems to prove duplicity in motive. While I do find some amusement in the ridicule surrounding Twilight, some part of me wonders about Meyer: Is money enough to ignore (or pay the shrink bills or medication needed to get to the point of being able to ignore) that for every loving fan you have a hateful fanatic? That for every website expressing total love to your creation there's two finding all new ways to mock it? Loving fans are already an image from nightmare hell to me, hating fanatics are ten times worse. How does she get up and/or look in the mirror every morning? Somewhere along the line, one of those professionals that love their author so should have explained the dangers of being a bit of a deluded twit to Meyer, methinks.
Yup, duplicity. Not unlike the duplicity of the claim that they really hope to find excellent authors of novels that will survive the centuries (a formidable task considering the enormous slushpile), but they are simply forced to settle time and again for whatever sells. And this methinks is the logical consequence when you have agents work on commission whilst unable to dictate the market. Or something. It's a bit of a complicated brainfart anyway.

To blog or not to blog: questions of POV

So, another one of those: I'm going to take someone's quote and formulate my answers here and not in the original blog because I stray off-topic or some such and anyway, I'm just a digital blip and what I say here is more interesting to me than to you. And if that makes you feel all-important, remember: you're only a digital blip too.

Marshall Payne wrote (28th June):

First person narratives have their own problems. Have you ever noticed (and I'm sure you have) where the overuse of the word "I" snakes down the page like a testament to the Me Generation? Often you have to accept this as a convention of first person narrative, but as a writer it's something I try to watch out for.

I haven't, because most books out there aren't 1st but 3rd person, preferably multi-headed because in this day and age of internet brainshrink, nobody seems to be able to stick to one head.
N.B.: everybody now blames the internet for the brainshrink, but I remember the early 90s when the internet was still far too clunky to influence young brains and Google wasn't even invented: everybody blamed TV, couch-potato zap-culture and MTV's blitzkrieg on young minds (incidentally this is also before neo-R&B or urban pop or whatever you wanna name it made music channels, videos and artists uniform. It was a real blitzkrieg, like Celine Dion followed by Metallica => *head explodes*). And I still think US-styled advertisement littered television holds more responsibility in brain-fatigue issues than the internet. From experience I know that when I haven't watched BBC or a rented DVD for a while but stuck to whatever's on the tube, I notice an increase in brain-fatigue while watching a movie ("where's that damned ad break?"), and the added quirk of a conditioned bladder ("dude, pause this shit because I really have to pee").

Now, back to that remark on 1st person: As a writer I feel more at ease with 1st person than 3rd, I don't like the limitations and the choices you have in 3rd. I understand that you can do 1st person badly (and I'm certainly not saying that I do 1st person particularly well, or write well at all), but considering the "I vs. s/he ratio" in published stories/novels, for every one done badly in 1st person I can show you three done badly in 3rd person (where probably the same error, of overusing "s/he", pops up).
Now one of the main difficulties of 1st person is the need to establish your character's identity separate from the reader's identity, while or just because a reader naturally identifies with your main character. This might require some more "I" than a 3rd person character would demand. Another difficulty is that reading being an individual business, the reader is geared to the self. So if the 1st person ticks off the reader's internal critic (who'll become confused between the real and fictional "I") your story/novel is screwed. That's the problem this new main character that popped up for my new project poses: 1st person and extremely unpleasant. That's gonna be real difficult.

As a reader I like 1st person, even done badly, better than 3rd person. It's one of the reasons that kept me glued to Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms:
  a) the first 1st person I've stumbled across in a long time
  b) it was done well
  c) I really liked the voice

and a + b + c = love on first page

I'm certainly no fan of multi-POV, because in most instances it's used as a simple device to create tension, switching heads per chapter and having cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger. It's good for one book, maybe two, then I tire of the carrot. Which is one of the main reasons I've fallen out of love with Peter F. Hamilton: too much carrot, not enough real content. Still read him, though, sort of like thinking fondly about the good times you had with an ex.
Multi-POV is also overused, in my opinion, because it is what sells in this brainshrunk market, which means stories that do not even need the reader to be inserted from different angles or different places into the story use multi-POV. Sometimes it is done well, usually when the rigidity of structure goes.

For instance, the first head-switch in Newton's Nights of Villjamur had me frown my annoyed frown and sigh my annoyed sigh (over the last 15 years, I've seen a surge in the use of multi-POV in the genres I tend to read, so it's become some sort of nervous tick). But by the second switch my nervous tick had gone to sleep, and by the end of the book I was under the impression of having read a single POV, which is how multi-POV should work: tell one story, highlighting different angles or places, but stick to one story that flows nearly continuously. Don't be tedious and have the different heads do stuff simultaneously unless it has a function ("Oh no, dude's gonna be in the corridor that other dude's about to blow up!" Agony! Tension!). And keep those instances short. Why?
Well, long chapters with different heads all running around doing stuff (near) simultaneously ("Dun dun dun!     Meanwhile ...") work the first time you read it. Next time you pick the book up, you skip everything you know wasn't either super pivotal to plot, or described or characterized extremely well.
Or maybe that's just me. But there's this choir of extras in my mental background ready to yell "Oh get on with it" whenever I even come close to thinking "'Oh no, we're switching to that stupid git/annoying twit again". I can't help it. Tad Williams and Peter Hamilton love to work with this kind of multi-head tale, and somewhere during the reading I always get this feeling the story gets subjected to the rigorous structure they've set up.
I've reread everything of Hamilton a few months ago and must say there was much skippage once past the Mandel stories. Same for Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I've been toying with rereading Otherland, but then I figured I could better keep my forces? patience? for the rest of Shadowmarch.
And I do like rereading and finding new nuggets of beautiful language or ideas or themes that I glossed over the previous read. I don't like rereading and having to plough through superfluous pages and go SKIM! and SKIP! And I believe most of those superfluous pages are created by using another head when it's completely unnecessary.

Another recent multi-POV that I was extremely pleased with as reader was Stephen Deas' The Adamantine Palace. The slightly more structuralized POV-switching certainly had the potential of making this a wall-collision book (as in "Not again! Harrumph!" and book colliding with wall), but Deas made it work by keeping the reader's interest on what might happen with characters while you're not following them, instead of trying to write up every little bit that happens to them MEANWHILE or working with explicit cliffhangers. If I remember well (and see, now I'm thinking of rereading a book I read only a few months ago, how about that?), he even plays around with the POV enough that you're not really head-switching: you're camera-switching, and sometimes following one character, then another, in a particular setting/group. And right up till the end I was sort of wondering/hoping/fearing (all confused) that the next switch back to the mercenary, the scene would be one with the mercenary absent and the dragon belching.

I'm having difficulty with finishing Eric brown's Necropath (I still have 5 chapters to go). The mystery is solved, what's left is a bit of thriller loose end (will Vaughan manage to find the Vaith before his nemesis finds him?). The set-up with the multi-POV has kept Vaughan at a distance, and it is clear that the nemesis will find Vaughan through Sukara, so I don't feel particularly involved in the resolution. The only reason I push myself to finish the read is because I want to find out if there is anything in the ending to justify the use of multi-POV. Up until now I have the feeling the story would have been better and stronger when told simply from Vaughan's POV. I'll come back to this when I do finish the book.

Edit 5th July: So, to conclude my reading of Necropath, I stay with my initial opinion: the story would have been stronger if Brown had stuck to the 3rd person POV.


I've been reading up on networking and computer models for social studies, ending up in some weird corners of philosophy and science history, all to feed Cow Watcher the fodder it needs to create some order from the chaos of dungeon crawlers.

Meanwhile, in between the menial jobs of the jobless housewife, I've put some thought in characters for this new project. No great hurry with it, I'm just reading stuff, gathering ideas, grabbing some balls Cow Watcher tosses me. I've come to some short notes on possible characters; there's this man, and there's this woman. I'm jotting down some ideas on *what* they are and how they fit into *non-existent plot*(1), and then all of a sudden in walks a real character. Not quite sure if I like him (a goddamned misanthrope if ever there was one), but his voice and attitude tell me he's important. Which makes me wonder if I'll be able to stand him long enough to be the main character.

And so the realization follows that I'll be changing POV in this project, switching from the Misanthrope/Mover&Shaker, to the two who actually live the plot. Not quite sure yet how I'm going to swing that, cuz problem is: Misanthrope is definitely "I", while the two others are "he" and "she". Ack!
Well, that's a problem to be solved later. Or not. Rules exist to be broken or some such nonsense.

So, the excitement is definitely on!

Now I have to make up a real working title; since it was quite embryonic I dubbed this project "embryo", but hey, I can see hands and feet forming: this thing needs a new name asap.

(1) Now, if you try to work like that in Excel you'll get the circular reference error: by fitting these stick-men characters into a non-existing plot, the plot emerges. I love it when a plan comes together!


Came across an article on cyberposses, which led me to look up some things I've been storing for later, which lead me to look up some more recent articles and papers on identity theft, social network behavior, viral memes, and so on and so forth. Think Cow Watcher is readying to launch some balls on the digital bliphood story thingie. So excited.


So, while the Belgians all wait to hear who's going to be leading the informative round of the government's formation, I've been using my day of unemployment and the beautiful weather to finally get some taming done in the garden.
After having abandoned it for many months (saber priorities), it had turned into a jungle worthy of the African continent (except: no bananas!). I've been running around with the machete (well, pruning shears simply doesn't sound as adventurous), dodging extremely dangerous insects (giant woodwasps aren't really dangerous except to the sudden scare they can give you by suddenly zooming past), and working until crippled (luckily, since I'm no longer used to the hard garden work, I got a blister before the body craptastic had something to complain about).

Also, I got some mild sunburn. That'll teach me, hiding indoors for weeks on end.

So, now I'm going to rest by trying to get the Barynn Companion in enough shape so I can actually put my office in some order.

Question the media

It's always interesting to look up foreign news articles on Belgium, because they usually convey more about the foreign country/news service than Belgium. Sometimes they're also somewhat funny, and sometimes they are shockingly wrong. For instance, after the train crash in February, AP sent an article into the world which gave the name of our king as Baudouin. Two days later (17 Feb) they corrected it:

AP - In a Feb. 15 story about the collision of two Belgian trains, The Associated Press erroneously reported the name of the Belgian monarch who visited the crash scene. His correct name is King Albert, not King Baudouin.

Now good old king Baudouin has been dead since 1993. Sort of like saying Clinton is still the US president... I don't quite know if I should be troubled, annoyed or saddened by such things. Shouldn't reporters of reputable news agencies double-check their facts? Has that new culture where speed is more important than correctness, as we know it from the internet and tweethood, corrupted journalism through and through?

But anyways, without much further ado, some notes on foreign "insights" into the NVA's landslide win and the future of Belgium:

NY Times:
But it is likely to take months to negotiate a new coalition, raising the prospect that Belgium will be struggling to assemble its own government at precisely the time it is supposed to be steering Europe out of a deep crisis
I don't know where journalists first heard this, and why they keep perpetuating such overblown fears. Believing this, is completely ignoring the Lisbon Treaty, and presuming that the presidency of Europe has more power than it actually has. A country can certainly give accents to certain issues during its presidency, but let's not pretend that the presidency of the council is anything like heading the European Commission, or that Belgian politicians will actually have to do so much more than play host. And playing hosts we Belgians can do amidst whatever internal crisis. We've got fries, chocolate and beer, for chrissakes. What else do you need for a party?

In addition to Mr. de Wever’s party, which got nearly 30 percent of the vote, Flanders gave 12.5 percent of its vote to the far-right separatists of Vlaams Belang and about 4 percent to another populist party, meaning that nearly half of the Flemish electorate voted for separatists. Mr. de Wever’s success appeared to come at the expense of the Christian Democrats of the current prime minister and his Liberal allies.
I resent this half-assed number game with half-assed deduction. As I said in a previous post, a lot of the NVA votes came from the parties they mention, and hence were already voting far-right and separatist. It's more a restacking of vote in the right wing than a gain in right-wing voters.
The most important numbers are those of the Chamber, not the Senate . After all, the Chamber has more power than the Senate over the government and actually makes the laws. It's also probably why people give a vote for the senate quicker to the NVA (or Vlaams Belang) than for their vote for the Chamber.
And then you have to take in account that two cartels in the previous elections no longer exist (SP.a-Spirit and CD&V-NVA).

The numbers are:
Vlaams Belang: coming from 12% they lose 4,3% ending up on 7,7% (Senate: -6,6% ending up on 12,3%)

LDD: coming from 4% they lose 1,7% ending up on 2,3% (Senate: -2,2% ending up on 3,3%)
OpenVLD: coming from 11,8% they lose 3,4% ending up on 8,4% (Senate: -6,8 ending up on 13,3%)
Groen: coming from 4% they add 0,2% ending up on 4,2% (Senate:+0,4% ending up on 6,3%)

The SP.a-Spirit cartel dissolved without too much trace (mostly due to the election threshold): the SP.a back on its own loses 1,3% against its cartel position of 2007 ending up on 9% in the Chamber and a loss of 0,9% in the Senate brings them to 15,3%.

The CD&V-NVA cartel split, but last elections they had 18,5% together in the Chamber and 31,4% in the Senate. The math [CD&V now: 10,9% in Chamber, 16,4% in Senate and NVA now: 17,3% in Chamber, 31,7% in Senate] ends up with a big win for the former cartel, ending in 28,2% for the Chamber and 48,1% in the Senate.

If analysis of those numbers can teach us anything, it is that the unrest in the Flemish liberal democrats, between their own left and right wing, still exists. It's a problem which has been troubling the VLD from their reform in 1992 (they used to be PVV), and has peaked in recent years with party members leaving and starting their own parties (LDD for instance). As long as they cannot make a coherent whole, they will always have big chops of swing-voters they lose when they become too leftist or too rightist... And, it's mainly due to that big chop of voters that the NVA gets its monster score.

Few symbols of Belgian unity remain, other than the royal family, the cartoon character Tintin and Brussels itself. There is a national soccer team, but it did not qualify for the World Cup.

That's a pitiful statement. All symbols of Belgium unity still exist (flag, king, hymn, and I think Jacques Brel  is a better symbol of unity in Belgium than our beloved reporter comic who has turned in a money carousel for the heirs (and not for Belgium), and, with the risk of sounding like a snarky Flemish nationalist: who's known all through the world by his French name. We have our great artists, musicians and fashion designers, all them more interested in Belgium and the big wide world than in that little, economically developed but emotionally stinted Flanders... In sports there's Cleijsters and Henin, more balanced you cannot make your representation in sports, linguistically speaking! The only thing that should change is in fact the national soccer team, since they haven't had results in ages, and the only reason we have to have a national team is because eveybody just lurves soccer.
Bah, stupid sport.

Also, his name is Bart De Wever, not Bart de Wever. In Dutch Dutch all "de" in names are "de", in Flemish Dutch, "de" in a name written without capital means nobility. And nobility he ain't. It's a small detail, but don't let all this discourse on how the Flemish are pitted against the French-speaking lead you to believe that the Flemish love the Dutch more.

BBC world:
The result would be a significant loss for Premier Yves Leterme's coalition of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists.
While strictly not untrue, I'd rather see "Christian Democrats and Liberals on Flemish side, and Liberals and Socialists on French side" or some notation that actually represents an important nuance. Nearly all Belgian parties are individual entities on either side of the language barrier; while of course, let's say, the Flemish and French socialists wouldn't have a lot of problems working together, their way of doing things, of thinking, the solutions they offer... can be quite different. One of the biggest differences exist between the Flemish Christen democrats (center right) and the French (center left). Chucking them all on one heap as Christen Democrats, without taking note of the language group, is rather flighty journalism.

Belgian governments are required to be made up of a bi-lingual coalition of at least four parties.

That's the first I hear about that, though seeing how in high school history classes we managed to cover WW1&2 three years in a row and never actually got to modern day Belgium, I could be mistaken. The only coalition that needs to be formed legally is between one French-speaking and one Dutch-speaking party, so bilingual, yes. But four parties? Strictly speaking, if there would be a French-speaking party with 50,5% of the French-speaking votes, and the same on the Flemish side, those two could form a legal federal government.
However, it is true that usually a wider coalition is looked for, mainly because if you want to make constitutional changes you need a 2/3 majority in parliament, and for most important constitutional reforms also a 1/2+1 or 2/3 majority in both language groups within the federal parliament. So, it makes sense to form a 4 party coalition to make sure the changes you want to make actually will pass parliament.

De Volkskrant:
Anderen zijn hoopvoller gestemd. Zij denken dat de Franstaligen onder druk van deze uitslag bereid zullen zijn tot een staatshervorming. 
Translated: Others are more hopeful. They think the French-speaking will be pressed by this result to the reform of the state.

This is a rehash of what a lot of Flemish parties have been saying for months: we need to force the French-speaking politicians to reform, because they don't want any. It's always no no no. Now they can do naught else!

Lies, I say, lies and confuzzelation, and the media is complicit in this scam. After the previous election, during the difficult formation of the coalition, it was decided, mainly by the CD&V-NVA cartel, that as a solution of the ongoing debacle, they were going to start with coming to some agreement on the split of BHV before starting talks on the reform of the state's structures. This is problematic because to propose that  the only solution to the BHV problem is the split of the electoral district (in which the French-speaking stand to lose) is looking for difficulties. However, all other solutions would demand deeper state reform (expansions of Brussels, or making federal elections federal by dissolving the language barrier for those elections and of course the parity rule that rebalances the Walloon and Flemish vote for the Chamber), which you've just excluded from the table. That, I do not call negotiating.
Because the Walloons stand to lose by a simple split of BHV, they are not motivated to cooperate. However, this is something different than not wanting a state reform. They wanted rather a state reform that included (if it really has to, *sigh*) than a solution for BHV. They windicated often enough they would compromise on their wants and give up their stance on BHV, if for instance an expansions of Brussels could be put on the agenda. It's only logical the French-speaking parties would not formally commit to a split of BHV under those circumstances.

Hence my belief that the previous winners did not truly want to negotiate, and seeing how Bart De Wever (NVA) changed his tone towards the Walloons as soon as it became obvious that a win was a serious option in this election (also: this time, no Flemish lion flags in the NVA victory party yesterday evening!), I'm assuming he's not only showing good will, but also the will to compromise and come to a good and long-term solution for all Belgian levels. Let's just see what the next days bring...

The people have spoken

From the first tentative results yesterday afternoon it was clear that the Flemish Nationalists, NVA, would do at least as well as recent polls suggested. At the end of the day, they did better.

Looking at where they got their votes (a clear view on shifts in voting behavior is only one of the good points of a representative (and obligatory) voting system as it exists in Belgium) it's not as disastrous as it sounds. The result is mainly a restacking of the right, seeing as two big "losers" are the Christian Democrats, CD&V (who had grown the last couple of years through an alliance with the NVA that turned out unworkable in the end, and now the nail in their coffin), and Vlaams Belang, Flemish Nationalists and xenophobe party. I'm heartened to see that the free-fall the left was in the last couple of years has halted. That was one of my biggest fears, not to wake up in a Belgium where Bart De Wever was the biggest man, but where the socialists and greens shrunk ever more.

I'm annoyed that on the Flemish news site they only give results of Flanders, you even have to dig for articles on Brussels or Wallonia. It were federal elections, and as a Belgian me I'd like my tax-euro subsidized news giving me a view on how Belgium, and not only Flanders, will be today. In Wallonia it was rapidly clear that the Walloon socialists were recuperating nicely from the punches they got in the last couple of elections, as polls had suggested.

As one French-speaking twitterer said yesterday:
Bart De Wever doesn't acknowledge the existence of the Belgian king(1), and the king doesn't acknowledge the existence of Bart De Wever(2): that's Belgian surrealism.

Today will be a very interesting day. Obviously, it's De Wever's turn, but how will the king handle it? Will De Wever, with his monster score, accept that he'll have to work with the Walloon socialists?The CD&V hope they'll be working together again with NVA, but then De Wever will be working with the party that screwed everything up; the only big party not involved in the debacle of the last three years are the Flemish socialists. But that's like screwing over the rightist swing-voters that delivered his monster score. Ah, politics, definitely more thrilling than football.

(1) he's fervently republican
(2) the king left him out of talks before, but what else can you do with someone who doesn't acknowledge your existence?

Marcus knows best

Some thoughts on boycotts for Gaza

What annoys me is that boycotting was so much easier in the Apartheid days, perhaps because it had an easy name. Perhaps we need some marketing dudes to get their asses on this.

Now, recently there has been a spade of cultural boycotts (since boycotting Israeli product most likely will only add to the suffering of those few Palestinians who still have the permit to work outside their "borders" (*), naming a few:
  • Israelis won't be reading new Iain Banks material in Hebrew: but wouldn't taking steps to actually making sure no titles in whatever language are sold in Israel be more productive as boycott? Won't they just buy English? Unless of course he's planning another Feersum Endjinn
  • Flocks of artists have canceled concerts in Israel, amongst others, Gorillaz (wtf? is this the man that tried to get music fans' conscience back on tracks during the acceptance of Gorillaz's first MTV award in 2001?) and and The Pixies (whose ethics apparently need a bit of blood before action is called for).
Then there is Elvis Costello, who was well ahead the game when he canceled his dates.

All in all, who am I to criticise? Every good deed done is one good deed done. All you can do in the crazy muppet show the world is, is stand your own ground, friendly and without arrogance, understanding full well that a man is worth as much as his deeds (2).

Belgian elections
Don't do it if it's not fitting, don't say it if it isn't true. Always keep your own purpose and resolution free from compulsion and necessity. Consider the true nature of everything you see and hear, dissect it in cause, matter, meaning and intent, and ponder upon its expiration date. (3)(4)

So, Sunday is the big day. I've looked at party statements, and am saddened by the absence of real important stuff. Comparing statements of (verbal) communications is sometimes clearer: CD&V (Flemish Christian democrats, never get my vote FYI) talk about keeping retirement pay manageable, SPa (Flemish socialists) talk about having worthwhile retirement pay. It's the little stuff like that that makes the difference.

But after studying all the talking heads, I must conclude that I'll stick with the socialists this time, even if I'm greatly vexed that they're more concerned about making life a breeze for mums and children (hello baby-boom? Is that really what we need? Again? Isn't that exactly the cause of the current retirement pay problem?) instead of real structural changes. Like most parties--left, center or right--they have become terribly complacent. I agree with Peter Singer on this: the left hasn't really evolved since the 19th century, unlike then ideas of the right. Perhaps I should buy a box full of copies of his on a Darwinian Left and send them to lefty parties for free. It will be too late for this election, but it is never too late to change the world.

Wildheit @ Psychoshop
So the site is somewhattish back on its feet a bit, and this time I've made sure the SQL database gets automatically backed up. Murphy proof! Or so I hope.

There was this stuff I wanted to add to the site but I got completely lost in my terribly well-organised bookmarks ==> procrastination of the worst kind!

One cool design aid link: Online Color Scheme Designer

But all that getting lost in digiland made me think of what some smart ancient dude(1) once said (or hath sayeth or something):
Be not deceived; for thou shalt never live to read thy moral commentaries, nor the acts of the famous Romans and Grecians; nor those excerpts from several books; all which thou hadst provided and laid up for thyself against thine old age. Hasten therefore to an end, and giving over all vain hopes, help thyself in time if thou carest for thyself, as thou oughtest to do.
~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book III.14

So there, Marcus knows best, and I'm off to continuing some work. It will be hard, because as my recent false starts with the new books I bought prove: Cow Watcher is working on SF, so I can't read SF. So I guess I better find something fantasy amongst my projects that needs working on in the mean time...

(*) bracketed because the Israelis don't seem to grasp the definition of "border": when its between them and the Palestinians its their border, if its between the Palestinians and the world it is their border (and not the Palestinians). That's like agreeing to the border between Belgium and France, but saying Belgium has a right to intervene on France's border with Spain, because it's our border too. Plus: agreeing on a border is agreeing to stop changing it.
(1) intentional use of ignoramus phrasing
(2) a rephrasing of: Public shows and solemnities with much pomp and vanity, stage plays, flocks and herds; conflicts and con tentions: a bone thrown to a company of hungry curs; a bait for greedy fishes; the painfulness, and continual burden-bearing of wretched ants, the running to and fro of terrified mice: little puppets drawn up and down with wires and nerves: these be the objects of the world. among all these thou must stand steadfast, meekly affected, and free from all manner of indignation; with this right ratiocination and apprehension; that as the worth is of those things which a man doth affect, so is in very deed every man's worth more or less ~Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book VII.3
(3) a rephrasing of: If it be not fitting, do it not. If it be not true, speak it not. Ever maintain thine own purpose and resolution free from all compulsion and necessity. ~Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book XII.13
(4) a rephrasing of: Of everything that presents itself unto thee, to consider what the true nature of it is, and to unfold it, as it were, by dividing it into that which is formal : that which is material: the true use or end of it, and the just time that it is appointed to last. ~Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book XII.14

To blog or not to blog

Somewhere in May, when I followed an SFtidbit link to the Blog of the Fallen (in response to amongst others Nextread's post on the death of SF), I jotted down some remarks on blogging and debate and so on, but apparently never came to actually posting. Which makes the futility of pondering and formulating questions and responses over here rather than over there less of a futility. Ha.

So, more as an exercise of thought than anything else: to blog or not blog? what is blogging?

Quote from the blog self:
And I'm left thinking, "What the hell is being argued now?  That one can hold an opinion unsupported by evidence and that one shouldn't be called out on it?"
Of course!  99% of your daily opinions are unsupported by evidence, or at least evidence that works outside of your skull/body.
Everyone has the right to hold opinions [...]
This might be reading between the lines, but in your starting statement seems to be hiding some value judgement about people who cannot support their opinions by evidence: in your world, they don't exist.
But at the same point, having an opinion, strong or weak or indifferent, does not give that opinion holder shelter from others' skepticism.
Of course not, but then, naming it skepticism doesn't mean that it is anything else than just another opinion.
Sometimes, the blogger has to provide evidence that s/he is well-grounded in what s/he is trying to argue or else just be silent for a spell and try to listen to the points another is making.
Well, that's sort of saying that you have to listen to all a Jehovah witness has to say when he comes ringing your doorbell. I believe it is no different than in the real world: as a commenter you also have to know your blogger. If you go to a house party of a colleague, of whom you know he doesn't talk shop outside of the office, then everyday etiquette is: you don't talk shop. A Jehovah witness sure knows that since it is your door, you can do as you please with it.

And: I'm not sure opinions need to be validated by evidence. Good old inductive argumentation requires some factual statement, true, but let's not pretend a factual statement is anything like solid proof. In debate, your listener may always dismiss your factual statement.
But then, apart from watching too much Holy Grail in childhood, I had favourite jokes like:
   - What's the difference between a blackbird?
   - Between a black bird and what?
   - What's the difference between a blackbird?
   - Errr, I dunno?
   - His legs are of the same length. Especially the left one.

Or as rahkan said in the comments:
It kind of depends on what kind of conversation you're trying to have. And who you want to have it with. Everyone on the internet is not necessarily trying to talk to everyone else.
Then Martin said:
Gav, I don't know why on Earth you would think that you have to just take or leave opinions. That isn't how newspapers work and it certainly isn't how blogs work (it also completely goes against your conclusion that blogging is about expressing an opinion). Why would you have comments enabled if this was true? As for the idea that an opinion's authority is based on your view of the commentator, do you really not think the opinion itself plays a part?
I like the analogy of a newspaper's opinion piece and blogging (with comments off). You could write to the newspaper with your counter-arguments if you don't agree, but writing a thoughtful, well-argued response is just as much work and just as time consuming as doing it online. Most people don't: hence opinions are there to take or leave. Besides, in the world as it is today, you'd go crazy (and certainly would not get much written that should get written as a would-be* author ) trying to come up with counter-arguments for every opinion you don't agree to. So, while the writer of an opinion piece could see getting counter-arguments in response as the prime intent of voicing said opinion, s/he will only get a select few of counter-arguments: those people that can actually be bothered.

Having or not having some valid base for the words you utter, adhering to some form or another, using whatever channel you want: even if your words have as much power as you can muster (arguments, factual statements, proof, whatever), they will never have the absolute power of coercing a response. You cannot make the deaf hear.

All in all, the conversation in the comments of said post only illustrated to me that I really and truly don't buy the illusion of blogging.

What illusion?

Well, the old adage on opinions and assholes holds, and the illusion of blogging is that a blog is a platform for debate. It's not. It's a soapbox, only good for giving your opinion, with that change that you can make sure nobody can come and throw rotten tomatoes because they didn't like your opinion or the way you voiced it.

Giving an opinion and having discussion going on in the comments is not a debate: you are not on equal footing. Twitter is perhaps a better platform for real debate, except that it's an even shorter form so there's even less space for thought and tact.

What's more, the question: do you twitter?, makes me want to shout: No! I'm not a frigging bird!

Plus: God forbid that I'll have something else/new to take my mind of the things I should be doing.

Plusplus: Switching from one Twitteroo to another and trying to filter out the idiots that swish past strafing off a few words on another topic you're not interested in (sort of like trying to have a discussions in a noisy bar or dancing club) is making me cross-eyed. But perhaps there's some integrated Twitter reader I haven't found yet that makes this easier? If not, someone should go and invent it NOW!

But wait. Hold on. What am I asking?
  • a public platform
  • input should allow a decent length for thoughtful responses
  • integrated, so as a public, whether you want to join in or not, you can at least follow the debate without getting a headache
Does this sound familiar to you? IRC anyone?

Blogs are a soapbox, made to shout out your opinion, not made for real debate. So, debating on debate etiquette or nature in blogs is *head explodes*

Since the blogger can adjust for mood whether s/he will allow a response, you as a commenter are subordinate: the whole format of blogging dictates that you are not equal to the blogger.

As a commenter you have as much power as when you'd ring somebody's doorbell to inform them they have a very nice garden. The garden's owner may strike up a conversation on azaleas with you, they may just nod and make the finger at temple for crazy motion once they've closed the door, or they may worry about safety and call the police. So, if you as commenter really want to use blogs for debate: know your blogger.

Nothing in the nature of a blog holds the promise that you could actually come to a real debate. And no factual statement ('but most blogs allow comments to have a debate') can change this: it's not because you or any number of people use a spoon as shovel that a spoon was not originally made for eating soup.

It seems to me that with every progression of technology, the basic characteristics that work best for a technology are abandoned for looks and comfort.

I'm not conservative, or somehow scared/confused/bedazzled by world-changing technology. My first computer was a ZX80 and I was something like 8 years old. Since then I've witnessed lots of changes, in technology and in the meatball response to that technology. Some are good, some are bad, most of them are here nor there. But like I said in a previous post on the value of innovations, whether ethical or social or financial: are innovations really world changing if they cannot do your laundry and ironing?

* haha: at my first attempt I wrote "wood-be". Damned Flemglish. Need more coffee!

grrr Murphy's stupid law

And then I find out that I didn't even save the copies of text I had for all that shit.

So I'm starting over...


Great, I just managed to delete my sql database for my website *le sigh*


is what I am. I've been wearing sports tape on my ankle on and off for weeks during saber season. Sunday, the strips I'd left on for some support on Sunday (as I've been doing for over two months) started itching. Shit happens, so I took them off.

Since then I've been wearing virtual sports tape, in the form of a swollen and red strip of skin where the real deal used to be. But that's okay, that's just looks. And I know I am sensitive to some stuff, like some types of bandages, or the stuff they use to glue silver or gold to cheaper metal in jewelry. Things like that = hello skin rash. But zinc oxide tape is supposed to be okay, damnation.

This thing itches like a motherfucker, worse than the series of spider-bites I once contracted on my leg (series as in spider doing walk-walk-gnap-walk-walk-gnap on my leg).

See, every time you think things can't ever be worse, the universe will prove its limitless possibilities.


There's something wrong with the time between Wednesdays and Thursdays.

I wake up insanely early, for weeks now. What is it my sleeping mind is hearing?

Though... I remember years ago when they changed the bus schedule in weekends, effectively scrapping 4 of the earliest stops on Sunday. During the first weeks of the change I kept waking up at 6:20 and 6:50 and 7:20 and 7:50 without a clue.

So my question could just as well be: what am I not hearing around 4 on Thursday morning?


One of the books I picked up in Waterstone's in the last batch, Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was amongst it. I started reading yesterday evening, and I'm done now. I haven't read like that since mmmmmm Latin class. That long ago. Finishing a novel under 24h is exhilarating. Wish I could stay longer and describe what and where and how this novel worked for me, but Cow Watcher is banging on drums, acting like a spoiled brat. Must go before more unmarketable novels are cooked up. Lord save me from myself.


Some remarks on the usual, rather hallucinant Israeli rhetoric:

1) the soldiers were unarmed and nearly barefooted. The poor shmucks always end up getting spat at, clubbed, knifed, stoned,... It is so not fair. They come in peace and see what you get for your troubles.
2) saying "not armed" and saying "armed with non-lethal weapons" is not the same thing. Not ever.This is one of those instances that words do matter.

3) soldiers have a dangerous job, they must be kept safe. AT ANY COST. I mean, we're talking LIVES here.

But what we silly Westerners should read between those lines is: please stop sending aid. We don't want the Palestinians to suffer. But if you keep feeding and healing and helping them, shucks man, it's going to take for ever!

Closer to home: 12 days until elections. 12 days to make up my mind. Flipping Flemish nationalist are going to win anyway, because I am surrounded by morons.