So I’m getting married, huzzah.

You know what weddings are all about? Weddings are all about stress. Let me explain. Yesterday, I left work early, as delivery men from both Sears and Jysk were showing up. Show up they did, both of them late, and I spent the rest of the evening assembling furniture, which isn’t as therapeutic as it may sound. In fact, by the time I had figured out how the TV stand and the couch fit together, I had spent three hours bolting things together, deciphering schematics cleverly encrypted with 128-bit stupidity, and wondering why so much extra hardware had been crammed into the little plastic bags, until I longed for the sweet embrace of death.

Then I got into work to discover everyone calling for their tools, and every tool not done or done wrong. Hyperbole, but it stands. In the midst of this I discovered that money is going to be a little tight for the first few months of marriage because OSAP — predictably, I might add — thinks that we don’t actually need any money for food and whatnot.

Of course, some of you are going to be saying, “Well, then you shouldn’t have bought that bed and that furniture.” But of course they were both a donation from my parents, bless their moneyed souls, and not a cash donation. And I will not beg money from them; things tight, but we’ll survive just fine. For the first time I understand why finances are the ruination of many an otherwise sound relationship.

We will find ourselves, after the honeymoon, in a house full of semi-nice things, with a few thin dimes to rub together. At least for the first few weeks. Add to that the inevitable tension of getting used to — for me at least — having another person around the house whose needs I have to consider, whose well-being I am entrusted with, and you have the makings of a rocky road. It’s scary too: are my shoulders broad enough for this?

Something is going to blind-side us. The time is ripe. I mean, me and Laura love eachother and we’ll make it through whatever comes, but it’s all too simple right now. The challenges seem straightforward, and life seems to generally dislike being straightforward. So I’m waiting to get hit by a bus.

All this to say that I may well be fraying and wearing thin, but this is going to happen. It will, and if I find myself taking a bus in the chest, it will be for love. I’m a big ball of hope that no bus will come, and that the rewards of the tension will be legion, and that in all of this there will be a knot of blessing.

But I still can’t wait for it all to just be… over.

Bullet points for a Thursday morning.

  • I have a cold right now, one of those three-alarm colds that crawls up into your sinuses with a hot poker and goes to town. Upon waking up this morning, I blew my nose, and though I’ll spare you the gory details, there must have been about 20mm3 there. And, according to the scale this morning, all that weight is coming directly off my waist. Colds are such strange things.
  • Note to self: do not blog after taking two Sudafeds.
  • Speaking of which, my sister is about to give birth to a baby whose sex as of yet is indeterminate. [Editor’s note: Chris Hubbs has reminded me that the sex of the baby is indeed already determined. This should read “unobserved”.] I have taken it upon myself to remind her in every way possible that the pain of giving birth is just the beginning of a wonderful journey in snot and poop and vomit.
  • Babies, they’re everywhere. This Sunday past, I attended the baptism of Marlene and Mark’s baby. Cutest little thing ever, by the way. It was actually awesome to see all her friends and family come together to celebrate the sign of the covenant, actually (and pardon me if my wording sounds too, well, grandmotherish). Even though I don’t really know Marlene or Mark that well, it was good to be there, and inspired this little poem. That is, in fact, the first baptism I’ve consciously attended (rather than just happening to be there by default) since Kevin’s baptism back in the day.
  • Note to self: “Drink lots of water” does not refer to coffee.
  • Either I have discovered in myself an ability to make even the most clear issues unclear, or the world isn’t as simple as we sometimes make it out to be. I have a hard time, for instance, with the idea that everything is either black or white; or perhaps I have a hard time with the idea that we can know all the time, that we can differentiate. Sure, a lot of things are perfectly and obviously black and white; but a raft of others seem to be grey, whether they are or aren’t. Maybe I’m just arguing that humans can never actually know everything.
  • I have a friend who holds himself above scripture: he discards whatever he likes if it sounds stupid or old-fashioned to him. Since I figured this out, we’ve stopped arguing about a lot of things — except politics, of course — since we just don’t share any common theological ground to begin on. We don’t really agree on the basics, so of course our end points are dissimilar. A wise man, a preacher, once told me that the only thing you can do for such a person is pray that they will one day accept scripture as authority. I find more truth in that idea these days than I used to.
  • If you leave your job and don’t leave them with adequate resources and information to replace you, you are irresponsible. If you don’t at least make the effort, I mean. Two weeks notice is sometimes enough, sometimes not.
  • If there’s one album you must buy this year, it’s Sean Hayes’ Flowering Spade. It’s, simply put, freaking amazing.
  • If you’re considering picking up Interpol’s Our Love to Admire, don’t. They’ve managed to make an expanded musical palette more boring than the original four-piece.

Addendum:

  • When you specify a tolerance to the fourth decimal place and then find it undersize to to the fifth decimal place by three hundred-thousandths of an inch, I’m going to explain to you the concept of rounding up, and how, if you want to specify five decimal tolerances, you can twenty thousand dollars per tool. Then you can either take the tool and use it, or throw it in the garbage and see if anyone else will kowtow. I tell you, I should not be in customer service.
  • Language is important. It’s the language of deity, the great divider between humans and animals. This is why, when I hear people talking in hillbilly/hiphop slang, I think they’re stupid. They may not be, but they’re acting like it. Intelligence and language go hand in hand.

Mind above scripture, or scripture above mind. But it’s not that simple, is it?

It’s easy enough to say that scripture is the rule for life, that there are things in it that are hard to understand and that sometimes don’t come close to making sense.

It’s easy to say that, and I suppose it’s true enough. You submit to it, you put your mind underneath it, you humble yourself. I’m not good at it, but I try to find my intellect keeling, as it were.

I’ve recognised in myself — ever since I was young, even — a talent if not for obfuscation and dissimulation then for at least finding the smallest point of chaos in the most dreadfully ordered patterns. For making even those blisteringly clear things seem a bit clouded. For saying, “Well, it’s not quite that simple…”

So here you go.

Is it really that simple? Is it really this act of will where I take my intellect like a burnt offering and hold it up on a silver platter? Or is there some kind of interplay between the mind and the scripture? There must be; we interpret and equivocate, don’t we? It’s not at all obvious what it all means, not without some clarification, much like archaeology, or some other arcane art. Compare, contrast, dust, tug, push, dig, all these things.

There’s a dialogue there. The mind creates structure — isn’t that what we do with everything? — when reading the scriptures. It’s part of what makes people people, that they find all sorts of patterns and structures and coherence; not to say that scripture doesn’t have any, not at all.

Worse yet, the brain needs to understand the way the brain works. I can recognise that there’s some interplay there between what I read, what I understand, and how I can humble myself before the one who made me to read and understand. But which one is under and which one is above? It’s a good question. Am I humbling myself in front of something I have constructed? Or am I humbling myself in front of the real thing?

This cognitive dissonance is not easily resolved, and probably wouldn’t be, if there was this giant vacuum in which to read the scriptures. Of course there isn’t, though. There isn’t some magical island where you can open up the book and just read free of prejudice and all those other things that come with being a part of the world.

Lots of different things intrude, but maybe the most important is that holy Ghost. Can I say he is the resolution? I believe so. He is not a construct, that much is clear. He is the person above personhood that, when you ask, shoves the right building blocks in the right hole.

That so many of us come to different conclusions when asking for his help is a mystery, isn’t it? You’d think he’d just blind his followers with light and lead them by the hand. He exists, though, and he is near. That much is clear.

You may say, I will listen and you will speak, and you may find the jumbled bits of your thinking falling into place. He is at work, not only there but in other places at well.

You may find that it is, after all, quite simple. Not this mumbo-jumbo about dialogue and over/under. And I may wink and say, We all get there in the end.

But I won’t tell you where. Not here. Not now.

Four Points Regarding Copyright

Copyright is an important idea. It’s a big deal. It allows people to make money off what they create, in order to spur on even more creation. It’s a good idea, and it has worked for a long time, in the favour of a few.

Copyright is an important idea, but it’s flawed. Or at the very least, modern conceptions of copyright are flawed. Most people seem to think that when you create something, like an idea, or a book, or a song, or a collection of poems, that you own what you have created. It’s like property. This is, I think, flawed; it’s very evidently not property. Since the beginning of the printing press, as the costs to make and market a book have been declining toward zero, this notion has become increasingly irrelevant.

Yes, at one time a book was a very valuable thing, something time-consuming to make in every way. From the paper to the ink to the copying. Now, with the rise of electronics, books are not only declining in function as blogs and aggregators begin to supplant them, but the cost of making and distributing a book comes down to merely how much time you want to spend making and distributing it.

You can write and distribute an entire book, essentially for free. And the spare time you spend writing it, what is that worth? Who knows. The time that would otherwise be used sitting around or watching television or attending football games; can that time be reliably said to have monetary value? There’s a strong argument that it cannot.

The cost of making quite a few different things is now approaching zero, things that, when copyright was first implemented, cost an arm and a leg. Back then, we needed incentive to create culture, because creating culture was expensive. Some things still are. Major motion pictures, for instance. Broadway productions. Football games.

Secondly, copyright is not opt-in. It should be. The Berne Convention is–at least on this issue–a bit of an idiotic bit of Nanny State hand-holding that needs to be done away with. Automatic copyrights are a bad thing: a lot of the stuff that gets published is not worth copyrighting. A lot of the people that publish on the web don’t even care.

For the people who really do care about having their work copyrighted, let them bring it in to a copyright office and have their copy notarised. Let them pay an administrative fee. Think about it: copyright law protects even those who don’t care about copyright law. I pay for it through my tax money. But why? Why should I be paying to uphold the rights of those who may not even care whether their work is ripped off?

Let them pay for the costs of administering copyright, those people that care enough about what they have created to have copyright cover them. I don’t want to bear that cost.

Third, copyright lasts too long. Look, I don’t have a problem with Disney keeping copyrights to stuff that they try to foist on its customers every time there’s a format change. Let them keep the in perpetuity, if they can demonstrate that they actually use that copyright to generate revenue. But, also, let’s make them pay a fee to get copyright renewal every ten years, on an inclining scale. If they really want the copyright that badly, well, they should pay for it.

Everything else, all those records and books and articles and photos that no one cares about, let that stuff slip into the public domain. Let people use them for whatever they like. That, my friends, will be an explosion of creativity. Imagine being able to take some obscure artist that you think is an absolute gem but pretty much everyone else has forgotten and remix his records and re-release them. Or whatever else you can imagine.

Fourth, let’s make it very clear that the reason things enter the public domain is because they were always part of the public domain to begin with. That is to say, culture and its products cannot be owned by any particular person. Physical objects can, certainly, but not that thing that humans produce and call art simply because we’re human: no single person or entity can own that.

Copyright is like an exclusive license to use something for whatever purpose. Money, attention, goodwill, you name it. You get to use it for a set period of time, after which it goes back to people that–let’s face it–without whom you would never have been able to create that work to begin with.

Yes, copyright is a good idea. It still is, after all these years. Maybe the question we should be asking now, in the new millennium and beyond, is how do we make it better? How do we adjust copyright to optimally serve the needs and rights of copyright owners and at the same time serve the rights and needs of the public at large?

Is this how you learn?

According to this little survey on how people learn, I am Visual/Nonverbal 32; Visual/Verbal 32; Auditory 18; Kinesthetic 24.

Which apparently means that I use a bunch of different ways to learn things. Which is, I suppose true. It’s accurate in that I remember much better the things that I read or do versus what I hear. I can remember motions and actions, I can picture the words and pages of a book, but I cannot for the life of remember sermons and lectures (at least what the pastor or teacher said; I can almost always remember my impressions of the content and delivery).

So… how do you learn?

Today’s Ubuntu Post

I love watching the patch stream for Ubuntu’s upcoming releases. I mean, I only know what maybe 10% of them actually do, but it’s fun to see. Most of the year, for instance, there’s just the occasional maintenance patch, with maintainers releasing new versions, and of course security patches. Then you get to the Debian Import Freeze where, iirc, there’s a flurry of patches and modifications.

But the real storm comes at Upstream Version Freeze, and Feature Freeze. After that patches and package revisions come flooding down the pipe. I think I remember something like 50 a day for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t keep up with all the changes with my small simian mind.

So yeah, this is what I do for fun, eh. I’m looking forward to Gutsy Gibbon, whatever the case, as I hear there’s a good chance that desktop effects will finally be integrated into the system. Nice, because the bolt-on and backports don’t always work very well, and I fondly remember running Beryl in all its buggy glory. And while Compiz Fusion is nice, the packages I’ve used are backports and don’t necessarily always work that well.

Microsoft Office and OpenOffice both suck.

They really do. Let me ask you a question:

What functionalities of MSO and OOo do you use? Do you use Word/Writer to make documents? Do you use Excel/Calc to put things in rows and columns? Do you use Powerpoint/Impress to make slideshows?

Then you’ve never scratched the surface of the functionality present in either of these office suites. You might say that they’re both way, way too complicated and unwieldy for you. You need a knife, what you have is the USS Enterprise.

Or, do you use Excel/Calc, for instance, as an application development platform of some kind? (And, tangentially, are you completely and utterly insane?)

I have been emailed a thousand spreadsheets and text documents. Literally. And I have never come across one that did anything other than page layout and a few basic formulas.

MS Office and OpenOffice both suck because they try to be both simple and complex and in trying to be both actually arrive at neither. In your typical office, what do you need to do? You need to collaborate with co-workers, you need to share calendars, you need to email, that sort of thing. None of these things is a single-user process, none of these things exists as an island.

Why then do both the major office suites insist on foisting this single-user mentality from the 1990s on us? I don’t want to edit a document, save it, have someone else edit the document, save it (or even worse, have it emailed around). I don’t want a document with an embedded application.

I want a document that I can edit in real-time while other people edit it in real time as well. Why has no one done this? Why are spreadsheets and text documents still two different things? Why has no one put them together?

Microsoft, at least, has tried, in its dorky, cumbersome way, to remedy this with a Sharepoint Portal, but even that’s a weak solution to a huge problem. Throwing a bunch of wikis and shared calendars at a paradigm that needs radical change isn’t going to solve anything; they’re merely adding another layer of abstraction on a layer of cruft and acting as if this is a new and radical idea.

It isn’t. Microsoft Office and OpenOffice are old and busted. Where’s the new hotness? Why is a company like Google trying to re-re-invent the wheel by replicating this old and busted on the internet with AJAX for crying out loud? Talk about bolting crap to crap! Where’s the new and different and outside the box and productivity-enhancing program that’s going to rock my socks off?

It’s not just that MSO and OOo are boring. They are, but that’s not the problem. They don’t meet my needs. I don’t need to make a document. I consider the idea of a document out-dated. I don’t need to save or auto-save or click through menus or scroll along a ribbon. I consider both those interface ideas out-dated.

Old and busted. So tell me, ladies and gentlemen, where is the new hotness?

Or, who is going to build the better mousetrap?