Statements of Belief

The "Rough Diamond" blog has an interesting entry about statements of belief. I think it's a good thing for people to have an answer when they're asked, "What is your philosophy of life?" besides "Umm, be nice to one another?"

Back in 1991 or so, somebody on the GEnie system asked me just that question. Without much thought, I wrote back the following:

I find that with greater understanding comes deeper satisfaction.

I find that gaps and dead ends in my understanding discomfort me.
I find that if I'm afraid, further seeking reveals misunderstanding.
I believe that it will always be thus.
This is my faith.
I desire to seek truth
Not for fear of loss
Not for want of gain
Not for need of words
And will endeavour to pursue it
No matter what it is
No matter who says it
No matter what I already believe.
This I affirm.
Over the years I dragged out that little bit of blank verse from time to time to see if I still believed in it. I did, and I still do.

Indeed, I included a copy of it in my game "Order Out Of Chaos", with some pretty graphics. A doctor friend of mine liked it so much that I made a framed copy for him, which he hung in his waiting room. Within two months it was stolen. Since the frame was only worth five bucks, I decided to take that as a compliment. But I do wonder what the person who took it really thought of the message.

When I put the verse into my game, I gave it the title "The Generic Prayer". I did that because I found it hard to find anybody who didn't think it reflected the way they approached life. It didn't matter if they were theist, atheist or agnostic: they all said it was the way they looked at things.

I don't think I've hit upon some universal truth, though. Rather, I think I've uncovered a common delusion. Some of the precepts (such as "No matter who says it") are more honoured in the breach. While I still like "The Generic Prayer", I think that asking people, "Do you agree with this?" is like asking, "Are you open-minded?" Try finding somebody who will answer "No" to that.

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Initial Reflections on Blogging

As someone who has designed online communications systems for most of his life – I created a BBS in 1981 before I even knew what a BBS was – I'm approaching this blogging phenomenon with a spirit of avid exploration. Blogs have been around for a while and I was vaguely aware that some people kept online diaries, but I wasn't aware until recently just how big the phenomenon had become. You may think that Mr. Online Communication here must have been sleeping under a rock for the past few years, but the net is a big place; I wasn't sleeping, I was lost.

During the heydey of BBS's, there was schism after schism as people became dissatisfied with the policies or features of a particular system. They'd start their own system and by golly they were gonna do it right. Blogs seem to be the ultimate extension of this tendency: everybody gets to be sysop.

I don't think that's the whole story, though. I think blogging was kick-started by the unpleasantness of messaging on the net. On USENET you'd run into horrid flame-wars and this discouraged a lot of people from participating.

I have also documented another disturbing phenomenon called trolling. You can read my article about it at www.intwg.com/trolls.htm. Briefly, trolls are people who use the Internet to annoy other people, following the idea that if you can't be liked for what you are, you can still get affirmation of your existence by being disruptive. (Think of a troll as an unruly five-year-old with net access and a propensity for shouting "Doodie!" in church.) Blogs are immune to the troll problem, too.

I'm still not entirely comfortable with the idea of blogging, though. I'm reminded of C.S. Lewis's vision of hell as a landscape of isolated, single-occupancy houses that keep getting further and further away from each other. Whereas all of the online communications systems I've designed or worked with in the past emphasized the gestalt, blogging seems inherently designed to put people into their own little boxes.

Since I've only been blogging for three days, it's far too early for me to criticize, though. The bottom line is this: blogging is growing fast. That means something. I'm not yet sure what that is, but I'm keen to find out.

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The Meetup site finally put up the pictures from the various get-togethers. For September 18 they've got pictures from Toronto, New York City and San Diego.

Ours are better.

It seems that Noo Yawk only had three or four people. San Diego topped them with five. But only Toronto had sixteen people and can prove it.

Of course, it's possible that some other city had dozens of bloggers at their Meetup, but they all forgot to bring a camera. It's not impossible. After all, there were 16 of us and only one of us brought a sign – and it was a pretty lousey sign at that. (I'm allowed to criticize it because it was my sign.)

Rannie has expressed the idea that perhaps GTABloggers don't need the Meetup. Well, maybe we don't need it as such, but I think that it could eventually help out a lot of other local groups on the net, such as the locals from Fark.

The main thing that dissapointed me about the net, after the heyday of BBS's, was that it was non-local. There was an "online community" but it negated the geographic sense of community that BBS's engendered. I think that Meetups can address this deficit.

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I'm still coughing from that flu bug that's dancing on Toronto's collective windpipe. The symptoms are the aforementioned lung congestion, a sore throat, sniffles, head-blockage, and fleeting thoughts of, "Is this the West Nile Virus?"

My Rx is good old Neo-Citran. It alleviates all of the symptoms quite nicely because it's Extra Strength, you see. It doesn't banish them altogether though. Alas, my local pharmacist doesn't carry the Ultra Extra Mega-Strength variety, which I'm sure must exist somewhere. Unless that "Extra Strength" label is just a fake-out to get me to buy ... no, no, I can't think that way. I need faith in the fine folks who fabricate my favourite pharmacological phenomenon for flu.

Oh, dear, it appears that in the later stages of the disease one develops a severe case of alliteration.

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I was explaining earlier to a friend why I started up my blog. "Writers write", I said. That's the common wisdom.

However, after spending much of the day tweaking the appearance of my blog site, I've amended that to, "Writers write and play around with HTML style sheets".

I used to consider myself a writer. I do have a self-published book (Overcome Your Fear of Flying). Unfortunately, my skills have atrophied. Atrophied? Is that the right word to use here? See what I mean?

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At last night's Meetup, I mentioned that I'd run similar events in Montréal during the 80's. That's why it occured to me to bring a sign: I know that some people won't know where to look (although you can generally spot such lost souls in search of an event). Mind you, as some have noted my sign was too small. Case in point: as I read on Rannie's site, one person looked for us at 8:30 (long after I'd mounted the sign) and couldn't find us.

Back in Montréal we had a little trick: the regulars would wear a paper clip on their lapels. A newcomer was simply told to look for anybody with that sartorial affectation. It's innocuous enough: nobody will think you're nuts, which might be the case if you used something a bit more obvious, like carrying a tuna.

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Okay, so my blog looks nice (in my opinion) and I'm too tired to add a comments feature (or find out how), so I'll muse about something else...

I'm a blog newbie – a blewbie, you might say. Hmm, that can't be right.

Anyway, when writing a blog, I assume you're expected to say something novel. Something nobody's ever said before. Y'know what? That's extremely hard. I think up lots of unusual things when I'm half-asleep. For example, last night I thought of a great slogan for a beer company that sells its product in kegs: "If you can dig it, turn the spigot!" It sounded good when I was minutes away from dozing off, but at the moment it sounds vaguely obscene.

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Okay, I have configured my brains out. Well, most of them -- I still have enough brains to tap the odd key, as I'm doing now.

I now have a colour scheme and style that looks just fine to me. Of course, my more artistically oriented friends will probably tell me my page looks like it was laid out by a four-year-old. I can live with that, though. I'm confident enough in my ...

Wait, I think I'll make a few adjustments...

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According to everything I think I know about computers, this blog should now reflect Eastern Standard Time.

There are many other things that can be configured. There are many ways I can still mess up. I have erred in the past; I will do so again. Unless I drop dead in just a few seconds...


Nope, looks like I'll have many more opportunities to make mistakes. I think I'm supposed to be cheered up by that.

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By george, you can indeed change fonts. My, what wonders technology has bestowed upon us!

Mind you, the blogging software is telling me that I wrote that entry on September 18th. Don't you believe that; it's a lie. A foul, horrid lie. It is actually September 19th. This means one of three things:

  1. There is a massive conspiracy to make everybody think today is yesterday
  2. I actually have gone back in time but WindowsTM can't detect that
  3. There's some way to configure the time zone and I haven't found it yet.

Apart from temporal shifts, I'm still getting my bearings, trying out various HTML gimmicks such as superscripts. Above, for example, I used the <OL> (ordered list) tag – not to be confused with the <LOL> tag, which ... oh, I can't finish that joke.

In our next episode, I write something meaningful.

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This is my first blog entry. I have to wonder how many blogs start out with a phrase similar to that one. Perhaps you should skip this entry, because as I've never done this before, I'll be writing things like this:

This is a test. This is a test. This is an italicized test. This is a very bold test, indeed!

Later on, I may explain to you, dear reader (or dear hard disk, as the case may be), how I came to the conclusion that I too must write a blog.

In the meantime, however, I will save this message. But not before I try changing fonts. You can never have enough fonts.

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