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February 1st, 1999 - Grin with cat attached — LiveJournal

February 1st, 1999

For the attention of /dev/null

Warning: the following document may be considered unsuitable for children, Microsoft Employees, homophobes, fundamentalists, the narrow-minded, and, if you believe their government, Australians. (now show me an intelligent australian who believes their government in that).

Aside

You know, I'd not realised quite how badly Windows98 sucks until the hard drive containing my Linux partitions failed, and I find myself forced to use it for something more challenging that a launcher for Starcraft, Eudora, Netscape or mIRC. Having quickly got tired of clicking on pictures to try and copy files (hell, what did I learn to write for?), I dropped into a DOS shell. No respite on the command line! Aside from the total lack of features that Microsoft provide in the shell, they can't even apply the correct keyboard mapping! I don't care if this is the french version of '98, if I tell the system it's using an english keyboard I expect it to accept it! All in all this OS is about as powerful and responsive as one of those whiney little electric buggies kids get these days. Very pretty no doubt, but useless if you want to acheive anything at any speed. Give me the Linux MTB any day, that goes where I want it under my full control. If you reckon it's uncomfortable some part of your anatomy must have gone soft.

Bottom line : Windows is for those who don't know any better. But thank Bram that I can run vim on it.

Having got that out of my system...

Anyhow, the reason I chose to attempt something as challenging as editing a text file under '98 was that I needed to straighten some thoughts. Yes, I know the tradiotional method is to use a sheet of paper and a pen, but a) my handwriting sucks and b) that's kind of hard to rework. Besides which I just might sling this on my site at some point.

So where was I? Changing, always changing. About the only sure thing about me is that my mind will always be spinning, trying to make some sense of this world (which often seems a futile hope). Besides my addictions to data and to IRC I have one to thought; even when having sex I can't stop thinking, trying to work how best to please my partner. I've no idea whether this makes me a better lover but it does mean I have to be restrained to relax.

So why the hell am I thinking so much? Well I seem to be making another attempt at adolescence, except that I have a slightly more experienced mind to work things through. I didn't make much of a job of it first time through; admittedly my physical development was pretty late but my social development just fell through. I'm finally coming out of that cocoon, kicking my shyness until it gives up and leaves me to operate more effectively. Even now I'm not free of it; I can't believed how repressed society makes us - and even more so how we accept it. Perhaps it's something of a blessing that I've lived alone for most of the last year; alone with my thoughts they've had a chance to develop and give me some clues as to who I am. I'm still a freak, an outsider. But there's a lot of us that are, however much the Mainstream prefers to ignore the facts. I'm iNTp, an adaptive thinker. I'm a techy, one of those strange arcane few that actually bother to learn how all these strange beige boxes work. I am, in mindset at least, a geek, and there are many like me. And in the true nature of things I only confirmed this by following a stray link. Illiad, I owe you. There's a Guinness on me. (plus one for the limericks, probably };)

No doubt it sounds very profound to say that life comes through stray links, as if something was out there handing them to us. But I don't go with that; the other key link that helped me get a grip on my thoughts was one that I found on a deliberate search; Paul Harrison's site, which can be found in my belief pages. While I feel no need to "belong" to a huge group, it's supporting to know that there are people out there who think the way I do.

So how do I think then? Independently, I guess. Since I broke out of society's conditioning cocoon, I've developed my own views on religion, sexuality, drugs, porn, laws, life, death, and who I am. I have become, at once, far more independently-minded and more needful of company. Thankfully I've found a cluster of comparatively like minds online, but I'm still single, and none too fond of it. I've been told quite a few times that I'm physically attractive (oops, probably broke a taboo by admitting that, that's a shame) and I've come to accept this, also that I'm reliable and easy to get on with. Now if having that minimal level of confidence offends anyone that's unfortunate, because it's not something I'm likely to feel sorry for. I'll accept pretty much anyone for who they are, but expect the same in return. The surface may be chaotic, but that's the core I'm based on.

So you want to know? Or maybe I want to know, I'm the one reading and writing this thing. You want to know my beliefs? That's the easy one. Well, it's easy for me, since I've already written 8 pages on the subject. Go grab the link. Sexuality? Well, I'm basically straight, but not fanatical about it. I don't imagine I'm likely to have sex with another man in the near future but I'm not about to run and hide if I get touched, if it's not threatening. Basically I can't see a reason against this that doesn't rely on blind dogma. Anyhow I'm far more inclined to flirt with girls, so long as I can be moderately sure I'm not upsetting anyone. Drugs? Don't need'em (well ok, alcohol's an exception to that). You want to take them, fine, just watch out for the damage, and consider what use your money's going to. Porn? So long as no-one's getting exploited (yes I know that happens in some cases, I try to avoid those sources), I see no problem with it. It's kind of hard to classify the type that interests me, but if you're going to ask "and if it was you being photographed?", give up. I have no problem with that sort of picture being taken but I'm not likely, at this point, to make them publically available.

Uck I hate writing to lists. Where was I? Laws. My bottom line on this is "never confuse law and justice". I support the latter, and where the former coincides with this, so much the better. I prefer not to brake the law even if I can't see the point in it, since it weakens the laws I do support. But it should be remembered that laws are there for the people, not for the government. We do not require laws to protect us from ourselves, but from each other. And through this our rights and dignity must be maintained. I will fight or ignore any law I feel to be truly unjust. Would that I could say unconstitutional, but the UK lacks such a document.

That then leaves life, death, and who I am. The first two come, to an extent, under "beliefs". The latter is what I've just been talking about. More later, probably, but that'll do for now.

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Ghosts in my shell

Each of us builds a shell around our deeper thoughts. Many of us remain outside that shell safe from the disturbing sight of what lies within. But I find myself trapped within, caught within a wild machine that I can barely slow nor direct. Its complexity is incredible, perhaps inifinite; it seems to curve in on itself in a fractal format. And it's growing, generating itself from its own ideas like some insane perpetual motion machine. Somehow I need to understand this system to be sure that it won't tear itself apart; certainly it's not running so smoothly as it might; it screams as it runs: an unbalanced wheel scrapes on another, shrapnel is thrown into the works. Yet none of this slows it, and I can't even figure what task it is on; self-discovery perhaps, but I don't understand the method it's using. It seems most involved in weaving ghosts, questions that taunt me, screaming "answer me" yet refusing to show me their text. Somehow I need to exorcise these ghosts, or at least stall them. I need distractions, but all I have is distraction. However long I spend tackling these thoughts, as soon as I turn away the machine produces more. I need to find it another task; perhaps I'll find one soon. But few tasks will suffice; this isn't a tame machine that'll run in the Mainstream, but a dark creation still looking for its culture. There are clues, and I think I'm on the right path, but the options ahead are bewildering, in many cases the antithesis of what I was taught in my cocoon. I need to smash this preconditioning, but it's been there a long time and his integrated with my Self; sometimes it's hard to tell which is which, so how can I excise it?

The solution to every problem, they say, starts with a plan. (Darkness knows who "they" are). Perhaps this is that plan, or maybe it's the brainstorming that leads to it. An apt term indeed for the tempest in my mind. But it's theraputic; if I can see my thoughts in front of me rather that spraining my mind to look in, I can, quite literally, face them. Perhaps I don't need to remove the ghosts, maybe it will suffice to put them in order. That could be the way to tame them without losing the power inherent in this machine. Maybe now I can function "normally" (or apprently so), maybe tonight I might sleep without the machine tearing through my mind. Maybe.
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Living in Utopia

"She is everywhere and nowhere, a church not made by man"
- The Waterboys, "In a Pagan Place"

Utopia, is nowhere, an impossibility, perfection. But there's nothing like a challenge. We're already used to the idea of living nowhere, those of us who have lived this net awhile. And perfection is far too static for our liking; simple improvement gives us a chance to acheive far more. And how can you be sure something's impossible until you've tried it?

So in a sudden burst of linguistic hackery, utopia is cast down, broken. If it's broken it needs fixing, but how? Well it seems we've already started; the hacker's utopia is already under construction, and all are welcome.

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no "Open Utopia Project"; nothing so planned would be our style. Instead we're creating this culture as a side effect, a little light social hackery spinning off from the counterculture. Our unwritten rules of giving free and of assumed respect lay the foundations; we're too busy judging people by their words and actions to worry about what they look like or how they speak, and we're too fascinated by the new to set much store by the old dogmas.

In a very real sense ours is a gift culture. Through the expansion of the internet the cost of giving has sunk almost to that of the time spent giving, and the satisfaction from that serves many well as a salary. This, as ESR has observed, is no communist altruism, but rather a chance to explore our skills, to see our work multiplied by those who work invisibly alongside us, and - since we're still very human - a chance to show off. What do we get out of this? An excellent operating system with a vast number of applications, and all for free. Of course that's only the software-geek contribution; we're increasingly seeing free music, free magazines, created by like minds and transmitted free of corporate control to all who want them. They can be tricky to find, but there's a certain community feeling in the return to "word of mouth" that this entails.

So we have open source, open music, open minds... But to be realistic, lest I be accused of lving in fantasy.. Is this a world without crime or aggresion? Well you can't steal free software or free music, at least in the traditional way. But you can still claim it as your own and try to seal it off. This likelihood is rarely considered as it's seen as just too far beyond the pale. And it's fairly impractical as there are generally vast numbers to oppose it. Any company trying to lock public domain methods in corporate patents will quickly find themselves frozen out and cirumvented.. Open Laws if you will...

But there are many crimes within these countercultures, from those who can't grasp the ethic. Datacrimes, cracking, chatroom takeovers... online vandalism that gains the perpetrators nothing but misled smugness and widespread contempt. More personal 'crimes' - drug abuse by those locked out by society's absolutism. Stalkings, by those whose insecurities spill over into obessive behaviour. Ours is a small culture compared to that of society; it can take a long time to find a potential partner and our need for support can make this seem yet more extreme. In sinking into this we damage ourselves, cast ourselves further out... but where to turn for support? Perhaps now we *have* reached the density at which we can support each other.

We can, and must, acknowledge our problems. But we should also recognise our potential. Besides the capacity for global mutual support, we're at a time of incredible potential. Linux is rapidly approaching the mainstream and Microsoft has just taken a body blow. The Millennium, besides being a blasted numeric nuisance, is also triggering forward thought, reconsideration. Now is the time to grab mindshare, not just for our wares but for our "whos". It's time to cast off the dogmas and homogeneity, allow our differences, our socially and sexually permissive subcultures.

We can do this with ease internally, but it's on the interface with society that difficulties arise. Society has many problems of its own, stemming mainly from its lust for homogeneity and it rigid capitalist structure. Seeing itself as the only way, it is compelled, as if by religious dogma, to try and "correct" those of us who have cast off these constraints, and are capable of enjoying ourselves without feeling guilty for it. But is that the cost of living in the real world? Am I just sitting here in my supposed Utopia with no grasp on reality?

Of course not! We each of us live in the real world; the difference is that the world of the counter-cultures covers both the real and the unreal; and it's the combination of the two that give us our strength. In many ways, having a place to retreat makes us better able to face reality full-on, and on our own terms. Are we any more deluded than the xenophobes that fear us? In acknowledging and enjoying our dark sides, are we the less consistent than those who would be saints? As we see, and fight, environmental and social decay, are we truly less than the capitalist industry and media who see such destruction as the way to a quick buck in the short term?

Phrased in this way, we cannot be. We are, if we chose to recognise it, a power. And now more than ever we have the chance to use that power in the best of ways.
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The quest for "self"

Perhaps the most significant step in an individual's development comes on the day that they first ask themselves "Who am I?". In this misleadingly simple yet enormously profound question lies the start of a vital personal journey, an apparently endless sequence of question and contemplation.

Some never ask themselves this question; it may not occur to them that the question is there to be asked, or they may be sufficiently content - or resigned - in themselves that they may not think it worth asking.

However, many things can cause this question to be asked, frequently stemming from some sort of realisation that you have some difference, however slight, from the accepted norms. Maybe it's a mind that just can't stop asking why. Maybe it's a set of personal values which seem to place somewhat different emphases than the mainstream. Maybe it's a frustration with entertainment designed for the "lowest common denominator". Maybe it's a sexual interest that society prefers to deny, be it extra-marital sex, homosexuality, fetishism, or anything that goes beyond society's puritan tolerances. Maybe it's an impatience with government inaction or interference. Maybe, maybe, maybe it's one of a million things.

Maybe it's just boredom.

In the end, the reason is unimportant. Some will consider the problem, and find that mainstream society caters for them happily. Many however will feel some incompatibilty, some issue that cannot easily be resolved, and may feel confused or outcast. The need to "belong" is inherent in all of us, even for many of those who would consider themselves to be loners. Society's denial that there is anything beyond the mainstream to belong to can make this a very confusing and stressful time.

This situation occurs most commonly in adolesence, but is by no means limited to this time. And when it happens, the individual - feeling themselves to be more an individual than ever before - can feel a powerful combination of anger and confusion.

Depending on the options they see as available, they may react in a number of ways. If they see no alternative to society - as society itself would claim - they may bitter and eventually lash out. Society invariably takes this action as proof of the dangers - and evils - of difference.

They may see just a few possible alternatives, or have a very vague perception of them - after all, society usually prefers to deny their existence. These may be subcultures, countercultures, religions or cults. Seeing any alternative, they may well take the first they see, even if it's completely wrong for them. Such mismatches can harm the individual, the group, or society's perception of both. And there's no denying that some of these groups are dangerous, but while society heaps them all into one class, the information for an informed decision can be hard to come by.

Hopefully however, the individual will find some culture with which they feel some affiliation. It may not be exactly what they seek, or they may not wish to actively join it, but by knowing of it, and understanding it, they feel that there are similar minds out there, in numbers that can't just be fluke. The presence of a similar yet subtly different mindset can provide a new basis for self-analysis, strengthening them. Perhaps society's optimal case would be that these groups provide an outlet for the side that the mainstream would rather not see. Perhaps the individual may find that they can reconcile what they feel with what society expects. And perhaps they will feel the strength in numbers that means they don't have to pretend to be what they're not, the strength to be accepted for what they are.

A resolution to this requires society to become more tolerant, or the subcultures to make themselves - carefully - more visible. Society, unfortunately, has a record of moving very slowly in this area, and so it's still down to the countercultures to support their own. But with the vast expansion of the internet, anyone can make information available to anyone else, without exposing themselves to society's intolerance. In fact there is a plethora of information for those seeking to find themselves reflected in other, and often this information leads onwards to more, and more appropriate, information. At this level then the individual has the capabilty to advance, to explore in their own directions. There will often be helpful voices along the way; the internet is after all more than just pre-written information. But there will also be misleading voices, false trails set for the unwary. It almost recalls the tales of personal quests, but in this strange digital universe, self, friends, foe and weapons are of a very different form.

So now, to back off, to consider this. What am I saying here, in this stream of thought? This is no planned essay, you never learn anything if you know what you're going to write beforehand. Where has this trail led? To, it seems, a hopeful suggestion that the internet may provide some of the interest, the variety, that our mass-produced society has lost, all without venturing into the rain... But what a loss, to lose the rain! It's often said that those who "live" online become the less in the real world. But it's far more than that... online you can touch an unimaginable multitude of minds, through reading, through chatting. It's a vast extension of the world, and often a far more tolerant place for those seen as different. If an individual retreats into the online world, from whom are they retreating? Why do they chose this as a safe haven? Gone are the days when this was but a cave to hide in... it's a whole world now, a place to go to gain strength, and that strength can be carried back into the supposedly "real" world.
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