Saturday, July 20, 2002

7:52 PM EDT

Why exactly do we want to invade Iraq? The cynical me tends to think that Bush is insecure if his approval rating drops below 85%, and a war in progress is always good for stifling those pesky folks who would otherwise be pointing out a bunch of things that aren't really going too well. Let's face it, Afghanistan turned out thankfully to be not the quagmire that many predicted. But, of course its PR value is exhausted. So, let's turn our attentions to the "axis of evil" and start by going after Saddam Hussein.

This makes no sense. Hussein is contained. He is a known quantity. He tried his big move; he got his hand slapped. {Brief digression. If you think sanctions against Iraq are working, consider that Hussein recently refused to allow UN weapons inspectors back into the country in exchange for dropping the sanctions. Since he never had any problem moving the bad stuff around to keep it from being found by inspectors in the past, this tells met hat sanctions aren't bothering him too much. End of digression.]

Anyway, why do we want to make this guy a hero again in the Arab world by attacking Iraq? It will not be another Vietnam. Th terrain in Iraq is favorable for softening up via massive long-term bombing before sending any ground troops in. But don't kid yourself. There WILL be American casualties. And we will most likely not find and or kill Saddam Hussein in the process.

But . . . let's assume that we do this and carry it all the way through. Saddam Hussein is dead, or in hiding outside of Iraq somewhere. Iraq's army and infrastructure have been decimated. Given George the Second's professed distaste for "nation building," what happens after we leave?

Well, here's a guess. In the west of Iraq, a Marxist Kurdish state with designs on that part of Turkey that they consider rightfully theirs will result. The Turks will almost certainly be motivated to attack this new state before they themselves are attacked. And that leaves us -- where? Th Turks have been, for better or worse, a long-term US ally. We may not approve of the way the Kurds have been treated, but we could hardly abandon Turkey and would have to at least turn a blind eye if they decide to go after the Kurds in what used to be western Iraq.

In the east, a radical Shiite state that is closely allied with Iran forms. Who thinks THAT"S a good idea?

In the rest of what used to be Iraq -- what? A US puppet state? Something akin to what Lebanon has become -- virtual anarchy, with government, as it were, by whoever has the most muscle in the neighborhood?

Drug-running warlords now largely control Afghanistan -- no nation building for us, no Sir.

Envision the future for Iraq and someone please tell me the compelling reason(s) for attacking.

Friday, July 19, 2002

10:22 PM EDT

One thing . . . . I re-newed the "limited time offer" in my last post, but of course as usual I didn't provide the link.

So. If you'd like to see a topic discusssed here, just e-mail me and I'll talk about it. I can talk about almost anything, at least semi-intelligently, usually.

Installing a firewall on your PC is an enlightening experience. I don't know whether I should feel better or worse, seeing all the attacks. Tonight, in the past three hours, there have been probes/attacks by no less than 7 script kiddies or would-be hackers. The thing is not take it peresonally. The port-scanning scripts and programs are run against a whole range of IP addresses. If you are interested, you can download trial versions of popular firewalls here.

Happy weekend, all . . .
7:39 PM EDT

The spam count for today: (Received between 11PM yesterday and 7:30 PM today)

Total: 54

Subject Matter: Entertainment 1, Financial, 20, Adult, 10, Health 12, Viruses 1, Unclassifiable based on the subjet line 5, Computer-related 3, Travel, 1

No highly entertaining subject lines. To be fair, though, today was a light day for spam. I normally get more than 70 during the same span of time on a normal day. Perhaps the spammers have determined that Friday is not a prime day. Even the mad bomber only sent one instead of his normal two or three. It must have been oppressively humid everywhere in spam-land today, as it was here.

STOP THE PRESSES -- I just get four more e-mail while I was writing the above paragraph. 3 spams, one not. And one of those spams, at leat has a decent topic line. It's fom "Allison" who wants to tell me that: "MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR IS A WHORE -- CAUGHT ON TAPE!" Allsion, so is Mine, I think . . . maybe we can trade tapes.

The other E-mail is more interesting -- it is in response to my "limited time offer" of a few days ago when I said I would discuss the topic of the e-mailer's choice. So here goes. The topic is from a fiend of mine from the on-line BDSM world . . . she writes --

Seriously interested in hearing your comments on switching.... on exploration of the dom/sub roles and .....anything else you want to ramble on about in that general topic area.

OK, I offered, and the lovely D. came up with a topic. To wit:

There are a lot of people, especially on-line who are "switches," that is, they alternate between the Dominant and submissive roles as the mood strikes them, more or less. Some people sort of implicitly look down on switches; I have heard it voiced that switches are just basically selfish, wanting everything their own way at all times. They change roles to maximize their own pleasure and convenience. And while I understand that viewpoint, I don't totally endorse it. There are people who are just playing around, and they switch more or less for the hell of it. There are people who are sincerely exploring, and need to experience both roles as a way of helping to understand what role is for them, ir if the life is for them at all. And there are, I have come to grudgingly admit, people who deeply feel both roles, or, I should say, deeply feel each role at the time they're assuming said role. I say "grudgingly" because I don't get it. Myself, I have felt both roles, and deeply, but never at the same point in my life. I've come to a point where after a long time I know what I am in this, and can't ever see myself going the other way. But we're all different.

And I try hard not to judge. The younger people who seem to be flocking to the BDSM lifestyle are by turns fascinating, maddening, annoying, insightful, disrespectful, and a million other things. But we're all feeling our way, as we do in any other endeavor.

Thanks, D., for reading my blog and suggesting a topic. The limited time offer is still in effect. There is tons more to say on this topic, and lord knows I can ramble about just about anything.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

07.17.2002 6:51 PM

Dating tips for guys:

1. While dining in a Chinese restuarant, and your date spears a pan-fried dumpling with her fork, and the dumpling juice sqiurts her in the face, DO NOT laugh and make a reference to the "money shot."
2. I understand that we're all modern and hip and everything these days, but a little old-school gentlemanly behavior goes a long way. If the woman in question doesn't appreciate it, you more than likely don't want a second date anyway.
3. Chris Rock was correct: Women need three things in life -- food, water, and compliments.
4. Be generous. Not to get anything. Just to be generous. And generous doesn't have to mean money. It means attention, and really "being in hte moment" with the other person.
5. A date is like an audition. A two-way audition. The old approach to nervousness works well -- picture your audience in their underwear. But DO NOT make reference to it at least it's clear that you're not going to have just picture it.
6. Exotic food is great. Curry sweat is not.

We're all compliated creatues. Be careful out there . . .

Which leads me, for no particular reason, to the topic of dominance and submission (D/s). It's something that has interested me for some time. At present, my activities in this sphere are limited to on-line. Mainly because the woman I love is on the other side of the country and neither of us can move right now.

On-line D/s as a subculture is rich and varied. I assume that a similar richness exists on-line outside of the D/s world, but I really wouldn't know, since I never frequent "vanilla" places. But, my goodness, it seems that D/s is exploding lately. I think this is becasue younger people are altogether more comfortable with their own sexuality, whatever form it takes, than old farts like me. And that greater comfort is both a blessing and a curse. In the long run, I assume it's healthier for them psychologically, but greater comfort also means greater naivete. Younger people also in my anecdotal experience seem to focus more on the sexual aspects of D/s and often end up with a distorted picture of D/s.

Anyway, it's taken me some time to understand that I gravitate towards and need the Dominant role. Why? I was afraid you might ask that . . .

There is a short answer an a longer one, neither one ultimately satisfying. But here goes:

Short unsatisfying answer: It's smoething that you just feel. If you don't have that feeling, you may never really understand.

Longer, hopefully less unsatisfying answer: I need that feeling that I feel when cordelia (my submissive and my love) totally gives over to me. When she lays that gift out to me, with all that she is, and I in turn reach inside her and pull out even more, the exchange of emotions is beyond love, beyond words, almost beyond comprehension. The intensity of it is greater than any purely sexual thing could ever be.

More on this very complicated topic another time . . . I thought a had a good link to put here on the subject, but the site appears not be functioning. Next time . . .

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

07.16.2002 7:31 PM EDT

I work in the fnancial district of NYC. Down there, there is a small triangle, where Willaim Street runs across, and Maiden Lane and Liberty St run along the sides. This triangle, I learned today, actually has a name -- Louise Nevelson Plaza. It's home to an agressively ugly modern sculpture (is there any other kind?), a few policemen who perform some vague post-9/11 security-related function for the Federal Reserve Building nearby, lots of people cutting across going to and from Quizno's and various delis, and a group of people who set up tables and hustle backgammon and chess, particularly during lunch hour.

Backgammon is the perfect hustler's game. Since there is an element of luck, it's easy for people to delude themselves about their ability. And the hustler's life blood are the people who think they are better at a game than they really are. And something about the nature of backgammon seems to lead many people to a certain extra arrogance about their ability. Hustlers can smell this kind of fresh meat. I once watched a Wall Streeter lose close to $150 in under 45 miutes. He had bad dice, yes, but he was also clearly overmatched, accpting several doubles he never should have, doubling when the situation didn't call for it, etc. At a certain point one would think that reality would set in, but in backgammon, it rarely does. The guy walked away, thinking of his bad dice instead of his bad play, and more than likely silently vowing to get revenge next time.

Chess is a different proposition. Most people have a fairly good idea of whether they're any good or not. And if you don't, it only takes one game againt someone significantly better than you to put things in perspective. I don't play chess well enough to accurately assess the skill of the hustlers in downtown NYC, but they would appear to be masters of speed chess, certainly. Or perhaps, the quality of the oppositioin is so poor that they seem better than thy are.

Either way, sunny weather = good bucks for the chess and backgammon hustlers. And remember the old saying: If you sit down at a poker game and can't figure out who the sucker is within 10, minutes, the sucker is you.

Housekeeping items: 1. OK, going to try a new comment thingy -- someting about Entation bugs me. I saw BlogOut, and that looks pretty cool. Now, if I can just find that link again . . .

1A. Of course, a comments system only takes on importance if in fact someone actually reads this. Which would be nice . . .

2. Speaking of links, I mentioned that I enjoyed Edie Singleton's "A Mating Call in the Concrete Jungle.": But I didn't link to it. How analog of me. Nobody does anything wihtout a hyperlink these days. So you can find Edie's funny, insightful, commentaries on the single life in NYC here.

3. SPECIAL LIMITED TIME OFFER: If someone reads this blog, and e-mails me, I'll discuss the topic of the e-mailer's choice, right here. Obviously, this does not apply to the mad virus bomber who sends, on average, 3 virus e-mails a day.

4. All right. Finally got the BlogOut code to work right.

5. Sorry about the typos. I assume that the pay version has spell-checking. It looks like I will have to explore that option, given how poor My typing is and how tedious it is to keep scanning for typos.

Monday, July 15, 2002

07.15.2002 6:11 PM EDT

An odd, formless, vaguely unsatisfying day. At one point, I was walking along and the feeling that there is something I must let go of came over me with great force. This feeling was unsettling, and plunged me into a long examination of what that thing might be. As always with me, the "revelation" is never complete -- there is nohting obvious to let go of, because there is nothing I can see that I clearly am clinging to.

But that's all right -- I don't trust emotional revelations anyway. If there is something to be let go of, it will be made clear to me, in simple, non-devastating terms and at the proper time.

I was watching the stock market earlier today, as it slid down another 300 points before rallying and only finishing down 40-something. Bush's comments were having no effect, and I'm wondering if everyone in the Administration is as clueless as they seem to be. The stock market is not reacting to the econoomy. The economy really, is not that bad.

The market is reacting to the fact that the numbers, the financial statements that companies produce, can not be trusted. During the "bubble" years, when every stock went up, seemingly every day, and there seemed no end in sight, no one cared that the books were cooked. Or, more accuratlely, no one wanted to care. Everyone was making too much money.

Now, reality has set in with a vengence, we turn around and see that there's no reason to believe the numbers that are put in front of us. The boards are cross-pollinated rubber-stamps for the CEO. The auditors are too concerned about losing consulting revenue (which earns them much more money and higher margins -- auditing work is almost a loss-leader to get a foot in the door for the consulting area). The regulators are held back, lest they "crush America's entrepenuerial spirit" (another Bush howler). It used to be that a sharp would-be investor could look at a company's financial statement and see that the numbers hid an underlying softness. Now, the nunbers are simply not to be believed, since the line has been crossed over to simple fraud. And there's no way to tell who else might have done it, until the next "shocking" headline.

Take Worldcom, for instance. Without getting into too much detail, simply put, WorldCom took almost $4 billion of costs that should have been current expenses and treated tham as long-term capital expenses, thereby inflating earnings and making cash flow look much better. This was a bald-faced fraud. Worse, their auditors, Arthur Andersen (way to go, guys!) claim not to have known about it. For a fraud of this magnitude to have gone "unseen" by Andersen is either proof of their complete ineptitude or proof of their deep complicity. Either way, for Andersen, which was mortally wounded by the Enron vedict, the WorldCom disclosures amount to having the last couple of shells in the chamber emptied into the still-wiggling corpse.

[A slight digression here. In certain circles there are very little tears being shed over Andersen's troubles and imminent demise. For years, Andersen and many of its people were known as some of the most arrogant, condescending, full-of-themselves stuffed shirts around. This arrogance was expressed on the personal and on the corporate level. So, a lot of people are enjoying Andersen's swift and brutal comeuppance. Personally, I feel bad for the majority of Andersen's employees -- most of them are honest hard-working people who are most likely going to lose jobs for no reason other than that a few greedy and ultra-arrogant partners thought they were gods, and acted like it. It may in fact turn out that the other 4 of what were known as the Big 5 are no better -- and perhaps most or all of them are just about to be publicly exposed in similar fashion. Andersen may only be the first, and not even necessarily the worst. End of breif digression.]

So, what's to be done about all this? Bush's speech on the floor of the excahnge was completely lacking in substance (a fact verified by the highly positive reaction it received from most CEOs). Congress is attempting to do a better job, and has some good proposals under consideration. But, the thing that is really needed, and which is more or less impossible given the way things work, was made famous by none other than Nancy Reagan. The answer is three little words:


The Board of Directors, when the CEO proposes a ridiculous stock option plan that enriches the executives at the expense of the shareholders, has to JUST SAY "NO."

The auditor, when the client wants the auditor to sign off on accounting measures that will mislead investors, has to JUST SAY "NO."

The shareholders, when presented with the same old slate of lame directors, have to JUST SAY "NO."

There. I feel better now. None of that will happen, of course, but I feel better. Congress will pass some watered-down laws after intense lobbying by the accounting industry and the corporations that contribute heavily to both policital parties, the SEC will enact some watered-down regulations, a couple of really stupid criminal CEOs will do some minimal jail time in a Federal Pen/country club, and eventuall the next "new paradigm" will take hold of the market, everyone will be making money again, and all will be forgiven and forgotten.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

OK, that was a test to see if Enetation worked correctly. Looks like it did.

07.14.2002.4:12 PM EDT

I mentioned the other day that I make Winamp skins. More on that whole thing.

There are literally, millions of them out there. From crappy ones that are turned out by skinning programs and which take all of 5 minutes to make, to some absolutely breathtaking ones, obviously the product of long hours of work and a lot of talent.

There is a lage and vibrant skinning community that expresses itself in the Forums on the winamp site. Unfortunatey, it tends to be rather elitist. It seems that skiiners fall more or less into three categories -- artists, craftsmen, and designers, And that's the order of their perceived worth in the Forums, as far as I can tell.

It's like this. A winamp skin is made up of a bunch of .bmp files. Certain areas of each bitmap are "sensitive" -- where control buttons and status information and things like that reside. So, after understanding the spec (the site has pretty good documentation for would-be skinners), one needs a decent image editing program (I use PhotoShop; a lot of people use Paint Ship Pro -- a few masochists use MS Paint). The possibilities are more or less endless. But it is tediious work, at times. (That's why skinning programs were created. They automate much of the tedious stuff and one can literally create a skin in a matter of minutes. Skins created by skinning programs ar universally reviled by the winamp skinning community and "generated" skins are routinely given short shrift by the winamp skin reviewing staff.)

Some people are capable of marvelous things . . . so the "elistist" arragnement I mentioned above is understandable, to an extent. It's just not very saisfying for those of us in the other categories. So I tend to stay away from the Forums, and do what pleases me, and leave the praise-whores to their own devices.

My skins are made from phtots, mainly. Picture skins are generally not well thought-of on the skinning forums, presumably becasue so many of them are created with skinning porgrams. Mine aren't . . . and even a not-so-careful look makes that obvious, once one has seen a few generated skins to compare against. I have a few skins that are on the Winamp site. They are frankly not great -- they are mostly early work, where I was really trying to get the process down and understand hoe to use PhotoShop. My better skins are posted on my own site, for two reasons: 1) I don't live for reviews, and won't get any decent ones form the winamp people anyway, and 2) most of these skins deal with BDSM-type themes, and the winamp site is theoretically limited to PG-rated material.

In the final analysis, the thing is that winamp skins seem to follow more or less established pop culture trends. I've seen absolutely amazing, beautifully done skins with a few thousand downloads, and a nondescript Britney Spears skin with well over a million. Hmmmmmmm . . . maybe the elitists are on to something, after all . . .
07.14.2002 11:12 AM EDT

I've been reading a few blogs . . . blogs of note and most recent. And it strikes me -- a lot of bloggers seem to be from NYC. Is blogging a mainly urban thing? Common sense tells me there's no reason that should be. I most likely just happen to have landed on mainly NYC-based blogs in my non-scientific sampling.

One blog I really like is "A Mating Call in the Concrete Jungle." Edie Singleton writes very well, and has a good sense of humor. A lot of it is a bit hard to relate to for those of us with Y chromosomes, but I like her style. She made reference to something that struck me, as well -- which is the odd selections that seem to make it to the "blogs of note" section. But, I'm new at this, and perhaps I'm not getting it. Suffice to say that this blog will never be strange or personally humiliating enough to make it that hallowed category. That's cool. Although, as Edie suggested, perhaps the Blogger peolpe are susceptible to small bribes.

I've noticed also that many blogs are centered around love/relationships -- the search for it, the exeprience of it, the losing of it, and the aftermath. This is telling; Give people an unrestricted forum for their thoughts and the content will reflect the things that people most want to express. And perhaps becasue that part of our lives is so generally inscrutable/marvelous/frustrating/maddening/joyous/empowering/debiliatating/inspiring, it will tend to occupy our thoughts and thus lead us to pour that stuff out into our blogs. But does it help, I wonder? The jury's still out on that one . . . .

I jsut saw an ad for Hyundai. The music is from "Thick as a Brick," The Hyundai drives thourgh this little "European hamlet", and the townspeople joyously follow it through the town in a groing parade as the car lures them along, pied-piper like. Then, the car leaves town, continuing on its way .. the camera then shows the disappointed faces of the townspeople. It's an OK ad, I suppose, but I can't help mentally inserting the words when car ads use rock songs as background music .. . "and you make all your animal deals . . . and your wise men don't know how it feels . . to be thick . . . as a brick." Indeed. Grab that Hyundai.

The e-mail address is (yes, two w's -- thats not a typo). Send me your comments, It would be nice to know that someone might have seen this.