Brandeis and Terrorism

Terror affects different places different ways. When someone bombs the US, speculation immediately turns to a few key groups. Who hates American and has the resources to plan and carry out a very well-coordinated attack? We jump quickly to a few: bin Laden, Palestinian militants, other extremist Arab factions, and, of course, Iraq or Iran. The trend is obvious: people who are mad at the US for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is US support of Israel. I’m at Brandeis, the largest Jewish-sponsored University in America. That could make one a little nervous.

We have campus security on patrol, FBI and State Dept. contact, etc., etc. We are actually not that worried – we are not a high-profile enough target. However, we have found out today that it is extremely likely that this attack, like the previous World Trade Center bombing, was planned and coordinated from Newton, MA, the next town over from Waltham. I am sitting 6 miles from where the New York and Pentagon attacks may have been planned. Wow.

On campus reaction is mixed – the pacifist groups urge peace and suggest that no retaliation is in anyone’s interests. Some opinionated people, both Jews and gentiles, call for a full-scale attack on Afghanistan. Many urge calm and believe that, while some military retaliation is necessary, we should not be too hasty.

Basically, people at Brandeis are acting like people everywhere else. So far there have been no incidents to my knowledge of altercations between Palestinian or Arab students and any other groups, and so far everyone has been very supportive and understanding. Most classes have been dedicated to discussing this topic, and interfaith prayer meetings have been held.

This tragedy is terrible, we all know that. There is little I can say that has not already been said. I am still formulating my opinions about a response. I can’t wait to hear what my favorite political historian, Howard Zinn, has to say about this. He may shed some interesting light on the subject from an angle that many of us have not explored, namely the question of what the definition of terrorism is and who is really responsible for it. Time will tell who did this, and what will happen, and if this is a great time for American unity or the strongest signal of the inpending collapse of a once great nation. Will we take the right steps? Or will we alienate more of the world? Will our “war on terrorism” save lives or take more, and how will the world react? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I hope, for the good of all mankind, that peace is somehow returned to our great land.

Sammy Comes, Sammy Leaves

The Sammy Fraternity (Sigma Alpha Me, or something like that) came to our humble hall to initiate two new pledges. Pictured at right, Roman and his brownies after he became a pledge. He won’t tell us what exactly they did to him, but apparently it is going to get much more fun in the days ahead with all the exciting hazing rituals. Oh, and the brownies are just plain brownies, thank you very much. What were you thinking?

Sammy has been actively recruiting with fliers and such to get people to go to their fun parties. I don’t know if the turnout is much, but seeing as this is Brandeis we’re talking about, I doubt it. Plus I hear the dues are pretty steep, something on the order of $300 per semester for the priveledge of…uh…going to parties. Its not like they have a Frat house or anything.

And out my window just now I hear the loud cries of Sammy, chanting into the wind some impossible-to-understand tumult, here, now, at 1:35 in the morning on a school night. Some of us have classes at 9, guys! Give it a rest. But I guess it would be a more legitimate complaint if I was actually asleep…

Anyway, after Roman and Max got initiated, the loud crowd went out into the quad to go to their next building. Then the fun started as our nice Quad director, roused thanks to a police call, went out to yell at them and get them to go away. As if, but it was pretty funny. Their crime was breaking “quiet hours,” our policy of being quiet and polite after 11 pm so that people can sleep. They were quite noisy. Anyway, to the left you can see a COPS-like picture of the confrontation between some Sammy leaders and our fearless leader (in red but pretty much obscured by the JPEG compression) on the steps of our hallowed Cable Hall. I can’t wait to see Roman carrying a beer keg around the main quad. Heh.

On Image Compression

This image has been removed due to threats on my life.

Compressing pictures for internet display is no easy task. On the web two formats are used predominately, just because that is how it started. GIF, which is was used by CompuServ and now is being charged for in a ridiculous case of evilness that I won’t get in to here, and JPEG, which is the Joint Picture Experts Group standard for still image compression. JPEG is for photos and pretty pictures, while GIF is best for things with few colors. GIF keeps file sizes small on items that are more simplistic, say the “AgBlog” logo on top of this page. It is stored as 2 GIF images because that makes the file sizes really tiny. Whereas the picture of me on top with the little word bubble, that is JPEG, because it has more colors and is more complex and thusly must be compressed in a better way.

So here is something I just discovered: Selective compression with JPEGs. Assuming your browser supports it, you should see a picture of my good friend Sophie sticking out her tongue. Now this picture was taken in bad lighting conditions and is a pretty awful example of good photography. That also means it doesn’t compress well. Putting this photo on the web with full quality it would be about 62 kilobytes, and with your average 56k modem that would take 12 seconds in ideal circumstances, and more frequently, much longer. So I had to compress Sophie.

This usually means you have to lower the quality of the whole image. But when I do that, the tongue thrust is not clearly visible. The solution is selective compression! I compress and smooth most of the picture, except for a box around Sophie’s head that is at a higher quality. Can you see it? Neat, huh?

And if you haven’t yet seen right through this as an attempt to give legitimacy to the posting of an unflattering picture under the guise of a life lesson, you have now been told. Isn’t it great how the people I like most I make fun of most often?

On Scratchers

They don’t have Scratchers ™ here. Only “scratch tickets.” Same thing, worse name. Just like FasTrak is EZPass or whatever. I mean, same thing, different name. What…is up….with that? Robin the Swissman complains about America’s lack of “organization,” and by that he means standardized implementation, and with that I agree wholeheartedly. In Switzerland everyone pays everything using electronic banking with debit cards free of ATM fees and stupid tricks. Now of course I worry about privacy, etc, but come on US! Where is the ease, convenience, and such? Get your priorities straight! Consumers should reap the rewards, not corporations! I mean, they have standardized messaging so that someone in the UK can send a text message via cell phone to someone in Germany, no matter the carrier, and it goes through the network A-okay. Why can’t I send a message from a Verizon phone in Boston to a Cingular phone in Boston? It just doesn’t make sense.

Oh, and instead of “your Southern California Ford dealer,” I am urged to check out new cars at, “your Eastern New England Ford dealership.” So SoCal warrants its own personalized commercial, but all of E. New England gets only one? Oh, poor Easterners! Nya, nya, nya.


At Brandeis you have to take a University Seminar in the Humanistic Inquiries (USEM) and a University Writing Seminar (UWS). Or you can take a USEM+W which is, you guessed it, a USEM that includes the UWS requirments. It takes less time but gives you less credits. Ah, well. So anyway, in my +W part today, I had to write a short story about a conspiracy that I’ve discovered. Go figure. The USEM is called “Reading Between the Lines: Freedom from Persecution” and my other recently-enrolled-in Jerry Cohen class (he’s supposed to be hot stuff) is called Conspiracy and American Culture. So I had lots to write about.

First I started off with some kind of mysterious death. A doctor is talking. Then I decided thats too “normal” so I switched to an assasination. Nah, Kennedy got that one. Okay, fine. Killer virus. But I’ve already mentioned a satellite, and Andromeda Strain has already been written, so I need something else. Aha! That thing in X-Files that I’d heard about elsewhere which is basically an orbital weapons platform that shoots big telephone poles at people. No, I’m serious.

So I write about CIA. I’m still in the first paragraph, and I decide that’s no fun, so I switch to some kind of nano-technology. That is, microscopic robots that can manipulate matter on the atomic and even subatomic level, literally constructing things from the bottom up to be whatever you want. But what if they get out of control? Yes! Here is the conspiracy: secret government project in the CIA to experiment with nanotech in a satellite, where it should be safe. People on the project who have some strange religious affiliation devise a way to set the nanobots free and get them back to earth. They start deconstructing everything and creating more of themselves, thus creating the wonderful “gray goo” problem, proposed by Dr. Eric Drexler 20 years ago. Namely: infinite resources, no safeguards, the nanobots just keep eating and eating and creating more of themselves and then eating each other until all that is left is gray goo. No people, no animals, no buildings, no earth even. Just goo. And on that happy note, my story ended. Life is goooood!


East Coast US people laugh, but those of you from the West will, perhaps, be awed. It is bright and cheery out. Five minutes later, its gotten somewhat dark. Hmm, perhaps it might rain. People are still sitting around outside. Within the next four minutes it goes from dark to pouring to thunder back to light again and a slight drizzle. I’m just sitting here laughing at the weather, and people look at me like I’m crazy!

You know you’re in college when…

You know you’re in college when, upon visiting the restroom at 3 AM after finishing a great book you discover:

  1. Someone showering.
  2. Someone brushing his teeth.
  3. Two people debating frats in the halls
  4. Someone playing his electric guitar.
All this after a great Boston Harbor cruise where I saw the diffuse but beautiful skyline and felt the chilly wind knife my face as the moon slowly rose over the smooth ocean. Wow.

Opening Day at Harvard

Today was the Brandeis first-year trip into Boston thing. Get on the commuter rail, get off at Porter Square, and then take the T wherever you want to go. I went to Harvard Square with a bunch of other people but quickly lost them and went exploring basically on my own. Well, soon enough. It happened to be opening day for the first years at Harvard (they still call them “freshmen” there, how quaint). I got to see a freshperson dorm (not too bad, but not much nicer then ours, IMHO) and the science center. I got a free pen, a free Coke ™, and a free Apple pad of paper. I tried to get a free e-mail address, but without a student ID number that didn’t really work out. I wanted to see their library, but without a student ID card, I wasn’t allowed in. The pricks.

I walked all around the campus. It is no nicer then Brandeis, really, just older and more stately or whatever. I feel really bad because I gave a nice looking group some bad directions. From then on I simply advised people of the nearest map.

I also checked out Harvard Law but there wasn’t anything going on there, so I went to see Curse of the Jade Scorpion at a local Loew’s Cinestablishment. The movie was so-so, the theater was fine but empty, and all the commercials for Loreal hair care before the movie were just awful. I’m paying for this?

At the end of the day I came home, ate dinner with the group, watched some Simpsons and Friends, played some cards, and finally sat down to some blogging before bed. I also put away the Cup-O-Noodles that I purchased at the CVS/Pharmacy in the city.


Here’s what I’ve got as of now:

PHIL 1A Intro to Philosophy
COSI 21A + 22A Data Structures and Algorithms (plus an associated lab)
AMST 131B News on Screen
USEM 25A+WReading Between the Lines (+ writing component)
Some PE class
Philosophy with Prof Teuber (Toy-Burr) looks to be awesome. He’s really funny and is going to make us all think critically about some of the Big Questions ™. The media class, which fulfills both an American Studies and a Journalism requirment, is right up my alley, and it has a lot of upperclasspersons in it who are on the staff of the Justice, WBRS, etc. and/or have interned in journalism, so I expect to learn a lot and have a lot of fun. CS doesn’t look to be all that fun yet, but we’ll see how it turns out. It looks to be a lot of algorithm analysis and other such high-level topics that are good for CS majors (maybe) but not incredibly relevent to me, a journalist/lawyer/computer guy. I have to see if there is anything else science-related I might want to take instead. I still have a week or two to decide. As for my University Seminar, it is too early to tell how that class will be. The teacher and TA both seem nice enough, so I’ll have to start on my Plato reading and see how it is.

In other news, the hypnotist performed last night in Levin Ballroom, which is in Usdan. He was crude and somewhat mean to the participants and I found his routine only average. Some of the reactions were hilarious, though, like when a girl jumped out of her “sensual chair” yelling, “This isn’t right!” and when a guy had to suck up to the terrible pre-show magician in order to get unstuck from his seat. All in all not a bad night, and I’m feeling a bit more refreshed and less weary this morning. Perhaps my old soul needed a rest.

Meeting Danzy Senna

A little while back I spoke on race. Yesterday Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia, spoke of race. To us. ‘Twas cool. I asked the first question, but the nervousness made me miss half her response. Later, I jumped up and, after much jumping and signaling, stepped to the microphone to ask the last question of the night. Here it is as best I recall, so obviously there are some slight errors.
DANNY. Hey it’s me again.
DANZY. You asked the first question.
DANNY. I am the first and the last.
DANZY. And a cult leader?
DANNY. The only reason I would have the audacity to come and ask another question is because this one has been keeping me up at night. I also thought this might be a good way to end it. Jumping to the end of the book, the second to last page, the acknowledgments, “…And finally, deepest gratitude to my mother, an incredible woman and writer, who taught me what really matters.”
DANNY. Ms. Senna, what really matters???
[crowd laughter]
DANZY. Well, that’s for me to know, and you to find out over the next four years.
[crowd goes wild with applause]

Bow. And thank you Ms. Senna. Great writing, great personality, great message, great humor. =)

College Republicans

HE. Hey, you want to join the College Republicans?
ME. Is there a college libertarians?
HE. Most of them join us because we have a lot of the same goals.
ME. I’ll think about it, thanks.

Apparently they already have 10 names. On Brandeis. Neat.

Whereto I do Now Reside

If you were wondering, I’ve made it to Brandeis a-okay. Lack of posting (and computer deprivation) was due to the process of packing, flying, shipping, hotel-ing, and then unpacking, but now I’m up and running, with reports to come shortly.

Me, Myself, and I Redux

Guess I forgot about the original point to the posting before: some really terrible article about how kids are being seriously screwed up by something or other – very depressing, but sadly I can’t remember if it was the state of schools or of the foster care system or what, so I really can’t say. It did suck though.

Me, Myself, and I

In general I’m a positive person. Progressive. I see great opportunity for change and reform. But I also see a lot of really sad stuff. For instance, I recently stumbled across an article in that I liked, hit Google, and found the author’s magazine. YO! (Youth Outlook) is a really nice way for the younger generation to interact. In fact, the whole Pacific News Service (of which YO! is a part) is a really great independent media source. Its too bad that organizations such as this don’t get as much attention as, say, CNN. I wonder how hard it would be to start a really good TV network…Maybe that’s another thing I can put on my to-do list.

We are one people…

For those who may be visiting thanks to the new article in the OC Weekly (yay!) and my latest posting to, a short intro: This site is unedited. It is off the top of my head. I have a strange thought in the middle of the night, I write an entry. Simple as that. I never delete a posting, I never edit. I am a kid growing up, I have smart thoughts and I have stupid ones. I can be well informed or misinformed. I know this, you should too. So this web site represents what I’m thinking about. Over years, months, even days things I’ve been thinking about may solidify or may evaporate, who knows. Don’t take anything here too seriously. Enjoy life, enjoy the ride.

Why do I do this? Its hard to justify. I’m usually very reclusive, somewhat private. Why put my life online? I think perhaps to preempt the spin. I plan on being politically active, likely an attorney for civil liberties, more likely a thorn in the side of the Powers That Be. To steal fitting words from an unfitting biased Fox host, this site is a “spin-free zone.” Life. Unscripted. Uncensored.

Searching for Danzy Senna

Brandeis orientation (“Fell the Rhythm”) requires incoming freshpeople to read Caucasia by Danzy Senna. After reading this excellent book on bi-racial children growing up in the extremist/black power Boston of the early 70s, I wanted to learn how much of the fiction has been inspired by Ms. Senna’s life. With a name like “Danzy” I assumed she must be multiracial, and I was correct. Choosing to visit that great mecca of all things wonderful,, I found Senna’s essay “Mulatto” published in their Mothers Who Think section.

Senna talks about how every white person talks about blacks in racist ways. My question to her is, is this really true? Because where I’ve grown up, in a relatively conservative area but also an area bursting with so-called “minorities,” I see this, but not like she says. Yes, I see “whites” talking badly about Mexicans, who make up a large portion of the Southern California population. Much of the complaints come from perceived differences based on culture, such as language, traditions, and, get this, even smell. I know its crazy, but different diets mean people smell differently, and some people have this perception of Mexicans (or Latinos, or whatever) as dirty.

Whenever I fill out any kind of survey or form that asks for race or ethnicity, I always, without exception, put other. If other has a blank, I like to fill in “Martian.” Really, I just don’t get it. I mean, I understand that humans naturally look for similarities, congregate around each other, whatever. Do I do it? I don’t know. I don’t congregate well, but when I do its with most everyone. I just really don’t see myself as racist at all. Will Ms. Senna disagree? I guess I’ll have to ask her if she believes any white person could ever be truly non-racist.

That’s another question, what is this white thing? I mean, I’m insta-grouped with a race and moral sphere based solely on the color of my skin? It is assumed I believe certain things, and its just crazy. I don’t get it. I generally like to hang out with whomever is interesting or friendly, regardless of ethnicity or whatever, the only real barrier I can see is when they are difficult to understand. I don’t consider myself “white.” I just don’t see it in those terms. I like to joke that I’m lucky I’m Jewish, otherwise I wouldn’t have a repressed minority with which to identify myself. Truthfully I find it somewhat disgusting.

What am I trying to say? I’m not sure. I believe that many people of many backgrounds have been constantly harassed and abused and unfairly treated due to their ethnicity and cultural stereotypes. This is fact, this is true, I would never dream of disputing it. As a corollary, I recognize that discrimination will continue forever until we’re all the same color. What was it Bulworth said? Ah yes. The following quotes may offend your delicate sensabilities. Read no further if that is the case. I will talk about my philosophy on language another time.

All we need is a voluntary, free-spirited, open-ended program of procreative racial deconstruction. Everybody just gotta keep fuckin’ everybody ’til they’re all the same color.

Amen, Bulworth. I just get pissed off with this constant negativity and anger. I mean, I like people who are open-minded and also not so easily offended. Having to be incredibly careful to watch ever word you say for any context of possible racial bias is so incredibly terrible. And the hypocricy! Oh, the hypocricy!

Darnell: I say, you ain’t no real nigger, IS you?

Senator Jay Billington Bulworth: [stoned] Is YOU a real nigger?

Darnell: You callin’ me nigger, motherfucka? Don’t call me a NIGGER, moth’fucka!

Senator Jay Billington Bulworth: Would you prefer “motherfucker,” motherfucker?

That’s the real question. Why is it that all the black folk can say “nigger” and not be bothered, but the instant some white shmuck utters the dreaded “n—” word, all hell breaks loose? Have some standards.

I love all races equally, meaning not much, but not much equally. I like the person, not the race. I like the culture, the lifestyle, the traditions, whatever, but not the specific skin-tone as a deciding factor. I really don’t give a damn what color you are. Just don’t judge me based on what color I am, and don’t expect me to be constantly vigilant and incedibly PC when you yourself are not.

I’m black on the inside, buddy. I think I probably like the black people I meet much better then the white people much of the time, but they are individuals, people, not entire swathes of America. ::sigh:: Linda and Ercil and his sister (whose name I’ve sadly misplaced in my memory banks) and I went to the Hollywood Bowl for some Bach. I think she is the funniest person I’ve ever met. She’s dying of cancer, its eating her up, and she is living each day to its fullest. She is in good spirits, she can joke, she can talk, she can ignore the wires going into her arm and the pains from chemo. She is an awesome woman, and I think that much of what makes her awesome is her background and her character developed through a rich culture that is the American black movement thing. And she can joke about race relations, about living in the “bad” part of LA, and about being a black woman with a strange device attached to her body (“Hey woman, put down the bomb!” Trust me, its funny when she goes off about it.). How much of this is because of the color of her skin? Okay, probably a lot is related to the culture based around that coloring. But people who see _only_ the color without recognizing the individual, the human, the spirit within, are doing everyone a great disservice.

So, Ms. Senna, are all whites evil? Can’t you look past the color and just see a person, without judging the race? Certainly we have enough trouble with whites, or Macedonians, or Kurds, or Kosovars or Tanzanians or Congolese or Iraquis doing that already, why you too? Let’s all give it a rest.
[Bulworth exhales smoke into Murphy’s face.]

Senator Jay Billington Bulworth: Have a drink, Murphy. Live your life.

My dreams come true!

Just a quick note to point out that I am now! Yay! I feel special. ::does little dance:: Also, the Linux install at Maintex was a success, thanks to Paul, but I realize now that with Red Hat 7.x it really is pretty easy.

Much more to report, much more (self-imposed) sleep deprivation to recover from…

The Hollywood Bowl

My Aunt Linda took me to see a few different Bach’s works at the A HREF=>Hollywood Bowl, a really cool theater thing in, get this, Hollywood! We went with Ercil and his sister, who were both fun to be with. We had a nice dinner courtesy of the Regency Club and a nice show. And the people in the “box” next to us even gave us cookies! Yay! I hiked to the top of the Bowl and looked out over the place – it is really cool. And you can see the Hollywood sign, so now I an say I’ve seen that. The acoustics are great and the LA Philharmonic was nice. I didn’t really like the opera part though, because I don’t really like opera at all.

And the rant fades…

I should know better. I do know better. You don’t post to a public discussion site with people of as high an intellect as people on K5 without doing some good research, backing up your arguments with quotes, links, and statistics, and taking a somewhat standard geek point of view.

Oh, and its nice to search for information on a topic before posting a new article about the same topic while being completely ignorant of the previously posted discussion and resulting formation of a non-profit corporation. Whoops!

Suffice to say my reasoned views on how I think guns should be dealt with were not taken to kindly by the K5 readership. And rightly so — again, I should have known better. It is opinion, I said it was opinion, but I didn’t spend enough time working eloquence and prose and editing into my rant, as I usually don’t do with posts to AgBlog but do with legitimate news stories. ::sigh::

That sound you are hearing is me banging my head on the table. Here are a few juicy comments:

“This one misconstrues positions on both sides, is ignorant of the legal and political history it tries to lay out, hasn’t been proofread, and does little more than propose the same strawman arguments everyone’s seen before but with less eloquence.” – cp

“Other than being totally wrong on every single count, this isn’t bad. “-trhurler

“Your entire article, from beginning to end, is filled with the most unimaginable untruths that one must only conclude that you’ve been reading Michael Bellesiles’ book, which has been roundly derided and proven to be an agenda in search of supporting facts, which he misquotes and misstates to prove a point which his sources simply do not prove.
Try again.” – Beergut

And a few thought out responses, such as: “You are wrong about what “right to bear arms” means. One doesnt bear arms against rabbits, or criminals, or shooting targets. When one “bears arms”, one goes to war. Thugs dont bear arms, soldiers do. The Second Amendment is a military amendment, not an individual right. I hope people take the time to read the law journal article links cited above and also consider the evidence of case law.” – eLuddite

What have I learned here?
  1. When this many smart people can get this upset, I probably should review my facts, logic, and conclusions and see if I still think I’m on the right track.
  2. It is good to get criticized ones in a while because it helps you to really see alternative points of view and understand weaknesses in your own argument.
  3. Personal attacks are Not Nice ™ and I’m going to try to avoid them in the future, seeing as how they did wonders to my already deflated ego, and I wouldn’t wish such a punishment on anyone else.
  4. Liberals think you’re conservative if you say one “conservative” thing, while conservatives think you’re liberal if you say one thing left-leaning. Well then, that’s nice. What if I’m neither, but on each issue I take the approach I believe most thoughtful? Nah, couldn’t happen. Must be a crazy liberal/conservative abortionist/gun-nut!