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Always to the south.

It's midnight in George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Sam just returned from his fruitless search for food and has settled to watching YouTube lambastings of Dragon's Lair. Eight more hours until we board Continental Flight #1024 destined for la Ciudad de México.

We've slipped in to the dark night of the soul.

The plan is to overland southbound until the Darién Gap, learn Spanish, and— finally— cross into South America.

I'm giving up the Internet. So, don't waste any time sending me your address for a postcard!

I'll finish the travel blog. Later. From my journals.

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Pagerank is an experiential reality from an existential crisis

It’s been a while since Vienna. Even longer since New Zealand. And, it will be even a while more until the Darién Gap.

I missed you.

This mixtape is a kind of love letter. After coming home, my most important task became reconnecting with my friends. Each of these songs hit rotation because I was enjoying them with someone.

Sadly, due to a hard drive crash, there was one very important track that went missing...

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Wouldn't it be cool if English went the way of Arabic with its "standard" plus many mutually-intelli

You know the urban legend about how German was almost the official language of the United States? Well, I took that as a launching point to understand how the modern “melting pot” was born from the ethnographic salad of the colonies. The hope is to better predict how Europe’s cultural landscape will fare, post-Schengen Agreement, against modern transportation and communications technologies.

But, here’s a couple neat quotes for you:

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic... There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

Theodore Roosevelt, 1915

Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.

Woodrow Wilson, 1919

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Where does that leave touch?

It’s important for me to handle my responsibilities before I traipse off into the dark continent. And, so it seems mixtape number seven is a go!

The only new artist is a local: Lisa Crawley. I’ve been stuck on a couple tracks off her debut EP “Shoot the Night.” (Which, you might notice, is totally downloadable!)

Even better is she just came out with her sophomore release, “Hello, Goodbye And Everything Inbetween.” Backing her is a super-band with performers from a host of Kiwi greats: The Hot Grits and The Mint Chicks to name a couple.

Really, none of us have any excuse. Listen and smile!

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The meaning is intrinsic

A man, unexcited by his own possessions and increasingly confused as to why he collected all these things in the first place, decides to hire someone else to live amidst his books and clothes, DVDs and framed photographs, so that he can learn how another person might more intelligently put it to use.

Every time I move, I find myself carrying less than before. And, I’m getting anxious to do it again.

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PayPal just became relevant

I’m in New Zealand. And, I had to send money to a friend in the States. My bank refused to make that possible. I went back and forth with them for several weeks. No, I didn’t and can’t leave a pre-authorization form for wire transfers at my local banking center. No, I’m can’t drop off (or mail) a transfer slip. No, there is no one cosigned on my account.

Admittedly, that last one I thought about doing before leaving the country.

Regardless, this compliant would seem quaint to a resident of almost any other country on the planet. eChecks and electronic banking have been the norm for decades in some places. I genuinely wonder why the US banks are behind the times. Customer retraining costs? Fraud? Something regulatory?

Regardless, I noticed that PayPal stopped charging for transfers between individuals, and withdrawing funds into your bank account. Looking at their policy history implies this is recent— June 3, 2009. So, PayPal has won the eCheck game.

Why isn’t this being advertised more?

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Sadness and light

I haven’t been keeping my mixtapes up to date. It’s one of those things that, once you excuse yourself the first time, you just continue to let slide. February’s excuse was a lack of variety. And, since March, it’s been sub-par Internet access due to travel. Lame. Lame. Lame.

This is a real shame, as I have made new friends through posting them.

I started making mixtapes because I liked the concept behind the service formerly known as muxtape. When it was taken down, the community response of Opentape was abhorrent to me. The licensing on their code (and the code they bundled) was shady. And, I felt the hosted PHP + MySQL solution was overkill for the problem. Therefore, in the great tradition of reinventing the wheel, I wrote moxie.

Before writing it, I barely thought about sharing my musical preferences outside of the OCD realm of Last.fm. I had worked out a system for finding new artists; and, presumed anyone else who cared had too. After writing moxie, I suddenly had a new interesting problem to think about: what to share with my “audience?” Oddly, it was to one listener’s disappointment when I revealed how I had automated the process.

I don’t think anyone else uses moxie. But, people do listen to my mixtapes. And it’s nice to have a response when people ask for music recommendations. I say, “check my mixtapes out— they’re on the Internet!” And, incredibly, people do! It has been an unexpected delight exchanging messages about music.

It’s surprising how different my experience has been from jwz‘s.

(I’m sure, one of these days, I’ll upload a new mixtape.)

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East Coast Fiction

Remember the renewed literacy initiative? It’s reaching the end of its course. I left the well-known titles (Black Like Me, Mein Kampf, The Kingdom of God is Within You, etc.) for the end, so that I could dovetail into more popular literature.

But, I’m uncertain as where to turn next. What have I learned from these banned books? Well, contrary opinions on church, state, and sex seem to be a recipe for exclusion. And, fame. Additionally, if you’re a contemporary author, being from the East Coast seems to help.

Obfuscation of cause and effect is funny, right?

There is a category of text that I’ve dubbed “New England Fiction.” It’s proudly set in said locale, with a markedly multicultural cast. You barely need two hands to count the lines between the introduction of a character and the proud announcement of their racial background. But, odder still is the segregation. A narrative will carefully describe the superficial traits or behaviors hallmarking a culture; but, never will a protagonist express more than a passing curiosity. There is even a hint of pride in the lack of inter-cultural interaction.

It is often worse than that. Anyone who, as an adult, dabbles in trying to understand another group is treated with badly masked disgust. And, inevitably, they are embarrassed viciously and publicly as a result of a (usually minor) faux pas. Sadly, it’s the rare character who is born from mixed parentage. They suffer only slightly less. Their lot is to be an outsider to all. And if we, the reader, are introduced to their parents; then, “quirky” and “socially awkward” are the charitable adjectives that can be ascribed.

Admittedly, I throughly swallowed the blue pill that was my middle class American public education. So, this sort of reading is revolting to me. I’m aware of the fact that I become what I consume. Accordingly, it’s worrisome the level of popularity this category of text enjoys.

Well, fuck, my Mom would be proud. Despite my best efforts, I’m sensitive to the issue of race.

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Why Is My House Never Clean?

It’s fun to think about behavior in terms of control systems. Considering enthusiasm this way gives an orderly model for what feels like irrational behaviors. Of course, whether those models are actually correct is another thing entirely...

But, consider being hungry and getting food. It isn’t a simple cause and effect chain. For starters, “being hungry” isn’t like a light switch—it isn’t binary. Our hunger can range from “peckish” to “starving” with a bounty of adjectives in between.

And “getting food” isn’t simple. If we “could” eat and the options for sustenance are inconvenient (or simply not palatable), then we’ll opt for ignoring our hunger. On the flip side, if we’re ravenous then anything digestible will be just fine—and we’ll remember it as being delicious for years to come. After all, hunger is the best spice!

My Grandma once implied that’s why I love Gingerbread Puffins.

Once started, it’s hard to stop thinking about the complexities and breaking down the decisions we weight on a day-to-day basis. Control theory offers a rich selection of models that surprisingly many behaviors fit. And, even if not all our irrational acts can be coldly and logically broken down (“Why did I break up with her?”), it at least provides a framework for analysis.

Consider the question, “why is my house never clean?” Let’s take it at face value and presume our homes are never clean. We already have a good start into why this isn’t the case; and, hopefully, remedying the situation!

If our home is never clean, then that means the aggregate rooms are never clean at the same time. Which leaves open for some of the rooms to be clean some of the time. Sound familiar? And by scaling down the problem, we can consider the question, “why is my room never clean?” Well, our rooms are clean!

Sometimes.

Why do we clean our rooms? I hesitate to speak for anyone who, frankly speaking, has their act together. But, I clean my room when it gets too dirty. And my kind of delinquent behavior has a name. It’s called a bang-bang control.

Suddenly, we can tie my behavior up into a nice sequence of linear equations and probabilities... that aren’t intuitive at all! Instead, let’s consider thermostats in a house: “why aren’t all the heaters in rooms of my house on at the same time?” Well, that’s easy:

“I’m not in all my rooms!” “The whole house isn’t cold.” “It would be wasteful to heat the whole place.” etc. Each of which has clear analogues to the cleanliness question: “Every room isn’t dirty.” “The whole house isn’t dirty.” “It would be a waste of time to clean the whole house.” etc. And, the same analogues give us a way to re-frame our behavior: central heating!

Our solution: we clean the house as a whole rather than cleaning individual rooms. Which means changing the bang-bang control that is our enthusiasm. “Is my home, as a whole, dirty enough to merit cleaning the whole thing?”

And that, ladies, is why my place is a mess.