Thursday, April 22, 2004

Renaissance Men

In the Renaissance era, which started in the 14th century in Italy and the 16th century in Europe, a Renaissance man was a person considered to be interested in and a master of many differing fields of “work and knowledge.” However, as Wikepedia points out, “during the Renaissance, it was easier to be an expert in all fields, as the total sum of knowledge was considerably smaller than it is today.”

I begin this discourse because I believe that I’m a modern-day Renaissance man. This is NOT a pat on the shoulder: I say this not as a justification of my existance, but as an edification for those of you who feel mired in mediocrity, swathed in situational stagnation, or cantankerous about commonality.

Bare with me here.

The modern-day Renaissance man is a lost soul, when juxtaposed to those men of yore. Consider Leonardo da Vinci, whose birthday is a mere 5 days after mine. An expert in art, math, engineering, and other sciences, he was a day dreamer who rarely ever completed his projects. I read a fictional book that runs around Leonardo’s life and works a lot, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is a really interesting read, though not always a hundred percent accurate. He takes a lot of very complex ideas and breaks them down into an easy read. One of the things Brown discusses is Leonardo’s invention that was perhaps the earliest form of public key encryption, a cylinder that required the write sequence to open. I’ll cover cryptography and encryption basics in another post.

Back from my digression, the modern-day Renaissance man: one who is knowledgeable in many fields on a superficial level, but excels in none individually. Let me give you an example: I can sit down with a theoretical physicist, a personal trainer, a mortgage broker, a computer scientist, a business manager, a writer/journalist, a musician, a photographer, a medical doctor, a theater director, an engineer, a CEO, a financial analyst, a geneticist, a psychiatrist, a sales associate, a boat captain, an aspiring film director, a teacher, a waitress, a veterinary technician, a masseur, a webmaster, an aspiring speech therapist, an actress, a bartender, a “nanny”, an aspiring advertising executive, and an EMT (not necessarily all at once), and I can discuss their professions on more than a layman’s level.

This is important, because almost all of these cover the friends that I have, and I often help them to intermingle.

I read a lot of books, have a lot of discussions, pursue grand conquests of knowledge through the extensive internet, and daydream of entrepreneurial achievement. I can manage finances and find answers to complex questions quickly, and digest that for others to understand with relative ease. I can advise and help people to see themselves in an entirely different light, and I’ve taught myself most of what I’ve learned in college. I write a blog.

I can’t graduate college on time, pick something I want to do, or follow the path that’s easiest. I can’t figure out what a normal sleep schedule is. I often can’t find my keys. I forget to feed my dogs twice a day.

I’m a Renaissance man.

I have no grand illusions of being a reincarnation of Leonardo. I’m still working on my stick figures. But I know he worshiped the Golden Ratio (1.618:1, found in almost everything we consider beautiful, and almost precisely in our bodies, too much to get into here, read The Da Vinci Code to find out more), and I know he was a daydreamer.

I’d bet money that he had ADD.

The irony of being a modern-day Renaissance man is that there is no glory in it. In fact, one is nearly forced to revel in mediocrity. Others excel in fields, make money, and enjoy doing what they do. They are consummate citizens, contributing to the world in their own way. I applaud them, and I envy them.

But to argue, our world is one of specialization. Like an exponential function, we increase precise knowledge at such a drastic rate that we approach an asymptote of the larger picture. This could cause trouble down the line if we keep outsourcing with greater frequency. Besides, what if you had a team of people building a house that were each so specialized and talented that they could create amazing pieces, but no one knew how to put it all together? Your bedroom might have a porch in it with a swimming pool holding the refrigerator in the bathroom.

It would be a little odd, to say the least.

So I say to those who are like me, in this frame, ensnared and confused, there may be hope for us yet. Maybe I adhere to false hopes, or maybe I’m entirely disillusioned about what I am and my aforementioned definition. Regardless, I hold hope for where my mind takes me, and the interesting ways I generally arrive at conclusions or new questions. I live an atypical life, and I enjoy it.

I hope that holds.

I’m a modern-day Renaissance man, and I hold good company.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The Importance of Admitting Mistakes

It seems to me that there are a few incontrovertible truths in this world--a few aside from all those many "everything is everything" and "the only constant is change" type dictums. One truth is that truths of the nature about which I'm talking are somehow quite difficult to digest, and further, to practice. The other truth is that sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, admitting the error of your ways is ONLY a positive thing, for everyone.

When President George W. Bush got up for his press conference on Tuesday night and fielded questions (for only the eighth time, I believe) in a scripted order from the White House press corps, it could have been a good time to own up to some of the failings of his Administration's way. When asked almost point blank if he'd do anything differently--such as, like, NOT initiate a wild goose chase for Saddam's purported and still-unfound WMD's; such as, like, NOT completely alienate a great majority of the international community that had been, in the months after September 11th, rallying behind us with all their sympathies, etc. etc. etc.--he just put on his figleaf cowboy machismo and snickered that he just couldn't come up with a mistake he'd made. He's "confident" he's made a mistake, but he "just can't" come up with one.

Let's take a minute and bring this down to our level. One time, a number of years ago, I was seeing this girl and completely blinded to anything but me and her. I was militant about my health, my lifestyles, evicting any old bad habit I could imagine, disowning friends by the busload, oftentimes with a big kick in the ass and derisive, scathing remarks on their way out the door. My compatriot on this page is one such buttkicked hombre. I was, with hindsight in tact, just one depressed guy who thought he'd found salvation in the form of a lady and a lifestyle surrounding her. Anything that didn't match up with the bubble was evacuated with force. A year or so passed, I ended the affair with the lady and returned more or less to myself with a couple hundred healthy and/or bruising lessons from my little escapade: one lesson: nothing encourages forgiveness than a good strong tail between your legs in front of those you've wronged. Apologies are empty vessels without admission of your failings and mistakes. I made a healthy round of apologies and admissions and all is good, in fact, all is better than it ever was. I learned a great deal about myself, and about friendship, from all of it. Yes, I may have alienated some people for a time, but the real friendships have endured.

But I can guarantee no one would have forgiven me if I'd come up and said, "I'm confident I've made a mistake, I just can't come up with one on the spot."

That statement that Bush said (and please, pardon the digression to a personal tale... it's awfully selfish, but it is connected) basically makes plain that Bush is either ignorant and/or a pathological liar: there are at least a couple (dozen) statements and courses of action he and his Administration have bodied forth that have been proven erroneous--i.e., that the "Mission" was "Accomplished" as he swaggered on the battleship; that there are masses of WMD's all over Iraq--and another couple (dozen) awaiting proof of error. He's never once atoned for his mistakes. Owning up and atonement is an 'option' in your personal life; one can go without it, even if it's more than a trifle. Taking Responsibility and Atonement should be a requirement for the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

And the bottom line: a man who is so despised by at least half of the population should know better than to flaunt himself like a gesturing cowboy when his mistakes are all a-flutter, as they are right now.

Disclaimer: talking hot-headed smack about the President of the United States is a cliché at this point in the game, which is a telltale, sorrowful fact in itself. I hope no one thinks that I think I'm solving some big problem by prescribing a better course of action for our President. This hot-headed smack is part-and-parcel of the problem facing the Democratic party (and all liberals opposing the Bush regime), in that, well, criticizing and slandering the work of another man is a damn easy thing to do when you're not doing what the dude's doing yourself. And hot-headed smack isn't convincing anyone who's getting his back. So, anyway, pardon the hot head; i'd have tried a little more diplomacy, but, well, I haven't had a good example of good diplomacy in a while. So there.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

More a Retort than an Opening

I'm delinquent, I know. I should have started up with my boy, but I've had my head in the clouds. The planet of communication (Mercury) has been in retrograde for a couple of weeks until today. You know what that feels like. All the voices in my head have been, until today, whispering sweet indecipherables into utterly clogged ears, and now, all of a sudden, today, like the Dolby Surround prompt in the previews, all the voices are speaking clearly and concisely. So I've got my scribbling mojo back, you could say.

And that's my opening. Take it or leave it.

What first inspired me to jump on this bandwagon today, actually, was a comment by my compatriot about OPEC and the war not being about oil. Dude, you said, "Democrats, that's your cue." Well, here I am:

The war in Iraq may very well not have been about oil. We don't really have any proof of that. But saying, definitively, that "the war is NOT about oil" is like saying that the Paris Hilton tape HURT her reputation, or as ludicrous as saying that the war was about homeland security, when all proof shows that nobody's any safer with that glass-eyed, unkempt (former ally to the US) Saddam Hussein out of his hole and out of Iraq and in custody. Furthermore, gas prices going up is not necessarily a sign that our intention in Iraq was NOT their oil; it could also be, blatantly, yet another example of the failings of the economy and the relative JackShit the Administration has actually done to make it all better. I can stand by the idea that the Administration's intentions were Iraqi oil because the whole engagement in Iraq has been, more or less, one big planning flaw after another. No wonder we're not paying less for gas! We haven't gotten control of theirs yet anyway!

There could be more clarity to that. But I'm just a hot-headed Democrat today; I'm entitled; the Republican administration is leading us down a cold road. Someone's gotta balance the warmth.

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY, belated, to my boy!

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Sweet Theron

I've seen Sweet November a number of times now, and I grow more fond of it each time. Not only is Charlize Theron criminally beautiful and the apex of my Hollywood adorations, the depth with which she plays her character is just extraordinary.

She plays a free-spirited, material-shunning woman that offers a cynical, jaded man (Keanu Reeves) one month to "help" him essentially discover himself. Every moment is a moment of enjoyment, everything that she does is handled and seen as a child handle and sees all. Ok, yes, to some degree I straddle the optimist and the cynic, probably heavier on the later, but their interaction and relationship is largely carried by the talents of Theron as an actress. Perhaps no where is that more clearly demonstrated and realized than in her Oscar winning role in Monster. For a former model, she sure is one hell of an actress.

Perhaps this rant is a bit off the mark, considering I generally cover news and technology with a discernible gusto, but I think it's at least socially relevant. The lifestyle we all lead is with a generally unnecessary celerity, losing the moment in stock tickers and reality television that generally makes me want to defenestrate myself. This movie is a great reminder of this, and perhaps in Theron's character portrayal, I find salvation. Perhaps it's a dated male ideal, in fact, it probably is, but then I guess you can call me old fashioned. The idea of a woman dedicated to the idea of using her liberal life to exonerate a man's soul from the confines of a financially and aesthetically driven, shallow lifestyle is just... cool. I don't know how most guys would react to that, but I think it would be an uncommon moment of acquiescence for me. Ironically, however, I imagine that if that idea truly was substantiated, I would probably curl up into my usual emotional judiciousness, don my apathy suit, and jaunt on down the well cultivated path of detachment and wonder why I'm so melancholy, meanwhile reminiscing how I would've abjured my comportment with my 20-20 hindsight. That can also be read as I'd mess it up and wonder why.

But hope is better than nothing. I'm hoping that Charlize will read this and email me. I'm hoping that I'll make enough money to never have to worry about it. I'm hoping I'll be on a regular sleep schedule one day. But Benjamin Franklin may have said it best when he orated, "He that lives upon hope will die fasting." Hope is at least a decent snack between meals though. Of course, I may just be a Douglas fir.

Full of sap.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Get Your Knowledge On Part I...

  • Cingular and ATT Wireless aren't waiting until their merger is complete to start blending their networks. Good news for subscribers to each... I hope. I'm an ATTWS subscriber.

  • A friend of ours is in Kingdom Hospital (pictured here, on the left), which will start airing next week at 8pm on Thursdays, instead of its former 10pm Wednesday time. A good move, perhaps, in that more people watch television on Thursdays, but they're putting it against CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and NBC's The Apprentice. Not a good move. This was to be ABC'S ratings cash cow, having such a prosaic season. It's a shame to move such a good miniseries into the ratings guillotine.

  • OPEC is trying to screw us again with a 4% cut in crude oil production. Good plan, we're already bleeding, why not open the wound. Is this proof enough that the war maybe wasn't about oil? Democrats, that's your cue.

  • The smoking ban in Connecticut begins today. I was the last to smoke a cig in the bar last night, beaming with pride and internally weeping at another lost freedom. Will it hold? I'll watch the stats.

  • Get your drugs from Canada! New Hampshire Governor Craig Benson does.

  • 3 1/2 to 7 years for sending out 825 million bulk emails. Connecticut law, which is the most severe when compared to Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York (most lenient), gives up to seven years for possession of a narcotic (heroin, crack, cocaine). I'd be curious to see if a casual drug dealer makes more than a bulk emailer.

Google, a.k.a. Big Brother?

Google is beta testing a new free email webmail service. They'll be offering 1 gigabyte of storage space, which is about 1,000 megabytes, searchable and all. This is a very aggressive attack at Microsoft and Yahoo, no suprise. But what once was once an affable business relationship with AOL now becomes a direct attack on their (AOL's) main cash cow. Moo (boo hoo boo hoo).

Google has been my favorite search engine for years. They used a very honest page ranking scheme and they don't have ten thousand splash pages/links on their home page. Very straightforward. However, lately I've been reading some information about Google's cookie that expires in 2038.
The CIA had to stop using a comparatively innocent log-analysis cookie that expired in 10 years, and their document search site isn't even used by many people. Google handles 200 million searches per day, and their cookie expires in 2038. One of Google's leading software engineers, Matt Cutts, has a top-secret clearance and used to work for the National Security Agency. Google doesn't even feel the need to defend their cookie policy; they merely laugh off anyone who inquires about it.

I have my doubts about the validity of it all, but it is interesting. The amount of data that they collect would be a data miner's dream. If Google ever started to lose large profits, they could just sell all this information for a ridiculous amount of money. You can find out how to thwart Google's cookie here.