333 Days Ago

Just thought I'd provide that little helpful bit of information. It's the time that I last wrote in here. Since then, I have, among many other things:
Finished junior year
Traveled to Spain
Attended a career and living skills program for blindies
Went to Lake Powell with my family
Completed the immensely painful process of applying for college
Got accepted to eight of my nine colleges
Officially accepted my spot at Stanford
And, last, but certainly not least, ignored this journal.
Oh, I almost forgot "had my hard drive reformatted due to an issue for which no one could determine the cause." I shouldn't have forgotten that one, as it just happened this week.
Anyway, a couple of my friends have suddenly and unaccountably started updating (or, in one case, keeping) journals, so I thought I'd return to mine as well. Of course, it helped immensely that they were pestering me. Well, one of them was, anyway. Any guesses who? Hint: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Anyway, right now, I'm sitting here waiting for my dinner. We have family in town for the weekend. My uncle is an air traffic controler, and he had to be in this area for some reason. He and my aunt decided to drop by our house for a couple days. I heard that my step brother Andy and his fiancée are supposed to be here also. If they've arrived, I don't know about it. Actually, I think last time I updated this my step brother wasn't engaged. Since that's been the case for quite a while, I can tell just how long it's been.
Anyway, when we have company, dinner gets pushed to an unreasonably late hour. Hopefully that hour won't be midnight, like it was one time. But you never can tell with these things.
Earlier today, I went to the bank and opened my first checking account. I tried to do that online a week ago or something, but it didn't work, so we had to go to a branch and do it there. Why offer online registration if it's not going to be accepted anyway?
After the bank trip, I sat around the house and did very little. Actually, I did do a little bit. Every day since I've gotten my computer back, I've found something new that I needed to reconfigure. Today it was my web browser, my podcatcher, the Flash plugin, and my time synchronization. Oh, and I installed Adobe Reader, and told it not to do the infernally obnoxious thing of opening itself in the browser.
Other than that, I listened to some files, some in actual audio, others in synthetic speech, and was generally unproductive.
I know, a fascinating day with which to reopen this journal. But what else was I supposed to do?
Well, I think I'll leave for now. This may mark the start of a new period of plentiful entries, or it may be an isolated incident. Time will tell.

Wow

You have to wonder about people sometimes. There was a feature in the news this morning about people text messaging while driving their car. I find this notion so ridiculous that I had to write about it.
You're carening down the highway at sixty, sometimes seventy-five or eighty miles per hour, and you think you can read and write text messages on your cell phone? How much of an idiot do you have to be to do that? Apparently idiocy runs in high numbers judging from this story. On the other hand, that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

The Web: The New Worldwide Conspiracy to Spread Lies

I am sick and tired of the schools endlessly rambling on about how the web is completely evil and anyone who publishes to it must be trying to tell you lies. They never say this, of course, but every time the web comes up, there's always someone in authority at the school who will tell you in a condescending tone about how anyone can publish anything to the web, and that you need to be careful about what you read there, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It is true that anyone can say anything on the web, and once it's on the web, anyone can read it unless the author specifically ensures otherwise. However, the schools' dire warnings are at best over-stated, and at worst completely insulting to the students who receive them. The message beneath these comments is that students are so dumb that they will assume that anything they read anywhere is completely true. The trouble is that there are a great number of students who do lack the small amount of common sense required to evaluate something they read for themselves. Surely the fact that schools do everything in their power to discourage the use of common sense has absolutely nothing to do with this. Common sense would tell us, for instance, that there are a number of things that are expected of students in school that are completely useless. The school doesn't want its students figuring this out (though even the ones who do lack common sense usually do), so common sense needs to be completely thrown out the window. This means that the school cannot allow itself to use common sense either. Instead, the school has to spread "internet-is-evil" propaganda.

Despite the school's best efforts, I have retained some of my reasoning ability, and I am going to use it to show just what is wrong with the school's arguments about the web. First, I will admit that there are some individuals who devote themselves to deliberately telling people lies on personal web sites. However, this number is probably a very small one, as most people have better things to do. Moreover, the likelihood is that if you search for something on Google, you're going to come across larger organizations who are (theoretically) obligated to check their facts because of their well-publicized nature. Let's try an example. Let's perform a Google search on McCarthyism, the topic of the assignment that led me to this rant. My search, by the way, was conducted at 5:47 on April 27.

The first two results are from Wikipedia, which I'll come to in a minute. Next we have results from Spartacus, an educational site in the UK. I can't seem to find a mission statement at Spartacus, nor anyone who says anything about the educational site. However, looking at the domain, we see spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. At schoolnet.co.uk, we see this statement:

SchoolNet
is a collection of services that has been set up, by Easynet Ltd,
to allow schools to offer pupils hands on experience of Internet technology
in a group learning environment. Schools have unlimited space to publish
their own publicity and information on the World Wide Web. These pages
can be seen in the
Schools Online
section to the left. This enables schools to use the Internet to
communicate with current and future parents and pupils who are now,
or soon will be, online at home. Pupils are able to use information
sources from around the world to gather research for projects. They
will also be able to communicate with other schools locally, nationally,
and internationally, both through email and their own web sites.


Of course, this is what the organization claims to be. Still, if we are to be as paranoid as my school would like us to be, we should probably presume that actually this isn't what this organization really is at all. In fact, we should probably assume that this website was published by someone sitting at a computer in a bedroom somewhere. There is mension of the company name Easynet Ltd. If we are to be prudent web readers, we should probably check with whatever British organization is responsible for incorporating companies, and make sure that Easynet Ltd is actually a legal company. Of course, even if this is a company, maybe it has some agenda of its own that we're unaware of. You can never be too careful, you know? I mean, this is a web site we're talking about.

Back on the Google search page, the next result we find is from PBS. Now, there can be no question that this really is PBS we're dealing with, because on the PBS TV stations, they always announce the website as www.pbs.org, and of course any other medium except the web is completely true and accurate. Actually, maybe we should place some doubt in PBS, because they dared to claim otherwise. So yeah, PBS is definitely part of the lying conspiracy.

The next thing we find is from Al Filreis, the Kelly Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania (among other titles that you can look up for yourself if you'd like). Now, of course, we have to understand something: this is the web site of the University of Pennsylvania. Anything distributed in any other medium by the university is absolutely true, because it's another medium. However, since this is a web site, we should probably assume that this is false. Can we really be sure that this web site actually belongs to the University of Pennsylvania, anyway? I'm sure there are no laws about claiming to be who you're not, are there? (Actually, I don't know of any, but I would expect any civilized country to have them.) Assuming that this site really does belong to the University of Pennsylvania, Prof. Filreis does not have any relation to the history department, or so it would seem. So, we should probably assume that this university professor has no idea what he's talking about. Actually, forget what department he's from! Prof. Filreis is a university professor! To assume that what a university professor says is true is a logical fallacy, specifically an appeal to authority, so we should immediately assume that whatever this guy says is completely false.

I'm skipping over the next result, because it's not extremely relevant for a history research paper. It is entitled "modern american poetry about mccarthyism."

The next result (supposedly) comes to us from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library' (seemingly) maintained by the University of Texas. I don't even know how to respond to this one. I guess the only thing I can say is pay attention to the parenthetical words in the first sentence of this paragraph. They tell you all you need to know.

I'm not sure what the next result is supposed to be, but it doesn't seem that it would be very useful for a history research paper.

The next result comes to us from a site called Third World Traveler. The top of their home page reads as follows:

THIRD WORLD TRAVELER puts up articles and book excerpts
that offer an alternative view to the U.S. mainstream media
about the state of American democracy, media, and foreign policy,
and about the impact of the actions
of the United States government, transnational corporations, international financial
institutions, and the corporate media,
on democracy, social and economic justice, human rights, and war and peace,
in the Third World.


Now here the situation is slightly different. This site's purpose, as it said, is to provide an alternative viewpoint. So, the person with the average amount of common sense should realize that there might be some sort of bias here. There also might not be. We shouldn't completely dismiss this site as useless, but we should keep in mind who is writing this, and whom they are writing to. (That would be "to whom they are writing" if you're a prescriptivist.) On the other hand, this site supports the idea that "The news and truth are not the same thing." (The site attributes this quotation to Walter Lippmann.) Of course they are the same thing! How dare anyone question the absolute truth and reliability of our mainstream media?

I think I've made my point, but I promised I would talk about Wikipedia, so I will. Wikipedia, of course, is an open encyclopedia. Anyone can edit Wikipedia articles, which is both the beauty and the danger of Wikipedia. People make the claim that since anyone can edit, anyone can say anything on Wikipedia. This isn't entirely true. Sure, it is unbelievably easy to edit an article, but just because an edit is made, it doesn't mean that it will stay made. Wikipedia has a set of policies and guidelines, and a large base of people determined to make sure that those guidelines are followed. Now, it is difficult to maintain control over all 1,757,467 of the articles on this site, especially because I'm sure that that number keeps getting larger. However, the from what I've seen, they've managed it pretty well. At the very least, where there is a doubt, that doubt is always expressed at the top of the article. Whether it's the fact that the article did not cite all of its sources, or that the neutrality of an article is disputed, or even that the article needs to be cleaned up, there's always a note about it at the top of the article. Thus, although Wikipedia should never be the soul source for research, it could certainly be used as a good starting point, especially because it usually lists sources of its own, which you can then proceed to read for yourself if you choose.

Many are probably wondering what prompted me to have this discussion. This entry was written in response to a history assignment. It is a sort of final research paper, in which we are given a number of topics to choose from, and then, once we choose a topic, we must research and write about the topic. One of the guidelines was that on no account could we use a web site as a source. Now, actually, this isn't true. There are online databases set up by various local libraries and such that we are allowed to find sources from. However, searching on Google, no matter how prudent the searcher, is not an option. I am at a loss to understand this; I can only assume that it is a result of the paranoid prudence that is the school's position on the Internet. The web, just like any other medium, is not infallible. Just like all media, web sites might contain accidental errors; also like the media, the web might sometimes be used to deliberately deceive people. However, it's time for the schools to accept that the web has become a veritable medium, full of useful information. All that is required to differentiate the useful information from the inaccurate or deceiptful, just like with any other medium, is a bit of common sense.

Where is School Getting Me?

Every day that I go to this fascist institution of so-called learning, I am driven a little bit closer to utter insanity! I am missing two days of school for a choir event. No big deal, right? I just have to make up the work when I get back. It might mean a bit of extra effort on my part, but it's nothing I can't deal with. That's what I thought, anyway. Unfortunately, I have this state-wide test, which they only decided to tell me about yesterday, and tomorrow and the day after are supposed to be the only days I can take it. Now, it turns out that this isn't actually true, and that they'll let me take the test on Monday. I think, though, that it would have been very much less idiotic of whomever is administering this test to not plan the make-up date only a day after the scheduled test date. Furthermore, I think it would have been wise on the part of the administrators to give the students some notice, so that if there was a problem, the problem could have been solved, you know, more than fifteen hours before the test is supposed to be given. Am I a complete fool for thinking these things? I surely can't be the only person to whom this has occurred.
So, as I said, the test has been taken care of. Unfortunately, I also have two projects for the same class due within the next week. I can see the point of neither of these projects, but when you're in any kind of fascist institution, you don't disagree with the dictators or their minions unless you want to pay the consequences. So I'm going to waste a bunch of effort on these completely useless projects that will teach me absolutely nothing, except, perhaps that school really needs to teach its students things that they will actually use OUTSIDE of school (in case this needs clarification, that means outside of college, too). Oh wait, I've known that for years! I seem to be the only one who thinks so, and yet no one can tell me why I'm expected to learn half of the crap that I learn in school. "Oh, you're going to need to use this in college, so you need to know it." And why, may I ask, do I need to use it in college? "Just shut your mouth and do your work, or you'll get a zero on this assignment, and maybe half credit on a few other ones, just because I feel like it!" Yes, dear leader. I understand. It won't happen again.

Vacuum Cleaners Are Obnoxious!

I'm not even the one who has to do the vacuuming either. I think that anyone who invented a vacuum cleaner that was silent, or at least exceedingly quieter than the ones we have today, would become insanely rich.

Wailcum to Lowavvle

I am officially annoyed at this laptop as I begin to REWRITE this entry. This laptop has back and forward buttons built into it, I guess for the lazy who thing that alt-left and alt-right are just too difficult to handle. These buttons are on either side of the up arrow, which means that one badly placed keystroke while editing can take you to the previous page. This is what happened, and so I'm now forced to rewrite this entry form scratch. There wasn't much to it, but that doesn't mean it's not annoying.
Basically, what I said in my previous entry was that I'm in Louisville for the holidays, as I was last year, and that we arrived here last night. I noted that we flew into Indianapolis and then had to make the drive to Louisville, but that this was better than having to make flight connections, and that the Louisville airport was particularly inefficient, even among other airports. I also commented on our rental van, which has the automatic sliding doors. I made it clear that I found the automatic doors pointless, because it takes three times as long for the mechanism to open or close the door as it would to just close the door yourself.
That wasn't really worth retyping, I suppose, but I've retyped it anyway. If it deletes again, I won't bother retyping for a third time. Anyway, it seems that we're about to have breakfast, so I will leave you now.

The New Definition for School

When the next editions of the major dictionaries are released, they will have a definition of school that reads something like this:
School: N. A totalitarian institution designed to limit knowledge or the desire of knowledge by controling information, and only allowing access to the information if those who seek it are willing to put in hours and hours of useless busywork. Aptitude in schools is not measured by the acquiring of the knowledge, but by the willingness of those who acquire the knowledge to put the knowledge they learn to use in such a way that they cannot benefit from it at all.
That second sentence was bad, but you get the meaning well enough.

test

Hello. I, like half of my friends page, am writing this entry using LJ Talk. Well, act ually, my friends page isn't writing anything, but half of its population has been making posts using this new technology, or maybe it should be this old technology ported to a new place, since Jabber and IM bots have beth been around for quite some time. And, if we really need to get that precise. it's not really half my friends page either, since only four people have made posts. Oops, I started that sentence with "and," which is supposed to be illegal. Too bad. It's been done, and I won't fix it now.
Instead, we'll start a new line, as I have just done. The client I'm using, by the way, is called Exodus. It works fairly well, though for some annoying reason, you can't seem to tab around the message window, so I've been using the mouse pointer to read incoming messages. I wish I didn't have to do that, but what other choice do I have? Not much of one, at least not as far as I've managed to work out. Maybe someone else using this client knows of a way that I can bring keyboard focus to the conversation part of the window. Otherwise, I'll just have to stick to using the mouse pointer. Anyway, I think I've said enough for now. I'll be back, well, some other time. Bye.

Rounded Street Corners

I challenge someone, anyone, to give me a PRACTICAL reason for the existence of rounded street corners. Pay close attention to the word "PRACTICAL", because it disqualifies reasons like enhancing the appearence of a neighborhood.

What's this subject box for?

I just found out that, instead of spending the afternoon at a mall, I've been given the rest of the day off, except for the usual feeding, watering, and relieving times. You know, I really wanted to go to the mall. I would really have enjoyed walking around into random shops, none of which would have had anything I wanted to buy. Oh well, I guess I'll have to just stay here and put up with my free time instead. Wretched, isn't it?
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