The All-Thing

All stick and no carrot, since ought-three.

`Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on ``I am not too sure''.' -- H. L. Mencken.


列女操 (孟郊)


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Sat, 17 Apr 2004

Chubby Wise and general musical update

I've been going to a weekly jam near work on and off for the past few years and recently pretty regularly—and lately it has been absolutely fantastic. I'm just have a ton of fun every time I go.

I've a friend who related to me a conversation he had with his teacher when he was just beginning to play. He complained that at all the jams he went to everyone was always so much more advanced than he was. His teacher said, "You're lucky. Enjoy it while it lasts, cause once you get good, it sucks to have to always play with people who aren't at your level."

Obviously that's a bit of an over-simplification, because being surrounded by people who are way over your head quickly becomes frustrating. You've got to find that perfect balance point between boredom and frustration. But it's true—being pushed up a little bit is a lot of fun, and being pulled down is a bit of a drag.

So I think a large part of the sudden fun factor at this particular jam is that it's the perfect level for me now. I struggle and have to work hard to keep up and not only figure out what the fuck is going on in terms of chords and melody, and also try to keep doing new or interesting things and not fall back on the same licks over and over, but I can still hold my shit together enough to occasionally sound good. If I do say so myself. I.e. I'm finally approaching the level where I'm feeling like I'm contributing a bit rather than strictly just trying to keep up. It's a fucking good feeling.

Anyways, the core of the group is a couple really talented and really musical guitar players with a huge repetoire (many of them have been playing for thirty or fourty years) of swing, old country, and (of course) bluegrass. And what's nice is that they're really appreciative of me—even though I'm just playing the same three Chubby Wise licks is various combinations they are always complimentary. (I think this is partly because the other fiddles there are much more old-timey-based, so the more bluesy stuff (which is what Chubby Wise essentially defined the bluegrass fiddle sound as doing) is a nice change.) So I'm happy because it seems like a year and a half of solid effort on ol' Petunia is starting to pay off.

So the whole point of this post was to relate an anecdote. Someone there asked me last night how I learned to play bluegrass, and I said that I basically listened to a lot of old Bill Monroe records, figured out what Chubby Wise was doing, and started trying to build breaks around his licks. And then they were like, "Oh, so you like Chubby Wise?" and I was like "Yes, even though he was not the most technically sophisticated fiddler to have ever played bluegrass (e.g. he only used three fingers of his left hand) he did define the bluegrass fiddle sound and also, he just sounded fucking great" and they were like, Well Larry there was a good friend of Chubby Wise and I was like Holy shit there Larry and we talked a little bit about him.

The moral of the story is that bluegrass is great. You're never more than one or two people away from your heroes.

Posted at 02:38 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink

Fri, 16 Apr 2004

Shot by the British

Was driving down the same section of Mass Ave that I've driven down almost every day for the past few years when I happened to notice a stone tablet on the sidewalk by one of the stoplights. It read something like:

On this spot in April ??, 177?
Four people were shot to death
     by British soldiers

Wow. Well, this is possibly the first moment in my life when I've felt any affinity for history. This was just some random section of Mass Ave, with laundromats and hardware stores and whatever else. It didn't have any kind of historic feel to it, like Beacon Hill or Quincy Market or whatever. It's just some pedestrian-unfriendly semi-strip-mall part of my drive to work. So hard to imagine it ever having a significance beyond that.

Posted at 12:01 | /local | (leave a comment) | permalink

Thu, 15 Apr 2004

And the days are not full enough

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
                Not shaking the grass.
            — Ezra Pound

Posted at 18:12 | /media/poems | (leave a comment) | permalink

The psychic tip

(from Cryptogram)

Well this is fucked up:

A self-described psychic's tip that a bomb might be on a plane prompted a search with bomb-sniffing dogs that turned up nothing suspicious, but forced the cancelation of the flight.

I hope the psychic was fined.

I guess next time I'm running late for a flight, I'll just consult my friendly neighborhood oracular Pythians.

Posted at 15:26 | /news | (leave a comment) | permalink

Musical humor


Found, oddly enough, via the LJ latest images page, which I'm completely and utterly addicted to.

Secret link to an HTML gateway script I hax0red up here, but treat it gently.

Posted at 00:28 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 14 Apr 2004

What do I want out of life?

Here's what would make me happy.

  1. A few good friends, who I could sit down and chat with over a pot of tea. The Chinese tea ceremony is (like many things Chinese) much more pragmatic and fun than the Japanese ceremony (友朋自遠方來 and all that), but it does require a friend to chat with.
  2. A bit of free time to read about interesting things.
  3. A way to sate my raging creative urge.

I think that's it.

Posted at 23:15 | /navel | (leave a comment) | permalink

Greatness revisited

Sometimes I like to imagine that I have a large, engaged, interested readership. I know there's really only about two of you out there, but it makes me feel like writing this craptrap is a little less of a waste of time.

But I feel like I should be writing a bit more, in general. I feel like I could write well, at least in some hypothetical, purple-skied, twin-sunned world, even though in practice I'm rarely happy with what I write. So I hope it's just a matter of practice, and I go ahead slog through one dumb blog entry after the next, because two readers is at least a little bit of motivation to write well.

But I'm clearly not destined for greatness in writing, because I don't spend enough time doing it. I'm not destined for greatness in any field, for the same reason—I'm spread too thin (by which I mean, I have more than one single area of interest). I might become a good writer, but probably not a great one. I might become a good fiddler, but definitely not a great one (I'm about 20 years of intensive practice behind on that one anyways). I might be a great programmer already (if you'll indulge me) but I doubt I'll be a famous one.

I think I'm ok with that, though. I have to be, because I'm really not really willing to pay the price for greatness. I'm far too epicurean, and lazy, and interested-in-shit-in-general, to ever be a workaholic. I ultimately would rather live an interesting but comfortable life than be a blazing single-minded genius.

Anyways, this is just some train of thought with a fairly regular schedule in my mind, so if it sounds familiar, my sweating mass of gentle readers, please forgive me.

Posted at 23:06 | /navel | (leave a comment) | permalink

William's arbitrary prescriptivist rules for writing email

  • Capitalization—you can eschew without compunction, unless you really want to be formal. Mixing modes, however, is confusing and wrong. If you don't capitalize the first letter of the sentence, don't capitalize names or I. If you do, then do.
  • Spacing after the period—just one. Two spaces looks gross and is a great way to mark yourself relic of the typewriter age. French spacing, if so desired, is best done by the recipient's MUA.
  • Indenting the first line of paragraphs—same as with French spacing. Don't.
  • The dash—use three dashes for an m dash, two for an n-dash (numerical ranges), and one for hyphenation. Thus LaTeX commands and thus we obey.
  • Emoticons—feel free.
  • URLs—don't exceed 72 characters and definitely don't split across lines. Use if necessary.
  • Top-posting—there's no better way to mark yourself as incompetent. Just stop doing it. Excerpt the original text and put your reply on the bottom. Strip off signatures and cruft. (Also, this is the only way to stop an exchange of any non-trivial length from becoming completely unintelligible.)
  • BTW, FWIW, AFAIK—go for it, but capitalize only if you're capitalizing in general.
  • Quoting—just do it, and do it with a single greater-than following by a single space.
  • Width—set your MUA to wrap at 72 characters.

Thus spake the prophet.

Posted at 22:58 | /language | (leave a comment) | permalink

Further resolution

In other news, I am so completely, totally, and utterly over women. From now on, bitches can come to me and get rejected. I'm done making an effort. It's all 無心 (mushin) and 花見 (hanami) from here on out.

Posted at 22:53 | /misc | 1 comment | permalink

Grammar "rules" to ignore

Despite what you may have learned in grammar school (ho ho!), let it be know that the following rules are hereby declared null and void:

  1. Split infinitives. There's a lot to be said about why worrying about this is useless, and I'm not going to repeat it (but see, e.g., the alt.usage.english FAQ), but suffice it to say you should focus on making your writing clear and readable, and that's usually orthogonal and occasionally in conflict with the split/not split consideration.
  2. Ending a sentence with a preposition. Perfectly ok, for the same reasons.
  3. Whom. Just don't use it. The original usage rules are so complex that you're almost guaranteed to fuck up, so just be a sport and help me remove this beast from popular usage.

Posted at 22:49 | /language | 2 comments | permalink


Unless an utter miracle (along the lines of, say, a fairy princess gifting me with a real beating heart, or me suddenly making a lot of friends) happens in the next few months, I am considering moving away at the end of the summer. (In fact, the only reason I'm planning on sticking around for the extent of the summer is the possibility of a lot of fun music stuff happening—the new band is working out really well.)

Someone said that Boston summers are nothing more than dirty lies. I'm not sure why it's taken me three years to come to the realization that this place is so bad for my health, but now that the weather system is producing the occasional fitfully nice sunny day, I'm really understanding just how bad for my well-being it would be to spend another winter here. No matter how much cool and interesting activity a city has to offer, if the very act of leaving the house imposes a burden both extreme and consistent in severity, at the very level of base bodily discomfort, for eight of the thirteen months of the year, you're not going to be spending a lot of time getting to know the flip side of your urban inconvenience, shall we say.

The other factor, although this very recently has been very happily somewhat mitigated, is that I still don't feel like I know very many people I can hang out with on a casual and spontaneous basis, and as a continually lonely misanthrope prone to fits of energyless depression, this is (oh so ironically, oh so frustratingly, oh so self-loathingly) pretty important. Combine this with the fact that I still don't see any real opportunities for meeting new people, and my history of instantaneous dislike of nearly every person I meet who's actually from the New England area, and it spells William needs out, soon.

I am desperately trying to avoid scratching the extremely itchy, pulsing, tingling, I hate Boston spot, sitting right there between the twin shoulder blades of rant and blog, so I will stop here.

(Lest the arching of my hatred seem too over, let it be know that being in love with my immediate neighborhood and my job does make this a difficult near-decision to not-make.)

Posted at 22:42 | /local | 8 comments | permalink

All about the maffin' and sciencein'

It looks like, thanks to Alishine's helpful pointer, I'll be involved over the next few weeks in a little bit of math tutoring in Cambridge. It's second-grade at-risk (in math) students, which isn't exactly what I was hoping for, but seeing as how there are only six weeks left in the school year it's not that much of a commitment. And it's not sitting in front of the computer or crying in the dark, so hey, I'll give it a shot.

A combination of them being desperate for volunteers and the coordinator being a big bluegrass fan (I mentioned fiddle somewhere in the application form) worked well in my favor.

Posted at 22:31 | /misc | 1 comment | permalink


I think I must've finally completely emerged from this last fit of depression, because I feel the urge to write here again.

Hold on tight.

Posted at 22:30 | /meta | (leave a comment) | permalink

Fri, 09 Apr 2004



Posted at 23:48 | /misc | 2 comments | permalink



Posted at 02:22 | /misc | (leave a comment) | permalink

Thu, 08 Apr 2004


At CMU I did some math tutoring for elementary school students enrolled in an advanced math program. I'd really like to do something like that again. Does anyone know of math/science tutoring programs in Cbridge/Sville/Boston area for (what in my day was called) g/t students, or anything similar?

Posted at 13:40 | /misc | 3 comments | permalink

Whiskey Friday at the Cantab

Tuesday, April 20th, at 8:30 pm.

Posted at 13:36 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink


"You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "A Study in Scarlet"