Mail Art – You Are 22 In Octal

Below are some photos of the mail art I made for my brother for his 18th birthday. This is my first attempt at mail art and I was inspired by an exhibit I saw on a mail artist at the Wexner Center. Continuing a habit I’ve started in using unix utilities to create art, I used od on a random binary to generate all of the numbers in the background.


Men Having Babies?

I remember freshman year when I had this long, drawn out debate with my roommate Tighe about whether it would be ethical for science to allow men to have babies. He objected saying it was unnatural (though he supported cloning). Ironically, it seems cloning could make human reproduction sans women a possibility. Check out this article http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2001/01/31/eggs/index.html.


On “Welfare Mothers”

Whilst reading about the increase in the 70’s and 80’s of unemployment rates due to structural unemployment due to increasing numbers of women and youth in the workforce (due to increasing opportunity costs related to women staying in the home due to increasing costs in housing) and about “welfare mothers” being considered by some to be part of the “phantom unemployed” as they are considered unemployed even though they don’t really want to find work (making token efforts at job finding to continue to obtain income transfers from the government), I came to a conclusion. Underprivalaged women are put at a terrible double standard which in turn subjectsunderprivalaged children to a double standard of their own. If one thinks about it, the upper middle class and upper class, particularly those prescribing to right wing political oppinions are perhaps some of the biggest proponents of women remaining in traditional homemaking, child-rearing roles rather than entering the work force. Certainly they advocate offering this choice. Consider the frequent rhethoric of what I would deem the conservative feminist who expounds on the fact that traditional in-home roles of women are every bit as demanding and rewarding as a career. However, when a women is poor, single, and a minority the response quickly becomes “get a job!” This seems terribly unfair. I think few would argue that the term “welfare mother” has a negative connotation, however, when one examines the actual position of a “welfare mother”, one quickly sees that a “welfare mother” is nothing more than someone who would rather spend time in the home caring for her children than enter the workforce. Why would a situation supporting such a traditional “family” value be so looked down upon in society? The motivations for such hypocrisy are unclear, but the implications are extremely lucid. This sets up an incredibly unfair double standard.

Mothers who come from middle/upper class backgrounds are not neccessarily forced to choose between parenting and financial stability. A women could have sufficient education and skills so as to obtain enough financial stability to sustain her through the years that she choses to stay home with a child. Similarly, I would argue that most middle/upper class women are in a position where the household could be sustained financially by the income of her partner (though this seems to be rapidly changing). Also, upper/middle class women have increased access to situations that allow their partners to take an increased role in parenting so they can pursue their careers. Finally, they have increased access to quality child care so that they can insure their child’s happiness and continued development if they choose or are forced to enter the workforce or obtain additional education.

For a “welfare mother”, however, the choice between parenting and career is zero sum. As many are single, they cannot be supported by another income. The cruelest irony, however, is that if an underprivalged women decides to enter the job market, her lack of skills, coupled with gender based wage inequality ensures that she will make only a subsistance income. If she wishes to obtain additional education or training to improver her standard of living, she must still make the same parenting trade off. As high quality child care is virtually inaccesible to underprivalaged women, the negative impacts of the womens situation are only compounded.

While the odds stacked against a “welfare mother” are certainly great, it is her children who are the real victims. I would argue that children benefit greatly from a fostering, nuturing environment. The hikes, story time, trips to the museum and library, and later nursery school certainly gave my brother and I a distinct advantage over other children. I think that a clear correlation can be drawn between children who had a great deal of parental interaction and quality child care as young children and children who succeed later in life. By forcing underprivalaged women into the work force (to avoid the “welfare mother ” stigma, as well as to maintaing government support), we are depriving their children of great opportunity and ensuring that they will continue to be part of this cycle of inequality. The cruelest reality, however, is that the amount of money that underprivalaged women make when they move off welfare (and therefore sacrifice time with their children) is so little that they cannot offer the benefits of increased economic prosperity to their children. Their children are, in effect, doubly screwed.

What can society do about this problem? First, quality child care needs to be accessable to all children, regardless of economic standing. Also, employers and educational institutions must make it easier for mothers and fathers to juggle career and parenting. Finally, the social stigma assigned to underprivaleged women who choose to focus on parenting should be removed. Government support via welfare is a small price to pay for increased opportunity for children. If conservatives truly value women taking a more traditional, child-rearing role, they ought to support it across the board, and not just for the wealthy.


Distributed Philanthropy

Unfortunately, most of my posts to this journal have been very blippy. I just don’t have time to write at length, as most of that time has gone towards writing my ex-principal about a proposed plan to elect a student to the school board. I might write more on this later, or just publish the e-mail dialogue. Anyway, I just came across this site in Wired, and it’s pretty cool. The site is http://www.fightaidsathome.com, and it is the web site for a group that is trying to use distributed computing technology similar to distributed.net or SETI@home to help research potential AIDS drugs. The most interesting thing, is that this isn’t entirely a non-profit venture. The company, Entropia, dedicates a portion of the computer crunching to for-profit ventures. While this could lead to some scary conflict of interest scenerios, overall, I am really thrilled about the whole profit for a purpose idea. It’s gotten me thinking about what other applications could use a distributed computing model to achieve a greater good. Also, the massive donations received to upgrade blogger, have started me thinking about how groups trying to achieve positive social change in society can obtain funding.


Quote of the Week

“Don’t tell me they’re gonna let the audience fucking stand out there! Seriously! This is retarded!”

— Britney Spears, having a hissy backstage at the Rock in Rio concert last week.



They promised me that college would be different. That I would just have to play this stupid high school game for four years and then it would be over. I would be free, I would be enlightened, I would be thrown in amidst people like me. I just had to stick things out a little longer until I got the reward. Things would be different.

Things aren’t different. As much as I hated high school, as much as I saw all the good teachers burn out and give up and most of my friends burn out and give up, I was, for the most part happy. Now, I am completely unhappy. Now, I see that there is no escape, I see the cruel light of reality. Now, I see that life really is like high school. You can’t escape it. It’s like high school++. The cliques, the drugs, the booze, the kids who don’t care about becoming better, or making the world better. It’s all there, across america, on the majority of college campuses. But the worst part is, college is like training for the real world. All the evils that I see around me are the evils of society. There is no more bright future to look upon. I am committed to 50 years of bleak reality.

Can I make it on my own? Can I become better than I am, can I survive, thrive, do well, despite my environment, just like I did in High School? Yes, that is what I must do. Still, I feel betrayed. They all promised that things would be better. That for four years I would find a respite from stupidity and ignorance, that I might find people like me who I could surround myself in and feel happy, and safe, and free. I’ve always had to make it on my own. I’ve always had to defend my decisions and ideals from all sides, and its tiring. I just wish, just for a little bit, that I could have a couple of things that go my way. I’m tired of fighting, I’m tired of being alone, but I’m not going to compromise the only things that make me worth anything as a person.

They said things would be different. They’re not.
They said life would be better. It’s not.
They hung the future in front of me, a golden reward, like a carrot before a carriage horse. After I toiled, and sweated, spurring myself on, when I got the carrot it was rotten and soiled.
The promise was a fucking lie.


The Morning After

Umm, yeah, for most college kids I suppose the phrase the morning after has some sort of conneciton to massive alcohol consumption or sexual impropriety. I guess for me, partaking in neither of the aforementioned activities, it takes on a different conotation. It’s just that when I have fun, when I have a really nice experience, I’m completely incapable of just saying “gee, that was fun. That was great.” and just being happy with that. I’m always reminded, or perhaps, I always remind myself how fleeting moments like that are and I find myself terribly sad.

Yesterday afternoon I had a practice debate round with Varu and I think I beat her even though she defintiely out spoke me. We hung out for a while at my house and I gave her some echinatia [sp?] tea as she is fighting illness. I feel so akward every time I bring someone by the house who isn’t in my big friend group, It’s just kind of weird. So then we picked up her friend Erin who I know from a couple of CIS classes, and went to this nice vegan restaurant in town called Dragonfly. They have a very limited menu, and are pretty expensive, but the place is excellent. The service was very good, we had this really funny sort of sissy waiter who took the time to explain everything to us and our water glasses were always full. I ordered this dish that was seitan w/ carrots, celery, and onions in a faux wine/meat sauce topped with horseradish mashed potatos. It was super filling and really, really good. I don’t get out much in Columbus, but it’s nice to know that when I do get out, at least there is one place that I can feel like it’s mine. The prices put it behind Singapore Vegetarian Chinese as my all time favorite restaurant, but it’s a close second.

So, after we ate, it was really funny eating actually, because Varu and Erin are very childish together and like sharing food off of each other’s plates and stuff. It’s really funny, if I didn’t know them, I’d probably take them for a really cute lesbain couple or something, I don’t know. It’s good to have friends that you can just have good inoccent fun with though, I think that’s really important. So after we ate, we went back to Erin’s and just hung out and talked. It was pretty cool, I hope I didn’t monopolize the conversation too much. It’s weird they were very inclusive, I just hope that I wasn’t like a third wheel. Varu and Erin are really good friends and I don’t think they get to hang out very much so I hope that I wasn’t getting in the way. So we hung out and talked about life, relationships, books, This American Life (yay!), and whatnot. It’s cool to have really good conversations, I liked it a lot. I don’t know, it seems that I converse/get along better with girls these days. At school, I guess I don’t really have any super close guy friends.

So yeah, basically I had a really fun night. I like eating good vegan food, and I like just sitting around talking with smart people. The thing that I guess I just can’t get over is that it seems so temporary. I only have experiences like that every once in awhile. It also makes me feel lonely in the relationship sense. Hanging out with girls is hard like that. It’s not as though I am sad because these girls are my friends and not my girlfriends. In fact, I’m totally satisfied with our relationship as friends. The thing is, I’m sitting and having what I think are some pretty good conversations, having a great time, but at the same time I’m just thinking, this is what I would want a romantic relationship to be like. So what’s the difference, if I can get the stuff that matters to me from non-romantic relationships, why is it so hard? I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it. I’d like to think that’s its something other than just the primal urge for possession, to have an amazing girl that I don’t have to share with anybody, but who know’s, beneath it all, I could just be a really tired, simple man. However, I think it’s more that I want to be desired. Like it’s one thing to have people who like you and respect you as a friend and I think you can have really deep and intimate friendships, but I think its something else to be desired. I dunno, it’s hard to say that’s what I want as I don’t think I’ve ever been sought after by any girl that really mattered, but I just think it would be really nice to have some girl just be totally smitten with me. Not the image that society makes of me, not the false bravado that I try to wrap myself up in, but the real me, the one with all it’s imperfections and flaws. I just want a girl who can recognize that despite all the bullshit that I throw about, the arguments, the constant verbal sparring, the neurotic comments, the anger, that I’m trying really hard to be the best person I can be, I’m trying really hard to leave some lasting positive impression on this world and I just think it would be nice to meet someone who recognizes that and brings out the best in me. (wow, that sounded incredibly sappy). Basically, in the end, even after a night of hanging out with people I really like (in terms of friendship), I still feel very alone.