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Media Viruses: Things You Wouldn’t Say in Broad Daylight.



The Frail Hart

A poem that was inspired by Yeats (and maybe some others guys too)

The Frail Hart


ONE FEBRUARY morn I walked

‘Till I was all but lost

Yet still I strayed into the wood

Trees barren but for frost.


In time I came upon a lake

And paused at water’s edge

An ancient graceful form there stood,

A stag among the sedge.


A twig I broke as I approached

His stately head he raised

His breath made clouds upon the air

And still I stood, amazed.


Perhaps my scent on breeze he caught,

Or perhaps some sense within

Alerted thus, he leapt away

And I saw him ne’er again.


The sound of hooves now filled the wood

And all around me rang

From bough and branch the frost was felled.

So cracked, the ice soon sang.


And across the frozen mere so calm

The rapt refrain resounds

“Though the heart but frailly beats,

Its passion knows no bounds.”


Oogles of Googles

A recent Slashdot post about anonymous blogging got me thinking.  Someone said that their company “Googled” prospective employees, to dig up dirt on them.  In response, Chris Canfield wrote “On the other hand, do be careful with Google. If you google me, I’ve apparently built bike frames, been a tax attorney, am Colorado’s premier one-legged skiier, made several games, founded a birdwatching society, and am several computer consultants. One or two of these people is actually me. I’m one of 9 or 10 of me online. Unfortunately, according to the phone book there are over 50 of me in the US alone, meaning that if you google my name you only have a 1 in 5 chance that I have anything online at all, and then a 1 in 10 chance of guessing which one I am. And I don’t have a very common name.”

To check out this theory, I Googled my own name.  It yielded 814 hits, including these: 

1.  There is a character with my name on a soap opera, and most of the sites that came up regarded her.
2.  There was a Nigerian missionary in the 1930’s with my name.  She’s only listed on the web because there is a stained-glass window in Buckinghamshire, England dedicated to her memory.
3.  A high school girl from New Mexico who just got her CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) and is making $40,000 a year while she pursues her high school diploma in her spare time.
4.  A British singer/songwriter.
5.  An elementary school teacher in Kansas.
6.  A Pittsburgh artist/photographer.
7.  A public relations specialist from New York.
8.  An Illinois college student who runs the 1500.
9.  Another college student who seems to be a tennis phenom.

There were a few more, but I got tired after page 4.  There were 62 pages of listings with “my” name on them (over 800 sites).  Only one of the sites I found was actually me.  So then, I tried my full name, including middle.

Only one hit, and not me.  So I tried my “online persona,” Raven Nightshado.  There were 49 hits. 


I cannot stress enough the importance of creating an online persona.  I DON’T use my real name online much FOR A REASON.  And I think the above example shows clearly why.  When I want to hide, I can use my real name.  It’s hiding in plain sight, because it’s so common that it blends in nicely.  When I want to be noticed, I use my online persona, so that I can be identified.  And I rarely get spam.


It's all in the genes.

The most interesting thing about genealogy is finding out that you are related to a bunch of weirdos.  I’ve found a few doozies in my history, and I’m not even checking that in-depth.  But sometimes, you find things you’re proud of, but that you never expected.  Sometimes, you find out things you never knew about yourself and your friends, too.

For instance, I’ve been working for my boss for about 7 years.  We’ve had our ups and downs, but generally, I like her pretty well.  We get along and we consider each other friends outside of work.  Last Monday, I was working with her, and I discovered that I didn’t know myself, or her, as well as I thought I did. 

We were talking.  She mentioned a guy who was trying to buy something from her.  She said “…then, he tried to Jew me on the price.” 

I wasn’t prepared for this.  I’ve never heard her say anything like that before.  I couldn’t even breathe.  I was angry.  And I was hurt.

I have always considered that I am actively against racism, and when I hear something that offends me, I’m one of those people who says “Hey.  Don’t talk like that.  It’s rude, and it’s not true anyway, and you’re a jerk for saying it.”  It’s easy to stick up for others.  And you always think you have empathy for the group being slurred.  “I wouldn’t want anyone to talk about me that way.  So I’ll stick up for others when people talk that way about them.”  You imagine that you know how it feels to be the one being slurred.  Or at least I did.  But when my boss said “he tried to Jew me on the price.”  I was prepared for anger and annoyance.  I was not prepared to be stricken dumb with shock, to be so angry that all the energy in my body coalesced into a white-hot ball of fire in the pit of my stomach, ready to explode and kill the person in front of me.  Honestly, the only thing that made me NOT swing back my arm and knock her teeth down her throat is the fact that she’s pregnant, and her poor kid shouldn’t suffer an irrational attack by a crazy jew.

Because, that’s the difference this time.  Doing my genealogy, I found out that my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother was a Canadian-born Jew of German parents.  Typing that line, I’m reminded of the line in the film “Go” where one character says “My mother’s mother’s mother was black” and the African American sitting next to him says “Man, if you were any more white, you’d be clear.”  Except in my case, it’s a little more in-depth.  Because Jewishness is counted matrilineally.  So if my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother was a Jew, then her daughter was a Jew, and HER daughter was a Jew, and that makes HER daughter, my grandmother, a Jew, and makes my mother a Jew and makes my sister and I, and my sister’s kids, and any kids I might have someday Jews. 

It’s different when it’s you.  And I’m ashamed of myself, because I said nothing.  And that’s what makes racism continue. 

So I’m proud of being part Jew, or all Jew, or whatever.  It’s interesting.  And suddenly, I feel tapped into this vast cultural heritage, which I probably have no right to feel tapped into, but which I’m exploring nonetheless.  I’m not proud to be descended from some of the other people I’ve found, some of whom were worse than racists. 

This one ancestor of mine, Thomas Mattingly, willed his daughter, my something-great grandmother, the following items:  “My large teak seachest, my negro boy Robert, and two hogs.”  Right there.  A PERSON, right there, willed to his daughter, between the furniture and the livestock.  So what can I do?  Can I take the good and leave the bad?  Can I take the heroes, and forget the fiends? 


I have to take it all.  I have to recognize that I am all of these things, and none of them.  I have to realize that I’m me, and I’m a person who says what she thinks, and tells people when they’re being racists, or sexists, or whatever else they might be doing that I don’t agree with.  And I sign this post: 

Angry Jew.


My last post from the Gulag

I’m calling this my last blog because it may be so. I’m not sure this aircraft is entirely stable. Oh, I know I said that last time, but this one is even more of a dog. When I got on, I noticed a pervasive scent—at first, I had trouble placing it, but eventually I remembered where I had smelled the smell before: on the 1979 Volvo that was my first car for the entire two days I owned it. It is the smell of antifreeze. I’m sure they probably had to de-ice the plane this morning, since there was a lot of frost, but that doesn’t re-assure me all that much.

Flying over this area Saturday night, it was too dark to see much of anything. Occasionally, I would see the familiar patterns of lights, first a few solitary ones, then a few lines of lights, spiraling in from several directions into the grid-shaped pattern of lights in the center. When we were about 30 minutes out of Billings, I began to see an interesting thing. We were still cruising at 23,000, so we were above the level of the cumulus clouds. They were dense at first, but later we started to descend a bit, and the clouds cleared, then disappeared entirely as we pierced the cloud veil. I knew this meant we were going to land soon.

I closed my eyes for a few minutes, and when I opened them, what I saw out the window made me think I was upside down. I actually reached up to touch my hair, to see if it was hanging downward.

Out the porthole window, below the plane, I saw stars. White, blue, orange, burning balls—both large and small. And there were clouds. Not cumulus clouds, which are the lowest clouds, the fluffy white “cotton ball” ones, but CIRRUS clouds. The wispy long narrow ones that grace the upper atmosphere.

I was upside down, looking up into the night sky at stars and cirrus clouds. Then, one of the stars moved slightly, and I realized I was looking at lights on the ground from some farms outside of the town. We were so close to the ground that the lights on the bottom of the airplane were illuminating THE GROUND. The cirrus clouds were banks of wind-blown snow that had accumulated and frozen in leeward hollows and in the narrow crevasses between choppy ridges of the hilly formation outside Billings known as the Rimrocks. A minute later we crested the Rimrocks, and the ground rose up to meet us.

This time, I’m on the opposite side of the plane, so I’m still looking vaguely south. We are flying over something that might look flat from this height were I not able to see the patterns of snow.

The windward side of a hill is always almost barren. There is a yellow-brown cast to the vegetation, flecked here and there with the silver of frost. The leeward side is always white, and so are deeper ravines, distinguishable as uneven scars on the landscape, filled with white and grey at the bottom, where the stream within them runs.

In the higher elevations, like we are flying above now, there are peaks and huge swaths of green trees poking out above the snow. We are over the Rockies, and there is an area ahead of us, which I can just glimpse, where the mountains are above the clouds.

I was going to listen to some music, but I have the player on shuffle, and—(she puts on her best Dave Barry Voice) I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP—the first song that came on was “Black Box part 1” by Recoil. Since it’s a song about seeing a plane crash, I decided to listen to the plane’s engines instead.

There is a big lake below us, too, with sheets of ice floating on it. There is hardly any snow on the land surrounding it, and at one end it turns into a river. I can’t see a dam, but it might be a reservoir. We must getting close to Western Montana by now. We’ve been in the air half an hour. South of me, there are two huge bowl-shaped valleys surrounded by peaks. I cannot imagine what the pioneers went through to pass these mountains on foot. In some places, there are rock walls so steep, even the mountain goats and big horn sheep must have a hard time navigating them. In other places, the timber is so thick that the ground appears black. Out the North window of the plane, there are peaks which look like Bob Ross made them. “Some happy little peaks. We’ll just put some white, and some blue, and just a touch of viridian on this palate knife, and we just” his hand pauses over the canvas “make a line” his hand swoops down and to the left in an arch, “and another” his hand begins at the same starting point, and swoops down and to the right in another arch, “and then we just fill it in.” He finishes the mountain, filling in its ridges with charcoal grey and Mars black.

One of the valleys below us is filling up with a town.

We’re going to Seattle first, then I’ll have another plane to Portland, so we must be over Eastern Washington. The Rockies have given way to much flatter ground, and I think I’ve spied the Columbia, running North-South. We must be somewhere near SpoCompton, but it’s on the wrong side of the plane, and would be obscured by clouds anyway. At least now my clocks are right again. I set my phone to PST before I left, so now it matches my ‘top.

I’m glad to be flying. Even though it terrifies me, and I’m always sure that *THIS TIME* the plane is really going down, It is fantastic to see the ground this way. I’ve always been fascinated with maps. If I’m flying over an area I am familiar with through the use of maps, I can tell exactly where I am. When I flew back to Portland from Oakland 4 years ago, I spent most of the plane ride telling the little girl in the seat behind me what mountains, lakes, and towns were which. She kept asking her mother, and her mother didn’t know. I thought maybe she wasn’t from around there, but then she told me she’d grown up in Oakland, then moved to Portland, and had flown this route many times to see her parents. I couldn’t understand at first why she didn’t know the names of all the features of the landscape, then I realized that to most people, these kinds of things are inconsequential. For the rest of us, they are everything.

Mid-flight report

Wa sent me this info from home while I was flying overhead.
Airline Horizon Air
Flight Number 411
Departure City (Airport) Billings, MT (BIL)
Departure Time 03/22/2005 06:11 AM
Arrival City (Airport) Seattle, WA (SEA)
Arrival Time 03/22/2005 07:18 AM
Remaining Flight Time 01:41
Aircraft Type Dehavilland Dash 8 + DHC8-400
Current Altitude 22,000 feet
Current Groundspeed 377 mph
Flight Status In Flight
I posted my “Last Blog From The Gulag” later, but this information is from the time I was actually writing the post.  Pretty cool. 
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