Cats and Hissing

Over at El Goonish Shive Dan just posted "I've heard many weird, crazy and strange theories regarding evolutionary reasons why animals do things, but one of the coolest reasons theorized for why cats hiss is that they're trying to convince you that they're like a venomous snake." Now, this sounded odd to me, but I figured it was just some of that good old fashioned urban-legend/popular rumor that happens. Except at least one person with a PhD in Zoology seems to buy it as well. Of course, it's important to note that A) Desmond Morris seems to have a pretty wide ranging portfolio, having made his mark originally with The Naked Ape and as a TV host in Britain, and B) he couches the explanation as "It seems likely... It has been claimed... if... and this is probably the true explanation of the way in which the feline hiss has evolved."

STILL, THOUGH! I call shenanigans! Because I've got a cockatiel and he bloody well hisses, too. It's tiny and cute and doesn't really sound right because his mouth is built all wrong for it, but it's still a hiss. And so do many other birds. And dogs growl, which is still a noise made by expelling air when angry, it's just done with the mouth closed rather than open. And, for that matter, *SNAKES* hiss! Who are they imitating? Also, cats also arch their back while hissing to make themselves look bigger. This looks NOTHING like a snake.

I'm not saying that I have any better answer except for the more general one: "Most animals, when threatened, make some noise as an almost universal signal for 'You might kill and eat me, but I will NOT go down without a fight. So BACK OFF!" But personally? I think the resemblance of that noise between cats and snakes is more likely coincidence.

Open Letter to Christians

Dear Christian World,
I realize if you're reading this, I'm probably preaching to the choir, but I think it needs to be said to the Christian World (tm) at large, so I thought I'd think global and act local, ya know?

In the history of world religions, the only time proselytizing has worked really well is when execution was the alternative to conversion. And considering that that Jesus fella was all about peace, I don't think you really have that option. So here's a thought: try actually doing things the way that Jesus fella told you to. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sick and afflicted and all that jazz. And do it WITH passion, but WITHOUT prejudice. You weren't called to feed the hungry who are like you and believe what you believe. That's a rider that got added later.

Of course, that's just the base-line. To really make things work, you have to do all of that AND live by the moral code that the Jesus fella actually mentioned. I realize it gets fuzzy here, but pray hard, read closely, think critically and follow your heart and you should be okay. THIS DOES NOT MEAN OTHER PEOPLE HAVE TO LIVE BY YOUR CODE. Just that you do. MAJOR distinction there. Make note of it.

But that's only step two! There's one more step to go! The last step is the hardest, but it's also the biggy: Do this joyfully. Don't grumble, don't gripe. You are being ALLOWED to be the hand of God moving in the world. Does it make you look weird? Well, that Jesus fella did kinda mention that his ways and societies ways didn't always jibe. Be HAPPY about what you're doing. Be at peace with yourself about what you're doing.

Because what happens then is this: You reach out to people and help them and they NOTICE. And they don't only notice, they pay attention. And they see this person who is changing the world, one sandwich or one coat or one hug at a time. They see a person who is doing this not for any kind of selfish gain (and yes, getting people to join your church or come around to your way of thinking IS a selish gain). And they see that this person is living in a way that is making them happy and and joyful and peaceful. And they think "Well, crap! I'm hungry and I'm cold and I'm suffering and I am MOST CERTAINLY NOT AT PEACE! I want peace like that! I want joy like that! I want to change the world like that!" And that's when lives start changing. No threats, discrimination or bullying needed.

Of course, maybe you've tried that and it didn't work. Hmm... that is a puzzler. But I have to wonder this: If the people who see your life DON'T want to be what you are... what do they see that scares them?

Tech needs

Hey folks! Does anyone have (or have access to) a couple of plastic blanks/dust covers for PCMCIA slots? I have NO idea where mine are but, after a few years without them, my wrist rest is cracking around there...

We need txt-marks.

So, we have quote marks for reporting exactly what someone speaks. But, to the best of my knowledge, we have no marks to show exactly what someone typed. Even been overloading "quote" marks for citing passages of print text for a while now, but there is a definite difference between print and this... THING with typing and texting and blogging that we do now. Books don't have dialogues with each other (whatever Kristeva and her ilk might say), and... it's just DIFFERENT!

For instance, I was just reading Wil Wheaton's blog over at and he wrote:

I picked up my keys and my phone. An LED flashed on the cover, telling me I had a text message. It was from Anne: Do you want to meet me for early dinner on your way home?

I thumbed to the compose screen, and told her that I had just finished, and I could meet her in about 25 minutes.

"Yay!" She replied.

Now the first one I can get behind. The use of the colon to suggest a quote of dubious accuracy or one with which the writer may have taken some liberties is old hat by now, and I really like this employment of it. But the Second one? The reply? NO! This is a narrative, dammit! When I see double quotes, I expect that somehow, somewhere vocal chords (or speakers or synth-throats or rushing waters or SOMETHING) vibrated through some air (or water or aether or the vacuum of space), causing sympathetic vibrations in a tympanic membrane (you get the idea by now) and transferred the information the OLD FASHIONED WAY! How can there be double quotes in a narrative without tympanic membranes being involved? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS!

So where's our txt-marks? I mean, there are people lobbying for an interrobang (interrobang?!) while this travesty is flying under the radar? Who's even in CHARGE here?

This is why I shouldn't write papers after Midnight

In writing about the dichotomy between print communication and oral utterance in Dafoe's A Journal of a Plague Year, I was trying to highlight how this dichotomy played out in the realms of temporal, economic, and ecclesiastical power. For the latter, I point out the difference between the Bible (of print) and the "devout priests who stayed in the city to serve their congregations (orally)." After that, I couldn't even TYPE the word "oral" any more without wondering how it would read for my audience. So I quickly scrapped my entire thesis and focused on the remnant of manuscript culture that exists in the text.

Now, I'm having trouble taking myself seriously when I type "by hand." x.x

That Time When I Sprained My Geekery Muscle

Today we were discussing Greimas's Square in my Narrative Theory course and I mused a bit about a question of multi-dimensional graphing that's been plagueing me. I held forth for a good couple of minutes about the limitations of two-dimensional graphing leading (necessarily) to charges of binary opposition and reductivism and how if we could just expand Greimas's two contrary terms to THREE, establishing a plane, and reflect that across a central space to their three antithetical terms...

I think I got as far as "two dimensional" before losing my prof and the other grad student. But I have GOT to find some way to use that thesis option or I will NEVER get this data mapping idea out of my HEAD!