Saturday, February 18

Who the hell am I? For that matter, who the hell are you? And how do you keep track?

I have a problem. I have too many identities.

I have accounts on 4 IM services, and I access those accounts from 2 clients each, on at least 3 computers, on a regular basis. I play 3 online games regularly and a few more sporadically. I log into websites and post on blogs, as well as blogging myself. I have three names/handles/monikers, each for a different group of activities. I have more logins and passwords than I care to think about. Sometimes, I have to think carefully about who I am right now, to avoid tying my identites together.

Not all of that is bad, of course. I don't use my real name on this blog so that if and when I say something that someone (or something) doesn't like, it's not trivial to find my home number and bother my wife about it. I don't use the same name to blog as I do to IM, because I don't really want people I don't know sending me IMs. Same with gaming -- the fact that you read my blog shouldn't let you find me in-game.

All that said, I do often wonder if my online identity is too fragmented, if I'm doing myself a disservice by keeping my interests separate. The problem is, how do I tie everything together? I don't really want to take the time to implement a personal portal (thanks for the link, and the plug, Coté!), and even that would probably not be of much use to anyone besides me. I don't want to have to put all my eggs in one basket, either. And I haven't found an application -- hosted or installed -- that I trust to maintain my identities for me. In fact, since the whole point of having separate identities is not to link them on the Internet, I don't think I'll ever trust a hosted application to do it for me. And the downloadable tools I've briefly looked at to do that kind of thing don't link sufficiently well with my online life as to make them usable. Flock comes closest, but it's scarily beta, and scarily web 2.0. It seems to me like there might be no right answers to this problem.

Do you, gentle readers, have similar problems? How do you solve them? What haven't I thought of? Are there no right answers because I'm asking the wrong questions?

Wednesday, February 8

The Insufferable Trollishness of "Brights"

Pharaohmagnetic linked a Salon article on Dennet's new book. Oz linked a Globe and Mail review as well. I haven't read the book, and out of a lack of desire to dent my drywall with it in frustration, I don't think I will.

My problem with the book -- indeed, with Dennett's whole modus operandi -- isn't so much his ideas. In fact, I'm quite happy to adopt a reductionist approach to religion and the mind; personally, I've never really had any reason to believe I was anything more than meat. That said, the term "bright," as a rebranding of the atheism associated with the reductionist approach to the human mind, is tragically misguided.

The analogy to the term that homosecual activists introduced --"gay"-- is instructive mostly for the main difference between "gay" and "bright": the former has no connotations that related to what homosexuality was or wasn't. On the other hand, "bright" most certainly does. By choosing a word that is already loaded with positive connotations of intelligence, Dennett not-so-subtly trolls the theists of the world by suggesting that they are NOT bright in *any* sense of the word -- that they are, because they believe, stupid.

Having chosen that term, Dennett condemns his arguments to two separate ratholes:
(1) the term won't see any uptake among people who do consider themselves part of the group, because they will preceive it as derogatory
(2) When other works criticise Dennett, criticism of his arguments will get obscured by objections to the term itself.

The latter is by far the most pernicious, because it allows Dennett a defense against his critics that has nothing to do with the strength of his arguments. He gets to spend time lording it over theists who object (rightly!) to his terminology, pointing out that the terminology is beside the point, rather than addressing their concerns with his logic. He's manufactured a totally unnecessary controversy, one that will take time and column-inches on both sides of the debate while contributing very little to the advancement of the state of the art. Breaking the Spell is the inverse of a polished turd: it's a good idea, presented with a coating of stank-ass slime. As such, I propose that we refer to Dennetian ideas, and the people who present them, as "rectal" (or perhaps "sewerish"; please comment if you can come up with a better term. I'm looking for something that conveys the idea of something that produces something good covered in something bad.)

Really, Dennet has crafted an extended troll of the religion-vs-science debate. An admirably complete and successful troll, but a troll nonetheless. In fact, I've succumbed to it myself. I just wrote -- and you just read -- close to 600 words about it. I'd rather them to have been about the book itself, but the best trolls demand a response, don't they?

Sunday, February 5

Goodbye, Angus

Angus deleted his blog today.

Thanks for taking the time to share what you did, dude. It was good while it lasted.

Saturday, February 4

Mirrormask deserves your attention

In mid 2005, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean put out a movie called Mirrormask. It won accolades, if not awards, in Toronto and at Sundance.

I saw it tonight.

It was unbelievably cool.

It deserves your attention.

(Also, I'm not dead; haven't been writing much lately because what I've wanted to say has been better covered elsewhere.)