Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Banned in China

Someone years ago noted that I am a very private person, yet I wrote the most personal things in the newspaper column I had at the time. Word. The privacy thing is really a control thing. I am a control person. No, it's not that I want to control you, I just want control over my own experience. And that means not having to gamble on the unpredictable comments of other people pilfering through my private feelings. I love people, I really do, but cast not your pearls before swine, right? In order to control what comes at me, I learned when young to control what I put out. Beatles: "And well you know that's it's the fool, who plays it cool, by making his world a little colder." Cold? Hardly. Those of you who are my friends probably know that while I am a hard-ass, I am also a big softy. I believe I show caring when and where it counts. ...But why share all this personal stuff in a column, or in a blog, when any freak in the world, even the President of the United States, or the loathsome Kim Jong Il, could be reading it, right now? Control is the sneeze guard. Writing is controlled. Plus, when you write, everyone else shuts up. They are not required to read it, but they don't interrupt.

I took one of the riluzole at breakfast and I intend to take one tonight as well. Normally the clinic advises you to take one a day for two weeks, but it has been a week now and I haven't had any bad reactions, so the doctor told me I could go ahead and start taking two a day. Eventually you are supposed to take them on an empty stomach. Right now the food buffers any upset. I had an odd experience with one of the riluzole when I failed to swallow it on the first try and had to go get some more water. It must have dissolved a little in my mouth because it made my tongue and the roof of my mouth numb.

This morning after breakfast I helped my son complete valentines for everyone at the preschool. Last night we did the bulk of them. The rule is that everyone gets a valentine. Even Patrick. Who my son says is "naughty." But I think that he and his friend just like to "trap Patrick," as they say. They hunt him and detain him. When the teachers saw this happen they took away the rest of my son's recess. He hasn't done it since. I pushed my son to preschool in the stroller, jogging in parts, which he likes. Then I walked to the hardware store and got a small piece of child-proofing equipment for a cabinet, which I came home and installed. Then I ate an early lunch and cut my own hair in the bathtub, using an electric trimmer. No, it doesn't look perfect, but I'm into control: I don't like having to go to a barber when I want my hair cut. So I do it myself. Saves money and gives me a feeling of independence.

I also went out in the yard and dug up several dandelions. I don't know what it is between me and them. I used to think I could never win by digging them out of our lawns which have seen many decades of sun and rain and weed seed. I assumed you had to rip up the lawn and the soil, lay down some plastic for a few months, and then buy some sod and then it was only a matter of time until the weeds were back. But I am curious about these dandelions. I like digging them up. It's a chance to get out of the house and into the fresh air. Dandelions have an interesting choice in reproductive options. They don't need to flower, so you can't just pull the blossoms. If you leave a bit of the root in the ground you will get a new dandelion. If you chop the root into three pieces by accident, you will get three dandelions. My son loves to pick the 'poofies' and blow them all over the lawn. I have tried to educate him but to no avail. My approach in the back yard was to dig up every single dandelion I saw. I check every now and then and, despite infrequent flare-ups, the back yard is pacified. The front was a jungle of weeds. So many ... such tough Bermuda protectiong the dandelions ... no way to dig them all up. So I adopted a defensive strategy: Whenever one of the dandelions bloomed or put up a seed pod, I dug it up by the root. The others I left alone. My son would come out with me every Saturday and Sunday and we would dig dandelions. It was part of our routine. He liked it. Amazingly, there came a day towards the end of Fall when we could not find any more dandelions in the lawn. It was as if we had won. I knew the dandelions would be back, but for the moment, victory. Then winter and the rains came, and my Mystery Condition resolved into the ALS thingy. The fleshy green weeds came back. Some put up bright yellow flowers. My sword cried out for vengeance, but I had appointments for blood-sucking and spine poking. No time. So I wondered if the laughing weeds were going to have a field day. Whether there would be poofies all over the lawn. And that may yet come to pass. But this past weekend, my son and I dug up the flowering dandelions. And I took the fight to them again today. So, wherever the light of freedom struggles bravely amid the gales of tyranny, there you will find me.

After the cops defused the package, I emailed the pal in China who sent it to me. Still no reply. Maybe my computer thought his reply was spam. I sent him the blog URL. But Ronolulu says he emailed the pal, and the pal replied that he can't get to the blog because it is blocked. China limits internet access by maintaining an active list of banned sites. Now, my theory is that the vile Communist Chinese government blocks all blogspot addresses. But I don't know. It is possible that they could have a spider which trolls content and blocks certain sites automatically, based on keyword hits. Recall that my Fri Feb 06 entry mentioned that Google had helped China develop censorship software. There were some keywords in that post which would have been sufficient to trigger a block across Chinese-controlled routers. Most likely this would be accomplished by having the central spider process troll for keyword combinations that match a pre-defined list, and then add the banned address to all Chinese-controlled routers. But more likely the routers have a process for consulting a centrally-maintained list of banned sites, and they consult that list on a daily or hourly basis, and then update their own list. If I can get in touch with my pal in China I will ask him to see if he can get to other blogspot blogs.

The short runs and affirmation jogs are OK, but to really stretch the lungs and the heart, a long run is needed. I went for a long run today, up into the hills, half an hour of solid running outbound, up some hills you wouldn't want to run on, and I wouldn't want to run on either. Then I hiked up a hill with those power line towers arrayed on it. Like in the movie American Graffiti. But steep instead of flat. I was having a little trouble with a sore spot on my foot (induced by poor sock deployment). So my return was sort of a run/walk. With some pretty strong running. You wouldn't want to try to keep up. Unless you are Bruce Jenner, and you're not as fat already as Marlon Brando.

After the run I walked to the burrito place and ate a burrito. Then I came home. Made a blog entry. Now it's almost time for me to be daddy.
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