Farewell, it's been so long.

So, I've been thinking about this for a while. I was going to hold off on officially making the move until Buzz was more agreeably featured, but I decided it's time to call it a day: I'm leaving Livejournal. My current journal will continue to exist until such a time as Livejournal does something asinine, and I'll probably still check my friends page every so often, but there will be no further public updates on herbie. (There may be the occasional locked post, but I haven't actually made a locked LJ post in over two years, and I have little expectation that I'll do more now.)

For people who still want to consume things I produce, the list of the various media in which I'm involved are available at The important ones are all linked sites to my Buzz, so if you follow me on Buzz, that's your one-stop shop. If you prefer a more piecemeal approach, I'm most active on:

Twitter (Also aprotimtweet)
My Personal Blog (Also rant_aprotim)
My Picasaweb
Google Reader

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LJ tweaking

After a while of concentrated tweaking, I've succeded in making my LJ almost as ugly in using S2 as my old S1 theme was. Couldn't figure out how to add the pretentious date format, though. Also, if I've futzed right, this should also show up in my Buzz.

Sekar Mama

A year ago last Saturday, my uncle died. It was just weeks after celebrating his 60th birthday, and very sudden. I haven't talked about it very much since then, because every time I tried, I needed to stop to keep myself from breaking down in public. Composing this today in my head, I more or less kept it together, so here goes.

My uncle, who I called Sekar Mama was my mother's brother (technically, her double-cousin - their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sisters), and she loved him in ways that are difficult to express. She doted on him, she looked up to him, and she mothered him. When we lost him, she took it the hardest of anybody, and even today, I doubt a day goes by where she doesn't miss him.

He was the first one of our family to move to America, and besides my immediate family, he was probably the relative I saw most often growing up. He was often abrasive and rude, but he had one of the keenest minds and the kindest hearts of anybody I knew. So much of me was shaped by him - my sense of humor, my sense of intellectual honesty, and my capacity for critical thought would all be very different without him - besides my parents, he was the largest adult influence on my life.

When we heard, my mother went to Florida to see him, to make arrangements and generally to say goodbye. A couple days later, I joined her, and together we saw the people who he knew, and who knew him. Everybody there loved him, though they all were occasionally frustrated by him. He moved seamlessly between strata of society, circles of interest, and managed to make friends wherever he went. While we were there, I felt compelled for some reason to pore through the stuff of his life and grab those keepsakes that I could, so for two days, any time I wasn't helping my mother, I was either slogging through his un-air conditioned house or his un-air conditioned storage unit in the 90+ degree Florida humidity, excavating for those things we could keep to remember him. I have a suitcase in my apartment now filled with those things, and my mother has another. I don't think either of us has been able to go through those things yet.

Anyway, this isn't as articulate as I would like, but I needed to finally put it out there, if only to say it "out loud" for you guys to hear. I'll end it with this: I spoke at the service, and I think that what I said then probably still best reflects how I feel:

Most of you knew my uncle as Ish, but to me he was always Sekar Mama - "mama" means mother's brother. Sekar Mama was our only relative in the U.S. growing up, and those times when I got to see him were always some of my favorites. Whenever he visited or accompanied us on a family trip, life always seemed to be more interesting, and more fun. He always seemed to be on my wavelength - a little childish, a little mischievous, and always showering his nieces and nephews with pure affection. His joy for life was infectious, and even the most staid onlookers were always drawn into his fervor. When he was in a room, it was never quiet -- he always had a joke or anecdote to tell, and he was always laughing (often at his own jokes and anedotes). I have never known anybody else who always had something interesting to say for any occasion. I last saw him at my wedding, three months ago. Even then, he was the life and soul of the party, and his joy at the occasion only amplified our own, and those of all our guests.

Sekar Mama was more than an uncle - he was a teacher, a counselor, a mentor, and a friend. From him more than anyone, I learned the importance of real critical thinking, keeping an open mind, and tolerance and acceptance of other viewpoints. He never subscribed to a philosophy or adhered to dogma - every opinion he had (and those who knew him know how many he had) was carefully reasoned and, more amazing still, he was one of those precious few for whom a persuasive argument could change his mind.

To everyone who knew him, he was a force for good - as adept at enlightening with his wisdom as he was at lightening the mood with a joke. He was taken from us too soon -- too many stories still untold, too many plans still unrealized. Today, the world is seems a bit dimmer without his smile in it, it sounds a bit duller without his laugh, but all of us who were touched by him were enriched by our time with him. I hope he has found his enlightenment, but I am going to miss my mama.
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For the record

Songs from Guitar Hero 1 which are not downloadable or going to be on Guitar Hero Smash Hits (and therefore cannot be played on my Xbox 360: "Cochise", "Crossroads", "Fat Lip", "Heart Full of Black", "Iron Man", "Sharp Dressed Man", "Spanish Castle Magic", "Symphony of Destruction", "Texas Flood", "Ziggy Stardust"

Biggest disappointment is lack of Crossroads - one of my favorite songs from the original.

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If you're thinking about going to grad school and care what I have to say about it, I've just updated for the first time in 2 years. More to come - I have lots of opinions.

ETA: Comment on the post, guys, not here. I know the layout is dumb - the comment link is on the left of the entry (or the field after the end).

Yay! It's not my birthday!

For anybody confused (as I was) by my user icon (which for a bit said "Yay it's my birthday everyday", it was a Livejounral caching problem which they fixed, apparently. (I thought it was some silly easter egg for my journal anniversary at first.

Now it's fixed.

(no subject)

Today, my Livejournal turns eight. I've had the opportunity to read through large swathes of it lately, and it's in some ways remarkable how much I've changed (or hope I have). In other cases, I've been surprised to find things out about me that I thought were new developments plainly evidenced in a posting from high school or early college.

I have been remiss in this, which is sad, because reading through those old posts shows me why I write here at all - there's a history it documents - one I can easily forget/retcon/reappropriate, and one which I should try to remember as it was, and it's so much more than writing a paper journal - there is a chronicle of my interactions and my relationships with all of you in that history, and it's something that I love and mourn - there are time when I was a real idiot, and times when you guys have been truly beautiful.

Anyway, this is my way of saying, happy birthday, herbie, we should keep in touch.

Postal Service (not the band)

So apparently. The USPS is looking for a bailout loan and is looking at cost cutting measures such as cutting Saturday deliveries. For some reason this bothered me, though I'm not sure why. However, I had an idea from the "go big or go home" school of thought, with a little Works Progress Administration thrown in.

The money the gubmint is throwing into bailouts is supposed to help the citizenry by preventing economic devastation. What about helping stave off economic devastation by providing a service to the people? Instead of cutting Saturday delivery, what about adding Sunday delivery? The USPS exists not to make money (though it's nice that they do), but because an imparial common carrier courier service is a common good, one that helps society at large even if it didn't profit any single entity. It's lost money and market share because private enterprises like UPS and FedEx provide a higher quality of service for similar prices. However, all three carriers charge exorbitant rates for Sunday delivery of any kind. By providing Sunday delivery as a standard service, USPS would a.) increase their competitiveness in the courier market, b.) create a whole slew of new jobs as unemployment continues to climb, c.) aid third-party businesses conduct their affairs more efficiently, d.) encourage consumers to buy things for delivery, knowing that they might get it sooner, or on a day when they'll actually be home to sign for it.

I understand it's a recession and that belt tightening is a good thing. In fact, as a nation, we need to do a fair amount of belt tightening, make our spending fall in line with our income, cut back on overindulgence and crass consumption (says the guy who spent ridiculous amounts this Christmas). However, a economic lean times are also a time of opportunity - a time when possibilities that were not available in the fat times open up, and though it's hard to find them, shrinking away from them is not going to help. The government's job is to provide the services which benefit society, the things the market does not solve, and which help the common good. This may just be one small way to help on many fronts without just pouring our money into a bucket.

Now clearly this isn't fleshed out, and is mostly a hair-brained late-night idea, which I may reflect upon in the morning and think is idiotic, but I think it might be worth at least looking into a cost/benefit. The increased overhead would be significant, and unless it encourages an increase in package sending overall, USPS' increased competitiveness would be at the expense of FedEx and UPS. However, there are few better cures for curing skyrocketing unemployment than creating new jobs (jobs, as the politicians like to say, that can't be offshored).