Friday, February 4, 2011

Superpowerist Presumption: “Secret Agent” Revisited

A while back I reported on the assumption by the Super-powers That Be that I possessed Identity Morph.  Phone calls for Dxxxx Cxxxx that I was intercepting revealed my failure to morph into whatever roles the last person who had my phone number possessed.  Mysterious Agencies calling for Dxxxx Cxxxx were unprepared for my interceptions.  I was unable to convince the agents of these cloaked enterprises that they had the wrong number. 

The latest Agency has advanced a new strategy: Identity Transference by Fiat.  This superpower may seem similar to Identity Morph, yet there are subtle, important differences.  The Identity Morph power is one in which a super-powered person has the capacity transform their Identity in some manner.  Note the presumption involved is that (1) a person is, in fact, super-powered, (2) has the capacity to effect his or her own identity transformation and (3) will make this transformation upon request by the proper Agency.   When it comes to Identity Transference by Fiat, the Agency itself, utilizing its own superpowers, effects the Identity change.  I discovered that this strategy was now in play when I listened to a message on my voicemail:

Hello, this is a message for Dxxxx Cxxxx.  If you are not Dxxxx Cxxxx please hang up the phone.  If you remain on the line this means that you are Dxxxx Cxxxx.  There will be a three second delay and if you remain on the line after this delay you have affirmed that you are Dxxxx Cxxxx.  [Three second delay occurs.] Since you have remained on the line you have affirmed you are Dxxxx Cxxxx. Dxxxx Cxxxx must call 1-866-XXX-XXX to speak with an agent.

At first I was baffled by this message, as my voicemail greeting indicates my name and that I am not at home.  On further reflection I realized that, quite clearly, this made no difference to the Agency.  Anyone picking up the phone, literally anyone staying on the line past the three second interval was to become at that instant Dxxxx Cxxxx.   It so happened that my voicemail would have to be, in the Agency’s reckoning, an acceptable representative of anyone.  Why, a small child picking up the phone, not understanding the content, and remaining on the line would become Dxxxx Cxxxx.  Likewise, a deaf or hard of hearing person would become Dxxxx Cxxxx.    Of course, any super-powered person could counter the Identity Transformation with their own Identity Morph powers or, not possessing this power, activate Force Field powers, or merely hang up the phone.  Anyone lacking their own Identity Morph powers, Force Field powers would be left helpless and now transformed into Dxxxx Cxxxx.  Such is the great injustice operating in our Superpowerist culture.

So, I am presently Dxxxx Cxxxx against my will with no way to change back to the superpowerless identity I have long embraced and cherished.  There is the temptation to speculate that this move on the part of the Agency was a conspiracy to silence my efforts to expose Superpowerism and its injustices.  If so, I am proud to report that my ability to resist and refuse remains as strong as ever—even strengthened by this new assault on my identity.    Whether Dxxxx Cxxxx or 729, I am happier than the tyrant.  And I have cancelled my phone number.   Gone mobile, VoIP and free.   Watch out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Aguirre: Wrath of Dog

 I am the wrath of dog.  Who else is with me?

There was a time when I liked dogs.  That time is past.  Maybe I should have known.  But how could I have known? It isn’t as though you buy a condo thinking that some of your neighbors will walk their dogs in the parking area.  Not their own parking area.  The other parking area where we are.  These neighbors don’t believe in picking up their dogs’ shit.  We posted one of those signs, “If your dog poops, please scoop.”  This gesture was meaningless.  By late autumn, after months and months of this, the shit added up.  Imagine a parking area that was for cars and dog shit—the dog shit vastly outnumbering the cars.

You might think that there was some sort of management that would take care of this.  Management taking care of this came in the form of an email to all the residents:


This email came in mid-summer.  The tide of dog shit rose unabated: a consequence.

The bravest of us tried to catch the offending dog owners in the act.  They pointed out the plain truth about the situation to the owners and requested that they walk their dogs elsewhere in the very least. Barely admitting to the problem, the dog owners reluctantly would move away from the parking area, dogs in tow.  Once caught, the dog owners began to time their dog walking when other residents had gone off to work.  It became more difficult to catch them.  When my schedule allowed me to leave at an odd time, I spied one of the owners and took out my camera-phone and started recording her.  I said nothing as I did this.  She turned away from the camera—in shame?  It was hard to tell.  I did the same thing a couple of days later and she ran off literally dragging her dog behind her.  Had I freaked her out? Not at all.  She, too, changed the time of her dog walking so I never came across her again.  Instead, I came across piles of dog shit by my driver side door.  I recognized the dog shit, too.  Message received.

We had considered the option of cleaning up after the dogs ourselves; a disgraceful option considered only on account of necessity.  Such reflection lasted but a moment.  This wasn't merely because these dogs weren't 
our dogs, but on account of another equally hideous situation into which we’d locked ourselves.  The recycling.  Some neighbors, we had no idea if they were the ones with the dogs, refused to recycle--even after a notice indicating that recycling was now the law.  Improperly bagged garbage and unseparated recycling would result in the suspension of a residence’s garbage collection.  I suppose the anti-recyclers didn’t believe this could happen.  It sure enough did. Someone had to go through all the backed-up garbage and messed up recycling and fix it so that our building pick-up would resume.  This responsibility fell upon us.  No one else volunteered.  After the massive cleanup of the garbage and recycling another email from management was sent:


The onus of the fee fell on everyone equally, despite the fact that it was only certain residents that weren't recycling. The fee amounted to only a few dollars for everyone, but it seemed to inspire something close to a change in behavior.  Things that had to be recycled were now placed 
near the recycling bins.  Boxes of all kinds and sizes were not broken down, as required, but placed as is in this area. Often other garbage was placed inside them.  Sometimes this was in bags. Sometimes whole, unbroken-down boxes were placed inside the paper recycling bin.  This would result in the garbage collectors leaving this bin full.  The town meant business. We got another email:


This threat of a new fine didn’t work as well as we hoped.  Some residents kept putting the whole boxes beside the bins and inside the bins.  It was too difficult for them.  We gave up.  Each time one of us went to the recycling area we’d break down one or two of the boxes.  Throw out the trash, break down some extra boxes.  This became part of our lives.

One time I discovered an entire set of Crate and Barrel boxes nested together, inviolate, like a set of Russian Dolls.  The name and apartment number of the person who received the Crate and Barrel delivery was right there on the box.  I broke down the boxes, but took one of the smaller sized boxes and wrote on a space near the label:

Hi, Could you please break down your boxes and not just leave them in the recycling area?  They won’t be collected otherwise. : )  [Yes, I put a smiley face. Those were better, different times.]

I placed the box at the door of the person’s apartment.  The smiley face did no good.  The next day I noticed a whole new set of Crate and Barrel boxes.  This time the person made the effort of tearing off the identifying label.   It was back to the old drill of breaking down the boxes like a custodial staff.

We realized that cleaning up after the dogs would be a similar exercise in futility.  We would always have to do it, if we started doing it.  We chose to live with the dog shit.  At least for a while.  
The first snowfall came, covering the massive amount of dog shit beneath pure white drifts.  This lasted not even a day. The dog shit accumulated immediately, highlighted in its surroundings, announcing itself remorselessly.  
What was it in an exact split second that ignited my rage?  Was it the image in my mind of the new dog shit lying atop the old dog shit, an archaeological vision of canine waste that would melt away in the spring into a gigantic dog shit stew?  Was it my horror at the recognition that there would be no stopping this constant stream of dog shit in my life? Did I flail against the fact that I actually lived with such people in my vicinity and that there was no help for humankind?  That it was such people, in all their banal laziness, that sealed our doom?

I did not believe I could reason or effect the human owners involved.  That was impossible.  The only possible target for my rage was the dogs.  It was not their fault.  This I knew.  This I understood.  At the same time, I became obsessed. What would cause the dogs simply to stop shitting in the parking area?  I knew there must be an answer to this question.  I turned to the internet.

There are many products claiming to repel dogs from areas.  They are expensive.  It is also unclear how well they work. On the net I found advice, vinegar, ammonia, anything citrus.  These DIY options were considerably cheaper than the commercially available dog repellents one could buy at pet stores.  According to the internet, the active ingredient in the commercial dog repellents was citrus scent.  A quick trip to the local supermarket had me flush with an array of supplies. Two gallon jugs of cheap vinegar.  Ammonia and bleach, no name brands. Environmentally friendly citrus cleaner.  Lemon juice.  I was ready. 

Day 1: Vinegar.  The parking area smells like a salad.  A giant salad.  It’s the middle of the afternoon. The coast was clear, and the vinegar application went perfectly.  There’s no way to see the vinegar.  It’s blended into the snow drifts.  I poured it on the dog shit.  Take that you fuckers.  Poop somewhere else.  There’s a new scent in town.

Day 2: Holding.   No new dog shit. Must reapply Vinegar.  Two gallons just covers the area.  I am cautiously elated.

Email in the evening from neighbor: 
“I can smell the vinegar, but it’s not working.  There’s a load near my car door.”
I respond: 
“Thanks for letting me know.  I will redouble my efforts.  Switch method."
Day 3: Ammonia.  I worry at first as I drizzle it into the snow and over the dog shit.  This is bad, bad for the environment, bad for the dogs.  
Fuck them.
Day 4: Holding.  Snow predicted for later.  I will have to get out early and reapply.

Day 5: Freshly fallen snow.  Fresh dog shit. I think it’s in a spot that I neglected to reapply the ammonia.  How could it be there?  How?  I must chart my course more carefully from now on.  Cross-hatch.  More ammonia.  Careful.  Clean.

Day 6: Holding.  Cold.  Very cold.

Day 7: Frozen dog-shit.  Where did it come from?  I go for the citrus.  I thought nothing could beat the ammonia.  That’s what the internet said.  But the citrus, why didn’t I just go for the citrus from the start?  The active ingredient. Surely no dog can withstand the citrus.

Day 8: Dogs withstand the citrus.  What kind of dogs are these?  Are they even really dogs?  Petco has dog repellent, $17 a box.  I’ll need three of them.  At least three. The manufacturer promises satisfaction.  Any price, satisfaction.

Day 9: I can’t get no…

Something is not right.

Everything is wrong.

The world is wrong.

I am wrongness, feel my impotence.

Day 10: Vigil: I must get to the bottom of this.  Brew coffee.  Up at 4:30 AM.  I perch in the hallway by a window.  Video camera ready.  I will wait.

6:00 AM: See woman with dogs coming from around the other side of the building.  Jackpot.  Three dogs.  Woman.  As she approaches, I see that she has a pooper scooper.  Bag full of dog shit.

I am recording.

On the view-finder screen I watch her walk through the parked cars in our parking area.  She dumps the dog shit here and there, emptying the bag.

I am recording still while she walks away, the dogs yapping all around her.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eastern APA Boston Job Candidate Hair Styling

Cancelled due to blizzard.

In keeping with tradition, this year's job candidate on-site hair salon (make-up, women's suit loaners also) will proceed.

Every year candidates ask about how to dress for an interview.  Dressing professionally is a good idea, although I recommend attention to hair.  The reason is simple.  Interviewers will be staring at your head.  A good haircut and style will go far.  But what about on-site improvements?   I do not cut hair.  However, if candidates--of any gender--would like to have help styling their hair (blow-drying, straightening, curling, hair products), please email me. (See profile.)

I also have small size (size 4ish) women's two piece suits that I can loan.  They are stylish, professional and *lucky*.

I'll need advance notice in order to know what days/times we can meet up.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Superpowerist Presumption: “Secret Agent” Edition

Among all Super-Powers, the power of Identity-Morph is among the most rare and powerful powers. Clark Kent transforms into Superman, five teenagers transform into the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and so on. In a world of Super-powered people, these legendary Super-Powered fighting forces have attained a status beyond the typical super-powered person. Something of some kind must activate the Identity-Morph, a coin, a phone call, a beacon in the night sky. Their Identities must remain secret at all costs, so the bonds of a Super-Powered fighting force are, themselves, powerful, as is the mechanism that sets up activation. A Super-Powerless person is utterly helpless against such secret bonds and mechanisms.

It seems that I currently posses the former phone number of one of the great Identity-Morphs, a certain D.C., from whom I inherited my phone number when I moved to my current address several years ago. Within an hour after my telephone (landline) service was connected, I received an automated phone call:

“This is a call for Dxxxx Cxxxx. Please call *loud static* at *loud static* or remain on the line *more loud static*.”

The call was intended for D.C., so I did not remain on the line. Every day after that I received the same automated call. Sometimes at 8:00 AM on the weekends. Ordinary people also called for DC and I was able to tell them that DC no longer had this phone number. These people would apologize for bothering me and did not call back. Only the automated call persisted. The periods of static on the tape seemed intentional. Whoever was behind the automated phone call wished to mask their identity in secrecy and render it impossible to contact him, her or “it.” I would have to remain on the line to uncover the mystery.

So I did.

The static of the automated phone call recording gave way after a while to some clicks that indicated the call was going through some system to an operator of some sort. A woman with a nasal voice, comically close to being the voice of an old-time phone operator began speaking to me:

“Dxxxx Cxxxx, thank you for contacting us,” she said.

“Um, I’m not Dxxxx Cxxxx,” I replied.

“This is XXX-XXX-XXXX,” the operator said.”

“Yes, it is. But I’m not Dxxxx Cxxxx,” I said.

“Please, put Dxxxx Cxxxx on the phone then,” the operator said. She seemed annoyed.

“Dxxxx Cxxxx does not live here. You have the wrong phone number for Dxxxx Cxxxx.”

“If this is XXX-XXX-XXXX, that is Dxxxx Cxxxx’s phone number.”

“Um, no it isn’t. Not anymore. I just moved to XXXXX and received this phone number.”

“If this is XXX-XXX-XXXX, it is Dxxxx Cxxxx’s phone number,” the operator repeated. Clearly, something was wrong. Basic, sound explanation seemed meaningless to her, but I persisted.

“Um, you’re not understanding me. I just received this new phone number one week ago. I am not Dxxxx Cxxxx, but a new resident, and I have a different address than the person you are looking for [I knew this from talking with the ordinary people looking for D.C.]. You have the wrong number now.”

“If you have answered the phone, we have the correct phone number,” the operator informed me.

“Did you hear what you just said?” I asked. At this point I was pushed beyond perplexity. My patience was at its end.

“If YOU have answered the phone,” the operator repeated, “we have the correct phone number.”

“YOU DO NOT HAVE THE CORRECT PHONE NUMBER FOR Dxxxx Cxxxx! I AM NOT Dxxxx Cxxxx. No one here is Dxxxx Cxxxx!”

“We will call you back when you CALM DOWN, MA’MAM.”

The operator hung up.

Indeed, the automated calls continued. As the year progressed new automated messages came and went. They were from agencies with strange names like, “IntraTell Corp.” and “AdvanceIT.” Whenever I saw the name of some bizarre company on my caller ID, I knew it was another agency seeking Dxxxx Cxxxx. This person was important, and, crucially, the phone number associated with Dxxxx Cxxxx was just as important. There was no way to disassociate the two. They were linked at a profound level. I realized that this link was so profound that it could only be explained by Super-Power Morph activation. The phone number I had received was the result of a mistake--a mistake attributable to Super-Powerist Presumption. Whoever Dxxxx Cxxxx was as an “ordinary person,” Dxxxx Cxxxx must also have possessed the power of Morph. The mechanism of the automated phone call was clearly a means to activate the Morph power. Anyone possessing the phone number was also expected to possess the Morph power associated with the number. Being Super-Powerless to begin with, I was failing the system massively. I had answered the phone.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ada Lovelace Day: Celebrating Ruth Barcan Marcus

Ruth Barcan Marcus

Ruth Barcan Marcus is a philosopher and logician and pioneering figure in the quantification of modal logic and the theory of direct reference. The Barcan Formula is named after her.


PhD 1946, Yale University

BA 1941, NYU

Academic Appointments

Prior to 1973: Chair of University of Illinois–Chi

cago Philosophy Department, then Professor at Northwestern University.

Since 1973: Halleck Professor at Yale, 1992, and then Senior Research Scholar at Yale and Visiting Distinguished Professor (One term per year) at UC, Irvine

The Barcan Formula is an axiom by Ruth Barcan Marcus, in the first extensions of modal propositional logic to include quantification.

The Barcan Formula is:

The statement reads: If everything is necessarily F, then it is necessary that everything is F. The Barcan formula has generated some controversy because it implies that all objects which exist in every possible world (accessible to the actual world) exist in the actual world. In other words, the domain of any accessible possible world is a subset of the domain of the actual world.

The Converse Barcan Formula is:

If a frame is based on a symmetric accessibility relation, then the Barcan formula will be valid in the frame if, and only if, the converse Barcan formula is valid in the frame.

Personal note: I will never forget the first time I read about Ruth Barcan Marcus' work. It was while I was in graduate school, and was reading an essay by W.V.O. Quine in which he was arguing against modal logic. Quine referred to her as "Miss Barcan" while all the other (male) philosophers were referred to by last names. He had nothing good to say about her views, which seemed to me of a piece with his philosophical program and unsurprising, yet I was bothered. The etiquette seemed completely wrong. Even if, charitably, Ruth Barcan had not yet earned her doctorate, which would explain the reference to her as "Miss," she had nevertheless published work substantial enough that he thought it worth attack in print. Why not just "Barcan"? What did indicating Barcan's unmarried status have to do with intensional logic?

Later on, when I became aware of the controversy surrounding Barcan's work possibly being plagiarized or borrowed from by Kripke, (a controversy described in this article by Jim Holt), it struck me that whatever the reality of the situation, there was a simple fact of the matter at hand. Looking around in the classrooms where I studied philosophy of mind, epistemology, metaphysics and logic, women were scarce. Still. It was not true that women were not capable of the rigors of logic. Pioneers like Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper (developer of COBOL and pioneer of programming languages) and Ruth Barcan Marcus have been there all along. Under the radar--but why? Under-appreciated? Not any more, not on my watch.