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A group distraction, presented by nige.


The first instalment of Interview52 is now complete! It started on Friday 18th July 2008 and finished on 13th September 2009. A little later than expected, but we got there.


52 mobloggers from around the world...

Some familiar, some not...

Each will publish a unique self-portrait, accompanied by a short interview.

Candid portrait meets candid interview.

The Rules

Every Friday the next interviewee in line will publish a new portrait and interview, consisting of their answers to the ten questions they have been given.

After they have published, the interviewee will then become the interviewer. They will be responsible for finding the next participant, as well as compiling the questions that this next person in line will answer. Interviewers can change as many or as few questions as they like, but they should change at least one before passing them on to the next lucky punter.

Thats it! Simple. More detailed instructions will be given to each interviewee as and when they are approached, so fear not.

The interviewees so far









Jig along



Laszlo Q. V. St-J. Xalieri








Jane Doe



Spiderbaby / Freakdog




George w/Blue Eyes






















Strange Little Girl




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Hand-Eye-Semiote Coordination

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1. Where does this find you? Tell us the story of how you got there.

I'm a 40-year-old writer, technological infrastructure expert and business consultant who lives in the pound of real estate closest to Atlanta's heart, in USA's Georgia. After a childhood in a small town (not counting two years spent on a US army base in Japan) and then a stint out in the woods, I escaped to the nearest city of two million people and stuck there. Now it's up to five million....

Back in the late '80s I attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, apparently in pursuit of an education instead of a degree. After five years the scholarships ran out and I found myself in the computer industry by default (I'd been studying chemistry and psychology. What the hell happened?)

Somewhere before the turn of the century, I remembered how much I enjoyed writing in school. I started a journal, took a dare to write a poem a day for a month, took another dare to write a short novel in a month. The novel was published--like, on paper and everything, and not by myself or a close friend--along with some nonfiction and a handful of short stories. Now I write whenever I can, and I'm a partner in a couple of intriguing projects, including a two-man publishing house. For money, however, I've worked for small print shops, software developers, multinational corporations, universities, and, lately, as a business manager and consultant for operations partially owned by a small investment bank.

Also, I'm coming up on my third wedding anniversary in March. She brought three kids to the family, but I've none of my own. It's a sadness, but one I can live with.

2. How do you use? Moblog? Tell us about your moblog history and habits.

For all that I'm undeniably a wordy bastard, I think in pictures, in shapes, in textures, in sounds, and in feelings. If I didn't talk to people every couple of days, if I were to go a week or two without reading, I'd probably forget words altogether and never miss them. A quick snapshot or two, either from my phone or a low-end automatic digital camera, properly framed, is worth a couple of pages of notes. Also, I write very slowly. (Typing is another thing entirely, but people snicker when you get out the folding keyboard that feeds my phone in public. Guess how I'm writing this now.)

When TextAmerica revealed that they thought they owned every shot I posted to their site, I quickly switched over to Moblog. The previous version of Moblog revealed your user number in your URLs in the address bar of your browser. I'm #306, so I've been with the site for a while.

I really like the social aspect of the site, where you find people who interest you or whose (quite literal) perspectives are fascinating and follow them through the situations they feel need documenting. I wish I had more time to spend in touch, to comment on what moves me or makes me smile. The little time I can pry free from work's grasp isn't enough.

3. Do you remember learning how to swim or ride a bike? Tell us about a childhood experience learning a new physical skill.

I just learned to swim just a few years ago. Learning to drive a car with a manual transmission happened last year. For as much of my childhood as I spent on a bike, I must have learned how to ride fairly early. Odds are one of the several (seven? eight?) concussions my bike conspired to give me knocked the relevant memories out of my head. Much of my bicycle-riding predates helmet laws.

I do remember when I was maybe six (this was in Japan), after the training wheels had been taken off, riding along a sidewalk next to a chainlink fence, trying to hold onto the fencing while I rolled along in order to not fall over, gradually discovering that the faster I went, the more like a cheese grater the fencing behaved.

I was never much of an athlete as far as competitive sports were concerned, but I enjoyed going fast. Being small for my age and getting picked on a lot made me a phenomenal sprinter, and if you didn't have a motor, you weren't catching me on my bike.

4. Which of your five senses is most acute or the least acute? How does this affect you?

Sometimes it bothers me how we try to distill the dozens, maybe hundreds, of senses we have into five, and trust me when I say I'm not resorting to the supernatural. We directly sense with our skin, in addition to touch/skin contact, changes in temperature. We have embedded organs in our skulls that detect changes in accelerating forces. As a side-effect of cranial construction, we can detect subtle changes in air pressure completely unrelated to sound. Specialized areas in our brains process information we receive into whole second-order senses in the same way that vision is a collective of red-green/blue-yellow/light-dark senses mapped to a pair of correllated two-dimensional arrays. Perceptions of quantity and quality and threat require a good deal less cranial hardware and processing, yet hardly rate a mention And empathy seems so much like magic, but modern science has isolated genes that cripple and enhance it.

As a student of humanity, I feel my most important senses are empathy, a quite physical, quite mechanical and visceral sense of humor, and a very related sense of consistency--a feeling of whether known facts and experiences and derived conclusions agree or disagree. No matter how the rest of my senses deteriorate with age, I won't consider myself ready to die until these senses fall silent.

5. What was your childhood obsession? What happened to it?

We've discussed the bicycle. After more than twenty years without riding one, I rode one a few weeks ago for ten miles. It's amazing how much I feel I've been missing by living someplace where cycling is downright dangerous.

I also used to build more with my hands. I used to draw and paint. I used to sing, too. But stringing words together has become, unexpectedly, far more powerful to me, like a flyspeck's weight on the end of an infinitely long lever. The feeling of traction I get from writing, the sense of gears meshing, is much more rewarding than in any other form of expression I used to employ.

I do miss the bike, though. And I miss building toys I could hold in my hands and make go vroom.

6. What little known fact about yourself would reveal something about your character that you think is important?

As a child I was intrigued that just about every culture had a tradition of practical magic, either medicine or sorcery or witchcraft or prayer for supernatural intercession or similar. I read voraciously about them all--everything I could find that had been translated into English, in any case. I was looking for commonalities. I was looking for a general truth I could distill into a way to have a larger impact on my own circumstances, a way to exert more control over my own life. I discovered the true life-changing sorcery was science.

My interest in science and its practical applications in terms of communication and psychology and technology are a direct outgrowth of that childhood need to establish my own territory, to expand it, and to defend it. Quite a lot of what makes me tick can be extrapolated from that fact.

7. What is your favourite form of fiction, and why? What is your favourite form on non-fiction?

I'm a fan of the speculative arts. I troll the bookstore ghettoes, reading blurbs and back covers, looking for clever twists on the world outside the window. I like peeping through the keyholes of the universe next door to see if there's anything in there worth stealing. I follow the works of favorite (historical and present, mainstream and marginalized) authors who have learned the trick of lending me their glasses. For reasons you can possibly deduce from what I've already said here, I like comics and graphic novels and movies that render these works more readily visible.

Unsurprisingly, I look for exactly the same stuff from my nonfiction. Cutting-edge science is, in every way, just as much fiction as anything else I love to read, possibly true this week, probably false next week, but perpetually valuable in terms of insight and process and perspective. I love how there's an underlying math that governs all the sciences, from cosmology to particle physics to sociology to economics to ecology to politics, and once you grasp that math you can understand all of it.

I feel like maybe I'm less than a tenth of the way there, but there's nothing like the feeling you can actually get there eventually, if you live long enough.

Consider the answer to this question to cover both reading and writing.

8. Where have you already travelled, and where would you like to go next?

I mentioned spending two years of early childhood in Japan. The sense of perspective that left me, that foreigner's grasp of what the locals think of as normal, did a significant amount of (eventually quite positive) damage to my development. I've always wanted more, but the opportunities to travel have been rare. My savings and investments, not that I ever had much, were all wiped out by, well, recent events of global significance.

I've been a large number of places I could get to by driving. That's good for numerous lessons in subtle, subtle differences. A three-week trip to the Big Island of Hawai'i was priceless. Islands fascinate me. The pressures Darwin noted governing speciation apply to cultures as well as finches. We won't have much longer to study that, given the speed of development of cheap global communication and travel.

I really want to spend a month with every culture on Earth before I get old enough to feel the hardships. When I'm done with that, I want to live and teach on the moon for a while. (That ought to be about right for the prospective timeline.) Then I want to retire to a tropical island.

9. What (or who) would you most like to photograph?

I think of the pictures I take as puzzle pieces. Individually they may or may not have their own merits, but aggregately they are little pins pegged into a huge map, conveying little clues toward the big picture--sometimes with their flaws as much as with their little successes.

I want to take little pictures of the rest of the big picture. I want to take pictures of things from angles that most people would miss. I want to take pictures of people while they're completely unaware and blithely unselfconscious and contrast those shots with ones where they know you're there and have a camera. Those contrasts reveal the most critical parts of people.

10. If you were a God and had a chance to issue as many as ten commandments to humanity, what would they be?

I don't think I'd have to go for as many as ten.

People aren't wallets. People aren't votes. People aren't toys or tools. People aren't livestock. People aren't game to hunt and kill and eat--or stuff and mount on the wall. People aren't mines to hollow out bucketfull by bucketfull or fields to plow and till and tend and harvest. People aren't forests to cut down and burn. People aren't fish to net. Every last person who has ever lived or will ever live is worth just as much as you. If you feel you're never going to grasp this fact, I ask you on behalf of everyone, as kindly as possible, to please leave.

For your own good, I recommend you review your definition of person to make sure it is sufficiently broad.

Also, speaking as your hypothetical God, I have to admit I never finished the place. If there's something you think needs fiixing, feel free to do it yourself. I left all the necessary tools around here someplace.


Posted by Laszlo Q. V. St-J. Xalieri

24th Oct 2008, 05:02   | tags:


KeithD (Carpe) says:

Really really enjoyed reading this.
You have described yourself as I imagined you which is an incredibly interesting person.
Would really enjoy debating point 10 with you if you ever make it over to Blighty before your moon trip :)

24th Oct 2008, 07:31

Viv says:

Oh as Carpe says this really expands on what we already know. One very active creative mind!
Excellent read thanks - love that last sentence.

24th Oct 2008, 10:37

factotum says:

An excellent read indeed! Lots to think about in your answers...

(Did you write your novel in a month as part of NaNoMo? You're not doing it again this year, are you?)

24th Oct 2008, 12:54

Alfie says:

REally great one this. Your writing is very submerging. Last question sums all that up for me.

24th Oct 2008, 13:08

I was kinda hoping to visit folks in Europe before leaving Earth for a decade or two, at least until the commute is cheaper. And I'd be happy to debate my answer to question 10 with just about anybody, preferably over a pint, before I consider it set in stone. I think I'm on the right track, but it doesn't have the ring of scripture to it yet.

That last paragraph echoes the aims of at least one major religion and several of the more respectable Illumunati-style secret societies. Some people think it's a bit insulting to God, but I think of it this way: What Mom ignores the kids in the kitchen who are saying they want to help cook or clean? If you don't keep 'em busy, they just get into trouble.

If I've managed to convey the better part of this with merely a few thousand snapshots and a similar number of wiseass comments throughout the site, I'm doing better than I thought. There are about as many words here as little dots in the picture of the eye above. Each word -- or dot -- taken on its own is a bit redundant, but the revealed picture is unmistakable. That's kind of what I was going for.

The novel was indeed a (2002) NaNoWriMo project, but the dare was to take it seriously. I still owe my publisher a revised edition, and this time we're supposed to get Amazon involved....

I attempted NaNoWriMo again in 2003, but the subject matter demanded much more research, and the bulk of that research was to be in early Islamic cultures. The current (expiring) administration's policy of spying on its own citizens and incarcerating people for years without charges or due process kinda put that project on indefinite hold. I'm probably still looking at a fatwa from some rural ayatollah somewhere when I finish it, but somehow that seems like less of a betrayal.

For each of the previous NaNoWriMo attempts I was between jobs. As slowly as I write, I'll either need to be jobless again or funded by a generous grant or two in order to pull off any more bulky projects.

I also have long-term goal of founding a collaborative/co-op literary journal and associated "social networking" site (in quotes because the real goal is real project collaboration, not just making and maintaining relationships). I need serious capital or an industrial-strength line of credit to get it moving, but the economic environment is a little unfriendly for that right now....

Thanks, all, for your interest, validation, and encouragement. Some days it's pretty hard to feel like I'm getting any traction. You guys give me a good deal of hope. :)


24th Oct 2008, 14:00

thank you for this
I have something to add, though

For me you are one of the hidden gems of moblog. Someone of intellect, empathy and a kind of passionate objectivity. Someone I am proud to count as a friend.

Although it couldn't result in my valuing you more and will certainly not lower the respect and regard with which I hold you now, I look forward to meeting you in the flesh one day and feel bad that I've recently had so little time for you

24th Oct 2008, 18:38

queserasara says:

Wow - what I love about moblog is that you learn something new about the world, yourself or even the way other mobloggers view things every day. As my hypothetical God (even for the week) - thanks for the tools - now stand back!!

24th Oct 2008, 20:51

Wow indeed, Dhamaka. I'm really touched. You know the feelings are mutual, though your "gemness" is hardly hidden. And I do hope to make it across the ocean soon. To be goofy for a moment, though, I can't help thinking that the inherent contradiction in the phrase "passionate objectivity" means I'm probably due for the existential equivalent of a hernia...

Queserasara: Go get your t-shirt first:

People need warning so they can give you some room. :)


24th Oct 2008, 21:07


24th Oct 2008, 21:08

SLG says:

I have really enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing :-)

24th Oct 2008, 21:46

I'm glad this interview is being received so well. Thank you, SLG, for having the patience to slog through it. :)

For my next trick maybe I'll translate portions into my native Southern....


24th Oct 2008, 22:59

queserasara says:

T - Shirt ordered - now every one ready???? :-)

25th Oct 2008, 09:26

Plastic apron - check. Lab goggles - check. Ventilation hood - check. Place to hide under sturdy desk - check.

Go nuts!


25th Oct 2008, 17:23

nige says:

Such a great interview. I've had to read it through several times before I could even comment. Really enjoyed your answers to questions 4 & 9 in particular, and the title really makes me grin.

Really glad you took the time to include the detail as well as you have. Makes for a great read!

On another note, Facto, I think these questions are superb.

26th Oct 2008, 16:28

shitake says:

Very,very interesting interview!Of course because you are very interesting person.:)

26th Oct 2008, 17:42

MaggieD says:

I have just skim read this, I am going to come back to it and give it the attention it deserves over the next day or so (I am on half term holiday this week) ....

26th Oct 2008, 17:50

Factotum did come up with some awesome questions. I'm not above joking my way out of a tight spot, but these questions really were cherry-picked to make me stretch to hit them rather than duck them. Factotum's a helluva pitcher.

The senses issue really is a big deal to me. I could write books just on that--not that I have any credentials that would give me any credibility in that particular nonfiction market. But those senses, when functioning at their fullest, are what allow us to build our internalized Big Picture models, the accuracy of which directly influence our success and survival nearly as much as ... well, blind luck. But any edge is an edge, right?

You can see I didn't completely get it out of my system.

Thanks again, everyone, for thinking this was interesting enough to be worth your attention. It''l be a few years before I'm noteworthy to enough to be invited to give a TED talk, so, until then, this is probably my only outlet. :)

MaggieD: I can give you a test afterwards if you think you can convince your academic advisor this is worth course credit. ;)


26th Oct 2008, 18:10

MaggieD says:

Hahaha! ..... well thank you for the offer, but my student days are long gone .... I am on the other side of 50 and the other side of the dais :)

26th Oct 2008, 19:04

Oh, come on... one of the biggest incentives for a position in academia is the employee discount on tuition, right? And odds are I'll be long past 50 by the time I finish my own education, at this rate....

Oh, nevermind. There's no digging your way out from under a bad assumption. I owe you a few hours helping grade papers next time I'm in the neighborhood.


26th Oct 2008, 19:49

MaggieD says:

Hey, learning has no limits, it's a lifelong adventure, so no worries there .... and as to be mistaken for an undergraduate/high school student, well, you have given my children such a belly laugh and me such a moral boost that you are forgiven all ...

26th Oct 2008, 20:05

I'm certain I was picturing something closer to graduate student. And how many students are there per teacher/professor? Surely the odds were on my side. :) By the law of averages, every teacher is better than 95% student and every student is a few percent teacher...


26th Oct 2008, 20:38

factotum says:

It's great to be asking the questions! Most of the new ones were prompted by ideas that I wasn't able to explain or work into my own answers. For example, I mentioned in passing that I realize that kinaesthesia and that physical, spatial experience of things are very important to me.That's why I asked question #4 about the senses. I'm not sure that I could have answered it , and now I'm still thinking about it myself.

26th Oct 2008, 23:38

Those are great, undervalued senses. It's kind of important to know what space you're occupying even when your eyes are closed. And then there's the sense of self, something people who meditate in certain ways seek to turn off or temporarily numb (the way your vision goes gray when you stare unblinking at the same thing for a really long time). And then there's the sense of someone else being in the room which we get for free when someone is in the room with us, but that can be triggered with a magnetic field delivered in the right way to the right place, both of which have strange religious connotations.

And then there are people like my wife, who are synaesthetic, having crosstalk between a couple of their senses, and typically don't know how odd that is until they finally compare notes with someone....


27th Oct 2008, 02:41

Anonymous says:

I was going to ask if anyone in the Moblog community was synaesthetic! My twin is colour-blind, so I grew up with a constant reminder that people literally see the world quite differently.

27th Oct 2008, 11:49

factotum says:

Sorry, that was me.

27th Oct 2008, 12:15

My wife gets a colored light-show with touches and textures. She can't abide the touch of neoprene and some microfiber fleece-type-stuff. Her oldest daughter has similar problems with deep pile velvet, though I believe she actually hears textures instead of seeing them.

I'm kinda jealous. If I have any crosstalk going on in my circuitry, it's on those more esoteric and harder to define senses. Less spectacular.


27th Oct 2008, 20:55

nige says:

Who was last Fridays "No-show" then? Come on, 'fess up!

5th Nov 2008, 12:05

taniwha says:

Laszlo - I've come to this very late but I enjoyed getting to know you better. Very thought provoking too - like your description of the multiplicity of senses most of all.

5th Nov 2008, 13:01

taniwha says:

Hey Nige - is there a schedule of who is to participate? I don't think I ever got one.

5th Nov 2008, 13:02

nige says:

All the instructions are on the sidebar, t. Laszlo chose the next interviewee, and they in turn will choose the next etc. We changed the set-up because it was too much work for me to find the interviewees and change the questions every week. It works well - this is the first hiccup.

5th Nov 2008, 13:15

taniwha says:

Doh! Didn't read that. Now I get it.

5th Nov 2008, 13:16

I've been in touch with the next victim; next interview will be along shortly. Meanwhile I'll enjoy my extended publicity.

And also I'll drop a link to a place where you can induce a limited kind of synaesthesia in yourself in a kind of disturbing fashion.


5th Nov 2008, 17:46

Viv says:

think you need a cattle prod to give that next victim a nudge!

7th Nov 2008, 17:16

Spiderbaby says:

A bit late to this, but thanks for a really good read, and all the comments too. Got me thinking :) (that can take quite a lot sometimes)

7th Nov 2008, 21:53

(Consider him prodded. Since he's posted already. :) )

Thanks, Spiderbaby. For me, making people think is a really close second to making them wonder. :)


9th Nov 2008, 21:19

Spiderbaby says:

Oh, don't worry, you make me do that too :)

9th Nov 2008, 23:45

factotum says:

I tried the induced synaesthesia experiment with a minimal effect. I guess I'm the true introvert, but I'll try again in the morning.

10th Nov 2008, 02:47

It worked just a little smidge for me, but I saw the effects two days running....


17th Nov 2008, 19:28

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