Last night, I spilled tea on my laptop, and the keyboard stopped working, and rebooting caused it to die before the BIOS. I was relieved this morning that removing the battery and letting it dry while upside down in the right way restored it. I imagine most people with laptops have had nervous nights that are substantially similar...
Recently, I've been really impressed at how cool cellphones are - I overheard a conversation in Baker Hall where someone was asking where the person he was speaking to was, and he was surprised to find that they were halfway across the country (presumably, they were someone local). The phone network in general seems alien, cool, and impressive - taking it the last step where someone is walking in an open space in one city while talking to someone who could be almost anywhere on the planet (I exaggerate slightly) is pretty neat. It's like an abstraction layer for conversation.. Another thing that strikes me as pretty cool is the Hangul writing system. I learned a bit more of how its sound clustering works, and how that clustering maps into their graphemes (only superficially related to yesterday's entry), and I think it's interesting how what's a "compound character" in most Chinese characters (pronunciation on one side, meaning cues on the other) differs from compound characters in Hangul (where different "letters" within a sound cluster come together like foods on a plate to form a single Unicode character). I also think it's neat that when foreign words are represented in Hangul, they can represent words that don't fit the Korean language clusters (consonant-vowel-optional consonant cluster) by not doing that visual clustering, an option that the Japanese Kana system doesn't have because its letters are at the level of sound clusters already.
- In Turkey, the issue regarding presidential elections have been resolved -- the politician with ties to political Islam was prevented from running by over a third of the MP's not showing up to the vote (rendering there to be insufficient quorum for the election). This is an interesting form of "veto"
- Also tied to political Islam (of a rather different sort), this...
- Some coverage of the recent GOP pre-primary debate. I find the evolution "issue" to be worrying (similarly with abortion)
- According to internal surveys, abuse of Iraqis by US troops is widespread, and disapproval of such abuse is not ubitquous. This is outrageous but .. not really that surprising.
- Some Azeri journalists made the news last November by having a fatwa for their death issued by Grand Ayatollah Lankarani (of Iran). They were recently sentenced to several years in prison, while in the courtroom fighting broke out as some people attempted to execute the obligations of the fatwa. I'm amused that Al Jazeera got a bit snarky in its coverage of the event -- "Soon after the article appeared, an Iranian cleric - angered by its depiction of Islam as a violent religion - offered his house to anyone who killed the journalists, Reuters reported on Friday." I've never been certain if/what kind of liabilities should accrue for such statements/guidance/decrees. In western societies, it's generally accepted that the state is organised under a manifesto to have a monopoly on the use of physical force within its borders, in order to ensure consistent (and in some societies, publically agreed-upon) societal rules on its use. This idea is significantly more complicated in societies where religious leaders have a tradition of managing society (e.g. a Sharia court, or possibly a Bet Din in other times) - when the secular system (wherever its direction comes from) conflicts with some established set(s) of moral beliefs, interesting things happen. It would be a mistake to conclude that the state "should" always win such contests - such "shoulds" are value-laden, and sometimes philosophers and religious organisations have opposed states that, depending on our values (but including mine), were monstrous. I admire some secular dictators because I think they advance the cause of civilisation, especially (but not exclusively) when I think the people would either not create a coherent state or when their values are opposed enough to mine. Given the choice between an Islamic democracy and a secular dictator who would push enlightenment values, barring exceptional specifics, I usually would prefer the latter. I understand how others might feel more on the fence on the matter, and even how fellow liberals who care more about the means than the end result would stand on the other side from me on this matter. Looking at how the clerics and their supporters see it, it makes a lot of sense why they're doing what they're doing as well, which means that the prospects for peace are poor.
My next entry will probably be a fairly large one - I may have mentioned that I was interested in the (really poorly-written and of questionable encyclopedic merit but darned interesting and suitable for my task here) Wikipedia articles on Etiquette in various areas of the world. I'll probably drill through the interesting bits of each and summarise my thoughts/usage. If anyone else is similarly interested (it adapts well to almost being a quiz, and thus has lj-theme-parsimony) and wants to beat me to it, feel free.