January 7th, 2002


The importance of gift

I'm preparing to begin a regular schedule of donations to worthy causes. Currently, I'm planning on $200/month, $100 to the FSF and $100 to a collection of other worthy causes. I don't know if this will end up being unmanagably high -- I'll need to see. Why should one donate to causes? If those causes work to enact your values, then funding them will advance your values. A sense of progress and contribution can lead to a more cheery life. One issue that I've encountered is that many of the charities happen to be religious, and that flat-out eliminates them from my consideration. I don't want any of the money I give going to poison society, nor to give a good name to groups that do.

I'm also making progress towards moving out -- tomorrow the people from the place I like will be giving me a call back. I'm going to see if I can negotiate the rent for the carpeted side of the house for $550, which is what they wanted for the uncarpeted side. There's also a company called roundtree rentals that someone at work suggested I look into.


Price of clarity

What is the cost of clarity? This is actually more thought on an issue I commented on some time earlier. A common guideline in programming is "Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you emit". This is good, if you want your program to be a good citizen. The opposite doesn't make sense -- it would lead to your software not accepting its own type of input. But occasionally one of the other two options is desired -- conservative in what it accepts and emits. This type of software is called validating, and it can be useful in helping you fix stuff. Most people wouldn't want to use validating software in everyday usage, as it means that it will complain and often not work with commonly used bad input. One common type of validator is for HTML -- you point one at your website and it will give you all the flaws or possibly give you an OK. There's talk in the Mozilla project to have a validating mode, in order to more easily check pages.

The point I'm making is that in order for me to get where I am mentally, I've moved significantly closer to being a validating parser for all kinds of thought than most people are. If I don't understand something, I'll tell you about it. If I think you're talking nonsense, I'll tell you about it. I don't insist that people are perfect in all their communications -- there are some words, such as "evil", that I'll input but never output outside of discussion of diction -- I consider them depreciated, and attach to them meanings that make sense in my mental framework, whenever possible moving conversations so they use those replacement meanings instead of the depreciated words. Of course, when it comes to words that reveal that someone really hasn't thought things through, doesn't follow a good system of logic, or similar, I respect them less. Why do I do this? Sloppy thought bothers me. So much of philosophy is full of morons like Kant -- people who contribute a lot of words that just ruin paper whenever printed. Stupidity comes in many forms, sometimes self-serving head-in-the-sand logic like Kant, sometimes pseudoscientific gibber like Lacan, sometimes frothing at the mouth advocacy like C.S. Lewis, and sometimes adjudgemental postmodernist crud. With good policing, society can perhaps learn to reject bad philosophy, or bad thought in general.

Will this lead to much of a convergence? Sort of. There are many things it will discard, but there still are plenty of well-designed systems, very different from each other, that will have advocates that will probably struggle with each other. This struggle will likely be bloody. But at least humanity wouldn't be struggling over different kinds of mediocracy like there are now. Pareto-optimal. It's a beautiful concept. If you don't know it, go learn about it. It crops up in Math, Statistics, Computer Science, Engineering, Political Science, and even Economics. Imagine if we could reach the pareto surface in social systems...

Anyhow, I think that part of why I never was very popular was that I tend to bristle when someone isn't sitting on a well-constructed philosophical basis. Propogandic thought is often based on a kind of arrogance that I once practiced, but now am largely turning my back on. When I still do it, I often at least call attention to its status to take away some of its power. When I don't hear that from others, I tend to think less of them. One of the conclusions I've come to is that the more enlightened two people are, the less likely they are to be able to convince each other of values-based philosophic/political stances. And so much in philosophy relies on values and their relative positions to each other in the individual.... Even truth is a value, and some people can value truth less. It's easy to sway the masses, who don't understand why they think the way they do, or hold the positions they do. Once someone understands, most of the power of rhetoric is gone against them. All that's left to do is understand where the values differ, and to argue about how facts tie into the values. If they agree about the facts, and understand how their values differ, then they're at an impasse. Any attempts to move beyond this are probably a waste of time, and likely a sign of naive optimism.

Two more thoughts before I go to bed... Firstly, I found the name of a song that I enjoy dancing to at Outland. It's called Panzer Mensch, and it's by a german group called And One. "Computer, Maschine, PAN-ZER Mensch".. It's kinda catchy. It's also a very long song. I also found a MP3 of an unreleased song by OingoBoingo called Imposter. It has spiffy music, and provoking lyrics.

Hmm. What was the other thought.Ahh, yes. Money. I wish I were making more, so I could save more. When I move to that home, if I don't get a housemate, it's going to be seriously draining on my cashflow to pay rent and bills. Loyalty. Do I have loyalty to the company? Not exactly. But I like most of the people I'm working with. My boss understands technology, and seems to be a nice guy. The rest of the people seem clued and pretty friendly. Sure, I'm working often a bit over 9 hours a day, but at least I have a generally cool schedule. What would it take to lure me away from where I'm working? I think I'd need:

  • additional $10k/yr plus cost of living changes
  • similar benefits with perhaps more vacation days
  • located in Ohio, or alternatively someplace warmer. Someplace in Western Europe would be an attractive alternative to the U.S.
  • A University job would be very cool
I don't think I'm really looking right now -- the market is poor, and I feel there's a lot of other interesting things to do here. I do wonder about **something I shouldn't talk about here** though.

I guess the reader gets a bonus topic -- I just remembered something I thought of. On my last drive home from work, if anyone had seen a glimpse of my car and its contents, they would've probably gotten a good idea of who I am and what I'm about. You didn't see it, unless you work for the FBI and are spying on me, so I'll describe it. Ford Taurus 1999. Snow piled all over it, with bits of the windshield and back window cleared just enough to see out of relatively safely. A laptop in the passenger seat, open, with a wire going from it into the car's radio, so its music would play. Me, singing along to the music with a lot of energy but a kind of dour look on my face. A copy of Nietzsche's Also Sprach ... in the middle holder. An unopened RK05 box in the back seat, along with a mess of stuff never unpacked from my last move. A plastic Yoshi in the cup holder. Some philosophy papers here and there, computer cords all over. A spare pair of shoes on the floor. Yeah. That's really all for that observation.

My hair is growing back with haste. It won't be too long before I reach the stage where it'll look stupid if I put it in a ponytail (it currently would be pretty pointless -- the wrap would fall right off). I imagine in a month or so, it might be practical to start putting it in a tie. I'm so happy about it.

I'm still alone though.


A win, a loss, and the future

At work, I made a significant screwup today. I was trying to swap the primary gateway from an old, likely comprimised Redhat 6.1 box to a new, locked-down FreeBSD 4.4 box. This is a box I took home to make sure I got the routing all right. Well, I plugged it in and did the switch, and it failed. I spent considerable time before realizing the cablemodem needed to be reset in order for it to talk to the new server. That box did mail too, and I deferred working on mail until after the box was live. That was a mistake -- qmail was more difficult to install than I thought it would be, and I had to move back to the old system. I was so embarrassed. I hate it when software won't let you do something and tells you that it's because of X configuration option, but you can go see that option X is set correctly. ARGH.That's the loss.

The win is also at work -- there's a project that had code that was in a very bad state, but for the last 2 weeks I've been working on cleaning it. We had a meeting today, I presented my work and future plans, and provided I can keep to my schedules, the project will be saved and won't be cancelled. This will prevent the possibility of deploying some NT boxes that was being considered, and keep us on Unix.

The future? Here are some of my mid-term plans (next month or two)

  • Move - I need to look into and actually do a move out of this nasty slum into someplace that I can feel happy and actually unpack all my stuff into. Keeping my car full of stuff from my last move is just a pain. It'll also be nice living in a place where the ceiling/walls are so inclined to let sound pass through that anyone playing music is guaranteed to be irritating someone else.
  • Trip - For work, I'm going to need to go on-site to do sysadmin stuff. I'm going to see Richmond,VA and D.C.
  • Web 'comic' - When I get a replacement digital camera, I'm going to start a web 'comic' that will be updated whenever I feel like it, starring wally and da' Igs. The pics will have cartoon bubbles painted on.
  • Love - perhaps I will find love somewhere. Or companionship.
  • Food - I intend to eat at least a few very nice meals. See below

Some thoughts on meals. What seperates a very good meal from a good meal? Cost is part of it, but that's largely just a recognition of taste -- there are many expensive things that really suck. Caviar sucks. Almost every day, before work, I pick up a Broccoli Cheddar soup in sourdough at Panera. It's a good meal -- about $5, quite filling, and with a good taste. It meets many of my nutritional needs, I think. If I time its eating right, it can be my only meal in a day. What's a very good meal? Actually, it fairly often involves meat of some kind, and must be enough to totally eliminate my hunger. Eating a Chicken Curry dinner at the Indian Oven is a good example, and the curry sauce taste is just a big bonus. The Mongolian Barbeque is another good way for me to have a very good meal -- it's a gourmet buffet. I think that in order not to be miserable, I really do need to occasionally stuff myself with a meat-heavy meal. If I go for too long without it, I tend to get headaches more often. Vegitarianism, or some mild form of it anyhow, seems to be all the rage among people I know. To them, sorry -- I'm not likely to be joining you on this one. Tofu is very nasty, and I get bad effects if I don't eat meat for too long. If we can figure out a way to make the livestock not suffer, perhaps GEing them to grow brainless in a vat, I'm all for that and will join whatever (possibly violent) crusade you have to ending the way the farms treat the animals. Until then, I'm on the other side. Remember the shape of your teeth.

I'm probably going to run upstairs and eat a burger now, or possibly a Chicken Cutlet Parmisana. I got them from King's pizza, and their food is very very good (as well as cheap). They're one of the few places that straddles my idea of a very good and a good meal.

Hmm. I sound like an advertiser. Once someone commented to me that I should be in marketing. Well, sales would be out of the question because I hate people and am easily bullied, but marketing would be remotely possible. It'd still be very unlikely though -- I'm not willing to fake it. I have this idea of personal integrity that I'm not willing to breach -- if I say something is good, I want it to mean that I like it, not that I'm getting paid by X manufacturer. Also, if something is crap, I don't want to need to keep my mouth shut about it. Marketing people don't get to choose what they like. Even though I think the Indian Oven is a great place to go for a menu disk, I can still tell you that their buffet isn't that great. I guess it's about personal freedom and honesty. If you're going to be hated, at least it should be for being who you want to be, as opposed to someone fake.

Oh well. Blah blah.