December 6th, 2003

Semiformalishmaybe

Headache grande

Ahh... I'm back. In more ways than one. Today, I had one of those reallybad headaches where you wish you had never been born.. I left work a bitearly, biked home (with my eyes closed most of the way), and spent somequality time (heh) with a cold washcloth on my forehead. 6 hours offeeling like .. yes, like Zeus giving birth to Athena. Anyhow, I'm alive again, but probably will go to sleep soon.

Last week was really busy for me.. 2 term papers, some homework, and anoral presentation for Philosophy class. The Psychology paper I'm fairlyhappy about, doing an analysis of Autism's effects on the brain and whatit suggests for different types of theories affecting brain function. It was mostly rewritten by the time I gave the disasterous oral presentation,but I did give it a bit more polish. The Philosophy paper was an analysis ofChaos theory, how it fits into Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions, andwhat it suggests about the realism-antirealism debate in philosophy. I'mhappier about the Kuhn-Chaos interaction than the realism-antirealism one --the book was really good (Gleick's Chaos), and I was able to get a decent numberof secondary sources, but the topic (which I chose from a short list ofsuggested ones) seemed kind of forced, and so I the argument I was makingon that front was kind of forced. Also, as there's no final in that class,that's pretty much all I'll see of those people unless I bump into them oncampus randomly.. and it makes me kind of sad. I've shared some good argumentswith them on interesting topics, and those are the kind of ties that I reallylike. Heck, there was only time for 4 of us to present our papers, but theperson who went after me was exploring a topic that I've been slowly chewing on,directly analyzing the claims of the Realist and Anti-Realist camps, and askingif one of the other schools of thought on the topic might be better. I guess acool thing about that experience was that I both got to chew on philosophyand I learned a lot about a field that I didn't know that much about before.The Gleick book was a bit light on math, but that's not a big deal -- I'm sure,if I get the time, I'll be able to find a good second book on the topic.

Yesterday, after work, I moved one of the tables from what was my computer roomup into the front room.. it's surprising how much a difference a table can maketo a room. It's nice being able to sit up while doing computer stuff in thisroom, and I suspect I'll use my microscope more often, it being more accessibleand visible. Over time, I've always had impulses, swinging both ways, betweenhaving lots of stuff, and having very little. Right now, the pendulum isswinging towards less, and so I've been doing some cleaning and consolidating.My apartment is rather clean right now, and I'm tempted to stop using thecomputer room altogether.

It's interesting -- thinking that I'm slowly moving from a academe-flavouredpop-flavour of psychological understanding to an actual science-based one.

I just opened the shades for the front windows, and it appears that whileI've been suffering the headache, snow came down and caked the street.It's pretty, but I'm sure that biking will soon be impossible to get to work,and I'll either need to switch back to hoofing it or start taking the bus.Some time ago, a friend found it humourous that I moved to another'frozen city', at the same time warning me that the person I moved here for wasunbalanced and that things wouldn't turn out well in the end. Kind of amusing,now that I realize it, that although I took very badly to the advice at thetime, they were right, in the same way that I once offered them some very hardadvice, and in similar painful circumstances, they found I was right. Youfinally paid me back, and I just realized it. And yet, I find myself in asimilar circumstance, perhaps, in offering advice to someone in town thatI've never actually met, but I'm one degree away, and we've chatted online.It's not precisely analogous -- as far as I know, her chosen, and herrelationship with him, is fine, although they're currently seperated by alarge physical distance, soon to be closed. Despite the pain I've been through,I still have to say.. always bet on love, and if you're thinking seriously aboutsomething that'll change your life, do it. You never know if love will work out,you never know even how a complex relationship will work out, or if movingsomeplace new will be a disaster, but firstly, if you don't, you'll both begiving up on love and piling a lot to regret on your shoulders. Secondly,all the changes you'll make in your life and yourself will no doubt be thingsthat will enrich you. I'm certain, looking back from age 70, remembering a risky(within reason) life with some gambles that paid off and some that didn't isfar better than having lived the other, dull life, having won only regret. Idon't regret gambling. It hurt me, and it helped me, and it changed my life alot. Heck, I might've even missed out on a chance to date someone really cool --who knows where that might've gone? But then again, maybe I didn't. I'm in a.. well, kind of in a PhD program, I have a cool job, and I'm in a pretty city.And W, at the very least, in not too long you'll be someplace new, someplacecool, and with luck, in a romance that'll last to the end of your days. Go forit. At the very least, you'll be somewhere where everyone has a cool accent :)

So, to catch up, on Monday, I had a very unpleasant conversation with my mom.I don't think we'll be talking for awhile. It was on a trip to drop my caroff at a local Fnord to prep it for inspection.. while I was there, I foundthey could actually do the inspection there too, so when they called laterin the week, I told them I'd be leaving it there while I filled out the otherpaperwork so they could actually perform the proper inspection. Tomorrow, Ineed to navigate to a DMV somehow to do all that stuff. Yay. Of course, havinggone to Fnord in my car, getting home was .. interesting. I stopped by thebookstore out there, got 2 pieces of new music (Flogging Molly and Bad Religion)and while in there, got some advice on how to brave the bus system.. notenough advice, apparently -- I was waiting in the cold for about an hour anda half, and very much regretted not bringing gloves. Eventually the right buscame and took me into Shadyside, and from there it's just a short hike tomy place. I did enjoy using my GPS on the bus -- it was fun watching theturns on a map, and I got the feeling that the other bus passengers had neverseen anything like it. After a quick stop at E'n'P to grab some good, I wenthome, popped in the new CDs, ripped them, and worked on the term papers.Both are pretty good. The Bad Religion CD, The New America, has 4tracks I really like..

You've got a ChanceI love my ComputerWhisper in TimeThe Hopeless Housewife

The other tracks are all decent.. and a bit of hunting on the net showed thatthis CD is again incomplete -- the Japanese version had two more songs, bothof which I snagged online. I don't know why Bad Religion does that -- withthis CD and with The Process of Belief, the extras on the Japaneseversion would've been among my favourites if I had them.. without the internet,I would've missed out on some really good songs. The Flogging Molly CD,Swagger was also nice.

On Tuesday, there was a 20% off sale for Faculty/Staff at the CMU bookstores,so some of us from my group took a trip out there, enjoyed some of the freefood, and got some stuff. I picked up a Neil Gaiman Sandman 'book', a niceexpensive fountain pen, and .. hmm.. some other book I can't remember offhand.It was science fiction by one of the monty python bunch. Naturally, afterthat I worked on the term papers, finishing the psych one and getting thephilosophy one mostly done.

On Wednesday, I finally came across a note to myself about a fascinating paperI saw in the Philosophy department office some time back, and a bit ofgoogling turned it up: Seven Sins of Evolutionary Psychology.I don't know enough of its content to talk about it yet, but I paged throughit while I was getting something else and it looked interesting.

Thursday was pretty much covered by the school stuff, and today .. was justa busy work day, until the headache.

Some snippets and quotes I've jotted down over the week:

And as the ground began its slow acceleration up to meet him, he had hisfinal moment of Zen.. I could grow to enjoy this, and a chuckle.. each pieceof rock below represented his final destiny, the cliff above, the vanity ofa normal life.. he was shedding it all now in this last act, he was descending,losing his humanity. Only by stepping off could he truly interact with it.

"I really doubt the FBI is that cool" -- Jacob Joseph, regarding the FBI using Tempest-type technologies(Note that the link has a narrower definition of Tempest than the actual one,and that this is from an IM conversation with Jacob)

And finally, the playthings of humanity, the toys we played with when we weregods, they've slipped from our fingers, and when they fell, we fell further.When the puppet has grasped the puppeteer, will it show undeserved mercy?

For work, I've been trying to glue our code to the R language, and it's notall that easy. Here's something that was in my IM message for much of thisweek:

Gluing together things that really don't want to be glued together.If I had business cards, that'd be on it.----------------| Pat Gunn| Programmer or Sysadmin| Gluer of Reluctant Things----------------

I think I feel an essay coming on, sometime soon. Largely, I'm tired ofhearing, in response to corporate abuse of environment or people,that they're just fulfilling their obligations to their stockholders.I even have a nice title...Profit is No Excuse: A call for Accountability of Business

Ahh, yes, yesterday a friend stopped by and I put linux on his laptop.That was cool. What's cooler is, while doing the updates to Fedora,I came across a good yum archive that has packagesfor a lot of the legally iffy packages that arn't actually part of fedora.This is a lot better of a way to get them than to hunt down the individualpackages from all over the net. And yes, these packages arn't for trying tobreak into the NSA or anything, they're for doing simple things like playingmp3s or DVDs on linux. Windows users rarely are exposed to the legal stupiditiesthat happen behind the scenes in software development. It's absolutelydelightful that every time I play a DVD on my laptop, I'm using software that'sillegal to use.. with every mp3 I play, I'm doing the same thing. Yay.Anyhow, if I get brave enough, I'll clear the hodgepodge off, and do aclean install of those packages from that yum repository. I'm just worriedthat reconstructing the hodgepodge might be tricky, if the new configurationis missing some functionality.

And now, let's dig through the recent bookmarks I've saved for you.Some very funny small-farms propoganda.This is some pretty obvious irony. I mean, just look at it.Graphics.. of text. Of crappy-looking non-antialiased blocky text.Cluttered design. And, of course, these are the people telling you how todesign your website. ... heh.An article on who's going to be declared the best German..Apparently, got down to Karl Marx and Konrad Adenauer (leader of Germany rightafter WW2). The fact that I had never heard of Adenauer before the articlekind of says it all.. Notable others in the top 10 are Bach, Gutenberg, andEinstein. While looking to see who else was on the list, I came across aparticularly disgusting essay Martin Luther wrote.

Good music, bad website designStuff on gypsies I found while looking for music.See someone's thought process while programming.. kinda.Maybe it's not that interesting. *shrug*Panic in enemy hallsObservations on IM usageLarge, cool pictureExercise is addictive for some people. I've seen it :)The wages of greed..Actually, this is kind of an unusual case -- normally, smart, greedy people getrich, they just find that wealth isn't all it's cracked up to be, and by thetime they even realize they're wealthy, they're realizing that they wastedtheir life getting there.Everyone's favourite unethical, scummy election-system buildersdecidesnot to sue some of the people who are spreading some very embarassing leakedinternal documents.LinuxGazette, a monthly newsletter, is in some tricky times.For some time, they were hosted by a company called SSC, which provided themwith their old domain, an editor, and some otherresources. Recently, SSC tried to take charge of the thing, making sometechnical decisions that they disagreed with, and as they began to detanglethemselves from SSC, SSC trademarked LinuxGazette and said they're going onas LinuxGazette. Apparently, legal threats and letters are flying back and forth betweenSSC with their LinuxGazette.com and LinuxGazette with their LinuxGazette.net.Fun. Naturally, I sent SSC a letter asking them to give up their misappropriatedname and trademark. They'll probably ignore me.

Businesses just keep on taking. Previously, in the courts, it was determinedthat public data couldn't be copywritten. Clever businesses decided theydidn't like that. So they slipped crap like this into the appropriate hands,along with money to oil the palms. And that's how laws are made.

Speaking of slimy doings, Here is thetrue site for one of the bunch of jerks who grabbed thousands of domainsand just pointed it at their search engine so it doesn't look unused.I doubt anyone uses their thing, it's just a front for their real business --selling the domains to people who actually can use them. Grr.

I recently dug through my cookie file, and was amazed at how much crap is inthere. I deleted 95% of the cookies, and now have it ask me about each andevery cookie that's being considered for setting.

I've seen these guys out on the grass between buildings at CMU, now there'san article on what they're doing. Ahh, one of the neat things about CMU --so much interesting and strange stuff happens here. It reminds me of thescience fairs/expos countries used to throw, back before the 60s, just to showoff what they were doing, and spur investment. NSH's roboceptionist is likethat -- I doubt anyone will actually use it for directions -- people generallyare just playing around when they crowd around it now.. but it's powerful asa symbol, and it probably will inspire more people to choose CMU as theirschool.

Here's yet another example of what happens when you combine normalstatistical oddities with sufficiently gullable people. Gotta love religion,folks. If people were just a bit more skeptical, less desperate for meaning,and understood more of the sciences (in this case, statistics), we wouldn'thave Wicca, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Bahai, and all that other crud.

One of my sisters apparently is having trouble with pop-ups. Mozilla blocksthese normally (configurable), but users of IE don't have that luxury.Next time I'm in town, I'll try to convince her to switch to Mozilla, butin the meantime, this looks really neat.It also has hooks into Archive.org's internetarchive resource. Neat!

A friend sent me this article on Israel. It seems prettyon-target to me. I sometimes wonder if there's a more effective wayto talk about these things though -- it seems like, from the peopleI've talked to about these kinds of things (not just this in particular),they're led by something inside that's emotional, and the fact that they'rewilling to argue for it is purely because that's all they can do to hopeit spreads (their perspective). Laid bare, they'll stick to their fondnessfor the idea even when it comes down to a base value.. but then again, isn'tthat what we all do? The difference is that they place love of a nation or arace as a base value, and we don't.. but really, base values can't be justifiedanyhow. I have ecology as a base value, and although I'll certainly arguefor it, and do stuff to advance it, when it comes down to it, I can't justifyit. I'd like to be able to say there's a big difference, but there reallyisn't. I find racism to be abhorrent, and the presently dominant westernattitude has done so as well.. but not everyone does, and in fact I've hadconversations with some really intelligent people who nontheless have toldme they favour their race, would do business with someone who shares it overpeople of others, want to ethnically purify their land, want to banracial mixing, want to 'take back' their land that they see as under occupation(From scots and irish to kurds, american indians, and palestinians) and allsorts of other things (no, this isn't all from the same person). Philosophy istricky stuff -- sometimes it's hard to make it do what we wish it would do.Wouldn't it be nice to pretend that it tells us that the way we do things isprovably the right way, special, and wonderful? That's the land of make-believemoral absolutists live in..

Are the spammers striking back?This is both interesting, and it shows that some high schoolshave some really cool classes. I think my appreciation of history has increasedas I've gotten older and have a more full grasp of politics.

While I was looking for good things to get from the library on chaos, I cameacross this totally off-the-wall site on Chaos, looks likeit's trying to make Chaos into a .. well, just take a look. Very weird.

The Kyoto pact is currently waiting for Russia's decision. If Russia decidesto approve, then it's binding, if not, it falls apart. This is the same pactthat the U.S. decided not to sign, as it decided that industry is worth morethan the environment in this instance. *sigh*

Japan's wrapping up a new maglev train that'll go ~500Mph in operation.

A brief thought on the obesity "epidemic"...Sorry, it is willpower and education. If a gastric bypass is actually goingto work to keep you within certain weight limits, then what it's doing is simplyforcing you to do what you could choose to do anyhow, that is, not eat as much.Yeah, it might be difficult, but it'll be just as hard with the bypass, the onlydifference being that you won't have a choice at every point along the way. Ofcourse, learning about diet can help too (I'm not at all obese, but I'm not veryhealthy -- but I'm working on fixing that with a better diet and a more activelife). So, if you're not happy with your body, and it's actually a fault ofyour body, sure, see the doctor, but a lifestyle change is in order. A gooddoctor will probably tell you that anyhow. Mine did.

Gotta love the government..

I really don't know what to think about this.Press issues in the Western world seem to be so much simpler than those introubled areas. It's a pretty good test of how far freedom of speech shouldgo, and is an area where, IIRC, in certain circumstances that value foldsto another in our legal system.

Joke...Q: How do German Academics protest something?A: They arrange 24-hour lecturesWell, except it's not a joke. They're apparently protesting funding cuts byhaving a lecture-in, open to the public.

Danger, Will Robinson!Here's a site with a Neat Logo

Umm.. I have more to say, but not now.

Now, I'm gonna get some sleep.

Semiformalishmaybe

Horrifics in Iraq

Read this.Ignore the comparisons to Israel -- they're irrelevant, there are plenty ofother countries that treat minorities badly, and it's not really thatanalogous anyhow. According to that report, the U.S. military is now doingthings that would make even conservatives a bit antsy...

"American soldiers have begun wrapping entire villages in barbed wire.""In Abu Hishma, encased in a razor-wire fence after repeated attackson American troops, Iraqi civilians line up to go in and out, filingthrough an American-guarded checkpoint, each carrying an identificationcard printed in English only."

That's wonderful. I'm sure they really appreciate the freedom Americansbrought them. I can sympathize with them -- if a foreign power came into the states and deposed BushJr, I'd be quite pleased, but once itstarted doing this kind of crap, I'd do everything I could to get themout. They talk about Arabs only understanding force in the article..That's not Arabs, that's humans. If you beat someone enough, they'lleither die or have their spirit broken, like a horse. Is that the intent?Will Iraq be a prison-state, with American actions escalating until all thepeople there have a prison mentality?

"They have begun imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, inhopes of pressuring the insurgents to turn themselves in."

This is incredibly repugnant. It's the most disgusting thing in the article,to me, and if I were in a state to do so, the thing that would push me tofund opposition to U.S. forces.

"'With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects,I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them,'Colonel Sassaman said."

Wonderful quote. It might go in my rotating sig when I implement it.

According to another report from Time magazine, an American company wasawarded $15mil to develop a cement factory, and when that was delayed,some Iraqis developed it for $80k instead. How sad for that Americancompany.. *sniff* *sniff*

Apparently Rumsfeld recently made a surprise trip to Iraq.I wish they would keep him.

I want to see BushJr (pbuh) in jail for the rest of his life.

Looks like Castro is paying attention to the American plansfor an invasion after his death.

Recently I was reading in Science News about an Animal doesn't need to eatbecause of a symbiotic relationship with bacteria living in its gut. That'sreally interesting -- it's probably not possible to engineer the same thingfor humans (we don't take in enough materials from the air to get the kindof power we'd need, and we're more active), but it would be cool..

Here's an article on some very geek humour. A sample:Heisenberg is pulled over for speeding:"Do you know how fast you were going?" the police officer asks, incredulously."No," replies Heisenberg, "but I know exactly where I am!"

I find it irritating that Al Jazeera feels it's necessary to report wheneveran Israeli gets arrested for something. Recently, they had an uninterestingarticle about Israelis in an organ trafficing ring in South Africa, and it'sjust another in a long series of them taking care to point out things likethat. Of course there are some Israeli criminals. There are criminals ofevery race and shape.. Oh well.

Lawrence Lessig has a response to SCO's latest publication..And reading over it, I can't help thinking that SCO actually has a point.I despise the patent/copyright system and would do away with it... that beingsaid, SCO's argument that the GPL intentionally flaunts it seems to be on-track.While it may be true that the GPL does operate within the bounds of copyright,and indeed needs it to function, its stated goal, and elegance, has always beenthat it twists the system against itself. The idea of promoting innovation thatmust've been present when these things were being set up were intending peopleto hoard and profit from their ideas, making money off of them. It's doubtfulthat constructing systems that would mimic commercial products, doing a betterjob than they do, and would offer people the chance to get involved if theygive up their ability to hoard was on their minds at all. Then again, the systemhas changed quite a bit in other ways, as hoarding is profitable, and profitsdrive politics. I'm not saying SCO deserves to win (quite the opposite!),nor that I think such a deep interpretation of the system is desirable, asthere is a slippery slope involving what 'legal rights' an 'IP owner' shouldbe allowed to grant/restrict, but rather, I'm saying that SCO does have apoint of some kind on their arguments about the GPL.

I was going to take care of car things, but the information lines of all theplaces that might've done the title transfers seem to be closed. Maybe it'sthe deluge of snow we got last night, or maybe it's only the driver's licensestuff that's open on the weekends. Oh well.