July 30th, 2005

Semiformalishmaybe

Last Fall of the Bitter

Today, I sought two things, and found one. First, I checked out a number of music stores online, and one in person. It turns out that harps are nearly impossible to find in Pittsburgh, and other stringed instruments tend to be more expensive than I'm willing to go at this point. I'm not sure what to do about the instrument thing.. Afterwards, I went to Eyetique, and got an eye exam (made possible because the person who had scheduled the slot I took was a no-show) and ordered glasses. The pair I got makes me look like I'm right out of the 60s, but it's actually a pretty good look for me. The glasses will apparently make my vision better than normal (20-15). On wednesday, I will (again?) be in the realm of the properly-seeing, after at least 10 years of slowly worsening eyes. I'll upload pictures for the curious once the glasses come in, so y'all can see how I look in them.

Later, I ran into another Squirrel Hill person, who I'll call K (unrelated to the other people I used to call K), and had a long discussion on international politics and history. One of the topics that came up was science in the Arab world, in particular, during the Dark Ages, when the Arabs lept so far ahead of the Europeans, what caused them to fall behind. One possibility, the least friendly to Arab culture, states that the Arabs were better at incorporating exterior science than at innovating within it. This seems on the surface false, because one can point at a number of Arab innovators of the area who did considerably more than mere than incorporate. However, if we look at Kuhn's distinction between advances within a framework and advances that establish new frameworks (example of the latter being the move from Newtonian physics to Einsteinian and Quantum physics, or several points along the long road from Ptolemy to modern astrology), it may be that the Arab world at the time was skilled at movement within a framework but poor at overthrowing them, perhaps because of some of the same factors that caused Christianity to retard advances in the science -- there is the temptation of religions to, when science discovers a new way of looking at things, bless that new way as the capital-t truth, and possibly to say that the religious folk knew it all along, it was just hidden in scripture (I have a number of pamphlets from Muslims and Christians that still do this). The possibility of framework shifts that would invalidate large portions of science, clearing the way for a new way to look at things, would be embarassing to that close relationship between religion and science, and so were often blocked by both Islam and Christianity when they were dominant in society. During the Enlightenment, Christianity lost its ability to solidly dominate European society, and it is plausible that the newly unfettered sciences met and surpassed the Islamic world because of that.

In other news, the authors of the Unix Haters Handbook, a hilarious jab at some of the faults of Unix (several of which having been fixed since) has been made freely available. It is wonderfully funny. Enjoy.