August 18th, 2005

Semiformalishmaybe

In Soviet Russia, the Toilets PAY YOU

Sometimes interesting scientific discoveries happen in unpleasant circumstances. I, for one, wouldn't particularly enjoy being in the lab next door to this discovery. Its implications might be interesting, although I imagine the power to be extracted from such means isn't much.

More geek stuff -- part of the reason I moved from Fedora 2 to Fedora 4 on my laptop was because mplayer was broken, and the difficulty in getting mplayer working right the first time was holding me back. After some upgrade in the distant past, some MP3s wouldn't play, and I was unable to make sense of why some were and some were not -- all the MP3s I ripped (in ancient times -- I now rip only to OGG) were fine, but some MP3s some friends ripped were bad. Of those that were bad, usually the other MP3s from the same CD were fine. Random MP3s off the internet were also sometimes bad. All this badness is only with respect to mplayer -- mpg321 could play them without problems. After the upgrade didn't fix it, I recently went to the mplayer IRC channel, sent someone a file I couldn't play, he could play it fine, and I did an experiment -- I removed the mplayer I got from livna.org and installed the official mplayer, and it played those files fine. The only downside is that the official mplayer isn't compiled against ALSA, so I don't get nice mixing of audio streams. Oh well. If I were much more into it, I'd track down the problem with the livna RPMs, and send them a bug report, but I'm too lazy, for now.

I recently found that a few people from my workplace apparently sometimes attend Ceremony. It could be interesting bumping into them there.

Tonight marks another late-night sysadmin duty for work. I'm setting up NIS, and moving the RAID to a dedicated NIS/NFS box. It should go fairly smoothly -- I went with a nice RAID card I once used in one of my nicer boxes at home, mixed in RAM from a number of systems I'm surplussing to bring it up to 768M, a CDROM frm another system (the original CDROM was toast, for some reason), and a Gigabit ethernet card I ordered for the purpose -- the system is kind of a Frankenstein's monster, but it's well-tuned for its purpose, or at least as fine-tuned as I can make it. It is my opinion that Fedora 4 is the best free Linux for a responsible sysadmin (Redhat Enterprise Linux being the best pay Linux), but there are some things that I find irritating about it. The package system itself is fine, but the people who actually do the packaging do a poor job of keeping unnecessary interdependencies low. There are a number of marginal projects that have ties into a lot of GNOME packages (gnome2-vfs being a large culprit) that mean that if I want any of the GNOME management tools, I need a lot of crap that I will never use. There is no reasonable way to have a Fedora4 system without, for example, howl, krb5-libs, or evolution-data-server.

Also for work, I've decided that the old webcode for my group needs a complete rewrite, and after talking about it with a few friends, decided to redo it all in mod_perl. I can probably lift a lot of utility code from my Wiki/BLOG software, POUND, and add several new features. Apparently, there's a widespread impression that PHP is an awful web development language for the clued, because it's too easy to write bad code in it and it's difficult to write good, safe code. I do look forward to doing this right in mod_perl -- while I feel that our website is aesthetically nice, its guts are not pretty. Good technical projects have inner and outer beauty.

In theory, my Neuros should be back from its battery replacement sometime today or tomorrow. Hurrah.

On the chance that the whitewater rafting trip to Ohiopyle doesn't become solid for this weekend, there's a decent chance that I'll be visiting my mom in Brecksville on Saturday and then visiting Columbusfolk on Sunday.

Semiformalishmaybe

Crown Lost in the Junkyard

One of problems that capitalism faced, immediately before it entered its consumerist phase, is that the masses' material material quality of living was reaching sufficiency for a good life in developed nations. In order to continue economic growth, unnecessary at that point, a consumerist, materialist transformation was needed. The fully modern economy is based on this lie -- brand names, customer loyalty, advertisements are all designed, a la Brave New World, to cause people to waste money on branded products they don't need, while those closer to the bottom economic ranges make due with non-brand products, occasionally attempting to make up with their being unable to fulfill the urges brainwashed into them by buying lottery tickets or expensive stereos for their cheap cars. Although I would suggest that the Marxist notion of history does not actually suggest that Communism is our necessary future in the sense that it will happen, I sould suggest that a transition towards it is complicated by this manipulation. The biggest risk is that, as we may be seeing now, alienation from nonmaterial notions of the good life may cause a backlash towards religion, something which might or might not be seen as a tool of the status quo (note that this may be quite different from the mechanisms of the state) to keep the masses content or act as a false dichotomy against material wealth, rather than cause people to seek social happiness. It is our task, as Socialists who hope to form a new Communism, to found a new asceticism -- a better understanding of what things fit into our life and make them better rather than a focus on insubstantial image. We must find ways to unravel, through mockery and open disavowal of consumerist values, the things that hold people back from understanding that the majority of us have all the wealth we need to be happy. Strip the logo from your clothes, stop watching advertisements, take public transit, and your wealth will become apparent to you. Focus on the inexpensive, quality things, and even moreso focus on the nonmaterial things that are important in life -- friendships, nature, information, and live softly on the earth. When the rat race becomes a leisurely stroll, the dust clears, and the actions of the greedy tyrants become visible and endable.