October 28th, 2005

Semiformalishmaybe

Bum Rap

Dear world,

Please do not give panhandlers money, food, material goods in general, or even the time of day. Instead, give money to shelters and other places that will help said people deal with addictions and issues they have, and help them get hooked up on the way to better things. Many of the panhandlers you see, especially in Squirrel Hill, are not poor people who are down on their luck. They are either mentally ill in need of treatment or they are tricksters who panhandle in order to avoid doing anything of value. I have followed, out of curiosity, several of them around and have seen many of them with large wads of cash and others buying a beer when they're done for the evening. Shelters are a good thing -- I once volunteered in one, and they can use your money in really good ways. Even the few actually needy bums who don't need large amounts of psychological help will be better served by a shelter then by your help. If they ask for money, tell them to go to said shelters. If you know they're a trickster, tell them to sod off, and be rude. Tricksters make money because you let them, and because they are not sufficiently societally pressured on the nature of their work. They abuse generosity, and channel it (not an infinite supply, nor the tied resources) to useless ends. Do not be skimpy with sympathy for the real homeless, and please do support your local shelter in any way you can -- there are people in real need. However, channel your help through the institution, and not ineffectively into the hands of someone who is just taking the system for a ride. When you see the same bum coming back again and again to your neighbourhood, it's a clear sign that something very wrong is going on. These are the enemy of the poor and the generous. Treat them that way.

Semiformalishmaybe

(no subject)

Last night, I had another one of those political discussions on Israel/Palestine, and as usual, the person I was speaking made some points that were good, some that didn't connect to me because I don't accept basic principles they're based on (eg ethnic homeland, etc), and some that were stupid (meaning that I can't see how they'd convince anyone who actually thinks about them, e.g. quibbling over whether the name 'Palestinians' is appropriate). This got me this morning to think about argument maps, as I've often argued that they're the best way to explore an argument, make it public, and not have it over and over again. I would like to make software to manage this, and have been thinking of variations on the theme. Argument maps without these adornments are philosophically better and more pure, I think, but imagine these variations:

  1. Establishing lines down the right side of the map (wavering left and right to fit the argument structure) that mark where each participant last contributed. This helps if there are a moderate number of contributors (less than 10) and some people are being a bit slow, or if a discussion is quiet for a long time and then someone new starts contributing again.
  2. If one or a few people go off exploring a line of reasoning that someone doesn't think is well-founded (e.g. 3 or 4 people accept ethnic homelands and want to discuss them, but someone does not), they can mark the node starting that discussion as being ill-founded in their opinion and when people click on node detail for any descendant nodes, they can see the categorical objection (and possibly reply to the specific instantiation or the objection as a while, in the appropriate places)

It turns out that the recruitment protest is on Monday, not today. Oh well.

I recently got some freebies from surplus -- two small hubs (one of which I'll keep for my group at work, the other of which goes home with me) and a wireless bridge (going home). Hurrah.

Semiformalishmaybe

A Return to Mount Tethys

Aged being returns to the temple. It's hard to dodge the buildings, to ignore the mental shaping in the forms of buildings and cars, but weaving between them, the sacred land is entered for the first time in 60 years, the first intentional visit for many hundreds of years. Never a physical temple, nothing so gross as a building, the land itself is separate, commands no other use, and so modernity simply built around it, enclosed it almost entirely, an island of green in the city with no windows, no eyes to see the sand in the shell. In its place, the few visitors have left an unwelcome gift. A lone power line runs across the grass, leading to the stone pavilion near the centre of the space. The sound of a phonograph, preserved by the timelessness and odd rules of the place, play a schmaltzy, department-store alien harpsichord version of Brazil, and as approach draws the pavilion closer, its innovations come into view -- glass encloses the open side into windows, a steel/class door waits in front, and the tilted smiling face of the sun sits on the door. Unspeakable horror and revulsion! With too much digestion of the scene, head turns to vomit, but the holy ground denies entrance. A mad stumble from the land, hand over mouth, many slips to the ground and more than one brief blackout later, egress is made.