October 31st, 2005


New Paths in the Park

Today I went to a protest during my lunch hour, and was reminded again how the roads near the University of Pittsburgh recently had a small shift that makes it a lot easier to get around. Originally, between the public and Pitt libraries, there was a huge parking lot, and on one side of it was a one-way part of a road going from Pitt towards Squirrel Hill (going by the back of CMU). To go the other way, one took that road to the parking lot, turned right, and turned left on an access road and right at the end of that, to avoid that one-way section. Inconvenient, but navigable. Sometime earlier this year they closed the parking lot and closed off that service road, meaning that one had to drive about half a mile and cross a major (also one-way) street twice in order to get to the other side. Very recently, they turned the troublesome one-way segment two-way. Kind of handy...

The protest was fairly low-key -- there was no closing of access to the recruitment centre -- instead a bunch of people stood along the road with signs. I forgot my camera, and didn't think to bring a sign (an emergency at work caused me to need to come in without the prep I would've liked), so I borrowed one of their spare signs and joined them for about half an hour. One of the purposes of protests is to draw attention to the cause, but some of the other people there didn't seem to put as much thought into it as they should've -- Forbes is a one-way street, so it makes sense to angle one's signs to be readable by drivers passing-by -- most people there faced theirs right into the street, which is not helpful. A bit of hinting by me was helpful there.. Another thing that people should do is make eye contact with the drivers -- it helps draw attention to the sign and the cause. I was going to kavetch about some of the people next to me in the protest group talking instead of doing this, but on the way back, I reflected on the other important purpose of protest -- to build group feeling. That doesn't happen without socialisation, and so it's not a bad thing to have that happening.

My 50 Eurocent coin has made its way back to me from KGB. I would like to swap it with another foreign coin for circulation, but I don't think I'll have time to make it back home before KGB meets.

I think it would prevent a lot of complication if when people enter high politics, they be required to renounce all their real property (real estate), ownership in companies, other jobs and positions, and that they commit to being solely supported by a modest allowance for the rest of their life, at least in the capitalist system. This would nicely prevent conflicts of interest and business favouritism, as well as allegations of such, true or not.

The political fun begins again.


Hip to HP

It is always amusing going to the mailroom on a day where they give us unsolicited uninteresting mass-mailings, generally about a food drive, colossally boring staff news (with the occasional kook saying something controversial), information on staff days for local events (hoo boy! PARTY!), and the like. The best part is grabbing that pile of *stuff* and taking it to the recycle bin right outside the mailroom, where when the lid is lifted one finds a large pile of the litter, looking much like it did presumably before the mailroom staff were told to put it into each and every mailbox. I remember when I was in CS, there was a mailing list that, because of someone's poor judgement, anyone could post to and it would go to everyone in CMU's CS department (which is huge!). Occasionally we'd get people posting about having lost some trinket of theirs or something, and we were not allowed to unsubscribe from the list. I wonder if suprious communication is a necessary part of organisations -- is it simply too high a burden to meet to figure out who, in a very large organisation, will be interested in a particular message that causes a shift in the obligation on the reader to decide on if to read it or not, or is it that when an organisation gets sufficiently large, there's always at least one idiot who creeps in that lacks common sense or who has an ego large enough to magnify their interests to encompass everyone's? I suppose there's also the "did all I can" factor -- it's a very easy thing to do to ignore people's preferences not to get junk mail for the sake of putting in an accepted unit of work in getting the word out on something, and fairly often management overrides good sense/good practice.

I'm going to try to spend most of tonight away from my home so people don't bother me about halloween. I'm not sure how yet -- if I'm feeling particularly adventurous I'll drive out to the woods with my tent and sleeping bag and sleep outside tonight. More likely, I'll hop from 61C to Coffee Tree to Eat'n'Park as the night goes on. I was able to get enthused on Halloween last year with Nicole's family doing the handing out candy thing, and mildly so some years before with Debb and carving pumpkins, as Halloween has literally nothing left of its religious significance left in it, but I think that was largely because of the company and the content -- by myself I don't celebrate anything at all (I may eventually begin to celebrate May Day/International Labour Day if I can find a way to do so). I'm beginning to wonder if that's necessarily a good thing -- I think I've deconstructed and subsequently torn down all remnants of christian culture from my life, but I've been thinking to myself that I need to figure out more what's there in its place -- deconstruction of religious and capitalist culture is a step towards socialist-compliant culture, but it can't be the last step, or that culture becomes a kind of nihilism. I've had vague ideas on replacements, but it's an area I need to work on further. I feel that while a lot of culture comes about gradually, there are also great leaders, like Lenin, Ataturk, Tsar Petrovich, Aleksandr the Great, along with religious leaders who reshaped entire cultures. I would not imagine it possible to elevate myself to that level, but the point is that cultures can be sometimes crafted from a single individual or a sufficiently small group of them. Humans are sculptable like clay with razors hidden inside.

I should post the guestbook I developed for the website of a friend sometime soon.

I emailed HP about the laptop I want to order from them and their expected release date, and was surprised to find that their response was spookily prompt, through, friendly, and helpful. If their tech support and similar are half as good at that, then it's going to be nice doing business with HP (if I go with them). I've always had mixed feelings on HP -- they always made nice printers, irritating calculators (with an amiga-like fanbase), a bizarre-but-decent Unix (HP-UX) on lousy hardware, and they swallowed Compaq (which swallowed DEC). They're not clearly bad for the industry the way Intel or Microsoft are though, so I'm not opposed to buying from them. I do find the modern version of Mating Dinosaurs irritating though.