November 17th, 2005


Starting Block

My laptop has shipped! Apparently, it's on its way from Kunshan, which is a city in China. It's interesting to see that FedEx operates in China.. I read recently that according to some kind of a feeler poll, about 65% of americans have generally positive thoughts about China. I'm not sure if that change (from the past) is because anti-communist rhetoric has really died down in the United States, or if it's that China isn't particularly Communist anymore. I am disappointed about that in China -- they appear to have backed down into a mixed market with the attendant privileges for businesses and the regrowth of social classes. I suppose my thoughts about Taiwan-China relationships favour Taiwan independence partly because I don't think it's about internationalism that China wants Taiwan -- it's about national pride, and national pride is part of the package that needs to be entirely discarded if Communism is to work. Taiwan has been effectively its own nation for many years now -- it's little more than blustering to claim it on behalf of China. That said, China does have at least the will and some of the general structure that would permit general experiments in socialism, something which is sadly lacking in the United States, and I do like the Chinese government for that. Of course, I still wonder what this guy's motivations are. BushJr does seem to be in some ways a visionary -- he doesn't illustrate the tact that most presidents do, and seems to be keen to dive into world problems. The issue is that he's not particularly bright, and I don't think I'd want to live in the world he'd make even if he succeeded.

In the giant biography I've been reading on Kemal Ataturk, I came across a passage which reflects interestingly against that on a collection of Lenin's writings I'm rereading -- Ataturk considers it of great importance not to focus on theory, calling pragmatism, and more importantly the immediate effects of prosperity for his people more important, whereby Lenin notes that the revolution is lost and will fall back into the hands of the merchants if theory is not made central. Kemal in action is described as overseeing business arrangements in Turkey, allowing the bourgeois to operate but rejecting those who he felt were abusing the state or the people to get rich (naturally, he was criticised by the capitalists for even this involvement), whereas Lenin (and Mao) had their great experiments in their nations integrating various types of industry and propelling them into the future, with some successes and some failures. I sympathise more with Lenin's path -- while one must be within the bounds of feasability, theory is necessary to provide overall structure. It may be true that, outside of tragedy of the commons situations, markets naturally progress towards efficiency and do their own fairly decent error correction in that end, efficiency is, taken alone, a pretty brutal and despotic system.

My initial impressions of my work laptop, the Inspiron 9300 -- the thing is big, feels pretty well made, and has a nice display. The keyboard is puzzling -- instead of taking the opportunity with the bigger case to provide a nicer, larger keyboard, they put the same keyboard they use on much smaller laptops in the middle of a lot of empty space on that panel. Why?! The system performs pretty well, and the display is bright and easily viewed from plenty of angles (slight glare issues). There are plenty of ports for all kinds of things. I have not yet burned a CD or DVD on it. The bottom of the case is unfortunately not flat -- putting it on a glass table at home, it sat partly on some plastic tabs that were part of the cover for the RAM, and as a result it wobbled somewhat. Overall, it looks like a good system for my purposes. I ordered it with a dell laptop carrying bag, and that thing is very well built.

Chirac continues to use both the stick and the carrot when dealing with the riots in the slums near Paris. I might go a bit further with both, myself, as Kemal's ville maudite strategy -- that it should be "razed to the ground and its inhabitants transported, that no mercy should be shown to religious fanatics", mixed with a strong integration effort where each inhabitant ends up. I find it fascinating that France's recent experiences reflect Kemal's Turkey further back.

My feline houseguest is settling in -- it's a pity that he (she?) can't stay. I'll toss up a picture sometime later today. On Wikipedia, I'll soon be starting my first 4-way mediation case. That promises to be interesting. Hopefully the need for four people to respond to each line won't slow things down to much, and the lack of intimacy in 4 people versus two won't be too tough to deal with.