Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Sour Brush

Last weekend, I caught a soccer ball wrong, with my pinky finger on myleft hand. For most of this week, it's been sore, unable to bendcompletely, and I've been unable to put any weight on it. It's slowlybeen getting better -- so long as I don't put unusual weight on it, it'smostly the same as my uninjured pinky (can bend almost all the way now,and while I wouldn't hold my tasche with it, I can type without noticingthat it's at all different. This is good.

I'm likely to take Russian this summer -- I'd like to learn a bit of anew language, and Russian is from a language family I haven't learnedanything from yet. If CMU taught Arabic or Hebrew, I'd jump at thechance to learn one of them, but I'd need to go to Pitt for that, andI'd need to pay some money and get all sorts of odd permissions. I'm notsure how happy my boss is with the chunks of time I'm gone during theday to take classes -- I always make up the hours, from home or at oddhours, but I recognize that being around, either to collaborate better orto help people out, is important. He hasn't explicitly told me that I'mnot around enough, but if he were to, he'd be right -- it's really notentirely fair. He does want me to drop down to taking 1 class at a time,which is reasonable, although it'll slow me down a bit. It might add a bitmore urgency to my getting ready to apply to grad school so I can switchmy full attention to neuropsychology, but again, there's no big rush.

For my neuropsychology class, I've been working on a fun essay. Thetopic is a provocative attack on neuropsychology, compared to otherways of understanding the brain and its behavior, and the writing hasjust flown well for me. I need to swing by the library again to get somemore specific examples to cite for it. I hope it's what she expects --I haven't done much heavy writing for any classes at CMU yet, and whileI think my writing style is pretty decent, I might not have a grasp ofthe local 'paper culture'.

I've been thinking some more about the word "terrorist", and I've concludedthat it's far too vague in common parlance to be useful. It's more of ahot-button word like 'evildoers' than anything else. It may be possible,with careful thought that temporarily discards the emotional context(good philosophers should, I think, strive to be able to slice apart aword's meaning and the emotional contexts easily, perhaps without eventhinking about it), to recover the meaning, but doing so brings about adeviation from the common condemnation term. It has been suggested thatterrorism is an act to intimidate civilians through violence or the threatthereof, and this definition is at least a good candicate. However, what isviolence? Does property damage count? Could a 'visual assault' count?Does the civilian/military distinction really make sense? What if the civilianactions, rather than the government's actions, are really the thing beingtargeted for change? What if there is no government? We might, for example,say the brief time in WW2, where the Brits and the Germans were attackingeach others cities instead of each others militaries, was an exchange ofterrorism. In modern times, with technology changes, the term appears to havemore of a small-groups feel to it, as technology has advanced to the point whereit's not very expensive or difficult to gain the materials to do massive damageto a society without hiring an army (we don't even have nano yet). Of course,this means that it's not just nations that can do these kinds of things.Instead of abandoning the term as being a relic of a distinction that'sdisappearing, it seems that it's being used more.. perversity of language.Of course, now as a catch-all term, it's absorbed a lot of unrelated thingson its way to become another synonym for "bad thing".. apparently inBritain, defacing websites might be terrorism. It might make a goodposter -- "In the future, there will only be 1 crime, and it's name is terrorism".Noam Chomsky has some nice quotes.."the term 'terrorism' is used, standardly, to refer to the terrorism thatthey carry out against us, whoever 'we' happen to be."

"Since the rich and powerful set the terms for discussion, the term'terrorism' is restricted, in practice, to the terror that affects theUS and its clients and allies."

Indeed, we cannot condemn terror until and unless we decide what it means,and unless we're inspired to think about it individually, our condemnationwould be meaningless anyhow. When might it be acceptable? When might warbe acceptable? In general, when is it acceptable to attempt to force achange in social order of your or your neighbor's country or people, and by whatmeans, perhaps depending on the circumstances, are these attempts acceptablyachieved? Until you've at least acknowledged the many poor situations a personor set of people can be in, and are willing to condemn them to suffer thosesituations should other means to change things be easily counteracted orotherwise be impossible, you have no business criticizing terrorism. Note thatI'm not saying that you can't look such things in the face and still condemnthem -- if you can, or if you have ideas of when you can and when you can't,by all means talk about it. However, to just naively condemn terrorism withoutlooking at these things makes you yet another sheep.

I know what it means to condemn terrorism, and I don't think I can in allcircumstances. There are times where I'd say "too bad for your situation,lifestyle, and the like -- you should be opposed for what you do", butI'm not going to pretend that the people who fight for these things areinsane, and that their positions are meaningless. This is part of what itmeans to have an opinion. Don't you get it?

Anyhow, enough with that topic.I've been reading up a bit on Timothy Leary.It strikes me as very disappointing that we live in a society where peoplecan be jailed for what drugs they apply to themselves. This strikes me as adeep injustice, and I would make great sacrifices, or so I believe, to aidpeople who would or have been caught by the government in such a thing.It seems to me that it would be a good thing to interfere with arrests relatingto drug possession/distribution, especially if the consequences would be prison,despite my distaste for such things. Timothy Leary might've been a strangeguy with weird beliefs, but unless the nature of the charges included somesignificant non-drug things, the government should've left him alone, not lockedhim up for years, and it was a good thing that he was, although temporarily,broken out of jail. Another sadness of the modern day that people can be treatedthat way.

Oh, some bugs..I recently reported to the urxvt folks a bug thatprevented bolding in their terminal. Turns out that it's part of an intentionaldesign choice, and it was in the documentation (which I just skimmed). I'mdisappointed that they chose to design it this way, but it should, I hope,be easy enough to change in my local copy, and thinking about it, maybe it'shard to generically bold things in unicode anyway. Also, after reporting thedeficiencies of the NetServer::Generic perl module's simple http server, theauthor said he hadn't been maintaining it for awhile, and offered me theentire package to maintain. I might take him up on it -- I'm not a big fan ofsocket code, but that might all be abstracted down low so I wouldn't need todeal too much with it, and it is a cool module. I'll need to think about itfor awhile.

Here's the results of some good environmental research that makes me very happy:Lead-free motherboardsI've read about huge junkyards in china where the remains of computers arepolluting the soil. Anything to reduce that kind of thing would be a verygood thing. It's actually really great -- I've read about a lot of goodenvironmentally-friendly research that's been going on recently, and I'mhopeful that this trend will continue to lighten the burden we put on Terra.

Oh, ever heard of the term "paying the Stupid Tax"? Here's an example.

Those who claim to own ideas will probably be happy with this.Of course, those of us who feel differently will just need to build betterways to frustrate them. I did think that the FBI didn't do anything outsidethe United States though...

Remember that old movie, the Rocketeer?One of SCO's money sources might be drying up. w00t!

Also at work, I'm now starting to write code to hook our stuff intoMatlab. Slight problem: It's hard to get the license stuff worked out for mypersonal laptop, so I might need to use matlab remotely. Bigger problem:matlab's user interface is really really slow, slower yet over remote X.

  • sigh*
That's all for tonight -- there's still more to BLOG, but I'm tired, andthe coffeeshop is about to close.
Tags: philosophy, science, tech, work

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