Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn
dachte

Learning From Future Apologies

Friday was KGB's highlight event -- Capture the Flag with Stuff, and it was awesome. Imagine playing capture the flag inside two giant, interconnected buildings (Mother Wean and Doherty, for the curious), and adding special magic objects to the mix (some of which require people to form a long chain of people, skip, and sing Yankee Doodle (despite my objections, due to Northern bias, singing Dixie instead is not acceptable) or otherwise behave very loudly and with much silliness). After a round of that, I went to hang out with friends for awhile, and was reminded by my body again that I can't stomach much wine before becoming drunk. Sigh. Tonight, I went with E, D, and Ir to the annual Pitt Jazz concert, which was fantastic. According to the pamphlet, these were some of the biggest names in Jazz today, all playing together. The guitarist Abraham Laboriel was very lively -- jumping around and beating on the back of his guitar at times. Afterwards there was a private reception that E had tickets to (he does parttime work in the Pitt music department, and got the tickets gratis). I got back fairly tired but happy. I had to cancel some other scheduled things to make this work, but this weekend has been one of happy comprimises -- everything seems to work out well even if I didn't get to do everything I might have wanted to do.

I may spend some quality time at work tommorrow programming an experiment. The software we use, E-Prime, is an irritating piece of junk, but there's nothing better and there are some nontrivial things that it does that would be a pain to implement. E-Prime runs only on windows, meaning that I need to physically be there to program for it. Argh. I suppose if I had a work laptop running windows or ran windows on any hardware of my own, I could develop here. Mhh.

Now, some more hopefully interesting news and commentary..

  • Pirates v Rich Assholes. I have a hard time feeling sorry for the passengers on this kind of thing, but also don't like thieves, and I suppose they're the greater evil. I guess... One generally doesn't become rich enough to waste money on things that frilly in life without some things that are not the social equivalent to thieving though. Living off of investments, inherited wealth, control of property, etc. are hardly honest living -- I think that hubris in money seeking is one of larger societal evils.
  • Perhaps Galloway isn't so cool afterall -- he says he entered a contract to make a speech that prevented him from being in parliament at the time of a crucial vote. This is irresponsible -- as a MP, his duty to his constituents should come strictly before private arrangements, and if he cannot do both, he should not enter into such arrangements while he is a MP.
  • Another market-values-are-human-values screed. Sigh.
Now, to the meat. As you have hopefully read, some slums near Paris have been rioting recently, involving the burning of many cars. In several of these slums, the police have given up, not having patrolled the streets for years, leaving them to become isolated Muslim-African ghettos where the primary economic activity is stealing cars and selling the parts. The riots have been sparked when a resident called the cops over some suspicious activity, and having been called, the police were obliged to come. They attempted to question two subjects who ran and managed to electrocute themselves to death on some power equipment while trying to hide from police. Apparently, those masses pin the blame on their Darwin awards on the police, and are rioting every night, bringing the spotlight on some immigration-related issues in France. These slums are composed of primarily African immigrants who, by and large, do not speak French, are muslim, and are largely abandoned by society, living lives that range between grey-market and theft. In interviews with apologists and leaders, they claim to want to be left alone and given self-government of some kind, with some of them wanting to enact Sharia. I personally am horrified -- France is paying a high cost for its part in the horrors of colonialism and an inadequately welcoming culture. I think what is needed is a positive and negative commitment -- the negative commitment should be a firm decision not to grant an inch of autonomy or even the slightest steps towards Sharia to them. If need be, their communities should be broken up with members distributed all across the nation to prevent anything that might lead to such a thing. The positive commitment should be to welcome them into society, teaching them French and providing them the opportunity to do well in French society. If the positive commitment is not done, the seperatist urges will channel anger that may destroy French (and modern secular European) society, something that I think must be avoided at even very high cost. It has caused many arguments with my friends, but I feel that the preconditions of secular democracy are a relatively secular populance without huge chasms on many crucial viewpoints. Things that threaten such conditions must be dealt with by means that possibly are outside modern liberal democratic methods, from refusing citizenship to compulsary public education (which may be a good idea anyhow -- private religious (and private nonreligious) schools seem like a very bad idea to me, although the idea of banning them is greatly offensive to every religious or affluent person I've talked about the issue with (although many of them are comfortable with the idea of banning private schools of groups they don't belong to)) -- I feel that it is also the primary solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue -- closing every palestinian school and every private school (incl Yeshivot) in greater Israel and bussing each and every kid into schools together so they rub shoulders. I feel, based on my conversations with several Israelis online, that there is considerable anti-Palestinian racism that mirrors (but is nowhere near the obscene levels of) the racism on the other side. I further believe that the school content is partly to blame (this is incredibly clear on the Palestinian side, where it is not hard to find content that is an incitement to violence, and not quite as clear but still, I believe, supportable on the other side in both public and private schools. One example would be the pre-Israeli pseudohistory whereby the Ottoman Empire was for some reason keeping their Palestinian province largely empty of people, and therefore there were no people whose land was taken when Israel was founded). Using whatever means needed to integrate the schools (and finding school content that is honest and good for everyone) would be a step towards eliminating the problem within a generation or two, at the cost of getting rid of the ability of religions to provide unique education controls on subscribers. I can understand why that's an unacceptable cost to some, but for peace (in Israel), to eliminate yuppie class isolation and privilege (in America), and to build a closer society in every nation, I feel that it's worth doing. But then, I don't run a country.

CMU has a quiz where one can win an iPod or some prizes for answering easy questions on campus security. I took it, primarily for amusement factor, and was very mildly offended and surprised to find that the quiz includes a movie that portrays southern women as being shallow and stupid .. well, to be accurate, it shows a southern woman as being so. I suppose I may be being oversensitive and leaping to conclusions when it shows only one person of a group with extremely negative consequences. I don't know.. but in any case I was surprised at some of the incidental content on the videos they used to illustrate points.

I was visiting Live365 recently to try to get the URLs to some more internetradio stations, and was greatly irritated to find that they changed things around so the site is full of adverts and one can't use a normal mp3 player (a la mplayer or mpg123) to connect anymore -- one needs something that does HTTP authentication (I think...). This is part of the trend that we've seen far too often -- something cool is started, people contribute to it and love it, and then some asshat corporation buys it up, commercialises it, and it becomes nearly useless and often threatening to other open sites that would replace it with something free and community-based again. CDDB went this way, as did mp3.com, the former nowonder, and countless other sites. One of the worst effects it leads to is a suspicion in peoples minds (including me) whenever they contribute to an open, good site of the people that it'll be bought and go bad in that way.

I am excited about ordering my new laptop next week. w00t. I am still looking for alternatives to make sure I'm not missing out on some great deals (if anyone out there spots a 19" AMD laptop or another 17" AMD laptop that looks totally awesome, please email me a link ASAP), but so far it looks like this is it (although, again, I don't know the precise pricing yet).

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