To cope with the lack of laptoppage recently, I got two new books at the bookstore yesterday -- Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys and another book (which I don't recommend and hence won't name) that uses the comic-book superhero genre as a backdrop to discuss philosophy. The latter is a collection of essays from a number of different authors, some of which are excellent, and some of which are poor. The most interesting essay I've read so far is a very thoughtful and deep discussion on the practice of vigilanteism. Sadly, christian moralisers also get their say in other essays, assuming christian morality to be the only true perspective. The worst mark of shame on those essays is that they mention and embrace Pascal's Wager. Oy. I wish the book had been edited better -- I seriously considered selling the book when I finish with it, or worse, removing the particularly dumb essays from the book physically, before my inhibitions about altering books woke up.
Germany apparently bans homeschooling. I understand why, and while I would probably homeschool if I had a kid, I would still fight to ban the practice and abide by it if it were the law. I believe that most people end up providing a worse learning environment for their kids with homeschooling than the public schools do, and the withdrawl from society's institutions is a considerable public harm. I would in fact go further and ban private schools, federalising the entire school system (including funding). (It is worth noting that I am only talking about primary education -- university-level schooling is outside this scope)
It has been a fairly long time -- I am about ready to turn off the redirection for the old pathstyle on my website to the current pathstyle. If you have bookmarks to http://blog.dachte.org/live, it is time to update it to http://blog.dachte.org/pound/blog/dachte, because you will get a 404 otherwise. This goes for the RSS feeds too. I've been doing similar cleanups at work (but, of course, am a lot more conservative for our work website because papers reference the site. Note also that for people running IE, my website is probably somewhat easier to read. I used a box at work to figure out what kinds of CSS IE messes up on, and changed things in a way that will hopefully not change the look for CSS-compliant browsers. For the curious, IE's block-level CSS element sizing is seriously messed up by default, and fixing it was made difficult by the fact that the CSS2 max-width property is completely unimplemented in IE and it misimplements min-width and width. I think Microsoft must hate CSS given how badly it implements it. In other website news, I am going to switch the codepage on my BLOG to Unicode sometime soon. It's odd, but purely by mapping a compose key on my laptop, I've changed a number of basic habits -- I have a fair number of files with non-ASCII7 characters in them, have re-tagged most of my foreign-language music with the native orthographies, and similar. It's caused me problems with my Neuros, unfortunately, because the Neuros uses FAT16 (and so copying over any foreign-named files doesn't work) and because the Neuros firmware doesn't have a Unicode font, so even if I rename files for the neuros, their info displays as gibberish. I am considering making a copying-script that renames files according to translation tables, retagging the copy on the neuros as it lands. It will require constant light maintenance as I add new translation tables, but that's ok. Otherwise I either need to miss out on some fun music or have it badly labeled on my laptop (when I have a working one again).
A few people have commented on my health recently -- yes, I'm not feeling well, but it's mostly psychosomatic and stress-related, causing lack of sleep and appetite. When my new laptops come in, at least a good part of the reason behind it will be gone, I suspect. Unrelated to that, my sinuses are doing something different this year. I am not congested, but I have also almost entirely lost my sense of smell, but in a strange way -- I smell nothing but a fresh, cold smell, and that smell masks out much of the other things I normally can smell.
I am beginning to think that the protests about Grand Theft Auto were based on valid concerns -- I can say that I had some inclinations, when cops drove by my apartment, to think of them much more negatively, and I can trace that back to playing the game. This probably isn't a major concern to my friends, who by and large, if they're political at all, tend to have highly anti-cop attitudes, but it is a concern to me. I don't have a problem with authority if it serves a good purpose -- I would resist it to the extent it serves a bad one, and to the extent it's neutral, it's situational, but I think any society needs cops, and I've known a number of police who are good people, working within an institution that's largely for the good of society. Back to GTA, I don't think that it's appropriate to censor the content of the game because of that negative affect it can have on people, but I do think it's important to be able to admit it's there and perhaps find ways to keep people aware of it and counter it by other means. People should not fear/hate government and police, they should fear/hate bad government and police.
In a pleasure book I've been reading, And God Created the French, it paints a very different picture of France than one I've gotten from another source. It suggests an affluent nation where corruption is rampant on every level, where budgets frequently bear even less connection to reality than the United States, and where the need to be grandiose and appear royal is a driving factor in society. This contrasts with portrayals of a society where public openness is a law that's effective. I find myself wondering if one of my sources describes a different time than the other, if one is rosy or not for political or amusement ends, etc. I am inclined to believe in the old boys network and the corruption -- it is difficult to eliminate such things, and if there are two credible claims, I consider the less grandiose one to be the more likely. Still, I wonder...
The intelligent design movement apparently had some success in Kansas again, which has me worried. I do not intend to stay in the United States if that moves to where I likely would raise any children I might have someday. I just hope I could find a place that could feel like home someplace else.
IBM is not always your friend. They recently announced some creepy software that monitors the web to gague public opinions on products, companies, and similar. There have been a few pieces of software that I've noticed doing so for awhile from other companies (which I swiftly block from my website), but it's irritating that IBM would be doing it, and on the scale they describe. On that press release above, they describe one of the goals of their product being to "help prevent spread of negative opinions". Notice that their own page on it doesn't have anything quite so spooky in phrasing. Of course, Americans don't seem to mind when companies, who they have no input into, do creepy things that they would be rioting over the government, who they have considerable input into, doing. A person silenced by a private contract or killed by a corporate action is just as harmed as one done so by a government. I find myself wondering if companies who find people talking about not liking their product will quietly be bribed to be silent, or perhaps threatened with a lawsuit.
HP decided to send me my warranty before they sent me my laptop. This is presumably because it takes them time to configure my laptop as I have requested (I doubt many people buy laptops nowadays without using a dropdown configurator) -- because of that delay time (and possibly also because it's easier to ship a small packet than to ship a computer), my warranty arrived in my office today while my laptop still is, according to their online status page, not guaranteed to have been built/shipped until the 17th. Oh well.