I've been thinking about the philosophy of a friend of mine, particularly the political philosophy -- he feels that the primary issue with government is the scale. In particular, he argues that many things that are good on a small scale end up being quite bad on a large one. An example came up in a discussion we had on old boy networks (a recent focus of my attention). He argues that granting favours to friends, such as jobs and opportunities, is only a problem when taken to a large scale -- for jobs in small companies it is common to hire friends, and for positions of small authority it is common to hand out small favours to said friends. I believe there are probably cues towards this behaviour in our biology, but as always with interactions between biology and political philosophy, we can struggle with our biology using culture and similar as needed, if needed. I'm bothered by the basic premise -- I think that the small-scale big-scale issue isn't truly suggesting a changed nature of favours between the scales so much as it is a changed perspective that makes the still existing problem harder to see. By framing the problem properly, we can still see it in even very small-scale government absent a larger framework (I hesitate to use the term without having fully studied his philosophy, but his thought seems to fit under the category of anarcho-primitivism -- his ideal for civilisation is a network of small towns). We might imagine each town having a family that owns the land and grants all positions of power to family members, ensuring its continued hegemony. He argues that the social harm from this is less than that of having a large nation controlled by rotary clubs and people floating in those social circles. I would probably agree with that on its face, although he draws the conclusion that there is no problem with it on that scale, which I entirely disagree with. He sees it as appropriate to choose the company one surrounds oneself with at work. I think a more nuanced stand is appropriate -- ideally anything ones does at work should stand up to public inquiry. If one is to use friendships as a basis for hiring policy, one should be willing to publicly note that that is a factor -- I think that to do so but not admit it leads to the beginning of a mentality of deception that makes government untrustworthy (and amusingly leads to the distrust of government that that circle of friends has). There is value in a team to working with friends (although that can be disruptive too), but it must be considered in terms of the public (not private) good, and should not lead to networks of privilege.
Having decided that, I'm still a bit bothered by the implicit claim in it that it's not being a good friend to refuse favours and connections that would be inappropriate/not publically defensible. I don't think I would grant such favours, and I guess part of our psychology as social beings is that we're bothered by the implication that we're not being good friends to those close to us, whether the right or wrong. I suppose it's a kind of generalised philosophical version of friendship in the abstract saying that it feels hurt. For societal justice, one must be willing to bend one's nature.
On the laptop front, I did some more prodding -- apparently ACPI and the trackpad are indeed wed. By running a commandline battery monitor I like, which checks on the battery every 2 seconds, the pointer went completely insane, completely giving the wrong interpretation on everything I did, dragging my icons all over the place. I then rebooted with the Linux kernel argument acpi=off, and found the trackpad to be completely dead under that configuration. This confirms that ACPI and the mouse on that laptop have ugly ties. Interestingly, I was able to make the mouse very reliable again by tweaking my xorg.conf and removing the ZAxisMapping from the mouse section. I didn't notice the trackpad even had a "scrollwheel" until just now, and I find that intensely irritating because I expect the entire trackpad to be devoted to motion, so it's no loss to disable that. I think having it enabled made it easy for the mousepad to get confused over clickend events for that part of the pad, and now that that's disabled, everything is much more reliable.
Two other software tweaks I've done:
- I tweaked the automounter policy (They live in /etc/hal/fdi/policy) to not use /media as its mount point for the automounter, instead using /automount. I'm going to try living with the automounter, but I've used /media to store my music, movies, and similar for a long time and I'm not going to give that up
- Tweak /etc/vimrc to comment out the setting of hlsearch, which is an eyesore