Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Pinpoints on a Strange Surface

Today was the first meeting for the bioinformatics class, and the class looks to be quite awesome -- awesome to the extent that I could imagine that perhaps bioinformatics could be a better calling for me than neuropsych. We'll, naturally, see if my enthusiasm continues throughout the course, but this is the most enthused I've been about.. well, anything, for quite some time (even considering that I've been kind of unhappy for awhile). I am pleasantly surprised to find out that my High School AP Biology 1 and 2, some ten years ago, have left me with a good foundation in genetics and related topics. What reading I've done through the textbook so far has been a mix of "Damn that's clever", "I remember that", and "Of course!", with some learning of new biological and genetic concepts mixed in. I have a deep thirst to learn more about this topic, more than the other things that interest me. I suppose I was partially enthused by Evolutionary Psych, and could see myself going into that, but it doesn't intrigue the computer science side of me, just the sciency side of me, and Bioinformatics looks like it intrigues both. I occasionally brushed elbows with Bioinformatics people at the ORA Perl conferences before ORA started their own line of conference for them. I asked them how hard it'd be for me to get a job in Bioinformatics, and they said that without specific training, I wouldn't have a chance. Looking at this class, which is a survey class, I can believe it -- while knowing Perl is a huge plus for Bioinformatics, it's only part of the package. Anyhow, it remains to be seen if this class could eventually lead to a career change.

Last night, after KGB, I had a few of them over and made stew, watching 12 monkeys. The stew went well (although it was kind of bland -- I wasn't sure how much spice to put in for my larger cooking bowl), as did the whole thing. It was, I suppose, a dry run for my ceilidh later this month.

I was surprised to find, after spending sometime writing an essay critical of overapplication of Historical Materialism (a la Marx), to find that apparently Marx was concerned about its use, and that orthodox marxism screwed up Marx's theory there in the creation of a new Orthodoxy. I imagine there are ways where I actually do disagree with Marx/Trotsky/et al, but I should be more careful in what I can take for granted to be similar between the historical movements and their theories so I don't invent dissimilarities or similarities between their theory and where I'm going. I've been bad at keeping my local copy of my website and the one that's up in sync, so none of this is highly visible to you. On the off chance that I die before things are put up, I would hope that someone I trust who's unix-literate would dig through my home directory and put most of the stuff up on the web.

I am amused right now to find that my body, feet covered in blanket, makes for a two-story home for my cats -- one cat, Beefalo, is inside the tent under my legs, and the other, Tortfeasor, is on top of my feet on top of the blanket. Their endless ability to play with each other through the blanket, when they're awake, is awesome. If only human relations were that simple. Then again, perhaps the depth of human relationships is needed for sufficiently intelligent beings to feel they have a place in the world, and without them, we would find people having difficulty dealing with existential angst. Personally, I tend to be a lot more philosophically productive when I'm not in a relationship, but I also am considerably more prone to dark thoughts and less happy.

I am irritated by other atheists who take the lack of the well foundingness of absolute morality as a license to be an asshole. It is important to seek virtue, I think, regardless of if one believes in it in the absolutely-founded sense (as I don't) or in the constructed sense (as I do). I tend not to think well of the character of people who show no effort towards it, even if I can respect the position they take in rejecting it as part of the nature of things. Who do I respect more, the value-relativist who holds the values of an asshole, or the value-absolutist? It's hard to say overall, but while I have a number of friends who are value-relativist and not an asshole (let's call non-assholes idealists for our purposes here), I have always had friends who are value-absolutist idealists, and I get along well with them despite the ways we look at the world being rooted on very different ground. By contrast, a lot of the time I have trouble respecting the people I've known who are non-idealist relativists, and for the few who have becomes friends, many are people that I've felt the need to boot from my life because I couldn't stand the injustices of some things they did (the final straw almost always having been their asking me to be complicit in some way in things I consider unethical/immoral). Almost invariably, the nonidealist relativists I run into are confused by the idea of a relativist who would pass judgements on behaviour... For some of them, I enjoy provoking thought for them, as I'm convinced that a lot of people don't really think their weltanschauung through, stumbling through life with a worldview they hardly understand through areas they don't even see.

In the news...

  • This concerns me. I hope he's wrong, although eventually he won't be if we continue to ignore environmental concerns until we hit them.
  • Chile has a new president. She looks like she could be somebody's mom.. because she is somebody's mom. Linked from that article, the BBC provides an overview of South/Central America politics
  • Meetings are bad for you
  • The Supreme Court respects our autonomy
  • Someone makes fun of the Web2.0 thing. I didn't really hear the term until a few months ago -- apparently it's been a major fad (and an ill-defined term) for much longer. I would imagine it was mainly used by webpreneurs and other such ilk.
  • Ariel Sharon may not be dead, but his career is either at or near his end because of his recent stroke (one month ago). I worry about the future of the current peace plan, although in a strange way, the current situation may be helping things. Sharon's new party, Kadima, which he personally formed within the last year when he noted that his popular support was much stronger than his support within Likud, has not yet been fully defined on the political landscape, with the people from various other parties who made a leap of faith onto Kadima being in a rather uncomfortable position as of late with Sharon's sudden departure from the political scene. Ehud Olmert, Sharon's likely successor, is left as acting prime minister of Israel, which may help him in a bid to remain PM in the upcoming elections. Olmert is in perhaps the most interesting position of all -- he has in his hands a new political party, with unknown momentum and only a single issue having a defined role. The future of his party, and possibly Israel, rests suddenly on his shoulders. It is unfortunate that Sharon did not maintain his health -- with a modest diet and some exercise, I imagine he would not have had the obesity that creates these kinds of things.

  • CMU, the First Amendment, and Indecent Exposure

    Earlier on my G+ stream, I commented on the matter of a CMU student who protested the Catholic church's coverup of sexual abuse by dressing as the…

  • Dilution

    I've been thinking about an issue that's been raised in the secular community; I'm not sure it's a good issue, nor a bad one. Let me lead up to it…

  • Commentary on the Human Rights Campaign

    I recently was pointed at a blog post suggesting people reject the Human Rights Campaign, a large social justice organisation that focuses on…

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