Today was another lonely, quiet day. It started with some makizushi at Sakura (the waiters were all busy so one of the sushi chefs, who speaks barely any English, took my order and brought me food that only resembled my order in that a vegetarian sushi was the main part. Still, it was a pleasant surprise, and also delicious) While overall I think the selection of stores in SqHill has gotten worse since I moved to Pgh, Sakura is definitely on the positive side of the ledger. After that, I took a bus to the southside, swung by Joseph Beth's (large bookstore), and spent the day at the Beehive, enjoying their Golden Nepal tea.
On the way there, I was thinking about how fortunate we all are that most of us are using computers descended from the hobbyist traditions of the late 70s and early 80s. The openness of systems is presumably what has kept the design of the devices more on our terms (as users) rather than on the terms of business hegemons that control other parts of our media, and what has kept DRM so slow in infecting their designs. If consumer computers did not exist but the technology were there, we might imagine devices that are much more closed systems, like modern cars, where one would take the devices into a shop to have software installed - the radically open nature of PC hardware (even if it didn't quite start as open as it is now - recall the IBM lawsuits over the ROM BIOS), the web, and wikis are all part of a "dangerously difficult to control" tradition of technology that we might expect very few companies would see much profit in (and huge companies see as threatening). On a similar note, it's amusing that IBM, long known for embodying monopolistic instincts around and before the time of the birth of the IBM PC, gave us such a lasting gift in the relative openness of the PC architecture, while Apple Computer, which was born as a hobbyist shop selling open systems (Apple I and Apple II), later gave us systems that are relatively closed (although maybe this is Job's influence - maybe his development of the original Mac and his killing of the clones are tied in this regard..)
At Joseph Beth's, I picked up the latest copy of 2600 as well as the Middle East Journal - I'm only about halfway through the latter, but this is probably the most provocative issue I've read yet.
- The first article goes into a lot of detail on BushJr's push for democracy in the middle east, more particularly why it failed. The author explores the reception to the plan throughout the relevant press, including some devastating claims:
- American Democracy is visibly very broken (details are gone into, many of which have a lot of truth to them). The Arabic phrase "You cannot give what you don't have" binds this together
- No consultation was done beforehand with the governments targeted by this initiative, many of which were relatively friendly with the United States
- American actions in the region have been visibly more based on pursuit of narrow American economic interests than any type of principle
- Neoconservative factions have often been blatant in their disrespect for regional culture and sovereignty, as well as their interest in Christian supremacy
- The second article discusses the thinking behind BushJr's use of the term "Axis of Evil" as a propogandic tool. Interviews with people in BushJr's cabinet (as well as BushJr) are cited - what I charitably thought was idiocy was .. very planned. I'm forced to conclude that BushJr knew the whole time exactly what he was doing, and I'm very disturbed (and piqued) by this. The article goes on to discuss the effects the label had on Iranian politics (basically, a galvanisation - it brought terms like "The Great Satan" and other Jingo language to respond to the same from BushJr's government).
- The third article explores changes within Hamas as it's adapted to the needs of governance. I'm just starting on this..
Most of the time at the Beehive I spent either playing with XMPP or programming on my blog software. It's going reasonably well. I learned that the "jabberd" XMPP server is .. well, designed by people with the sendmail mentality, and whoever packaged it for Fedora really botched the job and made it much worse. Fortunately, ejabberd, despite having some unusual prerequisites, is a rather nice alternative.
A few days ago I lost about two hours just sitting back thinking about pareto-optimality and related concepts.. when I came out of it, it was almost like I had finished programming something (except I presumably was completely still the whole time... creepy)
I'm pretty bitter about .. a number of things. I could confront people about them, but I don't have the standing to really suggest they do things differently. Meh.