Woke from a dream that after my coming vacationlet in StLouis, my life here was over and I simply had a car with all my stuff in it (seemed to be the Behemoth, no cats), and had nowhere to go - kind of reluctantly hopped in and slowly drove around my dream interpretation of StLouis (which was more of a suburban grid interrupted by large patches of swamp, overpopulated, run down, and in a disintegrating shantytown society, like in many of my dreams). As I slowly drove around, I kept wondering what the to do next, eventually driving back by the house to find all the guests gone and the family out. Eventually I found out that I had cancer and not long to live, and I was relieved that reality had a place for me..
Today, went to the Beehive, but first, Joseph-Beth's to get some travel reading material (New issue of MEJ, Far Eastern Affairs, and 2 Murakami books). While waiting, I had a nice random conversation with a middle-aged lady who works for Pitt, talking about several things from funding of public transit to cultural differences between India, China, and the United States. Grabbed lunch/dinner at the Library, where I had long conversations about politics, government, and psychological research with some other people I didn't know (odd - normally I have a lot of trouble talking to random people, but not today). One of them was a Ron Paul supporter (sigh), the other not, and hopefully I made a good case for the line of reasoning that problems with the state are at least an equally good reasoning for reforming it as shutting it down. I was a bit surprised when one of the guys turned out to be a former mid-level researcher from Pitt in the field of Psychology - after a bit of chatting, he put together an argument that psychology would advance much more quickly as a research field if prisoners on death row were used in ablation experiments, en masse, and he argued that the benefits to society justify the sacrifice of a few. Apart from the justification end, my thoughts have gone down such paths before - I suspect that without concerns for the welfare of subjects (if, in fact, they were prisoners or sacrificial lambs), research would go much more quickly (although if criminals were the primary pool, there may be generalisability concerns for some experiments). I can't buy into the idea of it being morally acceptable though, and his suggestion that universities break with the moral/ethical guidelines in order to gain competitive advantage over each other and foreign universities struck an ill chord with me. There was a bit of what looked like guilt and a need for validation in his eyes as he spoke too - I wonder what his story is and if he's no longer working for Pitt for reasons tied to this. If so, bravo for them -- I don't think the field needs would-be mad scientists, and if some bright people who would have us discard morals (that is, depart too far from the moral consensus, which I by-and-large agree with, on the area) in the pursuit of knowledge or wealth, that's a sacrifice worth making. Still, he seemed like a nice guy.
The Sun is still AWOL. My OpenSolaris install CD, by contrast, has arrived. It so far has failed to keep me warm.
Jamie Zawinski has a nice rantlet about something that irks me too: people who configure their IM client to never report being away (or always report being away) and require people to "ping" them before a conversation. Two choice selections: "sane people find your position rude" and "The social contract I'm referring to is called etiquette." -- Irritating how a number of people say "Fuck society, and fuck rules/norms" without thinking that at least some of these things serve a purpose - at least socially, people should follow norms that make sense, modified by consequences for not following them, and ideally not because they either are worshipful or disdainful of the notion of norms/rules.
Pet peeve evoked some place fairly near my home: People who bathe so little that traces of their awful scent linger in the air for a good ten minutes after they go elsewhere. It's bad enough when the outer periphery of someone's personal space is guarded like a watchdog by their odour, worse yet when stenchpuppies are deposited everywhere.
Current project: Working out an ideal constitution/legal code for a liberal, pluralist socialist state.