I find it very frustrating how many news sites don't "get it" with the internet - when they report on things that pertain to things online, very few of them provide a direct link to anything the user might want to follow up on. For example, a news site might run a story on a new piece of software from FooCompany that's going to change the world, and while they're often will link to other stories they wrote about FooCompany and possibly the type of software it is, they almost never will link directoy to FooCompany or a press release. Traditional news media almost never get it right, which is probably why a lot of people get their news (for better or for worse) from slashdot, kuro5hin, or Wikinews.
Pondering the phonomena of discussions with other people where certain styles of argument cause a statement/point to have no impact because one has decided that style of argument is invalid. For me, a very strong example is argument by consequence - when, for example, people try to argue that something must be true/valid because otherwise a conclusion they could not bear would be reached, I tend to fold up and reject that entire line of argument. This worries me a bit because I do accept pragmatism as (in fact, consider it the only honest) foundation for a system of understanding - the difference between "I believe it because the alternative is too ugly to accept" and "I believe it because without that belief I cannot begin to think in a useful way" is not as big as I would like it to be. I think the key difference is intent though - with the second, one is intending to establish the beginnings of a framework of philosophy/thinking, after which one hopes to rely mostly on that framework. With the first, one is moving directly to a conclusion that one wants to reach, generally on a matter that's already fairly high-up in one's layers of Weltanschauung. As a quick example of each, I have often heard the argument that a moral framework is intrinsic to nature because otherwise we could not condemn "evil" acts strongly. Read another way, we want to condemn acts as evil, therefore we interpret an (our) moral framework as intrinsic to the nature of things. For the second sort, we assume that we are not living in a world where events are subtly manipulated so as to make statistical inference invalid, so that we can use abductive and statistical/scientific reasoning and assume naturalism. Are these really as distant as I'd like? Not really - while I am a naturalist (in both the metaphysical and methodological sense), I don't think we can build an incredibly strong argument that naturalism is necessarily the only reasonable conclusion - the strongest lines of reasoning we have, I think, is to examine the nature of specific beliefs to deflate them (see the psychological and other fingerprints on deities and religious beliefs) and to accept any remaining uncertainty as part of that accepted in the pragmatic moves needed to provide a basis for our thinking. We can never reach a deep escape from the brain-in-a-jar or related scenario, nor even feel completely satisfied with "cogito ergo sum", but we accept them as working/enabling conclusions/intuitions.
I'm still a bit philosophically uncomfortable on this matter though. I don't believe in gods, and do see human fingerprints on every religion I have ever taken the time to understand, as well as pretty much all of the spirituality I have encountered. I reject them all as human creations to serve human needs (not like these strange folk do, nor like these other slightly less strange folk, though). However, I don't think it'd be easy to make an argument that someone who introduced spirituality into their worldview at a very early layer in order to make it possible for them to think about things would be wrong, at least not without putting at risk the somewhat similar moves we make to establish the foundations for naturalism and science. Apart from the (rather higher-layer and thus kind of distant) criticism of the move based on a psychological understanding of faith and sociology/memetics, can we cleanly seperate these moves?
Much of this is indirectly inspired by a rare bit of socialising tonight, which touched on philosophy, math, programming languages, and other things. This kind of thing happens far too rarely.
Applying for a job at UOregon - network admin job... and they weed out most applicants by asking for paragraph answers to a number of specific questions about attitudes towards various things in being a sysadmin, tools used, etc. As much as I know I'm a seasoned, experienced sysadmin at this point, filling out the questions makes me realise exactly how boring that kind of thing feels to me now, at least if that's all there is to a job. My last job at CMU was wonderful for me because it used most of my geek skills while still allowing me to work with something that felt real and deep that I had not already mastered (that nobody really has mastered yet) - understanding the human brain. I don't even know if I'd be happy having another job that's half product development half sysadmin again -- what's the point in developing another product that will likely be forgotten in 25 years? Right now I can point at published psychological papers with my name on them (well, at the end of a list of authors, but I'm still on there), and feel that I did something worthwhile, and before that I can give a list of researchers that I helped in various ways.. I don't want to be far from something interesting, or at least something meaningful. I sent the application anyway... I'm still hoping that MIT or CMU will hire me, the first for a Bioinformatics lab, the second for various blah jobs at CERT.. or maybe REDACTED will give me enough part time work that I can support myself until I figure out grad school and I won't have to move before the move to whatever University I (hopefully) get accepted at for whatever programme I decide on.
I'm happy to see that Megaman 9 will be coming out soon (which, from the previews available on Youtube, mixes old-style graphics with a lot of new gameplay ideas), but stumbled across this video of someone beating all the Megaman 1 bosses without getting hit (and without using the select-pause trick), mostly using the regular arm cannon. Impressive! (there's also a lot of other weird stuff for those looking for it)