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Ecce Homo Sacer

Day 3/End of conference:

  • Last night, managed ice cream and tea, also managed to talk to the other important person I wanted face time with
  • This morning: woke up with plenty of time for breakfast, went to part of a meeting, but got nervous about airport time, so I left partway through and caught a taxi there.
  • While waiting for my plane, I spotted the other CMU person - we chatted for a bit, and he offered to share his (prearranged) taxi from the airport. A sleepy flight later, we had a long conversation about science research in the US - his involvement with this project was once substantial, and he has a lot of ideas and a good understanding of the world.
  • I had them drop me off in Oakland, where I ate at India Garden, amusing the people there with hearing from their former staff member. I then caught a bus to CMU, looked for my bosses, failed (was 6:30 or so, so not a huge surprise), caught a bus home
  • Cat hugs! Also dropped off laptop number two and a lot of stuff, now at Té Café.
  • Planning on being at work tomorrow - probably will be exhausted and not get anything project-related done, but I'd like to fill in my bosses on the conference. Probably won't tell them yet that I'm planning to leave this summer if I don't break apart first, not until I have a vague idea where to and am more than 70% certain (where I am now, basically). I think they'll be pretty pleased about the reception of the software I wrote.
The city is now in warm-weather mode - people are spending time outside, doors and windows are open, and the weather is upgraded to just being a bit nippy. Rheet!

The OpenFlow projects were huge at the conference. Previous conferences had them as a sideshow, but this time they got as much of the spotlight as any of the testbed frameworks. In theory, this means the testbeds are mature enough to really make use of virtual networks to glue nodes together via hardware (among other things - there's all sorts of things that people are doing with both released versions of OpenFlow and extensions).

Not looking forward for my life in this place to sink back into my head.. it hasn't yet though, and I'm in reasonably good cheer. Self-esteem has reached a two year high point where I feel I'm pretty ok and it'd be nice to have suitable people around who appreciate me. I'm sure the depression will come back sooner or later though.

Grab bag of things:

  • Obama interview on Fox. It certainly takes confidence to walk into "enemy ground" (on both sides). It didn't feel like a typical interview though, more of the "devil's ground" that Fox as an organisation calls "fair/balanced" (and are as apolitical as Texas textbooks)
  • Continued publicity over the pedophilia cover-ups in the Catholic Church. The pedophilia - obviously a problem - when people commit to a lifestyle that goes counter enough to human nature (celibacy), it makes things of this sort more likely, and on the scale that the church provides social services in some countries, problems of this nature would spring up in even the most well-managed institutions (consider the much lesser scandal over Acorn). The deeper, damning problem is that there was a cover-up and that (as far as we know, given church secrecy over the matter) effective steps were not made to prevent the problem from repeating. It's this latter failure that turn personal failings into an intitutional failure, moreso one that undermines the law.
  • Hamas is tempting fate again. Let's hope that if Israel moves in again, it dismantles Hamas entirely - one can't expect Israel to sit by and let rockets rain down without a response, yet their chickened out partway through their last engagement (still provoking idiotic criticism by the multiculturalist liberals and socialists who don't think things through very clearly)
  • Balancing this is Israel continuing to grab land in East Jerusalem. I hope to see the US make the most of the diplomatic spat, with any luck forcing the current right-wing coalition forming the Israeli government to dissolve and perhaps weakening the military ties the US has to them. Adjustments to concepts of national pride will have to be made for a meaningful peace in the region, and so long as this "special relationship/blank check" thing between the US and Israel persists, that will never happen. Any remaining foreign policy "projects" the US wants to do are things it should do quickly - American unilateral power is dissolving into something new, and its ability to call shots unopposed, either in the name of a liberal world order or a capitalist one (depending on who's at the steering wheel), is on its way out.
  • The Žižek book I bought, 「First as Tragedy, Then as Farce」, is the best book by him that I've bought so far - he still includes dizzying numbers of references to cultural entities (plays, films, etc) and there are still things with which I disagree (some of which are rather poorly argued, or just assumed, maybe reasonable given his intended audience), but there are coherent and interesting perspectives tying together 9-11 and the recent economic woes (and our reactions, and various actors). He also makes a very clear thrust against the idea that economics as a discipline is value-neutral, that we're in a post-ideological world (thanks to capitalism, haha), and other variants of that idea. The idea that the current system has become transparent teflon to those who buy into it is very important - pulling people back to the point where they can see their own disclaimed roots is something I've done (or tried to do, anyway) with a number of "post-ideology" "pragmatic" folk - thinking within the system it's possible to blame people who are ill-served by it for the faults, but as socialists, we reclaim the ability to blame and damn capitalism for its real failings in the same way we must answer for (or disclaim, which is more complicated) the real failures of socialist systems in practice. Provided we're fair and the right people present the arguments well to people, they should help to dissolve/displace (or at least manage to get shared as a 「maybe」) the otherwise invisible assumptions of those who accept or are committed to lassiez-faire and its proposed system of judgement. That moment when people emerge from the cave and they see their philosophy from the outside - a precious gift of doubt and insight. Anyhow, this is probably the first book of Z that I can recommend people who arn't into him give a read.
  • From the 「people butting heads with reality department」, we have Karzai being angry over Taliban arrests in neighbouring Pakistan. I don't think negotiations with the Taliban are a good idea, and the best prospect for peace in the region is, I think, to civilise all of the tribal regions (establish a state presence), killing, imprisoning, or reforming every Taliban member findable in both countries. Also, Japan is eager to play chicken with reality, pledging to ignore any bans on bluefin tuna fishing because it would threaten their culture. This is pretty amazingly daft.
  • Malaysia still allows underaged girls to be married, rejecting marriage reforms. As noted before, liberal societies should reject, not recognise, and actively disrupt marriages build on grounds we consider unacceptable. If a marriage is made for reasons other than primarily love, made not significantly by choice of the couple, or made by people who should not be eligible for marriage (being of majority being a large component of this), we consider it invalid, regardless of whatever traditions people might be following that would try to justify it. Likewise, we consider any claims of implicit marital permission for sex that are not based on a real and mutual understanding between the couples to be invalid, and people "claiming that privilege" to coerce sex from a spouse to be committing rape (meaning legal and personal-justice responses to that act would be appropriate).
  • Puzzling/interesting to see FoxNews attack Geert Wilders - both because it seems the expression of views inside fox are more of the "word from above" rather than "we chose you because your views are like ours" and because there theoretically should be considerable common ground. For what it's worth, my own thoughts on Geert Wilders are complex (just as they are on Pim Fortuyn, although I appreciate Fortuyn more than Wilders). Wilders, like Fortuyn (was, prior to his asssassination) is best known for his attack on multiculturalism (which I consider to be a generally worthy cause - the multiculturalist liberal treads on very dangerous and destructive ground) - my issues with them are mostly on general approach and specifics - what's the alternative to deep multiculturalism, and to what extent should the state be culturally engaged and reflective? I think the American system gets the balance very wrong, but having the state be engaged beyond a certain point would make me nervous (hard to say more without specifics). The reemergence of private religious courts, for example, is something I think should see an absolute ban, while a nation that is explicitly Christian (or Muslim, or Atheist) or one that would ban (or fund) religious institutions would not sit well with me (except with those few that can be shown to be grossly harmful to the public good). Wilders lacks this balanced approach (going much further than Fortuyn did).
  • I've come to appreciate people associated with government research institutions (and research fund institutions)
  • Wondering how much social roles recreate some theoretical(?) tribal positions our far-distant ancestors had - notion of "wise man" in particular. I particularly like people who take geekdom in that direction and pile on a commitment to the public good as well as (difficult for geeks!) an understanding of big-picture issues. NSF and the institutions near it seem to attract particularly awesome people (differently awesome and distinctly less creepy/awe-inducing as the CIA people I've met have been). Of course, all of them have to do with that intereesting interplay between rules and pragmatics, both within and outside their institutions - it's a useful tension (as much as it frustrates both societal-logicians and the rule-averse).
  • Ken MacLeod (one of my favourite science fiction writers) has a new book coming out soon - it's called 「The Restoration Game」. His blog is generally interesting too.
  • Oops
  • It would be terrible to write a 「Fiddler on the Roof 2: Return to Anatevka」. Don't do it.
  • The awesome hotel shampoo was made by Gilchrest and Soames (for those of you who want to hunt down an interesting shampoo, no doubt a slim minority of people who for some reason read the usual mounds of stream-of-thought stuff that makes it on here). I think it *might* be this one in particular.