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Semiformalishmaybe

Count of Monte Crisco

I am bothered every time I see Apple's tablet - I don't want it to be popular because it's a great step backwards for platform-openness. The hardware looks pretty neat, and it's a good candidate for the "I'd like something to read books on" device, but Apple has long been trying to close every platform and device type with which they've been involved; their products are shiny and have better software for their intended purpose, but they're not so good for being general-purpose devices. Maybe they're not intended to be GP, but by the hardware, they so easily could be that it's wasteful to lock them up, and harmful to industry to further tilt economies of scale away from the tinkerer crowd. Anytime a hardware manufacturer goes further and actively works to lock tinkerers out with system updates, their product and company deserves to end.

It would be interesting to watch a TV programme (or youtube channel, I guess?) where lawyers and legal philosophers would answer broad questions on US Law. I've been trying to understand the perception of US society and law by nonwestern Muslims, and I suspect there's a number of very pointed questions that might be asked that I'm not entirely certain I could answer well off the top of my head. If we start with the notion that they see Western society as being very permissive, taking immoral things very lightly, we might have a tough time empathising because we don't share quite the same morals that they do. If their examples were chosen well though, we could find a number of things that have strong legal-strength consequences in premodern Western societies that nowadays are just considered wrong at a social-strength level, with some flavours of liberal not even taking a strong stance against them.

In terms of mass-personality, conservative nonwestern Muslims are in an interesting position - they have more in common with the "hard conservatives" in western society, the kind skeptical of progressivism, multiculturalism, etc. However, conservative perspectives tend not to tolerate each other very well - they are proud of their particular traditions and way of life, recycling things their ancestors only grudgingly accepted as their canon to defend unto death (in the US, for example, in times long past conservatives were very skeptical of capitalism, while now it has come to be tradition). Liberals in general are eclectic, and even the nonmulticulturalist flavours are generally interested in other cultures - while they're more alien, they're generally more accepting of nonnative conservativism in practice.

How would we defend western law and cultural standards to these pointed questions? "Why is Adultery legal?" "Why do you permit gambling?" etc. We might say that we prefer autonomy as a general principle, but they could easily identify serious social harms tied to these things, and compare them to social harms that actually are fenced away by our laws (reference: Halakah). Do we have a principled line for when to and when not to fence? Could we make a stab at it by distinguishing physical violence from other types of violence? That does seem to be a fairly important western distinction (although some westerners think the distinction is too high - the notion of "violence inherent in a system" and "offers one can't refuse" challenge it as an absolute ideal). More broadly, if we were to imagine metaphorically reopening the gates of mujtahid in western thought and using reflective equilibrium as a principle for recreating our notions, would we reach the same conclusions again? Providing, of course, that honest attempts to do so wouldn't cause our societies to splinter into pieces.


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When villains pass...I mentioned a few days ago that I was glad to see Terreblanche pass - he was a racist leader in South Africa who led the struggle by Afrikaners to keep native people in chains. Here's an article providing a bit more context. As a general rule, stomping into a new country, disenfranchising the natives, taking their land, and setting up shop will generate problems a few generations down the line, even if you make nice infrastructure and bring modern technology to play in feeding the nation. When the power structures that support such an act begin to fall apart, the descendants of those original settlers should not expect to retain the vast privilege (land, laws, etc) plundered by their ancestors. In this case, the idea of a separate homeland for Afrikaners is a bit daft - they had their time to reshape society while they acted alternately as teacher and slavemaster, and if people look at their privilege and want to tear it down, it is time to either give it up and live alongside everyone else or to return to where their grandparents left a few generations back.

Likewise, Poland recently lost its president - one of the twins - Lech Kaczynski. Another terrible man, known for his stifling of criticism of the Catholic church (illegal in Poland), jingoism, his witchunts against gays, and other far-right conservative/Christian positions. Not much of a loss for the world (although he's not as terrible a leader as, say, the president(ish) of Kyrgistan or Belarus. Unfortunately for Poland, a large number of their most senior political and administrative people were on that plane as it went down, leaving them a number of awkward vacancies.

I recently have been geeking out over Göbelki Tepe, which is probably the most significant archaeological find in over a hundred years (perhaps ever!). It's a structure believed to have been constructed by hunter-gatherers sometime before 9500BCE (before pottery, known writing, and practically all other known technological advances) and rapidly/mysteriously buried aroud 8000BCE, and it's probable that our first experiments with agriculture (domestication of wheat) were done as part of the efforts to support the project. I'm trying to find good, current sources on the site - if anyone else finds blogs, journals, websites that are reasonably close to being live, I would be delighted to hear of them. At some point in the more distant future, perhaps this will be a fascinating museum (or people will make museums out of reconstructions in some other location).

Tvtropes has nicely summed up my thoughts on canon and culture - that authors of works are providing just one (or more) version of a story-universe, and that readers should feel free to retell, alter, redact, and add to those works as they see fit, creating new canons, new meaning, or excluding things they dislike.

Maybe making fondue was a mistake - the cravings for it won't stop, yet it is still a pain to make (really, mostly a pain to clean out the pot afterwards). I think I have also inextricably linked Sauvignon Blanc and Fondue in my mind - I'm not sure if I will ever have a cup of it without thinking "I wish this were in cheese". I wonder if the other types of fondue are as tasty. I suppose the answer to end the craving is to have it enough that I memorise its taste and can just enjoy the memory.

Also unpacked and sorted my books..The last time I did this I purged most of the "low fiction" from my collection, and the new piles I made this weekend feel weird with the "medium" and "high" fiction being more numerous than the remaining low. Likewise with "low philosophy". The distinctions are interesting - with philosophy, low philosophy is generally secondary works, works that are not ambitious, or works that are of particularly poor quality by philosophical standards (e.g. Nozick). With fiction, it's much more complex - low fiction is more often the type where the fun is because the user identifies with the character (Piers Anthony's Xanth series follow a set recipe of puns plus "earnest but uncool person done good", only rarely showing any depth but good for appeal to the kind of young flustered proto-geek), it more often is set in a moral universe, it rarely talks about complex ideas, and it's very forgettable. I've been trying to shed most of these (if I do keep them in any form, it's because I found a PDF online somewhere on the book pirate sites). The lines between medium and high fiction are a bit more complex.

I mainly did this to locate my (2) psychology textbooks which turned out to be shuffled into the rather large set of my computer science textbooks. I sometimes wonder if CS was a good thing to get a major in - I like programming, I like all the math-y and systems-y things I learned, and I like the broad perspective on computation (and specific applications in systems) that I got, but it turned out not to be something I'm passionate about in quite "that way". I actually knew that before I started the major, but also knew that it would let me write my own ticket in life until I found a better niche and that programming would be a lifelong hobby even after that niche, should it turn up, were entered. Maybe I was dangerously un-ideal at the time. But... I guess I probably wouldn't've learned all the cooling things about pumping lemmas and type-N grammars on my own, and that's pretty cool stuff. If I do manage to sidestep into psychology, or fall into some other field, or even stop the whole show, it's good to have learned things.

I really should get better at resisting the frozen yoghurt place in SqHill. In theory the saving throw for that is based on WIS, but in practice, probably DEX. Sigh.

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