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It Left Us Impoverished

Pondering: relationship between military obedience (which seems like it's probably a good thing) and democratic centralism (which I find ugly).

In particular, the recent foot-in-mouth rolling stone McCrystal gaffe and the general expectations of no public dissent within the military, and how it's similar to the formal expectation under democratic centralism that there will be no public disagreements and that while political decisions may be revisited, until and unless that happens, it will be behind closed doors. In effect, it is difficult for factions to form in a DC system as they lack the authority for independent discussion/activism.

I suspect that there's a commonality there - democratic centralism adopts military discipline to politics. I'm not entirely comfortable supporting a general intuition in one sphere and opposing it so heavily in another, although if we're to treat the military as a tool for society in a way that's different enough from the mechanisms of deliberation, that might justify it (although I suspect that this is diminuitive of the military - they have to make hard decisions too, and there's probably plenty of room for disagreement among qualified people). The costs of not having this discipline in either sphere is people halfheartedly going along with (or even opposing) chosen plans because their interests or intuitions don't line up with them - would a democratic governor support a republican plan and put the time in to implement it well? Would the troops support a military gambit they think is foolhardy?

Napoleon on the topic:

「It follows that any commander in chief who undertakes to carry out a plan which he considers defective is at fault; he must put forth his reasons, insist of the plan being changed, and finally tender his resignation rather than be the instrument of his army's downfall.」

But was he right? (Really, was his sentiment appropriate - there is not necessarily a right answer here) We know he operated without a formal notion of a divide between a military leader and a popular one.

Amusement: War of newspapers, where they be slappin' the diss on each other.

  • One newspaper likes to point out that they're the only newspaper that's growing and that the other is dying
  • Seen today: We still have $number of locations, we're not out yet.
Latter got a good chortle out of me - "I'm not quite dead yet" is not good advertising.

DSL adventures:

  • A few weeks ago, my DSL connection began to misbehave - any heavy usage caused the connection to drop (hard drop - DSL light on DSLmodem goes out and I get to wait about 30 seconds for it to come back up).
  • Compounded slightly by upstairs neighbours frequently using my connection for high-bandwidth things (which I would not mind at all were my connection not so easily knocked out right now by any heavy usage - I run an open AP for a reason)
  • This week I called Speakeasy, which eventually kicked it upstairs to Covad, which eventually kicked it upstairs to Verizon. As has been my experience, Speakeasy and Covad both have top-notch tech support and are actually pleasant, clued, and punctual. Dealing with Verizon is by contrast the equivalent of Newark - necessary for some things but a horrible experience you want to forget as soon as you can.
  • Actually, the Verizon guy they sent out wasn't so terrible once I got used to the fact that he's a jock, not a geek. Most of the practical matters of life just require wearing the right mask. He wasn't super-clued, but he wasn't really clueless either, just strongheaded and predisposed towards a certain solution that wasn't appropriate.
  • He futzed with the wires a bit and now it's no longer showing a short according to Telerama's diagnostics, but it's still misbehaving. Future debugging awaits (I swung by RadioShack to get a replacement RJ11 cable, maybe the wall-DSL connection is the current issue?)
  • Apparently DSLmodems have a "safe mode" where they don't go as fast as they normally do, they are super tolerant of errors, and their latency is terrible. I'm currently running that until we get the hardware working well enough to let me reliably have the 6M/768 connection I want.

Dug out old-ish windows laptop to make some powerpoint slides for work. Was pleasantly surprised to see the firefox on it has a bunch of articles open that I had been meaning to read - apparently found them on the trip I last took with this thing and didn't bother sending the URLs to someplace I more commonly read. I really should get around to using one of those bookmark-sync things. At the same time I don't really want the pr0n bookmarks sync'd with the rest, which has always held me back on this in the past. There's got to be a good solution for that. Separate browser, maybe? I don't use or like Chrome very much -- maybe it (or Midori) would be suitable for that.

I am amused that CMU's wireless system still recognises sadness (that laptop) after months (years?) of separation. Also amused that after the few initial (and expensive) hiccups, this thing has been a pretty reliable workhorse. According to some quick googling, the Inspiron 9300 got good reviews when released and there are a fair number of people still using them. Impressive for a huge laptop over 5 years old.

I'm glad I've told my bosses that I'm leaving sometime in the next half-year - having that above-board helps me loose this inertia. It's funny how much mature perspectives include self-manipulation through external implements - the part of us with the triforces is very small, compared to that which is governed by the three Perl Virtues.

Last night: went to a M:TG event for the first time in a very long time. Looks like recent sets are a lot faster than average sets used to be - got smoked. Was kind of disappointed because I went there on advice of an acquaintence and there was in fact little meaningful personal interaction. Still, decent socialisation has been incredibly rare. I always seem to want more depth, meaning, or interest in most of the times I interact with people - I want to talk about philosophy, human nature, the sciences, maybe politics, etc. Also: been highly grumbly about being the only person at some event or place who's alone. Oh well.

Progress on faces and bodies continues - things are beginning to look dimensional. Trying to expand into difficult angles - rear angles of heads is not hard. Faces aimed above the viewer is very difficult. I wonder if this is a deficiency in that being tall, I have almost no experience seeing people from that angle. Do short people have an easier time with that angle? I haven't seen people lying down that often, but that *should* be sufficient. In general, progress on faces seems to be an accumulation of hints and metrics. This bothers me a bit - instead of developing a truly accurate spatial sense, there's all these little things. Maybe given that we have specialised brain hardware to parse faces, it should bother me less - the error for margin is much smaller and the uncanny valley that much closer. Side-speculation: uncanny valley and really ugly people - gut revulsion from the same source? Maybe also some other body modifications? Deviation from model data in how we're mostly hardwired to perceive people leading into the uncanny divide as a potential general aspect of humanity. Misapplication of that leading to disaster a general effect. Political cynical manipulation of those borders - dangerous.

End goal is to be able to produce something as lifelike as this very rapid sketch Elise did of me some six(?) months ago. I'm not quite there yet, to put it mildly, but I'm making slow progress.

Impressed at how internationally, a number of Ron Paul supporters also support Nigel Farage. Attempts to build coalitions in that tradition are generally very difficult, even moreso across international borders. The only similarity I see is that occasionally both are right, usually but not always in a highly oblique way, and they're willing to stand up to the establishment when they are (and, much more often, when they are not). I find their general political ends reprehensible in different ways, and their general behaviour problematic in different ways - with RP he often makes bad arguments in order to deliver a simple and consistent message (I think he should know better), while with Farage he's usually over-the-top and discredits his cause with bad behaviour. Unlike Zhirinovsky, I think Farage is fully sane, he just enjoys having fun and/or thinks his ends are best served with being a surprisingly-well-educated-and-irreverent class clown. Unrelated, the politically astute might want to keep an eye on Ahmadinejad's recent power struggle against religious conservativism in Iran. His desire to construct an independent conservative-secular-nationalist power base seems unlikely to succeed, but given that politics-driven leadership of universities is a very big deal over there, it might not be impossible. Rule one of politics is that there are never only two sides - there are as many visions of society as there are people. Those that can realign the coalitions people use to achieve their ends have a lot of mostly-invisible power.

Still thinking about an appropriate upgraded phone - trying to decide between Andrioid Dev2 or NexusOne. It's possible that some contacts in google or elsewhere can get me schnazzy unreleased devices, but I've been told not to count on it.