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Semiformalishmaybe

Revolving and Opening

Recently finished Marlowe's 「Faust」 - as I think I mentioned in an earlier post, the version I have has an extensive intro discussing the theological issues explored in the first version and censored in the second, also covering both the historical Faust and Marlowe's times and contemporaries. Some of the things I was most impressed with were how important theology was among upper circles of society, how varied the opinions were, and how rule of law was only strongly established on criminal matters - leaving persecution over opinions a much more uncertain (but much more possible than in modern/western times!) thing. The theology of predestination (as in, is the will really free to repent, or does it take action by the character of god to "soften one's heart"? Compare Torahのstory: Yahweh hardening a Pharoah's heart) - a big deal, with the second edition removing all that interestingness. The big surprise was how much better the commentary made the book.

On the topic of commentary, maybe it's like reading Torah with Rashi - I don't trust that Rabbinical Judaism (necessarily) has the interpretation of Torah that originally accompanied the words (I subscribe to the idea that Judaism coalesced slowly from a polytheistic faith), but understanding modern mainstream Judaism is greatly aided by reading it with Rashi. Likewise, the various Christian study bibles add depth to the original text (even as they may add different depth as the theologies they represent are not the same). Imagery: someone tossing a ball of meaning up into the air, and as it flies, new meaning coalesces around it, landing in their hand again a transformed entity... and yet the meaning is not new - it must flow from what substance was there, even if it does not flow uniquely from that substance.

Now starting on Bernsteinの「Preconditions of Socialism」 - it's strange doing this as so far his socialist critique of marxism looks a lot like and makes many of the same points my criticisms have made. For example, his analysis of the dialectic as a mistake in marxian thought, creating blind spots as well as a faulty notion of science, is an analysis I made independently, but he states it more clearly and forcefully. There are also interesting disagreements - Bernstein's notion of Socialism falls outside my definition, maintaining a substantial private sector (I believe the private sector as such would wither in time, or at least converge into a decentralised-but-public-ish sector). So far I don't see the depth or nuance that characterises what I consider a goal. Looking forward to see if it shows up - I'm not really expecting a kindred spirit in Bernstein, but there is no doubt a lot of food for thought I can get.

Still working on Thomas Paineの「Age of Reason」 - it's a challenging work, not because of its content so much as how much analysis it demands and how much history I need to read into it. It lays forth foundations for Deism as a personal religion (he does not state or imply any social forms, hence the personal), using critiques of other faiths to help define his own. It's .. impressive, and a bit strange in that many of his criticisms come from an angle that I .. don't normally consider - for example the notion that christianity is far from true religion in that its books supplant the intuitive and natural faith that comes from the universe (whoa I am horribly simplifying this argument to the point of butchery - sorry, you really have to read it!). I have some admiration for Paine for being able to construct a philosophy like this, but ... I feel compelled to poke at it - it's still under Moral Absolutism, and once one really understands philosophical relativism, Paine's arguments slip as if on ice. Deism may stand up well (surprisingly well!) in debate against Abrahamic faiths, but it doesn't have the only realistic stance (that I've seen, anyhow) regarding values - that they're pragmatic human creations within a memetic battlefield - and so it fails. Basically, if one cannot say "no" (or perhaps "the question does not make sense") to the faustian question, "Is it absolutely wrong that $ATROCITY", one is thinking emotionally, not as a decent philosopher.

That said, I like the idea of a Deist, and while I'd consider their philosophy a bit muddled, I believe I would likely *really* get along with them. Their faith is such that it not only mostly gets along with scientific reasoning, it strongly encourages it (in a slightly nuanced but still very functional form), practically as a matter of faith. It also suggests a kind of emotional engagement with the natural world that I've come to see as important (independent of my relativist-atheism, which in itself does not encourage this). Maybe to sum, while his Deism's relationship with other faiths is more agressively heated than I'd suggest, there are some character-shaping aspects of Deism that are in parts better than what simple/easy parts of my life-philosophy would engender, and character traits flow easily from his worldview that are things I only "earned" later in life. "Wrong but nurturing"? It's strange to think about philosophies that way, strange but old, as the notion of "the Noble Lie" is ancient and discussed in countless philosophies.

Mozilla Labs implemented an idea in Thunderbird that .. probably all software should have - having an easily found menu item that gets all the support info someone might need for tech support onto one screen. Apparently Firefaux has had it for awhile. I'm generally impressed with how much thought went into this - looking at "about:support" in my browser has a lot of great stuff, including the compile string that built my current browser. It would take a moderate amount of work to have a build process that glues all this stuff in to make that work, and it probably saves a *lot* of trouble in the long run. Netscape's build and support tools are generally quite nice though - I'm fond of Bugzilla and Tinderbox.

Many months ago, I noted that Rafsanjani was sticking his neck out by supporting moderates in the messy Iranian elections in early summer. Ahmadinejad finally managed to get revenge, cutting off the legs of one of Rafsanjani's power bases - a large university system. He needed the help of Khamenei, for whom this move may have been a nervous mistake - Ahmadinejad has been manipulating the Iranian political system to achieve significant power independent of the Supreme Leader, leaving Khamenei in need of making a concession. Will Rafsanjani be pushed to use reserve powers of the Assembly of Experts to attempt to remove the Supreme Leader? Would he dare? (doing so would likely create a constitutional crisis, and at the very least he would be risking all the positions he currently holds) - he's an unusual candidate, but he's also as much in the centre of Iranian politics as the center of gravity between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad is and so is uniquely situated to "save" the nation (even as it's true that he's a moderately corrupt plutocrat).

Looking at the latest XKCD 「Map of teh Intarwebs」:Thinking about places I've been:

  • Facebook - since left. Thank goodness! Was briefly irritated by Farmville junk before I blocked it. Never saw HappyFarm (related?). Maybe I was in the "old facebook resistance"? I think Facebook was a lot better when it was university-specific and not so open.
  • On MMO Isle:
    • Hey! Where's Dofus? I still play it!
    • "Played" Second Life for awhile, retired a long time ago. Still remember it fondly.
    • Played UrbanDead for awhile, retired a long time ago. It was kind of interesting.
    • Played KOL for a long time, retired a year or so ago. It was fun, and had a neat community. I sometimes think about going back.
    • Played NationStates for a bit a long time ago. It was fun for awhile, but the interest faded.
    • I used IGN and GameFaqs sometimes. When I play classic ROMs, sometimes I still do.
  • Moving way left to other social networks:
    • Orkut - Yup, was there. Always reminded me of "Yakut SSR" from "Axis and Allies", internally called it "Orkut SSR"
    • Myspace - Briefly, mainly for other people. It let people do stupid things with their homepage reminiscent of ugly desktop contests. Ugh.
    • Friendster - Yup. I remember that. Alongside tribe.net and similar...
    • AdultFriendFinder - Thought about it for awhile, but .. nah.
    • OkCupid - Until very recently used this. Not bad.
    • Match.com - Was ok, but not free
  • Moving on to content networks:
    • Flickr - I might have an account on this? I don't remember. Maybe I put some content up, but ifso, that was some time back.
    • Deviantart - "Deviant Tart"? Anyhow, I occasionally follow links that land here, never convinced to make an account, but looks reasonably good for hosting.
    • Youtube - Neat! 15 minute limit on videos is a pain, but I have a bit of content up here, and always think about making more. I use it a lot to see other content of many kinds, and sometimes waste time arguing with trolls. Sigh.
  • Communications:
    • Geocacheing - Oh hey this was fun. I might've stuck with it if my GPS had not been a battery vampire. Maybe I'll get back into it someday.
    • Google Buzz - Meh? Slurps my twits. Maybe better than twitter, but the interface is blah and most people are elsewhere.
    • Twitter - Yeah, I guess I use it reasonably often now. The interface is poor - I need better tools for handling people who post too much. Still, has enough adoption to make it worth staying for now, and maybe it's ok being constrained by the character limit. Good for wit, and OMG I AM DOING $THIS
  • Other Chatty things:
    • Wikipedia Talk Pages - Been there, done that. Held the broom. Gah.
    • IRC Isles - Was fun once. Might be fun again if I find one with good community
    • Usenet - Used to *really* hold the broom here. Eventually it went to hell.
    • ICQ/AIM/Other IM - Still use it. It's a good way to stay in touch with some people - generally useful socially.
    • Craigslist - I sometimes used it to look for apartments and such, and occasionally for entertainment. I don't use it regularly.
    • 2Chan/4Chan - Decent for porn. Not so good for other things.
    • Skype - Yes! Very useful! Pity the software is lousy on Linux.
  • Back over to bloggy things, I don't really classify my blog as being single-topic - it's more of what people would get if they opened up the stream of thoughts that flow through my head all the time and stuck in a canteen for a few minutes. Whatever they get, they get. I'm usually in that sea of 0 comments, never been sure why and I've usually been vaguely disappointed about that.
  • I read a fair set of other blogs on many topics. I object to the idea of our news media being blogs - I believe that extended analysis and heavily perspective-laden reporting belong elsewhere, even if a principled distinction is difficult/muddy. I keep up with the world mainly through websites of traditional news media, also partly through the daily show, also partly through academic current events journals. I don't read tech blogs (apart from slashdot) regularly - I still usually come across the tech things I should know through other media (at least a few people occasionally IM me to talk about new as-yet-unreleased tech toys they've acquired), I think.
I am reminded of a snarky quip about Wikipedia: "Massively Multiplayer Online Notepad"

Discriminating ears may find this to be excessively awesome. Careful!

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