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Domains of Meaning

Sometimes life is like this.

A touch of politics:

  • I am not surprised (nor disappointed, given my expectations) to see that South Korea has continued to pull the tiger's tail by continuing military exercises involving firing live rounds in disputed waters with North Korea. I will have zero sympathy with South Korea if this leads to more military conflict in the long run. Yes, North Korea's government is a thuggish monarchy that strangles the potential of its people and inspires hero-worship of the deranged family that runs it. However, that is no excuse to provoke it - the blood for the deaths on Yeonpyeong Island is on the hands of Seoul.
  • Global-warming denier to become head of House Science committee. Bachmann to join the House Intelligence committee?
  • Despite Obama's incompetence, the DADT repeal made it through both the House and the Senate due to considerable efforts by congress. It's a small but important step towards removing an instance of institutionalised discrimination. The big fight ahead will be a federal ban against prohibition of homosexual unions (we need another Loving v Virginia).
  • John Bolton considering a presidential run? Seriously? Because of his foreign policy "expertise"?
  • Scared people trying to deny a permit to build a Mosque because they fear creeping Sharia. However, while I think this extreme is crazy, there may be a little point buried in there. It would be nice to have frank discussion on religion and politics in the US.
  • It's interesting to see astroturfing attempting to push a policy change on Wikipedia allowing greater use of advertisements. Hardly subtle, these are mostly led by people booted from the community for trying to do PR-driven edits as a business or people who never joined because they could not do that. It's a reminder that people should carefully look into stories that seem to be pushing something odd.
  • Pulling in two directions in Gaza..
  • This fairly reasonable political discussion (even with a stupid name for what they're talking about) is, I'm told, meant to be satire. I suppose one person's satire is another person's common sense when political divides become wide enough. I note that the satire, despite reaching many of the same conclusions of a theoretically politicaly-aware mainstream, is not how I'd suggest people think about things - as I'm sure I've said many times before, I'd rather suggest people consider personal autonomy being just one of the values that go into the big compromise that real-world people should try to make. Trying to bundle all one's value-conclusions into a single value stifles political dialogue.
  • Interesting to see the hardcore conspiracy-theorists pushing against Wikileaks. In the above-linked video, there was the suggestion that because Assange hasn't been taken out by the CIA, Wikileaks is a false flag operation by the US Govt as an excuse for a crackdown - I got a giggle out of the youtube comment reply, "Alex, why haven't they taken you away? According to this video, if they didn't want you talking they would send you for rendition.... how do you escape this?".

I signed up to possibly receive a free Google laptop for testing purposes (hey, free hardware, no strings!), but I don't really want it to succeed. I think having a computer be close to the cloud is a fine thing, but actual barriers to local storage is a bad thing - there are too many things computers do that the browser won't be good at. Although when arguing with most people I'd focus on multimedia (I want my music and video collections, and I don't want any company being able to take them away, and I like being able to manage them quickly and easily without an application writer holding my hand), the biggest thing I'd lose in an entirely Google universe is Unix (meaning the command line). Any computer without a unix shell and a good set of tools is a toy, and any computer that doesn't provide easy access to local storage is hardly a computer at all. My hierarchies of files I've saved, from all my tax documents sorted by year to philosophical and artistic works (textfiles to pdfs and xcfs) are elaborate and precious, the digital equivalent of my living room (and much more important). Sometimes I might choose to put part of that into the cloud, but that's only when it's worth the high cost of losing organisation and control. Living entirely in the cloud is not worthwhile, either for geeks or the next generation of non-geeks - the cost is too high.

Let's compare this to Apple's iPad - I strongly suspect the iPad will be "just another tablet" fairly soon. It's a bad product because of lock-in (just as I believe the iPhone is), but it's not terrible. It will lose to the growing cloud of Android tablets, many of which will be cheaper, more powerful, and moderately more open. One of the big questions I have for the next 10 years is if the phone companies will continue to obstruct progress (they don't want to be relegated to being mere generic pipes) - will tablets and other systems be linked by cheap wireless bandwidth (and will phone companies become just another generic byte-delivery-service), or will not enough companies offer prices and plans that offer that to enable the transition? The (admittedly boring) judgement will be made on the basis of "will voice menus disappear?" - in an integrated world, they won't make sense anymore.

At the turn of the year, I'm thinking about getting a new bike, and possibly a telescope and/or a laptop. Instead of the latter two, I might replace some furniture - I've been saving a good amount of money for the past few years and have hardly bought anything - still trying to deal with that "Pat, you're an adult, it is ok to not hang onto old clothes and couches and stuff when they're in very poor condition" adjustment. I think I'm still struggling to figure out a new stable basis for my moods and figuring out life plans..

I am both happy and sad to have found a number of new intellectual inputs relevant to my interests - programmes on NPR, more sciencey channels on youtube, etc. I worry that I'll miss out on the quiet times that inspire me to my own ideas (which admittedly only occasionally make it anywhere publicly accessible).

A term that I often use that I may not have talked about - "to recognise". I like the verb, when used in the sense of "Country X recognises the claims of Country Y on this topic" - it means to attend to a claim and give it some weight (perhaps not always as strongly as the claimant would desire). By contrast, to not recognise something means to deny it any validity and to indicate that one either disrespects it or will violate/ignore it when convenient. I think this is philosophically useful outside of the realm of politics - in general life there's a lot of posturing tossed around and a fair amount of claimed status. I think it's occasionaly useful, with contentious claims, to have this kind of vocabulary (even if it sometimes might mask a more complex inner world of concepts - it's ok to "kind of recognise" or "provisionally recognise" something). To make this a bit more concrete, if someone declares themself to be the leader of a social group, people around them might choose to or not to recognise that claim. Likewise, as an American (and a socialist), I choose not to recognise any claims to royalty of any person and would not grant them any courtesies or honorifics beyond possibly things that just denote who they are (e.g. it is relatively factual that Joseph Ratzinger is the Roman Catholic Pope so I might call him Pope Ratzinger, but I would not say "His Holiness", bow, or similar). Our ability to do this is a consequence of us each having control over the definitional frameworks we use - each of our worldviews is its own island and we decide what fits and what doesn't. Nobody controls how we see them, and if they're too fussy about how we address them or what special treatment they think they deserve, we're not obliged to humour them. Still, reasonable recognision is part of how we relate to each other - while we may sometimes have philosophical reasons to not recognise someone's claims (or consider them not worth recognising for other reasons), recognising reasonable claims (or at least not pressing disagreements on them - the difference is interesting - can lead to odd situations if one's opinion becomes known) is part of how people relate to each other.