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Semiformalishmaybe

Raised with Doubting Heroes

Last week: frustrations at work, then a vacation on the other side of the state (there's more to it than this, but not everything must be public, eh?). This week: mostly been ill, but I am finally better and ready to head back to work tomorrow! rheet!

Events and News:

  • Not a lot seems to have changed in Libya. The rebel cities have self-government (question: did the citizens councils Qadaffi set up prove useful in doing that?), tribal leaders have generally spoken against Qadaffi, and not a lot of the country is left under central control. Unfortunately for those that have rebelled, government forces have control over many parts of the transportation system; commerce between the cities is not presently safe. Also, it's much easier for self-government to emerge than it is for regional militaries to emerge, meaning that dislodging the regime in the capital might not be doable. This might be a stalemate, unless forces in Tripoli begin to defect.
    • Would it be right/effective to impose a no-fly zone, as David Cameron has suggested, over Libya? It'd involve destroying anti-aircraft facilities across the government zones, which means bombing runs (rather than just air combat). It might raise the question as to who "owns" the revolution, and it would likely be used by conspiracy theorists as well as oddball leaders (Ahmadinejad and Chavez) as demonstration of all of this as some grand Zionist/American conspiracy. Still, it would result in far fewer civilian deaths. I think it'd probably be a good idea, although ground troops would be a mistake unless it deployed through strong international measures.
  • Egypt is moving towards political reform, as the military said it was going to do. This is going at a pretty fast pace.
  • A reasonable analysis of Sharia law in the US and what it would mean to ban it. I recognise the issues involved in stretching an explicitly multicultural society's institutions to fit a new subculture. We should naturally be reluctant to sacrifice our legal norms/traditions for the comfort of others; some time ago we defeated successive generations of our own conservatives to gain things precious to us, and we should not give those things up. Still, the current movements are not careful defenses of western values so much as conservatives aiming for a quick and unfair win over a different type of conservative. As liberals, I believe we're obliged to learn enough to call people on their bad arguments, and to insist on an honest conversation about our society's forms. We don't desire Sharia law at the top of our legal system any more than the conservatives do, and might decide (as I do) that even allowing Sharia arbitration as a form of private justice leads to social orders that don't fit our society and should be banned. Nontheless, the majority of conservative-driven discourse on the matter is badly misinformed or hysterical, neglecting current and historical practice in various countries with Islamic populations (for example, claims that a husband has an inviolable right (or even a duty) to beat his wife in some circumstances neglects that a marriage contract can simply forbid that). Any criticism of Islam itself based on textual analysis of Quran or Haditha should likewise open the door to similar criticism of Christianity or Judaism, any criticism of "vice squads" in some Islamic states should lead us to consider some criticism of similar vice squads in some neighbourhoods of Yerushalaim, and so on.
  • (I may have written about this before) Westboro Baptist Church (one of the most far-right well-known Churches in the United States) has been picketing funerals of US Soldiers. The courts have decided to allow the pickets, and to find against families suing for emotional distress, based on a first amendment basis. I think the courts were probably right under our legal system to do so (our traditions are pretty clear), but I think this is an exception we should carve out of our tradition of free speech. Births, deaths, and possibly marriages are life events that have uniquely strong social meaning (a fact Westboro recognises in how it targets these events) and are rarely directly political. Little is lost in political expressiveness in restricting any protests to areas not in immediate temporal/physical proximity of these events, and the pain spared to families is strong enough to make this a special case. (I would be unwillingto extend this to other life events that are culturally specific)
  • Also on the topic of life events, a survey by a legal society found Facebook and other social media to be sometimes linked to divorce, as people find frequent online contact to lead to people hooking up with people they used to know. I would guess any couple interested in preventing this (hopefully most!) would have a good conversation about boundaries and that'd be enough. The article suggests some amount of shared use of accounts and extra self-awareness in what one is doing with a communication. I imagine a few rules like "I want to know all your friends and be comfortable around them, and for you to limit contact with people to whom you're attracted apart from me" might feel unreasonable at the moment but reasonable in the long-term in a marriage. The idea of "fences" in Halakah I mentioned a few entries back is relevant.
  • I'm uncomfortable with the private demonstrations of power by the group "Anonymous", as well as private admiration of that power. While I may agree with much of what Anonymous actually does, I don't trust that their actions will align with my interests, they're not very open about what they believe, and while I'm not naturally hostile to non-state power I think states in general are very good things and private use of power should at least be backed by a coherent philosophy putting itself up for consideration. (as an emotional aside, Guy Fawkes masks manage to convey both a high douche quotient and The King-level creepiness).
  • The DoJ won't defend the Defense of Marriage Act directly anymore. This is an interesting step for the executive branch that might be seen as it sticking out its neck. Bravo! (I would write a full analysis, but I'm sure I've already done so somewhere recently)
  • Scott McNealy, jealous of Steve Jobsの「Reality Distortion Field」, shows off his own, claiming that Solaris/x86, had Sun ever given it enough attention, would've killed Linux. He's way off. Solaris had (has?) a better kernel and some better surrounding technologies, but Linux (and the BSDs) was good enough to act as training ground for the current generation of Unixheads, meaning that the maturing efforts were inevitable. Likewise, other Unix vendors were starting to see Linux as a new commons for technology swaps, replacing the old (confusing and messy) standards efforts with a living, relatively-open reference system. Any change in circumstances that would've left Solaris on top or prevented the rise of Linux/BSD would've had to have either been directly anticompetitive (lawsuit/IP tacks) or to have happened further back in time. (SGI, by contrast, was much more doomed)
  • NASAの「AstroBio」 "magazine" has a neat article on reviving old spores found in seabeds.

Tomorrow: Returning to work, possibly doing Chicken Swing! I've been thinking of ordering a new laptop from HP:

  • CPU: i7-2720QM
  • RAM: 8G
  • Disk: 750G HD (will swap for my existing 250G SSD)
  • Accessories: Extra batteries and plugs (I always get these)

The only thing I don't like is that the system both has a smaller screen (17") and runs at a lower resolution (1600x900) than my current laptop (1920x1080). I don't like the idea of losing screen real estate. The system as configured would run me about $1300 (with academic discount), and there is a variant with a screen that does the same resolution as my current system but it's about $1900 (mostly because it's in HP's "luxury" class, which eliminates some midrange configuration choices I made to save cost). I wish I could just table this until it's an easier choice, but I definitely want to use the academic discount (no guarantee I'll work for a University in either my current "LifePlan A" or "LifePlan B") and I'd like time to settle into the new system before I let the rest of my life become fluid. One thing I've learned about myself is that I sometimes depend on my computers for emotional stability (they're a big part of my lifestyle). While I move, I'll need them to be rock-solid; they contain big parts of my mindspace, they're my means to contact some social circles, they're how I learn new things, they're a big tool in how I self-express. I will have to decide the laptop thing soon.

It's odd for me to fret so much about laptop prices when I remember once spending $2500 for a nice laptop. Unlike general cost trends for things, their prices have drifted gently downards over the years.

Having the flu was an interesting experience; I haven't been sick for a long time, and it was novel to feel my body not do as I liked. I'm not sure how to count this week with regards to work; I did some work things from home, but not in as devoted a sense as I would've in the office (and I could not meet with people, which I really need to do ASAP when I get back). Between the fevers, I've been working on songwriting; I need to get a keyboard (with a MIDI interface this time, dang it) to let me play with tunes.

Having a "magic moment" of time and trying to keep some of its feeling alive while settling back into our regular life: an experience we all have, mostly alone. The best movie depiction of this I can think of involves Jack Skellington in 「Nightmare Before Christmas」 (where it's not a direct theme, or at least not a resolved one).

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