Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
<Previous Next>
Thu Apr 22 22:31:22 2004
Sour Brush

Last weekend, I caught a soccer ball wrong, with my pinky finger on my left hand. For most of this week, it's been sore, unable to bend completely, and I've been unable to put any weight on it. It's slowly been getting better -- so long as I don't put unusual weight on it, it's mostly the same as my uninjured pinky (can bend almost all the way now, and while I wouldn't hold my tasche with it, I can type without noticing that it's at all different. This is good.

I'm likely to take Russian this summer -- I'd like to learn a bit of a new language, and Russian is from a language family I haven't learned anything from yet. If CMU taught Arabic or Hebrew, I'd jump at the chance to learn one of them, but I'd need to go to Pitt for that, and I'd need to pay some money and get all sorts of odd permissions. I'm not sure how happy my boss is with the chunks of time I'm gone during the day to take classes -- I always make up the hours, from home or at odd hours, but I recognize that being around, either to collaborate better or to help people out, is important. He hasn't explicitly told me that I'm not around enough, but if he were to, he'd be right -- it's really not entirely fair. He does want me to drop down to taking 1 class at a time, which is reasonable, although it'll slow me down a bit. It might add a bit more urgency to my getting ready to apply to grad school so I can switch my full attention to neuropsychology, but again, there's no big rush.

For my neuropsychology class, I've been working on a fun essay. The topic is a provocative attack on neuropsychology, compared to other ways of understanding the brain and its behavior, and the writing has just flown well for me. I need to swing by the library again to get some more specific examples to cite for it. I hope it's what she expects -- I haven't done much heavy writing for any classes at CMU yet, and while I think my writing style is pretty decent, I might not have a grasp of the local 'paper culture'.

I've been thinking some more about the word "terrorist", and I've concluded that it's far too vague in common parlance to be useful. It's more of a hot-button word like 'evildoers' than anything else. It may be possible, with careful thought that temporarily discards the emotional context (good philosophers should, I think, strive to be able to slice apart a word's meaning and the emotional contexts easily, perhaps without even thinking about it), to recover the meaning, but doing so brings about a deviation from the common condemnation term. It has been suggested that terrorism is an act to intimidate civilians through violence or the threat thereof, and this definition is at least a good candicate. However, what is violence? Does property damage count? Could a 'visual assault' count? Does the civilian/military distinction really make sense? What if the civilian actions, rather than the government's actions, are really the thing being targeted for change? What if there is no government? We might, for example, say the brief time in WW2, where the Brits and the Germans were attacking each others cities instead of each others militaries, was an exchange of terrorism. In modern times, with technology changes, the term appears to have more of a small-groups feel to it, as technology has advanced to the point where it's not very expensive or difficult to gain the materials to do massive damage to a society without hiring an army (we don't even have nano yet). Of course, this means that it's not just nations that can do these kinds of things. Instead of abandoning the term as being a relic of a distinction that's disappearing, it seems that it's being used more.. perversity of language. Of course, now as a catch-all term, it's absorbed a lot of unrelated things on its way to become another synonym for "bad thing".. apparently in Britain, defacing websites might be terrorism. It might make a good poster -- "In the future, there will only be 1 crime, and it's name is terrorism". Noam Chomsky has some nice quotes.. "the term 'terrorism' is used, standardly, to refer to the terrorism that they carry out against us, whoever 'we' happen to be."

"Since the rich and powerful set the terms for discussion, the term 'terrorism' is restricted, in practice, to the terror that affects the US and its clients and allies."

Indeed, we cannot condemn terror until and unless we decide what it means, and unless we're inspired to think about it individually, our condemnation would be meaningless anyhow. When might it be acceptable? When might war be acceptable? In general, when is it acceptable to attempt to force a change in social order of your or your neighbor's country or people, and by what means, perhaps depending on the circumstances, are these attempts acceptably achieved? Until you've at least acknowledged the many poor situations a person or set of people can be in, and are willing to condemn them to suffer those situations should other means to change things be easily counteracted or otherwise be impossible, you have no business criticizing terrorism. Note that I'm not saying that you can't look such things in the face and still condemn them -- if you can, or if you have ideas of when you can and when you can't, by all means talk about it. However, to just naively condemn terrorism without looking at these things makes you yet another sheep.

I know what it means to condemn terrorism, and I don't think I can in all circumstances. There are times where I'd say "too bad for your situation, lifestyle, and the like -- you should be opposed for what you do", but I'm not going to pretend that the people who fight for these things are insane, and that their positions are meaningless. This is part of what it means to have an opinion. Don't you get it?

Anyhow, enough with that topic. I've been reading up a bit on Timothy Leary. It strikes me as very disappointing that we live in a society where people can be jailed for what drugs they apply to themselves. This strikes me as a deep injustice, and I would make great sacrifices, or so I believe, to aid people who would or have been caught by the government in such a thing. It seems to me that it would be a good thing to interfere with arrests relating to drug possession/distribution, especially if the consequences would be prison, despite my distaste for such things. Timothy Leary might've been a strange guy with weird beliefs, but unless the nature of the charges included some significant non-drug things, the government should've left him alone, not locked him up for years, and it was a good thing that he was, although temporarily, broken out of jail. Another sadness of the modern day that people can be treated that way.

Oh, some bugs.. I recently reported to the urxvt folks a bug that prevented bolding in their terminal. Turns out that it's part of an intentional design choice, and it was in the documentation (which I just skimmed). I'm disappointed that they chose to design it this way, but it should, I hope, be easy enough to change in my local copy, and thinking about it, maybe it's hard to generically bold things in unicode anyway. Also, after reporting the deficiencies of the NetServer::Generic perl module's simple http server, the author said he hadn't been maintaining it for awhile, and offered me the entire package to maintain. I might take him up on it -- I'm not a big fan of socket code, but that might all be abstracted down low so I wouldn't need to deal too much with it, and it is a cool module. I'll need to think about it for awhile.

Here's the results of some good environmental research that makes me very happy: Lead-free motherboards I've read about huge junkyards in china where the remains of computers are polluting the soil. Anything to reduce that kind of thing would be a very good thing. It's actually really great -- I've read about a lot of good environmentally-friendly research that's been going on recently, and I'm hopeful that this trend will continue to lighten the burden we put on Terra.

Oh, ever heard of the term "paying the Stupid Tax"? Here's an example.

Those who claim to own ideas will probably be happy with this. Of course, those of us who feel differently will just need to build better ways to frustrate them. I did think that the FBI didn't do anything outside the United States though...

Remember that old movie, the Rocketeer? One of SCO's money sources might be drying up. w00t!

Also at work, I'm now starting to write code to hook our stuff into Matlab. Slight problem: It's hard to get the license stuff worked out for my personal laptop, so I might need to use matlab remotely. Bigger problem: matlab's user interface is really really slow, slower yet over remote X.

That's all for tonight -- there's still more to BLOG, but I'm tired, and the coffeeshop is about to close.