packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
Via Making Light, Paul Cornell: Wish Me Luck, I'm Going In. What with the recent stalling of the Equality Bill in Britain, he's had enough.

I wish there were a Christian organisation like British Muslims for Secular Democracy, who could liaise with the various gay Christian organisations, but also include those who aren't directly involved, who just think this cause is just. Then there would be a phone number for that liberal voice that the UK media could lay their hands on. If they ever wanted to call it.

In the meantime, I've started a hashtag on Twitter: #godlyforequality. If you're on Twitter, go and have a look, and let's see if we can retweet the message a long way. It's only a tiny thing. It's the least I can do.

I'm not a Christian, and I think that Christianity is factually wrong - but what he's doing here is fighting homophobia, and on those grounds he's fighting for the side of good.

Good luck, Mr. Cornell. Do the right thing.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
On AlterNet.

Caveat: If the title suggests that you don't want to read this, then please don't read it. I'm mostly posting for my own reference.
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)
A link to pass on: Slacktivist explains the lie Tony Perkins is telling for money about the expansion of hate crime legislation to cover LGBT persons. Money quote:

The only extent to which hate-crime protections pertain to "thought" is in the way that all criminal law does, which is to say that motive matters. If you truly believe that the law should make no distinction between accidental manslaughter and premeditated first-degree homicide, because you truly believe that any such distinction constitutes the establishment of "thought crime," then I will accept that you are making this "thought-crime" objection to hate-crime legislation in good faith. (I'll think you're kind of an idiot, but at least a sincere idiot.) But you can't accept that distinction and still argue in good faith that hate crimes are "thought crimes."

P.S. If anyone you know is concerned that hate crime legislation could infringe their freedom of speech, two words: Fred Phelps.

P.P.S. On a related note, a riddle courtesy of eyelessgame in the comments: What terrorist organization has killed more Americans than al Qaeda?
packbat: Headshot looking serious and superimposed on the Gettysburg Address. (gettysburg)

From [profile] baldanders, here and there:

Alan Grayson (D-FL) is my hero. Seriously, he tells it like it is, without fear of the insurance companies, and certainly not without fear of the Republican lie machine:

"We as a party have spent the last six months, the greatest minds in our party, dwelling on the question, the unbelievably consuming question of how to get Olympia Snowe to vote on health care reform. I want to remind us all that Olympia Snowe was not elected President last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America's population.

"What America wants is health care reform. America doesn't care if it gets 51 votes in the Senate or 60 votes in the Senate or 83 votes in the Senate, in fact America doesn't even care about that, it doesn't care about that at all. What America cares about is this; there are over 1 million Americans who go broke every single year trying to pay their health care bills. America cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that there are 44,780 Americans who die every single year on account of not having health care, that's 122 every day. America sure cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that if you have a pre-existing condition, even if you have health insurance, it's not covered. America cares about that a lot. America cares about the fact that you can get all the health care you need as long as you don't need any. America cares about that a lot. But America does not care about procedures, processes, personalities, America doesn't care about that at all." [. . .]

"Last week I held up this report here and I pointed out that in America there are 44,789 Americans that die every year according to this Harvard report published in this peer reviewed journal because they have no health insurance. That's an extra 44,789 Americans who die whose lives could be saved, and their response was to ask me for an apology." [. . .]

"Well, I'm telling you this; I will not apologize. I will not apologize. I will not apologize for a simple reason; America doesn't care about your feelings. [. . .] America does care about health care in America. And if you're against it, then get out of the way. You can lead, you can follow or you can get out of the way. [. . .] America understands that there is one party in this country that is favor of health care reform and one party that is against it, and they know why.

"They understand that if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation. They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace they would blame him for destroying the defense industry. In fact, they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon.

"But that's not what America wants; America wants solutions to its problems, and that begins with health care."

packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
Day before yesterday, Jerry "Tycho" Holkins commented on his fascination with the deeply disturbing "seduction community", and Mike "Gabe" Krahulik stepped in to play devil's advocate.

I completely see where both of these people are coming from, here. But in this particular case, Tycho is very straightforwardly correct, and Gabe's instinctive fairmindness is misplaced. And normally I wouldn't be so confident staking out my spot in this minefield, but I happen to have an advantage: just last month, a completely unrelated community which I have been involved in discussed this question, and the conclusions of the discussion are pretty clear.

The seduction community, or pick-up artist community, or whatever it's called, explicitly treats sexual relations between persons as a game in which the player - singular - seeks to win against opposition. This attributes an explicit status imbalance in which only the man is an actor (cf. Bark/Bite, "Do You Tell a Football What Time the Superbowl Starts?") and in which sexual congress raises the status of the man and lowers that of the woman. It's sexist, offensive, and wrong.

End of line.

P.S. Obviously, two days being an eternity in the wonderful world of cyberspace, I have been preceded in remarking on this discussion - goblinpaladin, pandagon's Amanda Marcotte.

P.P.S. If there are people reading this is frustrated in their desire to find sexual partners, recall that people are complicated. Anyone offering shortcuts is lying.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

Do you think stem cell research is good, bad, or dangerous? Should it be funded by the government?

Submitted By [ profile] srkfanatic15

View other answers

Stem cell research is a highly promising field, and no more 'dangerous' than carbon nanotube research. Further, the chief objection to it - that embryonic stem cells cannot be acquired morally - is baseless: the blastocyst is a barely differentiated bundle of cells, lacking even sensory organs, much less intellectual capacity.* There is no legitimate reason for this research not to be funded by governments.

* Certain religious Christians may object to my argument in this line, on the grounds that the blastocyst - undeveloped as it may be - nevertheless has a soul. I refer them to [ profile] bradhicks Christians in the Hands of an Angry God series, which, in Part 4, demolishes the claim that the Bible puts the beginning of life at conception.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
Apropos of nothing: programs that automatically index your drives stink. I'm looking at you, Apple Mac OSX's "Spotlight"!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, you've probably experienced something that you couldn't explain. What was it?

View other answers

Something I haven't bothered to explain.

For cripes sake, coincidence, people! Weird stuff happens all the time! Grow up!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
As you know, I am an Obama supporter. But I am also a Republican, and I am a Republican because I don't believe that good governance comes from single-party rule.

As a Republican, then, I am disappointed - no, repulsed - no, horrified by the McCain campaign of recent months.

I am not going to discuss policy. Many policy positions of the Republican Party are unsustainable, but that is not what needs addressing.

What needs addressing is "Who is Obama". What needs addressing is "William Ayers". What needs addressing is the robocalls, the angry rallies, the cresendoing drumbeat of hate, hate, hate that is engulfing what was once a political party, not a conspiracy to seize power.

McCain, Palin, you are contributing to the destruction of your party, to the cost of everyone for whom that party means more that a new bumper sticker every four years. If for no-one else but them, do not do this. Fight with honor. Make us proud.


Oct. 6th, 2008 08:30 am
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

Former 1960s radical Bill Ayers appeared (as himself) in the 2002 documentary The Weather Underground, which was narrated by Lili Taylor.

Taylor was in High Fidelity with Tim Robbins who was in The Hudsucker Proxy with Steve Buscemi.

And Steve Buscemi was in Tanner on Tanner with, yes, Barack Obama.

That's only four degrees of separation -- a closer connection than either The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times was able to establish in their exhaustive attempts to find any links between the former '60s radical and the current Democratic nominee for president.

Fred 'slacktivist' Clark on connections and what they really imply.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
Because I just haven't posted enough today. (;

[01] Do you have the guts to answer these questions and re-post as The Controversial Survey?


Cut for politics. )
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (butterfly)
A number of people have been talking about whether intelligent design is scientific recently in some interesting new ways: Megan McArdle, Alex Tabarrok, Robin Hanson, and most notably Thomas Nagel.

The focus of these remarks is best summarized in a post three years ago by Alex Tabarrok:
Suppose that you find a watch in the forest. If you know there is no watchmaker then the theory of evolution is a brilliant and compelling explanation for the presence of complexity without design. But suppose that you know a watchmaker exists then surely the simplest and most compelling explanation is that the watchmaker made the watch. Any other explanation, particularly one so improbable (see extension) as evolution would seem to be preposterous and beside the point.

I can only conclude from the above that these people did not ask themselves, "What do we do science for?"

This is hardly a severe sin, of course. The question is hardly primary among the ones that spring to mind. But the answer is, "Science explains the world in a way which lets us predict the world." This is and always has been where Intelligent Design - and creationism in general - fail: under those views, we have no reason to expect, say, the existence of the punctum caecum (blind spot) in vertebrae eyes but not cephalopod eyes - in fact, just the opposite.

Believing that one or more gods exist is no excuse. The only reasonable explanation for the evidence is that every species now extant is descended with modification from simpler species. And once we hypothesize that, the strictly simplest explanation, even if gods are present, is the modern evolutionary synthesis.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Earth:Harmless/WikiGuide)
[ profile] goblinpaladin pointed it out here, and I managed to track back a step to here, but I don't know who actually wrote it. It doesn't matter, though. It still needs saying.

Cut for triggering potential. )
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
From Making Light: A Japanese company, Genepax, has announced and demonstrated a new fuel cell system that runs on water..

Allow me to be careful for a moment. This is important enough - and I happen to be well-trained enough in the relevant field - to make strong statements about, and I do not want to leave a false impression.


It is impossible to make a fuel cell system that runs on water. Further, it is impossible to devise a process for separating water into hydrogen and oxygen that costs less useful energy than the fuel cell produces by recombining the two. Any person claiming to be capable of doing so is, to borrow a phrase, a lunatic, a liar, or Lord of the Cosmos.

I am not even joking. Of course, in this case, I'm betting it's (a) or (b), for a very simple reason: the machine described in these articles violates conservation of energy. To quote Sean Carroll's Alternative-Science Checklist:

Scientific claims — whether theoretical insights or experimental breakthroughs — don’t exist all by their lonesome. They are situated within a framework of pre-existing knowledge and expectations. If the claim you are making seems manifestly inconsistent with that framework, it’s your job to explain why anyone should nevertheless take you seriously. Whenever someone claims to build a perpetual-motion device, scientist solemnly reiterate that the law of conservation of energy is not to be trifled with lightly. Of course one must admit that it could be wrong — it’s only one law, after all. But when you actually build some machine that purportedly puts out more ergs than it consumes (in perpetuity), it does a lot more than violate the law of conservation of energy. That machine is made of atoms and electromagnetic fields, which obey the laws of atomic physics and Maxwell’s equations. And conservation of energy can be derived from those laws — so you’re violating those as well.

Genepax is pulling a scam, intentionally or not. The only possible way their device could work is by annihilating the entire modern structure of physics and chemistry simultaneously, and destroy them far more thoroughly than general relativity and quantum mechanics destroyed their respective predecessors. Do not even dream of betting against those kind of odds.

One final note, for those who may be curious: it was not any special wisdom of mine that allowed me to come so rapidly to the above conclusion. It was a simple three-step process:

1. Diagram the claimed process - where the fuel comes in, where the energy and known waste comes out. (You have to have waste come out - that's the second law of thermodynamics.)

                ________________________    _____________
water (fuel) -> | Genepax's MEA system | -> | Fuel Cell | -> water (waste)
                ------------------------    -------------
                                                      L----> energy

2. Add up the known outputs and subtract the inputs. (The inputs are always known. They're the things you have to pay for.) Compare to zero.

(energy + water) - water = energy > zero

3. If the answer is greater than zero, it's a scam. Q.E.D.

If any part of the above is unclear, I will gladly explain in the comments. Thank you for your time.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Okay, as a liberal (and therefore interested) and a Republican (and therefore nearly powerless), a suggestion to the Democrats out there: can you all stop insulting each other, please? Obama and Clinton are very similar candidates!

Seriously. Go drink some tea, play Facebook Chess, write an eleven-hundred-word breakdown of McCain's total lack of a substantive energy policy - whatever. And whenever you feel tempted to complain about any of your allies, consider this: my party gave me two warmongers and a theocrat as the only viable candidates. You guys got off frelling lucky.

That's all.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
No essays yet - school and school and school, unfortunately. However, I do have this pleasant little screed, sent to the campus newspaper in reply to a foolish little letter that appeared there today:

In the Friday, April 25, 2008 Diamondback, the following claim appears in a letter by one Tung Pham, Junior, Mathematics:

"There is no scientific consensus that global warming is caused by industrialized carbon emission[.]"

Tung Pham, you have been lied to. Such a consensus has existed for, at a minimum, over eighteen years. Why do I say eighteen years? Because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, founded in 1988, released its First Assessment Report in 1990, from which I quote:

"We are certain of the following:

  • there is a natural greenhouse effect which already keeps the Earth warmer than it would otherwise be.
  • emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrous oxide. These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface. The main greenhouse gas, water vapor, will increase in response to global warming and further enhance it."

If, perhaps, you object that this report is outdated, I refer you to the Fourth Assessment Report, and specifically the Summary for Policymakers provided by the IPCC <>:

"There is very high confidence that the net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming.

"Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations. It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica) (Figure SPM.4)

"During the past 50 years, the sum of solar and volcanic forcings would likely have produced cooling. Observed patterns of warming and their changes are simulated only by models that include anthropogenic [resulting from or produced by human beings] forcings. Difficulties remain in simulating and attributing observed temperature changes at
smaller than continental scales."

Note the specific modifiers placed on each of these. These terms have been chosen to indicate exactly how certain these people are: "Very high confidence": at least 9 out of 10, "very likely": >90%, "likely": >66%.

All the IPCC does is review the scientific consensus -

"Mandate: The IPCC was established to provide the decision-makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information about climate change. The IPCC does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Its role is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change, its observed and projected impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they need to deal objectively with policy relevant scientific, technical and socio economic factors. They should be of high scientific and technical standards, and aim to reflect a range of views, expertise and wide geographical coverage."

- and that consensus is unequivocal. Global warming is occurring. And global warming is occurring because human beings are causing it.

Robin Zimmermann
1st-Year Master's Student
Mechanical Engineering

Peace out.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
P.Z. Myers on Benedict XVI meeting George W. Bush - outraged, as you should be. Outraged, to a great extent, because in all the "coverage" of this "event", and indeed in the "event" itself, there is not shown the slightest awareness that these men we are seeing praise each other and be praised in return are complicit in horror and terrible horror.

I know I, for one, am tired of this eternal drumbeat of dreadful revelations, each of which has effected not the slightest visible good in its wake. But that exhaustion is no excuse. Each beat of this drum stands for the agony of hundreds, thousands, or millions of people. The least we can do is stand for them.

(P.S. On a much more minor point, Expelled came out today. Do not watch it. Expelled is a terrible movie, morally and cinematically.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

What secret (your or someone else's) do you wish you'd done a better job of keeping?

View other answers

...I'm sorry, I have to ask: does Livejournal think I'm stupid? I'm not as careful as [ profile] filthspigot about separating my LJ and personal lives, but what made them think that this question even made sense?

Let me break it down.

1. I have a secret.
2. I spill it, wholly or partially - a matter which is a source of personal guilt.
3. ???
4. I tell the entire world.

I mean, pardon me, but even I am not that lousy a prevaricator.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default) the form in which they are then in effect."

The above sentence is extracted from the first rule of Peter Suber's game of self-amendment, "Nomic". As some of you know, I am a fan of this game, to the point where I and a Livejournal friend of mine decided to set one up on Livejournal.1

The reason why Rule 101 was placed in the ruleset is explained simply enough by the author:

Nomic even makes some rules explicit in order to make them amendable, when in most games they are implicit —rules to obey the rules, rules that players each start with zero points, and so on. No tacit understanding that one brings to most games simply qua games, let alone any explicit rule, is beyond the amendment power of Nomic. After Nomic was first published in Scientific American,2 a German philosopher wrote to me insisting that Rule 101 (that players should obey the rules) should be omitted from the Initial Set and made part of a truly immutable shell. He missed an essential point of the game. Rule 101 is included precisely so that it can be amended; if players amend or repeal it, they deserve what they get.

This is, naturally, well and befitting Dr. Suber's purposes in analysing paradoxes of law. However, after playing the game, a second effect of this rule has occurred to me.

It makes it obvious that people can break the rules.

Thanks to [ profile] bradhicks, I sit here knowing two more horrific tales of modern atrocities than I did when I awoke this morning. And no, that's not sarcasm - I am truly thankful to have heard these stories. One of them is the most eloquent condemnation of the U.S. health care system I have ever seen, but irrelevant to this post. The other regards a heartwarming tale of a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agent enjoying the perks of his position. And yes, that is sarcasm - I am truly appalled by what this man did. It's ugly. Terrifically ugly.

And illegal. But people can break the rules.

Let me reiterate. People break rules. And unless those rules are structured and enforced in such a way that people can't or won't do wrong - unless the systems are in place that will make it possible (nay, likely!) that abuses and the like will be caught and their perpetrators punished (and punished severely enough to be a deterrent) - and furthermore, unless the social structures are in place to remove the desire to commit the crime - the fact that such-and-such is illegal isn't worth a bum nickel.

1. The friend is [ profile] active_apathy, the game is [ profile] nomicide. It's not the first, but it's the longest-lived so far. Slash advertisment. ^
2. Editor's note: the <em> tag that appears to have been erroneously applied to the magazine title has been appropriately replaced with an <i> tag. ^
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Question: does anyone know why every version of Firefox on Mac OsX 10.3.9 renders the little "hearts" symbol (♥) as a vertical line?

Edit: Apparently for the same reason the text gets grainy sometimes - the rendering code is flaky. There's a fix promised in Firefox 3. Thanks, [ profile] baxil!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
The very title "The Feminist Case Against Abortion" is an obvious fraud. Serrin M. Foster, the author, is - intentionally or not - falsely claims the mantle of a popular, progressive ideology to support an claim which, at best, has nothing to do with it.

Why can I speak so strongly about this? Because, in the modern U.S. political dialectic, "feminist" and "against abortion" have clearly defined, mutually incompatible meanings.

Let us begin with "feminist".

A feminist is concerned with the rights of women. She or he1 believes that many women are, through legal, social, or other means, denied opportunities, powers, and freedoms that they fairly deserve, and that this situation needs remedying.

That definition in mind, let us consider "against abortion".

Someone is against abortion if they believe that abortions should be prohibited.

I accept that this could be a controversial reading. However, it is the only correct reading in this context. Why? Because almost everyone agrees that abortion is a moral wrong. In fact, almost every pro-choice advocate, when asked, will say that abortion is wrong. What makes it legally permissible in this country is the consensus that abortion is, sometimes, less wrong than the alternative. And, being as we're an independent sort of people and rightly distrustful of governmental power, and being that a fetus is incapable of a moral choice (be it person or not), we give the right to decide whether it is less wrong to the competent moral agent with the most at stake: the mother. We give her all the support we can, but no other method exists for reducing the misery of the horrible situations that make abortion an option.

In light of this, "against abortion" can only be interpreted as "...universally". And, justifying this reading, a ban is what Foster seems to defend.

And, as such a ban reduces the powers and freedoms (and even the opportunities) of a woman - the mother - it cannot by any means be a feminist view. It can only be a view that a feminist may have for other reasons.

And that is why Serrin Foster is perpetrating a deception when she claims a "feminist" case against abortion.

1. I will not dignify with a response those who believe that men cannot be feminists.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
As one who cares deeply about the idea of accurate product labeling, I am appalled that the FDA is considering loosening its regulations. To use the only example that has been made public, allowing food like cocoa with vegetable oil to be referred to as "chocolate" is certain to be detrimental to the health of millions of Americans who seek out the genuine article in part for its demonstrated beneficial properties (the antioxidants help reduce strokes and heart failure), not to mention the millions of Americans with allergies to peanuts, canola oil, and other common substitute ingredients.

Can it fail to be obvious what will result from legislation along these lines? Our country is in the midst of what has been widely described as an "obesity epidemic". One even sees in new immigrants a sudden surge of heart attacks during their first months here. And regulations like the proposed would make it impossible for naive customers to protect themselves from yet another source of unhealthy fats.

I say again: I am appalled that the institution that was founded because of the 1906 Food and Drugs Act precisely to prevent "the addition of any ingredients that would substitute for the food, conceal damage, pose a health hazard, or constitute a filthy or decomposed substance" - and the vegetable oils replacing the cocoa butter would qualify under both the first and the third of these - would consider such a destructive regulation.

See Making Light's post for links to further information – the period for public comment on this docket ends April 25.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (tired)
Zee laptop, eet is kaput! All kaput!

You know, it could be my carting it about in the backpack every day, but I think Apple has lost quality since the old Mac Plus days. I have taken this in to replace the hard drive, to replace the monitor, to replace the logic board ... this stinks.

(Of course, the computer I want to replace it is a MacBook....)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. ("uh-huh")
So, a week off from school, right? Counting the two bracketing weekends, that's 9 days between classes.

...aaand I finally finish all my homework assignments Day 8.

Well, I guess I have sixteen hours of vacation, at least....
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (tired)
Yesterday, I was reading about Ramsey Clark in Esquire online. The article is pretty good, but this paragraph struck me:
When it's over, he walks in his slow, steady pace down to the cab. He's been going all day, on a couple hours sleep, barely even eating, but he shows no sign of it. "That was worthwhile," he says.

Reading that, afterwards, I realized that I'd seen this implicit admiration for people who don't sleep elsewhere. John Grisham's "The Firm". Every story about every startup I've ever heard told. Even my advisor, when he was telling me to work harder. I've never even seen a biography say, "He slept eight hours a day".

What is wrong with this place? Studies show that having enough sleep is explicitly tied to all sorts of benefits. Why, then, are the public role models people who barely go to bed?
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Back in 1994, a rather well-known physicist named Murray Gell-Mann wrote a book called The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. Back in, hmm, August, I checked a copy out of the library.

I'm not done with it yet. But judging it so far, there's an important lesson I think people should learn, here, in writing books or articles on popular science. And it comes down to these two things: rigor and readability. You can be exactly right, or you can be easily understood. Being both is hard or impossible. In this case, Gell-Mann was writing a popular science book, so he wanted to be understood. But he is a physicist, and used to exactness*, and he let that lead him into a big mistake: he tried to stay precise – correct – without spending the time to explain the definitions.

This is unbelievably important. Unless you spend the time to make definitions, you cannot be precise. 90% of confusions are definitions or semantics.

Scientists are probably worse off here than anyone else, since they're used to talking with people who already know the definitions. But if you want to explain it to people who don't, you have to fudge it or spend a lot of time working it out.

This has been another installment of "Robin Pretends To Know All Theatre". Thank you for coming.

* For all the jokes that science guys make about the philosophy guys**, they do have this in common: they both define words very precisely. Defining words precisely is absolutely necessary to clear and correct reasoning on any difficult subject.

** Q: How do you get a philosopher off your porch? A: Pay him for the pizza. Q: What does the liberal arts major say to the science major? A: "Would you like fries with that?"
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (RZ Ambigram)
Oh, bother! Stuff and bother! G. K. Chesterton, the brilliant writer, the famous Christian apologist, the utter cad!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Silhouette)
So, I have been reading the online version of The Writer's Almanac, since my dad listens to the show, and sometimes there are some very fine poems there. Today, I decided to look up all the ones I'd bookmarked on 'real' poetry sites. Which went well, until "My Love Is Like to Ice" by Edmund Spenser. (Coincidentally, this is today's poem. For the next couple hours, anyway.)

When you Google "My Love Is Like to Ice" by Edmund Spenser, you get about two hundred sites of love poetry!

What is this? "Love" is in the title, so it's romantic? Bah! Unless he's entirely corrupting all the common metaphors of romance, Spenser's saying that he loves someone who doesn't love him back, and loves her the more for the lack of reciprocation! I like the poem, but that's not romantic.

...there, I'm done. Anyway, Poetry Connection's page with "My Love Is Like to Ice" seems to be okay, though ad-clogged.

"Love" poetry. Hmph!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
I'm leaving this dorm (for probably the last time) tomorrow morning. Right now? I'm eager to go.

I admit that I enjoyed dorm life this semester. I'm living in an honors dorm, which is nice. I made a number of friends, people with whom I could chat, play pool, and do homework. I played a lot of N64 with my roommate and the guy across the hall, for example. I'd say that from when I get up in the morning until 10 PM every day, this dorm is a fine place to live.

Please note that it is after 10 PM.

I am appalled at the behavior of many of my floormates. Not by the behavior of those I know – as I said, I made friends with a number of them, and found them to be fine people. No, the ones I'm thinking of are a few others whose names I don't know, and whose faces are barely familiar. I'm sure it's only a few. The damage they do, however, is far more than their share.

I don't remember every event. They only occur intermittently, they vary in intensity. But right now, the bulletin board for this half of the floor is in pieces on the floor. There is water (or something else) spilled all over and around it, making a slipping hazard. One of the trash cans has been dumped, further down the hall. The faceplate of the water fountain is gone. The plastic cover for the paper towel dispenser is busted. There's the partly-burt remains of something in the sink, and I'm not even sure what. All of this happened within the last three hours.

I have heard no remorse expressed by any of those responsible. We got a warning letter from the dean, and I've seen no change. We even had an obligatory floor meeting, solely for the purpose of discussing this.

These are honors students.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
I have been reading [ profile] ginmar's journal recently, and it got me thinking about how each person's freedom is restricted by everyone else's. Oddly enough, a recent 'situation' I was in offered an example of this theory in action.

Some unspecified time ago, I was working on a school assignment. Specifically, I was working on rewriting the paper I turned in two weeks ago, but that's not important. And I was working on this assignment in a (semi-)public place, i.e. someplace which other people shared the right to occupy. And, in this case, there were other people, sharing the right to occupy the space.

Here's the question: How much right did I have to restrict what they could do there?

Certainly, they had the right to be there while I tried to write. Likewise, I had the right to be there and try to write. I will be the first to admit that there are times when I wouldn't have that right, but in this particular instance, I had a strong claim to it. And so did they. No argument there.

Certainly they had the right to use their laptops there. Similarly, I had the right to use mine. Certainly, they had the right to read the newspaper there. Similarly, I had the right to read my class notes.

Certainly they had the right to play their music there ... no, wait!

When you reach the issue of the music, a new problem arises. Or rather, an old problem becomes rather more severe. That problem is: I was writing! How much right did they have to interfere with my trying to write? How much right did I have to interfere with them trying to play music?

I won't disguise my opinion. I believe that I had the right to keep either and both of them from playing their music out lout, and that's it.

Why do I claim this right? I argue that it is a reasonable compromise. To play the music out loud (and I emphasize that qualifier for a reason) is to make the space have music playing in it. We both have control over the space, so we both have control over whether music should be playing in it.

Now, at this point we're even, or I'm behind. If they both want the music playing, I lose. But there's another factor.

I have no control over what music they listen to. If either of the, want to play music on their headphones, they can. Therefore, if they want to listen to their music, and I want (relative) silence while I work, we can have both.

How reasonable a compromise is this? I believe it to be eminently reasonable, for two reasons. The first is the obvious: the fact that they would not be severely inconvenienced by submitting to the compromise. The second is much more sophisticated: an appeal to John Rawls.

I first heard of Rawls Game (that is the name that was given to it) a year or so ago, at a community college philosophy club meeting. I heard of it again very recently; in fact, in the same class for which I was writing the paper. The idea is fairly simple; it is a thought-experiment.

Imagine that a group of people is brought together to write the constitution for a new country. However, when they finished, they would be randomly assigned their positions in the society they created. That is, when they are writing the rules of society, they don't know who they will be afterward. This hiding of their future roles is called the "veil of ignorance".

Why is this concept so useful? Because any law that you make that involves more than one person, is a law you have to make not knowing which person you will be. That means that you won't want to make laws biased towards one person, or against another. If you made a law saying that every left-handed person in the country would have to be stoned to death, you could end up stoned to death!

Now, how does a thought experiment about constitutional law apply to my situation, above? Bring in the veil of ignorance! If I don't know which person I will be – the writer or the music-listener – then I have to come up with something I can accept, either way. I can't say, "I have the right to blare out my music, period, and I have the right to silence while I work, period!" I have to come up with what both people will do, before I know which one is me. I have to be fair.

And that's what mutual freedoms are all about.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Recently, I went to a concert, and got an idea.

At the concert, three pieces were played. The first was the Overture to Leonore No. 3, Op. 72b by Ludwig van Beethoven. I enjoyed it greatly. The second was Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff. I did not enjoy it much - too atonal - but I would certainly not claim to criticize it. The third was Roman Festivals, by Ottorino Respighi. It was during this piece that I had my idea.

Roman Festivals is one of those pieces which I think had too many "toys". Toys is what I call them; them in this case being triangles, xylophones, tambourines, and other sundry devices which are occasionally employed by some of the more overenthusiastic inspired artists. Respighi did not stop there, however. He also showed an infuriating tendency to jump from one theme to another, with nary a transition to be heard. It was this final quality that inspired my idea.

That idea is: When you write a piece of music, write one piece of music! Not two, not ten, not one-third of one, but one!

This rule, if applied, would bring immeasurable happiness to my ears. No more would I turn on my radio, hear a fantastic piano introduction, hear the electric guitar leap in, fighting with the piano, bringing up the tension, building something unique and new ... and then sputter as this rising tide drops me in a wading pool of generic 'hard rock'. No more would I change the channel, hear ten seconds of quality chords, percussion, and lyrics ... and then hear the same ten seconds repeating itself with insignificant variations for the next five minutes.

No more. Instead, I would hear music.


packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

October 2011

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