PyDS bug or mismatched versions?

Ok... I ended up getting this figured out. Apparenntly, PyDS is not really "ready" for Python 2.3, and there's some controversy over newer versions of metakit. The pyds-dev mailing list has a corrected DownstreamTool.py that works with Python 2.3, so most of the rest of the stuff will work. Confused me for a bit though.
posted at 19:23:44    #    comment []    trackback []

Perfect is the Enemy of Good Enough

Voltaire said that "Best is the Enemy of Good" which apparently when translated from French into Russian and back to English via 1960's, Soviet Admiral S.G. Gorshkov, is "Perfect is the enemy of good enough."

This is similar to the Japanese concept of WabiSabi, which is basically finding beauty in imperfections.

Completely unrelated, but another cool Japanese concept is "ikigai" which combines purpose of life, value and meaning of being alive, ground for living, emotion that makes life worth living (joie de vivre, being enthusiastic about life, a sense of satisfaction with life). I couldn't find ikigawa, so I assume I was mispronouncing it (since the romanization is always phonetic). I heard about it on NPR some years ago.

Continuing the japanese concept trend, the word "yuimaru" means "connecting circle" and is used by Okinawans to mean something very similar to the cohousing sense of community. It's not really a mainland japanese idea (and I'm not sure it is even in japanses dictionaries. I read about it in a book about the Okinowan diet/way-of-life/something that I skimmed in a bookstore.

Yes. yes. All very random. This is mostly so I don't forget the concepts for later research (particularly better definitions). I want to make images of the japanese ideograms representing these concepts and print them out on nice paper, as well as maybe do some more reading. Linux nicely supports beautiful Japanese TrueType fonts, so I figure I'll use that.
posted at 19:21:36    #    comment []    trackback []

Secular Abortion Views

I would be very happy if alternatives to abortion were much more viable, as I think this would reduce the incidence of abortion more than outlawing it. Bolstering this opinon is this WHO report on unsafe abortions which has this quote:

Contrary to common belief, legalization of abortion does not necessarily increase abortion rates. The Netherlands, for example, has a non-restrictive abortion law, widely accessible contraceptives and free abortion services, and the lowest abortion rate in the world: 5.5 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age per year. Barbados, Canada, Tunisia and Turkey have all changed abortion laws to allow for greater access to legal abortion without increasing abortion rates.
By the way, the Netherlands has universal free prenatal, birthing, and child health care, along with subsidized daycare and a few others measures to increase the viability of alternatives to abortion. Meanwhile countries without such that do outlaw abortion have high abortion rates.

Further, I have long believed that neurological activity defined the beginning of personhood (as that is also the test for when personhood ends). From a secular abortion debate I recently discovered that this happens relatively late (five months):
[T]he fetus does not become truly neurologically active until the fifth month (an event we call "quickening"). This activity might only be a generative one, i.e. the spontaneous nerve pulses could merely be autonomous or spontaneous reflexes aimed at stimulating and developing muscle and organ tissue. Nevertheless, it is in this month that a complex cerebral cortex, the one unique feature of human -- in contrast with animal -- brains, begins to develop, and is typically complete, though still growing, by the sixth month. What is actually going on mentally at that point is unknown, but the hardware is in place for a human mind to exist in at least a primitive state.
The last big component to my view on abortion is that no adult has a moral imperative (nor should have a legal compulsion) to undergo a risky medical procedure, even when necessary to save an uncontroversially human life. This is true for kidney donors, and it's true for pregnant women. I honestly do not believe that there is a sex-linked difference in the nobility or instinctiveness of freely choosing to undergo risk and self-sacrifice for progeny (or potential progeny), so I don't think it should change our societal expectations and obligations with regards to medical procedures that are limited to women.

I do understand and respect that there are religious reasons for believing that full personhood (ensoulment) occurs at 14 days, since conception is a 14 day process, not an instanteous event. However I am largely unswayed by such religious reasoning, just as they are probably unswayed by my secular reasoning.

People on both sides of the issue tend to make moral judgments about those who believe differently, and I don't mean to do so here. I'm posting so I can skip explaining my views in any related discussion and get to more novel and interesting things to talk about.
posted at 19:21:36    #    comment []    trackback []

Nonviolent Communication in Dating

I started dating the most amazing woman on earth. Our first date we hung out in the Arb for 8 hours just talking. Pretty much all our dates end up lasting that long, just because we're talking, laughing and having a good time. I am delighted by her least remark, her most stray thought, her most mild opinion, and am fascinated by all her subtansive differences. The most wonderful thing is that she's at least as intelligent as I am, but her intelligence is very complimentary to my own (although we are both very articulate so there's some overlap). It doesn't even matter to me that she's gorgeous, because her appearance is of such insignificance to her other qualities that I adore. There's an "us" rather than just she and I as individuals, and that's the first time it's happened in a romantic relationship for me.

I'm trying not to make unilateral decisions, such as denying, conceding to, or making demands as in past relationships (not that she is demanding). Instead, we communicate our observations, feelings, needs, and our requests to one another and actually reach consensus through comprimise or creative solutions. This is just like the Nonviolent Communication book, although in a very natural way, not in any stiff formulaic manner.

Last night we had a little stress over possibly mutually being unable to meet some expectations, and when I restated her stress and expectation, as her feeling anxiety about a need of hers being unmet with a quite reasonable request for me to try to meet her need, she did much the same translation with my stress and expectation, and both the stress and anxiety went away (at least for me, and I assume for her). Instead of stressing over a possible lack of perfection, it was a very productive, compassionate way of reaching an effective working comprimise. I'm quite struck by the beauty of this relationship, independent of either of us.

She hasn't read the book (Nonviolent Communication), but she seems to very naturally apply the same skills. That's one of her amazing qualities. It takes me two days of thought and preparation to reach her instant conclusions on things to do with human interaction.

Oh yeah, she likes puns, garlic, and horseradish. I would have settled for "tolerates". How amazing.
posted at 19:19:28    #    comment []    trackback []

Nearly Perfect Geek Score

I managed to setup my new Shuttle ST62K Linux machine and reclaim alpha geek status. Both the new machine and the old machine did the same stuff, but this is something I could realistically leave in a living room, since it's small, stylish, and virtually silent. Plus, the new one is faster, has a DVD burner, and firewire and USB 2 (necessary for plan below). It's running Gentoo Linux, ddclient DynDNS, Squid, PyDS, IvyTV and MythTV. Gentoo was the only way to get all the hardware fully supported at the present time (the ST62K uses a bleeding edge ATI motherboard requiring a 2.6.5 kernel, which makes getting my shiny new Hauppage WinTV 250 hard to get working).

The plan is to now move my brother's fried computer's hard drive to my old machine, fix his old machine for my parents, and set everyone (including myself) up with video conferencing for talking to my sister in Chicago. Hence the need to upgrade everyone's hardware (including firewire or USB 2). After that, I guess I'll set up videoconferencing for my uncle Jerry in Boston.
posted at 19:17:20    #    comment []    trackback []

Uneasy about Condoleezza Rice and Bad Women

I feel pretty uneasy about prominent women who are excoriated in the media, even when they're obvious criminals. I wonder whether special hatred is reserved for uppity women, and how much a woman's healthy disregard for societies' place for women can explain how some women unhealthily reject other behavioral restraints, such as ethical ones.

Morals are a luxury that the poor and the oppressed can rarely afford. I don't mean that poor people doing wrong is in any way right, just that survival takes precedence over questions of right and wrong. I also don't mean that women and minorities get a free pass on unethical, criminal behavior, especially when their survival (or well-being) is not in question. However, the statistics are clear that women and minorities are both punished more harshly for the same crimes, and that they have less opportunities for success within the rules. I can understand how someone like that would come to chafe at all restraints to personal success, and choose to gamble that she wouldn't get caught. It still makes me uncomfortable to see this play out.

For anecdotal instance, the zeal with which Martha Stewart was prosecuted and the glee of the publicity seems outsized compared to more harmful male executives. I don't only mean Enron and Worldcom, but Wang and Tyson (or was it Tyco?) and all the rest that have gotten scant attention or punishment.

Recently, Condoleezza Rice is foremost on my mind. She's distinguished herself of late by making outrageous lies in a lame effort to defend the administration's conduct before and after September 11th. Her efforts have been so inept, that I half-suspect she is purposefully setting herself up as a willing scapegoat for later consequences to shield someone or someones above her. How else could she not have been far more circumspect of late if her loyalty didn't exceed even her personal ambitions? Her lies are too obvious and artless for someone with her intelligence, and the time and resources to develop more convincing (or at least less personally damning) statements.

Regardless, she's just a shill, and not the architect of the obsession with Iraq, nor the person who decided to redirect efforts away from terrorism, and probably not the person who constructed the lies she is currently retelling. Condi is just aiding and abetting the cover-up, and potentially willing to take the fall for the person who is really responsible for enabling September 11th and taking us into Iraq. Whether that is Cheney, Bush, or a combination is still unclear. However, why does Condi get the bad press and Cheney come smelling of roses? Her glower is more appealing than his sneer, even on TV. I suspect her transgressions are much smaller than his. That's why, as much as I dislike this administration, I am very uneasy about Condoleezza's treatment and eventual fate. I think I've read how this story ends before.

Am I wrong to cut a woman (especially a black woman) extra slack? Am I wrong to be less angry at lies to cover-up something (distraction from al-Qaeda that tragically led to Sept. 11th) afterwards than in lies designed to cause something (invasion of Iraq)? Less people died in September 11th than have in Iraq, but I don't even know if that matters. I'm pretty torn up about this and would appreciate thoughts, as I don't have a clear sense of what to think.
posted at 00:15:44    #    comment []    trackback []

What To Do About Same Sex Marriage

Ok, now that I've solved all Feminist problems :), what's to be done about ending persecution of homosexuals? In the context of the current Same Sex Marriage debate, I personally think we need to air more of the of true life stories of those really hurt by not having Same Sex Marriage. Honestly, that last link is something you really need to read. Very touching. You won't be able to look at the issue the same, regardless of your current position. However, I'm pretty ignorant about Gay Rights other than same sex marriage. My intuition is that's not the only law that should be changed. Like, can companies legally fire you for your sexual orientation? I don't even know.

In the context of same sex marriage, Jeff Hodges appears to support direct action like protests, etc. He feels that this will not only force people to pay attention, but will also force them come to a more reasonable view. This is because of both the compelling nature of the Truth and because "extremists make people listen to moderates."

I'm not sure about that. While extremists can make more moderate views look more reasonable, they can also poison people's opinions towards any comprimises. Certainly Violence or Terrorism from extremists taint opinions of even mild comprimise. I would bet there is a bit of truth to this Onion Satire about some Non-violent Direct Actions hurting the cause as well. Humanizing homosexuals, and relating the real problems they face is probably the best course.

I know less about Gay Rights than I do about Feminism, so I'm not even sure there's the same level of organization and information available. Certainly equivalent ways of integrating support for Gay Rights into my life choices are more difficult for me to formulate. Where would you find a list of good or bad companies to work for and buy from, or to avoid? I don't think there's a socially responsible investment screen for this stuff either. Hmmm... more to think about.
posted at 17:51:44    #    comment []    trackback []

Activist Feminist Life Choices

Thanks to the good advice from my sister and Echidne I think I've made some progress on ways to integrate Feminism into my life. I'd still be very interested in hearing reactions, suggestions, or refinements.

My earlier difficulty in discerning how to integrate Feminism into my life was that I was comparing it to Enivronmentalism. In Environmentalism, you're just dealing with things and places. If you pick up litter, the place looks cleaner. You can make a positive contribution with immediate, tangible results even when everyone around you is apathetic or opposed. In Feminism, it's hard to know where (or who) to direct your efforts toward, and hard to gauge how effective you are in persuading people. Without feeling productive in some Feminist activity, a person gets demoralized and turns bitter and apathetic towards Feminism.

However, there is a solution. There are actual quantifiable, empirical effects of sexism and mysogyny. People point to these symptoms and use them to justify continued sexism and mysogyny. For instance, women earn less than men for the same work, and are less often promoted. Sexists point to this and use circular reasoning to say it demonstrates women are somehow less suited, underperforming, or something equally ridiculous (e.g. "My paying you less because you are a woman proves women are worse workers so I should pay you less"???). If you counteract these symptoms (pay women equally and help them succeed), those women break the stereotypes and prove them false. These symptoms of sexism can be affected by choices in our lives (working, buying stuff, investing for retirement, housing ourselves, getting education, raising families, etc.). If women are allowed to succeed, they break the stereotypes and reduce the viability of sexist opinions. Try telling an award winning female mathematician that women are no good at math. Or look at college women's athletics (e.g. "we don't have women's athletic programs because women don't want to be athletes because they're aren't women's athletic programs"). Prominent women who have beaten the odds help, but just everyday ordinary women's every accomplishment is much more far reaching in shaping public opinion, since more sexists are confronted by the mundane reality of these examples, and can't write them off as flukes. Our life choices can further aid the Cause, by facilitating women's successes.

For instance, if you choose not to work for a company that has substantial gender pay equity gap, or a history of not promoting women, etc., it reduces the quantity and quality of that companies labor pool, and increases their labor costs (as they must pay more to attract quality people). Really infamous companies need to pay way more to attract the same calibre of workers. Would you want to work for Enron, Haliburton, etc.? As my sister points out, Working Mother has a 100 Best Companies to work for. Choosing to work for these companies, helping these companies to succeed, will force other companies to be more competitive on Feminist issues. I would be very interested in other similar lists (as well as the worst companies so they can be specifically avoided).

Also as my wise and intelligent sister points out, we can choose to buy products from the same list of good companies, and avoid buying products from the really bad ones. In addition to the 100 best companies to work for (and hence buy from), Co-op America has tools to aid Socially Responsible Consumerism and Boycotts. They also have the Green Pages for looking up alternatives. Their focus (esp. Green Pages) is more environmental, but there is attention to Feminist issues as well.

You can also choose to invest in a socially responsible way with regards to Feminism. There's even a few mutual funds that are specifically Feminist as the overriding concern for positive and negative screening.

Getting a house (or apartment) in a city, state, or country based on rates of domestic abuse, violence against women, etc. might be a tad extreme, but I could see that also forcing other governments to be more competetive on those issues for similar reasons. I'm not sure how those crimes correlate to income demographics, so I might need to research and think about ramifications of that one. It does amuse me that the states most vehemently opposed to reproductive freedom actually have the highest rates of abortion.

For education, certainly educating yourself about Feminism is important. In addition, choosing to attend or sending your kids to schools that have decent graduation rates for women in science and engineering is a great way to encourage other schools to promote programs to address the current societal imbalance.

Socially responsible Living choices are to a certain extent luxuries, and I'm not suggesting that anyone who can't afford to do all of this stuff is not a Feminist. Most people are happy to have any job right now, and can't afford to be real picky. I'm just trying to think of ways to move my life more in tune with my values. If anyone else has any good Feminist suggestions, (or disagreements or whatever) I would be extremely happy to hear them.
posted at 13:46:24    #    comment []    trackback []

Genetics and Neuroscience of Morality

Great article on how we're wired up.
Many of the world’s great conflicts may be rooted in such neuronal differences, Greene says, which may explain why the conflicts seem so intractable. "We have people who are talking past each other, thinking the other people are either incredibly dumb or willfully blind to what's right in front of them," Greene says. "It's not just that people disagree, it’s that they have a hard time imagining how anyone could disagree on this point that seems so obvious." Some people wonder how anyone could possibly tolerate abortion. Others wonder how women could possibly go out in public without covering their faces. The answer may be that their brains simply don't work the same: Genes, culture, and personal experience have wired their moral circuitry in different patterns.

Greene hopes that research on the brain’s moral circuitry may ultimately help resolve some of these seemingly irresolvable disputes. "When you have this understanding, you have a bit of distance between yourself and your gut reaction," he says. "You may not abandon your core values, but it makes you a more reasonable person. Instead of saying, 'I am just right and you are just nuts,' you say, 'This is what I care about, and we have a conflict of interest we have to work around.'"
posted at 16:20:00    #    comment []    trackback []

Feminist Lifestyle Questions

How can someone live a really proactive Feminist lifestyle? Are there regular or daily feel-good Feminist activities equivalent to other issues (recycling, socially responsible consumerism, vegetarianism, living in a racially diverse neighborhood, etc.)

I don't necessarily need to daily succeed in ending the gender pay equity gap, for instance, but I do need to feel like I am structuring my life to combat it, without being in a hiring position. For many Feminist issues, I am dumbfounded at how just living correctly can have an impact, aside from not personally propogating problems.

This really upsets me because my life has been designed to have a positive impact on many Progressive issues that I don't feel as strongly about as Feminism. Intersectionality implies that as I make Progressive change, it will spill over and indirectly positively impact women's issues, but this doesn't get us off the hook. It's certainly not as satisfying as directly addressing Feminist issues through lifestyle choices.

Sure, I'm reliably activist in protecting reproductive choice (March for Choice, even occasional clinic escort) but that's really only a very small part of Feminism, and activism is only a small portion of my life (15 hours a week). There's got to be ways to better integrate Feminism into my lifestyle.

You can make socially responsible investments to promote feminist issues, and I do.

As a responsible consumer, there's no Feminist certification label (such as Fair Trade) to insure that the products I buy are made by a company that provides child care, and has non-discriminatory hiring, wage, and promotion practices. There are directories of women owned companies, and I could try to prefer buying their products, not that it's a guarantee that they meet any of those criteria. Does Ms. magazine or something report on the 500 worst companies like the environmental groups do on their issues?

There's no dietary change like vegetarianism that improves the situation for women (aside from possibly buying food in socially responsible consumerism as above).

I dunno. I'd be interested in hearing suggestions.
posted at 11:14:56    #    comment []    trackback []

Gene that makes us human

Tantalizing bit about the fifteen mutations a single gene has undergone to give us humans such large brains.
posted at 17:26:08    #    comment []    trackback []

Truth is Funnier Than I Am

A joke feels like a warm little chestnut you can pull out of your pocket, pass around, and warm your hands with, or use to distract attacking weasels. (Warning: do not feed chestnuts to wolverines. It gives them terrible gas.) When one of my jokes comes true, I miss it like the former owner of a pet that had only occasionally defecated upon me. At the same time, it means reality is a joke. Sighing and laughing simultaneously sounds like an asthmatic with a tracheotomy, so I ward off undue medical assistance by wearing a sign that says "Do not resuscitate. This is normal for me."

Recently, someone marked up an Onion article that satirized G. W. Bush with hyperlinks to all the things that came true. Bush: 'Our Long Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over'

A cellphone with a built in stun gun (taser). When people ask me about my cellphone, I always mentioned that feature as a joke, followed by the caveat ("but it really runs the battery down so I can only stun four or five people a day"). Now, they really have it. Another joke becomes a casualty of reality's infectious sense of humor.
posted at 16:39:12    #    comment []    trackback []

Is Civil Disobedience Coercive? Part II

Jeff has been highly patient with my delinquent response. The current discussion (now bifurcated) is pretty interesting, but this week is probably not the best for timely, succinct, and thoughtful responses from me. I'm currently just leaving work and still a bit sick.

We both agree that the Civil Rights era made dramatic progress and that direct action played an important role. More interestingly, what happens to the power of direct action when it is used to support regressive beliefs? When the KKK marches, when the Pro-War people burn Dixie Chicks CDs, etc. Is the power of direct action only due to the legitimacy of the motivating end goal, in historical hindsight? Is the power in the legitimacy of the principled execution (nonviolence, etc.)? Or is direct action's power only when there are outsized and unjustified responses? A combination?

WARNING: The below, while less of a digression than the above from Jeff's post, is probably incredibly boring and pedantic as it deals with a semantic difference. I blame the cough syrup.

In Jeff's latest, on the compelling nature of the civil rights era direct action (and the unjustified responses), I fully agree that I found those events to compellingly demonstrate the severity of the opression, and the remarkable character of those who nonviolently resisted it. I am so persuaded that I have trouble understanding how anyone could not be. However, I do know that there are those who cling to discredited, racist beliefs and were not "forcibly persuaded" by the awesome Pathos and irrefutable principles encapsulated by the events of the Civil Rights era. Jeff still finds this to meet his criteria for "compelling", enough so that he seems to toy with the idea that direct action is so powerful it is almost coercive (but in a good way). I personally draw a line between extremely persuasive and truly "compelling" such that all are unable to think otherwise. To-may-to, to-mah-to. Again, I apologize for even bringing it up.
posted at 00:54:08    #    comment []    trackback []

Urgency of Progressive Action Part II

Jeff Hodges replies to my last post on the urgency of progressive action. Interestingly, he suggests that the more attention an issue gets, the greater an individual's effectiveness in pursuing the issue. This is roughly like the old politician saw about not getting too far ahead of your constituency. There may be truth to this, as group action, rather than the action of a lone individual, is required for most significant change.

However, I suspect that broad awareness of an issue is not the same as effectiveness, and therefore urgency. It seems hard to make progress (individual or group) on issues where most people have very entrenched, polarized positions. Sometimes, creative proposals really enjoy broad multilateral support and seem obvious in hindsight.

To be more concrete, civil unions and same sex marriage have been trending more and more support over time. Currently, a majority of americans do not yet support same sex marriage, while it very recently appears that a slim majority do support civil unions. As a result, conservatives are anxious to freeze the current temporary situation. I believe the Federal Marriage Amendment's banning civil unions is overreaching. That conservatives feel the need to be disingenuous about this fact indicates they agree. In this situation, I can easily agree with Jeff that preventing such a constitutional freeze is urgent. Time is certainly key, as repealing a federal constitutional amendment is very difficult. Look how long prohibition lasted. However, I'm not sure I'd say that getting full same sex marriage is as urgent, as it seems like time is on the side of support for such.

Honestly, the neurological research is increasingly pointed to genetic reasons for homosexuality. I think once that becomes the inarguable scientific consensus and filters into the mainstream, people will have a hard time opposing same sex marriage. Just as people of one or two generations ago were uncomfortable with racial intermarriage, I think a generation from now people will see same sex marriage as similarly benign.
posted at 00:07:12    #    comment []    trackback []

Urgency of Progressive Action

Priority is determined by both importance and urgency. The importance of social justice I'll discuss some other time, and just assume it is "important" here. But what about the urgency?

Using the rhetoric of a war as in the "Culture War" skips the hard work of making a really robust and universally persuasive case for why this or that specific progressive reform or action is urgently needed. Those who are opposed to same sex marriage will not be persuaded by proponent's use of the phrase "Culture War", nor will opponent's use of it persuade proponents. It is polemic. Moderates and undecideds are turned off by extreme rhetoric.

People are dying and suffering due to a lack of progressive reforms, and it can be argued that this is more urgent than the imminent threat in war, since it is an ongoing certainty. Abolishing slavery in the past, and universal healthcare in the present are good examples. My problem is that once we equate the urgency of progressive action with that of action in war, we have cranked it to maximum and can't make useful decisions.

Which progressive reform is most urgent? Is women's suffrage more urgent than ending segregation? How does the urgency of ending something as directly harmful as slavery compare to more indirectly beneficial reforms like truly representative democracy that have the potential to facilitate ending many such directly harmful practices? How urgent is a given progressive reform to a rich, white, protestant, American male as compared to a poor, black, lesbian, atheist?
posted at 16:05:04    #    comment []    trackback []
April 2004
    1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 91011

Crumbling Thoughts and Powdered Memories

XML-Image Letterimage

© 2004, EdgeWise