eXTReMe Tracker WARNING: The opinions expressed and linked to in this blog are not necessarily mine (anymore).

My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Friday, September 30

Scouts Part II

When I took my little guy to get his uniform and talked to him about Discipline and Duty, I didn't even flinch (much), bleeding heart though I am. Discipline's a good thing, dammit, even though its flipside is mind-numbing Repression. Learning a certain degree of Conformity to communitarian ideals has its virtues, even though none of the close synonyms -- Acquiescence, Submission, Compliance, Deference -- represent anything I want to give my boy. It's MINDLESS conformity and UNTHINKING devotion to Duty and FANATICAL Discipline -- those are the forms that bring the bile to my throat.

It's been a long time since I've posted to this blog or looked at it, but I'm fairly certain I didn't write this. I believe I found it, liked it, and meant to comment on it but didn't finish before I hit publish and now the article is gone or has been moved. Ah well, it's still an interesting quote.

Buddhism

I've read a few versions of the life of Buddha (Siddartha Gautama). I don't remember the sequence of events very well and I'm not much of a story-teller, but it goes something like this:

He was born a prince. His father showered him with wealth and tried to avoid his being exposed to pain and suffering and thus being tempted to becoming a priest or clergyman. His father wasn't able to pull this off completely. The young Siddartha would notice the suffering and pain of animals. Eventually, he persuaded his father to allow him to visit the people of a nearby village. There he saw an old man for the first time. He also saw a diseased person. He was shocked and disturbed and very determined to find some way to avoid suffering. He left his young wife and child to seek a solutiong to the problem of suffering. He sought the wisdom of numerous masters and nearly died of starvation in his efforts to obtain enlightenment. A child saw that he was weak from hunger and fed him. Afterwards, he decided that it made sense to have some minimal nourishment, otherwise, he wouldn't be able (or alive even) to focus on solving problems.

He went to visit his father on his death bed and talked to his wife. She became a follower of his.

I found a site with an illustrated children's version of the story. I've often found that when I'm trying to learn about something or read a difficult fiction text, it helps to start with reading children's versions of them. They're usually somewhat entertaining and brief.

I have a lot of questions and thought about the various versions of the story I've read. Assuming the story is "true" (A big assumption, I know, even leaving out mystical aspects). I wonder whether being kept from seeing suffering also kept him from taking it for-granted in the way that a lot of people do. Perhaps if he'd been brought up with lots of wealth and without suffering hidden from him, he'd have learned to be indifferent to it more. I wonder whether keeping children from seeing suffering and dangerous things makes them more sensitive to it later. I wonder if it's a good or a bad thing.

After sitting down, the Buddha told them: "Monks! I have realised the truth of the end of suffering (nirvana), and the way to end suffering. If you learn and practice it, you will soon become enlightened. You must take responsibility for working to understand these things." At first, the five monks doubted his words and asked him many questions. But finally they began to trust him and wanted to hear his teaching. And so the Buddha gave his first teaching to the five monks at Sarnath.
He sounds arrogant to me. I guess it depends on whether what he had to offer really was the truth of the end of suffering and the way to end suffering.

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA's) Part II

I've been doing a tiny bit more research. I found a nice listing of FPGA Boards and Systems.

I also found a nice site called fpga4fun.com. I found the bit on What Are FPGAs? to be just the right blend of information and conciseness that I needed to get started. I've managed to get through a bit of the tutorial on Structural Classification.

I'm not sure I understand it all, but learning about it reminded me of learning math. Sometimes it seems totally uncomprehensible at first, but after a day or two, I can come back to it and it makes more sense.

At the moment, I'm wondering what a CLB is. C-- Logic Block, I'm guessing. (C for Control?) I'll look it up in a bit.

I'm amazed at the difference in approaches of the two sites. They both seem informative, but somehow the 4fun site seems more, well, fun. I get the feeling I could go through it and do something with the information - find an actual FPGA and get it working. The Tutorial seems like it would help me understand how one works more thoroughly although I still wouldn't know how to select one or use it.

Thursday, September 29

Inequality, Risk, and Productivity

As usual with his articles, I got about halfway through and lost interest. His articles are thought provoking, but I just can't seem to stay focused on his particular lines of thought for the whole article.

Let's rehearse the chain of argument so far. I'm heading for a conclusion to which many readers will have to be dragged kicking and screaming, so I've tried to make each link unbreakable. Decreasing economic inequality means taking money from the rich. Since risk and reward are equivalent, decreasing potential rewards automatically decreases people's appetite for risk. Startups are intrinsically risky. Without the prospect of rewards proportionate to the risk, founders will not invest their time in a startup. Founders are irreplaceable. So eliminating economic inequality means eliminating startups.


I'm skeptical that risk and reward are equivalent in the way he suggests. I'm skeptical that decreasing "rewards" would necessarily decrease productivity. In some cases, that might be so, but I've seen studies that suggest more pay sometimes results in LESS productivity. I don't know which is right. I'm guessing the relationship is more complicated than he suggests.

Twenty degrees cooler... ahhhhh

Today's high is going to be 20 degrees cooler than the high for yesterday. I have long loved rain and clouds, but I don't remember being quite so happy to see them as this time around. The record breaking highs earlier in the week probably have something to do with this. It's supposed to be fall. Someone apparently forgot to tell the weather man until today. It's been more like August than September.

We could have used some of that rain from Rita last weekend. My plants and lawn are looking pretty thirsty.

Hopefully the weather will stay nice and cool for the upcoming weekend. I'm really looking forward to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo. The page doesn't seem to be working right for me at the moment, but for those of you in the area, I'll describe what I remember when I was browsing through the activities the other day. I saw that they had everything from fishing, archering, and shooting, to kayaking, wild game tasting, and a chance to pet a live alligator (or was that a crocodile?) There are free buses from Highland Mall. I read somewhere that there's a long walk from the parking lot to the activities, so coolers aren't a good idea. Anyway, it sounds like fun.

What did the Pink Panther say when he stepped on an Ant?

Deadant. Deadant. Deadant. (and onto the Pink Panther theme)

Couldn't resist. I love puns.

Decapitating Ants

The first species of phorid flies released here came from Brazil, just like the imported fire ants they are intended to keep in check. These parasites, which are much smaller than fruit flies, attack worker ants at disturbed mounds. There, they dart in to inject an egg into an ant’s body. The resulting larva moves into the host ant’s head, causing it to fall off in about 10 days.

I hadn't realized that the more annoying ants were actually imported. I'm a little wary of the idea of introducing another foreign insect into Austin, but maybe it'll be just the thing for cutting down the spread of those annoying ants. I found an interesting FAQ about them. What I want to know is where can I get some of those flies?

Wednesday, September 28

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA's)

I'm doing a bit of research in order to select a gift for my favorite geek. I barely know what this is, let alone how to select one, but I figured I'd start with a description:

Field Programmable Gate Arrays are two dimensional array of logic blocks and flip-flops with a electrically programmable interconnections between logic blocks.

I took a course on Logic some years ago. When I take a course, I promptly forget most of it, so I vaguely remember the term "flip-flop" but not what it means. I also remember AND, OR, NOR, NAND, the concept of "states" and making various arrangements of gates. I loved it, but I've never had much need for that knowledge, so it hasn't stuck around.

The tutorial on that site seems to assume some knowledge I don't have, so I'll do some more digging before I come back to it.

Societal problems correlated with a belief in God

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'

“The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator.

“The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.”


I think it's a bit of a stretch to go from a correlation between a prevalent strong belief in God and "problems" to thinking that no belief in God wouldn't be a disaster. I think there likely does need to be some important shared beliefs for a society to function well.

Scouts

I have recently come to find myself the den mother of a group of young boys. I wasn't so sure about getting my child involved in the organization, but a friend was very persuasive and said that contrary to what I'd heard, there was an unwritten "don't ask, don't tell" policy. She also argued that things can't be changed if people don't get involved. I was skeptical of that argument, but I was also curious.

I bought a used Webelos book some years ago when I was looking for activity ideas for my son. They seemed much better oganized and more interesting than other scouting and outdoor type books I'd seen. I wondered why the stuff for girls wasn't as good. I thought, at the least, I'd learn a bit more about the good things in Scouts.

Well, some things came up such that there was a shortage of parent volunteers and I was asked to be a leader. I said yes before I really had a chance to think about it. It's one thing to benefit from an organization without necessarily condoning all of its policies. I don't want to be someone who helps to perpetuate such policies. On the other hand, after my brief exposure, I began to see a lot of nice things that are being done that aren't duplicated elsewhere, so far as I know. I'd hate to see those things lost.

As part of figuring out where I should stand on this, I've been doing a bit of digging around about the organization and its founders. I'd heard some interesting things about the original founder of scouting - that the man was possibly a repressed homosexual or perhaps even a repressed pedophile. I found lots of dead links to things about his being gay and liking to look at naked boys. I couldn't find much in the way of actual sites about this. I did run across the information that he was married and had three children. I wondered what his wife was like. I soon found an interesting link to some excerpts from her autobiography:

Window on my Heart: The Autobiography of Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, G.B.E. as told to Mary Drewery

I love reading biographies. Not all of them are easy to read, so I will commonly skim them and just pick out the juicy bits...

His wife tells of their secret romance, their huge age difference, their common sense of humor and adventure, war, how sympathetic they were to Girl Scouts, and why they ended up with Girl Guides instead. They come out sounding like very interesting, down-to-earth, unique people.

I want to say a bit more about my experiences so far. It has been a steep learning curve for me. There is a lot to do, and it requires a lot of organization to really get through all the information and get things done. Part of this is because our group is fairly new and doesn't have a huge number of volunteers to get everything going.

I was pretty nervous about being in charge of a group of boys. I didn't have a lot of time to prepare or plan anything, but I had a loose idea of what I wanted to do and made the rest up as I went. Luckily, young children can be as easy to please as they are restless. It turned out to be extremely fun, and I'm excited about the next meeting.

Friday, September 23

What Harm Religion?

I don't think that harm is something caused by religious beliefs only. There are certainly examples of great harm done by non-religious beliefs too. I'll post those as I come across them:

Starved and beaten with nails: Kinshasa's young 'witches' cast out by slum preachers

...
One child "sorcerer" is 12-year-old Jean, who wears a torn vest, red shorts and scuffed bedroom slippers. They are his only possessions. The squalor of Matonge slum has been his home ever since he was cast out. His alleged crime was to have placed a fatal curse on his grandmother. Even before her death, Jean's uncle and aunt were already waging a vendetta against him, accusing him of witchcraft or kindoki.
...


Pastors demand cars and cash from their flock

Worshippers are told that, if they wish to become rich, they should hand over much of what they own to their pastor. This act of generosity will, apparently, be rewarded three or four times over in the future.

Thursday, September 22

Real Climate

I have a mild fascination with storms - especially tornados and hurricanes. I even entertained the thought, as a child, of being a storm chaser. The one drawback I could think of at the time was that I'd have to chase chase lots of storms and just to see the fraction of that actually have tornados. I'm not quite as interested as I used to be, but with my city putting up a lot of Katrina evacuees and since the path of Hurricane Rita looked like it might cross over near Austin, I've been keeping an eye on it.

We lost part of our roof, once, when I was a kid. I remember a sound a bit like a freight train whistle, looked outside and saw a flash of light. I sometimes worried about things like that happening - that a tornado would hit us in the night and we wouldn't see it coming.

When the actual event happened, though, I wasn't nearly as upset about it. Of course, we all jumped out of bed and gathered in the hall, wondering what was going on. I think being able to "act" helped. Laying there wondering is what made thinking about it scary.

Anyway, it was raining quite hard out. I told my family about the flash of light. We weren't sure if it was a tornado coming down or a bit of roof or something else getting blown around. As it was letting up, I heard the sound of water running inside the house. I soon found the source - it was pouring in through the vent in the bathroom ceiling. I put a bucket under it. One of my parents commented that it was probably a waste of time - that the roof was likely gone.

Then Mom called out from her bedroom. I went to see what the commotion was about. The ceiling was on the bed. Luckily, the rain had let off.

We could see a bit more as the sun came up. Several homes on our street and in surrounding areas had roof damage or had their roof blown off completely. Mostly, they were mobile homes (have I mentioned, I am what's called white trash? ;). We never found out definitevely whether it was a really high wind or a glancing blow from a tornado.

Back to the hurricane. Hurricanes sometimes get far enough inland to send us some high winds and heavy rain, so I was curious to see if we'd get anything from this one. The way it was looking, we might have even experienced the equivalent of a tropical storm or weak hurricane. Since Rita has changed directions, it will likely just be a big storm for us.

I've been reading how the warmer than usual ocean temperatures in the gulf are contributing to Rita's strength (and contributed to Katrina's). I was wondering if this was evidence of global warming (something I've always been skeptical about). I don't want to hear about it from people who have already bought into the global warming theory. I wanted to hear about it from people who are still critical. Real Climate seems to discuss it in great detail. I look forward to browsing it when I have more time.

Intolerance

Here's another more personal post although I suppose if I rewrote it a bit, it could be categorized as psychology. I've tried to generalize things like this before, but people seem unable to relate to it. Surely I'm not the only one intolerant in this particular way, but I really don't know how many people have this sort of hangup.

One of the things I'm most intolerant about are mistakes I've made. I admit it. I hate making mistakes. I hate being reminded of them. Seeing other people make similar ones reminds me of them. Their statements and arguments and explanations for their actions sound just like mine used to, only now I think they're wrong and worse, are likely encouraging other people to make the same mistakes. It feels good to argue with them a bit. Instead of being upset with myself, I can be angry with them for a while.

It's not necessarily the most "rational" or "good" reaction. I'm just telling it like it is. I know that mistakes happen, and I should just move on. Then again, I could be wrong about it being a mistake, the source of the mistake, and about what knowledge the other people are speaking from. It could be that they really are able to pull off doing things the way they say simply because they have some extra bit of unspoken knowledge that I don't.

Dwelling over mistakes has some benefits. I could learn that it wasn't a mistake and why. I could help someone else avoid the mistake. I could help someone else minimize damage caused by the mistake. I could minimize the damage I've caused from the mistake.

Monday, September 19

Immigration and "Family" Laws

I usually stick to personal rants on my Livejournal, but I figure this has some political aspects to it, so here it is.

I hate immigration law. It sucks. It keeps good people stuck thousands of miles away from where they want to be and from people they want to be with.

Friday, September 16

Booting up

Boot is actually shorthand for "bootstrap" which is the original term. Obviously, a computer is just a hunk of iron until a program starts. Early computers, in the days before microcode and eprom, etc., had a "load" button, like the button on your PC or Mac that restarts it. The hardware action taken when the Load button was pressed was to transfer X bytes of data from a specific location on a specific disk volume into memory at location zero and then fetch the instruction at location zero and execute it. This instruction caused more data to be read into memory and the process continued until the system had pulled itself up by the bootstraps. A dual loader is simply adding a prefix to this process which lets you decide where to go to start the real bootstrapping.

I appreciate the extra information. I had this nagging feeling when I posted yesterday, that there was something missing in the explanation about a loader. It wasn't until I was talking over this idea of what a "loader" was with a friend, and he said that it wasn't the first thing that ran on a computer that I realized what it was.

I thought the system test thing (POST) was the first program to run(at least on a PC). Warning: Thing and thingy are terms I commonly use for things I can't remember the name of although I actually did remember the name this time. I looked on Wikipedia and it says that the last part of POST is the boot loader. And technically, the definition on the Gnu page said "software".

I don't know that however the BIOS and POST work is "software" or considered some other thing. Can there be hardware or firmware programs? (I learned these terms so long ago that not only is it difficult to remember, even correct memories might not be true anymore).

Anyway, it seems there are several steps before the operating system gets loaded. I suppose there could be some disagreement on the meaning of operating system.

One other little correction to the bit about Grub. Grub is apparently a second stage boot loader.

What good is fiction?

Just a few quick thoughts on this subject before I go back to work.

I've often thought of fiction, art, and music as luxuries. They don't put food in your stomach or keep you warm at night. I've seen them as enhancements to life. Wonderful things that were yet, somehow, less important. Then someone agreed with me.

Art (including music and fiction) isn't just a luxury. You can't live on it forever, but it can make you want to keep living even when there's no food or shelter or you are missing other important things in your life. Art can inspire.

"Man cannot live by bread alone." Now there's a thought that was wasted in my youth.

Cultural Religious Traditions - Harmless?

While exploring the sources of some of my hits, a post title caught my eye.

Non-Benign Cultural Tradition

The source of this perspective surprised me. It seems to be an American religious person in India. My first thought had been from a completely different point of view - an American who finds herself sometimes struggling to explain the harm or problem with having a false belief in god. It's commonly put to me that if you believe in God, "If you're wrong, then no harm done." I disagree, but it's difficult to express why.

It is so much a part of the culture that I have difficulty separating out my own false assumptions related to my old beliefs in God. Mostly, it's a gut feeling that truth is primary no matter what. I've seen a commitment to truth as a first step that must be completed before the next step "What should I do?" can be answered. The problem is, truth it isn't so easy to find. Indeed, it is so difficult to find, that it seems like morality itself (for us mere mortals anyway) must reflect how to act in accordance with this difficulty.

Here's one way I think about it sometimes:

There's truth. There's your beliefs about it. You want them to coincide as much as possible. I imagine a graph with a curve where the truth is and another curve, less steady and sometimes a bit off, sometimes widely off which would represent my (or anyone's) knowledge of it.

You're a fallible human being who could be wrong about any aspect of your beliefs. Holding onto a particular belief too strongly (like God) can mean you're stuck in some coordinate that isn't quite the truth and may even be quite far from the truth. Being flexible in your beliefs can mean you are able to get closer (or farther) from the truth.

I've been wondering which was the better way to be. Should a person grab onto some belief and hang tight, "hang loose", or strive with every effort to get as close to the truth as possible. What if the path to truth isn't a straight line? What if a belief in religion somehow leads to a better understanding of truth? What if it keeps people from ever understanding it?

I'm getting off track here. Back to the post. The author, who happens to share my name, btw, mentions a book she has been thinking of. I enjoyed that part because it's much the way I think about things and, of course, I immediately had to find it on Amazon and mark it for future reference:

Breaking Strongholds in Your City edited by C. Peter Wagner

A fascinating thing I've found is that although people can have very different ways of thinking and saying things, they can have quite a lot in common too. She goes on to quote from the book. I wanted to quote it all at first, but I have finally narrowed it down to the bit that really caught my eye:

... “Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children a day are born into these enchanted systems around the world. Nearly all of them grow up hearing about the lie... The power of the lie, fueled by demonic magic, is called tradition; and it is tradition, in turn, that sustains the territorial dynasties.”


... but month by month as “cultural traditions” continue to come. That original contract with the devil is being signed over and over and over again.
posted by Rebecca O


I almost dismissed the whole thing over that last little bit, but then I thought about it a bit more. I would agree except I'd change a few terms and interpret it a bit differently. "The lie" would be the idea that one can just adopt a belief like "God" and think one has found the truth. Tradition, I think, sustains both the good and the the bad - whether it be territorial dynasties or religious traditions. I think religion has both aided and hindered the pursuit of truth. Having a semi-stable set of beliefs can allow people to focus on other areas of knowledge. It can also leave them stuck thinking that the Earth is the center of the Universe.

Thursday, September 15

Grub - Computer Reference

This is more for my reference than anything. Some years ago I tried to install Linux (Slackware). I used an old computer that wasn't needed for any particular use. The installation went well except I couldn't get it to boot properly. Someone suggested I use GRUB. I couldn't get it to work either and having a dozen other projects I wanted to work on, abandoned the install.

I'd forgotten about it mostly until a friend was trying to get it to work. Someone asked what "Grub" was, and I couldn't remember. "Loader" came to mind as did "dual boot" (but I couldn't think of what word to use for something that load more than 2 Operating Systems). I felt a bit silly because I wasn't entirely sure what a "loader" even did other than choose an operating system. I didn't even know if you needed a "loader" if it was only one OS. Hence, this random bit of information - my attempt at correcting that ignorance:

GNU GRUB is a Multiboot boot loader. It was derived from GRUB, GRand Unified Bootloader, which was originally designed and implemented by Erich Stefan Boleyn.

Briefly, boot loader is the first software program that runs when a computer starts.
It is responsible for loading and transferring control to the operating system kernel software (such as the Hurd or the Linux). The kernel, in turn, initializes the rest of the operating system (e.g. GNU).


Now I know.

Comments - Legal Assistance

Ipizudic said...
Yes, it's a shame. But realistically, indigent defendants have to rely on lawyers willing to work at rates paid with tax dollars. Since this will always lure the lowest common denominator of trial lawyers to the public trough, it will always be a problem. If lawyers were actual feeling humans, we could simply assign these cases in round robin fashion to ALL practicing lawyers and have them defend the indigents pro bono. Yeah, when monkeys fly outta my butt.

LOL. In medicine, there have come to be "Physician Assistants" who can do a lot of the same things a doctor can but have less education and charge less. I think they usually have to work under the supervision of a doctor. I've sometimes wondered if there might be use for the concept in legal representation. They could be knowledgeable in certain kinds of cases and be willing to charge a bit less since they don't have quite so many years of college loans to pay off. I believe legal secretaries already do a lot of that sort of thing, but I'm not familiar with just how much they're able to do and whether they can have clients independently. Maybe they could handle more of the routine cases and leave the murder cases to more experienced and educated lawyers.

I think I'll add this topic to the ones I want to research more.

Comments - Prisoners watching TV

MC said...

The trick is to make the prisoners earn their stay in prison. They should earn their keep. They should be forced to work 18 hours per day.

To sit around and watch TV all day is easy time. Rehabilitation should teach these offenders that they will never want to return to prison, ever, and their behaviour will be adjusted accordingly.


I think I would agree with the idea of having prisoners work to earn their own keep. I think they already do, to an extent.

I can imagine some logistical problems with it. It might be difficult to manage a self-sustaining farm. There might be security issues. A drought one year could mean they don't eat. They could produce other things to earn their keep and pay for necessities.

I think the idea behind TV's isn't so much for the comfort of the inmates as that having things like that tends to result in fewer riots and problems for the guards. (In other words, it might cost even more NOT to have TVs).

I think if prison is so unpleasant that offenders fear returning, depending on their moral views (or lack of them), they might just put more effort into avoiding getting caught than into avoiding doing wrong things.

I've read that sometimes released prisoners find it difficult to cope with freedom - with all the choices they suddenly have to make. Sometimes I've thought perhaps a sort of anarchy would be a deterrent. They might be grateful for the constraints of civilization after that (then again, they might just be dead, while the most violent offenders end up ruling whoever's left).

The Death of Frances Newton

Reading more about her execution and case has reminded me again about how a little information can be misleading and why I'm not so sure it's a good thing for people to have "a little" knowledge about politics.

It seems the case was more complex than was expressed in the editorial yesterday.

Newton didn't deny putting a gun in her 7-year-old son's knapsack and stashing the bag at an abandoned house.
...
Three weeks before the slayings, Newton took out $50,000 life insurance policies on herself, her husband and her daughter. She named herself as beneficiary and said she signed her husband's name to prevent him from discovering she had set aside money to pay for the premiums.


The insurance policy could have been a coincidence. I'm not so sure about ballistic reports.

Wednesday, September 14

The Death Penalty

In short, a woman is scheduled to die tonight for shooting her husband and children to death. There is important evidence and testimony that could exonerate her. Her lawyer failed to make an effort to uncover this. A new law has been passed in Texas for there to be at least minimal competence in lawyers for the defendents of capital murder cases. The facts in her case were presented after court deadlines had expired. That's it. She's dead or she will be barring the governor stepping in.

More on Death (Warning: Gruesome News)

It seems a sanitation worker found the woman's body in a suitcase at a landfill. I wonder at the horror of finding her. Why did he look in it? Did he smell something unusual? Was the suitcase so nice that he thought it might be salvageable? Do workers commonly look inside things just for the purpose of sorting them?

This reminds me of why I have avoided news so much in the past. I'm fortunate, in a way, that things like that don't bring up much in the way of imagery. I still react sometimes to the idea of something.

I can imagine a suitcase. It's large, no particular color. I imagine a person folded up in it somehow, but the image of the person isn't very realistic. It might be a life-sized rag doll. I would think the lack of realistic detail is an unconscious sort of self-protection, but I can't remember details about pleasant things that I'd very much like to remember well either.

Still, this has struck me as particularly sickening. I don't see why it should. Once a person is dead, the body is just a bunch of chemicals. This doesn't mean I should feel like it's a bunch of rock or something. It still represents what was a person who's life ended badly.

Does a person's life ever end well?
I suppose there are better and worse ways to die.

The event has passed. The woman isn't currently in pain or in the process of being killed. I would think extreme pain would be worse than death. It's the just before dying part that I'm more afraid of. So why would this bother me more than wars or accidents or natural disasters?

Maybe it's just the purposeful badness of it. With 9/11, it wasn't the people dying that bothered me as much as the people believing so strongly in the wrong thing that they were willing to die and kill lots of people for it. It was slightly frustrating. Part of me would have liked to kill the killers for it, but they were already dead. And killing them after the fact wouldn't restore life to those people.

It reminds me of how I felt about the death of a friend. I heard that she was murdered. Shot to death. My first thought was that the killer be brought to justice (and a certain irrational thought about killing him myself). Then the person telling me about it went on to say the guy had then shot himself. It was frustrating. Really, though, the frustration comes from her death. I hadn't seen her in several years. We weren't "close" friends, but I once knew her very well. I ran into her when I was at college, and we had a nice chat. I hoped I'd run into her again sometimes.

I didn't find out about her death in time to go to the funeral, but I called her mom anyway to give her my condolences. She was still having a hard time. It was her only child. She advised me to have more than one child. I didn't know what to think of that, but I could understand the sentiment.

Having a child is a very life altering event. It's not just a one-time thing. It changes everything, every day, for the rest of your life. You put a lot of energy and time and resources and care into it and look forward to the person they might become. To have it all end so abruptly must be devastating.

Authority

Is its meaning related to Author? What does it mean?

One meaning I can come up with is something like - a person with such good knowledge of a subject that other people follow their advice or recommendations regarding that subject.

Maybe that meaning better fits the word "expert".

Another meaning that I can think of for authority is a person who has been appointed to make and/or enforce decisions on behalf of other people. Parents are considered authorities for their children - both making and enforcing some decisions. Politicians make decisions for large groups of people. Policeman enforce those decisions for large groups of people. There's a bit of overlap.

Thursday, September 8

Keep Austin Weird

I was trying to explain what Keep Austin
Weird
really meant. It was difficult to put into words, and it probably means slightly different things to different Austinites.

I think it's a combination of hippie culture and being smack in the middle of Texas. There are lots of "well educated" people, lots of long haired guys, lots of people wearing Birkenstocks (or imitations), live music. There are also some of the nicer qualities associated with Texas (friendliness and courtesy).

There's the Spamarama and Eeyore's Birthday.

I almost forgot to mention the food. It's probably just my biased opinion, but Austin has some fantastic restaurants. My favorite for a long time has been Kerby Lane. It's open 24/7, they have decent Mexican food, breakfast food, and vegetarian selections (not for me,
but nice for friends).

I recommend the Kerby Queso along with some salsa. The salsa isn't really as hot as I'd like, but it really goes well with the queso. I never know what interesting appearance the staff will have - purple hair, piercings, etc. I've recently been less
impressed with the food at one location than I used to be, but I still prefer it to a lot of places. There are magazines devoted to Austin dining, so I won't go into it anymore here right now.

I suppose good food isn't "weird". It's just part of the culture. There's definitely some unusual items available. Hut's Hamburgers, for instance, offers a choice of beef, veggie, or Buffalo burgers. It's not as weird as seeing Alligator on a menu (like in Baton Rouge), but it's definitely unusual.

You know you're a Texan when

It feels like a cool front has blown in when it only
gets up to 95 degrees.

Wednesday, September 7

Drained - a ramble

There are a few times I've felt as utterly drained as I do at the moment. Even laying down and typing this out feels like very strenous activity.

Two of those times were when I attempted to donate blood. The first time, they got to 1/2 a pint, and I started feeling really awful and then deliciously sleepy. They stopped taking blood, put cool rags on me, and told me not to sleep. I couldn't understand why, but I obeyed. Then I got cookies and some juice and felt more lively. It wasn't squeamishness. I've had countless shots and blood drawn for tests. They suggested, and I concluded that I just hadn't eaten well enough beforehand.

I prepared better then next time. It was years later. I had a nice meal a little while before. I enjoyed watching how them take a pint out. It went much more smoothly. I ate my little treats and waited the obligatory 15 minutes. Then I stood up to go and almost fell over. Same feeling as before. They had me lay down, again with the cool rags, and had me sip some Gatorade. After a while, I felt ok to go. They said I'd be ok to donate again but would just need to let them know to keep me a bit longer.

The other times I've felt like this, besides having strep once, were when I was pregnant. I worked two retail jobs in retail the first time and then would go to afternoon classes. In the heat of the summer, I'd come home after work, pass out in front of the window unit air conditioner and wake up a few hours later.

I finally cut the ballet class. I needed the money, and I really wanted to finish up the C programming course I was taking. I thought I was being a bit wimpy at the time. The ballet instructor had managed to dance throughout her pregnancy. I guess she was used to it. It wasn't the dancing that was really wearing me out. I think it was just doing more, overall, than my body could really handle.

There's really no point to this except to vent a little frustration. I don't really have time to be sick. I have too much to do, and yet it's nice to get some rest. I think I've been neglecting sleep a lot lately, and it's just making me feel that much worse right now.

For a few minutes when I was feeling slightly better, I wandered out into the yard. It was breezy and pleasant. I watered a few plants and remembered how much fun I used to have doing that as a child. I had a rose bush and a few crepe myrtles that I'd care for plus I'd check on all the other little trees my parents had attempted to grow. All of my plants did well and I managed, I think, to keep some of their trees going for a while. I think it was the wrong soil for them. Lots of rocks. Dig a few inches, find a 6 by 4 inch rock. Dig a few more, find another, etc.

I remember the ground would get so dry in the summer that large cracks would form. There was some risk of catching one's footing in them.

A friend was talking about his telescope and complaining about the terrible visibility in Austin. I think I was a bit inconsiderate in mentioning that I grew up being able to see the Milky Way almost nightly. I took it for-granted that I'd always be able to see it. I loved looking at it and thinking about how big the universe might be.

I miss the sunrises and sunsets out there. Trees were scarce. I could look out and see literally for miles. Later, I got used to being in the city with all the trees and never even thought to wonder why I hadn't seen the Milky Way. Someone explained it - that the city lights were too bright. I don't mind too much. I don't need to see the Milky Way every night, but I'd like to see it again sometime. The sunrise and sunset too. I used to watch them daily and never get tired of it.

I thought I'd miss them a lot when I moved in town, but I don't really. It's just a little thing I think about now and then.

One thing I miss slightly more is watching a storm roll in. There's nothing like seeing huge clouds, smelling the rain in the air, hearing the thunder. I loved to stand outside and watch for as long as I was allowed. My dad would watch too. I don't remember what we talked about. We just enjoyed it.

It's almost my favorite time of year again. Fall. I think I wrote about it last year. I love the cool relief from summer. I love Halloween. We have a tradition now of gutting some pumpkins and carving designs in them.

Feeling better now. End of ramble.

Tuesday, September 6

Phenylephrine hydrochloride

I'm stuck at home recovering from strep. I wasn't planning on being home today. I went to work feeling ok except for a sore throat. I felt so bad yesterday, though, that I decided to get an appointment in case it was some sort of infection. The doctor took one look at my throat and told me to go home and take antibiotics, a decongestant, Ibuprofen, lots of fluids, and a few days of bed rest.

According to the wiki entry on it, Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride is being made unavailable on the shelves. It's still available from pharmacies with an ID. It seems that the chemical composition was so similar to methamphetamine that people were buying and/or stealing it to make meth.

I guess that explains why I couldn't find any on the shelves. I wasn't sure about taking a drug I hadn't researched yet, but I decided the annoying side effects of Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride (for me, dizziness, nervousness/hyperness, and heart palpitations) were likely worse than the effects this new drug would likely have. So far, I detect any of the old side effects. I'm definitely going to give it a try next time I have a cold.

Monday, September 5

I love my city

I think the article explains why there was a sudden call for cots and bedding.

City staff were caught by surprise when the planeloads they thought were landing late Saturday night ended up arriving through the morning.

City Manager Toby Futrell said the city issued an emergency call for 100 volunteers to help set up cots and greet arriving evacuees. Four hundred people showed up asking what they could do to help.

Sunday, September 4

Thoughts on Judaism and "An alternative to the spider theory"

30 hits in 1 hour is not likely due to spiders. It is likely due to the "next blog" button featured on the blogger navbar featured on the top of the page. Blogger keeps track of recently published blogs. When people are searching for random blogs to read, they often hit the next blog button. Blogger randomly chooses to load a recently published blog. If you check these referrals, they will often say that these visitors navigated from another blogspot address. I have checked these 'referrals' in the past, and have not seen any link to my page, thus I have surmised that it must be due to the 'next blog' function.

I had thought of that! I'll bet that's it. Yes, most of the hits are from other blogspot addresses that don't seem to have a direct link to me. I still wonder why multiple posts seem like they might trigger a disproportionately larger number of hits.

One such referral I got today came from a blog called Thoughts on Judaism. Interesting blog.

How I Read a Book and "The Fabric of Reality"

I was trying to describe how I read to a friend yesterday. This isn't what I recommend. It's just what I do.

I have a dozen (ok hundreds or maybe even thousands) of questions I want to answer... or subjects that I'm curious about. It seems the more I discover, the more questions I have. I've long forgotten the answers to most of them. It doesn't seem to deter me from asking more. It does sometimes make me wonder what difference it will make. At the least, right now, I think I'll simply enjoy looking for and/or finding the answers.

I see books or articles that look like they might address them. I read the parts that seem most relevant to me (and the questions I want to answer) and move on. If a chapter in a book looks juicy and the beginning looks boring, I read the chapter. There are probably advantages and disadvantages to this. It doesn't matter too much because I can't seem to make myself read the boring parts usually. I did lots of reading boring parts when I was a kid in school and because I happened to pick "Stephen King" as my first adult oriented author.

The boring chapters might become interesting later, when I've satisfied myself with other chapters. Sometimes it happens years later. Sometimes I run across something I know I've read before and am totally amazed at the new understanding I gain from it.

I think it's because I learn all the time and my knowledge is different from one reading to the next. There is no such thing as reading the same book twice. It's a different book every time.

I think movies are like that too. I've watched some of my favorites 100's of times. I mght not pay attention to the whole movie, but I'll enjoy particular parts or notice new nuances that I hadn't before.

Sometimes I explore just to see what's out there. That's when I'll tolerate a boring part. Just to be clear, boring doesn't mean the book's no good or the author is a bad writer. It could just be a bit of knowledge I'm not ready for. It's just a mismatch, that's all.

There's also the occasional book I'll try to read for other reasons. I've been working on The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch for years. Originally, I had been throwing a lot of questions at my friend, Elliot.

He said I should read it. I tried. Really. Then I tried asking David. He answered very patiently for a while, and then finally said I should read his book (because it addressed what I was asking).

His book is very hard reading for me. It's very dense with a lot of abstract ideas that are unfamiliar or just barely familiar to me. Some parts are easier than others. I started off trying to read the chapters in order. They had some very interesting ideas, but I had to work very hard to understand them in what feels like a very superficial way.

They were worth the effort, but I was getting more and more frustrated. After chapter 4, I finally gave up on the "in order" method and skipped to Chapter 7, "A Conversation about Justification" and ahhhh, relief. That's more what I was looking for. I've slowly read other chapters as I find time and interest. I felt bad about not being able to get through it, at first, but now I think it's just a matter of it just not matching my knowledge level very well. It may just take me longer to get through it is all. I've long forgotten the questions I wanted to have answered. I've long forgotten what I've read so far. Luckily, he has nice summaries and glossaries for each chapter!

One strategy I've used in the past for studying a difficult text was to come up with questions. Perhaps I could do that for this. It's just so outside my usual experiences that I'm not even sure what to ask. It's NOT a textbook. It's not predictable - at least not to a non-Physicist.

Normally my difficulty is with people writing "too much" to say too little. I think he's done a very good job of writing conscisely and meaningfully while having a friendly story-telling tone.

So, what sort of questions would one ask of "The Fabric of Reality"?

Is Bush to blame?

In short, funding for the repair of levees in New Orleans was cut. The cuts might be attributed to the war in Iraq. The levees, even if they had been repaired, were designed to withstand a category 3 hurricane. A category 5 would still have likely breached the levees.

Friday, September 2

Truth finding - Evacuation Disrupted by Gunshot Report

I have read in different places about fireman, police and rescuers being shot at. I also read about helicopters being shot at. Apparently, the shots (except one) fired at helicopters might not have happened.

I think this is where my frustration about finding the truth comes in. It's difficult to find. It's difficult to express. Communication routinely disrupts it. A person can see guns, tell the next one, and by the time the 5th person hears about it, it's someone being fired at. It's not some horrible racist plot. It's just a fact about communication.

Then there's statements like this:

"In other words, it was probably just a rock, if anything. But that won't stop the racists for citing this story as a reason to just let the refugees rot."

I haven't heard anyone suggest that people should be left to rot! However, if some refugees are endangering rescuers, extra resources will be needed to help them (or at least the ones NOT firing at rescuers).

I would truly be disappointed if the President and other government leaders didn't have more accurate information than I do about this. I doubt they're basing their decisions on rumors although they, like all people, make mistakes.

Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines!

Last post in this test of the "many posts trigger spider" theory. Funny site.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

I was baptised in the Catholic church as a baby. I don't know much about Catholic beliefs beyond the bits my grandmother passed along to me. I remember enjoying the rituals. I liked knowing what was going to happen. I thought they meant something.

Later, I found myself more and more wary of ritual. People seemed to think it meant much more than it really did. It seemed like distraction from real understanding. It seemed silly.

I've come to think there probably is a good use for ritual. It should be done carefully so as not to be mistaken for having meaning in itself.

Some people can perform rituals and make it look dignified and serious and meaningful. I'm not one of them. Even when I'm taking something seriously, I'll trip, or mess up, or get distracted by some random unrelated thoughts.

All of this post, though, is a distraction for me. I was trying to understand more about Catholic doctrine and cutlure and got stuck thinking about the ritual. I suppose ritual is an important part of Catholicism, so perhaps it was actually on topic. (BTW, in case you can't tell, I'm trying to get multiple posts out to see if it triggers those weird bursts of hits).

The Interdictor

Someone's managed to keep up posting from New Orleans. Some have suggested it's a hoax.

Nearing 2000 Hits - What prize?

I'm not sure whether to go by the 1542 unique visitors or the 1838 that includes reloads. I'm sure a lot of them are from me. Some are a result of weird days where I get 30 hits in an hour. Someone suggested that has to do with spiders. The spiders must have been hiding before, though, because I've only seen that happen in the last few months - usually after I post a few times in quick succession.

I've been meaning to test that theory.

One blogger offered a prize for being the 2000th visitor. That sounds like a nice idea - a thank you for visiting. However, I don't like the idea of rewarding some random person who accidently found my site and never came back.

I think I'd rather reward my most frequent visitor. Unfortunately, I don't have that information in statistical form although I have a good guess as to which it would be (an advantage to having a very low hit count for a long time). Also, ever since someone set up this blog to feed into Livejournal, I've got a few people reading that way. I can't really track them.

A prize seems like a sort of gift. I'm terrible at picking out gifts. What would be appropriate?

All I can think right now is, "THANK YOU!" I don't know if the most frequent visitor actually reads as much as they visit, but thinking they even "might" read has encouraged me to write a lot more than I might have otherwise. I never realized just how much difference an audience (however small in number) could make. I thought at first that I shouldn't be dependent on an audience to feel motivated. I don't know what to think of that anymore.

Anyway, again, THANK YOU! Ideas for a prize or way to show appreciation welcome.