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social connections form the whole
As noted by masstreble, my entries, as it were, tend to be mini-essays on various topics. Rants, if you will. I have many ideas for such rants, however, and not as much time to dedicate to them. Thus, as this is a largely public forum, I submit to public opinion as to what rant I should commit to immortality on the Internet. As I am not a paid member, I cannot create a poll directly, so please reply to this entry with a choice from the following list of possible topics:
  • A review of the movie Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • A critique of Intelligent Design arguments.
  • A critique of the idea that math is a "universal language."
  • A rant about something UAF related, such as Nanook Springfest.
  • For the CS majors, PHP Considered Harmful.
  • How I am an optimistic, pessimistic cynic without conflict.

If you have a desired topic other than those six, let me know, and I'll see if I can rant on it. On the other hand, I suspect that the vast majority of the people reading this couldn't give a damn if they tried, so I don't expect any responses. This is just an expirement, and responses would be a nice surprise.
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I am sick. It sucks.

Current Mood: sick
Current Music: Sarah Brightman - Mysterious Days

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Consider this a soliciting of comment on the recent Sun Star article criticizing Residence Life for a lack of dorm security. As for myself, I find the behavior of the "journalists" down right atrocious. Their "example" of breaking into Bartlett was unnecessary, and did not strengthen their argument. Rather, it betrays the good faith shown them by those who held open the door for them. Furthermore, the trio did not seem to have made any attempt whatsoever to contact any employee of UAF with respect to the issue, but dispensed their own opinions as if they were "news." Such content might have been acceptable as an op-ed piece, but it was not in anyway fit to be printed as if a genuine news article. Of course, blame also lies heavily in the court of the Dept. of Residence Life, which did not attempt to engage in rational discourse, but extended the DA hours- something that the students will ultimately pay for in the long run. I do not appreciate being forced to pay for a service which I did not only not ask for, nor desire, but actively opposed! Examples such as this are what ultimately prompt many students to leave campus.

On a more positive note, I largely appreciated Tim Barnett's comments, and hope that cooler heads shall prevail in this matter. Hopefully, with the help of a rational discussion, students and staff may be able to resolve this issue in a way that is beneficial to all. My RHA experience, however, leads me to state that this is naiveté, especially in the face of such egotistical behavior such as that which the Sun Star staff displayed.

Though I did appreciate Mr. Barnett's comments, I must, however, take issue with one point: the implementation of CCTV systems. Such systems are very infringing of privacy, and are expensive besides. The costs, both social and economic, of CCTV monitoring are staggering, and I do not see their use justified. The implementation of CCTV systems in the MBS complex has further decreased my desire to traffic said complex. In the eventuality that CCTVs are installed in any other halls, chances are great that I would take the opportunity to move off campus. I urge Mr. Barnett, if he reads this, to not consider this an attack on his person of any kind, but rather to consider it at face value. This statement is a simple assertion of my opposition to a specific suggestion made. I have been given no reason whatsoever to take issue with Mr. Barnett as a person thus far, and see no likelihood that this will come to pass.

In closing, I would like all readers of this entry to carefully consider the issues at hand, and to evaluate the behavior of the Sun Star "journalistic" staff for themselves. If you feel so motivated, please discuss below your own insight into this unfortunate incident.

Current Music: Toshiyuki O'mori - Vain

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For what purpose do I engage in the use of LiveJournal? To what ends to I use this tool? I use LJ with the intent of providing myself with another means of communication with my RL friends. That is to say, I categorize LJ along with the postal service, the telegraph, the telephone, with e-mail and instant messenger services, with VoIP and, perhaps most importantly, the Nerland table at the Commons. Thus, I don't compartmentalize LJ away from other such forms of communication, in the same way that if I communicate with someone via phone, I act as if the phone conversation actually happened when I next see them. Similarly, I incorporate my LJ conversations with RL friends into my experience base relating to said friends. The primary difference I see between LJ and other mediums is that unlike other mediums, LJ is open for observation by other parties (in cases where Protected mode is off), which prompts my analogy to a dinner table at a semi-public cafeteria.

Put differently, if you don't want people to act as if you came into the Commons and said something, then don't say it on LJ either. LJ users have feelings, concerns and sensitivities exactly equal to the people they represent. I realize that I sometimes do not act as such, but this is a personal fault upon which I am working at resolving. This fault stems from the fact that it can be hard to see the connection between a user and a person, as it can be obscured by the medium. I realize that my trouble with this is not by far unique, but then, I wish to solve this issue for myself rather than bury or compartmentalize what is fundamentally a representation of another person.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Current Mood: calm
Current Music: Toshiyuki O'mori - Cherish

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Between corrupt politicians taking advantage of a family tragedy, and self-righteous pharmacists deciding not to do their jobs because they can get over their own sense of their religion's place, one must fight hard to avoid being depressed... or simply become apathetic. Of course, these are both almost non-issues from the stand point of society as a whole. That is to say that while these issues are important on a local scale, their importance fades to damn near zero for the population as a whole.
With respect to the Schaivo case, I have not much to say but that if you don't think pulling the plug is the right decision, then don't do that. No need to drag the whole federal government into what is essentially a family dispute. With regards to the latter issue, what bothers me more than idiotic pharmacists is that they are allowed to continue their employment in spite of their blatant disregard for the perscribing doctors; really, such a disregard can become dangerous, and should be treated as a criminal action. ("Hey, I don't believe in Ritalin- you don't get it, despite the fact that you are one of those few people who actually do derive medical benefit from it.") Insofar as preventing access to pharmacuticals goes, I am not sure at all that this is a widespread enough thing as to truly do more than inconvienence people, but that such a practice is even an issue for discussion speaks volumes on our nation's lack of proportion. That someone is safely enjoying their sexuality is not a cause for me to be concerned, but rather something like the warlust of our government is.
One wonders if it is even appropriate anymore to call it "our" government, for it is clear that their interest in serving "us" is only to foster an illusion of representation. We don't need "leaders" for political office, we need representatives. Hitler was a leader, after all, but he's not the type that I want for president.

PS: I noticed that this post suffers from the anonymous-they syndrome (use of "us" and "our" without defining such groups), and thus would like to clarify: "us" refers to the the population of the United States of America.

Current Mood: cynical
Current Music: Silence.

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Now that that's done, on to today's content (if you can call it thus).
Yesterday, I watched The Incredibles twice, back to back. Seldom have I seen such a wonderful movie. Unlike so many comedies today, it doesn't rely on parody to save a poor plot. Rather, the movie incorporates strong dramatic elements into a self-sufficient storyline. Calling the movie a comedy is a travesty, really, as the humor only serves to render the film accessible to a wider audience, and to lighten the tension in dark moments. The heroes are flawed, and the villians are complex. Perhaps most spectacular are the guards. They, unlike so many stock Hollywood minions, are not generally idiots. Rather, that they are horribly defeated by the supers is no fault of their own, but rather a reflection on the fact that they are not themselves supers, and lack the technology needed to deal with the threat posed. The guards show a sound sense of tactics and a high level of disipline. One begins to wonder about their motivations; surely such talented soldiers have better to do than to serve such a villian as Syndrome?

Step back from the guards a bit. In fact, step out of the movie entirely. Think of the money and time that you lose to companies every day (such as the fictional Insuracare constructed in the movie to prove just such a point), and realize that if the workers that execute the company's designs decided to not do so, the company would have naught a choice but to revise their ways. Are these workers "evil" or "villians?" Are pharmacists who refuse medicine to those unable to pay anything but good workers in a complex social hierarchy? What of soldiers who kill in the name of their leaders for unjust reasons? What words to we reserve for them? What do we call the antagonists of the Abu Gharib scandal? More importantly, what motivates people to do such things? Need such motivations be derived from any such construct as a "flawed individual?" What motivations are required to drive you to theft, to corruption, to betrayal, to torture, or to murder? Where do your "morals" break? At what cost do we maintain our fascade of "virtue?" Is self-preservation enough to justify horrible acts? Is it possible for "good citizens" to commit atrocity in apathy?

I realize that the prior paragraph suffered from an abundance of question marks, but I wished to instill readers with thoughts that will hopefully lead them to a realization: that no matter what atrocities one commits, they are still human, and as such have complex motivations and priorities that are betrayed by a black-and-white, good-and-evil duality. We can now begin to question what drove Syndrome's minions into his service (within the realm of the movie, or course). Syndrome's minions were, in fact, people with motivations and with backstories. I regret that the format of an American movie does not admit the time to understand the histories of any such guards. It seems to be to be a travesty to paint them as faceless evil, without dealing with the dramatic choices which led them to Syndrome's service in the first place. The fact that the vast majority of them died without even so much as an opportunity to come to terms with the horrible choices they made seems to me to be a true tragedy of the movie glossed over by many viewers. Remember: minions are people, too.

Update: As per masstreble's suggestion, this entry has spawned a t-shirt. I shamelessly promote it here.

Current Music: Utada Hikaru - Hikari

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I have said things that get me branded a conspiracy theorist on a fairly regular basis, despite some technical problems with this label. That, however is a topic for another post. In the meantime, let me delve into recent news. There is a story I found in the Australian that piqued my curiosity: the allegations by CBS' 60 Minutes that the CIA is secretly transporting prisoners to foreign nations that allow torture. That is a very serious allegation, and not one to be made lightly. Naturally, I immediately engage with a certain distrust, and use Google News for "cia 60 minutes torture". The results were no less than fascinating and horrifying, as they confirmed that allegations were made by CBS themselves. Witness the following list of links:
Naturally, I am still skeptical, but this seems to be a bit more than some two-bit paper I've never heard of. I am faced with a choice between two basic categories of alternatives. Either this happened, and our government is covering it up, or CBS is making it up to trash the Bush admin. Given history, the latter is extremely unlikely. Back when people were yelling "MEMOGATE" (complete with a Faux News cover of the "story"), many points were missed in the resulting fervor that obscured the nature of CBS' probable motives. In particular, as this FAIR news release documents, the Memogate incident does not suggest a liberal media, but rather dispels that myth. Thus, by process of elimination I am forced to suspect that the story is in fact true.

The repercussions of this are profound. This so closely walks the line of what people seem to dismiss without thought as kookery that I am hesitant to voice my feelings on the matter (a sad day), but I find the alternative (both exonerating the Bush admin and admitting a liberal media, neither of which is a favorable result) still worse. Before anyone even says that I'm simply choosing evidence to match pre-drawn conclusions (postdiction fallacy), let me admit that I do that to some extent, and let me also say that my reluctance to admit liberal bias in the media stems from the overwhelmingly neo-conservative bias reflected in the media today (as documented by Media Matters, as well as many others). Furthermore, my reluctance to exonerate Bush and his administration stems from the prior documentation of misdeeds. In the recent past (as in 3 months), Payolagate and Gannongate have emerged, questioning the current administration's commitment to any sort of journalistic honesty or ethics.

Oh, I suppose the whole dilemma could be solved by simply emulating the American populous, and retreating into ignorance and apathy, but this is no solution to my eyes, but rather a betrayal of the worse kind. Also, I suppose I should mention that I have probably committed a false dilemma fallacy by reducing the solutions to this conundrum to two, but then again, I reduced to two broad categories for the simplicity of discussion. Is there a gray middle? Probably, but I don't suspect that this is a very ambiguous case. Time could "prove" me wrong, but we'll see.

Current Music: Utada Hikaru - Hikari - PlantiB mix (English)

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After having done how many serious journal entries, I should probably do something less serious. In a fashion reminisant of both e-mail and snail mail chain letters, I live in the state of sin which is caused by having spread such a meme as the ten-things-I've-done meme. It smacks of one-up-manship, and of egotism, but then, I'm already guilty of both, so why not participate? Without further ado, here it is.

Ten Things That I've Done That You Probably Haven't.

  1. Walked a dog on a scooter, on your birthday, and had to get nine stiches in your chin as a result.
  2. Stood in a crowded cafeteria, and yelled "I like mathematics better than sex!"
  3. Spent a signifigant number of hours pondering how to construct a URN for a specific meme... then tried to extend the idea to that of a meme-image (mimage?).
  4. Checked out "Building Beowulf Clusters with Linux" and a Russian-Japanese dictionary (no roman characters at all!) in the same trip to the library.
  5. Discussed whether masstreble's music meme is a meme, or a meta-meme, or both.
  6. Played a D&D character whose familiar is bigger than she is (even temporarily).
  7. Become absolutely hooked on dual-head monitor setups.
  8. Maintained a "reading wall" by your dorm room door so that passerbys may know your entire political belief spectrum... or at least come to the belief that they do.
  9. Bought the document defining C# 1.0, and used it as bedtime reading.
  10. Bitched about the fact that you bitch too much... and been perfectly aware of the irony.

Current Music: Dirty Vegas - Days Go By (Full Vocal Mix)

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I'd like to think that, as a physics major in his junior year, I know a lot about physics. Every once in a while, though, I get a real kick in the ass to remind me that I really don't. It at first seems perfectly natural that E fields and B fields carry momentum and energy, until you start thinking about photons more carefully. Photons have no mass, or else they couldn't move at the speed of light. Yet, photons curve space-time, and can be affected by space-time curvature. Two photons fired perfectly parallel to each other should eventually converge, all other things being equal, in a vacumn, etc., by virtue of their "gravity." I put this in quotes because the traditional, classical definition of gravity is a vector field which exerts force in proportion to an object's mass. The Einsteinian view, however, is that "gravity" is an effect of space-time curvature. At anyrate, one wonders how a massless particle can generate space-time curvature. Sure, they don't generate much, but enough...

According to my professor, in order to answer this (even partially), I must first back up to what mass itself is. We cannot directly measure mass... we can measure how gravity affects mass, but when trying to understand mass itself, we just get into a logical loop here. Instead, we define mass in terms of inertia. That is, the resistance of an object to a change in momentum. Inertia is measured at rest, but photons are never at rest. Therefore, there is no mass... does that make sense? No? Well, damn... I was hoping to understand. I guess this is a good time to sit and ponder once again.
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Let's consider the concept of a URL a bit. What does a URL tell you? In the example of, say, an LJ post like http://www.livejournal.com/users/cgranade/2270.html, what information is being conveyed? The http tells us to expect to use the HTTP (because of the expansion of the acronym, it is not appropriate to call it the HTTP protocol; that would expand to Hypertext Transfer Protocol protocol, which is just silly) to retrieve the resource. The www.livejournal.com tells us the server to ask for the resource from. The /users/cgranade/2270.html tells us the location on the server to ask for a resource from. This is a fine URL, but it exposes some problems.

First, the resource is described in a way that makes specific reference to a server. In the case of a distributed, semantic Web, this is an unfortunate limitation. Obviously, we need to have some way of referencing a server, but we also need a way of referring to a resource in a way so as to be server-neutral. Enter the URN. Using URNs, we can give this resource a name such as livejournal:cgranade:2270, which recognizes that livejournal may not always exist at livejournal.com. This choice of a URN, though, assumes that whatever form livejournal will have in the future will in fact be called livejournal. Thus, a perhaps better choice would be article:cgranade:Linux_v_GNULinux. This also has problems, though, as it requires that cgranade be unique to the author (me), which is not true. My brother is named Constantine Granade, so already we have a counterexample. Smarter people than me have dedicated their lives to this problem and not solved it, so I will leave off here with simply having had identified a few potential pitfalls.

The second, and more serious, problem with URLs as they are now is that they were designed for a largely more static Web whereby someone would hand-code a document, place it on the web, and leave it for a while. Specifically, it would not change based on who was looking at it, or what state was asked for. To account for these, the query part of the URL was kluged on, and has since been very much so abused. For instance, a typical URL for a Slashdot article looks something like: http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/02/21/021218&tid=110&tid=163&tid=106. This is an unreadable mess to even the most skilled of users. It carries information about the current user's preferences, and not simply about the direct resource. Once again calling upon URNs, perhaps we could call this by something like article:slashdot: This isn't that much better, but I don't know enough info to make a better one from the URL. If I don't restrict myself to translating that article's specific URL, then I could do better: article:slashdot:2005/02/20:IT.1 which clearly identifies the subject, date and ordinal of the article. We then have the problem of how to place back in the information on the protocol, user, preferences, etc. For this, let us invent a new term. Rather than a URL, how about using a Uniform Image Locator? Under this paradigm, the UIL gives us the details needed to obtain and render a specific image of a resource. I envision a computing model under which we don't think of what we now call pages as the ultimate end of our queries, but rather an image of a resource or service. Perhaps when web designers start learning to seperate the concept of a page and its rendition, maybe we can start to solve some of the issues that currently plauge any ideal of a semantic, dynamic Web.

Current Mood: introspective

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