Minutiae
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"Chuck Norris doesn't read books; he stares them down until he gets the information he wants out of them."
- ChuckNorrisFactsdotcom

Sunday, November 05, 2006
On the subject of
election tampering and Diebold voting machines:

We are not fit to wield the weapons of the gods. And yet we must, because if man can imagine it, man can build it. And thus man must be ready to counter it. Lest the first man to bottle the lightning use it to take hostages and rob banks, or lord it over the countryside.

At this point, I won't be surprised by any outcome in the elections. We've clearly seen that there are plenty of people willing to play dirty to win. We've also seen that little tiny margins and little tiny numbers can turn a race. I imagine that turnout will be heaviest among the fringes, but it's difficult to tell which side is more disgusted and apathetic. I am sooo underwhelmed and unimpressed with these options.

You do still have to drag yourself over there and vote though. No matter how bad this sucks. Because if you don't vote, you leave the decision in the ballots of those who are crazier and stupider than you. Exercise the incredible power of being a US citizen. Go help decide who some of the most powerful 500 people in the world are.

You cannot say that blackmarket drug cartels support terrorism, until you also admit that diamonds come from origins just as dubious. The mining market is just as tainted dirty and corrupt as the oil market. Sugar feeds yeast, and money breeds thugs.

But middle-class moms and wealthy white women like shiny diamonds. So, DeBeers is allowed to advertise on TV, while Joe Camel gets sent to the back of the bus. The Rhodes Scholarship was funded as a guilty legacy gesture from an arrogant bastard of a South African diamond tycoon. It's ok though, because computers and technology are going to dissolve that particular fragile temporary monopoly.
"Sometimes what's right isn't as important as what's profitable."
- Trey Parker and Matt Stone

"Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake."
- Viktor Frankl

"We must remain aware of the fact that as long as absolute truth is not accessible to us (and it never will be), relative truths have to function as mutual correctives. Approaching the one truth from various sides, sometimes even in opposite directions, we cannot attain it, but we may at least encircle it."
- Viktor Frankl

"Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible."
- Viktor Frankl

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
- Viktor Frankl

"If all men were perfect, then every individual would be replaceable by anyone else. From the very imperfection of men follows the indispensability and inexchangeability of each individual."
- Viktor Frankl

"Don't aim at success - the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run - in the long run, I say! - success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it."
- Viktor Frankl

"There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating: people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing."
- Oscar Wilde
Have you heard the one about the blind men and the elephant? Humans are the elemental fuse in any powerfully advanced technology. Safety and comfort must be passive. This is why we have dead man's switches and failsafe devices. Graceful failure is something to aspire to. Elegance and aesthetics are related engineering and design concepts.

You don't pay an anaesthesiologist to put you to sleep. You pay her to wake you back up again, and you pay her a LOT of money to get that difference exactly right. You pay the guy sitting in the undisclosed bunker somewhere, NOT to push the big red 'kill us all now' button, everyday, for years. You pay the police NOT to shoot you, unless you've given them no other option.

There are must be multiple nesting adaptive, intelligent, individual, redundancies, built into any powerfully complex system. Open source transparent privacy is the only hope we have of smart and secure software. Bill Gates became the richest man in the world by expoiting the temporary commercial opportunities of closed "secret" source code.

There's a reason that patents and copyrights are supposed to expire after a few years, or on the death of the creator, (whichever comes first.) Walt Disney may be a frozen head, but I don't think he's going to rise up again and demand his royalty checks. The Mouse should be public domain.

A brand name or trademark is only worth whatever people associate with it, at the moment, when they're deciding if they're willing to trade money for it. "New Coke" nearly crashed Coke. There was no market for crystal cola.

A contract with a large corporation is worth the paper it's written on, and the collective ethics of the current Board of Directors.

By their fruits ye shall know them. Be a wee bit skeptical of a religion that claims to contain active prophets, bishops, and saints. On the other hand, what sort of neighbors do they make? What do they give back to everyone else? What are their kooks like? What do their kooks have in common with other nutjobs?

Do they tend toward homicidal self-immolation or self-detonation? Do they claim to be above the law? Do they claim that they have the right to sleep with every woman they come across, (willing or not?) Do they claim to own people who desperately disagree? What do they drive? What do they binge on? Steer clear. Danger Will Robinson!

Everyone else wants to live in the country where the poor are fat and the rich are thin. This is the kind of backwardness that appeals to those who remember hunger. Who wouldn't want to live where the youngest, poorest, and trashiest of the population can afford: trailers, fast old cars, Cable TV, Play Stations, and Acrylic fingernails; along with flashing, spinning, singing, dancing, smiley bedazzled, personal web pages.

Corporations are made up of too many employees, keyholders, and shareholders to effectively throw them all into prison when the money turns up missing. And so cultures of cheating can flourish if beancounters and jerks are allowed to take over. John Galts will flee the sinking ship. Don't look for real witches being burned at the stake. You might look for witches doing the burning though...

Sarbanes Oxley is Bad Law. It's incoherent, unjust, and poorly written. It is not a solution to the phenomenon of Enron or Global Crossing. It does not protect investors or pensioners. It costs a ridiculous amount of time and money to enforce.

This is what happens when legislators have a fundamental incomprehension of the problem that they believe they are regulating, because the problem has been explained to them, (in small words,) by the wealthy business people affected by the proposed law. Do not look to cannibals to learn table manners or hygiene. They've taken abstract symbolism and turned it into a cargo cult. Do not look to the aristocracy for class.

The technology exists that can allow you to push a botton, print a paper ticket, and drop it into a ballot box. This is the same principle as color coded access passes and concert tickets. Color copy machines necessitate better anti-fraud measures.

I have seen, and held, and used the technology that can compensate for this security vulnerability. It's not as complicated as all that. What's the worst that could happen? Well then find a way to avoid that.

No one wants to waste time being on guard against being nickled and dimed or scammed by quickchange artists. No one wants to have to do battle in order to get what they told us we were buying. Everyone wants to pay a flat rate to get the function that they want, at the price they want, without a long wait for it. If you're willing to shop around, you can find what you want, at the price you're willing to pay.

The whole point is to integrate the id the ego and the superego into a greater whole. If the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, then your possible explanations are: ignorance, broken connections, neurosis, malice, or bureaucracy. American culture is the world's biggest sponge.

Ever been on a committee that didn’t have a good leader or a clear goal? Did it make you want to bang your head against the wall? Ever seen zoo animals pacing and rocking?

I cannot believe that there is a whole management book in this concept. "Deviancy Tolerance" is the 'official' explanation for why everyone goes 'oooh, that's deep man.' When some outsider comes along and observes: 'Hey! It doesn't have to be that way. Knock that off.'

You want to move up Maslow's Heirarchy. You want to arrive at a post-conventional morality. You want to answer to a higher law. You know when you're being a jerk, (or you figure it out later when lying in bed or showering.)

You should have friends that can gently prevent you from appearing on Mr. Blackwell's list, wearing leg warmers in public, or spending an entire afternoon talking to people with spinach in your teeth. (Or wearing a Trump toupee, or certain "trendy" hairstyles, and glasses frames...) This is the benefit of tribes, clans, and families.

Spontaneous Committees aimed at a real problem can also mean: bus boycotts, sit-ins, Declarations of Indpendence, and dumping tea into harbors. (While drunk and dressed in drag, no less.)

It is possible to herd cats. They will almost invariably move toward: sunbeams, tuna, catnip, soft things, high places, dangling things, small fast-moving objects, and open doors. Be there first. This is the principle behind leadership, lures, and bait.

Don't scare the herd into stampeding with canon fire. Don't become an angry mob. Don't put godlike power into too few frail flawed human hands. This country undergoes a very noisy prearranged coup or "regime change" every 8 years or less. This unnerves the heck out of the rest of the world. They think we're reckless and unpredictable. Cowboy diplomacy will get you a remarkably long way.

Know what the oldest functioning bureaucracy in the world is? The Vatican. The Pope was the first one to claim divinely mandated infallibility. Rather than simply asserting that: "I have a big catapault, and what I say goes."

But then he got into trouble over the issues of divorce, selling tickets to heaven, heliocentrism, and the holocaust; and so decided that they'd fudge that by claiming that he was only the Official Voice of God Here on Earth when he was speaking Ex Cathedra. (Also known as: telling the whole rest of the world how they should be living, upon pain of scolding.) The Inquisition was the first group to publish: a big list of scary, dangerous, banned-books and Heresy. They even developed a ritual for burning books.

Yet somehow child molestation is not immediately and obviously recognized as anathema to everyone within this organization? This is an astonishing display of Not getting the point. Why would you kill people over the freedom to split up, and what a piece of bread means, much less a 2000 year old retaining wall?

If the only God-sanctioned objective of sex is procreation, then why is sex between infertile and post-menopausal married couples ok? Because it symbolizes love and giving and sharing? Yet onanism, and premarital and homosexual sexual acts; along with birth-control pills and condoms... are sinful?

"The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity."
Uh huh...

Well, if love and fidelity are a good enough reason, even between the blessed and holy matriarchs and patriarchs... Who knew perfectly well that they weren't making babies when they were doing what they had to be doing... Then why is it wrong for me to do the same?

If half of all natural conceptions naturally end in miscarriage, then why is preventing implantation a sin? What kind of goofball opposes both in vitro fertilization and abortion? How is this any different than knowing enough to come inside out of the rain? I know you know these words because I've read your books.
"I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life."
- Jung, 1961

"The majority of my patients consisted not of believers but of those who had lost their faith."
-Jung, 1961

[Contemporary man] is blind to the fact that, with all his rationality and efficiency, he is possessed by "powers" that are beyond his control. His gods and demons have not disappeared at all; they have merely got new names. They keep him on the run with restlessness, vague apprehensions, psychological complications, an insatiable need for pills, alcohol, tobacco, food – and, above all, a large array of neuroses.
-Jung, 1964
Why would you rebuild on a floodplain? Floodplains are for farming, not sleeping. Why would you build a nuclear reactor on a fault line? Why would you invest millions of dollars within feet of the ocean?

Insanity is not: epilepsy is not: demonic possession is not: prophecy is not: genius is not: savantism is not: autism is not: geekiness.

Renaissance men are spacy dilettantes. Gifted children stare out the window because they're bored. Stop making your dogs nuts. Stop making your kids crazy. You cannot put them in charge, because they are not yet developmentally equipped to be in charge.

Have we never built a sandcastle? Poseidon was the god of: the sea, horses, and earthquakes; also known as: unforgiving nature. (He was also rumored to be the same pissed off deity that kicked over the "unbreachable walls" of ancient Troy.)

FEMA has rebuilt some of those houses on the gulf coast HOW MANY times? It's dangerously seductively easy to spend other people's money. This is how Ponzi schemes, social security as a retirement plan, green lawns in the desert, and $600 (or gilded) toilet seats happen.

There's a reason that the term nouveau riche is usually sneered, and why every bank robber or young pro athlete has a velvet Elvis painting and a copy of Scarface. There's a reason that "teenaged prince" or "teenaged diva" are euphemisms for profligacy.

You never want to provoke the wizard to stop making muttered curses, multi-colored sparks, and muffled explosions; and stomp out of his workshop to investigate what's causing the racket. Have we seen Fantasia? Do we understand that more money or power will not fix a system that's broken? Do not piss grandpa off so badly that he goes for the shotgun. It's really difficult (and also sweet,) to beat your own parents at chess or checkers.

It's predictable dahhhling. Ours is the right sort of black. We quickly learn to distinguish between the too-perfect artificial and the "textured and authetic" genuine-article, precisely because the difference matters to us.
"You mean vampirism is like... pyramid selling?"
- Pratchett
If you use it for everything, it won't be there when you really need it. A fire extinguisher is an essential unitasker. It must live in the same place all the time, and it must be maintained on a regular basis. Because when you need a fire extinguisher, nothing else will do the job as well. Although, you can actually smother a fire with paper money, (or fuel; just like you can flood an engine.) Though it's astonishingly wasteful to do so in a country full of $20 ABC fire extinguishers from Walmart...

If you have bad credit you can't afford to spend 3K over the next 2 years on a crappy outdated computer that you order from a TV ad. If you have to be "in debt up to your eyeballs" to maintain your lifestyle, then you can't afford your lifestyle, and you need to tone it down. (Rather than treating your biggest financial asset as a credit card...)

How long will it take you to pay off that mortgage, earning what you make now? Isn't it conveeenient that the law just changed to allow the interest on every note to be adjusted upward if you're late on just one payment to one lender? Right at the same time that the bankruptcy law got tightened up too... There's a word for 35% interest rates. Once they've got you over the barrel, they don't care how hard you struggle.

Credit card companies are not banks. They are not in the business of saving or storing your money. Customers are not resources to be exploited, they must be treated with respect. Businesses like Sprint, Capital One, and Blockbuster, that base their profit margin around such stupid ideas, will find it evaporating out from under them as their customers catch on that the deck is stacked very heavily against them. It's a trick! Don't go in there!

A real estate development boom in the Vegas desert is a sign that it's time to be invested on the interest-earning side of the ledger, not the interest-paying side. Your home is only worth what someone will pay you for it, today. The rest is imaginary numbers that depend upon many factors outside of your control.

A home is a place to: keep the rain off, sleep, and keep your stuff. New York apartments and Bay area real estate are priced insanely because they're in uniquely desirable areas. Prisoners and college students live in 100 square feet or less for years at a time.

Real estate near flowing or open water is usually a good investment. (Except when wealthier developers want to try to earn more money with that valuable real estate resource than whatever unproductive usage you're currently enjoying about it. AND they try to bypass the free-market pricing process by using the club of eminent domain and tax revenues to steamroll over the individual choice of the property owner.) Real estate near stagnant water is called: swampland, bogs, marshes, sloughs, fens, moors, sinkholes, or small shallow ponds.
"If we dealt with our colleagues at work in the same coercive and threatening manner by which the state insists on dealing with us, our employment would be immediately terminated. We would soon be without friends were we to demand that they adhere to specific behavioral standards that we had mandated for their lives. Should you come over to our home for a visit, you will not be taxed, searched, required to show a passport or driver's license, fined, jailed, threatened, handcuffed, or prohibited from leaving. I suspect that your relationships with your friends are conducted on the same basis of mutual respect. In short, virtually all of our dealings with friends and strangers alike are grounded in practices that are peaceful, voluntary, and devoid of coercion."
- Butler Shaffer
Of course, like all paeans to anarchy, that only works if you're dealing with rational and educated actors who actually negotiate in good faith. The prisoner's dilemma describes the futility of reasoning with toddlers, batty grandma, or selfish irrational thugs. For them we have: anticipation, logic, height, reach, bouncers, big sticks, leashes, fences, neighbors, newspapers, guns, police, and a big military.

The state is too powerful and blunt a weapon to be trained at civilians unless it absolutely can't be avoided. The American civil war was actually the largest bloodiest unilateral unconstitutional war in our history. But it did solve the problem of slavery.

Of course, as soon as the damned yankees packed up and went home, the KKK and Jim Crow Laws sprang up overnight. Until we had to send the Feds in against a southern governor, again, to integrate the schools. If you do not fix the problem of being a bastard yourself, the state will fix it for you, and you won't like it a bit.
"The Constitution has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it."
- Lysander Spooner 1870
Swamp real estate is a punchline because Disney managed to create a dynastic empire by buying, draining, and filling-in the same wetlands that elderly investors keep trying to buy, sight-unseen off of eBay. People get goofy about Beanie Babies, gambling, condos, and endless refinancing... During periods when following the traditional rules for getting ahead isn't working.

Remember Hobson's Choice? Remember the Ant and the Grasshopper? Remember the Frog and the Scorpion? Remember any color as long as it's black? The little red hen and the notion of stone soup have more than a little in common. Value and fine craftsmanship don't generally come from a kiosk or an infomercial; cheap, quick, and sloppy, but maybe sufficient, do.

You can keep an old junk car running with duct tape and epoxy. If you can apply the theory behind any technology well enough, you can get away with breaking all the rules, mixing medications, and still get where you need to go on time. You can follow the north star to freedom. But you DO have to know both what you're doing and where you're going, or else you'll just go around in circles until it all falls apart.

You do too know what the right and sensible thing to do is. Cheating is generally obvious to anyone who understands the function of the system, and the terms of the game. What are our first principles?

Do the right thing as you understand it. Do unto others. Do the best you can, to do what needs to get done, this week.

There is a difference between a utility and a charity. You rely on electricity. You pay for insurance.

You should never depend on a safety net to catch you. Always keep 3 limbs in contact with the rockface. If you do not work within the laws of nature you will become subject to the laws of gravity, entropy, Finagle and Murphy.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Never place blind faith in anything called safety or security. Always have a paper backup. If you rely on the kindness of strangers, you're putting yourself at the mercy of strangers. (A quality which is fairly constant, though far from universally dependable, as anyone who's dealt with the DMV or the TSA can attest.)

No one else will care as much about minding your money, or your children, or your health as you do. You can't pay me a large enough sum of money to care about you more than I care about me. I am me. I am not you.

Technology cannot out think humans, (so far.) The police cannot be everywhere, all the time. Big brother may be watching you, but he doesn’t have the ability to stop you right this minute; and often a minute is all it takes to do whatever it is that you want. Traffic cameras can't convict drivers they can't see.

Vote with your franchise, your feet, and your wallet. Cold-blooded stoicism, Minnesota nice, and civil disobediance have more than a little overlap. War never solved anything. Except Nazis... Guns and soldiers solve a Nazi problem pretty definitively.

Hey, which state sent the first Union volunteer troops to the civil war? Which state's troops said: "Halp Us Jon Carry - We R Stuck Hear N Irak"? Be on the right side.

Everyone is your neighbor. This is a small planet and a closed circuit system. If your neighbor's house is on fire, you don’t quibble. You organize a bucket brigade, and lend him your hose.

If your neighbor's barn burns down, you don't pass a law to pickpocket your other neighbors next year, to fund a better designed barn next time. You go around with your hat out and ask people to give what they can to help out. They’ll often surprise you if you explain what's needed clearly and ask nicely. Then you load up your wagons and gather the whole community to get the loss replaced or rebuilt, as soon as can be managed.

Guys, the Amish get this and they choose to live without loans or electricity. (Though amusingly enough, they're fine with: batteries, rollerblades, websites, and modern medicine. They're just very very wary of being enslaved or becoming dependent on outsiders or complicated technology.)

Society and community and civilization are not some sort of wizardry or magic. They come from recognizing that next time you might be the poor bastard digging through the ashes; and so it's both good strategy and good karma to pay it forward and do unto others. (Aka, enlightened self interest.)

Avoid the man who cheats on his wife, or keeps upgrading to a newer blonder perkier model. Recognize the small frightened men in bullies everywhere. You cannot simultaneously say: 'Wah! They kill our women and children!' While out the other side of your mouth saying: 'Quickly, women and children: go act like human shields around our really key targets.'

How dim do you think we are? Either women and children are sacrosanct or they're not. How do you treat your own? How do you treat your neighbors? Are they happy?

The whole point of living is to apply what you have learned. Certain behavior is a red flag indicating probable failure to grasp certain key concepts. Most of this stuff really does go back to kindergarten. The golden rule is not the Theory of Relativity.

If you tell people that thinking or talking about something is just as bad as doing the thing, then you have removed any practical incentive to refrain from doing said thing. -'Quick, don't think of a Pink Elephant. Sinner!'- This is why we don't execute fools, children, or the insane. We give them wardens and minders. We expect competent adults to know enough to read the contract before you sign it. RTFM. Caveat emptor.

These are not obscure mysteries. There's a public library in almost every town. The internet has a better classical library than my expensive private Catholic college. Jessica Simpson proudly proclaims: "I totally don't know what that is, but I want it." I say: how on earth do you know you want it, if you don't know what it is?
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
- Abraham Lincoln

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."
- G. K. Chesterton

"Art is science made clear."
- Jean Cocteau
And that's what's wrong with the world today. Q.E.D. Q.E.F. Quod ego dico.

posted by Rachel 11/05/2006
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Snort. Call me
crazy, dude. Hoist, meet petard.

posted by Rachel 11/05/2006
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