Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bone-deep solipsism

Here are two items on "the mundane indignities and brutalities of class."

I got the first of them from blogdex. It's a newspaper article about the district manager of the Wal-Mart in Pensacola removing the paper's vending machine from local stores. The cause: unhappiness over a piece that points out how Wal-Mart is subsidized by government in the sense that its employees get paid enough to afford medical care and the like. A nice quote from the newspaper: "Pensacola should be more than the Wal-Mart kind of town we're becoming - cheap and comfy on the surface, lots of unhappiness and hidden costs underneath." The AP is now reporting that the local manager has backed down and the papers are again available at the stores.

The second item comes from Arts & Letters Daily. Their squib reads: "You’re in the religion biz and you discover one day that your company’s oldest, most trusted product doesn’t actually exist. What do you do?... "

It's from the July/August issue of Books & Culture, A Christian Review:

The Confidence Man

Meet Mark C. Taylor, the virtuoso of Nietzschean boosterism.
by Eugene McCarraher

My favoritie paragraph is this one, noting the absence, in the book under review, of any awareness of those who are not primary players in the dominant activities of the global economy:

This bone-deep solipsism, increasingly endemic to the suburban middle class, follows directly from an inability to acknowledge our humble and fragile materiality, the substance of which involves us, on this side of paradise, in painful and exploitative bonds as well as connections of felicity and flourishing. As Barbara Ehrenreich has observed, "to be cleaned up after is to achieve a certain magical weightlessness and immateriality." Such indifference to the world without quotation marks enables palaver about the capitalist economy as an "information-processing machine" of "complex adaptation." In the same vein, exotic pedantry about the joy of untrammeled desire conceals the coercive nature of capitalist markets and workplaces; marvel at the insubstantiality of money deflects attention from the commodification of activities once performed without pecuniary exchange; pabulum about "webs" and "processes" camouflages the mundane indignities and brutalities of class, power, and war.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

War on Terror - greatly condensed, in Geek-speak

Here's another frivolous post from my work blog. It's the War on Terror as a computer program. Actually not really a computer program, but a series of commands in the Bourne Shell, the standard user interface to the UNIX operating system, having some programming capability.

I doubt that this will seem funny or even interesting to most readers. As a sometime Unix user (though hardly one at all), I liked the original post when I saw it yesterday. It comes from a blog by a programmer at Sun Microsystems as you can tell from the url: . "Thin Guy" doesn't refer to the author's anatomy (or not just to it) but to a Sun product line: some network software and a "thin client," vaguely akin to our old Comterms, for use on the network. The following is quoted from the blog; to make it easier to read, I haven't done the usual indenting.

The War on Terror - For Dummies

This one is for all the folks who read this and said "I don't get it".  Like my wife...So if you couldn't stop laughing and people around you just didn't understand, send them here.  Remember the humor is in the fact that you can make history look like a computer geeks daily job, not in the war.

As viewed through the thingy you type commands into on a non-microsoft operating system. (Kind of like a DOS prompt, but different)

$ cd /middle_east  [Change Directory , i.e. go there]
$ ls [Show files/directories]
Afghanistan   Iraq          Libya         Saudi_Arabia  UAE
Algeria       Israel        Morrocco      Sudan         Yemen
Bahrain       Jordan        Oman          Syria                          [Countries in the Middle East]
Egypt         Kuwait        Palestine     Tunisia
Iran          Lebanon       Qatar         Turkey

$ cd Afghanistan [Go into Afghanistan]
$ ls [Look around Afghanistan]
bin  Taliban     [We see bin (bin usually contains binary or executable programs) and the Taliban]
$ rm Taliban [Remove the file Taliban ]
rm: Taliban is a directory [Whoops not that easy]
$ cd Taliban [Go into Taliban Structure]
$ ls [Look around]
soldiers [OK, we find soldiers]
$ rm soldiers [Smoke 'em out!]
$ cd .. [Job done, let's get out of there]
$ rmdir Taliban [Let's try to remove the Taliban again, this time we're smarter]
rmdir: directory "Taliban": Directory not empty [Damn!  I thought we got everybody]
$ cd Taliban [Goin' back in!]
$ ls -a [Let's look in hidden places i.e. caves!]
.            ..           .insurgents  [Crap who are these guys?]
$ chown -R USA .* [ Let's make them ours.  Off to Gitmo!]
chown: .insurgents: Not owner   [They're not talking.  We can't make them.  Damn Amnesty International!]
$ cd ..      [OK, let's back up a bit - up one directory to be precise]
$ su         [Super User!  He can do anything, even if it's not right.  Kind of like a President.]
Password: ******* [Super Secret Code word]
# mv Taliban /tmp [Super User aka "root" moves the "Taliban" problem to the back burner]
# exit    [Can't stay invoke all my super powers at once, people will talk.  Will somebody please shut up that fathead Michael Moore!]
$ ls   [Let's look around Afghanistan again]
bin [Geek joke coming from shirt - apparently out of print]
$ cd bin [wait for it]
$ ls [wait for it]
laden [Ha ha...Get it bin/laden.  Bin Laden.  Usama?]
$ cd .. [We know where he is, let's regroup and do this right]
$ rm -r bin/laden [Remove everything]
bin/laden: No such file or directory [Doh! Where'd he go?]
$ find / -name laden  [Let's search everywhere!]
$                             [Crap.  A blank line can't be good.  We can't find him]
$ su   [Here we go again. Super User!  We'll find him.  But we won't think about him that much]
Password: *******
# mv bin /tmp [Back burner the whole Bin Laden thing]
# exit
$ pwd    [Where are we again?]
/middle_east/Afghanistan [Oh yeah]
$ cd /opt/UN  [Off to the United Nations!  We're all Americans still right?]
$ ln -s /Bad_Guys/Al_Qaeda /middle_east/Iraq/. [Let's try to create a link to Al_Qaeda in Iraq]
ln: cannot create /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda: Permission denied [Stupid French, Germans, and Russians!]
$ su   [We'll make a link.  Remember root can do these things]
# ln -s /Bad_Guys/Al_Qaeda /middle_east/Iraq/.  [See I told you root could do anything.]
# cd /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda   [Let me show you the link]
Al_Qaeda: does not exist  [Ah, but just because you make a link, doesn't mean it's real.  Broken Link.  Dang!]
# rm /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda  [Crap.  New tactic]
# mkfile 100g /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda  [Try to make a very huge case.  Those "converted" vehicles, those WMD's?]
mkfile: No space left on device  [Whoops, out of disk space.  Stupid French, Germans, and Russians again]
# rm /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda [Let's just pretend I didn't try to make that case]
# cd /opt/Coalition/Willing [Psst.  Hey guys.  Who's gonna get all that oil.  Wanna trade?]
# mkfile 1b /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda  [ Make a 1 byte file.  That's really small i.e. a shred of evidence.  Some meeting in a hotel?]
# chown -R USA:Proof /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda   [ Make it our own.  Our cause.  Our evidence.]
$ cd /middle_east/Iraq [We're going in!  Lock and Load!]
$ ls
saddam                       [We're Looking...]
$ ls
saddam                       [and looking...]
$ ls
saddam                      [and looking, but only find Saddam.  Didn't we used to like him?  Iran/Iraq war anyone?]
$ ls -a                        [Let's look *real* hard]
.            ..           saddam    [Crap.  Where's that evidence we]
$ find / -name [Ww][Mm][Dd]    [Where are those Weapons of Mass Destruction - Any shape or size will do]
/Korea/North/wMd  [Crap.  Someone get the Chinese to handle those guys OK?  We're busy making the world safer.]
$ wall Propaganda.txt [Send out a message.  Election time is coming soon]
Broadcast Message from USA (pts/1) on USS_Abraham_Lincoln Th May 1st
Mission Accomplished! [Yee-ha!...But sorry brave soldiers, you don't get to go home]
$ rm saddam [Let's get him out of there.  The world will be a better place.]
saddam: No such file or directory [Crap.  Not again!  Did you check the palace?]
$ find / -name saddam [He can run but he can't hide]
/var/opt/dictators/spiderhole/saddam [We found him in a spiderhole.  Never heard of a spiderhole before though]
$ wall NewsWorthy.txt [Another Message.  Let's get excited.  Election is getting close!]
Broadcast Message from USA (pts/1) on Time.Magazine Sat Dec 13
We Got Him!  [Yippeee.  I feel safer!]
$ mv /var/opt/dictators/spiderhole/saddam /opt/jail  [Saddam is jailed.  Is it me or does he look like Buddy Hacket?]
$ cd /opt/USA [Go home for some meetings to consult some smart people.  The Plan?  "Install Democracy"]
$ cp -Rp Democracy /middle_east/Iraq [Copy our democracy to Iraq.  Well sort of.]
$ cd /middle_east/Iraq/Democracy [Alright, it's there.  Let's get this party started!  Let Freedom Reign Condi!]
$ ./install [How you run a program in *nix.  No double clicking allowed.]
Install Error: Install failed.  See install_log for details.
$ more install_log [Look at the install log]
Installed failed!
Prerequisite packages missing [Other things must exist before Democracy can take hold]
Conflicting package Wahhabism found in /midde_east/Saudi_Arabia [Opinion - The birth of radical Islam]
Packages Church and State must be installed separately [Opinion from stable democracies]
File System /PeakOil nearing capacity [Opinion.  Scary crap.  Google Peak Oil]
Please read the install guide to properly plan your installation. [Read the f*cking manual and learn from history.]

A Google logo maker - fun!

logogle is a Google logo maker. Try it and see.

Friday, July 29, 2005

"To die and go we know not where"

If you open my current reading box on the right, you'll see that I've devoured Joe Simpson's Touching the Void (well literally, you'll see that I've finished reading it and recommend it, but understand that I devoured it. The link here is to the Wikipedia entry. The one on the right is to Amazon.

Simpson's narrative is powerful. The language is appropriately direct & unflowery. Literary images are few. There's frequent blunt confrontation with imminent death. At one point, Joe recalls a speech from Measure for Measure that he memorized as a teenager in studying for his O-Level exams. The speech is a good one. I've copied it below with a little context by Seamus Cooney.

From Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act III, Scene I:

Seamus Cooney: "Isabella, a nun, can save her brother's life by yielding her chastity to the wicked ruler -- which she refuses to do. Here she brings Claudio the news that he cannot expect a reprieve."

CLAUDIO: Has he affections in him,
That thus can make him bite the law by the nose,
When he would force it? Sure, it is no sin,
Or of the deadly seven, it is the least.
ISABELLA: Which is the least?
CLAUDIO: If it were damnable, he being so wise,
Why would he for the momentary trick
Be perdurably fined? O Isabel!
ISABELLA: What says my brother?
CLAUDIO: Death is a fearful thing.
ISABELLA: And shamed life a hateful.

CLAUDIO: Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling: 'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Nederlanders in La Grande Boucle

I'm sure you've all been waiting for my report on riders from the Netherlands in this year's Tour de France. These riders generally do well in the Spring Classics -- one-day races and short stage races before the big national tours of which the Tour de France is one. They peak relatively early in the year and don't have the form for top placings later on. On the other hand, Rabobank, the principal Dutch team, does boast this year's winner of the King of the Mountains jersey, Michael Rasmussen, also winner of Stage 9 of the race, and a man who was able to hold a top placing, 7th overall, despite some bad luck and absence of the physiology needed to do well in the individual time trials. We enjoyed cheering him on during our viewing of mountain-stage videos, but that's another story.

So, with no more ado, here are the NL riders' Tour placings, Frieslanders first:

Pieter Weening
(Harkema, Friesland), Rabobank, 2:24:16

Joost Posthuma
(Hengelo, Friesland), Rabobank, 2:33:59

Erik Dekker
(Hoogeveen, Friesland), Rabobank, 3:03:36

Bram Tankink
( (Haaksbergen, Friesland), Quickstep, 3:05:12

And the other lowlanders:

Michael Boogerd
(Nl), Rabobank, 11 Pts.

Karsten Kroon
(Nl), Rabobank, 3:42:03

Servais Knaven
(Nl), Quickstep, 3:59:07

Gerben Löwik
(Nl), Rabobank

I don't mean to suggest that the flatlanders did not distinguish themselves in the Tour. Simply finishing the race is a huge accomplishment and one of them, Weening, won himself a stage:

Dutchman Wins in Photo Finish

Weening edges Kloden in sprint duel
By Joe 'Lindsey, Contributing Writer
July 09, 2005

Today’s report on Stage 8 was written by Justin Davis of AFP


Weening, who came through the Rabobank team's under-23 program, began his professional career in 2002 but since has been searching for the first big victory that would confirm the potential which some in his native Netherlands feel will one day lead to him winning the yellow jersey.

Today, the 24-year-old from Harkema in the northern Friesland region of Holland decided it was time to show what he can do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The passing months in Sockholm

I'm copying from the work blog I run at the Library. That blog consists mostly of administrative and library tech stuff, but I indulge in an occasional diversion like this. We've been suffering from a heat wave with afternoon temperatures touching 100 deg. and the temp-humidity index maxing at 110 or so. It's comforting to contemplate Sweden's much more temperate climate: 64 deg. F. at present with an expected high of 73.

I like the seasonal graphic that appears on the home page of the Swedish national library, changing each month. I don't see a credit line on the home page that says who made these pictures. Here's the full year's worth, starting with July and ending with June.