Monday, July 28, 2003

Linux as dancing bear

Desktop Linux is a dancing bear -- remarkable that it works, but you don't expect it to be graceful (and it isn't). When you start it up (I'm using Red Hat 9, pre-installed) it looks remarkably like a real desktop computer system -- icons, task bars, the works.

Underneath of course is Unix.

I've been saying this a lot lately and I may as well say it here: Unix went from being the worst operating system available to being the best without really undergoing any improvement.

I want to use Linux because I want and need the openness, plus I'm cheap. BUT, I'm a real adult person with not much time, so I want the openness and programmability to be SIMPLE, ELEGANT, and ACCESSIBLE. Am I in a vanishingly small demographic or something? [Answer: yes]

Bad name

OK, "omniorthogonal" might be the worst name for a weblog ever. Hard to say, hard to type, and a pretentious yet illiterate mix of Greek and Latin roots.

Already paid my domain fee though, so stuck with it. And I it seems in the spirit of The Subtle Journal of Raw Coinage, a vanished zine for which I have a deep admiration.

Weird web jump: I was googling for "orthogonal to everything" and came up with this. "The analysis and design of benevolent goal architectures". Something I've thought about in the past.

Best Ann Coulter takedown yet

"Even the company of Maoist insurgents would be more intellectually invigorating than that of Ann Coulter. More to the point, whatever side this woman is on, I don't want to be on it."
-- Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post

The all-knowing eye of the market

Give the bushies credit for ushering in a new era of off-the-wall military research. Perhaps the glory days of the 60s/early 70s ARPA will come back.

This proposal in particular has a distinct retro echo of the Delphi Method, a classic RAND Cold War idea.

It turns out that the original Delphic Oracle may have been tripping on natural gas.

I assume that the code for these forecasting techniques will be written in Python.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

The web language mess

Well, I was just forced to do modifications to a CSS file to get this thing the way I liked. Gad, what an ugly mess of syntax the whole web world is. I've never been involved in constructing any but simple websites (static or dynamic via HTML generation), so I've never been forced to deal with the horrible mess of HTML, Javascript, Java, CSS, PHP, and all the browser-specific variations thereof. Fortunately I never will, there are armys of unemployed web hackers out there to hire if things ever get that far, but it's a pity it requires so much useless and divergent expertese. Reminds me of Unix (and I'm sure it's not a coincidence).

I have friends trying to fix this with a single language that is supposed to be elegant, powerful, and capable of replacing the mess. The idea of Water is to combine features of Lisp, Javascript (prototype-based OOP), all in a unified XML syntax. The big problem here (aside from the general problem of getting a new language accepted at all) is that nobody really wants to write code using an XML syntax.

If they put a GUI front-end (or even a Lisp-syntax front-end) they might have something.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

High achieving familes

Factoid: Nora Volkow, the new head of NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) is the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky. Also see here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Narrative psychology

A possibly interesting little subfield: Narrative Psychology

Association of Anarchist Parents

The idea for this organization came to me as I was walking captured me due to its inherent irony, or so I thought. Being a parent is kind of a cure for anarchism, or so it seemed to me. Yet many former anarchists or freedom-inclined individuals suddenly find themselves in the position of having to be authority figures, ordering people about and enforcing disciplinary measures. A hard situation, and certainly it deserves a support group.

Well, of course, thanks to the richness of reality and Google, I find that this already exists, sort of, although the ironic aspect seems to be missing.

There's actually a whole spectrum of non-authoritarian parenting thought out there, of course. Most of it seems too naive or ideology-driven for my taste. Take, for instance, the group/movement Taking Children Seriously.

"We believe that it is possible and desirable to bring up children
entirely without coercion (i.e. without doing things to them against
their will, or making them do things against their will), and that
children are entitled to the same rights, respect and control over
their lives as adults. "

They lose me right there. But they are British, and so can at least defend these manifestly silly ideas with great prose and energy.

TCS depends quite a bit on the philosophy of Karl Popper, who I also think is fairly silly.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Anarchy in the USA

"For, whatever was the case in de Tocqueville's day, not the passion for egalitarianism but individualist, that is anti-authoritarian, antinomian, though curiously legalistic, anarchism has become the core of the value system in the U.S.A."

- Eric Hobsbawm (sigh, now paywalled, but excerpted here)

Yes -- and it's especially odd that it's the conservatives who seem to lead in (supposedly) antiauthoritarian attitudes. They portray themselves as insurgents against the supposed liberal establishment, who makes horribly restrictive rules against their freedom to fire guns in restaurants and drive SUVs in duck blinds.

Our politics are twisted up in weird ways that makes it almost impossible for one side to understand itself, let alone the others.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Minor but significant irritant

It's so irritating that in Visual Studio, you are not simply working on a "project", let along a "program" or "module", but a solution. It's this intrusion of marketing speak into the sacred space of the programming environment, among many other things, that is driving me towards Linux.