Sep 30

Berlios is dying…

I just got word that berlios.de, where I have several projects hosted including GPSD, is going to shut down at the end of the year.

This is a huge pain in the ass. It means I’m going to have to bust my hump to get us to new hosting space. Moving the git repo won’t be bad, but moving the mailing list and bugtracker content is going to suck. What’s worse, all the project URLs are going to break.

Back in 2009 I launched a project called forgeplucker to address this sort of migration problem. It stalled due to a flaky hosting site…

Sep 26

Reconsidering sexual repression

The New York Post has an interesting article up on the price of sex. Summary; more women are giving it up sooner. Between a shortage of men who are marry-up material, competition from other women, and porn, withholding sex to get commitment is no longer a workable strategy Tellingly the article says “those who don’t discount sex say they can’t seem to get anyone to ‘pay’ their higher price. Consequently, younger women are doing an awful lot of first-date or even no-date fucking, and the marriage rate is steadily dropping.

The author doesn’t think like a science-fiction fan and encyclopedic synthesist, but I do – so a really alarming second-order consequence jumped out at me. But before I get to that, some historical perspective.

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Sep 24

Community versus collectivism

Community and collectivism are opposites. Community is valuable and powerful; it is individuals freely choosing to cooperate and identify with each other to achieve more than they can individually, as we do in the open-source community.

Collectivism is a fraud. It pretends to be about community, but it is actually about the use of force. Collectivists want us not only to bow to their desire for power over others, but to thank them for coercing us and praise them as our moral superiors.

Compassion is a duty of every individual. Groups of people organizing voluntarily to achieve compassionate ends are deserve admiration and support. Collectivists pervert compassion, speaking the language of caring but committing the actions of criminals.

It is a crime to rob your neighbor. It is a crime to use your neighbor for your own ends without allowing him or her a choice in the matter. It is a crime to deprive your neighbor of his liberty when he or she has committed no aggression against you.

These crimes are no less crimes when a sociopath (or a politician – but, I repeat myself) justifies them by chanting “for the poor” or “for the children” or “for the environment”. They do not cease to be crimes just because a majority has been conned into voting for them. The violence is just as violent, the victims just as injured, the harm done just as grave.

Valid ethical propositions do not contain proper names. What is criminal for an individual to do is criminal for a community to do. Collectivists are not the builders of community, as they pretend, but its deadliest enemies – its corrupters and betrayers. When we fail to understand these simple truths, we board a train to genocide and the gulags.

(This was originally a comment I left on Google+)

Sep 23

A tribute to Heinlein

A&D regular Ken Burnside has entered the Woot! derby, a contest to have a T-shirt design featured on that site. Ken’s entry is a tribute to Robert Heinlein.

Yes, that’s Robert and Virginia Heinlein on the rocket. Yes, the rocket is based on the illustrations from Putnam and Son’s Heinlein juveniles The skyline in the back is Kansas City, MO, though it’s hard to tell – Heinlein’s home town.

The Heinlein fans among my regulars should consider voting for this entry.

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Sep 19

Living in Euro-Cloud-Cuckoo land

I often tell people that I think The Economist is the best news magazine in the English language – and not because they make a relatively frequent habit of quoting me, either. The house style is intelligent, often penetrating, witty, and sober about important things.

It is very rare that The Economist indulges in wishful thinking to the point of doomed fantasy. But that is exactly where their lead editorial, How To Save The Euro, goes this week. Save the Euro? Really? One wonders what they’re smoking over there.

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Sep 11

Ten Years After 9/11

Ten years after 9/11, I find there is little that I need or want to add to what I have already written on this topic. Rereading the essay I wrote the day of the attack, it still seems relevant. So does my explanation of the militia obligation.

The best tribute we can give to the victims of 9/11 is to stand with those who have risked their lives and (often) died in opposition to Islamic terrorism and tyranny – from Todd Beamer to Neda Soltan to Seal Team 6. On a planet shrunk by modern communications and transport, in a war of shadows in which non-state actors threaten us on a scale previously reserved for national militaries, we must all be vigilant warriors.

Remember and be ready.

Sep 10

Not Eliminating The Middleman

So, we’re at a some friends’ place for barbecue this afternoon, and friends say “We know you don’t watch much TV, but you need to see this…”

“This” turns out to be the pilot of The Middleman a peculiar and unusually intelligent TV series that ran for only 12 episodes in 2008 before being canceled. The protagonist is a tough-minded female art student who gets recruited into a sort of “Men In Black” organization that deals with exotic problems – mad scientists, invading aliens, supernatural threats, that sort of thing. Yeah, I know, yet another spin on Nick Pollotta’s Bureau 13 novels – but this version has a sharp, surrealistic edge and the kind of script where no word in it is filler or wasted.

The writing style of The Middleman kind of got into my head. Here’s how I know this: afterwards, we’re disrobing to go to the hot tub, and I looked at my piles of clothes and stuff and thought this:

“I carry a smartphone, a Swiss-Army knife, and a gun. What kind of problem do you want solved?”

Sep 09

For those who have met Sugar

I don’t often blog about strictly personal things here. Even when it may seem that I’m blogging about myself, my goal is normally to use my life as a lens to examine issues larger than any of my merely personal concerns. But occasionally, this has led me to blog about my cat Sugar, as when I wrote about the ethology of the purr, the Nose of Peace, the mirror test and coping with anticipated grief.

But this blog has developed a community of regulars, too, some of whom have met and been charmed by Sugar while being houseguests at my place. It is therefore my sad duty to report that she has entered the rapid end-stage of senescent decline often seen in cats. After days of not eating and signs of chronic pain, she has been diagnosed with hepatic cysts, acute nephritis and renal failure. She’s now on a catheter at the vet’s; they’re hoping to restart her kidneys and treat the nephritis with antibiotics. But in the best case, our vet doesn’t think she has more than six months left, and that much may require heroic measures including daily subcutaneous fluid injections. He has not recommended euthanasia, but if her kidneys don’t reboot within a day or three that will be coming. He hasn’t said, but I don’t think he likes her odds of surviving this crisis.

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Sep 08

Ecoforming and 1493

I enjoy creating useful neologisms. I’ve floated several on this blog: kafkatrapping, collabortage, politicism, chomskyism, and prospiracy. One could argue that my take on the term “error cascade” is neologistic.

Today, another one: “ecoforming”. By analogy with “terraforming”, this is what humans do when they deliberately modify an ecology to suit their purposes. The term is intended to include the introduction of non-native species, the deliberate use of fire as a technique for ground-clearing, and the sculpting of landscapes by selective planting and suppression of local wild flora, but to exclude cultivation of domesticated plants.

I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing because I’ve been reading a fascinating book titled 1493 by Charles C. Mann. This is a history of what he calls the “Columbian exchange” (borrowing the term from pioneering biohistorian Alfred W. Crosby), the transplantation of New World species to the Old World and vice-versa after Columbus’s voyage in 1492. Mann makes a persuasive case that the shock of that contact has been reverberating through the Earth’s biosphere ever since, reshaping human societies and much else in its wake. He tells well-known stories such as the way that the introduction of the potato to Europe enabled the rise in population that led to the Industrial Revolution. Also, many more (previously) obscure ones, such as the way that the introduction of American food plants produced ecological catastrophe in China, leading to the fall of the Ming Dynasty.

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