The other day a significant thing happened, the Queen of England shook hands with Northern Ireland's ex-IRA chief, during one of the Queen's gratuitous diamond jubilee events. It provided me a moment to reflect on just how little I understand about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Despite a fair bit of reading and an ability to regurgitate the basic positions and facts of both sides, what lingers in me is confusion over just what the fighting really accomplished, from inception to resolution. It feels to this ignorant and uninvolved soul like the end to hostility was more a product of collective ennui than radically reformed positions. Northern Ireland got some new autonomy, clarifications, and assurances, but the fundamental and critical question of whether or not Northern Ireland was to break off from the UK and become part of Ireland remained wholly unsettled; this issue was left for future generations to sort out. That the people of Northern Ireland should decide their fate seems inescapably logical and would have seemed inevitable, whether by this bombing-forced peace settlement or some less passionate changes in the political landscape decades from now. And if the fate of Norther Ireland is unresolved in the present in both scenarios, then was this recent conflict and its recent resolution necessary? What really was profoundly new or novel in this achieved peace?
Either way I am happy of the outcome, that normal life has returned to Northern Ireland, and that its people feel better about their lot.
My last half year's unwaking hours have been a playground for the damned. Many's the time I have awoken more tired than when I lay down, wrested from one plane of gutwrenching anguish into another. A dozen times my suffering screams have grown loud enough to break their barriers and come aloud into this grim world of really is.
Least comforting is that these Devil's dreams have not been filled with unspeakable monsters or half-twisted fates but with elements of a new mundane, the scary world of aging, raging, loving, and loss. My nights have become my days, translated not transmuted.
How I miss my better days, my better years, my sounder slumber; the night was once a friend, a sanctuary space (where nothing real could touch me).
Our Declaration of Independence clearly documents our unalienable rights as including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Our right to "Life" necessarily requires we have access to appropriate medical care, without which all our other rights are rendered wholly inconsequential. That our nation, so long a positive example to the world, so long basking in a level of prosperity envied by the world, has this long failed to provide adequate protections for its citizen's health is an outrage. Fortunately the Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of the universal heath care mandate mechanism, seeing it rightly as a kind of tax, one which can be collected from all its citizens. Health insurance is unique among all forms of insurance in that every citizen ultimately requires it. We may not all own houses, or cars, but we all possess the spark of life, and we all endeavor to keep it lit.
And of course on this day the voices from the right are loud and furious, many asserting as they have before that Obama and this health care law have betrayed our Founding Fathers, betrayed our foundational mandate of limited federal government, and ushered us into socialism. How conveniently they pick and choose what they see as "acceptable" federal involvement and social aid. And this is why I find their position hard to take seriously. The right accepts without question (or at least serious debate) the existence of so many large federal and social concepts whose existence our Founding Fathers did not foresee. They accept the necessity of a standing army, despite the fact that none existed in the days of the Founding Fathers. They accept the necessity of the FBI, CIA, state/locality (and federally subsidized) police and fire services. They accept the necessity of various federal and state education systems, transportation administrations, building code enforcement, vehicle and driver licensing systems. They accept (if only because they must) the Social Security and Medicare system. All of those things are relatively fine, but the notion of providing everyone with health coverage is evil, socialist, and marks the beginning of the end of America. That is absurd. If the right truly cared about the uninsured they enjoyed quite a few recent presidencies in which they could have taken some action, any action; they chose to do nothing.
Thomas Jefferson was an impressive thinker and writer, vital to our American Revolution, but I've never been quite sure how our society should remember him, how we reconcile his good with his bad. My negative knowledge of the man is limited to his most glaringly obvious, by modern standards, failings: slave ownership and sexual relations (producing children) with one slave in particular, Sally Hemmings.
Many people feel that we must forgive historical men their historical context, asking, "If slave owning was the norm at the time of the American Revolution how can we judge a man harshly for owning slaves?" The primary difficulty I have with that line of thinking is the use of the "norm" as a measuring stick. History is replete with examples of barbarous atrocities committed by those observing societal/cultural/historical norms. If any forgiveness is to be granted our collective ancestors I think it must be based not on what was normal but on what those individuals knew (or should have known) and what they themselves believed (versus what they did).
In the case of Jefferson the question becomes, what did he know and believe about slavery? Did he know (or should he have known, i.e. was the information readily available to him that) it was wrong to own another human being? In determining these matters we have the benefit of Jefferson's own words.
Here are a few examples:
"Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, or morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both." -- Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, 1816
And yet despite recognizing bigotry for what it is, he sees black people as inferior, if not by their color than by the situation they are in, as indicated by this quote:
- "For men probably of any color, but of this color we know, brought from their infancy without necessity for thought or forecast, are by their habits rendered as incapable as children of taking care of themselves, and are extinguished promptly wherever industry is necessary for raising young. In the mean time they are pests in society by their idleness, and the depredations to which this leads them."
And yet if it were merely their situation and not their skin color, why would he not try and assist them in elevating their situation and restoring to them the necessity of their thought, as others did and would. He elected not to.
Ultimately he wholly acknowledges the untenable nature of slavery, saying:
"Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free." -- Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821
But instead of helping to hasten their expected freedom, he fought that future. And while he supported the concept of gradual emancipation, he wanted emancipation tied to deportation, to ensure that his wealth and that of the nation he helped found was not lost to the possible righteous fury of the men "We the People" kept enslaved. He states it clearly:
"...there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach [slavery]... we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other. -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia
Further, he strongly discouraged his friend and protege, Edmund Coles, from freeing his own slaves in a letter titled "Slavery and the Younger Generation". Jefferson wrote:
- "...the hour of emancipation is advancing, in the march of time. It will come; and whether brought on by the generous energy of our own minds; or by the bloody process of St Domingo [slave revolt], excited and conducted by the power of our present enemy, if once stationed permanently within our Country, and offering asylum & arms to the oppressed, is a leaf of our history not yet turned over."
Coles, unlike Jefferson, freed his slaves, taking them to present-day Illinois, a free territory, and giving each head of household 160 acres of land. Coles even provided many employment to ensure their transition into freedom was successful. Jefferson could have done this as well, but he chose not to.
And despite Jefferson clearly preferring and planning for a Whites-only nation, and writing about the evils of mixed-race marriages (miscegenation) with words such as, "Their amalgamation with the other color produces a degradation to which no lover of his country, no lover of excellence in the human character can innocently consent." Jefferson engaged in at least one prolonged relationship with a slave, and produced mixed-race children (perhaps as many as six).
And one must not consider his relationship with Sally Hemmings, nor any other female slave, to have been anything less than a form of rape. How can property "consent"? How can a woman who has been "rendered as incapable as [a child]" (his words about black people) consent? She may not have fought his advances, may even have encouraged his advances, but at no time did she have the freedom to do much else.
Jefferson kept hundreds as slaves, and counted very much among them were his lover and his many children; not even upon his death were they freed. He sought in death as he did in life to ensure that this nation would not quickly release its claim to their bodies and their souls.
And yet most modern folk forgive Jefferson entirely, dismiss his ownership of fellow humans as normal for the times, making him no less worthy of celebration and praise. And I can't help but wonder, if these people are willing to forgive a man willfully ignoring his informed conscience, his own avowed principles, even to the point of bearing children with a slave and keeping those children in bondage, what then would cause a figure like Jefferson to lose respect? I can imagine few things worse than slavery and rape. Would he have needed to rape a child for his legacy to be seriously tainted? Likely that would not do it either as there is a good chance he did rape a child, at least in the context of our current view on such matters. His relationship with Sally Hemmings began when he was 37 and she was somewhere between 14 and 17. She was sent to Paris (as companion to his daughter) at 14 and was pregnant with his child at 17.
And so I suppose little would, could, or has diminished Jefferson in our nation's eyes, and that makes me uncomfortable, less for the past than for our present crop of popular sinners who should feel emboldened, knowing their own legacies will be similarly forgiven.
Apropos of almost nothing I was thinking the other day about show trials and how even the noblest of societies sometimes engage in trials which seem at best unnecessary and at worst horribly propagandist. A common factor in show trials is the near universal expectation of a guilty verdict, and the arguable inability of the courts to produce any sentence other than guilt and any punishment other than the maximum available. What I'm a little unclear about in my own mind is whether or not the inaccessibility of an innocent verdict means the court is necessarily corrupt. In principle it should be p0ssible for any trial to end with the accused found "not guilty", even if the accused was in fact guilty of the crime. An accused man may go free because of actual innocence, because of inadmissible evidence (either of an inappropriate type or material illegally obtained), because of juror/judge/lawyer misconduct (which may or may not be followed by a retrial), because of bad decisions by jurors, and probably a host of other reasons too subtle for me to be aware of. The issue is that even someone who commits a murder in front of 100 trustworthy witnesses and several HD security cameras can potentially avoid a guilty verdict by some means. Hopefully such situations where justice goes unserved in the name of some larger principle of justice (or as a result of errors) are extremely rare, but the possibility does exist. In the case of a show trial, however, I would argue that that possibility has been removed. Society wants a particular verdict and almost everyone involved in the administration of justice wants that same verdict, and that bias will likely create changes (subtle or severe) in how law is applied, keeping in inappropriate evidence, keeping out exculpatory evidence, seating a biased jury, etc. And my question is really, does this represent a fatal flaw in our system of law that such things can occur? Is it so bad that good societies sometimes do bad things in the name of satisfying some sort of collective will. If you'd asked me many years ago I'm sure I would have argued that it was a very bad thing, that the court must always be impartial and that the trial of a universally hated individual is the perfect exercise for our judicial body, the perfect opportunity to prove (or simply discover) how fair our system is. But I suppose there comes a point in growing older, or perhaps merely growing more aware of the flawed nature of all things, when the overly rigid application of rules seems at times to pervert rather than produce the results we need. And perhaps that's what show trials are all about, the acceptance that a particular man (or woman) has already been tried and convicted by a vastly larger body of peers, and the court's role is to provide nothing more than a cathartic forum for allowing victims the right to share their pain, face their tormentor, and for society to have the crimes officially documented. If we allow that that is so, that the court sometimes neglects its sworn duty, then I wish we could admit as much within our codes of law, thereby restoring honor and honesty to the system by defining when it cannot be relied upon to be so.
I recently bought a 1971 AMC 5 ton Army Surplus M820 Expansible Van. My goal is to transform it into a mobile office in the style of a Victorian gentleman's study.
See some photos of the truck and some first thoughts about how I might redo the interior of the expansible box below.
A few weeks back I stumbled across a forum thread on Holocaust Denial. I'd first read about the topic about 15 years ago when Usenet was the Internet's popular discussion forum. The years hadn't diminished my fascination with the notion that a militant minority fervently denied events occurred which the majority accepts as wholly factual. How could there be disagreement about such seemingly self-evident world events (with millions of people involved as witnesses, victims, perpetrators, etc.)? I'll write more on the topic at some point, perhaps, since I enjoy tracing everyone's ulterior motives and seeing how they influence what should be rational discussion. But for now I'll just mention the horror that greeted me when I logged back on to YouTube after having watched a series of videos on this topic. YouTube had apparently decided that I was a neo-Nazi and wanted to helpfully recommend like-minded channels I should subscribe to. Yikes.
I am pleased, I suppose, that YouTube doesn't play favorites with ideas and allows minority opinions and majority opinions to be heard and subscribed to, but I do wish to god there was a way I could firmly explain to YouTube that interest in a topic does not mean subscription to the idea at the heart of that topic. As there is none, I'll just have to announce for the benefit of any government, conspiratorial, zionist, etc. agency listening, there has been a terrible misunderstanding, and I am not a Nazi.
In a moment of anything but wisdom Microsoft has decided to leave earlier versions of the .Net (dotnet) Framework out of the Windows 8 install, including only 4 and 4.5. The reason they give for this peculiar decision is their desire to have a smaller OS install footprint. While less disk space lost to an OS install is a very noble goal, I can think of few things worse to leave out. Any user with Windows 8 who subsequently downloads and wants to use an application written against the 3.5 or earlier .Net runtimes will be forced to install (over the 'net) a reboot-required multi-hundred megabyte installer (supporting .Net 3.5, 3.0, and 2.0). Few things deter a potential user of your software more than a lengthy download and a forced reboot.
Adding insult to injury is that I am quite sure their smaller OS footprint goal is little more than an attempt to defend against one of Apple's (and others) easy anti-Windows attacks. Unless Microsoft has radically altered the way they handle Windows Updates, their Driver Store, WinSXS, temporary files, etc. then whatever savings they claim at initial install will be gone in a few months; the Windows directory of my 1.5 year old computer is a whopping 37 GB.
Why couldn't Microsoft leave out MS Paint, MS Write, Solitaire, audio recorder, Pinball, or hell, even Internet Explorer, and include the full range of .Net support? Now us poor developers are going to need to once again need to distribute versions of our software targeting multiple runtimes just to ensure most users don't have to do the absurd .Net installs.
I've always been frustrated by what feels like the often perverted goal of feminism. Feminism should be (I think) the struggle for equality (in opportunity, in treatment, etc.). We should ALL (intelligent, forward thinking males and females) be that sort of feminist. Too often, though, feminism (the term as used by various groups and individuals) feels reactionary and unequally anti-male.
One of the problems is that certain issues are improperly linked to the feminist movement, such as the requirement that abortion be available. Fetal rights may historically have something to do with women's rights but as a legal, philosophical, biological matter there is (or should be) no relationship. A fetus is either a life deserving the equal constitutional protection afforded all other human life or it is not. If it is deserving then any woman's input is irrelevant and any abortive action is logically prohibited. If it is not deserving then women can do as they like. The problem is that the feminist movement knows the answer they want and are thus unwilling to solve the problem they actually have. Their position is that for women to be equal, for them to have the same opportunities as men, women must not be saddled with the burden of unwanted children. They know the only guaranteed solution to this problem is abortion (prophylactics being limited in effectiveness and unwanted sexual assault always being a possibility). But again, the answer to when legally-protected life begins cannot be guided by personal, political, or religious motives.
The problem is that the feminist movement seems to overlook the fact that balancing any equation can be done not merely by altering one side of the equation, but by altering both sides. Equality for women does not require that abortion be available, altering the other side of the equation can achieve the same equality through the reduction of men's rights.
For example, let's say a female high school student aged 15 is impregnated by a 17 year old high school student. The feminist argument is that the 15 year old is unequally punished by the pregnancy because her future (statistical) chances of a full, rich life are diminished as a result of (among other things) difficulty completing high school, difficulty proceeding on to college, and resultant difficulty in forming her career. Rather than solving the problem of equality in this scenario through abortion society could instead impose similar restrictions on the male involved, ensuring that his future is put equally at risk. Not content to merely ensure the equal damage of both parties, society could pursue a course by which both parties improve their individual and collective chances through action. One such approach might make the father of any newborn perform X hours of public service and/or pay Y dollars per week (meant to roughly equal the physical/financial demands on the mother). This legal demand on the father would be mitigated by the degree to which he meaningfully alleviates the burdens (associated with this child) on the mother. The public service could be a civil works program, government/corporate labor for societal benefit, ideally one in which the human labor generates real dollars, so as not to be a financial burden on the government. This 17 year old father may be required to perform 45 hours a week of public service for the child's first two years of life (altered after that to reflect the changing impact on the mother). If he takes exclusive or shared (with shared responsibility) care of the child for 20 hours a week then his public service debt is reduced accordingly to 25 hours a week. He may alternatively provide monetary support to reduce those hours. If he refuses to work those hours or pay in lieu of those hours, he is jailed until he is willing to participate. The mother, along with involved parties and a child welfare agency, determines the volume and quality of the father's participation.
Creating the appropriate civil works program and the oversight agencies involved would be no small matter; this particular approach may be wholly unrealistic. The primary purpose of my mentioning the specifics of a solution is to show that there are in fact available alternatives which can secure equality between men and women. The failure to explore, examine, pursue these solutions, by the feminist movement, reflects odd unilateral, ulterior motives which have no place in a society struggling to be free of our inherited, short-sighted prejudices.
I've been a huge fan of and user of AutoHotkey (AHK) for years, but I've got to admit (with a sense of betrayal) that I'm increasingly impressed with AutoIt. Last week I had an automation project I had to do and began to code it in AHK only to run into several major roadblocks. For the automation I needed to travel a thirdparty application's tree view UI to find a specific entry and click it. Later in the automation I had to do something similar with a list view control. I had expected to find easy mechanisms or code samples to do it in AHK. To my surprise I found relatively little, the built-in functions related to the GUI creation of those elements not the manipulation of already existing elements. And the little sample code/DLLs I found didn't seem recently updated and didn't work (with AutoHotkey_L). I accidentally stumbled across AutoIt threads on the topic and was pleased to discover it was quite easy with AutoIt, and their official support of those features in their standard include libraries. And thus began my journey into AutoIt.
Here are my impressions:
- The language syntax of AutoIt is more consistent than AHK, and mostly for that reason I liked it more. When I first started with AHK I found it really confusing that AHK supported multiple distinct paradigms (foo = bar and foo := "bar" as well as the whole Foo(Bar) and Foo, Bar (not to mention Foo Bar, the first comma being optional!?). I still find myself making quite a few typos/errors related to these situations... Forgetting what's a normal function and what's the other style function, putting a := when I meant a =. I'm sure the explanation for all this is historical, but the lingering embrace of all the styles simultaneously is odd (why can't Foo, Bar be called as Foo(Bar) so that people can write to the new paradigm)!! Oh, not to mention the hotkey hooking/specification stuff right there mixed in with regular code, which also confused me.
- The packaging of the setup/install of AutoIt is impressive, including the SciTe editor, example code, the extended library of functions, x86 and x64 compilers, obfuscator, build tool, auto updater, and more. I haven't installed AHK recently, so maybe AHK does just as complete an install. I was just pleased that in my testing/development I had to set this up on 4 computers and I couldn't have asked for an easier time of it.
- AutoIt has embeddable compiler and obfuscator directives! You can embed commands in the source that will trigger obfuscation, generation of both x86 and x64 binaries in one compilation run, you can include resources, set the EXE manifest-related data including administrator elevation, PE details, etc. Very nice!
- AutoIt Help files are almost useless when compared to their AHK counterparts. The index list and the keyword search functions seemed to miss a great deal that should be in their documentation, and it seems as though they do not include many (if not most) of their official support library functions in the help documentation. If you do find the page you need in their docs then everything is okay, they have good examples and references, but I'd swear 60-70% of the time I couldn't find what I needed and had to jump over to their forums or search with Google.
- The AHK community is absolutely amazing, and it would be hard to top them in terms of friendliness, helpfulness, knowledge, code-sharing, etc. I have only been an observer on the AutoIt boards as I looked for other people's solutions, and so perhaps my observation is meaningless, but I saw more grumpy unfriendliness towards newbies than I'd remembered seeing on the AHK boards. (I'm not saying the AutoIt community isn't great, too, it probably is, it just might be a little less tolerant of newbies and their poorly researched questions.)
- AutoHotKey automatically handles most UI interaction logic for you (via gGotoLabelName calling identifiers in the various GUI element creation functions) whereas AutoIt requires you to create your own windows message processing loop with switch/select message to handle every interaction to which you want to respond.
- As mentioned earlier there's a distribution-included obfuscator, which seems pretty good. The quasi-lack of one with AHK has been an annoyance of mine; AHK_L doesn't do the password thing any more, and I never had much luck with Hotkey-Camo or anything else.
- I was impressed with how quickly I was able to jump right into AutoIt using my AHK knowledge. I imagine it'd be harder coming the other way, because of the unusual multi-paradigm AHK language thing. Both languages are remarkably similar in their use, with many functions being identical in name and use. Example: Send, Foo in AHK is Send("Foo") in AutoIt. Within a few hours I was able to automate a relatively complicated and branched Windows dialog flow (related to driver installation, involving tree view navigation, list view navigation, support for different scenarios on different versions of Windows, etc.).
In no way am I concluding that AutoIt is better than AutoHotkey, nor can I conclude the opposite. My love of AutoHotkey isn't wavering, but I am glad AutoIt was there for a task which seemed like it would have been harder for me to do in AHK with the existing public code. So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation you needn't feel shy about trying out AutoIt.