I was a little worried not everyone understood the analogy I was trying to make between gay marriage and interracial marriage. Thankfully Douglas Sadler has done a good job of clearing up any confusion I might have left.

"We don't believe they have the right to marry," Sadler said. "In fact, we don't think they have the right to exist."

Nothing clarifies a controversial political issue like unabashed hatred.

 

Jessica and (more so) her brother David have been writing a weblog called Rhetoric and Culture of Publics. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it's generally about political issues, and has a somewhat more interesting perspective than the standard "yeah us, boo them" slant.

For example, David recently wrote about the apparent end of the "intelligent design" "debate" with the US district court's recent rejection. He says I fear the fight is not yet over. Creationists are entrenched, they have a plan, and it will not be denied after this singular ruling. But I disagree. I think the fight was over a long time ago.

David mentions Pastafarians saying One strategy is to follow in line with Bobby Henderson and his Flying Spaghetti Monster and escalate the confrontation. But I think he misread the FSM. It didn't escalate the confrontation at all; it ended it.

In What You Can't Say, Paul Graham wrote:

No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad.

What the FSM does is make it clear that intelligent design is as ridiculous as 2+2=5, so we need not bother discussing it. Now that we recognize this, it's game over. If creationists want to continue their crusade, they will inevitably be touched by His Noodly Appendage and see the foolishness of it all. There is simply no way to win an argument with a devout Pastafarian in full pirate regalia.

 

In case you missed it, the President King broke the law by spying on Americans without legal oversight. Though some in Congress knew about it, they apparently forgot their oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic when they decided not to tell America about it.

In other words, he has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. Or maybe it would be better to say he has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures. Or maybe the executive branch is just suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

This, after protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States and depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury and transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences. Also, he is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

Basically, it looks like he has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. Or maybe I'm thinking of a totally different George with plain, homely, thrifty manners and tastes.

 

Why are so many priests pedophiles? The official Roman Catholic Church explanation seems to be that the cause is homosexuals in the clergy. That explanation is awfully convenient as it rests on common prejudices and shifts the blame away from Rome's own policies. But more to the point, it does nothing to explain why priests are raping girls.

We might then turn to abstinence as the problem. After all, humans are wired to reproduce. However, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that [rape] offenses could be categorized as power rape (sexuality used primarily to express power) or anger rape (use of sexuality to express anger), [but] there were no rapes in which sex was the dominant issue; sexuality was always in the service of other, nonsexual needs. So apparently sex crimes have little to do with sex, and more to do with anger and power issues. So why are so many priests pedophiles?

I suspect the answer has a lot to do with the broken hierarchy of the Catholic Church. I haven't spent a lot of time in Catholic churches, but pretty much every one I know anything about is messed up, with people who want to do good being restricted by their position in an amoral or immoral bureaucracy. Case in point on Shelley's weblog. The inability to do good naturally makes people angry. The apparent discrepancy between God's will and the Catholic Church's will naturally creates power issues. And anger and power issues encourage sex crimes.

The attempt to mandate sexual orientation among abstinent priests is an ironic symptom of the problem here. It's not enough for Rome to control, to the point of elimination, the sex lives of priests; they also want to control the sex priests aren't even having. It's an unfortunate irony, a disease masquerading as a cure.

Ultimately, I think, priests are responsible for their own actions. But the Catholic Church is an apparent accomplice.

 

How appropriate.

 

The Guardian: the moral of King Kong is simpler still: "Don't pick a fight with nature." Letters to an Unknown Audience: The message of Narnia is clear: Don't ask questions. Trust the first person you meet and stick with it. Raise your ill-begotten sword for it. I haven't seen either, but I'm curious to what extent these morals are injected by the films' creators vs. viewers. I also think it would be an interesting thesis project to compile a list of morals as described by film critics over a few decades, correlate those morals to political party platforms with some sort of text similarity analysis, and then measure ticket sales against election results.

 

I find it interesting to paraphrase Iowans reactions to a lawsuit seeking equal rights:

The following are statements made about a lawsuit filed today in Iowa by NAACP Legal Defense Fund on behalf of interracial couples seeking the right to marry:

Camilla Taylor, staff attorney for NAACP Legal Defense Fund:

"This lawsuit is about fairness and equality. Interracial couples all over Iowa are devoted and love each. Since marriage is the way the government provides protection, support and respect for families, it is only fair that these couples be able to marry."

Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center:

"Defending Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act, and pushing for a marriage amendment has nothing to do with disliking black people. Studies across the spectrum, from liberal to conservative, prove that children do best in a home with two parents of the same race...We want what's best for Iowa's kids."

Senate Democratic leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs:

"I still believe that marriage should only be between a white man and a white woman."

"The current law is supported by most Iowans. In fact, an overwhelming majority of legislators ' both Republicans and Democrats ' have already voted for the state law that bans interracial marriages in Iowa. I am confident that the courts will uphold the current law."

Mark Daley, executive director of OneIowa, a nonprofit working to promote full equality of black Iowans:

"Denying loving, committed couples the basic rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage creates a second class in Iowa. Marriage is the only vehicle which offers interracial couples equal protection under the law. We applaud the leadership of NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the courage of these interracial couples."

Senate Republican leader Stewart Iverson, R-Dows, regarding a constitutional amendment that would ban interracial marriage:

"This gives the people the right to vote on this issue. And, it's a very very important issue and we think it is proper that the people of Iowa get to vote on it and I think most legislators will understand that and see it that way...I think it will have widespread support and bipartisan support."

Jason Morgan, 35, who wants to marry his partner of eight years, Charlotte Swaggerty, both of Sioux City:

"We feel that we deserve the right to be married. On an every day basis it is awkward and inadequate to describe Charlotte as just a friend or roommate, when she is more than that. Even partner doesn't really give the same weight as being able to say she's my spouse."

Pastor Jeff Bradley, Central Assembly of God in Des Moines, leads the pastor group for the Iowa Family Policy Center:

"I would never have dreamed that in the state of Iowa that we would have come to this place, where we needed to define the issue of marriage between two people of the same race."

"We firmly believe, as we believe that most Iowans do, that marriage between white people has always been the best way."

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine. — Thomas Jefferson.

 

I received my first donation for Graphite last night, and that made me start thinking about it again, which I haven't done in a while. Turns out it is listed on Apple's Dashboard site, though under the "Networking Security" category for some reason. Oh well.

The reason I haven't been thinking about Graphite is that I hit a roadblock with my attempts to add zooming and scrolling to the graphs. Scrolling is all done, but it turns out that numbers and dates don't zoom well together. To keep the numbers somewhat readable in a small space, e.g. "90K" rather than 90,001, I can only zoom numbers by factors of ten. But for dates, the best zoom factor is two, and even that's not perfect: 1 month, 2 weeks, 1 week, 3 days, 36 hours, etc.

But last night I realized that rather than changing the values of the end points on the graph, I can just move the them until they match up with a more readable label. So if that graph goes up to 90,001, I can just move the top line down a pixel or two, and still label it accurately as 90K. Now that I've realized what probably should have been obvious a long time ago, I just need to implement it, which I will hopefully get done this weekend.

 

Though I said I wouldn't, I made a simple tool to mark trademarked words on a website, based on querying the USPTO, but it turns out to be not at all a useful measurement of corporate influence on a website for two reasons. First, it's incredibly slow. Don't bother running it on any site with more than a couple dozen words, because it will time out. The speed could be improved by saving the USPTO query results locally, but I'm not going to bother with that because of the second problem: nearly every word in the English language has been trademarked. Scary but true.

 

Dave Rogers has been writing about marketing within the frame of "Social Hygiene" here and here. At the end of the latter he wrote:

If we're going to have any hope of preserving some space for purely social interactions, where someone isn't manipulating us for the purpose of seeking a competitive advantage, we're probably going to have to make one. But I wonder if it isn't already too late?

One of the ways I reduce comment spam is to band certain words from being posted in comments. I was at first hesitant to do this, because someone might have a legitimate reason to mention propecia, for example. But then I realized that I don't want to hear other people's thoughts on propecia even if they aren't spam. So you can't comment on propecia here, depsite my ability to use the word three times in a single paragraph.

After reading Dave's post, I wondered if this technique couldn't be expanded to ban commerce from a social space. Here's how I would do it if I didn't already have far too many projects started:

Run all conversation through a filter. Submit each word in the text to the USPTO trademark search with a URL like this one for propecia. If any results are found, replace the word with [commercial product], and maybe give each user an anti-karma value like "pawn of the man" with a point for each time they use a trademarked word. So because I've used the word propecia five times now, my name would say: Scott Reynen [Pawn of the man level 5] or something like that. And then you could kick me out if my POTM level got too high over a given period of time.

I'm sure this plan could use improvement, but I think it's entire feasible to ban all trademarked terms from a social space, and I think it would be an interesting experiment, if nothing else.

 

I just sent the following to an email list that has recently been discussing various anti-spam technologies:

Spam is fundamentally a social problem, not a technological problem. No amount of clever technology can end spam as long as there are still significant numbers of people out there who indicate through their purchases that they want to receive spam. The BBC reports: According to a survey conducted by security firm Mirapoint and market research company the Radicati Group, nearly a third of e-mail users have clicked on links in spam messages.

Imagine it costs $100 to send a million spam messages (though it doesn't cost nearly that much), and each message is selling a product with a $20 markup. Only six of those million messages need to get through to a willing consumer to keep spam profitable. And those six people will never be using Bayesian filters or whatever other nifty tools we can come up with, because they don't even recognize a problem with spam. And those six people will also never self-identify, because they are embarrassed about their purchases.

So spammers can only reach them through mass emailing, and the rest of us suffer the consequences. I don't know of any current anti-spam technology that does anything to deal with those six people.

I'd like to see more economists and sociologists look at changing the factors that make spam the most desirable way to purchase certain products. Why do people buy propecia via spam rather than at their local pharmacy, and what could be done to change that? I think that's a more useful question to answer than how to quickly recognize "v14gr4" as a variant of "viagra."

 

I'm on an email list with a group of university friends, and one of my friends recently sent an email to the list asking for everyone's forgiveness techniques. I was the first to respond, probably both because I spend all day in front of my computer, and because of my short answer: I don't forgive; I forget. I don't forgive and forget; I just forget. I have awful long-term memory.

I'm sure many people have done many mean things to me over my life, but I honestly can't think of one right now. I can think of people who I don't trust, and I'm sure there are reasons I don't trust those people, but I generally have no idea what the reasons are. So forgiveness is not an issue that really comes up for me.

While I don't remember events such as, say, 1990, I gather most people do. And when someone did something hurtful in 1990, that hurt still lingers until it is forgiven. But what does that mean, to forgive?

Dictionary.com says to forgive is to excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon. I'd like to suggest that this isn't possible, that we are only fooling ourselves when we claim to excuse someone else's offense, that we can't help but hold each other accountable for our errors.

In She loves me She loves me not, Shelley wrote of her cat Zoë:

I woke her up, but she forgave me.

Or did she? Can a cat ‘forgive’? Some people say that animals aren’t capable of sophisticated emotions, such as love or sorrow or, in this case, forgiveness.

I thought about this, and I think I am one of those people. And not just cats — I don't believe people are capable of forgiveness either. I believe people can and do love, and feel compassion, even for people who have done them wrong. But I just don't think this love can excuse the wrong.

I sometimes imagine life as a pool table. We make choices about our direction and speed. If we're smart, we can anticipate the outcome of our decisions. In life, of course, this anticipation is made more difficult because the other balls have minds of their own. But to understand why I doubt forgiveness, I think the metaphor is useful.

The notion of forgiveness here is analogous to a pool ball being struck by another, rolling along, and then suddenly stopping as if it hadn't been struck at all. Pool balls just can't do that, and I submit that neither can people.

I know the idea that forgiveness does not exist seems pessimistic at first, but it need not be. In place of forgiveness, I offer a substitute: reconciliation. To reconcile, dictionary.com says, is to reestablish a close relationship between, to settle or resolve, to bring (oneself) to accept. The reconciling pool ball says "okay, you struck me and now I'm rolling towards the bank, but I'm going to slow myself down now and stop before I bounce off and hit you." This I think people can do.

We can acknowledge the hurtful decisions of the past, and move on from there, but I don't think we can in good faith excuse them. Excusing them implies the decisions were not really made, that they weren't really choices, that there was some other cause. Forgiveness implies that we can do wrong and not be wrong, but I believe we are what we do. Our decisions form ourselves, even when we'd prefer they didn't.

In the comments to my post on endocrinology, Kyle wrote: If you haven't seen it already, you may find this story interesting: Temple Gradin NPR interview.

I just listened to it, and it was interesting. Temple is an autistic animal scientist. In the interview, she talks about the similarities she sees between the autistic and the animal mind. Throughout, when she talked about animals, I couldn't help but consider how everything she said relates to people as well.

When she talked about how dogs need to know the social hierarchy to get along, for example, I wondered about how the lack of social hierarchy online might be a cause of the superfluousness of flame wars. Perhaps, like the dogs Temple discusses, people online are too often just testing each other until someone comes out on top.

But one part in the interview made me think about forgiveness specifically, and I want to try to transcribe it here, replacing "horse" with "[person]":

Let's talk about fear memories...Let's say a person abused a [person] wearing a black hat, and the [person] was looking right at the black hat. Now the [person] is afraid of black hats...they make an association...

She goes on to talk about how she helps the horse get over its fears by introducing them slowly and demonstrating that the associations are wrong. This is not forgiveness. This is reconciliation. And I don't see any reason to believe that people are any different in this respect.

Like horses, we get hurt. Like horses, we associate that hurt with something (or more often someone). Like horses, we don't recognize when that association is no longer valid. Like horses, we don't just drop the association, because we can't. Our brains don't work like that. Instead, like horses, we form new associations. We reconcile.

 

I promised myself I would never write about Lisp again after accidentally stumbling into a mob in search of a flame war. But Aaron Swartz's account of an irrational Lisp community sounded too familiar to ignore:

The idea that there is something better than Lisp is apparently inconceivable to some, judging from comments on the reddit blog. The Lispers instead quickly set about trying to find the real reason behind the switch.

One assumed it must have been divine intervention, since "there seems to be no other reason for switching to an inferior language." Another figured something else must be going on: "Could this be...a lie? To throw off competition? It's not as though Paul Graham hasn't hinted at this tactic in his essays..." Another chimed in: "I decided it was a prank." Another suggested the authors simply wanted more "cut corners, hacks, and faked artisanship."

So it's not just me. Turns out Reddit's post followed the same path as my own. It was posted on Lemonodor, without context, and with emphasis that spun it as a vehemently anti-Lisp post, and then it was picked up by Planet Lisp. I take back what I said about the problems with planet sites. It's not the aggregator, it's the writer that removes the context. John Wiseman is the author of Lemonodor. I want to paraphrase Jon Stewart and say to John Wiseman: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting Lisp.

By provoking unnecessarily emotional defenses of Lisp across the web, John is causing otherwise neutral people like myself to actively avoid the Lisp community, because it comes off as a bunch of irrational trolls. I know there are intelligent people using Lisp, but John's reposts distort people's actual views through half-truths and re-emphasis, and the result makes Lisp look like a language only ridiculous people use, people who say things like When you say that you've never spoken Chinese and have no interest in learning it, you are not being anti-Chinese, but you are being closeminded and parochial or My first reaction was 'say it ain't so'. Then I decided it was a prank.

This type of comment prompts reactions like I have never been on a lisp forum but the way the lispers here are reacting are sure to keep me off it too... True that.

 

So I took my newly acquired recording skills and applied them to a song I wrote way back in high school, Emily (lyrics, MP3). I'm pretty sure I recorded it previously, but I can't find any recording of it, so I made a new one, and added a new verse on the end that totally changes what the song is about. (Before Emily was the antagonist — now she's the protagonist.)

I'm sure there's more I could improve, but after spending over two hours on one song, I'm done with it for now. I could have played two dozen songs in that time and instead I just played the same one over and over and over. This recording stuff is hard work. I guess that's why pros pay other people to do it.

I don't think I significantly slowed the song down, but it ended up over seven minutes, so hopefully it's not awful, or it will be a whole lot of awful. I probably went overboard on the instrumentation: rhythm guitar, lead guitar, drum, harmonica, and voice. It's hard to listen to it after playing it so much, but I think it turned out okay. In any case, it's good practice, and maybe the next song won't take so long.

 

Seth Godin wrote on the removal of stock quotes from newspapers, because everyone who cares gets that information online. He titled the post "Classified are next" and asked when was the last time you looked something up in the classifieds of your newspaper? My answer: maybe a week ago. I spend all day online, and I don't buy a lot, but when I pick up a paper, I look at two sections.

First, I flip to the opinion page because it gives me a quick idea of 1) what issues local people care about, 2) what the mainstream (newspaper) positions are on the issues, and 3) what the alternative (write-in) positions are. This is all helpful for me because I don't understand people, but I fake it because people don't like people who don't understand people.

I suspect this has something to do with a vague suspicion that there isn't as much common to humanity as we like to imagine, hence mythology like the Matrix and Battlestar Galactica.

Okay, tangent time. A while back Shelley Powers wrote something about Battlestar Galactica, and in the comments I mentioned that I had no idea what was going on, and then Dave Rogers gave me an excellent summary of the show, and I wrote I’ve seen the show a few times before, but it never seemed as interesting as this was.

And I really thought Shelley and Dave were just making it sound more interesting than it really was because they were so into it. I've since watched the show from beginning to frustrating to-be-continued, and in the process realized that when Shelley and Dave were writing about Battlestar Galactica, the show I was thinking of was actually Babylon 5.

That's a clue to my general ignorance of TV in general, and SciFi specifically. But I really like Battlestar Galactica, and only wish that the plot itself didn't seem to preclude a long run.

Now then, back to the newspaper... the second (and generally last) thing I read is the classifieds, because local classifieds are often cheaper than eBay, because either the seller doesn't realize the actual market value, or shipping is prohibitively expensive, or they just want to get rid of something quickly and not worry about it.

For all of these reasons, free pianos will always show up in local publications. Because I want a free piano, I will always read the classifieds of the local paper. And because I and people like me are reading them, the classifieds will always be a good place to sell things. And because classifieds bring in revenue on both ends, they will last forever, or at least as long as local newspapers last.

Seth is wrong; classifieds are not next. Maybe TV listings are next. Or are they already gone? Then maybe movie listings. Hard to say, as I don't actually look at newspapers much. But something very timely, unpaid, and easily transferable to another medium will be next to leave the newspaper. Hmm... news is next? Maybe. A newspaper is one of the last places I'd look for news these days.