'Phone works again. The Verizon guy claimed it was related to the DSL, and that we were ready to go. Of course he also claimed that our ISP would be AOL, and, well, I don't think it's that chilly in Hell just yet....
September 1, 2001 (Sat)
September 6, 2001 (Thu)
Various people have pointed to articles discussing J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire winning the Hugo, and then speculated on whether or not popularity has anything to do with it.
Of course it does! All you have to do to qualify to vote for the Hugos is join the current World Science Fiction Convention as a supporting or attending member. There is no mechanism within the Hugo voting process to ensure that everyone voting has even heard of all the nominees, let alone read them and judged them carefully against one another.
As Paul Riddell would be happy to tell you, most SF fans couldn't tell real SF if their lives depended on it (“...the elitist attitude among the literary SF community (and I'm more guilty of this than anybody else), [has], by failure to act, created an audience of SF fans that think that Wing Commander and Lexx are works of genius.”). At least Harry Potter books are fantasy....
I've finished The Lord of the Rings (a couple of days ago, actually), but I'm still poking around in the appendices. I'm not surprised I couldn't get through it when I was a kid, and I think that even if I had, I wouldn't have appreciated it nearly as much. I can't imagine how the book could be compressed into a two-hour Hollywood movie. I suspect the results may not be pretty....
I caught the very end of a commercial for a film that looked like it might be interesting (based on about two seconds worth of visuals). The only name I could make out in the cast list was Sean Bean, and it turns out he's playing Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. It also turns out that there are three movies—one for each volume in the series. I spent some time poking around the official site, and it looks like the films might be okay. I'm not sure I'd have cast some of the people they chose (they got fantastic British character actors for most of the supporting roles—hooray!—but chose a bunch of not-especially-great American actors to play the hobbits). But we'll see...
September 7, 2001 (Fri)
A great show on Science Friday, with several forensic experts. When I was a kid, Quincy, M.E. was my favorite show. I wanted to be a coroner (or a forensic pathologist) when I was a kid. Somewhere along the line, though, I realized I'd have to work with dead bodies all the time, and that—unlike Quincy—I probably wouldn't be able to do any of the legwork. That squashed that dream.
But I'm still fascinated. I love mystery novels, and I watch all those forensic science shows on the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel. I even tried to watch CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, but we all know how that turned out.
During the show, they talked about the invention of the Magna Brush—that big fluffy fingerprint brush you may have seen on some of these programs. Poking around, I came across Evident Crime Scene Products, which has all the forensic goodies you could ever want, including photographic scales, blood spatter and trajectory equipment, barrier tape, fingerprint equipment, body bags, casting materials, evidence bags, and more more more!
I'm actually really tempted by some of this stuff—no, not the body bags! But I think the photographic scales could be useful, as could some of the other stuff. I'm also intrigued by the FACES Composite Picture Software, which is pretty cheap (US$50) and runs on both Windows and Mac OS—“Make Your Own Wanted Posters!”
September 11, 2001 (Tue)
It would be pointless to speculate about who is behind this event at this point—we'll find out eventually, and no doubt the eventual response will be devastating. I can easily imagine nuclear weapons being used—so long as the responsible parties were killed, I suspect that the American people would, by and large, be okay with that, especially as any country that would harbor people who could plan and carry out an attack like this would look to be complicit in the act itself. (Especially once the media got into the swing of things.)
The attack was clearly very well organized, and presumably required a great deal of planning. M and I were struck by just how much the collapse of the World Trade Center towers looked like a controlled demolition—as if explosives had been planted in key areas and detonated during or after the planes crashed into the towers.
Thousands of people dead, in a non-nuclear attack that probably couldn't have been stopped even if it had been discovered. I can't think of a better example of why Bush's anit-ballistic missile defense system would be utterly pointless, even if it were technically possible.
Another thought I had was about whether the four planes were really “hijacked”, or whether they were actually being flown by people who had infiltrated the airlines some time ago. If that's the case, how many more are there?
One of the things that makes me think the pilots may have been involved is that the planes flew directly into the towers—I would like to think that your average commercial airline pilot (most of whom are ex-military, remember), would have done something to avoid crashing the planes in such a way that they would kill any more people than necessary. Of course it's also possible that some of the hijackers were trained on commercial aircraft, as well, and that they were the ones doing the flying.
The reality is that “freedom”—such as it was in the U.S. prior to the attacks—will never be the same. Time will tell, and so far the attacks seem to be limited to those on the WTC and the Pentagon (and another plane that might have been directed toward either the Pentagon or Camp David—maybe crashed deliberately by a pilot who refused to cooperate?). But if there are any more attacks, I think it's safe to say that “security measures” are likely to be fairly extreme. My complaints about being carded to buy books and CDs will look completely ludicrous if full-on martial law goes into effect.
Okay, they've killed a whole bunch of Americans, and struck a great blow for their cause against the heart of both the American and worldwide financial empire. Americans are scared—terrorism has come to their homeland. Seems positive, from a terrorist point of view.
On the other hand, they've now killed lots of Americans on American soil. They've destroyed symbols of American financial and military power. Americans are scared, yes. Sad, too. But most of all, they're pissed. They want blood. And chances are pretty good that—by and large—Americans won't feel too bad if a lot of “innocent” people are killed in the process of getting the people actually responsible. As several U.S. congresscritters and senators have said, this was an act of war, and any country providing any sort of support to the responsible parties—even just allowing them to be in their country—is complicit and can expect to be punished. They aren't kidding.
More on the collapse: Engineers believe that the towers collapsed
because the structural columns were weakened or destroyed by fire.
e-mail message from the Discuss
mailing list and this
article from the Chicago Trib.
Via Red Rock Eater mailing list.
I just saw footage of the Salomon Bros. building collapsing, and it looked very similar to the WTC collapse, which makes me believe that the building may not have been rigged after all. It's amazing that these skyscrapers could collapse in this way—it makes films such as The Towering Inferno seem terribly naive.
September 12, 2001 (Wed)
More good links from Phil Agre today. (A few of his links are included below.)
I'm avoiding TV—sixteen hours of coverage yesterday was too much. I need some mediation. I have been listening to NPR a bit, though, and it seems like there's some real information starting to come in. It also seems that NATO has stood behind the U.S., and that Bush's administration understands that destroying our individual freedoms in the name of security would be a win for the terrorists, so we may not need to worry about that aspect of things as much as some people (including myself) were.
Civil engineering analysis of the WTC tower collapse. (From the University of Sydney.)
Engineering News-Record article (quoted in U-Syd piece).
Essentially, the impact of the planes plus the burning jet fuel caused the structural steel in the outer and central “tubes” to fail. Once the first couple of floors collapsed, a chain reaction began where more and more weight would crash down on each subsequent floor. This mechanism worked because the planes hit where they did—at about the eightieth floor of the North Tower and the sixtieth floor of the South Tower—had the planes hit higher, the buildings might not have collapsed. The South Tower may have collapsed first because the plane hit near a corner, damaging more of the structural steel.
One mailing list I'm on has a really annoying—and, frankly, disgusting—discussion about yesterday's events. One person expressed a belief that the U.S. “got what it deserved” for various policies and actions including the embargos against Iraq and Cuba, the Gulf War, intervention in eastern Europe, and support of Israel's actions against the Palestinians.
While I agree that the U.S. government has done some terrible and questionable things—including some of the above—I can't quite see a way to justify killing thousands of civilians from many different countries (World Trade Center, remember?) as a legitimate form of revenge, if for no other reason then the utter lack of sympathy for that position among the American populace after such an attack. I have to think that many people who were sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians have started to rethink that attitude after watching people dancing in the streets after hearing of the attacks, and if people hear of similar reactions among any of the other “victims”, you can expect the same reactions.
Whoever did this seems to have been committing a very complicated and expensive form of suicide, and is bent on taking as many other people (Americans and his own countrymen) with him.
September 13, 2001 (Thu)
Well, we got our DSL equipment today. After way too much hassle trying to set it up under Mac OS 9.2, I switched to Mac OS X and got it running right away. I was then able to switch it over to our router/switch.
Unfortunately, it totally sucks. It's supposedly about ten times faster than connecting with our modem (according to the bandwidth meter at 2wire.com, but it doesn't feel that way, and it isn't even a fraction of the speed of our DSL line in Vancouver.
So now the question is: what's the problem? Is it our crappy telephone company? Rotten 'phone lines in the building? A broken DSL modem? Or the ISP?
To hell with it. I'm off to read a book.
September 14, 2001 (Fri)
We here in the U.S. are teetering on the brink of a very, very dark pit, and I'm not sure we're going to be able to avoid falling—or, worse, jumping—in. The initial reactions to the attack were pretty much what you'd expect: people on the scene throwing themselves into efforts to find and help victims, police and fire people rallying to do what needed to be done, politicians spewing rhetoric. My initial response was pretty rabid, too, but I'm pleased to see that I hadn't written anything I need to be ashamed of here.
But now that we've all had some time to think things through, I've noticed that while I've gained a bit of perspective on things, and seriously question whether total war on an unseen enemy and our own rights and freedoms is the best response, lots of Americans have been swinging wildly in the other direction.
On the day of the attack I wondered Why? and What could they have hoped to gain?
The answer to the first question can be seen in articles starting to appear from people who have more perspective on America's role in the world than the average American, who gets his or her news from the network teat. Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky know the score, and lay it out for all to see.
The foreign press knows the truth, too, and some of them are starting to print it alongside calls for support for the U.S. The Independent ran this piece that mourns the attack while pointing out some possible reasons for it. The Guardian is even more clear.
America is not innocent. American foreign policy has destroyed some countries directly, others indirectly, through invasions, bombings from afar, arms sales or “gifts”, or political support for one side over another, indifferent to the real moral and ethical issues. None of those actions or inactions can ever truly justify this attack, but understanding the background can help to illuminate the motives of the planners and doers.
America's reaction will be important. Lashing out at random targets will be futile—inflaming existing hatred or creating it in people who were indifferent or even predisposed to support the U.S. Killing thousands of “their” civilians won't bring back American dead. Declaring a Christianist holy war against a fundamentalist Muslim jihaad will result in more pointless deaths. Tearing up the Constitution in a futile attempt to close the barn door after the cows have been slaughtered will only make America's enemies laugh, as will Americans turning against Americans, or Americans turning against innocents abroad.
The answer to the second question—What could they gain?—is beginning to be made clear. The terror of the attack is a mere trifle compared to the corrosive effects of the backlash against fundamental American values that we're starting to see now.
We're starting to hear reports about various discoveries made by the FBI and other government investigators, and those reports are clearly pointing toward Osama bin Laden. Public reaction against Muslims has been somewhat restrained up 'til now, largely as a result of the mistakes made during the Oklahoma City bombing, but that's starting to change. (You should also read this article, which points out that the number of easily found “clues” pointing to Osama bin Laden are awfully suspicious in light of the otherwise tight security used by the people planning and carrying out the attack.)
We're also starting to see the inevitable meaningless “people stories” appear in the media, who continue their saturation blitz of coverage, refusing to allow people to get back to their own lives or have any escape. No one wants to be the first to let go of the story; I suppose because they're afraid their audience would turn on them for considering commercial interests over some people's sick need to watch the towers fall again and again and again, to wallow in the disaster, to focus on the horror without seeing the bigger picture.
Most disturbingly, for me, has been the rise in public expressions of jingoistic patriotism (flags appearing everywhere; workers chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.”; patriotic songs being sung out of nowhere) and fundamentalist Christianism (public prayer, survivors/family members of victims). I can smell a holy war a-brewing, and it smells like cordite and brimstone.
Jerry and Pat, never among our brightest, have stated that gays, lesbians, the ACLU, and People for the American Way were responsible for the attack. You see, “the Lord” “lift[ed] the curtain” and allowed America to be attacked as punishment for our foolishly straying from their scary interpretation of the Bible. (You know, the one that ignores what Jesus said while concentrating on all the oppressive stuff in the Old Testament—to hell with tolerance, they want obedience.)
And so, the rights and freedoms of American citizens are once again on the chopping block. Desperate to appear to be doing something after having completely missed any indication of this attack prior to it happening, law enforcement agencies are busy monitoring Internet traffic, with Carnivore being deployed at many ISPs—until, according to one report, their “main boxes were ... set up at the Tier 1 carriers”. In other words, permanent monitoring will be in place soon, nevermind a complete lack of evidence that the attackers communicated via the Internet. (Rest assured that if there's a need, some evidence will appear, and the wonders of electronic communications mean that proving it fake will be essentially impossible.)
Congress is rushing to pass dangerous legislation—such as the Combating Terrorism Act of 2001, which loosens restrictions on wiretaps and allows law enforcement to monitor Internet traffic without court orders—and calling for a ban on encryption software, despite a complete lack of evidence that encryption was used by the terrorists, and the blatantly obvious point that no one planning anything illegal would be stupid enough to use encryption products with government backdoors in the first place. The only way they would even be able to detect the use of “unauthorized” encryption would be if they intercepted and attempted to read all encrypted Internet traffic, which would obviously be a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—oh, but we're at war now, so that's okay (and see that Combatting Terrorism Act—would a Supreme Court that engineered a coup d'etat hesitate to put its stamp of approval on such legislation?).
So please think before you wave that flag and mindlessly chant “U.S.A., U.S.A.”. Think before you blame people working to protect your civil rights. Think before you walk into a recruiting office and sign away your life. Think before you write a letter to the editor of your local paper to advocate war, or call a talk show to raise the question of internment camps.
There are alternatives. A heinous crime has been committed, but all-out war is not the only answer. There are legal recourses available, and calm, considered, rational investigations, arrests, and prosecutions, combined with some effort to redress the failure of American foreign policy, can go a long way to defusing a very dangerous situation—not just for the U.S., but for the whole world.
Killing a terrorist makes him a martyr. Many more will eagerly volunteer to take his place. Killing many innocents fuels their hate.
I don't think that America can “turn the other cheek”—some form of catharsis will be necessary—but rushing off to war, tossing our rights, our hopes, and our ideals aside for the sake of a Pyrrhic revenge is not the answer.
By all means, contribute some money to the Red Cross. But while you're at it, consider joining or making a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and People for the American Way.
(The links above are for joining; for more information, including their reactions to the events of September 11 and their consequences, see the main pages of the American Red Cross, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and People for the American Way.)
A number of articles are starting to appear (largely in the overseas press) that criticize the American intelligence community's overreliance on technological surveillance methods in preference to getting down and dirty with actual humans. It seems that shiny technotoys such as satellites and internet taps have been strongly preferred over traditional intelligence gathering, and the funding has reflected that choice.
The Atlantic Monthly also had a great piece on this topic: “The Counterterrorist Myth”, which appeared in the July/August 2001 issue.
Various articles mentioned above were linked to by Phil Agre in messages sent to the Red Rock Eater mailing list. For many more links, see messages from the 11th 1 2; the 12th 1 2; the 13th 1 2 3; and the 14th 1 2. He also has an essay, “Imagining the Next War”, that you might find interesting.
September 15, 2001 (Sat)
More pointers from Phil Agre.
September 16, 2001 (Sun)
Finished The Catcher in the Rye. While I can understand that its language must have been terribly outrageous when it was written (1951), and even for a time after that (my mom apparently blushed with embarrassment while reading it in high school), these days you can hear worse from ten-year-olds. Yet it's still one of the most frequently banned books.
My theory is that the forces of ignorance hate the book because of who Holden Caulfield is. Holden swears, smokes, and thinks about sex. He's unhappy, isn't sure about this whole god thing, and hates school. He doesn't like “phonies”, doesn't get along with his parents, and doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. In other words, he's a perfectly normal teenage boy. Every boy (I imagine) does, thinks, and says at least some of the things Holden does, thinks, and says. Perhaps They don't like the idea that teenagers might realize that what they're experiencing is normal, and so lose their guilt, fear, and depression. (The same theory would also explain why books like Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, targetted at girls, come in for the censorship treatment.)
September 17, 2001 (Mon)
Well, Bush's press conference was a terrifying treat. The man is amazingly inarticulate. I stumble over my words when I'm talking fast, but Bush could hardly get a word out unmangled even when speaking slowly. Watching him, you have to wonder if he even glanced at his statement before trying to read it on camera.
The upshot of the speech was, however, that America is going to war. Against whom, well, we're not exactly sure. And how it'll be carried out, well, again, we're not sure. But our military is awfully brave and willing to die if they have to. And it'll take a while, too. And corporations have suddenly realized that there's more to life than making money (since when?).
Every time the Clinton Administration wanted to use the military, Republicans screamed “What's our exit strategy?” Well, what's Bush's exit strategy? He's going to declare war on a huge network of people scattered throughout the entire world; people who will be replaced as soon as they're killed or captured; people who already have good reason to hate the United States, and who will find new reasons (and, I suspect, new allies) as this “war” continues. I can't see how that kind of war could ever end.
And while I'm glad that the military has recognized that it's their job to go in harm's way and perhaps even die in the process, it's not at all clear to me that the American people have clued in to the fact that American civilians are the ones in harm's way in a war against terrorists. Unless Bush's military strategy is refined and limited in scope, I'm afraid that that Americans can look forward to many years of bombings, machine-gun slaughters, gassings, poisonings, and mysterious fatal illnesses as the terrorists strike back against the civilian population.
It's possible to address the complaints of terrorists without knuckling under to terrorism, especially when many of those complaints are valid. Not addressing the underlying issues means that one side has genuine issues to fall back on when morale is low, while the other side is just killing people to kill them.
The worst was when I turned to NPR for solace, hoping that they'd have someone reasonably balanced, but, no, jingoism was alive and well on KPCC's Airtalk program, where host Larry Mantle was busy interrupting, contradicting, and cutting off callers, claiming that Bush's speech wasn't meant for intellectuals, and that his broad “emotional” appeal was meant for the general population. Horrible....
We went to the L.A. County Fair this afternoon. Our main goal was for M to see some pig races, and we made it there in time for the 2:30 PM race. After that, we wandered around to see what we could see.
We found more pigs, including some piglets, which M photographed. We were annoyed by a display claiming to represent the conditions under which factory-farmed animals are raised (sorry, I've seen photos and video, and they're not nearly as roomy—in any case, even these enclosures were pretty hellish).
We looked at various artworks, some good, some okay, some awful, in the art gallery (the photographs are better).
We looked at a segment of a 2000-year-old tree, which started as a seed before the big J.C. was supposedly born, and was chopped down to make toothpicks or patio furniture two thousand years later.
We looked at hot rods and drag racing cars in the NHRA museum.
We wandered through the sales areas, and watched demos or talked to various people about the stuff they were selling—miracle glue, the amazing ShopSmith, a magic glass cutter, Jesus, the L.A. Times, the Demorcratic Party. We also gawped at various arts and crafts, breads, pies, cakes, and other traditional fair contest entries.
We talked to a couple of different people selling satellite dishes. We may end up dumping Claremont's incredibly horrible AT&T cable and getting a satellite dish and a Tivo, which would let us watch one program and record another, much like we used to be able to do in Vancouver, or even record two things at once. Plus the magic of letting the Tivo record programs without having to worry about when they're on. It would be kind of expensive (about twice what the cable costs), but the neatness of the Tivo, combined with the ability to actually record things for later viewing, not to mention the quality of the picture, makes it a very tempting option....
After that, we wandered back out to the fairgrounds proper. We drifted through AT&T's silly hand-on-science-experiments-disguised-by-Harry-Potter-marketing-blitz exhibit, then considered heading home, or maybe eating, or maybe not. In the end, we had “Iowa porkers”, which turned out to be pork tenderloin breaded and fried in a bun with lettuce, mustard, mayonnaise, and pickles. They were pretty good, and one of the healthier options, I think.
Back again toward the gate, we stopped to see if M could try the “Chevrolet virtual driving experience”, and M actually filled out a form (with false information, of course) and had her hand stamped before we discovered that all it amounted to was sitting in a Corvette and being taped by a camera in front and a camera on the side, all pasted together into a commercial for the Corvette, shown driving insanely fast along twisty roads, passing a Porsche like it was standing still, and other unlikely but macho events.
So we gave up on that, and found the gate, then the car, left the fairgrounds and immediately got lost and confused, leading us to almost get stuck on the freeway heading toward L.A., then a nasty shouting match before we calmed down a bit and turned around and headed for home.
When I got home, I discovered mail from Larry Mantle, who had replied to the message I sent. His answers were good, and I probably should have given him a bit more of a break. I'll have to write back to him at some point.
September 18, 2001 (Tue)
weblogs script, which checks to see which of the
weblogs I read regularly, stopped working again. I wasn't sure why
until I had finished putting M's website for her class together and
tried to publish it to a server. When I did, I noticed that
wget, which I use to grab copies of webpages to check for
updates, was segfaulting. A little exploration on Debian's BTS
revealed that it was a classic x86-is-the-only-platform error related
to bad assumptions about the way that
Happily, Daniel Jacobwitz had provided a patch. I downloaded the
source, applied the patch manually (as it was a later version not in
testing), and rebuilt the package.
September 21, 2001 (Fri)
I suspect that enthusiasm for this “war” will last about as long as it takes for full body bags to start arriving on planes, or until the government starts drafting kids. That's leaving aside the effects of any terrorist activities on American soil, which are also pretty likely.
Meanwhile, everyone's rights are spiralling around the drain, as Congress and the Administration vie to propose the most un-Constitutionally restrictive legislation. Most of America cheers them on: “Take my rights, please!” “If it will stop one innocent death, read all my e-mail!” “Gosh, no, Uncle Sam, feel free to check on what I buy!”
Sometimes I hate this country.
Sadly, I'm still not sure there's really a better alternative. At this point, I think New Zealand is one of the last places that has a government that seems to be moving in the right (as in correct) direction—but who knows how long that will last?
He also posted another essay that's worth looking through: “Some Notes on a War Without Boundaries”.
Sorry I haven't been keeping more up to date here. I'm not even reading most of the things that Phil recommends—I'm sick of the whole thing. It's becoming pretty clear that the terrorists have won. The people who were (s)elected to run the U.S. government have fallen right into their trap, and are hellbent on getting the “free” world involved in an unwinnable fight. As long as they're at it, all the right-wing crazies who've objected to various forms of free speech and thought are getting in the act, along with the cops who want to keep everything under control, calm and peaceful, and trying to slip various bits of seriously nasty legislation through in the name of “safety”.
And many of the people who are afraid to fly now, even though it's not one bit less safe than it ever was—probably safer now that you can't bring anything sharper than a spoon on board a plane, and you have to show identification papers proving your family's history of sticking to American values to even get close to one—are happy to have the government take away their rights in the name of keeping them “safe”. I could quote Benjamin Franklin here, but I'm too disgusted.
September 28, 2001 (Fri)
I'm getting angry again. Not at the terrorists, but at the stupid Americans who keep whining about how this attack has changed everything. Maybe for them, but I still value my Constitutional rights. I still want to watch quality television and films. I didn't know anyone who was killed or injured in the attacks, and while I am sympathetic, the reality is that most people in the U.S. didn't know anyone there, either.
But we're all supposed to be personally devastated. We're all supposed to say, “Take my rights, please! Anything for a false sense of security!” We're all supposed to say that George W. Bush is a noble, eloquent man, and agree with everything he says. Bomb Afghanistan? Sure. Declare war on sixty countries? You bet! Be subjected to random searches, watched by cameras 24-7, and asked to present our papers before entering government buildings or airports? Sir, yes, sir!
Bullshit. People need to get over this thing. America hasn't changed, but some of the people who are in a position to shape reality see these attacks as their chance to change everything they don't like about America. I don't know about you, but everytime I hear someone say, “You can take away my rights if it'll make me feel a little safer,” I want to. Let's take those people, load 'em up in cattle cars, and take them out to a concentration camp in the desert. Take away their names, their families, everything of any meaning to them. Lock them away. Remind them of what those rights mean, and why they're important. We just can't seem to learn that lesson, no matter how many people die.
Now, more than ever, it's important to keep your sense of perspective. 6000 people are dead. That's a horrible thing. But nothing we or the government can do—nothing—can bring those people back. Nothing will restore the World Trade Center towers. Nothing will patch up the Pentagon. Nothing can make things be exactly the way they were before. But that doesn't mean everything has to change. Americans have, perhaps, finally gotten the message that American foreign policy can affect things here at home. That starving and killing millions for some abstract policy goal—or, worse, as part of some cynical tradeoff—can result in some people getting angry, and in that anger being directed against American civilians on the American mainland, instead of just American embassies and travellers who dare to venture abroad. Staying at home isn't as safe as it used to be.
But war isn't the answer. Not against terrorists. War against terrorists guarantees more war. It's like suppressing free speech—prevent some marginalized group from expressing its opinions, and suddenly some people start to see secret values in those opinions that they never would have without the government imprimatur of suppression.
Being afraid to fly because something might happen is silly—with the near-fascist levels of security in airports right now, planes are safer than ever. And at least now people are a bit more aware of the possible consequences of allowing hijackers to have their way.
Watching endless hours of terror porn won't help, either—all you're doing is instilling a sense of helplessness in yourself. Combine that with uncritical viewing of the jingoistic pro-military and law enforcement programming that usually accompanies the terror porn, and you're well on the way to believing that the only way we can survive is to give up everything meaningful about being human.
Allowing law enforcement agencies to spy on anyone they want won't help—the evidence seems to be indicating that they already knew about quite a number of the pieces of this puzzle, but never put those pieces. Giving law enforcement agencies—never particularly concerned about civil rights—the tools of oppression when they can't even use the tools they already have makes no sense at all.
Get up. Go out. Live. Work. Vote. Write your representatives. Stand up for your rights. Protest government intrusions on privacy and civil rights. When someone you know says something stupid, like “They can take my rights,” or, “Let's nuke 'em,” or, “We should round up all those Arabs...”, say something.
Speaking of being personally devastated, I am appalled by the number of people who are apparently traumatized by an event they only saw on television, that should have no more reality than anything they've seen on television.
These same people apparently watched coverage of the Gulf War unscathed. They watched people starve in Africa and Asia without blinking. They walk the streets of American cities, blind to the homeless people. But they are too damaged by the idea that 6000 people they don't know in New York—a city many of them hate, although they've never been there—to function normally.
Somehow various people in the media are convincing themselves—and trying to convince the rest of us—that violent images in television programs and movies will be “too traumatic” for viewers to bear. A commentator on NPR this morning claimed that watching Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing would seem pointless, wooden, and contrived after hearing the “eloquence of real government officials”. I guess he hasn't been seeing the same government officials I've seen, many of whom can barely manage to speak a single coherent sentence, let alone deliver a speech with the power and eloquence of Martin Sheen reading Aaron Sorkin's words. If you want to see the true face of government eloquence, I strongly recommend tuning in the various government press briefings on C-SPAN and C-SPAN II. They're a real eye-opener.
Three hours at the DMV, and M is the proud possessor of a learner's permit! She only missed one of the questions, too, which is amazing as the questions focus on the most inane details of driving—the kinds of things that 90% of the population will never need to worry about.
Most amusingly, the drive back, which was supposed to take 21 minutes, actually took something like 45 minutes, most of it at about 5 MPH. By the time we got off the freeway, my ankle hurt from constantly stepping on the brake, then the accelerator, then the brake, and so on. Love those freeways....
Followed that by a big blowout over nonsense in a parking lot. Starting to wonder whether some nice mood-altering drugs might be in order for one or both of us....
September 29, 2001 (Sat)
Got to CompUSA before they opened, where there was a small (about five people) line waiting for them to open so they could get the Mac OS X 10.1 upgrade. They said they still didn't have them, but took names and phone numbers, and promised to set copies aside, which was nice of them.
Next stop was Rite Aid, to replenish our dwindling supply of sunblock (Rite Aid has this cheap SPF 30 sunblock that was top rated by Consumers Union). We had a devil of a time finding it—we wandered all over the store, marvelling at the liquor section, various toys, wacky office supplies, dental appliances, and so on. We were impressed by the Hallowe'en supplies they had (hey, it's only a month away, right?), but they were eclipsed by far by the huge selection of Christmas lights and decorations. Yes, that's right, here in Southern California, not only are they no longer waiting for Thanksgiving, but they're not even waiting for Hallowe'en. For all I know, they had the Christmas stuff out on Labor Day.
Returned home to find a message from one of M's colleagues, who had also gone to CompUSA (later than we did, though), and gotten a CD. It turned out that they had gotten the CDs, but were confused about what people were waiting for (apparently they thought people wanted the full retail package, which sells for US$130). So we drove back, got the CDs, drove to the College, and installed it on M's work machine.
It's nice—it's a bit faster, you can watch DVDs without rebooting, and it has some other nice features. It's definitely at the point of being good for day-to-day use. We had some weird glitches—in particular, the “Home” button in the Finder toolbars no longer works.
Drove home to find that M's iBook had died—she'd left it running, and despite being plugged in, the battery had gone flat. Went back to the College to get her other (Apple-brand) power adaptor, and discovered that the Madsonline adapter has apparently died. She'll have to do something about that on Monday.
M installed Mac OS X on the iBook, and everything seems to work fine there, including the “Home” button. She also found the custom install option, and avoiding installing the localization files for Spanish, Dutch, French, Japanese, German, and whatever other languages Apple supports out of the box. She'll have to remove those from her work machine, too.