Third World Politics and the “E” Word

One foo-fah-rah in the news recently is the deep south’s deliberate destruction of their education system, starting with a ban on scientific concepts such as evolution and the geologic scale of time. There are proposals for “fair and balanced” presentation of science in the classrooms (which is code for “we wanna whip the bible on kids and make ’em unable to develop a critical thought without reachin’ automatically for the television remote so they can be told what to think.”) Well, maybe I’m reading too much agenda into this.

This emasculation of education benefits the politicians, who long ago realized the wisdom of conditioning a population of future voters to believe that anything on TV is true. In politics, critical thinking is *bad news*. If politicians could limit campaign issues to, say, a beauty pagent, or how far each candidate could spit, they’d do it. It’s unclear that we’d be any worse off; at least they’d be telling fewer actual lies.

It’s also great for the bible-thumpers, who ultimately have an agenda that is nearly identical to that of the politicians (minus the pesky elections). Then there are the idiots who simply get off on thumping things and telling people what to think. I’ve always thought that TV evangelism was an ironic industry; nearly luddite, but being dependent on technology like broadcast satellites and computers to keep the books, while at the same time with an unofficial mission to condition its audience to be incapable of developing that technology (“Just cash, please. Cash for Jesus. And, uh, God will recall us if you don’t give us more cash. And you didn’t give any cash to the evil sinners on the channel below us, did you? We’re praying that God will smite their transponder.”)

Moo.

While listening to some news bite about the banning of the “E” word in the Georgian public school system, and I had this bad, evil, critical thought: The more that Georgia screws up its education system, the better off the rest of us are. It makes it easier for our kids to get a leg up on theirs. If Georgia wants its future citizens to compete economically at the level of sewing soccer balls together, why then, that’s their business. We can make hay out of that, ship lots more low-paying jobs there, and what’s wrong with it? They made their choice, and they can reap the benefits of it. It’s not like they’re being repressed by gun-toting stormtroopers, they wanted it.

Of course, it sucks to be them. And it would suck for the same sentiment to rise up where you live, so it’s probably not a good idea for this to get out of hand.

[Since I wrote this, the Georgian education system has waffled and relented on the “E” word. I’ll bet you a dollar the issue will return, it always has.]

ACM still on the outs

In a fit of temporary insanity, I decided that I wanted to rejoin the ACM.

I was a member of the ACM in the 80s and 90s, and it was neat to get SigPlan notices and so forth. Then I noticed that the SigGraph proceedings always sucked, and that every other article in the Communications of the ACM seemed to be about a different oppressed minority in computer science, or some Ada mumbledy barf, or how to teach programming to pre-med students. Finally I had a couple boxes of journals in the basement that weren’t as fun to read or as timeless or even as nice-smelling as the equivalent number of National Geographics, and I let my membership lapse. Didn’t miss it. I could get OOPSLA proceedings from a bookstore, if it looked good enough (…when there were decent technical bookstores in Silly Valley, don’t get me started).

And I’m still not a member. At $99 a year, I don’t want to pay for it. I’d rather just go to the corporate library and browse, thanks. I guess if I didn’t work for a large corporation that the $198/year for the online ACM library access would be attractive, but that two hundred clams is a lot of money for not much bang.

Wired is $10/year, and more fun. And you can get a lot of good papers on the net without having to join a society.

Blog Spammers

I was waiting for this, and I knew it would happen, but I still can’t believe how angry I am. When I enabled comments, it was only a matter of time before the blog spammers would arrive, and the first piece of junk just landed. I removed it.

To the scumbag spammers: Fuck you, you fucking fucks.

If I have to do a lot of cleanup, I’ll just create accounts for folks to comment under, and turn public commenting off.

Quakethirty

Startup hell. It was Quake-O’Clock, and Ratchet was kicking ass in our daily engineering fragfest. A few minutes earlier someone had yelled “Quaaaake!” from a cubical, and most of us dropped what we were doing and joined up for half an hour or so of blowing off steam. Smeg and SkyBlue and FluffyBunnyKins were being hammered by Ratchet, who was using a trackball of all things. Yelling over the cubical walls was part of the fun: “Owww! Take it out, it hurts!” and “I’m gonna get you for that, you M-F!”. Typical deathmatch interaction. It offended the hell out of some of the marketing and sales types, who were a few rows of cubicals over. We’d been Spoken To about our offensive yelling. Somehow, maybe because our average day extended to 2AM and theirs didn’t, we couldn’t bring ourselves to care. Oops. Sorry about that, boss. We’ll do better … until next time.

Months later (and after I had bailed), that startup was bought in badly negotiated stock merger that included layoffs for the less valuable folks. But the spirit had gone out of people far earlier. There is a time when the nerf fights and deathmatching come to an end, and when it doesn’t involve the success and maturing of the company it usually means the death of innovation and caring amongst the core people.

Some things must stick in your subconcious, though. A friend of mine and cow-orker from that startup now runs a web site for his consulting company. Here’s a fragment of his title page:

I noticed this amusing

progression of

rotations and edits

finally exposing the subliminal:

(blank) a (blank) for (blank)

Here we have an abecedary of offensive bumper-sticker slogans that have been kicking around in my Palm for four or five years. I’d been leafing through Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and 1969 (since he’d published a new book), and was struck by the eerie, funny, alliterative and definitely not PC phrases that he semi-reported from his experiences in Vietnam.

I imagine that the “Verb a label for some authority” phraseology has been used by both serious sloganeers and disillusioned grunts for thousands of years. I hope you get the tongue-in-cheekness of this. If not . . . please refer to the title bar, thanks.

[I finally gave up and just cheated on X.]

Axe an Anglo for Allah
Bash a Brit for Buddha
Cremate a Commie for Christ
Defenestrate a Dork for Diana
Eviscerate an Etruscan for Enkidu
Flog a Freak for Frida
Garrote a Gook for God
Hang a Hun for Homer
Incinerate an Infidel for Imhotep
Jab a Jeek for Jesus
Kill a Kraut for Krishna
Lampoon a Loony for Lamia
Mangle a Monk for Moses
Nuke a Nerd for Nefertiti
Ostrascize an Oddball for Odin
Pillory a Pagan for Pele
Quash a Queer for Quetzequatal
Roast a Rastafarian for Ramadan
Skrag a Sinner for Satan
Thlay a Thinner for Thoth
Ununify a Unitarian for Urdu
Vivisect a Virgin for Vishnu
Whack a Whitey for Walla-Walla
eXecute a Xenophobe for Xenu
Yank a Yip for Yaweh
Zap a Zip for Zeus

Chancy Business

Kuro5hin has an interview with Ben Mezrich, author of Hacking Las Vegas: the inside story of the MIT blackjack team’s conquest of the casinos. I recommend the book (though bits of it are a bit unbelievable). In a similar vein, The Eudamonic Pie is about a bunch of Santa Cruz hackers who attack roulette with shoe computers (in the 80s).

No dignity

I deleted an entire rant about Janet Jackson’s “Wardrobe failure” during the half-time show of yesterday’s Superbowl.

I’d rather not dignify the inconsistent moral and amoral bastards. But it’s darned hard to tell who’s on what side, beneath all the posturing.

Enjoy the circus, on as many levels as it’s got 🙂