|Karl Gallagher's Friends
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by Leslie Fish
First, let it be understood that "Arab" is not a race – no matter what clever propagandists may tell you. Along with the usual Semitic/Mediterranen types, there are also tribes of Arabs who have creamy-pale skins, red or blond hair, and blue or green or hazel eyes. There are also tribes of Arabs who are distinctly Black.
"Arab" is not a religion, either. There are (or were until recently) Christian Arabs in Lebanon, Pagan Arabs in the Kurd provinces, And even Jewish Arabs near what used to be Babylon.
"Arab" is not even a language, or language family. Folk in the middle-east speak more than Arabic; there's Urdu and Pashti, for example, not to mention the north African languages.
What "Arab" really means is a particular culture. This culture spreads throughout the middle-east, westward across north Africa, and eastward as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Though it shares various features with its neighboring societies, it's readily recognizable and distinct from them.
Chief among its distinct characteristics are its constant attitude of self-righteous victimhood, its eager religious fanaticism, its related disbelief in objective reality, and its particularly vicious sexism. Most scholars blame these on Islam, but in fact they existed long before Islam was invented; the culture shaped the religion more than the religion shaped the culture. Note particularly how cultural icons like veiling women's heads, female circumcision, and execution of women for mere suspicion of "adultery", are not commanded anywhere in the Koran.
So where did this peculiar cultural pattern come from?
The answer stretches back over 4000 years, which explains the common assumption that Arabs have "always been like this". It goes back before the beginnings of literacy itself, which is why the evidence has been dug up by the archeologists more than historians. The earliest writings, though, include accounts of earlier myths -- which contain tantalizing hints of an earlier culture which was far different.
What we have managed to learn in the last century is that the first civilizations were matriarchal. Before about 4000 years ago, humans didn't realize that it was sex that caused pregnancy; people thought that women made babies by themselves, by magic. Therefore, the only bloodline was the mother's; all inheritance of property or rank went through the mother's line. From a "great mother" ancestor of a tribe, to a divine Great Mother of all humanity, to a Great Mother Goddess of all life were easy steps. Artistic images of Great Mother Goddesses have been found all the way from Britain to Mongolia, Scandinavia to Africa, dating as far back as 25,000 years.
Between 4000 and 5000 years ago, it changed. Humans learned, most likely from observing domesticated animals, that sex is necessary for breeding – therefore, males had a share in the next generation too.
How people reacted to this knowledge varied widely. Some cultures moved smoothly toward ambiarchy, steadily giving men – and male gods – more social standing. Others insisted on turning their societies upside down, elevating males above females and reversing the previous moralities; where the matriarchies had been largely peaceful, increasing their wealth and influence with trade, the new patriarchies became fiercely warlike and imperialistic. Over the course of nearly 2000 years, the warlike patriarchies conquered their neighbors and enforced their New World Order on most of Europe, Asia and north Africa. The history of this conquest was brilliantly revealed and detailed in Merlin Stone's classic book, "When God Was A Woman".
Until about 30 years ago, archeologists assumed that the cultures which chose warlike patriarchy all came from the Aryan tribes along the northern tier of Europe and Asia; Dr. Marja Gumbatas even traced the pernicious attitude to the Kurgan culture of eastern Russia. Further diggings since then, however – including the famous Grave of the Amazon Queen found in western Mongolia – show that this wasn't the case. The northern Aryan cultures were ambiarchal down into historical times. The warlike patriarchies which swept down into Greece, Crete and Mycenae were "northern" only in relation to the Mediterranean, having come the long way around the Black Sea. The warlike Aryans who swept into India around 1700 BCE were likewise "northern" only in relationship to India. The Hyksos who conquered Egypt came primarily from the east.
It turns out that the real epicenter of warlike patriarchy was a place called Eridu, just east of the juncture of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in present-day Iran. However subsequent capitals of empires shifted, the center of the warlike patriarchal culture was in the heart of the middle-east. There it has remained to this day.
This explains much about Arab culture ever since. First gods dethroned goddesses, then eliminated them altogether – culminating in the institution of a single all-ruling god who demanded his worshipers conquer/convert the world for him. Women were progressively stripped of all social rights, ending as chattels – even regarded as soulless animals, who could be slaughtered at will. War was valued higher than trade, to the point were trade came to be regarded as only a subtle form of warfare. The need to justify the almost-frantic sexism in the face of facts led to the assumption that the laws of nature are not fixed – the foundation of science – but only the whim of the ruling god, who can change his mind if bribed with enough prayer, piety, and human sacrifices. Likewise, when the world, and the facts, refuses to go one's way for all one's piety, it must be somebody else's fault – and thus the sense of outraged victimhood, which in turn justifies any action against that perceived somebody else. Historically, all these elements where already present in Arab culture before Mohammed was born; the religion he invented only gave them all a unifying excuse.
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To continue with the panel on "The Politics of Assessment," we next heard from Mike Curtis, from Arden, Delaware. Arden, in case you didn't know, is a Georgist community; it charges people who lease land there for (some of) the value of their land, and uses that to pay the local government's property tax (which falls on land and buildings). Mike Curtis talked about rent assessments in Arden. Assessors take an oath to assess full rental values. He found that the people on the Board didn't know what they were doing, and didn't care. They interpreted "full rental value" to mean the amount they wanted to collect.
– Brian Engard
Warehouse 23 News: Just In Time For Christmas!
68 holiday-themed cards . . . everything from the first three Christmas boosters plus the 2012 booster . . . some promo cards never before available at retail . . . PLUS four new cards.
Munchkin Holiday Surprise also includes a special holiday Munchkin Kill-O-Meter and even more goodies for that munchkin in your life.
This set turns any basic Munchkin game into a holiday special . . . so the whole family can kill the monsters and take their stuff! post a comment
Congratulations are due to the Pope for being Time’s Person of the Year. I would have voted for Snowden, but the Pope is a perfectly respectable choice. At least he’s an individual human being and not a vague demographic or second-person pronoun.
I like Pope Francis. He seems to be kind-hearted, intelligent, and genuinely focused on helping the poor. When he expresses opinions, they tend to be ones I agree with, at least as much as is consistent with him still being Catholic. He’s done a lot of substantive good work.
But that’s not what anybody’s focused on. And what they do focus on confuses me.
Suppose that people were to get super excited about President Obama wearing a US flag pin. “He’s so patriotic! He even demonstrates his love for America on his clothing!” Or going to Arlington Cemetary on Memorial Day: “Look how much the sacrifice of American soldiers moves him!”
But really all this proves is that Obama isn’t a total idiot. Wearing a flag pin is an easy way to signal patriotism, and if you’re the President signaling patriotism is a free public opinion boost. In the same way, it’s hard to imagine a self-interested President conceiving of the idea of going to Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day and not acting on it. It would just be dumb.
Pope Francis does some pretty heart-warming things, like washing the feet of the poor and letting little kids sit in his Pope chair, abandoning his papal luxury palace for a humble apartment, and baptizing orphaned puppies (has he done this yet? I assume it’s only a matter of time).
Thing is, I think of the counterfactual universe where I’m Pope, and having been made aware of the possibility of doing these things, it’s hard to imagine not going through with them. For getting rid of the furniture made of solid gold that no sane person would even want, I can have the entire world talk about my humility. For two hours of my time and the cost of a foot-washing basin, I can be Time Person of the Year.
For me, the story isn’t why Francis is so great, but why his predecessors didn’t do stuff like this all the time. Yes, okay, Pope Benedict XVI gets creeped out by humans and he’s not sure his immune matrix can handle their Earth germs. Fine. What were the other 264 guys’ excuses? Why don’t we get to hear about them secretly sneaking out of the Vatican to help the homeless in a way that makes it almost certain it would leak out (I’m not saying Pope Francis is really doing this, just that if he isn’t it’s probably because he didn’t think of it in time)?
Maybe Francis is just the first Pope who understands PR. The past two Popes were born in the 1920s; maybe they never really figured out the Age of Mass Media. I doubt future Popes will make that mistake.
I am not accusing Pope Francis of being shady or Machiavellian (although Machiavelli’s The Prince does in fact contain a whole chapter on advice for Popes). Just saying that if he were Machiavellian, he’d probably do pretty much what he’s doing now.post a comment
Good: the fake Christmas tree I ordered on Black Friday (Target was having a 50% off Christmas trees online sale) has finally arrived after a week of delay due to the weather and some unspecified incident at the receiving depot in Mesquite that occurred before the storm*.
I did something unusual today. I pulled the plug on one of my own projects.
I finally got enough round tuits to put together two-thirds of the head-to-head comparison I’ve been meaning to do – that is, compare the import-stream output of cvs-fast-export to that of cvsps to see how they rate against each other. I wrote both git-stream output stages, so this was really a comparison of the analysis engines.
I wasn’t surprised which program did a better job; I’ve read and modified both pieces of code, after all. Keith Packard’s analysis engine, in cvs-fast-export, is noticeably more elegant and craftsmanlike than the equivalent in cvsps. (Well, duh. Yeah, that Keith Packard, the co-architect of X.)
What did surprise me was the magnitude of the quality difference once I could actually compare them head-to-head. Bletch. Turns out it’s not a case of a good job versus mildly flaky, but of good job versus suckage.
The comparison, and what I discovered when I tried to patch cvsps to behave less badly, was so damning that I did something I don’t remember ever having felt the need to do before. I shot one of my own projects through the head.
The wrong thing to do in this situation is to just let the bad code hang out there in the noosphere gradually bitrotting, with no maintainance and warnings to people who might stumble over it and think it’s safe to use or salvageable. This is bad for the same reasons abandoning a physical building and letting it decay into a public hazard is bad,
Instead, I shipped a final archival release with an end-of-life notice, prominent warnings in the documentations about the Bad Things that are likely to happen if you try to use it, and a pointer to a better alternative.
This is the right thing to do. The responsible thing. Which I’m making a point of since I’ve too often seen people fall into doing the wrong thing – usually through embarassment at the prospect of admitting that they made a mistake or, possibly, can’t meet the qualifications to finish what they started.
I’ll say it straight up: I tried hard, but I can’t fix cvsps. Peeling away the shims and kluges and junk just reveals more shims and kluges and junk. Well, in the repo-analysis code, anyway; there’s another pieces, a partial CVS client for fetching metadata out of remote CVS repositories, that is rather good. It’s why I kept trying to salvage the whole mess for about ten months longer than I should have.
What I think happened here is that the original author of cvsps did a fast, sloppy ad-hoc job that worked well enough for simple cases but never matured because he didn’t encounter the less simple ones. Keith, on the other hand, did what I would do in like circumstances – thought the problem entirely through on an algorithmic level and nuked it flat. His code is solid.
One of the differences that makes is that Keith’s code copes better when put under unanticipated stress, such as me coming along and sawing off the entire git-aware output back end to replace it with a stream-file emitter. But I digress. I’m not here today to talk about architecture, but about how to demolish your project with style.
Software is communication to other human beings as much, or more so, than it is communication to computers. As an open-source hacker, you are part of a craft community with a past and a future. If you care about your craft and your community, the end of a project leaves you with a duty to clean up after it so that it becomes a positive lesson to those who come after you, rather than a trap and attractive nuisance.
And now I’ll get off my soapbox and go back to work. On cvs-fast-export. After this, making sure it has a really good test suite before I ship 1.0 seems even more important.post a comment
We usually do a little warm-up before the show. We talk for a bit and get our brains thinking about games. But about ten minutes into the warm-up we realized we were basically doing the show, so we started recording. No plan. No designated host. No timer. The result is two hours of rambling and confusion.
You’re welcome.post a comment
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Things I have NOT done
Which brings us to the exception that proves the rule - I have spent significant amounts of time subscribed to and actually playing World of Warcraft. I did technically hit the level cap, and farmed all of the gear out of the first 2-3 tiers of raid finder. I also skipped the majority of the questing content in the expansion - and incidentally didn't even try to level until my lack of having leveled caused problems for my pet collecting efforts. In many ways, Azeroth is actually a lobby that I use to access the pet battling minigame, the farming minigame, and sometimes even the daily quest or random dungeon minigame. I'm arguably not using the game as an MMO.
Is this the new face of MMO burnout? Or am I just in a rut waiting for the hypothetical next big thing? post a comment
I just turned of auto payments and my paid account will expire in a month but since I hardly post anymore it doesn't really matter.3 comments | post a comment
When the radons are gone from the basement, I want bookshelves. I will put bookshelves down there. Then I will go find EVERY SINGLE MANGA BOOK IN THE HOUSE and I will take them downstairs. I will not worry if I've read them. I will not worry if spouse has read them. I will file them in alphabetical order by title.
Before I forget, tomorrow Earthrise is being featured at The Fussy Librarian, a site that does personalized ebook recommendations. It’s got something like 40 genres; you indicate your preferences about content and then it figures out what you might like to buy. Sort of like Amazon’s recommendation system, but just books. This is the thing I was talking about when I asked you folks to submit reviews of Earthrise because they only take books with at least 10 five-star reviews! Or 25 of at least 4-star. So thank you all for helping out. I’m going to submit more books to them once I get the necessary number of reviews. :)
Mirrored from MCAH Online.post a comment
Note: I think I may have an overarching plot for both these stories.
(This is a repost from an entry I made 10 years ago, because it’s a fun topic to revisit periodically, and a good way to discover new music.)
Music is a constant in my life. It’s a rare day that I go through without listening to or making music in one form or another.
And it occurred to me on the way back from lunch with kitanzi this afternoon, as I cranked up a particular song, that there are some tunes that just never fail to make me happy.
Here are five of those songs, in no particular order:
Love Shack, B-52s
What are some songs that always leave you more cheerful than before? That make you dance in your seat? When you’re down, what music do you turn to to pick yourself up? What songs make you instinctively reach for the volume control to crank it up?
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Mirrored from Home of the Autographed Cat.4 comments | post a comment