Elias presents ... a worm!    Thoughts on family, philosophy,
and technology


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Death, life, and values

I could say that 34-years-old is starting to get depressingly old, but it is hard to feel sorry for oneself when 120,000 other people lost their lives without warning on my birthday.

The eschatologically-inclined must be getting very excited given events of the past 5 years: Y2K, 9/11, the start of WWIII (arguably), and now international tsunamis. But what is a rational psychological response to such things?

Death is clarifying, in the sense that it serves as a reminder to the survivors: life is important. Or more accurately: life is importance. There's nothing besides life to value, and there's nothing valuable except those things which are of actual value in one's life. To sum up with an axiom: Values are valuable. And this describes the motivation of many people rededicateing themselves to "what really matters" after 9/11 -- most often to family. Witnessing a catastrophic loss of life motivates a revaluation of values (to borrow from Neitzsche).

Such revaluation is rational if and only if it results in a rational hierarchy of values. Dedicating your life to Jesus after 9/11 is exactly the wrong thing to do.

But such revaluation should not be necessary, because one's values should be clear -- well thought-out, hierarchically organized, and strongly felt -- at all times, without need for some special motivation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Trouble with Athenian Buses

Today a headline is "Athens Bus Hijackers Threaten Blast". Apparently two men with shotguns hijacked an Athens bus, demanding to be taken to the airport and flown to Russia. This, of course, reminds me of my own Athens Bus drama.

Amy and I went to Athens in Summer 2000, after visiting London, Cambridge, etc. as part of our honeymoon. Now on the planes we had gone over a touch of modern Greek, things like hello, thank you (efharisto), counting. But to be honest we weren't even comfortable with the alphabet yet. And I had never been to a non-English speaking country, so I was quite apprehensive anyway.

Getting off the Greek plane (a decidedly second-rate machine compared to U.S. planes), we knew we had to catch a city bus to our hotel. Now most of us are use to it being obvious where and how to procure your next leg of transportation after deboarding at a modern airport. But we proceeded outside, found the bus stop, and were simply baffled about how to get tickets. Amy was brave and asked a couple people, both of whom were impolite, but at least one told us where to go. You see in Athens bus tickets are only for sale in bars. This is even true at Athens International Airport, believe it or not. You buy your bus tickets at the Athens International Airport frigging bar. Makes sense, right? "Two shots and two bus tickets. Efharisto."

So next we are on this bus heading towards downtown Athens, each of us carrying two or three big bags. It is very hot. And we have no clue where to get off. At first there is hardly anyone on the bus, so I figure when we get into downtown we can walk to the front and ask the driver. Brilliant, Brad, except that it is rush hour, and soon the bus is totally packed, and we are sandwiched near the back. With our big bags there is no way we are getting anywhere close to being able to talk to the driver.

Now a confident traveller would ask those nearby, until someone who knew English well and who was not rude would help. But my xenophobia was peaking at this moment, and I wouldn't want to bother these tired Athenians who just got off of work with my stupid American questions. And you couldn't have paid me to speak a word of Greek to an Athenian, even though I knew "excuse me" at the time -- I felt too stupid for that. Anyway, I figured, Amy had had a lot of experience in international places, so she should be the one to play the ignorant American traveller murdering the local language, she already had that skill!

So I just focused on watching the street signs to see if I could transliterate any of them into anything corresponding to anything in our guide book, while my brand new wife got annoyed waiting for me to stop being so useless. The problem with my approach was that it would take me a full minute to transliterate all of the Greek letters on a single street sign, by which time it didn't matter because the bus had gone a quarter mile further. And none of these streets were on our super-simplified guidebook map anyway. All I had going for me was a strong suspicion that we were on the main street into downtown, which would (according to our map) have to be the same street that our hotel was on.

So having "decided", through indecision, that we would just get off the bus at some random point and then do something, this is what I had us do. The bus was getting into some big buildings now, it was getting sort of downtown-ish, and heck the other American couple in the front of the bus was getting off here, so we pushed our way through the other passengers (who hated me, I'm convinced) and exited the side-door here -- wherever "here" was.

It was a releif to be off of the bus. Buses on lines you don't know can be so demanding, you know, as if they are saying: look, figure out where to get off or you're going to be screwed, fool!

We stood on the sidewalk and looked around. We were next to a park around some sort of national monument, and across the street were some large buildings. Athens was hot and dirty and loud, and a stream of rush-hour mopeds was going past on the large street, filling our noses with exhaust. In front of the park, a little ways down, a young uniformed guard was holding a machine gun. How nice.

I went to work transliterating the nearest street sign. Then the sign on the building across the street.

O Greek gods, efharisto: That building is our hotel!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

1, 2, 3

Amy has informed me that my last post was boring. Point conceded. I really shouldn't just write out the trivialities of what I've been trying to do with computers. So let me try to jazz it up and maybe evince a grin, or at least a groan, from the wife this time:

I have been working with Eli on counting up to 3. I would hope that the least we can expect from anyone is that they can count how many months old they are. However, in another week he will be 4 months old, and I fear he still won't be able to count just 3 juggling balls.

On the bright side, he is turning out to be quite the empirical scientist, having established just today that not even one juggling ball will fit into a standard baby mouth.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Home computer stuff

Our DSL is working at home again. I never could have guessed how much hassle it would have been to try to switch to a cheaper provider. And now we are back with Qwest again. Oh the irony. At least we have a faster connection now -- 1.5Mbps in theory, but more like 1.1Mbps in my tests.

So now I'm starting to build a Linux server to host my website and maybe my mail domain too (although what's the point, now that I use gmail exclusively?). I'm using Fedora Core 2 because that is what the book I'm using, Setting Up Lamp, assumes. Very good book so far.

My previous experience with Linux was: (1) installing Debian 3.0 a few times, finally getting the GUI to show up but never getting networking to work (somebody told me I need to edit the interfaces file, and I lost all interest); (2) installing Mandrake 10.0 a few times, which was friendlier than Debian, but I was fairly baffled about how to launch the Firefox browser after installing (at least I think I installed it). Ha ha, this 12-year software engineer can't even install and run a program in Linux. Actually I think that reflects worse on Linux than on Brad.

The Fedora install was very smooth. I can even ping my new Linux box on its fixed IP address from my Windows network ... woo hoo! Running vi and lynx took me back to 1992, college days when all I had in my excuse-for-an-apartment was an 8088 machine which on bootup dialed into the the OSU UNIX servers at 14K bps.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Fullness of Life

How can it be that I haven't posted in two weeks? Time is really flying. But at the same time I've been appreciating every hour, because I want to do so much and squeeze so much into each day.

Eli has raised the bar for what I'm willing to spend my time on. TV was an easy victim, but sleep isn't going quietly. I've been trying to get up at 5am, with varying success, in order to get some philosophy and excercise in before I start taking care of Eli at 6:30am.

Isn't this always the case, that when you have more that you have to do, you become more productive in everything else too? Me, I've started back into studying Latin. I'm reading Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis. On page 2 after about 4 hours.

The Genius has this to say: "In the spiritual realm, the currency -- which exists in limited quantity and must be teleologically measured in the pursuit of any value -- is time, i.e., one's life." You value what you spend time on. And vice versa.