I don't mean to offend. It's probably going to happen anyway.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


When my mom suggested a Kindle as a possible Christmas gift, I was somewhat uncertain. Paper books have certain disadvantages which the Kindle quite neatly solves, and there are almost no concrete, rational drawbacks to eReaders. They have batteries, so yes, your book may run out at the good bit, but otherwise, they are lighter, smaller, don't require holding open* and have such a huge capacity for both books and battery to make the complaints seem insignificant in comparison.

For all that though, I had reservations. There's just something undefinable about a bound book. Paper is the right medium for words. It fades, it is easily damaged, it is bulky and fairly dense, and feels entirely right. Turning pages is one of the simplest joys of reading. This romanticized love affair with bound books ended up losing to the rational in me, and I have a kindle sitting next to me.

Christmas morning, I went through the Amazon top 100 free and loaded up on stuff. At the moment, I have loaded 21 assorted Shakespeare plays, Mark Twain novels, and a couple other random works. Even in a leather case, it is small enough to slip into a pocket and forget about, and about half the weight of the Discworld** book it's resting on. In full printed form, 21 books takes up about 2/3 of one of my shelves. I haven't come close to filling this thing.

Reading is easy on the eyes and mind. 12 pages into The Three Musketeers, I realized that I barely noticed that I wasn't reading a paper book anymore. In short, I could get used to this. I haven't messed around much with the bookmarking or highlighting functions, but the scroll over dictionary has the potential to spoil me very quickly.

Overall, I am pleased with the thing. I don't think it can ever replace paper entirely, if only for the reason that I am cheap and like libraries. For on the go reading, I will say it is likely unmatched, and it's a fine piece for normal daily reading as well. Which method of reading will win out over time, I can't say. I can say I am not going to be buying anywhere near as many dead tree books. It's plain not worth it, as the kindle store is usually cheaper, and I can read from anywhere. Libraries though... they will be hard to displace.

Final verdict, worthy addition, not a replacement.

*This has been a major irritant for me with paper books for my entire life. I read a lot, and having to constantly have one hand holding the pages open was a drag. Also, I am referring in all this to the newest, little kindle without touch, keyboard, or Fire.

**If you haven't read any of Terry Pratchett's Discworld, shame on you.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Posting has not been particularly important in finals and the holidays, but posting will pick up after the holidays. For now, a Merry Christmas to all. May your celebration of choice be good.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 7th, 1941

If you ask most college students today what happened on December 7, 1941, I have a feeling they wouldn't know what you were talking about. Despite FDR's proclamation of it being "A date that will live on in infamy," most people don't think about it, despite its lasting significance.

It's been 70 years to the day since the United States was brought into World War Two, where 405,399 Americans died, 2402 of them at Pearl Harbor. Those who escaped with their lives often didn't escape intact, with over 670,800 wounded service members.

It's easy to forget how awful this war was. The numbers become just numbers, not reflective of people. It was 70 years ago, and the youngest of those who fought are now among the oldest people in society. It's not something that most people have to face or deal with.

This isn't ancient history. Remember what today 70 years ago did. Take some time to think about it, and thank a service member. They are what prevent this from happening again.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

UC Davis

My initial reaction to the footage of the UC Davis police pepper-spraying students was precisely the one that main-stream reporting wanted. I saw what appeared to be a small group of students surrounded by officers being sprayed for non-compliance. I thought it a case of police excess, and a classic case of what Lawdog discusses here. It reminded me just how much both sides have acted like goobs in the entire #OccupyGeography affair.

Then I saw the full video, with commentary, here.*

Instead of a small group of students surrounded by police, we have a small(ish) group of police surrounded by a mob of students. Instead of students sprayed for non-compliance, we have officers for all intents and purposes taken hostage for non-compliance. If you think that the protesters were remaining nonviolent, I would like to direct you here, and to this, as follow up to this.

Were there better ways of moving the protesters? Possibly. People in my discussions on this topic seemed largely unaware of just how noxious and damaging pepper spray is, and viewed it as a better alternative to physically laying on hands. To me, it seems like it would have been better had they grabbed a couple heads of hair and moved those heads, on the assumption that the rest of the body would come with. That is more likely to result in claims of police brutality though, despite it probably being safer for the protester.**

What it boils down to after the new information is that the police were defending against the violent act of restraint with plenty of warning as to the consequences. It was not a case of gaining compliance through brutality, but ending a violent, hostile situation through the judicious use of force. I can't fault the officers for this one.

This does seem to show that the protesters need to learn what constitutes violence. Wikipedia claims it as "the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes." Seems to me that fits their actions perfectly.

*Someday I will learn to embed youtube videos. Anyone who knows, drop me a comment and let me know. EDIT Thanks commenter Rifleslinger. There is now an embedded video.

**Also of note is that this tactic is far more dangerous for the officers, as they are more exposed to whatever the miscreants decide to do.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The end times

Want to make a brief reply to this post at the Smallest Minority, as well as comment broadly on the concept of freedom.

The one bit on reading that provoked a brief bit of cognitive dissonance was not Kevin speaking, but rather him quoting one Donald Sensing. "I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free." I have depressingly little doubt that what we see now is indeed the last of the free generations in my lifetime, all the more regrettable concerning my youth.

I used the modifier "in my lifetime" for a reason though. I do not think that individual freedoms will disappear forever. I think they will at least be curtailed practically to the point of nonexistence for quite some time, but there will be a point in the future where the pendulum swing of philosophies of the individual will make its turnaround and come back to a time for people to be free.

I do not think it will happen in the United States. Removing the factors of governance dampening freedoms in todays US is nigh impossible while retaining the fundamental values of the country. Their removal would lead too thoroughly to national collapse for the same nation to come out the other side.

This is not to say that this swing back is by any sense bad. The nations that emerge from the ashes of the modern authoritarian world will be stronger, freer, and totally independent of modern states. The notions that lead to the rise of the individual in the west are still fairly new. Renaissance humanism and the American revolution broke the authoritarian grips of the divine kings, putting in place modern notions of individualism. The technological boom and associated increase in standard of living since their inception is, in my opinion, unparalleled in the entire history of the world thus-far.

It looks like we passed the point of no return for the present a while back. That does not mean that individual vitality, esteem and power will not be able to restore what once was. History will look back on the modern rise of socialism as we today look on the European Dark Ages, a period of folly and strife now thankfully passed.

It is a shame that swing probably won't happen in any of our lifetimes. I hope I can be proven wrong.