A nice keyboard
Ever so often I stumble across another annoying feature Microsoft is putting into their products. It never ceases to amaze me how creative the folks at Microsoft are at mis-designing products. Their products are always sleek, elegant, easy to use, and contain some hidden monstrosity under the folds.
At work, we have Microsoft Keyboards – just the most unbelievably hideous trap ever to be inflicted upon the unsuspecting world. The keyboard look nice enough, and is OK to use. Look at the picture. Notice those three little flat keys just between the ENTER and the numpad? Above the upper-arrow and below the “delete” key lurks a monster. Yes, it is a SHUTDOWN KEY! In the middle of the keyboard!
Need I tell you the details? You type a document, send out your little finger to press “up” or “del”, and all of a sudden the computer is shutting itself off.
And today I encountered another trap, at home. Here I am working at my computer (sometimes I still use MS windows, you see). And out of the blue pops a message. “Do you want to save?”. Well, why would I, in the middle of a messy revision? I press ESC, and the computer shuts down. Got me: It had an automatic update that was so much more important than my work…
So, shut down your automatic updates on Windows, double check MS products before you buy them, etc. All these advice work, but in my experience, they don’t work very well. remember: MS will always have the upper hand. There’s always another snark hidden beneath the table, ready to jump at you when you least expect it.
Below are several short tips which will help you survive C programming. I’ll be adding and amending this from time to time.
The most terrifying aspect of the C programming language is closely related to it’s core strength. Programming in C is all about using pointers – which are memory locations. Thus, in C, when you need a variable to work with to store numbers and manipulate them, you don’t have to deal with the variable directly – you use it’s address, instead. This is, of course, a really stupid thing to do when you just have to use a single variable to store a single number. But it is an enormously useful strategy when sending that variable off to a distant procedure, or when dealing with large arrays.
The usual strategy in this Blog is to wait until the recent, important event is old and all public interest is lost, before I comment on it.
This is not because I abhor of readership, but because I feel that in order to say an intelligent thing about a subject, I need time to contemplate. This time I did the contemplation before it happened. So I am about to do my thing while the wikileaks scandal is still raging. Here are my 2 cents. And I will start with the sound-byte:
19 year-old boys are not adults. Give these boys weapons (the ultimate in big-boom-generating toys), train them to kill, and send them on to a conflict-ridden zone. Now, guess: what they will do there?
If you even imagine that they will do anything other than killing, then you’re a damn fool.
The army is not the problem. It is simply not the solution. You can’t expect a bunch of kids with big guns to build a nation state. Nor should you send them on to do serious police work. It is not their job, it is not their expertise. You train them to fight a war, send them out to face an enemy, and they find themselves in the middle of civilian population. Anyone seriously suggesting that no atrocities will ensue is either a god-damn lier, or pathologically stupid.
Let me repeat myself, at the risk of being crude:
An army is not a peace-keeping force. It is a fighting force.
I’m not quite sure that I like the idea of a direct democracy. But here is a small thought in favor:
Nancy Goldstein, down at the Washington Post, has a piece about the race for senate in Delaware, where she claims for the underdog. There are two candidates in Delaware. One seems like an experienced, rational, thoughtful, man. The other is a disgruntled, confused, and quite wacky, woman (But, no, this is not a gender issue!). Whom would you choose? Nancy Goldstein chooses the wacky girl, which is the one easier to identify with. The rational man is too arrogant. Too know-it-all. Most of all, he is not in need of your sympathy, so he doesn’t get it. Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party candidate in Delaware, was more human – erring, confused, stressed. It stands in her favor in the debate, though the magic is less likely to actually help her win the race.
This is not new stuff. Those who know ancient Greek history should be reminded of Aristides and Themistocles. The others would do well to recall the surprising success of extreme politics throughout the 20th century. It should also remind you of what happens on shows like American Idol, where professionals have meager chance of winning. It is always the not-so-perfect girl-next-door who wins, seemingly “against all odds” – but very likely because she is not so annoyingly perfect. Or have a look at this fact: poll after poll shows that the Israeli public is mostly moderate, but abhors of moderate politicians. A majority wants good policy, but they want it delivered by flawed politicians.
So, if the public is much better at choosing policies than it is in choosing policy-makers, then perhaps, if we let the public choose the policies instead of the policy makers, we will enjoy better policies.
In the previous post I made the claim that atheists should not be any worse off than the religious when confronting serious philosophical questions. In this post I wish to show that they might be better off. I intend to show why the idea of an immaterial soul is misguided and needlessly confusing. I am going to use the example of volitions. And I warn you: This is not going to be an easy post to handle. If I succeed in writing anything intelligible , you are very likely to find yourself rather shaken.
I also wish to thank my dear friend Dr. Uri Maoz, who was the first to confront me with the following facts.
Here we go.
Over at The Road To God Knows Where, Brendano posits a challenge for atheists. He has a list of interesting questions to be answered. And I intend to step in on the line of duty, and try it out.
Brendano’s questions are, in order:
1. Why is the human mechanism better or more deserving of respect than any other mechanism … a lawnmower or a cat?
2. Whence do concepts such as human dignity, human rights, personal morality, right and wrong, good and evil arise, and what is their justification?
3. Why should anyone be held responsible for their actions, given that these are caused by chemical reactions in the brain, and chemicals have no sense of right and wrong?
4. Why do you have the concept of a quasi-separate ‘I’, as in ‘my body’, if you are just your body?
5. How can volition be anything other than an illusion?
6. Why should feelings, emotions, etc. have any importance if they are mere artefacts of chemical reactions?
I will answer in a different order, and I also intend to tamper with Brendano’s phrasing. Iam also afraid that this will take more than one post.
But first of all let me point out one huge and terrible blander, of which I hereby blame Brendano. He seems to think that these questions pose a difficulty for atheists alone. That is utter baloney. These are, and always have been, the greatest philosophical questions of all time, wrestled with by many religious thinkers. And if you think that any of these problems are even remotely addressed by any conceivable religious dogma in existence, you are dead wrong. They certainly are not solved. Not through Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any far-east religion in existence.
I short, then:
I do not know, but neither do you.