Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My friend, Ted.

I like this -- you should watch it:

For those of you who didn't watch it, stop reading this post and watch it.

I've been thinking a little about gun control lately (largely because of Miri's post; it wasn't actually the point of her post, but I managed to completely derail it by my comment -- sorry, Miri). I don't think I actually care so much about gun control as I do about the legislation about gun control. I don't own any guns currently. I might later. Shotgun shooting is really, really fun. But if I never own a gun, I'll be okay. However, some people really want guns, and I'm fine with them owning and using them responsibly (<--- deliberately vague term).

These are guns painted like toys:

Hello, Kitty. May I borrow your knife?

Though I don't particularly care about guns, I do care about excessive regulation and legislation. Like Mr. Howard says, "Life is too complex for a software program. All these choices involve value judgments, and social norms, not objective facts." Laws that attempt to cover every eventuality never will... but in the process of trying, they will restrict freedom rather than secure it. Says Mr. Howard: “we've been trained to squint into this legal microscope, hoping that we can judge any dispute against the standard of a perfect society, where everyone will agree what's fair, and where accidents will be extinct, risk will be no more. Of course this is Utopia, it's a formula for paralysis, not freedom.”

I listened to this speech while I was driving to St. George over the weekend. As I was driving, I started to think about the laws for driving. Cars pass me. I pass cars. Cars speed past my car within a several feet -- but it doesn't worry me. And what prevents me from worrying? Paint. Yellow paint and white paint. Yes, sometimes cars cross the paint when they shouldn't. Accidents happen. (I'll use “accident” and “crash” interchangeably, though they aren't the same -- most things people call accidents are avoidable crashes; but that's a tangent) We could try to prevent all accidents by putting cars on rails and making them all go the same speed. That would be insanely expensive and impractical... and idiotic. And, even if cars lived on rails, we would still have malfunctions, and bad weather and accidents.

How beautiful is paint! It's flexible and cheap and works well. In the cases where a human needs to use their judgment and break outside of the boundaries to avoid an accident, he can.

Let people have agency. Let some use it poorly. Let most use it wisely.

And lest you think I'm advocating anarchy or getting rid of all law, I'm not. I am advocating simple paint solutions. Draw some general lines and let people fill in the spaces. It is not a government's job to eliminate all pain or possibilities for pain.

This one about octopus and dragonflies was interesting. So was this one about simplifying legal jargon; and it's short. I'm hoping that I don't get in a car accident tomorrow... or accidentally get shot.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I forgot to write about The Brothers Karamazov! That book is the second, long, boring, Russian novel I've read (Anna Karenina being the first). It took me about a year to get through. I recommend it if you're patient. By boring, I mean that the book is slow, and relaxed. There are times of intensity and suspense -- but it's largely a whale chewed bit by blubbery bit. For example, the opening paragraph informs the reader that the story is about the murder of a man. But that man isn't actually murdered until almost exactly halfway through the book.

I actually finished it before East of Eden, but never got around to reviewing it. Like East of Eden, here's a few favorite quotes:

"He spoke as frankly as you, though in jest, in bitter jest. 'I love humanity,' he said, 'but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular. In my dreams,' he said, 'I have often come to making enthusiastic schemes for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually have faced crucifixion if it had been suddenly necessary; and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with any one for two days together, as I know by experience. As soon as any one is near me, his personality disturbs my self-complacency and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he's too long over his dinner; another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity."
Father Zossima, quoting a doctor he knew (p.49-50)

I am sorry I can say nothing more consoling to you, for love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on stage. But active love is a labour and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science.
Father Zossima, to a lady (p.50)

"...the stupider one is, the closer one is to reality. The stupider one is, the clearer one is. Stupidity is brief and artless, while intelligence wriggles and hides itself. Intelligence is a knave, but stupidity is honest and straightforward."
Ivan speaking to Alyosha (p.218)

Brothers, love is a teacher; but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labour. For we must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but for ever. Every one can love occasionally, even the wicked can.
Father Zossima (p.296)

"...We peep into the Gospel only on the eve of making speeches, in order to dazzle the audience by our acquaintance with what is, anyway, a rather original composition, which may be of use to produce a certain effect -- all to serve the purpose!"
Prosecuting lawyer in final "sermon" (p.703)

And here are the words (there's a little overlap from Eden's list):

abashed, abject, abnegation, absolution, accede, acquisitive, adroitly, affable, affably, afface, anathema, antipathies, antipathy, apiary, apprehend, apropos, aquiline, arch, archimandrite, ardent, ardour, arrogate, ascetic, aspect, asperse, aspersed, austere, austerely, avowal, balsam, balustrade, barrister, benefactor, benumbed, bereaved, besmirched, brooked, burdocks, caddish, callous, calumniated, calumny, caprice, cassock, casuist, casuistry, censer, censorious, censure, charing, charlatanism, chattel, churlish, consiliating, convalescence, copse, coquettishly, coxcomb, crape, cupola, cursory, decoction, demur, demurely, derision, derisively, despatch, despotic, diffidence, diocesan, dirge, disavowal, dissipated, dissipation, dissolute, doggerel, doles, drivelling, dyspeptic, echeat, effrontery, effusively, emancipation, emasculate, epoulettes, equanimity, erudition, evinced, expansive, expiate, extant, extenuate, extortionate, extraneous, fain, fixity, foundered, freak, gesticulating, gibes, gibing, goading, gratuitous, hetaira, homeopathic, hurdle, ignominy, imperious, impertinence, importunate, importunity, impudent, impudently, impunity, incisive, incorrigible, indefatigably, indignation, indolence, ingenuousness, ingratiating, inoculated, inscrutable, insolent, insolently, insoluble, inveterate, irascible, jackdaw, kaftan, ken, knout, laceration, lackey, latent, lavished, lenten, licentious, listlessly, locker, lorgnette, loth, loutish, lumbago, lurid, mawkish, morass, mummery, novitiate, obdurate, obsequious, obtuse, opined, opulent, paltry, paragon, paroxysm, parricide, parsimony, particoloured, pedantic, pedantry, pernicious, peroration, phlegmatic, pining, piquant, piquante, poseur, prate, prating, precocity, prevaricate, privation, profligate, propitiate, prosaic, punctilio, pusillanimous, quadrille, qualm, rapacious, repine, reprobate, repudiate, requiem, restiveness, sallow, salutary, samovar, scrupled, scruples, seething, self- effacement, self-immolation, sententiously, solicitude, solidarity, sordid, sot, sottish, sphinx, spleen, staid, stint, stole, stolidly, straitened, subterfuge, suffused, supercilious, superciliously, surmise, surplice, swinishness, tallow, timorous, unexampled, unmannerly, veriest, verst, vociferated, vogue, voluptuary, vouchsafed, waggish

Some of these words I've included because they are used abnormally. For instance: freak and apprehend. From the book:

Of the commercial value of his scheme he had no doubt, not the slightest, and was only uncertain how Samsonov would look upon his freak...

...that we cannot apprehend the reality of things on earth...

I like books that are smarter than I -- almost as much as I like "I" supplanting "me" in an effort to sound smarter :)

Sometime soon expect a post more about me and less about me reading.