Headed West

Jun 252002

I’m off to Los Angeles tomorrow morning for The Objectivist Center’s advanced seminar. After three delightful days of discussing papers, including my own, Paul will be joining me for a week of the regular summer seminar. So I probably won’t be blogging very much over the next ten days. But I promise to give a full report when I return.

Have good time without me!

Sony Speak

Jun 252002

The Plantronics analog microphone headset for my recently acquired Sony digital voice recorder just arrived. Gauging by a first test, it seems to make a huge difference in the quality of Dragon NaturallySpeaking’s transcription from the DVR. Here was my first test, with corrections of errors in brackets:

This is the test of the new analog microphone from Plantronics. I’m not sure how well this will work I might need additional training in Dragon NaturallySpeaking before this set up [setup] with the digital was [voice] recorder and microphone works adequately

So only two errors! That’s much better than what I was getting without the microphone headset. Those transcriptions were way, way off.

However, all is not rosy here in the land of transcription. Yesterday I discovered that my Sony DVR has exactly the same problem as my Sony Clie, namely that my computer (running Win2000) will not read any memory stick in the usual fashion. My computer shows the memory stick (either in the Clie or in the DVR) as a drive, but it will not read that drive. It complains that the drive is not formatted, which is a bald-faced lie. With the Clie, I managed to transfer data between the computer and the memory stick using a handy little program called BlueSync, which syncs my memory stick during a HotSync.

So now, in order to transfer my voice recordings from the DVR to the computer for transcription, I have to move the memory card to the Clie and then HotSync. This is rather inconvenient, but at least that works. And I am particularly delighted to know that Dragon NaturallySpeaking’s transcription from the DVR with the new microphone works wonders!

And by the way, this is another blog entry written with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

Islamic Honesty

Jun 252002

A while back Andrew Sullivan pointed me towards this provacative quote found in an interview with Ehud Barak regarding Arafat and the Palestinian leadership:

They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie…creates no dissonance. They don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn’t. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as “the truth.”

Clearly, Arafat is a lying sack of murderous shit. But does Arab or Islamic culture in general place less value on honesty and truth than does western culture? Based on the seemingly endless stream of absurd lies coming from that region, I suspect so. (Not that I think that Westerners hold truth and honesty in high enough regard, but that is another story.) And no, that’s not racism, it’s just not cultural relativism either.

One likely side effect of a culture of dishonesty with others is that it promotes a culture of self-deception. The fact that others frequently lie allows for a convenient escape hatch for any unpleasant facts that come your way, namely “Oh, they must be lying.” For example, when Osama bin Laden claimed credit for the bombing in the videotape, there was a great outcry from the Arab world that he didn’t do it. That denial makes sense, in a twisted sort of way. If your leaders lie to you all the time, then you definitely shouldn’t believe anything bad that they say. But, to be rational and honest and objective, you shouldn’t believe anything good they say either.

Here’s a related tidbit: According to anthropologists from and studying Iran, Iranians tend to say “No problem” to request for favors, even when they have no intention of performing such favors. It is generally considered rude to outright refuse someone. That seems to me to be a serious perversion of manners to me!

Silence and Death

Jun 242002

Do you think that Ann Landers was a wonderful person? Think again! This loving bit by her niece says it all:

You slipped away. You swore your daughter and staff to secrecy. Nobody was to know. Your wish was to be remembered as vital and indestructible by your public and your family — and you will be.

As you directed, there will be no funeral, no memorial, and your ashes will be quietly scattered over your beloved Lake Michigan. A fine plan, but how are the people you left behind to deal with the grief you have left in your wake?

What sort of callous person dies in deliberate silence like this? People don’t have funerals for their own benefit. They’re dead. What the living does has no effect on them any longer!

Funerals are for the benefit of the living, for the people who are left behind, for the people with holes in their hearts, for the people who can gain some comfort and solace by grieving with others. To forbid others this comfort when it makes no difference to you is perhaps the cruelest thing you can do to those allegedly loved ones.

To keep a serious illness secret until death is certainly more justifiable, as it allows a person to live to their fullest until their dying day. It is not a choice that I would make, but it is a legitimate and moral choice. However, such concealment means that the death comes as a terrible shock to others. And so secrecy before death makes a funeral after death so much more important in the grief process for those left behind. So to demand secrecy before death and silence afterwards is cruel indeed.

People generally condemn such behavior as “selfish.” But Ann Landers, and people who do such things, usually aren’t benefiting themselves in such action. As I mentioned, it makes no difference to dead Ann Landers whether people tend to her lifeless body this way or that way. What such allegedly “selfish” people all are is unthinking. They are not conscious of what they are doing. Or they are deliberately evil.

Whichever one of these Ann Landers was, I still say “good riddance!” Such people should not be doling out advice.

Speaking Naturally with Dragons

Jun 242002

Dear Paul,

This is the first thing that I am writing using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It is working fairly well although making a number of mistakes. There are ways to fix that of which I am not yet aware. Overall it is pretty cool and I’m looking forward to learning how to use it to write blog entries, philosophy lectures, and philosophy papers with it.

Sadly, this is a pretty dorky letter. But it’s hard to think of things to say when using this software for the first time. I am pretty impressed with the microphone, it seems to be working rather well. And the software is pretty cool too. If it makes a mistake, I can give it verbal commands to correct its errors. It even gives me a menu of possible alternatives, like a spell checker. There are all manner of features that I’ll need to learn to get this to work properly.

I suppose that I will post this silly letter on my blog. But if I’m going to do that I’d better tell people what I’ve actually bought. I bought a high-end Sony digital voice recorder, one that uses a memory stick and came bundled with Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 6 (ICD-MS515VTP). I also bought a USB digital headset from Plantronics. I have also purchased other headset, an analog one from Plantronics, to be used with the digital voice recorder that will arrive tomorrow.

For the benefit of people other than Paul: So why did I buy this stuff? Well first of all, I do have problems with carpal tunnel. Since I spend so much time at my desk everyday, I am looking forward to relaxing back in my chair, far from my keyboard, while I write. Second, I often find that I have interesting philosophical thoughts while I’m out and about, far from my computer, particularly while I’m listening to be taped lectures. I often carry a crummy digital recorder to record such thoughts, then translate them back at my computer. But that seemed rather inefficient. Third, I was fascinated with the suggestion of one user of Dragon NaturallySpeaking that his writing was better, more friendly, more conversational, less dry, less academic, thanks to using voice recognition software.

So far, I’m pretty impressed. At the moment it is taking me more time to speak this than it would for me to type it. But I’m sure my speed will increase. I’m not much of a gadget freak, but this is pretty cool.

Your dearest woo,


Flo Control

Jun 242002

Given how good the kitties have gotten at catching small creatures, I might need one of these someday.

Eeeeerie Fortune

Jun 232002

Wow, this fortune teller really hit the nail on the head! Unfortunately, I was the nail.


Jun 232002

Paul and I watched Memento last night. Wow! I’m definitely looking forward to rewatching it. Here are a few non-spoiling comments:

The backwards progression in time was perfect for this plot. All the mystery resided in the influence of the past, not in any future events.

The plot was amazingly tightly wound. Most movies are cluttered with extraneous scenes, pointless little bits of time fillers. Those same movies usually also omit elements essential to a good movie. But in Memento, every moment is essential to the plot. Nothing is expendable. Nothing is extraneous.

I have been reading and enjoying Ayn Rand’s Romantic Manifesto these past few days. So towards the end of the movie, I began wondering if the movie was entirely naturalistic. After all, Leonard seems driven by his past, most of which he cannot remember or comprehend. But the end of the movie proved me gloriously wrong. Leonard’s own conscious and deliberate choice, combined with his virtues, created his future.

I love this quote from Leonard, said in the beginning of the movie: “My wife deserves vengeance. Doesn’t make any difference whether I know about it. Just because there are things I don’t remember doesn’t make my actions meaningless. The world doesn’t disappear when you close your eyes, does it?” That statement has a rather different meaning at the end, no?

Here’s a final funny thought: In the first five minutes of the movie, I thought to myself, “Man, this guy needs a blog!”

The Wicked Witch is Dead

Jun 222002

Ann Landers is dead. I can’t say I’m sorry. I’ve read her column intermittently over the years and regularly since my return to philosophy last summer. (Reading such advice columns and listening to Dr. Laura helps me get a sense for the sorts of moral dilemmas that ordinary people struggle with everyday.)

Ann Landers doled out some seriously awful advice on a regular basis. She was an altruist of the worst kind, recommending that people but up with obnoxious, mean, and immoral people because they were “probably lonely.” She routinely advocated putting people on medication as a way of solving moral flaws. In contrast, her twin sister Dear Abby, generally doles out good, common sense advice, despite her proclivity for sappy mystical stories about pennies from heaven.

So good riddance to bad advice!

Containment is Glorious

Jun 222002

The whole eastern edge of the fire has now been contained! VodkaPundit, worry no more! So now the only uncontained area of the Hayman fire is to the west, burning into wilderness, not homes. Woohoo! Hooray for firefighters!

In more troubling news, a number of small fires flared up elsewhere in Douglas County today, including one that was fairly close to us. They were all rapidly extinguished, thankfully. It was a grim reminder that the Hayman fire will likely not be the only wildfire we face this summer. Anyone want to start a betting pool for the number of evacuation alerts, voluntary evacuations, and mandatory evacuations that NoodleFood and GeekPress will face this summer? We’re already 1-1-0. :-/

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