Oil spark off of the same flint and tinder programming does, that magic and mystery of a solitary challenge, with its own smell, tactile senations, and the fierce joy of solitary creation.
I love it, fiercely, in a liquid and manycolored passion.
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I keep working on knowledge capture tools at home, off and on. I want to be able to use the computer as an aid to thinking, but so often the tedium and hum drum nature of the thing limit me from using the computer. Using the computer as an advanced notepad only goes so far: OneNote is nice, but it's incredibly proprietary; OrgMode is crabbed; mind-maps are graphical and too specific for a single purpose. I've tried mediawiki, and I lost that years ago because MySQL is a binary format and I didn't migrate the data.
Things like metadata matter; yet, not only does it matter, metadata is hard to keep up to date. So part of the work has been to build a content-indexer for textfiles.
I'm working on an annotator (applied graph database, basically) system now. Automated categorization derived from the indexer will be fed into the annotator, then used to inform on the files. Ideally, given this automated information, I can manually add useful tags to a file, then derive similarity metrics from one file to another.
That is all to say: I want to build an automated cross-referencing tool so that when I write down thoughts, I can find them again, years later, without having to do significant manual tagging work. Speaking of tagging - I'm not using single tags for this system: that's silly. Hierarchy is a thing and a very useful way of organizing information. But, having only one hierarchy is very limiting, because taxonomy is difficult to correctly perform. So I'll be lazy: a file (a knowledge bit), will have multiple hierarchies in the database, as many as makes sense. From a file system perspective, this turns the whole idea of a root filesystem on its head: now every file is a root that many paths can go to.
Another thing I'm working on slowly is a better interactive mode for the shell. Command line is incredibly powerful, but generally it's been left in roughly 1989 or so; bash is an awful system, and horribly tied to Unix 1.0 design. One thing I particularly want to be looking at sorting out is long-term storage of web pages. Many very very interesting pages have gone into /dev/null - and those are the ones I've read! I've dabbled in the Xanadu demo from Ted Nelson, and the concept of persistent transclusion without linkrot is powerful; I want to achieve some of that with this.
The aim here is to let me think and connect thoughts to form very deep thoughts with complex ideations involved in the process. In a sense, it will be a memory system customized around how I want to think.
Working out an essay on the philosophical fallacy of "data driven" X in my head.
The basic premises fall under the illusion of objectivity, along with the nature of data in being fundamentally blue-green to whatever value system is being constructed in the society that demanded the report. These are, of course, second nature to people who have made serious study of data usage in the sciences. But unfortunately, the idea has escaped its proper boundary and become an illusory chimera devouring actual thinking.
A major question I have is how to bridge incommensurable worldviews. Of particular relevance to me is the worldview of the ancient Near East (otherwise known as the period the Christian Old Testament came together).
Currently I am working through a few books by John Walton - http://www.amazon.com/John-H.-Walton/e/
Of particular note are these ideas that I've gleaned so far:
It's unclear to me whether religion existed as a category we would today understand as religion. Based on my reading of AskHistorians on Reddit (professors, grad students moderate and require sourced answers), it would seem that religion was closer to government in the West today; part of the weft and woof of the way things were ruled; deity was part and parcel of how the world worked.
Some random conversations with a Hindu chap on twitter suggest that this might be closer to Hindu thought than not. The Enlightenment and Greek ideations lay heavy on any attempt to bridge these gaps of ontological metaphysic.
There are further ideas here regarding what qualified as truth that I can't grasp yet. I am going to have to soak, deeply, in these books to be able to grasp them and then communicate them.
It's my thought that a similar (and smaller) gap exists between people who understand a technology and people who don't. And, for that matter, deeply rural people in the West and, say, lifelong urban dwellers in NYC.
... well this has been a long time since I last posted.
Lately I've been pondering the Trump rise a lot. It really bothers me. Not per se because OMG CONSERVATIVE. More because it's shaping the Republican party into some kind of place where white supremacists are having a big voice. I'm not particularly keen on populism and direct democracy - mob behaviour is dumb by default. But the demogogue has a long tradition of shaping the mob to their whims, which is what Trump is doing, and he's taking things in a bad direction. (N.b.: not Nazi-ism. Nor, strictly, 20th century fascism. But very much in the same family tree as fascism. Call it a young second cousin, a 21st century American fascism). Trump and Sanders, however, are essentially the same: radical authoritarian populists - one on the right, one on the left.
But the interesting thing is why populism. The Atlantic has a great essay on this - http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/
A few trends I have observed: the US is largely breaking into four major demographic segments:
These axes are not, generally, independent: urban areas have more college-level jobs.
Let me be clear to my urban readers, who grew up urban - rural America is, in many, many ways a different country. If you don't bear that in mind, you will fail to grasp the rationales behind their voting and desires and thus dismiss them as irrational.
As an example:
In the country, guns are a healthy and normal part of life. A common rural activity is to go hunting in the fall; this is a ritual establishing your connection to the land and to your hunting buddies. It affirms your ruralness and your understanding of nature and the way things are without civilization. You are taking part in the pioneer tradition stemming back to the 1600s. Further, the ownership of guns provided directly for your forebears in the tradition to join the Continental Army and serve as an irregular militia.
By controlling and/or denying the right to own and use guns freely, you deny the identity of Being Rural; you deny their freedom to participate in the tradition reaching back to the very foundation of the United States. It is, without any shadow of a doubt, un-American.
Feel free to critique this, of course. It's not per se hewing to reality; it's a genuine cultural myth and ritual. But if you don't grasp the deep linkage of rural life to this myth, you can't grasp the essence of the resentment.
Let's talk transit and car size. In the rural Rocky Mountain West, it can take between 6 and 12 hours to go between state boundary and state boundary. Any settled area persists in nodules, with thin linkages of roads between them (in the Midwest, there are farms between the town areas). I grew up in a town of ~4000 people; there were 3ish towns in a valley stretching 50 miles, with a total population of maybe 10K - all of these effectively in towns. Winters are often tough: over a foot of snow is normal.
The basic implication is that when you have to go anywhere that isn't in town, you drive. Transit systems subsist on density; there is no density; ergo, no transit system. Next, because driving is a big effort, you want a larger car to store groceries, kids, etc, in order to reduce trips. Because there is a lot of snow, you want something high off the ground (here is where you cross off sedan type cars). This leaves vans, SUVs, and trucks. A SUV is a nicer van in many ways: more windows, more seats. So you're left with SUVs and trucks. Trucks turn out to be very useful if you have to transport goods, something that becomes more needed when you have so much driving to do with fewer stores (and fewer delivery options). That then roughly describes the American rural West automobile distribution: trucks and SUVs, with scattering of other vehicles.
If you want to restrict the SUV, you've then restricted a useful mode of transportation. Hence the pushback. Same for trucks.
Note, of course, that a certain amount of snark from old-timers will occur at the gleaming truck with fancy rims... a good truck is a bit dirty, because you're using it for functionality, not to show off.
Mind you: American carmakers have been driving an image of trucks + the West + cowboys + masculinity for years. That complects the situation.
One of the fundamental grumbles of the rural conservative is that the government is controlling or wanting to control too much: e.g., rules on cars (more expensive cars); rules on guns (assault on identity); rules on development (can't sell my farm and survive); limits on hunting (assault on identity). It's a complex matter, because at the same time, other controls are strongly asserted; e.g., immigration should be controlled.
I'm going to argue this: consistency is a fools game in politics. Everyone asserts their self-interest and identity, arguing for what they believe is the betterment. Consistency is nice, but ultimately, comfort and betterment is desired over consistent application.
That said: let's talk immigration perceptions.
The perception is that there are a lot of illegals, taking vital services that American citizens paid for (they paid for the services, ergo, it's theirs), and these illegals are not paying taxes. The country has issues paying for services; the illegals are burdening the system inappropriately. Therefore, throw the bums out and the country will improve.
Worse, a class of immigrants (Muslims) are known to have blown people up based on their religion. Thus, this class of immigrants needs to be stopped, in case it happens here again (San Bernadino, 9/11). For that matter, let's monitor them and stop them from even showing up.
A certain perception is that the US has filled up: we've settled from sea to shining sea, time to shut the gates and sort ourselves out. We've had a century of interventionism and multiculturalist approaches; this hasn't accomplished much for rural America, so let's can it and start over.
One lesson of Trump's success is this: the monied interests of the Republican party have not addressed and served the issues of rural America well. Worse, Murdoch has pushed certain agendas and popularized them; Trump is generally reflecting the moanings of Murdoch's O'Reilly and so forth over the past 15 years. That popular conservative thought has become a monoculture is largely the fault of those hiring the conservative talking heads.
A long-running theme in American thought is a distrust of intellectuals. I don't have time or sources to work through that; but it is playing out strongly in the Trumpian & populist discourse.
So we have a multiheaded situation:
A final commentary - rural populism is going to be a force in the US until the rural places finally collapse or people in government address their needs head on. My reckoning is that urban populism ala Sanders will remain until the people complaining have their needs addressed.
Welcome to the 2016 elections.
 It's been a common and untrue canard among liberals to assert that the US Republican party has been this for years. That has generally been wrong, except for the far fringe. It's more correct to assert that the Republicans have not ejected their fringe, who happen to agree & vote with with the Republicans on things like gun control.
 I've seen a lot of libertarian types roll to Sanders. Does not make sense, given democratic socialism's big government approaches. But oookay.
 This is factual, sadly.
 suicide rates for rural Americans are a growing problem. Not to mention meth, alcoholism, etc. Globalization has largely meant "send farm, mine, factory overseas and lose job" in the public perception.