excerpted from tom's journal: topic: Me

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2001_09_11:09: Terrorism and Imperialism

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I have for many years decried violence of all kinds.

Yet right now I am thinking: "Find out who did it. Then kill them all."

I wrote the above analysis to try to maintain some kind of equilibrium. It didn't work.
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2001_09_14:09: Sick At Heart

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Lest there be any doubt, I am sick at heart over the events of past days, all the moreso because of the course of action that I am recommending today.
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2001_06_21:11: To Know

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I'd be a lot happier if I took more pleasure in iconclasm.

The path to knowledge is littered with the ruins of the lore. In any field there is the lore: foundational beliefs that you must accept to be considered a member of the community of researchers working in that field. You can't be a Marxist and reject the labor theory of value. You can't be a physicist and reject the relationship between symmetries and conservation laws.

If there is any meat on the bones of Kuhn's analysis of science, it is that normal science is the working out of the consequences of the lore, and revolutionary science is questioning the lore itself. Questioning the lore is a dangerous, chancey business: those beliefs are held by people for reasons, sometimes very good ones, so you risk spending a lot of time proving to yourself what everyone else takes for granted, and this won't lead to professional advancement however deep an understanding it gives you. When the reasons for believing the lore are not so good, questioning it is even more dangerous because you wind up threatening the establishment, and a naked emperor is a barrel of laughs compared to a naked emperor's tailor.

But the problem remains, for me, that the first step in learning is so often knocking down, or at least questioning, truths that people hold dear. And knocking down is easy compared to the building up that follows. So if just smashing icons was more fun, I'd be a lot happier, because it's so easy to do. But it isn't enough: breaking without building is too sterile a pursuit.

Of the many episodes of religious indoctrination I got as a child I remember only one lesson. The teacher divided the class in two on a voluntary basis, telling us that we could choose either creation or destruction. The creators got to build model airplanes. The destoryers got to rip up a bunch of stuff. I chose creation. By the end of the lesson, all but one of the kids who chose destruction had come over to watch the creators work. Destruction is boring, however necessary it may sometimes be.
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2001_09_24:20: Diffuse Ramblings

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There are good days, and bad days. At least that's the theory. At the moment there are mostly bad days and worse days. The law of averages tells me that someone out there is getting all my good days! I want 'em back, damnit!
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2001_09_25:12: Ideal Dynamics

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An Israelli friend once described public knowledge of the Israelli nuclear program as, "Those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know." That sums up a great deal of how I feel right now, in ways that this journal, like Fermat's margin, is too small to contain.
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2001_09_21:19: Mourn

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The only humor I've seen so far that got through to me at all is this joke:

chmod a+x /bin/laden

The elegance and terseness of the expression made me laugh, as much as anything else. Right now my emotions are mostly shut down, numb, cold. So humor has to slip in through the back door of geeky intellect.

For the non-'nixers, chmod is a UNIX command to change the permissions on a file. a+x means the permissions are being changed so that anyone (or all users) can execute the file. And there's a top-level UNIX directory called "bin" where a bunch of important stuff is. So everyone now has permission to execute /bin/laden.

It probably loses something in the translation--to be properly understood, you really have to hear it in the original Klingon.
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2001_09_20:19: Cowboy

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I'm writing too much about current events, too little about anything else. I'm as obsessed by the world situation as anyone, and want badly for my voice to be heard, at least a little, amidst the caccaphony or nitwits, anarchists and racists who are vying for public attention. I wonder which category I fall into?