Author Archives: Nikto

My Fav Parts

… a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

and:

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

Mind Makes Right

After reading “War And Peace” earlier this year I finally decided to give Ayn Rand’s Big Book “Atlas Shrugged” a try. I had read “For the New Intellectual” a few years back and was pretty familiar with her philosophy so none of that came as much of a surprise to me. Some things about the book did surprise me though. I am not going to summarize the book. That’s what Wikipedia is for.

She says about the book that she wanted to make the characters starkly drawn and ideal to illustrate her point. She definitely succeeds here. There are characters in Dr Seuss books with more nuance and surprise than any of the characters in this book.

Its a world where the Mind rules. Spirituality is nothing more than a synonym for weakness. Sensuality (sexual or not) is only valid in the proper philosophical context. Unless you are Dagny (or sleeping with her) there is no real pleasure to be had in anything except beating down —Im sorry, Improving upon— nature. What other possible kind of fulfillment can there be for man? Its pretty clear Ms Rand has never gone surfing.

That’s not to say the book doesn’t cover some heavy topics but it covers them in a very black and white way. Ms Rand’s world is one of perfect Giant Men (Dagny not excepted) whose major inner strife is how to best apply their perfection. Success is all about industrial production from an idealized capitalist perspective, where worker’s rights, environmental impact and safety concerns dare not tarnish the rapturous beauty of the blue green sheen of Rearden Metal.

In the larger context I don’t feel qualified to judge her philosophy er, philosophically, but I do think some of her arguments become much less convincing because of the fact that she seems to need such extreme examples and circumstances to make her point. In over 600,000 or so words Rand finds no room for grey. She calls her philosophy Objectivism, and seems convinced that all other modern thinkers are saying that everything is Subjective and therefore not real or has no real meaning. I am uncomfortable with either and prefer to see the world not as Subjective but very Complicated/Textured and therefore not a good fit a Fairy Tale presentation of the world as she would like it to be.

Still I do see why the book is so attractive to many people who would call themselves engineers of one kind or another, myself included. We have all sat in meetings and felt the life force or money sucked right out of us by the moochers and the looters. Its not hard to see the world as a place were some people create things and everyone else lives off of them. I do think that she is right about many of these points. I understand why the choir listens when she is preaching. Lots of people want to believe they are Henry Rearden when in reality they are James Taggert.

Another thing I didn’t expect is that despite all of the above, its a pretty good story. It reads pretty fast for being over 1000 pages and even has a “hard to put down” kind of feel at least in the first 700 or so pages. I love Tolstoy more but it took me much longer to get through his book despite it being shorter. Towards the end of Atlas though I began to tire of the preaching and the details of each new way the railroad is falling apart and was just waiting to see if something interesting is really going to happen at the end. I won’t spoil it.

I would say overall the most important take away I have from the book is a better working definition of what a Libertarian is.

Its a person who doesn’t understand that Atlas Shrugged is only a novel.

Things that make me happy lately

  • I learned how easy it is to take your bike with you on the Bus.
  • Google apps for domains for all my email. I no longer get any spam.
  • Firefox 3. The awesome bar is awesome.
  • Spanish Class twice a week
  • My Pool playing is actually getting better for the first time since I was 16
  • Using dict(a=2,b=3) instead of {‘a':2, ‘b':3} where applicable
  • School is almost out. And better yet Camp starts sooon
  • O

things i want.

A Laptop that will power its USB ports even when the laptop is off. Like ACC mode in car.

To be able to donate to candidates but if they don’t do what they say then I get the money back.

A smart phone that doesn’t suck and is open.

To delay getting bifocals as long as possible.

For someone besides Hillary to win the democratic nomination.

Bloglines to have a one-click button that adds to del.icio.us

I want People who think that whether or not we should torture is something worth debating to get out of my country.

To find a way to practice speaking Spanish.

For Google to allow me to adjust the page rank of pages just for me.

To have more songs in my iTunes than my son does.

A setting for my python IDE which doesn’t just make spaces instead of tabs the default but refuses to allow any files with tabs to be included in the project unless they are converted and never forgets this setting. EVER.

A commuter bike with a light and fenders and all that jazz.

To be able to make a blog post from a random list of sentences and fragments.

American Christianity

American is sometimes called the most Christian nation in the developed world. Whatever. I think we have a lot of stuff going on here that gets called Christianity. I’m having more and more trouble deciding what that means. It seems to mostly be people arguing about who Jesus was rather than trying to do what he said. This takes several forms, the two which seem most common are characterized (somewhat unfairly) below:

Conservative American Christianity
We are Bad, Jesus is Good. Jesus was sacrificed to restore us to God. We need to Believe that to go to Heaven. What he said wasn’t all that important. He saved us by his Blood. God wants to reward our faith so we need strong rights and rules about property etc. I must be doing something right in God’s eyes or else why would I have such a nice house and car. Charity is good as long as we take care of our own first and don’t give away the fish when we should be teaching people how to fish. Can I send some money to someone who will teach people to fish in a Biblically-Based way? We need to be converting people to the faith since then they will be saved like us, even it means War. Sometimes the consequence of spiritual warfare is suffering here on earth. Not as bad as how Jesus suffered for us. That was really bad. I saw the movie.

Liberal American Christianity
Jesus was really a social reformer, who spoke out against tyranny and oppression and pretty much agrees with my Modern Liberal Views(tm) on everything. Since I volunteer at the food bank twice a month, I am following his lead. Go Me! Its a shame the government doesn’t give more to these people since its hard for me to find the time to help out more. We shouldn’t focus so much on conversion. We should just be nice to people or find some poor people to help and that will make them want to come to our church and hear our pastor preach about how important it is to be nice to people and not judgmental like those other Christians are. After all we need some more people in church cause gosh we are all so busy and there aren’t enough people to be on the Fellowship committee.

Neither of these views have ever been very satisfying to me. I have spent time with both kinds of people and they both I think miss the mark. Both camps seem to be trying to hard to make their religion agree with where they are right now. There’s talk about conversion experiences and “growing in the sprit” but mostly its about how good it is that we are on right team and isn’t great that Jesus accepts us just like we are?

The Carpenter from Nazareth along with Lao Tze, Buddha and The Gita, etc. in my view took a different approach. They say: “Here is a teaching. It is True. Follow this and you will grow and become better and as you become better so will The Creation. You can free yourself from fear, pain, doubt, suffering. It takes work. You must practice. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” The harder I look, the less in the way of intellectual revelation I find to be had. The gate is not hard to find but the path is hard to walk. What we think is less important than what we do. Our time is limited and there is a world to enjoy, a life to live and a Kingdom to build.

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”