Sunday, August 28, 2005

Being Smart is Stupid

“For at the bottom of the tergiversation of the present age is vis inertiae, and every one without passion congratulates himself upon being the first to discover it, and so becomes cleverer still.”

Kierkegaard.   The Present Age p. 34

Being cool means being without any passion or strong feeling, and people nowadays seem to be in an arms race to be as “normal” and passionless as possible, and of course always ready to jump on the person who shows feeling in order to convince everyone that they are a different creature altogether.  I can’t say this is true in all communities, because it is not.  It gets worse as you get closer to the middle of the social classes, and it gets better as you get closer to Eddystone.  That’s why it’s known as Delaware County’s “Seat of Passion” as well as “Pennsylvania’s Eastern Europe.”  

For instance, when the kid in your orientation class raises his hand and asks a question about computer networking (and not a very technical question), everyone turns to each other and says “did you understand what that kid just said.” What they are really saying is “Friend! I don’t know about those things (though we both know I really do).  I want you to know, since this is a perfect opportunity to tell you, that I don’t know much about computers, because if I did it would mean I am not as virile as the gentleman next to me.”

This example was about computers, but I see people do it a lot, especially in school situations (though you would think it would stop by law school, but that is not the case).

This is just the latest though.  I can’t say I dislike any of my law school classmates.  I can say that no one is hiding the fact that they are worried about doing well, and prepared to spend a lot of time on things.  Undergrad was a game of trying to do well while giving everyone the impression that you are just the dude with sandals and a jeep trying to get drunk.  

Sunday, August 21, 2005

My Aspiration

“The other prisoners sometimes laughed at him, principally because he had changed places on the march to Siberia in a convoy, and changed in return for a red shirt and a ruble in silver. It was because of the insignificant price for which he had sold himself that the prisoners laughed at him. To “change places” means to exchange names, and consequently destinies with somebody. However fantastic this may seem, it is a fact, and in my day it still flourished in Siberian prisoner’s convoys, hallowed by tradition and defined y settled forms.”

Dostoevsky “House of the Dead” p. 84

Thursday, August 18, 2005

I am the Walrus?

“For many observers, then and later, this was strange sort of socialism. Most of the classical works of socialist theory not only in Russia but throughout Europe had started from the premise that socialism’s introduction would involve an immediate expansion of political participation, mass creativity, democratic and legal rights and practices, popular consultation and industrial democracy. Before 1917 there was already plenty of reason to question whether Lenin, the eulogist for dictatorship, was properly categorized as socialist. He was not the only self-styled socialist who evoked such objections; similar criticism had been made of the whole tradition of advocates of dictatorship; Louis-Auguste Blanqui in France, Wilhelm Weitling in Germany and Pjotr Tkachev in Russia. But, unlike them, Lenin had come to power.

In the eyes of the Mensheviks […] his Sovnarkum had unjustly called itself a socialist government and had besmirched the name of socialism[…] Such a conflation mortified non-Leninist socialists since it resulted in conservatives and liberals everywhere claiming that the inevitable consequence of any conceivable socialist government would be the sort of political, social and economic oppression that characterized Lenin’s Russia.”

Lenin; A Biography by Robert Service p.355

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Something of which I am guilty

"In fact there are handbooks for everything, and very soon education, all the world over, will consist in learning a greater or lesser number of comments by heart, and people will excel according to their capacity for singling out the various facts like a printer signaling out the letters, but completely ignorant of the meaning of anything."

Kierkegaard, "The Present Age" 88-89

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

How Far We've Come

There is nothing more reassuring than to see people grovel and fight over material things like animals.

Revenge and the Christian Mind

I would like to know the reason why modern American Christians tend to read one chapter in the Bible – you know, the one with all of the special effects, and most importantly – REVENGE – Yes, in their preference for that last chapter in the bible these Christians betray their true reason for being Christians in the first place, it gives them a sense of revenge that cannot be outdone. Beneath many Christians there is actually a wannabe tyrant, but it is a tyrant without the necessary fangs to fulfill this will.

Section 15 (Essay 1) of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals shows the hate that is in many Christian hearts. "Thomas Aquinas, the great teacher and saint. "Beati in regno coelesti," he says, meek as a lamb, "videbunt poenas damnatorum, ut beatitudo illis magis complaceat." ("The blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the punishments of the damned, in order that their bliss be more delightful for them.")"

These people who watch for the end of the world refuse to recognize that things, for instance in the middle ages, were much more violent, more gruesome and unjust, and that it is doubtful that a year of history has ever passed without someone or some group of people proclaiming the imminent end of the world.

“Imagine trying to build a theory of the constitution by obsessively reading and rereading the Twenty-fifth amendment, and you’ll get an idea of what an odd approach this is.

I wish we could go back to the good old days of fighting for the poor and preaching peace, but it looks like they are long gone. This article in the august Harper's is the best treatment of the subject I have read:

“But their theology is appealing for another reason too: it coincides with what we want to believe. How nice it would be if Jesus had declared that our income was ours to keep, instead of insisting that we had to share. How satisfying it would be if we were supposed to hate our enemies. Religious conservatism will always have a comparatively easy sell.”

"It's hard to imagine a con much more audacious than making Christ the front man for a program of tax cuts for the rich or war in Iraq."

The Christian Paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong
By Bill McKibben

Harpers aug 2005

Sunday, August 14, 2005

More on Moral Decay

Like I said before, moral decay is a myth. This guy seems to think so, but he sees it as a refutation of "pesky feminists" where I see it as a refutation of "pesky right wing (and left I suppose) moralizers."

"The Historical True Crime Blog, meanwhile, has recovered a horrifying story (perhaps not for those who are already having a depressing day) about a "family annihilator" called George Hassell, who in 1920s America murdered two sets of his "nearest and dearest": a total of two women and 11 children. It's a lesson for those who like to say blame aspects of contemporary culture - like those pesky feminists - for similar crimes today."

Serious Stuff

You think these guys are messing around? Well I'm not either.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


I ran into a Swedish guy in Ukraine who went to this place out of curiosity. It’s a small sliver of land next to Moldova that has apparently not recognized the collapse of the Soviet Union in many ways. There are still statues to Lenin, and their money has his portrait as well.

Ten Who Are Guilty

“People are better than I, for they wished not to ruin but to save me!” Oh it is so easy for you to do it, this act of mercy, for in the absence of any evidence even slightly resembling the truth, it will be too difficult for you to say: “Yes guilty.” It is better to let ten who are guilty go, than to punish one who is innocent – do you hear, do you hear this majestic voice from the last century of our glorious history? Is it for me, insignificant as I am, to remind you that the Russian courts exist not only for punishment but also the salvation of the ruined man!”

Brothers Karamazov p748

I wonder if people generally agree with the statement “ten who are guilty…” It’s probably the case that the more right leaning you are the less you agree with it. I have never heard this explicitly, but from a lot of the right wing arguments I have heard it seems the idea is reversed, it better for one innocent person to go to prison rather than

I also think a lot of liberal arguments about putting less people in prison are based off of this and not just wanting to make it easier for criminals. Am I the only person that is afraid of false incarceration?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Being Engaged

Engagement is an attempt to gain social recognition for the seriousness of one’s relationship without actually having to make any commitments – therefore it is superfluous.

Engagement is essentially a promise to make a promise. If I promise you that on Wednesday I will promise to give you $5 on Friday it would be considered ridiculous. Why don’t I just promise to give you $5 on Friday in the first place? The analogy holds for marriage. If two people are going to be married in three weeks, and they use the idea of engagement to tell people of this, I can see some sense in it, but when two people have no idea when they are going to get married, and they go around saying they are engaged, what are they actually saying to each other and everyone else?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

More on Moral Decay

“Our budding, still timid press has all the same rendered some service to society, for without it we should never have learned, in any measure of fullness, of those horrors of unbridled will and moral degradation that it ceaselessly reports in its pahes, to everyone[…] hourly we read of things before which the present case pales and seems almost something ordinary.”

Brothers Karamazov p. 695

Written in 1880. Moral decay is a myth.



Vladimir Mayakovsky

Hoofs sang,

Stamping the ground:






the street

skidded underfoot.


a horse slumped on its croup

At once,

all those drifters flare-trousered

gathered in force.


spilled and spouted:

‘A horse tumbled!

Look at the horse!’

The Kuznetsky rumbled

Only I

didn't join my voice in the sneering

I came nearer

and saw

the eye of the horse…

The street, tipped over,

continued on its course…

I came nearer

and saw

a large tear

roll down the muzzle


and disappear

And some sort of fellow animal pain

Splashed out of me

And flowed in whispering

“Horse, please…

Horse, listen,

why should you think you are any worse?


we are all

essentially horses,

each and every one of us is something of a horse.’


the old one

didn’t need my comfort,


my thought

was too effete,

only the horse tried hard,

neighed loud,

rose to its feet ,

and made a start.

Its tail playing

in glittering coat,

it trotted indomitably toward its stall.

It suddenly felt

it was still a coalt

and life was definitely worth living again.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

If we scare and threaten kids enough, maybe they will stop drinking...

There are actually people in this country who think they can stop underage drinking, drug use, prostitution, crime through laws and religion – things that have always been with us. Has there ever been a more quixotic endeavor in the history of the human race? Has there ever been something that has been as foolish and destructive?

Of course we need to fight crime, but when faced with a rational and more importantly realistic way of dealing with it, we should embrace it.

Industrial Sabotage

Foamex, part of the glorious and powerful industrial base of Eddystone, is in financial trouble. This is no doubt the work of saboteurs. Nonetheless, it would suck if something happened to that factory. They say they are “evaluate strategic alternatives for strengthening the company's balance sheet and enhancing long-term value,” which means (I must admit my business translation skills are not the best) they are looking for people to lay off.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Description of Customer Service Jobs

"The idea occurred to me once that if it were desired to crush and destroy a man completely and punish him with the most frightful possible penalty, which would make even the most terrible criminal quail and fill him with dread, it would suffice to give the penal work the most completely and utterly useless and nonsensical character. Even though work is now dull and uninteresting for the convict, it is itself, as work, reasonable enough[…] But if he were compelled, for example, to pour water from one bucket into another and back into the first again, grind sand, or laboriously transfer a heap of soil from one place to another and back again, the prisoner, I think, would hang himself after a few days, or commit a thousand new crimes[…]part of that torture, senselessness, degradation, and shame is inevitably present in every kind of compulsory work."

Dostoevsky “House of the Dead” p24

...hence my decision to go to law school. Every job I have ever had has felt as senseless and degrading as pouring one bucket of water into another, except in my case I had to smile at the same time.

House of the Dead is turning out to be one of my favorite Dostoevsky books so far. Its another example of how very little has actually changed other than the way things look. If Dostoevsky was alive now though he would use his time in prison to get "street cred" in order to become an immensely popular rapper.

Does St. Michael rap about casting satan into hell, and mention his scars frequently in his rhymes?

Every tough guy and girl in history up until now missed the oppurtunity to be able to rap about every facet of their toughness and life history.

Update: A few days after writing this I found this relevant link on instapundit.

Recent Readings: Ukrainian Famine

“when it became clear in the course of 1932 that the quota for state grain procurement could not physically be met, Stalin in his fury ordered all the available stocks to be seized, no matter what the consequences for the local population[…] ‘many experienced great difficulties with provisions. There were mass cases of people swelling up from hunger and dying.”
p. xi

Sometime around noon, a group of the village officials arrived at his house. The official in charge, facing Uncle Timish’s wife, announced that inasmuch as her husband had been arrested as an ‘enemy of the people,’ all his possessions were to be immediately confiscated and declared state property. The woman, confused and upset, tried to argue with the officials. She asked them what treason her husband had committed against the people that he should be proclaimed their enemy. But the officials were in no such mood to discuss such a matter. The order to leave the house was repeated. She was also told that she might remove from the house only her own and her children’s personal possessions, such as clothing. Everything else had to be left behind.
By now, she realized that the officials meant business. With tears in her eyes, she begged them to let her stay in the house at least overnight so that she could collect her things. But she pleaded in vain. The order was again repeated; then she fainted and fell to the floor. Her children started to cry. The man in charged ordered her to be picked up and taken out to the sleigh which was standing ready in front of the house. She came to herself at that moment, and sobbingly told the officials that she did not have any place to go. This had been her home for many years. She, with her husband and children built their home.
Neither teas nor pleas helped. The officials only urged her to hurry. The man in charge took her by the shoulders. Screaming, she tore herself away from him. The one in charge ordered her to be evicted bodily from her house. When they grabbed her, she struggled and pulled their hair. She was finally dragged out of the house and thrown onto the sleigh. While two men held her, the children were brought out. A few of their possessions were thrown onto the sleigh and it moved off. Still restrained by the two officials, Uncle Timish’ wife and his children, wailing an shouting, disappeared into the winter haze[…]We never heard of them again.

“Execution by Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust” by Miron Dolot

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Devil From Ivan's Head

"People take this whole comedy for something serious, despite all of their undeniable intelligence. That is their tragedy. Well they suffer, of course, but...they still live, they live really, not in fantasy; because suffering is life. "

Brother Karamazov 642

Chain of Thoughts

So this guy talked trash about a bunch of conservative blogs, one of which was Michelle Malkin, an immensely popular conservative blogger. She was defended by this conservative legal blog.

This is going somewhere. It led me to look around on Malkin’s blog, and I came accross these T-Shirts for sale. Some of them are funny. I particularly like this one (which is as ironic as Che or Lenin on a mass produced t-shirt). But this one illustrates a particular historical attitude that I loathe. If we consult the pie chart of casualties of WWII, a four year old would immediately notice something. Hmm…maybe, just maybe, and I know this sounds crazy, we didn’t play the biggest role in World War II (the crowd gasps). I mean, I’m no professor of history, but that pie chart is kind of convincing…

Even if we don’t state the obvious, and we leave the evil empire out of it, and look at Britain’s losses the ignorance of that shirt is apparent. Britain lost 495,700 people, 90,000 of which were civilians. One must also take into account the material destruction suffered from bombings. Now, Britain, I think, is a lot smaller than the US, so that means a much higher proportion of the population lost their lives.

So when you go over there and say “we saved your ass,” it is an embarrassing display of historical ignorance.

If for some reason you do have the urge to think that we personally won WWII, just remember that 80% of German losses in WWII were at the hands of the Soviets, and the ratio of German soliders on the eastern front compared to the western front was 12:1. For every American soldier who died, 19 Soviet soldiers and 49 Soviet Civilians died. This isn’t to say that 400,000 isn’t a huge number of casualties for a country to sustain, its to say that we must put that into perspective before making a “We saved your ass” style comment, or even worse, actually wear a shirt like that.

And don’t forget that the French “saved our ass” at one time.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


I went ahead and got a flikr thing. So that is where my pictures will be from now on.

Citing a Cause

I may have found some evidence for the high number of LEP bound kids in Eddystone Elementary over years, and correspondingly, the reason for that orange stuff we saw in the water when we were kids:

Exelon's Eddystone Generating Station Pollution Statistics

Exelon's Rank Among PA's Largest Polluters (46/100 in PA, 2/21 Delaware County)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Emotional Inflation

This probably makes no sense to a lot of people:

“There are occurrences of such a delicate nature that one does well to cover them up with some rudeness to conceal them; there are actions of love and extravagant generosity after which nothing is more advisable than to take a stick and give any eyewitness a sound thrashing that would muddle his memory. Some know how to muddle and abuse their own memory in order to have their revenge at least against this only witness: shame is inventive.”

Beyond Good and Evil 40

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Leisurely Independence"

"He seems to have thought for a time of the law. From that too he recoiled, and leaving the legal profession for his brother Christopher, he had decided that the only life possible for himself was one of leisurely independence, dedicated wholly to scholarship and literature[…]For the six years from 1632 this accordingly, was Milton’s position. In perfect leisure, and in a pleasant rural retirement with Windsor at the distance of an easy walk, and London only about 17 miles off, he went through, he tells us, a systematic course of reading in the Greek and Latin classics, varied by mathematics, music, and the kind of physical science we would now call cosmography”

David Mason “A Brief Life of Milton” from “Paradise Lost” p. 318-319

Ukraine, with its austerity and complete lack of phony American behaivor, was horrible preparation for law school, where one can probably find the paradigm of this kind of person. I even ran into an American girl in Ukraine and it just reminded me of how much I don’t like the typical American. In two weeks I will be in the midst of the very people in this world that I do not want to be around. However, this will is unalterable. Amor Fati. This time around though I have the benefit of a lot of hard lessons learned...

Here, however, Zarathustra interrupted the foaming fool and put his hand over the fool’s mouth. “Stop at last!” cried Zarathustra; “your speech and your manner have long nauseated me. Why did you live near the swamps so long that you yourself have become a frog and a toad? Does not putrid swamp-blood flow through your veins now that you have learned to croak and revile thus? Why have you not gone into the woods or to plow the soil? Does not the sea abound in green islands? I despise your despising; and if you warned me, why did you not warn yourself?[…] What was it that first made you grunt? That nobody flattered you sufficiently; you sat down to this filth so as to have reason to grunt much – to have reason for much revenge. For all your foaming is revenge, you vain fool; I guessed it well[…] This doctrine, however, I give you fool, as a parting present: where one can no longer love, there one should pass by.”

Thus spoke Zarathustra, and he passed by the fool and the great city.

Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra Book III “On Passing By”


Monday, August 01, 2005

Kyiv Swelter

The temperaturein Kiev is exceeding 40 C. I hear that it is even worse in Italy. Its been like this all week, and just before we came here the electricity and the water were shut off in Kemlinsty. When the water finally came back on after two days, it cam out rusty all night. So we ran the water for a while, which somehow made water comeoff of the ceiling of our neighbor.

Svitlana's uncle agreed to drive us to Kiev. On the way we had to go over one of many really bad roads here and somehow his breakline broke. When we stopped the car there was a pool of brake fluid under the wheel. So I figure we'll call Svitlana's dad, have him pick us up and we'll leave later. That was not the case though, he tied a plastic bag around it and we drove all the way to Kiev via mountainous terrain and bad roads. I did not think this was possible.

I met Svitlana's cousin, who is engaged to some guy from Kentucky. She speaks english well so it was nice to have other people to talk to without an interpreter. I drank wine, cognac and beer at the same time all day and was pretty drunk, but I'm pretty sure I didn't break anything. Now we are staying in Svitlana's aunt's apartment, where there is running hot water. Only a few days left.