Saturday, April 30, 2005

Links!

A Collection of link-ity goodness I read something the other day about how Microsoft is playing catch up to Google and has been for some time now, and how Google is now the cool place for young techies to work. The article then took a look at how one could work on a computer without using an MS product, excepting Windows itself. That is a big exception, and if you do office work you would likely need a software package of some sort (WordPerfect, perhaps). The interesting thing is that the article in question made me ask how I do in that regard. I surprised myself by realizing how little MS software I use other than Windows. I didn't plan it that way, it just kind of happened. My workhorse is Firefox, of course. I can't imagine trying to do one of my Links! posts without Firefox up with ten or fifteen tabs open. The thought of using IE to do that puts me in cold sweat and makes my trackball thumb get snarky. Yesterday I visited the Firefox site to check for anything that might be new and useful. Not surprisingly, I found stuff (I don't visit the site constantly). I now have Foxytunes at the bottom of my Firefox window calling on WinAmp to bring me TwangCity, American Roots Music, an internet radio station. I also have a local weather icon just to the left of it, showing me today's weather and tomorrow's forecast. Two fine additions to my Firefox tool set that'll make blogging more pleasurable. I also added a feature called Stumbleupon, which looks like it will be a lot of fun. It takes you to sites other people who share your interests enjoyed and gave the thumbs up to. It's simple and it works! I also added Magpie, a Ben Goodger product that is supposed to allow you to copy all of the media on a site to your computer for later perusal. Darn if I can figure out how to use it though. For writing my blog posts I have w.bloggar, which I am becoming fonder of by the day. I started using it when the risk of using Blogger's editing window were cruelly brought home to me. That's right, a post of middling length went into the void, never to be seen again (this was before Blogger created the recover lost post function). Now I can easily save my posts to my hard drive as I compose, or before dispatching them. w.bloggar also offers a good set of editing tools, better than the one's Blogger gives you. Aps I don't use a lot include e-mail, search and chat and of the three the only MS product I use is MSN Messenger, more out of indifference than anything else. OK, maybe not total indifference. I despise ICQ's cluttered interface so I dropped it ages ago. Thunderbird is overkill for the very little emailing I do, but is just fine. Rounding out my blogger's toolbox is an old standby - WS FTP, which I use for hosting some sorts of files, images mostly. The upside of all this is that I am able to be very happily productive on a computer that is nowhere near cutting edge. Please keep all comparisons to the author to yourself! I have little reason to use Office type programs and my computer gaming is darn close to zero. In short, I am probably not a typical user, but I am happily and almost by accident, MS Free.
I also have a lot of links to catch up on! First the serious, and then the silly. This LA Times writer is irritated at the Democrat's resistence to making voter fraud more difficult and muses about their first principles. He suggests that, practically speaking, "We're smart, you're dumb" seems to cover it:
We'll take care of you. Leave the thinking to us. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, minority leaders of the House and Senate, respectively, - kindly Mom and Pop to a nation of intellectually limited youngsters. (But thank goodness, they love us anyway.)
NRO's Stanley Kurz cites Harper's magazine to suggest that at least some Democrats don't have a lot of love or respect for Christians. This quote from the National Journal brought to my mind the Liberal Party of Canada, the "personal savior" of too many people who ought to know better:
This, of course, is the E.U.'s normal method of winning "consent" for its torrent of constitutional, political, and economic innovations. Each is presented to the Union's citizens not only as a done deal, but as the only deal that could possibly have been done, and as the only basis on which the E.U. can even stay in business, let alone flourish. Whenever Europe's governments deign to put their plans for the Union to a national vote, it is not to allow their citizens to exercise a choice over their future. It is to sanctify the choice that their government has already made for them -- no other option being thinkable.
It's beyond me, the appeal this sort of thing has to anyone. It brings to mind both George Orwell's comments about a waiter's self identification with those he serves and Paris Hilton telling the homeless or the working class how that she cares about them and can identify their needs and act in their interest. Who would be surprised to see such a project crash and burn? Why should the waiter (or anyone) find such a condescending appeal appealing? It's the paradox of the good news. The trouble conservatives have is that to a people with no faith in themselves and the worthiness of their working and family lives, conservatives will appear as relentlessly negative. As Jonah Goldberg points out in this fine, fine essay, "Conservatives are people who — ultimately — explain why many things shouldn’t be done." A lack of confidence weakens a community until it is no longer willing to bear the costs of the first principles that sustain it. As Christians we might call this 'bearing the cross.' In any case, a community that is unwell begins to move its eye from first principle to last things, "fruits, consequences, facts." In the short run this can go on for a long time but eventually a society with such a compromised moral immune system is bound to catch something nasty and be unable to fight it off:
as anyone who reads about what’s happening in Holland understands, systems based solely on platitudes of tolerance can crash into chaos when its platitudes are revealed to have little philosophical superstructure. And we know what happens to democracies when faith vanishes and human will reigns supreme. Fascism was impossible without the Enlightenment. Fascism was impossible without democracy. Fascism was, indeed, the product of both. Various movements found that “alien” or “outdated” notions of liberal democracy no longer served the aspirations of the nation or the volk.
When this happens, recovery can be long and slow, as the NYT's David Brooks tell us in his insightful examination of what he calls Post-Totalitarian Stress Syndrome:
the paradox of Russia is that as life has become miserable in many ways, the economy has grown at an impressive clip. We can look back on this and begin to see a pattern that might be called Post-Totalitarian Stress Syndrome. When totalitarian regimes take control of a country, they destroy the bonds of civic trust and the normal patterns of social cohesion. They rule by fear, and public life becomes brutish. They pervert private and public morality. When those totalitarian regimes fall, different parts of society recover at different rates. Some enterprising people take advantage of economic recovery, and the result of their efforts is economic growth. But private morality, the habits of self-control and the social fabric take a lot longer to recover. So you wind up with nations in which high growth rates and lingering military power mask profound social chaos. This is what we're seeing in Russia. It's probably what we would be seeing in Iraq even if the insurgency were under control. And most frighteningly, it could be what we will be seeing in China for decades to come.
The WSJ Peggy Noonan offers us an antidote, namely to "be mature, to believe as adults believe," and keep first principles first. "Take care of the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves" is another way to put it.
Albert Einstein shows that he gets it in this wonderful (and brief) essay:
How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people -- first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving... "I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves -- this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts -- possessions, outward success, luxury -- have always seemed to me contemptible.
Brandon shares some Chesterton with us. One can almost always learn something interesting at Sirius. Surprisingly, the Communinsts for Kerry website is still around, doing funny stuff like this coverage of a "mysterious" fire on the roof of the Vatican around the time the new Pope was chosen. This is messed up but good for a laugh. Ever wonder what your name would look like in binary code? Curious about those new CVT's (continuously variable transmissions)?

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