synthetic zero


April 30, 2003

Migrating to Linux is a fairly involved task --- not yet for everyone, but it's getting to the point where it is just possible to do most of the things you want to be able to do --- albeit with more difficulty than using Windows or a Mac. I now have my Mandrake 9.1 system mostly running effectively on my Inspiron 8200. There are quirks, and I've found workarounds for most of them. Overall, however, it feels good to be on a non-Microsoft operating system finally --- and it feels good to have access to the source code for most of the tools I am using now.

Some more thoughts on Iraq: what I was afraid of was not that we would go in there with the explicit intention of being conquerors --- rather, I was concerned about the logic of events forcing us into moves which would eventually create the need for us to crack down in ways which will foment a cycle of violence. Already we have fired upon three different demonstrations, and of course most recently killing at least 13 Iraqis, including children, in a group that was protesting our presence in a school (why must we take over a school to use as a temporary command post? Aren't there enough abandoned government buildings to go around, that we have to use a school?)

So far everything has gone as I had expected: a relatively swift military victory, initial elation by a subset of the population combined with resentment amongst a large number of others, the initial outbreaks of resistance coupled with our firing on civilians leading to more resentment. Some of my few pro-war friends and acquaintances suggest that the Bush Administration knows what they're doing, they know things we don't --- yet in a recent news report I read, President Bush was reportedly surprised to learn that there are two major sects of Islam: Sunni and Shiite. I don't have a tremendous degree of confidence in Bush's ability to prognosticate the future of the Arab world.

I have much else to write but I have to stop for now. I just got my text editing and FTP facilities up to speed here on my Linux system, so now I can publish directly from Linux. So this is my first post using that method. There will be a lot more soon.

April 25, 2003

Yes, I'm still here. Been doing lots of massive reconfiguring of things, finishing rooms, etc., etc. Each night I think to myself "I should write an entry" but then I can't bring myself to stay awake longer to write something.

I have a lot of things I'd like to write and I will write them when I have more moments. I've been fiddling with trying to convert over to Linux and it hasn't been all that easy. I've used it a lot as a server platform but only now am trying to use it as a workstation environment. Tried Mandrake 9.1 which had problems with my wireless card and firewire drive, went to Red Hat 9 which works more stably but is incredibly slow, particularly for launching programs (I imagine it must be adequate as a server platform). I may go back to Mandrake since I think eventually I can fix the wireless and firewire problems, but I can't imagine working at the slow speed of Red Hat 9. Downloading Debian as well, I might give that a try tomorrow.

So, that and buying a used PowerMac G4/450 have taken up a lot of time, not to mention finishing up the building process.

April 17, 2003

I had a dream that I met Merce Cunningham and we decided to collaborate on some art projects. In the dream, he was more of an artist than a dancer, and he was a bit younger than he is in real life. I woke up feeling good about being in New York.

April 10, 2003

How can one be sad when a dictator has fallen? I am happy that Saddam has lost (or is losing) power, but I mourn the needless deaths and the deaths to come. I am sad not because I think Hussein didn't deserve to be ousted, but because we could have done it far more ably, and we have set a terrible precedent. I will leave it to John Quincy Adams, again, to express my sentiments and concerns about the future:

She [America] well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.

....She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

An acquaintance of mine asked me why I didn't celebrate the downfall of a notorious dictator; I told him that I was happy that he had fallen, but I couldn't bring myself to express much celebratory joy. Would you celebrate if a lynch mob took out a murderer? The problem isn't the result, in other words, it is the manner in which the result was obtained, and the long-term consequences of this. Our troops, in this case, aren't to blame for our policy, of course --- it is our leaders.

April 9, 2003

Been busy building loft.

The only good thing about the war is that it will rid the world of Saddam Hussein. Small comfort, to my mind, given the absolutely horrific way we've gone about doing this, maximizng the fallout:

"It's been terrible the last 24 hours. When I saw the American troops in the center of Baghdad, I felt I was going to explode with everything, anger and sadness," the butcher said.

....As the war turns decisively against Iraq, depression seems to be settling over the Arab world. Ask Jordanians how they feel, and they will reel off a litany of symptoms: sleeplessness, headaches, stomach trouble, edginess, anxiety. Even the anger during the war's opening days, when people poured into the streets hoisting signs and shouting anti-American slogans, has yielded to grief.

The other day I was listening to someone reading Thoreau on the radio. It's been a long time since I've read Thoreau. The speaker was quoting some passage in which Thoreau discussed the virtues of living independently, having time for meditation and contemplation of nature. At that moment I relaxed my impulse to always try to make things and do things, and decided it was perfectly fine to spend a lot of my time simply contemplating. As I was thinking this I was also, oddly enough, pulling into the Home Depot parking lot here in the Bronx. I walked in, but it seemed different: all so vivid. I could see everything, from the lights far above to the dirt on the floor, all at once. It was sparkling and real.

April 3, 2003

The problem with this war (the "war on terror") is that the connection between actions and consequences are far separated --- the outrage expressed by many Arabs over this war in Iraq will likely bear fruit in asymmetrical warfare far down the line --- but it will be years, not months, before we truly see the fruit of our actions. This disconnect in time creates a tremendous problem, since one of the chief mistakes people make when evaluating the success of their actions is to assume that there is no time delay. Although military victory in Iraq is likely, the mistakes our leaders made when ascertaining the reaction of the Iraqi people leads to the conclusion that they will similarly misjudge their political reaction in many other ways. Iraqis have not been fleeing the country to refugee camps --- they've been trying to get back in to fight us. There will certainly be some who cheer our troops as they roll in --- but, as one Arab history professor put it the other day, there are always people who cheer troops as they roll in: there were Lebanese who cheered the Israelis when they came in. They stopped cheering pretty quickly.

I actually don't doubt that we will handle Iraq better than Israel handled southern Lebanon --- but I doubt that we will be able to control the flow of events. Even with the best intentions, an occupation can and will turn ugly --- there will be people who will continue to try to attack us from all sides, citing our continued aggression as a reason (and it seems we may be spoiling for more fights --- with Iran and Syria, for starters).

I've been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food here in the South Bronx. Quite a few good places to eat, and the average quality of the places is also good. Very cheap as well.