TRUSTNO1 vs. Philosophy

Yesterday I got the book "Global City Blues" from the school library. Two thirds through it now. Excellent series of essays. I particularly liked the one called Peaches. There's a passage about how getting a good peach in a modern city requires lots of infrastructure, etc. That really confirmed my own ideas about that sort of thing.

So I thought why not add some book reviews to Also maybe some information about my pretentious interests: urbanism, the struggles of life in a post-industrial society, and so on. I even started on a list of books I would review. Global City Blues, How Cities Work, One Dimensional Man, A Confederacy of Dunces. All masterpieces.

Then I went back to reading some more of Global City Blues. Came upon a fun little phrase: (p.128) "Urbanism is enough.". This was the first clue that urbanism and architecture had something to do with software. I saw a parallel between what Free Software means to software and what urbanism means to architecture. In a sense, they're both ethical ways out for people in those professions.

So I was thinking that I could do all this book reviewing and other little projects and add it all to and eventually it would all add up to a coherent whole.

Emacs just crashed and I lost some paragraphs, I guess there's less autosaving for remote files, oh well... Ok so maybe Sid isn't so great :) But don't let this sour you on emacs. All software crashes. Emacs at least has serious backup protection, etc. I remember having a computer die (turn off), I think due to some hardware problem or something, and there was this file in emacs. And someone asked me ok you just lost all that data. And I just replied well no I'll just go recover it. I'm sure it must have sounded like some sort of sick joke. But that's just what I did, I recovered everything from the backups that emacs had made. The idea that a program can crash is very well understood in the hacker community. On my machine even the lowly nvi recovers sessions if there's a crash or something.

So anyways, back to the story, which was that I thought I could help others in the same way that these books had helped me. It's rare to meet someone with whom you agree deeply, but that's just what happens when you read a good book. This meeting this confirmation (or affirmation ?) of our ideas, that's the way to break our isolation.

GNU/Linux, Cycling to save the city, Urbanism, all share something in common. They are the better more comfortable second nature which is so hard to embrace today. They are the opposite of cheap empty thrills. They are deep and fascinating.

I'm sure that this has something to do with the way people seem to feel isolated in our time. I know I feel isolated a lot, but that might not be a sign of the times as much as a sign of my own problems. But in some sense these deep and fascinating things which are hard to get to, mirror the deep and fascinating relationships one wants to have, but just doesn't bother with for really stupid reasons.

That made me think well yeah, ok, wow, those things are all related. So maybe I should put up sections about each of those things: cycling, urbanism and GNU/Linux (oh wait I already have one about that). Put some general info about each subject, put up the most fascinating and interesting links I can find. Help people see what I'm talking about, by directing them to people who know what they're talking about.

Now all this is great fun to me. But then I realized that it's okay not to live through your job. Being a student doesn't have to define who I am. Life is more than working for money or learning to work for money, and all that. A job isn't the only kind of work. It's great (insanely so) to have a job you enjoy (amen to that) but that's only part of a good life. Enjoying your job doesn't mean you'll enjoy life.

And that's when I decided to add a section called: philosophy. It would be postmodern in a sense. Diverse and complicated from bikes and cities to computers and software, all of it defining the way I think.

If I am to be of any use to society I must create, I must contribute back. That's what I've been thinking for the longest time. But I'm really a coward who is terribly afraid of failure and so I read books and sharpen my view of the world, but do nothing to shape the world itself. So maybe this is my way of giving back.

Now I knew what I was to do. And what better way to start this zany postmodern section than by writing up this little story. Kind of like how Larry Wall gave that speech on Perl being the first postmodern language, and he let his thought process show throughout the whole thing. More on Perl later.

Ok, I was reading this great book about architecture and the horrors of modernist urbanism and I got the idea to write about my worldview on my website. Weave a coherent philosophy from my various interests. And then it hit me: if I'm going to take my philosophy and break it down into these various different subjects and ideas, why not work on both ends and do the opposite thing at the same time. Why not take each of these little things and develop them into their own little philosophical or idealogical process.

For instance I could take emacs and write about the philosophy of emacs. Programming for everyone. Free Software for the masses. I could write a similar thing about Perl and its being (no offense intended I really love perl :) the oral sex of programming languages. I mean Perl is fun!

Perl and emacs are concepts. Perlify and emacsify are sensible words. Perlify means to distill the essence of many things, like shell, C, and so on, into an industrial strength tool, that does one thing (text processing) extremely well (but can do everything you want, if you want it to) and that is both sexy and strong (like those deodorant commercials, you know strong enough for a man, but made for a woman). Emacsify means to concretecize something abstract like lisp into a versatile and extensible tool that shines at a particular purpose (editing text) but that you can use for everything else (because in some abstract sense, everything that is done on a computer is editing at some level). Both are postmodern in their embracing the kitchen sink rather than minimalism. And in having everything slanted at 45 degrees rather than maintaining orthogonality. The spirit of Linux and GNU can be understood through a similar construction. In the case of Linux, it's not so much the act of Linuxifying as much as the process of Linuxification, where you start with a Unix-Like system that keeps growing piece by piece, until it encompasses all else. Linux wasn't made to be a glue, but different people each adapting the kernel to their needs each built their own bridges to distant places and now it really is a universal operating system. GNUify and GNUification are both more or less the same, they are respectively the act of taking "crude" UNIX/BSD tools and making them user-friendly.

And I'm just getting started. And that's just software. Basically that's the kind of thing that I'm going to do. Give each of these subjects its own section and develop its own little philosophical theory and then weave them all into a coherent worldview.

Bijan Soleymani
Last modified: Fri Sep 19 21:37:36 EDT 2003

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