Sunday, February 28, 2010

On Tiger Woods's Alleged Selfishness

On the recommendation of a friend, I watched Tiger's full statement on CNN to judge for myself what I might see.  I had chosen not to watch it previously because I felt that it was none of my business and that he had no business apologizing to the public.  I feel vindicated now after watching it.  

Tiger says everything that I would expect a person to say given the atrocious moral state of society today, which is a variant on traditional religious morals, namely altruism.  He calls his actions selfish, and based on the way he uses the term we may consider it a psychological confession that he either holds or is pandering to the idea that anyone acting in their own interest is evil or at least vicious. 

Tiger comes out against achievement as such.  He says that achievements on the golf course don't as much matter as what you overcome, which he defines vaguely as character and decency.  But I think he's at least half-wrong on this.  I'm going to put aside decency for a moment and focus on Character.  The contradiction is the question of what is it that makes achievement possible in any area of life, personal or professional, if not your character values and specifically rationality, honesty, and integrity?

(Decency, which Princeton Wordweb defines as "the quality of conforming to standards of propriety and morality" is dependent on what set of moral values you hold and based on what I've seen him say earlier in his statement I can only assume he means acting in the interest of others - which I don't think is a good in and of itself. )

Tiger's mistake is that the range of his consideration in his personal life was short and narrow.  His method was irrational.  The problem was *not* that he was selfish, if we mean by selfish that he acted in his own interest.  For clarification on this issue, I will refer to Ayn Rand's definition from the Virtue of Selfishness:
"In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.

Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests.

This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil; nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions."
Tiger was clearly unselfish.  He wasn't concerned with his own interests.  He should have stopped for a moment to figure out whether his actions were in line with the full context of his values.  He permitted a breach of integrity; a dichotomy between his values on the golf course and off the golf course.  He is right to think that his behavior was attrocious, but for the wrong reasons.  His biggest failure was the choice not to think, but instead to evade the truth of what he was doing as if action could be divorced from consequence.

Tiger goes on in his apology saying that he needs to be a better person for his family and a better man for his friends.  Who does he leave out?  Himself.  This implies that he doesn't think that it's important enough to discuss what person owes to himself as to what kind of person he will be. I disagree with that.  I have values so that I can have a good life.  I live according to principles, which are right *because* they make possible a good life.  Tiger promised to be less selfish and he sure does seem to be off to a good start.

Which brings me to Buddhism.  I am forced to despise Tiger for feeling the need to talk about the role of Buddhism in his upbringing.  In relating his connection to Buddhism, he describes it as something his mother taught him when he was young, as if the idea that it was handed down to him from a previous generation should add any weight, truth, or value to it.  If he thought that the upbringing was valuable to his life, it certainly didn't seem to help him very much when temptation came knocking.

He quotes:
"A craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security"
First of all, you can't help the need for things outside yourself.  Your existence as a human being means that you exist on this world and you need to feed yourself, and cloth yourself, and act productively to exist.  Remember that anytime people argue that the point of Buddhism is not self-destruction.  He says that it teaches him "not to follow impulse and to learn restraint". He didn't need Buddhism for that, he only needs to touch a pot on a hot stove once and then to think (godammit)!

I don't think it's a value of character to have faith or to even take things on faith.  I think it's a value of character to live according to a set of rational principles that you have formed based on the integration of the totality of your knowledge.  This has nothing to do with faith and requires that you think in essentials, to reason, and to prove (therefore to know with certainty). 

Everything in this apology is pandering to today's predominant cultural ideal of abject selflessness and ignoring the need to be concerned with one's own interests which is part of our nature as human beings.  Personally, I think that Tiger is on the road to becoming the shittiest golfer from here on out if he applies any of what he has said he believes in on the golf course.

You don't become a great golfer or a great anything by being unselfish.  When you can do something in large enough quantity to become good at it as Tiger was good at golf, you do it because you love to do it.  That is selfish.  And it is good.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 4 with the Palm Pre Plus

(This post is part of a series providing an extended impression of using the Palm Pre Plus:
- Initial Impressions on the Palm Pre Plus.
- Palm Pre Day 2 - Wifi and Contacts Borked
- Day 3 with the Palm Pre Plus
- Day 4 with the Palm Pre Plus

It was a pretty busy day at work so I didn't have as much time to fiddle around with the phone on day 4.  Nothing in depth this time - just more random observations.
  • Battery life seems to drain slowly at idle when I have IM logged in and available so I tend to turn it off when I'm at a desk.  That being said, I got home with the battery at 65% with light usage.  I'm reasonably satisfied with the battery life of the device so far but I do think it may be a multi-charge a day device depending on the severity of your usage.
  • PDF View app doesn't rotate.  All you get is portrait view.  Why bother writing one without even permitting manual landscape view?
  • Messaging App
    • Found out that you can long-press (but you must release) tap any text message to get a context menu that will permit you to forward/copy/delete text messages
    • Does not provide a character count for SMS.  Might matter to some people.  (update 2/28:  per observation from Javier Johnson on Droid - that some Droid messaging apps auto split long messages, I tried to send an SMS exceeding 160 chars and found that the messaging app automatically splits the message into to at about the 151 char mark and gives you an indicator of how many SMS slots are being used.  This was observed post WebOS 1.4 upgrade so I'm not sure if they just added it.)
  • Web Browser: you can select any block of text for copying by holding SHIFT and tapping the block.  Well-done, but inconsistent vs. the messaging app context menu, mentioned above.
  • Had a strange issue with the music player today.  It wouldn't produce any sound.  I wonder if that has to do with some kind of bad bluetooth cleanup since I had a headset hooked up earlier in the day and walked away from the headset without disconnecting/disabling.  It did not resolve when I turned off bluetooth so I rebooted the phone.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 3 with the Palm Pre Plus

(This post is part of a series providing an extended impression of using the Palm Pre Plus:
- Initial Impressions on the Palm Pre Plus.
- Palm Pre Day 2 - Wifi and Contacts Borked
- Day 3 with the Palm Pre Plus
- Day 4 with the Palm Pre Plus

Today was my first real extended battery run on the device.  I managed to run the device down to about 35% battery life by the time I got home and in the course of the day, I did plenty of fiddling around.  I ran Pandora for a couple hours while I unpacked boxes at a new desk at work.  I checked mail and web on occasion.  Did some reading.

Messed with Google maps.  That's a topic all by itself.  I had a heck of a time getting it to locate me automatically.  The phone kept on saying it couldn't find my location in Google maps.  Well, I learned from a bit of searching that the location services "app" has some settings tucked away in the drop down menu.  "Locate me using..." and the choices are "GPS" (default) and "Google Services" (disabled by default). When you enable those services, they make you accept a lengthy agreement and then Google gets access to the GPS and a setting for "Background Data Collection" is added to the Location Services "app" (on by default - I disabled it).  Palm's documentation on BDC is scant and it seems to be regarded with suspicion on the interwebs.  Since it seems to work without BDC enabled, it gets to stay off.

Anyway, after enabling Google Services, we are good to go with auto-location.  Yay!  I must express my dismay though that they felt the need to hide a setting away in the application menu of a @#$%-ing settings application.  It's a settings app.  Put everything out there!

Other than that, I took a couple of calls on the phone and it functions fine as a phone though you have to be able to use the touch screen to answer - so ditch the gloves before you answer.  All said, today was a pretty boring phone day for me.  I think that's a good thing.  Being on a learning curve can be exhausting and I'm glad to be able to just use the device rather than trying to figure out why contacts aren't syncing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Palm Pre Day 2 - Wifi and Contacts Borked

(This post is part of a series providing an extended impression of using the Palm Pre Plus:
- Initial Impressions on the Palm Pre Plus.
- Palm Pre Day 2 - Wifi and Contacts Borked
- Day 3 with the Palm Pre Plus
- Day 4 with the Palm Pre Plus

A new day brings a new set of challenges.

Wifi at home isn't quite working right.  Current theory is because my router is performing a DNS proxy (where it acts as local DNS server) and it's also getting a DNS server from 3G, there's some confusion there.  Other people seem to think so.  The workaround of going into airplane mode and then enabling wifi proves that there is some 3G interactivity problem in the software.  I may try a workaround of disabling DNS proxying on my home router if the FIOS router permits me to do so.

Not much later in the day, I discovered a Critical issue:  that I was missing some crucial contact info for records that were present in my Google "My Contacts" list but were not fully available on my phone (IM/email, yes - Phone numbers, no).  There are definitely others having a similar problem.  Some rooting around showed that I was only showing about 190 of my 350 contacts from syncing with Google.  I attempted to purge my google contacts, import CSV, and re-sync.  This unfortunately brought the count down to 80 from 190.

I settled on working around the problem by resorting to setting up a secondary address book at Yahoo mail and setting that up to sync as well.  I will tolerate this only as a temporary solution and if the upcoming webos 1.4 upgrade doesn't address the problems with syncing Google contacts, the phone is going back to Big Red and will either exchange for a Motorola Droid or just wait for the Nexus One.

It's a lovely operating system.  Too bad they chose to release code without adequate beta testing.


Wifi Borked Update: Implemented permanent workaround for this issue by using my Linksys WRT 160N as the FIOS gateway in place of the Actiontec MI424 (with broadband MAC address cloned). Now the FIOS DNS servers are provided directly to DHCP clients rather than proxying through the router.

Google Sync Update: There were 3 contacts that began with the # pound symbol which imported from Verizon's backup assistant CSV. Once I removed those from Google, all contacts are now in play. I guess Synergy does the whole download and then parses them... slowly. And its source code needs to implement some exception handling.


Additional Calendar observation.  I had to move an appointment back a week and in order to do so, I had to open the appointment, figure out the first Wednesday in March via Month view, re-open the appointment, then change two fields to make this happen.  Surprised they don't provide you with a calendar-based selector for dates.
(I looked at the calendar app on the v2.0 Droid... same issue exists)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Initial Impressions on the Palm Pre Plus

(This post is part of a series providing an extended impression of using the Palm Pre Plus:
- Initial Impressions on the Palm Pre Plus.
- Palm Pre Day 2 - Wifi and Contacts Borked
- Day 3 with the Palm Pre Plus 
- Day 4 with the Palm Pre Plus

Received Palm Pre Plus this morning.  Initial observations:
  • Negatives
    • Email client is not conversation threaded and does not appear to have a search capability
    • Calendar only permits one reminder time.
    • A bit sluggish with Pandora playing in background
    • Some letters show up in duplicates as I type - I have to pay close attention because...
    • Cursor placement for editing is frustratingly imprecise and there are no arrow keys.  Unlike Apple you cannot drag to place cursor.
  • Positives
    • Fits into my pants pockets nicely.
  • Jury Still Out
    • Battery life... it's been on the charger a lot today since I've been playing with it a lot.  I will fall into a more normal use pattern later.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Because they count noses...

Dear Supervisor X,

I am a voter living in your district and I wanted to write to let you know that I oppose the idea of spending any county dollars to house families.  I respect that these people are in need but it is my conviction that addressing this sort of need is something that should be handled by voluntary private charity, rather than by taxpayer dollars (which are involuntary).  The need of some people does not overcome the rights of others to keep what they have earned through their honest effort. 

I would respectfully request that the Fairfax board limit its pursuits to the protection of rights to life, liberty, and property.  This does not include redistributing tax dollars to people on the basis that they are unable to afford housing on their own.  I will not vote for your re-election if I find that your actions continue the expansion of the Fairfax government beyond beyond the protection of rights.

Some Fairfax County leaders want to pay $600,000 to obtain affordable housing for two large families.
The county Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday whether to acquire two vacant, single-family houses on West Ox Road, using hundreds of thousands of dollars in refinancing to enhance the county's affordable housing stock.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Here's to the Human Mind and the Profit Motive

I am grateful for the fact that I don't have to deal directly with that blizzard thanks to the benefits of well-engineered shelter and heating and plentiful food stores. There are two concepts which I recognize as essential to all of this: the rational faculty of the human mind, which can come to understand the nature of existence, which knowledge permits us to adapt materials to suit our survival; and the long-range profit motive along with a free market, which makes a civilized society with a trade-based division of labor possible.
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