Robert Heinlein, “Citizen of the Galaxy”

Another great book by Robert Anson Heinlein, “Citizen of the Galaxy”, takes us on a miserable planet where slavery is the order of the day. The boy is sold at a local slave market to a beggar, marking a beginning of a truly exceptional relationship and a remarkable story of raising a free spirit in the world full of misery, slavery and deceit. Once the boy grows up and comes back to his home land, he meets the same deceit and slavery under different names there and cannot help but enter the fight again. A great story in memorial of the free spirit of men from a great author. Highly recommended.… -->

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The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom

I just watched the BBC Series The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom from 2007. The three one-hour series present a very interesting insight into one of the facets of our society. The basic idea of the movie is to describe the origins of two ideologies of freedom that dominate the world: the positive and negative freedom. The positive freedom is based on an ideology, on an all-encompassing idea that drives people forward, like in Soviet times, for example, while the negative freedom basically justifies “everyone for himself” attitude, promoted by the “free market” ideologists. The interesting part is that the authors conclude that both ideologies cause societies to end up in the same place eventually and then the positive freedom society at least has some ideology while in the negative freedom society people lose all purpose in life.

An absolutely hilarious piece of news from the movie:

… the game theory/free market model is now undergoing interrogation by economists who suspect a more irrational model of behaviour is appropriate and useful. In fact, in formal experiments the only people who behaved exactly according to the mathematical models created by game theory are economists themselves, and psychopaths.

And so it is a very interesting series. Highly recommended.

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Vibram Fivefingers Komodo Sport

Vibram Fivefingers Komodo Sport

I wanted to try the Vibram Fivefingers shoes for a long time, not in the least thanks to my friend Wouter, who wears them even to official presentations. Still, the years passed by and I did not seem to ever had the time, money, and courage to take them on.

Now, I am finally a proud owner of a Fivefingers Komodo Sport (I think, I threw away the papers and the box). They were comfortable right from the beginning but when I started running in them… How should I put it to you? You see, for the first time in my life, I am actually looking forward to my jogging time now.

They are extremely comfortable and pleasant to run in. Of course, I have to watch out not to step on very sharp stones and other obstacles that I never noticed before. But the feel is exhilarating. I always had the right set of the foot and never hit the road with the heel, so these shoes feel so right, so proper. I thoroughly enjoy running now.

Now I simply want to wear them all the time and I am wondering if I can be so brave as to get myself a pair of Fivefingers in black to wear to the office… Walking in Fivefingers is a slightly awkward affair at the beginning because I am used to coming hard with my heel to the floor in soft shoes. However, as I wear them more and more, I adapt my walking style and I think it is getting better fast.… -->

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Cultural difference: independence and autonomy

Flying falcon

I get hit sometimes by sudden realizations of monumental nature. Or so they seem to me at the time. Here is another one that hit me right after breakfast the day before. It is good food for thought:

There appears to be a big difference in how independent and autonomous people of different cultures perceive themselves and others.

Consequence: your idea of independent thought and action is likely different from the person that you are talking to unless you grew together in one village and even then.

I was thinking about how talking to Germans and Americans is different, how differently they react to similar questions. I am seeing a seriously different attitude towards independence and autonomy of thought. People feel themselves entitled to completely different ways and they also expect the corresponding familiar behavior from others that often does not match on the other side, resulting in unmet expectations and disappointment.

The Americans appear to be bent on autonomy, they believe they are on their own, they are in a sort of a fight of “me against all” or something similar. I am exaggerating, of course, but I do so to make my point. They feel entitled to complete independence of thought and taking decisions. Americans will happily tramp on your fingers when it suits their personal interests. They will use any opportunity to get ahead personally and will not like to be held back into the group.

An American manager does not assume automatic allegiance from his subordinates, especially from across levels. Neither would he rely on the colleagues and management until he is sure where their interests align. Americans are nearly direct in finding out the details of their situation. The end result is, of course, that you cannot assume the good will and allegiance on the part of an American colleague unless you can find out that your interests align. And if you happen to have opposite interests… there is no compromise, usually, so it would do you good to prepare for the battle.

The Germans seem to be on the other side of the scale. They do not seem to be interested in autonomy. Apparently they think it is a virtue to proclaim their allegiance and uphold their loyalty to whatever group they happen to be in, even to the detriment of their own interests. Again, I am exaggerating to make a point. Germans will actually forgo chances to get ahead in the world … -->

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Got “social contract”?

I have heard the words “social contract” one too many times lately. My idea of freedom starts with the freedom of thought and I do not like fuzzy concepts that cloud judgement. I decided to find out what “social contract” actually means. Did you know that the concept itself is centuries old?

At its very basic, we are told that the social contract is an implied contract that one enters into by being a member of society. The contract offers the citizen certain protections while requiring that the citizen will be justly punished for breaking the laws of that society. The concept was first fleshed out by Socrates although he himself refuted the concept as the source of justice later arguing that the justice is inherent to men and cannot originate externally.

This contradiction and inconsistency is carried through the later works of Thomas Hobbes that form the ground for nearly all social contract theorists. The inconsistency, presented by Hobbes, could only be resolved again by admitting that the relationship between the society and the individual does not form the ground for morality. On the contrary, the natural morality of men makes the ground for the forming of the society and its rules.

People do not have an inherent desire to kill, rob and rape. Quite the contrary, if the society norms and laws were lifted today, we would likely go ahead just as we did before, cheerfully helping each other and being nice to strangers. People do not steal, rape and murder not because of some ephemeral social contract but because they are not inclined to. However, we do notice that some people have a tendency for misbehaving, right?

On the one hand, we have to admit that people who have the tendency to steal, murder and rape do so whether the society has mechanisms for punishing the said behaviours or not. On the other hand, we notice that these behaviours are tightly coupled to the possession of property. Unsurprisingly, Locke based his concept of social contract on the idea that men only have disputes when property is involved. The relationships within families are pre-social, they are moral agreements entered to and carried out willingly. As soon as people start having property, claims to property and property disputes, the relationships deteriorate and the necessity to protect oneself and one’s property arises.

Recognizing the problem, … -->

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FSF: Defend user freedom on tablets and smartphones

In December, Microsoft apparently conceded to public pressure by quietly updating the Windows 8 logo certification requirements with a mandate that a desktop computer user must be able to control (and disable) the Secure Boot feature on any Windows 8 computer that is not based on ARM technology. This looks like a victory for free software users, as it will allow a person to install GNU/Linux or other free software operating system in place of Windows 8.

But, this is no time for celebration, because Microsoft has also added a treacherous mandate for makers of ARM-based computers — such as a tablets, netbooks, and smartphones — requiring them to build their machines with Restricted Boot technology. Such computers are designed to lock a user into only being able to run Windows 8, absolutely preventing her from being able to install a free software operating system on her computer. Since smartphones and tablets are some of the most commonly used computers, it’s vital that we get straightforward and clear information about this threat out to the public.

Already know what this is about? Then take action now:

  • Raise awareness and have fun while putting pressure on Microsoft and computer makers by entering the Restricted Boot Webcomic Contest.
    • Winning submissions will be featured on the front page of fsf.org for a month.
    • Entries must be submitted by March 17th by emailing campaigns@fsf.org.
  • Sign the statement “Stand up for your freedom to install free software.”
    • For individuals
    • For organizations and corporations

If this is the first you’re hearing about this whole Restricted Boot vs. Secure Boot business, read the full story.

You can support this campaign and the rest of the FSF’s work by joining as a member or making a donation today.

Sincerely,

Josh, John, Matt, and Richard
Free Software Foundation

P.S. This is a verbatim copy of the FSF newsletter. I see no need to say it differently.… -->

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