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This is the archive for March 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Those who care may have noticed that I'm reading "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes... and that I've been reading a few others in between. Jaynes' writing is dry and uninspiring, and so the book is quite a slog to get through, but I'm working on it, with frequent breaks for lighter material.

(I just took a literal bucketfull of change to my local grocery store and dumped it into one of those green Coinstar machines. Out popped a ticket redeemable at for the total, with no 8.9% vig taken off as it is if you just redeem the coins for cash, and a half hour after getting back home, I had 13 books on their way to my greedy little hands. Hell of a deal.)

Anyway, many of Jaynes' base assumptions are just whacked - language creates consciousness?! - but I'm finding there's still a lot to learn. Not in the normal way of learning, which to most people's minds is something along the lines of simply being told facts, but in the sense of mapping his flawed premises to valid ones, and then seeing which, if any, of his conclusions map to valid conclusions via the valid premises.

One interesting insight related to the above, is that many of the ancient statues, carvings, etc., show a person and his personal god-voice standing together, with the god-voice on some kind of raised surface, a platform, a hill, a symbolic mountain, etc, and transmitting his knowledge to the person. The offhand comment he made, after observing that the god-voice is standing above the person, and hence the person is standing beneath the god-voice, is that this could be the origin of the term "understanding."

I don't know if this is in fact where the word came from, (the online etymology dictionary disagrees) but it's mighty plausible. If so, it's appalling to think that even today, our term for how we acquire knowledge comes from standing at the feet of some god and simply receiving it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

It's not the History Channel, but it's quite an adrenaline rush, and visually stunning. It hits the right notes on freedom and resistance, though without explaining in any kind of detail the nature of the freedom they are fighting for. Parts of it felt a little flat, but then, I had let my expectations run wild prior to seeing it last night. On the other hand, the story had (a little) more depth to it than I thought it would.

If you go, buy your tickets in advance online. It's reportedly selling out everywhere (though the theaters are scrambling to add more screens and showtimes), and heading for record territory.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Federal Appeals Court Kills DC Gun Ban

Appellants contest the district courtís dismissal of their complaint alleging that the District of Columbiaís gun control laws violate their Second Amendment rights. The court held that the Second Amendment (A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed) does not bestow any rights on individuals except, perhaps, when an individual serves in an organized militia such as todayís National Guard. We reverse.

Read it all here. I especially like the dissection of the collective rights interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, and the use of the tenth for comparison in establishing what the founders meant by "the people".

In determining whether the Second Amendmentís guarantee is an individual one, or some sort of collective right, the most important word is the one the drafters chose to describe the holders of the right - "the people." That term is found in the First, Second, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. It has never been doubted that these provisions were designed to protect the interests of individuals against government intrusion, interference, or usurpation. We also note that the Tenth Amendment - "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people" - indicates that the authors of the Bill of Rights were perfectly capable of distinguishing between "the people," on the one hand, and "the states," on the other.

This will be a very big story. How much lasting effect it will have is a very different question.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Billy must be in a fine mood today, what with this rare burst of optimism. As usual, every word is right on, with hardly a breath wasted. Read it once, then go back and read the parts you dismissed as filler the first time through. Note particularly the bits about "command" in light of the conspiratorial hysteria over "big oil".