[conspire] NYLXS Press Release on the OLPC Project

Ruben Safir ruben at mrbrklyn.com
Fri May 2 14:18:11 PDT 2008

On Thu, May 01, 2008 at 08:49:12PM -0700, Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Ruben Safir (ruben at mrbrklyn.com):
> > Stallman, of course, was purposely deceitful in the phrase "Free
> > Software" and of course many have adapted a more precise phrase such
> > as Free and Liberated ? Software (FLOSS).
> So, being precise in English requires long, self-parodying
> circumlocutions into willfully obscure acronyms that bring up
> connotations of dental hygeine?  I think we need to switch sides in this
> debate, because you're arguing against English being a precise
> instrument much more ably than I was.
> > Furthermore, English discards old usages which become outdated,
> Except where cheerfully reinserted and revivified by pedants like yrs.
> truly.
> > Oye!
> You must be from the _north_ of France, then.  (In the former Roman
> province of Langue d'Oc, the word for "yes" was pronounced "oc".  
> In the north, until relatively recent vowel drift, it was pronounced
> "oye" -- and this regional distinction was until modern times the basis
> of a sort of French equivalent of the Mason-Dixon line.)
> > The term Free Software is actually an example of trying to adapt an
> > 18th Cenutry usage onto what was late Twentith Century language.
> > Stallman used this it awaken people to the Classical political ideals
> > of post-Renasiance liberalism which can be summerized with "Free as in
> > Freedom" a phrase which is actually impossible accomplish in French.
> > It says that Software is not a commodity, but it is means of political
> > expression.  
> [Stallman and the phrase "free software":]
> > You can disagree....
> In current conversational context, only about its clarity.  And the
> effectiveness of that scheme for marketing purposes to the non-hacker
> world, which was abysmal and tolerated for lack of an alternative for a
> sadly prolonged period.  Nothing to be done about that wasted
> opportunity, of course, except to learn from the mistake, and thus
> learn, e.g., to eschew related marketing disasters-in-the-making such as
> "FLOSS" and "FOSS".  More at:
> http://www.itworld.com/AppDev/344/LWD000913expo00/pfindex.html

I got busy and missed this point.  You know, I was first introduced to this
term by a Spaniard who made the point that he uses FLOSS instead of Free Software
because of the word liberty.  I never noticed until now that most people write
FOSS.  I keep the point, but your very right about this.  There is no 'L'

In terms of clarity, it's not necessary for their to be limited means of 
expressing something in order to have a clear meaning in laungage.  I used to
have this discussion about PERL all the time.  Straight jacketing a single
terminology I think subtracts from clarity, and doesn't add to it, especially
since conotative meaning is so rich.

When I read the works of Washington Irving, the words are seemingly endless.
But the construction is so emotionally clear, and the story telling so vivid,
that a reduction of the verbage and speech subtracts from the clarity, and
doesn't improve it.

> [English and its lack of a gendered third-person pronoun, without which
> it would surely be a truly progressive language like, er, Turkish,
> Chinese, Farsi, Bengali, and Tagalog:]
> > Well, it did, but there were political objections.
> I believe you might have misspelled "semantic".  Either that, or you
> have in mind wannabe additions that never caught on because they were
> too outlandish (sie/hir, xe/xem, ve, ze/mer, ze/hir, tey, zie, e, thon,
> shey).

No, I ment HE.  The male included both male and female and that became
a political football, and for good reason, if not a reason I disagree with.
The presumption is that the languages formal use was bias and causes bias thinking.
I think in the case of he/she, eh.  I think that has little impact but it was 
low hanging fruit.
> > No, it didn't because texts such as these generally don't make such
> > pronouncements.
> Sorry, doesn't work.  The usage doesn't come across in Koranic context
> as a brand-new coinage.  The style and presentation are wrong.
> > You'd be the first to show that.
> Lend me a TARDIS.  Otherwise, we're shot in the foot by the lack of
> manuscripts from the 7th century.  (Especially, let's face it, the
> Arabian Peninsula not being either then or now exactly a hotbed of
> literacy and scholarship, and even Mohammed, remarkable chap that he
> was, and rather an enlightened fellow for that century, is known to have
> been illiterate.[1])

There is a lot of semetic works from that period that have survived.  A lot of Hebrew and Aramaic.
> > When translating specifically Hebrew text and prayer, this becomes a
> > big problem because many terms in Hebrew when translated to a commonly
> > believed English equivilent are either actually WRONG, or suffer
> > exactly what you say.  In addition, a lot of Hebrew terms were
> > intentionally propagandized when converted into English to support a
> > theology of the salvation of mankind through the sacrifice of Christ.
> Yes, quite.  This is why I keep the JPS 1985 translation handy for when
> scholarship really matters, or when I just don't have time to be wary
> about that particular sort of hermeneutical idiocy.  

That's not a very good translation, FWIW.  Pick up the translation by Arey Kaplan.
It's probably the gold standard modern English translation.

> On rare occasions,
> I'll instead attempt to fight my way through the Hebrew original,
> e.g., to annoy various religious types about their belief concerning
> "not suffering a witch to live", and their misconception that their God
> somehow has something against lesbians.  (From another list:)
>    The actual Hebrew word in Exodus 22:18 is "m'khashepah" (mem kaph shin peh
>    heh), formed from the root word "kesof" (kaph shin peh) and given a
>    feminine ending.  The question then is:  what would a practitioner of
>    "kesof" have been in ancient days?  (No, the word does not mean
>    "poisoner", as sometimes alleged by people over-interpreting the Greek
>    word "pharmakeus" used in the Septuagint for this passage.)

Occult Practices; Bestiality
22:17 	Do not allow a sorceress to live.
22:18 	Whoever lies with an animal must be put to death.
  See Leviticus 18:23, 20:15,16, Deuteronomy 27:21. This was done for occult practices (Sanhedrin 105a,b).

>    Elsewhere in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), e.g. Leviticus 20:27, Exodus 22:5,
>    the word seems to refer to people whispering prayers to other gods to
>    take specific actions, i.e., idolatry.  Thus the use in many English
>    translations of "sorceress".
>    If this seems a bit disproportionately hard on women, remember that
>    females, by way of compensation can, still engage in homosexuality
>    without offending the Big Guy:  Leviticus 18:22 ("Vet zachar lo tishkav
>    mishkvey eeshah toeyvah hee", "And with a male you shall not lay lyings
>    of a woman") lets the gals off scot-free.

No it doesn't although in effort to limit capital crimes it would be procecuted by a court that way.
This is a long detour that rages on usenet 24/7, just for the fun of it.

Good luck in finding 2 witnesses.

The kind of idol worship that is described here is actually historically a female phenomena, and thus
the words gender.  All words in Hebrew must have genders.  And for what it is worth there is a phase in
the Mishnah which discourages marrying multiple women which roughly translates into, "More Women, More Socory"

I don't know what this has with Jihad or OS's are mind shaping devices but .... I'm game.

> > Aside from that, I think you're swiming against the tide.  While AD and
> > BC are still around (we have our own calender anyway), AM and PM are
> > still around, even these terms have lost any real religious meaning.
> I don't think "meridiem" (mid-day) was ever a concept particular to any
> one specific religion of any sort, let alone a Christian one.
> [origin of "fundamentialism" in the Niagara conferences, as a halfway
> respect-worthy academic attempt by Protestant theologians to come to 
> grips with science:]
> > This was recently covered in the NY Sun, I believe, or perhaps it was
> > in scientific america or maybe it was on NPR.  I didn't really agree
> > with his entire thesis.  And for one reason the term Fundamentalist
> > could be derived from straight English grammar without the help of the
> > religious wars of early North American and European Protestantism.
> It could be -- but it wasn't.  The memes surrounding the term in
> American English quite often resonate back to that origin -- even when
> the speakers aren't aware of this.  The cluster of connotations tends to
> thus affect the way one conceptualises other concepts to which it gets
> attached.

I think you would be making a long stretch to conjecture that anyone would use
the word fundementalist outside of its plain working meaning, similar to Bontanist,
florist, and procologist.
> [Lack of priests, more or less, in Judiasm:]
> > Actually, we do.
> Yeah, I know, but the Levi'yim and and Kohanim are pretty much priests
> without portfolio, at the moment.  

That is also not right and one of the major major major misconceptions of
Judaism.  They are absolutely core to the religion and perform religious
ceremoney and functions, including but not limited to the highlight of
every holiday service.  Judaism has no no way disenfranchised itself
from Temple Services or the Preisthood.  The entire Jewish lituragy
is centered on the Temple Service, as is the Passover Seder.

> Let's just say they're, at minimum,
> a few red heifers, some stone work near the Dome of the Rock, and a
> _whole_ lot of arguing away from renewed employment.  Meantime, all they
> have to show for it is that marrying-divorcees problem, being called
> first to the Torah readings, and so on.  And I guess they're vaguely
> grateful for not having to be "redeemed".[2]
> > This is another thread, but I'll just say that there is fundementally
> > almost no similarity between the core Islamic beliefs and Judiasm
> > except for custume (beards).
> Nor did I so state.  I merely pointed out that both make members of the
> faith answerable directly to God, and that religious figures have no 
> authority beyond respect and scholarship.

In Judiasm, Moses, Miriam, Aaron, Jacob, David, Solomon and Abraham all made vital
errors and acts in defiance of the "Will of God"

It's a recurring theme, FWIW.  I don't know if Rabinical authority goes beyond scholarship.
All the great Rabium I'd ever met were intensly intellegent, and extremely learned.  And
they are regarded according to ability to learn.  Learning is, if anything, the key to
Judiasm, and the Core Mitzot.

> This differs from the general rule in (most) Christian denominations,
> though there are naturally those who make an absolute fetish of being
> exceptions.
> > Both Christianity and even more so Islamic principles were constructed
> > in direct opposition to Jewish thought, and purposely so, while
> > adapting Jewish lexicon.
> Well, not exactly.  Early Christian thought took an extreme left turn at
> the hands of several Hellenistic schools (mystery religions, Gnostics,
> late Platonists, the sorts of things that make me scratch my head and
> say "What?").  That wasn't done to be in direct opposition; 

There is the story of the Good Samatiun for starters.  The disposal of 
Halachah and movement of the Sabbath to Sunday... it goes on and on.

One of the things that is historically interesting is that after the
temple was destroyed, the melodies of the prayers was adopted by Christiandom.  It was
then abandoned by Jews.  So what you might hear in Rome is more accurate in song
than what your would hear in a synagague.

> it just got
> overlaid and basically smothered the original form of the pre-Paul of
> Tarsus's cult, because as the Hasmoneans also noticed, there was just a
> whole lot of Greek philosophical craziness going around, and it tended
> to get into everything.
> I suspect you might have a better case with Islam, because Mohammed was 
> rather ticked off that the Jews of Medina was unimpressed and weren't 
> going to change one jot of what they thought and did, no matter what he
> said to them. 

Well, he had them praying to Jerusalem, like Jews, and then decided to turn
the faith around to Mecca, as one example.  He reworked the core bibical
geneology.  The who story of Issac was changed, who is burried in Hebron
was altered, and more.  Theologically it was altered even more.
> > This does remind me when I was in France in 2002 I was surrounded by some
> > French computer security experts for lunch who asked me, "Why are all you
> > American's locking up all your Arabs in New York and putting them in
> > your dungeons".
> My parents used to get asked haughtily, while visiting the UK during the
> 1950s, if they'd been to any lynchings lately.  (Some people are just
> determined to take a swipe at anyone with the wrong accent.)
> [1] Harry Turtledove wrote a very engaging alternate-history fantasy in
> which the Byzantine Empire survived the Middle Ages

I think by 1453 the middle ages was over, but I get your point ;)

>  to remain the
> dominant power, locked in a cold war with the Persian Empire.  In that
> timeline, the forking point from our own universe was when young
> Mohammed joined the Orthodox Church, and ended up as a famously austere
> bishop known for saying "There is no God but God, and Jesus is his son."
> [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pidyon_Haben  Bet you didn't know I
> was aware of that one, huh?  ;->

No I didn't !  and I have new stuff to read.  BTW the Pidyon Haben is a MAJOR ceremony
in Judaism and makes for great drinking and singing.  I have a silver coin collection
of Israeli coins stamped for this service.  The Bris itself is huge.

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"Yeah - I write Free Software...so SUE ME"

"The tremendous problem we face is that we are becoming sharecroppers to our own cultural heritage -- we need the ability to participate in our own society."

"> I'm an engineer. I choose the best tool for the job, politics be damned.<
You must be a stupid engineer then, because politcs and technology have been attached at the hip since the 1st dynasty in Ancient Egypt.  I guess you missed that one."

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