March 18th, 2003



I've been spending some good time with my gf, after we had a highly emotional and much needed conversation on Saturday. She decided to surprise me and drop by last night after class. The only trouble was, I had decided to randomly go to a dance club, since I've been missing the dance scene. Apparently, she was arriving just as I was heading out of my driveway, so we just missed each other. She tried calling me -- I got her phone call while I was paying toll for the Bay Bridge, but being all suited up and having no place to stop, I didn't get the message until I got to the club. After some waffling (I did feel like dancing, and I even found a green ravy shirt), I decided to head back home. So we just hung out and listened to dance music at home. It was nice, if lower energy. But it's good in a way; I had trouble getting up in time this morning, and I'm sure getting in at 2:30am wouldn't have helped.

This morning I ran into my advisor on my way to the office. He said he'd be too busy to meet this week, but (!) he talked to other professors about my project idea, and the consensus seems to be that I could get a Ph.D. out of it. We're supposed to meet next week to discuss my plans for quals. And I've finally been making progress in coding, so I just might have some results by then. Sweet!

All of this happy news comes at a dark time, though. I've been trying to avoid reading the news, watching TV, etc., to avoid the difficult issues and focus on work and my relationship and other things of immediate importance in my life. But I can't hide from what's on everyone's mind (ok, I guess I could stop reading blogs and talking to people). And it's all very troubling. That feeling of helplessness that I felt at the beginning of Saturday's protest is back.

This morning my gf was recounting to me the news she read online. Most of it was pretty horrible. One that struck me was the story of Rachel Corrie, who was bulldozered over in Palestine last week. She was only 23 years old. The near-meaningless statistic of her age somehow made her story more real, I guess since I can imagine what being 23 feels like. And I was both sad for her, and impressed at her conviction that she would be willing to die for a cause. When I was her age, I was spending my time writing papers, going to conferences, and running around the world seeing eclipses. Not trying to stop bulldozers from destroying people's homes.

Not that I think that causes are worth dying for. Death is pretty extreme, and I think there are almost always better means to achieve your ends. It's part of the same argument that I have against this war. But I am impressed by conviction, by passion. I've been looking around at my friends, and I'm impressed by the passion that some of them have, and what that lets them accomplish. I have trouble being passionate about anything these days, because I don't feel sure enough of anything to put all of myself behind it. "The only thing that I know is that I do not know."

Maybe I should go to a direct action meeting tonight. They seem to have a good answer to the feeling of "there's nothing I can do." Though I fear that most of what will happen is a bunch of people will get arrested. When between one half and two thirds of the country supports this war, it seems that attitudes need to change before anything will happen. And the more extreme an action, the less likely it is to convince anyone. But I've got to do something...

random addendum: A friend of mine took a picture of the best poster I've seen at these protests; this one was from the February protest.
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    DJ Tiesto - Forbidden Paradise 05 - Arctic Expedition

couple of quick things

i wish for peace.

and another couple of signs I remembered from Saturday's protest:

Politics, from the Greek `poly,' meaning many, and `ticks,' meaning annoying little blood suckers.
He can't go back to Texas, they execute the mentally incompetent there.

I'm making progress in my code, though I'm struggling with programming in ML. Though unlike most people, who are transitioning from C and Java and such and are having trouble with the functional aspect, I'm used to writing in Haskell, and I'm having trouble with the imperative aspect, and the convoluted (by comparison) syntax. The code I'm working with made everything in sight mutable. Sure, some things are nicer expressed as mutable state, but that's what Monads are for. Instead I have to be thinking about copies and references, and I may as well be coding in Java. Grr.

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    dj tiesto - In Search Of Sunrise 2