Thursday Night

Paul Betts’s personal website / blog / what-have-you

This WordPress Theme

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In keeping with the Creative Commons license (and spirit) of this website, as well as to respect the original author’s request, you can download the theme to this website which is based on Lucian Marin’s Journalist theme here:

The big differences are that H2 looks different than H3, some font changes and spacing issue fixes (Helvetica, *swoon*), making the title at the top a different color, and there are some PHP hacks to remove the footer element from every item so that the main page looks cleaner.

Written by Paul Betts

January 26th, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Posted in Philosophy

For Eli

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our eyes are closed, america
there are souls in the boots of the soldiers, america
fuck your yellow ribbon; you want to support our troops,
you bring them home, and you hold them tight
when they get here.

- Andrea Gibson, For Eli

PS: Click the link, it’s an MP3 and it will blow your fucking mind

Written by Paul Betts

May 3rd, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Damn you Barack, you pretty motherfucker

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Instead of trying to write things as elegant as others have written, I’ll instead post this. Listen to it at least twice:

“Damn you Obama, for turning this cynic into a believer in the ideal of the audacity of Hope.”

- Damn you Barack Obama, you pretty motherfucker – Darian Dauchan

Written by Paul Betts

February 5th, 2008 at 12:12 pm

This is high in the running for weirdest video I’ve ever seen

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It just keeps getting stranger, every time I think they’ve hit bottom, someone throws them a shovel

Written by Paul Betts

August 29th, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Philosophy

If this continues, America isn’t safe anymore. Period.

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Caging works like this. Hundreds of thousands of Black and Hispanic voters were sent letters “do not forward”. Letters returned as undeliverable (“caged”) were used as evidence the voter didn’t live at their registered address. The GOP goons challenged these voters’ right to cast ballots, and their votes were lost.

But whose letters were caged? Here’s where the game turns to deep evil. They targeted Black students on vacation, homeless men, and you’ll love this, Black soldiers sent overseas. They weren’t living at their home voting address because they were shivering under a Humvee in Falluja.

Yes. First, it’s elections. They don’t want the voters making any foolish choices. Specifically, while the attention’s been focused 100% on the firings, no one is talking about the hirings. That’s what (Former Justice Dept. Council Monica) Goodling was trying to get across.

The key: at the Pearl Harbor Day massacre, they replaced one of the prosecutors with Rove-bots, a sleeper cell of anti-Constitutional saboteurs who will explode in 2008, led by the new prosecutor for Arkansas, Tim Griffin.

from “The Future of America has been Stolen” – an interview with Greg Palast

If the 2008 election is stolen again like the 2000 and 2004 elections, I will leave this country immediately – because if our most fundamental right of voting truly has been undermined, it is only a matter of time before you won’t be allowed to leave the country. We’re headed into the same trap that has happened before. Really, if this continues, please leave before it’s too late; I know that it’s our home but these people will destroy it – America is not immune. The Republican party is setting itself to be above the law and the constitution – either we stop it or the inevitable will occur.

Written by Paul Betts

May 25th, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Philosophy

Direct action comes highly recommended

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It seems that now more than ever, America has become a society of people who believe their situation is immutable. It’s easy to see why people believe this; you see it every day on the news. Complacency has become the norm in America – a President who would’ve been impeached and jailed 50 years ago corrupts two elections and procedes to enact the worst presidency in American history. It will take decades to recover from the mistakes that this one adminstration has made. The newspapers and television news networks report daily on the public being taken advantage of, but nobody steps up to disagree.

People feel that since they cannot change the policies in place, and so they give up and don’t even try to change themselves. This exists even among those who are well-informed – they know what the problems are in America, but these very people who complain about the system just keep living in it; if you viewed them solely by their actions, they would be indistinguishable from everyone else. So here’s the thing that everyone here has forgotten about, and for all our sakes, they had better remember it:

Direct action.

The Wikipedia entry on direct action focuses on protest; that’s a part of the concept but it masks the overall ideology: what you do personally not only affects society, it is society. If you’re worried about global warming, don’t drive a car. If you think that consumerism has gone rampant in America, participate in Freecycle and don’t buy into the “more more more” culture that the stock-market-obsessed capitalists want you to. Change yourself and refuse to go along with what you disagree with.

Here’s an example: for years the US has been trying to change to the metric system, being one of the few first-world countries that doesn’t use it. It’s absurd that we don’t use units of measure based on tens instead of the arbitrary distinctions of ‘foot’ and ‘ounce’. People have tried over and over to debate the merits of one versus the other, but in the end nothing gets done.

So what can I do to make this change? Argue about it? Write my congressman? No. I only use metric measurements now. If others want the temperature in Fahrenheit, they’ll have to do the conversion themselves. And what would happen if enough people decided, “I’m not using imperial anymore”? The US would switch to the metric system, a change that decades of arguing can’t solve.

Written by Paul Betts

April 30th, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Philosophy

DHH Arrogant? Maybe. But make sure to catch his point

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There’s been a lot of news lately regarding Alex Payne of Twitter’s interview regarding Ruby on Rails and Twitter’s performance problems, and more about the creator of Ruby on Rails’ response. I read it and found it quite thoughtful though slightly “holier-than-thou”, but it seems like everyone now is hating on DHH. I think people missed the point, and it’s a huge one, so here it is:

If you don’t like something in open-source, just change it.

I think that what we’re really seeing is people not used to the concept of being able to take someone else’s work and change it. You see it with Wikipedia all the time, people will be like, “Well, I went to read a wp article, but it had a lot of the facts wrong”. My response? “So fix it!” It’s not that these people are lazy, or that they should be somehow expected to contribute, but they’ve simply got the corporate, “take it as-is” mindset, I find myself doing it too. The last couple years or so have been a subtle sea-change in information – the concept that you can change it. Especially in languages like Ruby, where you can (for better or worse) change almost everything in the language. DHH is saying this too, here’s the quote:

Second, when you work with open source and you discover new requirements not met by the software, it’s your shining opportunity to give something back. Rather than just sit around idle waiting for some vendor to fix your problems, you get the unique chance of being a steward of your own destiny. To become a participant in the community rather than a mere spectator. This is especially true with frameworks like Rails that are implemented in high-level languages like Ruby. The barriers to contribution are exceptionally low.

There’s a 45% chance he’s just being a tool, but take the good part out; once you get used to the fact that you can change stuff, a lot of things become a lot easier because you don’t have to “work-around” anything anymore.

Written by Paul Betts

April 17th, 2007 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Linux,Philosophy,Ruby

How did I not know Ruby Facets existed?

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I just found out about Ruby Facets, a library of extensions to the Ruby Standard Library that has some really Computer Science’y things, like coroutines and lazy evaluation, as well as a lot of useful routines like deep copies and method caching (memoize).

This is the reason I like Ruby the most, because it brings back the theory and ideas to programming. I had feared it had been all but lost once people discovered, “Hey, I can write some crappy Java program and get paid tons of money to do it!”, then everything around computer science became centered around the cash. I suppose this is to be expected, since anything that has a lot of money around it gets corrupted, but it’s awesome to see something be both successful and interested in advancing the way that people write programs.

I guess in general, this highlights one of my personal flaws; that I really don’t understand money. Not the difference between a stock and a bond or some nonsense like that, but the fundamental concept of money. If one has enough money to do what they want, what is money actually worth to them? Being motivated to do something solely for money shows ‘a poverty of ambition’, as a up-and-coming presidential nominee/senator once said. I’m nervous about starting a career because of this, because quite frankly, I don’t really care about my company making money; I certainly don’t mind it, but it’s really tertiary to me and I have a feeling the further I get in a corporation, the more I’ll be pressured to put the stockholders as my #1 over making something better for people. Creating something great and seeing something that I make help people’s lives unfortunately doesn’t always line up with making a ton of money. So really, the moral of the story is:

  1. Helping people is worth something
  2. If you want to know what God thinks about money, just look at the people He gives it to. – Old Irish saying

Written by Paul Betts

February 8th, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Philosophy,Ruby

Quotes from my old blog that I still like/find interesting

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I tried to import these using the RSS feed but no dice.

“If our Gods and our hopes are nothing but scientific phenomena, then let us admit it must be said that our love is scientific as well.”
- Mathias Villiers de l’Isle-Adam

“…I always had one foot out the door, and that prevented me from doing a lot of things; like thinking about my future. I guess it made more sense to commit to nothin’, keep my options open. And that’s suicide; by tiny, tiny increments.”
- High Fidelity

“On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus [full of children from a Roman Catholic school and for no apparent reason but with wholesale loss of life] are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
- Richard Dawkins (before he was making headlines)

“When you grow up surrounded
by willful ignorance,
you learn that mercy has its own country
and that it’s round and borderless”
- Ani Difranco

“The things that will destroy us are: politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”
- Martin Luther King Jr.

“For those being excluded (referring to homosexuals today), this is a reign of terror. Nothing less.”
- Philip Armstrong

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

“There is no greater sin than desire,
No greater curse than discontent,
No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself.
Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”
- Lao Tzu

Written by Paul Betts

January 11th, 2007 at 7:40 pm

Posted in Philosophy,Quotes

I wish everyone thought this way

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I have no right, by anything I do or say, to demean a human being in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him; it is what he thinks of himself. To undermine a man’s self-respect is a sin.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Written by Paul Betts

November 9th, 2006 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Philosophy