Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 1st, 2009

Process philosophy

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I’ve found some new books about process philosophy, and I’m very excited. Truly, process philosophy seems to have a sounder basis in—or approach to—reality than some other approaches. From Process Philosophy: A Survey of Basic Issues, by Nicholas Rescher:

… It seems sensible to understand “process philosophy” as a doctrine committed to, or at any rate inclined toward, certain basic propositions:

  1. Time and change are among the principal categories of metaphysical understanding.
  2. Process is a principal category of ontological description.
  3. Processes are more fundamental, or at any rate not less fundamental, than things for the purposes of ontological theory.
  4. Several, if not all, of the major elements of the ontological repertoire (God, Nature as a whole, persons, material substances) are best understood in process terms.
  5. Contingency, emergence, novelty, and creativity are among the fundamental categories of metaphysical understanding.

A process philosopher, then, is someone for whom temporality, activity, and change—of alteration,striving, passage, and novelty-emergence—are the cardinal factors for our understanding of the real. Ultimately, it is a question of priority—of viewing the time-bound aspects of the real as constituting its most characteristic and significant features. For the process philosopher, process has priority over product—both ontologically and epistemically. This process-oriented approach is thus historically too pervasive and systematically too significant to be restricted in its bearing to one particular philosopher [he’s thinking here of Alfred North Whitehead, whose book Process and Reality, was quite influential – LG] and his school. Indeed, one cardinal task for the partisans of process at this particular juncture of philosophical history is to prevent the idea of “process philosophy” from being marginalized by limiting its bearing to the work and influence of any single individual or group.

In addition to the book mentioned, above, I have Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy, also by Nicholas Rescher (and, I think, a better introduction than the book above, which has a certain focus on unsolved problems and unfinished tasks in process philosophy: suggestions for research and thought, in other words), and Process-Relational Philosophy: An Introduction to Alfred North Whitehead, by C. Robert Mesle. Although one shouldn’t overemphasize Whitehead in a general discussion of process philosophy, he’s nonetheless a major figure in its develop—though in fact, one can trace it back to Heraclitus as the earliest exponent, and certainly Leibniz was a major figure as well.

I have three books by Henri Bergson on order as well—he, too, is a proponent of process philosophy.

I find this fascinating, though others may not.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2009 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

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What’s going into our drinking water

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From ProPublica:

ProPublica has been reporting for months [2] about how natural gas drilling is affecting the environment, but of all the causes for concern we’ve reported, here’s a doozy.

Sixteen cattle dropped dead in a northwestern Louisiana field this week after apparently drinking from a mysterious fluid adjacent to a natural gas drilling rig, according to Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality and a report in the Shreveport Times [3]. At least one worker told the newspaper that the fluids, which witnesses described as green and spewing into the air near the drilling derrick, were used for a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing [2]. But the company, Chesapeake Energy [4], has not identified exactly what chemicals are in those fluids and is insisting to state regulators that no spill occurred.

The problem is that both Chesapeake and its contractor doing the work Schlumberger, say that a lot of these fluids are proprietary, said Otis Randle, regional manager for the DEQ. "It can be an obstacle, but we try to be fair to everybody," he said. "We try to remember that the products they use are theirs and they need them to make a living."

Hydraulic fracturing [5] — a process in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep underground at high pressure to break rock and release natural gas — is controversial because of the secrecy surrounding the fluids and because the process is exempted from protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act and thus from regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress is currently considering legislation to address these issues out of concern that fracturing, and the fluids and waste that are part of the process, may be contaminating drinking water in several states [6].

Hydraulic fracturing has made drilling more efficient and economical [7] and has helped make vast new reserves of natural gas available across the country, including in New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado [8] and Louisiana.

Scientists at the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have told ProPublica [9] that …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2009 at 1:39 pm

A bad sign about "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

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Most Americans today think that the US Military should simply accept gay and lesbian volunteers and soldiers. It’s really not a big deal—or so most people think. And, of course, Obama promised to end the military’s discrimination against men and women because of their affectional preference. But he may be backpedaling. From ThinkProgress’s Ali Frick:

AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis notes significant edits made recently to the Civil Rights page on the whitehouse.gov website that seem to signal "a shift in policy, and a backward step from a clear campaign promise" to repeal the military’s discriminatory "don’t ask don’t tell" (DADT) policy. The website used to emphasize Obama’s firm commitment to repealing the discriminatory policy:

President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.

However, after changes apparently made last night, the previous full, earnest paragraph was slashed to one half of a sentence promoting only "changing" the law "in a sensible way":

[Obama] supports changing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security, and also believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The edits seem to be Obama’s latest attempt to walk back his firm campaign promise to outright repeal the anti-gay policy. His 2010 budget included funding to enforce the policy; Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently admitted that a discussion about repeal "has really not progressed very far at this point in the administration," and that it hoped to "push that one down the road a little bit."

In this, Obama is out of touch with the mainstream. In fact, a poll released just yesterday showed that 56 percent of Americans, including 50 percent of military families, favor repealing DADT. (A poll last year found that 75 percent support gays serving openly in the military.) An even stronger majority — 58 percent — "reject" the argument that changing the law would be "divisive."

Update: ProPublica noted other changes made to WhiteHouse.gov last night:

— The Iraq page was deleted and replaced with a single paragraph on the foreign policy page.

— Like many issues pages the civil rights page was dramatically cut. 756 words devoted to supporting the LGBT community have been replaced with two sentences.

— And nearly all issues pages now begin with a mini-progress report detailing what Barack has done for you.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2009 at 1:36 pm

More on Condi’s admission that Bush authorized torture

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Daphne Eviatar has a good column, reviewing Condi’s statements and the law. It begins:

Former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s statement to a bunch of Stanford students Monday that “by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture” — much repeated, analyzed and discussed all yesterday afternoon, and for good reason (it’s worth watching the full video, which is here) — got me wondering what exactly she was referring to.

After all, Condi isn’t stupid; is this just some alternative reading of the law that we’d all overlooked? Might those creative legal minds at the Office of Legal Counsel have somehow been able to read the U.N. Convention Against Torture to mean that torture is illegal, unless the president in some extreme circumstance says it’s not?

Well, according to my review of the text of the convention, approved and sent to the Senate for ratification by President Ronald Reagan himself, and of the implementing statute passed by Congress and signed by the president, there just isn’t any such exception.

Article I of the treaty defines torture as: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2009 at 1:30 pm

Cool service notifies you of new library arrivals

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From The Sister, a pointer to wowbrary.org:

You’ll get weekly e-mails listing brand-new arrivals at your local library.  You can even reserve items you want by e-mail—new books, CDs, and DVDs.

You enter your zip code, which produces a list of local libraries. Check the one you want (radio buttons: you can pick only one) and enter your email address and submit. I did that three times to get notifications from all three of the local libraries I use. They note that they are still signing up libraries, so you sign-up with wowbrary might not produce anything until your local library gets on board. But I imagine they use the sign-ups to convince the libraries to join because there’s patron interest, so by all means sign up.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2009 at 10:09 am

Shaving store changes

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Alas, Barbieria Italiana has had to discontinue operation. The proprietor, Giovanni Arbate, writes:

I just returned from another European business trip and it is now clear to me that my "real" job does not allow me to keep the Barbieria Italiana webstore in operation. I simply do not have enough time to properly take care of my BI customers. I will therefore shut down the webstore indefinitely. Those customers who have sent payment either by check or PayPal will either get their orders or a full refund. I am in contact with Gary Glynn (Hyperwarp) and he will be offering most of the BI products at his new webstore. I wholeheartedly recommend his webstore to all BI customers: his selection is constantly increasing and his customer service is second to none. I hope all the BI customers will move their business to Hyperwarp’s new venture! I want to thank all my customers: you made this a true success story and it is the fast growth of the business that makes it incompatible with my daily schedule!!! This board will remain open and active, of course! Thanks to all of you!

Giovanni

Gary Glynn’s new store, ShoeboxShaveshop.com, has already a very good range of products, including blades that are otherwise impossible to find. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2009 at 9:48 am

Movie report, etc.

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Last night I watched Beautiful Creatures, an entertaining black comedy that looks to me like a wish-fulfillment fantasy for battered women—similar in theme, though more extreme than, to Nine to Five, another comedy of women rising up against their tormentors.

Another movie that I just recalled that I like a lot: Soapdish.

I had roasted asparagus last night: brush with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, lay on a baking sheet, and roast 10-12 minutes at 500º F. Ten minutes seemed fine to me.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2009 at 9:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

A May Day shave

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The razor is one of the Gillette New Improved razors, which came out in 1921. This particular model is an Aristocrat—I’m not sure, but I think it’s the first Gillette razor to get that name, but by no means the last. This model has the drop-shoulder design that raises the edge of the blade slightly above the comb.

QED’s Vanilla shave stick produced the usual excellent QED lather, this time with the Simpsons Emperor 2 Super. The razor, with a new Treet Black Beauty blade, produced a good shave, but felt a little harsh.

This ends my gold razor collection—not counting duplicates (I have 4 of the 1940’s Aristocrat, which I like a lot, and 5 of the 1930 NEW, which I also like.

The Floïd aftershave was, as always, a pleasure.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2009 at 9:22 am

Posted in Shaving

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