Sat - October 9, 2004

Not Quite the End

I think I've found a way to keep writing publicly (though I'm not quite sure why I feel compelled to do so). You can check it out over at Shangri-La.

Mon - August 23, 2004


Fri - July 23, 2004

This Is What She Looks Like

Say Hi!

Olive, our new dog, has now been with us for two months, and we couldn't be happier. And we finally have accurate pictures of her (an apparent requirement of dog ownership of which I had been unaware). At a very enjoyable barbecue at Eric's sister's in New Jersey (in the unlikely event that we ever attempt a barbecue in our 750 square foot apartment, we will certainly have it catered), Eric finally managed to do her photographic justice, after a couple of failed attempts by others. We're deeply grateful.

The Right Profile

Sat - July 10, 2004

Updated Public Service Announcement

As I mentioned a little over a week ago, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) has recommended that computer users stop using Internet Explorer on Windows and use alternative browsers instead. I suggested that folks using Microsoft Internet Explorer and Outlook Express switch to Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird.

There have been several developments since then. In response to the agency warning (which, it seems, is being heeded by a substantial number of computer users), Microsoft issued a fix for the problem that doesn't work, and another vulnerability was discovered. At the same time, a bug was discovered in the Mozilla applications that allowed the exploitation of vulnerabilities in Windows 2000 and XP. Mozilla immediately released new versions of Firefox and Thunderbird that addressed this problem.

If you're still using Internet Explorer and/or Outlook Express on Windows, I'd like to urge you again to switch to Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird (or some other alternatives). Mozilla now provides instructions on how to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox. You can even download a theme for Firefox that will make it look like Internet Explorer, if that will make you more comfortable. By all means, make that switch today, and let me know if you need any help.

Mon - June 28, 2004

Public Service Announcement

CERT [the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team] recommends that Explorer users consider other browsers that are not affected by the attack, such as Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape and Opera. Mac, Linux and other non-Windows operating systems are immune from this attack. For people who continue to use the Internet Explorer, CERT and Microsoft recommend setting the browser's security settings to "high," but that can impair some browsing functions.

It has finally happened. Microsoft's Internet Explorer (the installed default Web browser for Windows), along with Outlook Express and other Windows-based applications, has long been subject to security problems that have allowed a number of disaffected teenagers to wreak all sorts of Internet havoc. But now, according to this article in the Washington Post, more organized groups are exploiting a combination of vulnerabilities in Microsoft's server software (Internet Information Services (IIS)) and Internet Explorer not to be disruptive, but to undertake as yet vague criminal enterprises.

This is far more troubling because it's far more difficult to detect and combat than previous Windows viruses and other exploits. This is designed not to harm your computer, but to steal data and use your computer for illegal purposes. At this point, there are no security patches or upgrades that you can install to protect your computer, and anti-virus software is unlikely to detect the problem. Thus, the only way to avoid this problem is to stop using Internet Explorer. If, for some strange reason, you're still using Windows (I do at work, rather against my will), download Mozilla's Firefox, install it, and set it as your default browser. And if you're using Outlook Express, install their Thunderbird as your default mail application.

Both applications are effective drop-in replacements for their Microsoft counterparts, and when set as the default, they handle everything automatically, just as the Microsoft versions would. And in most ways, they're better applications than the Microsoft alternatives. Firefox is very fast, it blocks pop-up ads, and it allows for tabbed browsing. Thunderbird provides advanced Spam filtering and functions to import all of your mail, settings, and address book from Outlook Express.

Sun - May 23, 2004

Caveat Emptor

Being social

When our new (still unnamed) dog woke up yesterday morning, after a night of sneezing and sputtering, we noticed that she had a limp. We took her to the vet, and it turns out that the listing for her wasn't entirely forthcoming. She was suffering from diarrhea, dehydration, an upper respiratory infection, minor ear discharge, excessive tartar build-up, a puncture wound on her left front leg, arthritis in her left rear knee, and a growth of unknown provenance on her left rear foot. After some antibiotics and re-hydration, she's breathing better and seems much more comfortable. She slept quietly and comfortably all night last night. We're just waiting to hear back about her blood tests and cytology, but she seems to be healing nicely.


Wed - April 21, 2004

On My Night Table

for Dr. Omed

Arrival of the Hunt family on
the day of a quarrel among Gamba's
and Byron's servants. If they are encountered
occasionally, the meeting is always
unfortunate, as this one is. "I give
you warning that if my ambassador
returns empty-handed I shall take the
field against you, with all my armies, as
soon as the winter is past." But out of
all the different methods he taught, there
were two that he particularly
emphasized. Freedom from acknowledged
forms of regulation is freedom for
economic and erotic exchange.
But when you believe in the reality
of things, using an artificial means
to see them better is not quite the same
as feeling closer to them.
T. G. Steffan
Søren Kierkegaard
John Julius Norwich
Adam Phillips
Marcel Proust

Mon - March 15, 2004

The Cessation of Gnosis and Elaboration of Dogma

I don't think I have any more to say on Gnosis, but I might have more to say on Dogma. If I do, I'll post it, but I don't right now.

Mon - December 8, 2003


As the dogmas of reason, science, and technology have expanded their intellectual influence over the last few centuries, the very term "dogma" has been saddled with all manner of negative connotations. It's seen, through a subtle fallacy, as the antithesis of reason. This fallacy is the belief that since so much seems to be explained using logic (or reason), then logic is the only valid means of explaining anything. But logic is only a process, a technique for moving from an observation or presupposition to a conclusion. That conclusion isn't made any more certain than the initial presupposition, as if by alchemy, through the use of logic to get from the latter to the former. If the body of human knowledge, the sciences broadly defined, is the fruit of this logical process, the ultimate presuppositions are dogma. Science begins from the dogma of empiricism, the belief that the universe is governed by one or more eternally immutable laws that can be discovered and confirmed through repeated experimentation. Remove that presupposition, and no amount of logical effort could sustain the pursuit of science. So dogma isn't the antithesis of reason, it's the starting point of reason, as it is of any intellectual effort.

Dogma has come to be associated with religion because religion is most comfortable with it. Science isn't equipped to defend its presuppositions on its own terms since they exist just prior to the commencement of the process of reason, whereas religion has the ultimate deus ex machina in God. Yet, as Auden points out, every human endeavor acts upon faith, and it seems to me that, whatever those acts are, they're unlikely to transcend the faith in which they're undertaken. And, like science, though not to quite the same extent, philosophy is also often absorbed in the application of reason, giving less attention to what that reason is being applied to. That's a bit of a generalization, but, I think, supportable. It's in this sense that there seems to be a distinction between the thinker and the sage or wise man.

As a reader and, in Gnosis, as a writer, I've always aspired to be a thinker: to seek out, understand, and transform ideas; to uncover the abstract reality underlying what we experience. I've reached what looks like the terminus of that effort, and, rather suddenly, I'm more attracted to the notion of the sage, knowing and living the deep truths of reality, rather than retreating to the refuge of abstraction. In short, I'd like to switch my focus from the agile processes of reason to the static realm of presuppositions. I don't mean to imply that I've become a sage, or that I'll be simply holding forth on what I believe. I'll be describing and exploring my presuppositions, working through them fully and openly to confirm them as my own. I'll be recognizing my dogma. I won't be determining or proclaiming it. By definition, dogma is a starting point to which no process can lead--it cannot be derived or determined; and a tedious proclamation of dogma is unlikely to prove interesting to anyone else.

By doing this, I'd like to change my view of ideas from one that sees them as the grounds for and tools of debate to one that sees them as real or not in their own right. And I'd like to make a similar shift in my stance toward existence. I'd like to move from detached contemplation to immersive participation, to go from thinking about what one might do if the truth could be known to acting as if my beliefs are true. In Kierkegaard's terms, I'd like to be less reasonable and more passionate. We cannot fully exist so long as every action is qualified, so long as we have to allow for the possibility that every belief might be true or false. I'm going to commit to my reality, rather than considering all the realities that might be.

My explorations will focus on four areas (which will appear in this Weblog as categories):

  1. Monism
  2. Self
  3. Time
  4. Ethics

Sun - December 7, 2003


dog-ma (dôg' mah)

  1. A doctrine or code of beliefs accepted as authoritative
  2. A religious doctrine that is proclaimed as true without proof

The method which begins by doubting in order to philosophize is just as suited to its purpose as making a soldier lie down in a heap in order to teach him to stand up straight.

Søren Kierkegaard

Pascal's "wager" and Kierkegaard's "leap" are neither of them quite adequate descriptions, for the one suggests prudent calculation and the other perverse arbitrariness. Both, however, have some value: the first calls men's attention to the fact that in all other spheres of life they are constantly acting on faith and quite willingly, so that they have no right to expect religion to be an exception; the second reminds them that they cannot live without faith in something, and that when the faith which they have breaks down, when the ground crumbles under their feet, they have to leap into uncertainty if they are to avoid certain destruction.

W. H. Auden