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  Nail Flossing

6 November 2000

5:23 PM: So I've been looking at the Electoral College. If Bush wins Florida and Pennsylvania, it's all over. If he loses both of them, it's probably all over but maybe not. If he and Gore split them, it's wait-for-Washington time.

That means that by the time I start watching Buffy tomorrow, the real horror story might be out here in the world. A Hellmouth might be kind of homey by comparison.

Hmm. Actually, either way, Sunnydale looks better. Though they do dress strangely there.

Weekend Media Report: I did nothing this weekend but comment code, fix mistakes, dye my hair sort-of red-purple (badly), eat some Indian food, get a haircut, and read the same Web pages over and over while waiting for scripts to run, or when my brain was too fried to trust it with English for a while. Obsessive News Syndrome.

But! My part of the book is done, I think. (The book. You know. This PHP/MySQL book I'm getting way too much credit for, that an ex-cow-orker is writing and I'm helping with out with for yes. Look for an Amazon link and order form coming here soon!) When it's all really done and gone it is going to be a big relief. I have a list of five or thirty books, and I'm planning to disappear for several days and read them. After getting tanked. A few times.

The new PJ Harvey is pretty good. That's all I know.

7:28: Interesting article here from Amity Shlaes, of the famous misspelled oil deposits. No, wait, I mean the Financial Times. She talks about Gore v Bush as representing the conflict between the culture of the Lawyer and the culture of the MBA, the two dominant cultures in America. I don't know how far I'd take that theory, but it did make me think of why I don't really like either of them - a new reason, I mean. There's a third culture here, not as big, not as influential maybe: the culture of the Scientist. I'd include engineers in that as well, which will probably piss both groups off. But it's more correct to think of engineers as belonging to a culture of Science than the other way around: botanists are not engineers, dammit, and watch where you're walking those plants are very fragile!

Shlaes describes the culture of Lawyers as seeing the world in terms of right, wrong, and rights. I think maybe that third category is just a derivative of the first two, myself. But on the whole, yes, a legal viewpoint is a judging one by its nature. The culture of the MBA, instead of focusing on what's right or what's wrong, asks instead, "What's the bottom line?" "What's in it for me?" would be more like it. It is a pragmatic sort of attitude, true. But it's also a selfish one. Or, it might be better to say that it's a material one. Profitability and a kind of shared-hallucination "practicality" are the rule. (Too often when I've heard someone say "Let's be practical", it's been a code word for "Let's not do anything unusual.")

The culture of the Scientist is pragmatic, too, and certainly you'd have to call a metallurgical engineer practical. But it's got other elements, and maybe more importantly, other goals. The ultimate question isn't "Is it right?" or "Where's the money?" but "Is it true?" What is the nature of reality? Where did those stars come from? Can I make this code 0.25% faster? Why do these tissue cultures keep dying? Scientific curiosity is famously impractical and amoral, because those values aren't what it's about. "Why, Saxe, why?"

Not everything worth knowing will make someone money. Not everything worth knowing is free of the possibility of causing great harm. But I think that no knowledge is evil in and of itself. I doubt Gore would agree with that (I can't imagine Bush even caring). I also think profitability isn't even a particularly good measure of the value of knowledge, let alone the only one. I doubt Bush would agree with that. Gore might. He's kind of a wannabe geek anyway.

Nader sure as hell is a Lawyer capital L. But where else do we have to go? Until we can produce our own Sakharov - and let's hope we don't have to go through a gulag to get one.

Willfully blind self-indulgent nebbish or amusingly quirky old coot? And how bout that local sports team? Discuss among yourselves.

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