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Hero Worship Is Bad

It should be ob­vi­ous to any­one that tak­ing the words of any­one, in­clud­ing some­one you like (or even spe­cial­ly some­one you like) with­out skep­ti­cism is a dan­ger­ous path. For ex­am­ple, you may like Gand­hi's phi­los­o­phy of non-vi­o­lence, or ad­mire him for what­ev­er rea­son.

That is hard­ly an ex­cuse to take any­thing he said as worth much, spe­cial­ly when it's about sub­jects he had ab­so­lute­ly no idea about, be­cause he had a ten­den­cy to be ab­so­lute­ly sure he knew ev­ery­thing about ev­ery­thing.

For ex­am­ple, did you know he wrote a book about health? Here's a quote from it:

One ques­tion which I have asked my­self again and again, in the course of writ­ing this book, is why I of all per­sons should write it. Is there any jus­ti­fi­ca­tion at all for one like me, who am no doc­tor, and whose knowl­edge of the mat­ters dealt with in these pages must be nec­es­sar­i­ly im­per­fec­t, at­tempt­ing to write a book of this kind?

My de­fence is this. The “science” of medicine is it­self based up­on im­per­fect knowl­edge, most of it be­ing mere quack­ery. But this book, at any rate, has been prompt­ed by the purest of mo­tives. The at­tempt is here made not so much to show how to cure dis­eases as to point out the means of pre­vent­ing them. And a lit­tle re­flec­tion will show that the pre­ven­tion of dis­ease is a com­par­a­tive­ly sim­ple mat­ter, not re­quir­ing much spe­cial­ist knowl­edge, al­though it is by no means an easy thing to put these prin­ci­ples in­to prac­tice. Our ob­ject has been to show the uni­ty of ori­gin and treat­ment of all dis­eases, so that all peo­ple may learn to treat their dis­eases them­selves when they do arise, as they of­ten do, in spite of great care in the ob­ser­vance of the laws of health.

Do you no­tice the bait and switch? He knows lit­tle about the mat­ter, but he will write the book any­way be­cause it's re­al­ly about the sim­ple sub­ject of dis­ease pre­ven­tion. But read­ing it "all peo­ple may learn how to treat dis­eases them­selves". And not just a few dis­eases but all dis­eases. That para­graph reeks of false mod­esty and sim­ple dis­hon­esty.

But hey, did you know that he could cure the plague?

I have tried this sin­gle treat­ment [a mud poul­tice] for all va­ri­eties from sim­ple fever up to Bubon­ic Plague, with in­vari­ably sat­is­fac­to­ry re­sult­s.

Of course, in the next sen­tence it says:

In 1904, there was a se­vere out­break of plague among the In­di­ans in South Africa. It was so se­vere that, out of 23 per­sons that were af­fect­ed, as many as 21 died with­in the space of 24 hours; and of the re­main­ing two, who were re­moved to the hos­pi­tal, on­ly one sur­vived, and that one was the man to whom was ap­plied the mud-poul­tice.

I won­der what is a re­sult less than sat­is­fac­to­ry.

There are ob­vi­ous mis­un­der­stand­ings of ba­sic fact­s, such as how res­pi­ra­tion works 1 what the stom­ach does 2 and even how many bones there are in a hu­man chest, and there are, of course, things that are just weird:

Co­coa is ful­ly as harm­ful as cof­fee, and it con­tains a poi­son which dead­ens the per­cep­tions of the skin.

Even ha­bit­u­al cof­fee-­drinkers will be un­able to per­ceive any dif­fer­ence in taste be­tween cof­fee and this sub­sti­tute. Good and well-sift­ed wheat is put in­to a fry­ing-­pan over the fire and well fried, un­til it has turned com­plete­ly red, and be­gun to grow dark in colour. Then it is pow­dered just like cof­fee. A spoon of the pow­der is then put in­to a cup, and boil­ing wa­ter poured on to it. Prefer­ably keep the thing over the fire for a min­ute, and add milk and sug­ar, if nec­es­sary, and you get a de­li­cious drink, which is much cheap­er and health­i­er than cof­fee. Those who want to save them­selves the trou­ble of pre­par­ing this pow­der may get their sup­ply from the Satya­gra­ha Ashram, Ahmed­abad.

The first class, which is the largest, con­sists of those who, whether by pref­er­ence or out of ne­ces­si­ty, live on an ex­clu­sive veg­etable di­et. Un­der this di­vi­sion come the best part of In­di­a, a large por­tion of Eu­rope, and Chi­na and Japan. The sta­ple di­et of the Ital­ians is mac­a­roni, of the Irish pota­to, of the Scotch oat­meal, and of the Chi­nese and Ja­pa­nese rice. 3

Wheat is the best of all the ce­re­al­s. Man can live on wheat alone, for in it we have in due pro­por­tion all the el­e­ments of nu­tri­tion. Many kinds of ed­i­bles can be made of wheat, and they can all be eas­i­ly di­gest­ed. 4 [...] man can re­tain his strength by liv­ing on mere wheat boiled in wa­ter.

And fi­nal­ly, there are the bits which are not just wrong, but al­so ab­so­lute­ly fuck­ing dan­ger­ous.

Did you know he says small­pox is not con­ta­gious, and is re­al­ly a di­ges­tive tract con­di­tion?

[S­mall­pox] is caused, just like oth­er dis­eases, by the blood get­ting im­pure ow­ing to some dis­or­der of the bow­el­s; and the poi­son that ac­cu­mu­lates in the sys­tem is ex­pelled in the form of smal­l­-pox. If this view is cor­rec­t, then there is ab­so­lute­ly no need to be afraid of smal­l­-pox. If it were re­al­ly a con­ta­gious dis­ease, ev­ery­one should catch it by mere­ly touch­ing the pa­tien­t; but this is not al­ways the case. [...] This has giv­en rise to the su­per­sti­tion that it is a con­ta­gious dis­ease, and hence to the at­tempt to mis­lead the peo­ple in­to the be­lief that vac­ci­na­tion is an ef­fec­tive means of pre­vent­ing it.

Oh, vac­ci­na­tion! You see, this book was pub­lished in 1921. By 1921, small­pox was al­ready dis­ap­pear­ing in Eu­rope be­cause vac­ciona­tion worked. And small­pox vac­ci­na­tion had worked for decades. He ei­ther knew noth­ing about how ef­fec­tive it was, or did not care.

I think the prob­lem here is, un­sur­pris­ing­ly, that to some­one with Gand­hi's back­ground vac­ci­na­tion was evil and just could­n't be ac­cept­ed as some­thing pos­i­tive.

Vac­ci­na­tion is a bar­barous prac­tice, and it is one of the most fa­tal of all the delu­sions cur­rent in our time, not to be found even among the so-­called sav­age races of the world.

[...]

More­over, vac­ci­na­tion is a very dirty pro­cess, for the serum which is in­tro­duced in­to the hu­man body in­cludes not on­ly that of the cow, but al­so of the ac­tu­al smal­l­-pox pa­tien­t. An av­er­age man would even vom­it at the mere sight of this stuff. If the hand hap­pens to touch it, it is al­ways washed with soap. The mere sug­ges­tion of tast­ing it fills us with in­dig­na­tion and dis­gust. But how few of those who get them­selves vac­ci­nat­ed re­alise that they are in ef­fect eat­ing this filthy stuff!

[...]

As has been well said, cow­ards die a liv­ing death, and our craze for vac­ci­na­tion is sole­ly due to the fear of death or dis­fig­ure­ment by smal­l­-pox. 5

[...]

I can­not al­so help feel­ing that vac­ci­na­tion is a vi­o­la­tion of the dic­tates of re­li­gion and moral­i­ty. The drink­ing of the blood of even dead an­i­mals is looked up­on with hor­ror even by ha­bit­u­al meat-eater­s. Yet, what is vac­ci­na­tion but the tak­ing in of the poi­soned blood of an in­no­cent liv­ing an­i­mal? Bet­ter far were it for God-fear­ing men that they should a thou­sand times be­come the vic­tims of smal­l­-pox and even die a ter­ri­ble death than that they should be guilty of such an act of sac­ri­lege.

And there you have it, the clas­si­cal moral arith­metic of the re­li­gious: it is bet­ter for your son to die in hor­ri­ble suf­fer­ing or be dis­fig­ured than for a drop of cow serum to be in­ject­ed in him. How's that for non-vi­o­len­t?

Fuck that shit, Gand­hi. Fuck that shit.


1

"The oxy­gen of the air which we in­hale pu­ri­fies this blood and is as­sim­i­lat­ed in­to it, while the ni­tro­gen ab­sorbs the poi­sonous mat­ter and is breathed out­." -- Gand­hi

2

"If the stom­ach ceas­es to work even for a sin­gle mo­men­t, the whole body would col­lapse." -- Gand­hi

3

My great-­grand­par­ents came to Ar­genti­na from Italy a few decades be­fore this book was pub­lished. If some­one called them veg­e­tar­i­an­s, they would prob­a­bly smack you in the head with pro­sciut­to.

4

Ex­cep­t, of course, by those who can not di­gest wheat.

5

Hell yeah!

42

42 (forty-t­wo) is the nat­u­ral num­ber im­me­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing 41 and di­rect­ly pre­ced­ing 43. The num­ber has re­ceived con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion in pop­u­lar cul­ture as a re­sult of its cen­tral ap­pear­ance in The Hitch­hik­er's Guide to the Gal­axy as the "An­swer to The Ul­ti­mate Ques­tion of Life, the Uni­verse, and Ev­ery­thing".

—Wikipedia

Aho­ra es tam­bién la re­spues­ta a "¿Cuan­tos años ll­e­va Rober­to tratan­do de lle­gar a ser adul­to?"

Al­gún día me va a salir. Mien­tras tan­to, se cumple un año de este plan y co­mo ya pasó un año, hable­mos de esas cosas que ya sé hac­er. O mejor no, porque en una de esas re­sul­ta que no sé hac­er nada, y no hay que hablar de cosas feas en un cumpleaños.

Ha si­do un lin­do año en muchas cosas, no per­fec­to, pero lin­do. Em­piezo el 42 jun­to a mi fa­mil­i­a, comien­do tostadas con spi­anat­ta y toman­do café ri­co. Eso ya es bas­tante.

Being an Inclusive Project (and how GitHub saved my day)

I have post­ed over 50 posts here about Niko­la and most of them con­tain some­thing like "Niko­la, my stat­ic blog/site gen­er­a­tor". Well, that's not the case any­more. From now on I will say "a stat­ic blog/site gen­er­a­tor". Why? Let's see.

For starter­s, it's no longer true that I wrote it. Al­though I am still push­ing more code that any­one, there are 54 oth­er con­trib­u­tors. That num­ber is as­ton­ish­ing. Why? Be­cause I es­ti­mate there are around 200 Niko­la user­s. That means the ra­tio of con­trib­u­tors to users is in­cred­i­bly high.

That is prob­a­bly ex­plained be­cause the way you build a site us­ing Niko­la is very pro­gram­mer ori­ent­ed. You could de­scribe a stat­ic site gen­er­a­tor as a sort of "site com­pil­er" and not be far off the mark. Many of the ben­e­fit­s, like you can host your page sources in github! are com­plete­ly mis­te­ri­ous to non-pro­gram­mer­s. So, I ex­pect­ed that num­ber to be high, but, hav­ing a 25% user=>de­vel­op­er con­ver­sion rate? That's bizarre.

So, I sus­pect I did some things well with this project 1, and want­ed to think them out loud, and try to fur­ther them.

One thing I think I did well was that it's an in­clu­sive projec­t. If you pro­pose some­thing you are get­ting heard and I am giv­ing the pro­pos­al a fair shake. I may re­ject it, but not out of hand, but in­stead af­ter some thought. And if I am un­sure, it's ac­cept­ed. I would rather get some­thing I am not fond of than drive out a con­trib­u­tor 2 be­cause I may change my mind, but a con­trib­u­tor that's gone is not com­ing back.

Same thing about grant­ing com­mit right­s: want them? You get them with the first suc­cess­ful PR by just ask­ing.

To­day there was an­oth­er step on this di­rec­tion: I am not the sole ad­min any­more. No longer is http­s://github.­com/ralsi­na/niko­la the canon­i­cal re­po, it's now http­s://github.­com/get­niko­la/niko­la. The web­site? Not http://niko­la.ralsi­na.me but http://get­niko­la.­com, paid for 5 years. Added two ad­mins to ev­ery­thing (the awe­some dami­anav­i­la and Kw­pol­s­ka). Gave up sole con­trol of a loooong list of things 3 and now I can get run over by a bus and things should not bi­trot.

It pro­tects those 54 oth­er con­trib­u­tors and few hun­dred users from my ev­er los­ing heart or in­ter­est, which is a re­al risk, and should be al­le­vi­at­ed.

I think the most im­por­tant bit about con­vert­ing users in­to con­trib­u­tors though, is that you just need to be friend­ly. And Niko­la is large­ly a friend­ly projec­t. And that's made it a lot of fun for the past year or so.

I once read that if you re­fused to use code writ­ten by ass­holes you could not boot any OS. Well, that may be true, but that does­n't mean be­ing an ass­hole is OK. This is a small project that does a small thing. But at least I feel con­fi­dent it's not writ­ten by ass­holes. And that's a vic­to­ry in it­self.

OTOH there are some ma­jor def­fi­cien­cies stil­l. Di­ver­si­ty is good in some ar­eas (geo­graph­i­cal­ly, for in­stance) but AFAIK the per­cent­age of wom­en con­tribut­ing to the code­base is 0% and I have no idea why, and I would love to im­prove that.

So, lots of work done, lots more to do. That's a good po­si­tion to be in, I think.


1

Al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tion: I did some things so bad­ly I have driv­en out 99% of the us­er base.

2

With­in rea­son.

3

Github's check­lists on Is­sues are great

4

With­in rea­son.

5

Op­tion­al.

6

Not re­al­ly.

Clarín: Donde 2500 dólares es barato, pero $7000 es caro

Hoy Ap­ple sacó dos telé­fonos nuevos, el iPhone 5c y el 5s.

Re­sul­ta que es­tán a la ven­ta por U$S 99 con con­tra­to. En­tonces Clarín al toque saca la no­ta "¿Qué telé­fonos se con­siguen en Ar­genti­na por 99 dólares?"

Yo sé que pre­tender que un pe­ri­odista sepa de lo que es­cribe, sepa mul­ti­pli­car, sepa bus­car en Google y enci­ma lo de­jen pub­licar lo que averigua es jo­di­do, per­o...

  • Sale U$S 99 sub­­­sidi­a­­do

  • Lib­er­a­­do sale U$S 579

  • Para com­prar­­lo a U$S 99 tenés que sacar un con­­tra­­to de dos años de más o menos U$S 99 men­­su­ales

O sea que com­prar uno te sale 579 dólares, o (en com­bo con dos años de ser­vi­cio) 2500 dólares.

Has­ta ahí lo que no averiguó el pe­ri­odista (o si lo sabe no lo es­cribió, o si lo es­cribió no se lo pub­li­caron).

Veamos aho­ra el otro la­do de la no­ta. Men­ciona el Sam­sung Gal­axy S4. Es un telé­fono más que com­pa­ra­ble con el iPhone 5c, que es más o menos el iPhone 5 con car­caza de col­ores.

Veamos, cuán­to sale un S4 acá?

  • Sale $4499

  • Para com­prar­­lo a ese pre­­cio tenés que sacar un con­­tra­­to de $139 (en Mo­vis­­tar, por ejem­­plo)

  • Tam­bién lo podés sacar con un plan "con­trol" más bara­­to y te sale $5499

Según Clar­in, es­to quiere de­cir que sale 500 y 850 dólares (de pa­so, un S4 lib­er­a­do en US­A? 1000 dólares. Lib­er­a­do acá? 24 cuo­tas de $320 en Fráve­g­a, saquen sus propias cuen­tas).

En re­al­i­dad, lo cor­rec­to es que sale (en com­bo con 18 meses de ser­vi­cio) $7000. Si querés equiparar los tér­mi­nos de ser­vi­cio: $7836 con dos años de ser­vi­cio.

Sí, el ser­vi­cio en USA es mejor que acá. Pero no podés de­cir, así suel­to de cuer­po, que $7836 es más que U$S 2500. A menos que seas Clarín.

UP­DATE querés una bue­na relación pre­cio/pro­duc­to? Te podés com­prar un Huawei Y300. Es más lente­ja, es más gor­do, es de plás­ti­co, pero sale 100 dólares en se­ri­o, lib­er­ado, y es más o menos lo que era un telé­fono flag­ship de hace 18 meses, ponéle un Gal­axy S2, más o menos, que los que lo com­praron con sub­sidio to­davía lo es­tán pa­gan­do.


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