One Small Voice

The Journal of Peter Saint-Andre


Providing an Alternative

2017-08-16

Although I pay no attention to the news, I'm vaguely aware that perhaps the world is becoming more negative and irrational. Rather than getting lost in despair and confusion, I try to model a positive, reasonable alternative by living the best life I can and by writing philosophical books that are clear, concise, and constructive. I've written six such books, with a seventh half done and an eighth outlined. Even though each of these books takes 500-1000 hours to research and write, I make them all available for free on my website (however, I do charge for the paperback and ebook versions). To date I've also made no effort to market them, so I depend on word of mouth. If you have found value in any of these books, I'd greatly appreciate it if you could tell a friend, write a review at Amazon, or give a copy as a gift. Thanks. :-)

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None of My Business

2017-08-10

Apropos of my latest journal entry "Politics is a Disease", here is a quote from Beyond Good and Evil (Section 251) by Friedrich Nietzsche:

If a people is suffering and wants to suffer from nationalistic nervous fever and political ambition, it must be expected that all sorts of clouds and disturbances - in short, little attacks of stupidity - will pass over its spirit into the bargain: among present-day Germans, for example, now the anti-French stupidity, now the anti-Jewish, now the anti-Polish, now the Christian-romantic, now the Wagnerian, now the Teutonic, now the Prussian (just look at those miserable historians, those Sybels and Treitschkes, with their thickly bandaged heads -), and whatever else these little obfuscations of the German spirit and conscience may be called. May it be forgiven me that I too, during a daring brief sojourn in a highly infected area, did not remain wholly free of the disease and began, like the rest of the world, to entertain ideas about things that were none of my business: first symptom of the political infection.

As Nietzsche hints, the farther a given concern is from one's span of control - to pick a topic of the moment, "what to do about North Korea" - the more readily most people weigh in with their opinions. Yet unless you know a great deal about both the specifics and the conceptual underpinnings of right action in such a matter, the less justified you are to entertain ideas about things that are none of your business. Not, by the way, that I have much confidence in the so-called experts, either!

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Politics is a Disease

2017-07-18

I have become progressively disenchanted with, indeed actively opposed to, politics. More and more, I see it as a disease that has grown to take over not only the "body politic" but also the individual mind and soul. My enemy is the assertion that "the personal is the political", and that there is no domain of life outside of politics - not art or music, not love or friendship, not philosophy or religion - nothing. This idea emerged in the radical Marxist-feminist movement of the late 1960s, and was given canonical expression in an essay by Carol Hanisch.

Consider this paragraph:

So the reason I participate in these meetings is not to solve any personal problem. One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution. I went, and I continue to go to these meetings because I have gotten a political understanding which all my reading, all my "political discussions," all my "political action," all my four-odd years in the movement never gave me. I've been forced to take off the rose colored glasses and face the awful truth about how grim my life really is as a woman. I am getting a gut understanding of everything as opposed to the esoteric, intellectual understandings and noblesse oblige feelings I had in "other people's" struggles.

Life is grim, and the only solution is collective action! That is my enemy, and the enemy of all joyful wisdom.

I'm thinking about writing a book entitled Politics is a Disease.

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Happy 200th, Henry Thoreau

2017-07-12

Today is the 200th anniversary of Henry David Thoreau's birth. To celebrate, I've published two books on his philosophy of life: The Upland Farm (a 50-page original exploration in the form of a journal) and Seasons of Thoreau (a 300-page compilation of quotes from his writings). Both books are available for free on my website, and can also be purchased in paperback and ebook formats from Amazon.

By the way, I've now composed three of the volumes in the six-movement "eudaimonia suite" that will comprise my lifelong philosophy project. I'm already hard at work on (indeed halfway done with) a cycle of poems about Nietzsche, entitled Songs of Zarathustra, which I plan to complete later this year or in 2018.

I hope you enjoy these books; if so, please spread the word. :-)

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Poetry as Code

2017-06-21

A few months ago, in preparation for composing a cycle of poems on Nietzsche's ethical philosophy (now half done and provisionally entitled Songs of Zarathustra), I made the time to re-read my favorite book on the writing of metrical poetry: All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing by Timothy Steele. This also inspired me to revisit and revise some of the poems and translations I published years ago in my book Ancient Fire. Sadly, I discovered that those early poems were rather buggy; the translations of Horace were especially malformed and a few of them required major refactoring so that they would compile from a metrical perspective.

My application of programming terminology to poetry-writing is not unwarranted. Done right, poetry has a kind of code to it. Different languages have entirely different underlying poetic principles: in ancient Greek and Latin, poetry was syllabic (i.e., based on the number of syllables in a line, such as 11, 11, 11, and 5 in the four lines of a Sapphic stanza) whereas old German and Anglo-Saxon poetry was purely accentual (you could have any number of syllables in a line as long as you had the proper number of accented syllables) and modern English poetry is a mixture of the two (called "accentual-syllabic"). Within each language, different forms (e.g., iambic pentameter or haiku or sonnet) have different rules such as the number of feet per line or repeating patterns (as in the pantoum), which can be stretched a bit in several directions but only so far. This is not all that dissimilar from types of programming languages (say, functional vs. object-oriented) or different coding styles (how you break up program logic into functions is a bit like how you break up poetic logic into lines and stanzas). And then there are free-verse programming languages like C or JavaScript that are a lot more loose in the kinds of structures they allow.

I wouldn't take these analogies too far, but I do find them interesting...

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RFC 8141: Uniform Resource Names

2017-04-27

Long, long ago on an Internet far, far away, some forward-thinking technologists defined several different types of identifiers called Uniform Resource Locators or URLs (for locating things - say, an article published online) and Uniform Resource Names or URNs (for permanently naming things without necessarily locating them - say, identifying a book by its ISBN no matter where a physical or electronic copy might be located). Some years later, a grand unified theory of identifiers was formulated, leading to the creation of Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) including both URLs and URNs (and URCs, but who's ever heard of those?). Even though most URIs that we use today are URLs, URNs as specified in RFC 2141 have continued to be widely deployed, especially for bibliographic purposes and as XML namespace names. Because the communities that use URNs have felt the need to make some slight adjustments to the syntax and to align URNs with the formal definition of URIs, back in 2010 folks at the IETF decided to start work on a new document to obsolete RFC 2141. It took us 7 years (!), but here we are today with RFC 8141 to bring URNs into the modern age (almost exactly 20 years after the publication of RFC 2141 in 1997). Special thanks to John Klensin for co-editing this specification with me!

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