Wherefore, in so far as we hope for anything as being possible to us by means of the Divine assistance, our hope attains God Himself, on Whose help it leans. It is therefore evident that hope is a virtue, since it causes a human act to be good and to attain its due rule.
— St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q17 a1 resp.
Out of the blue, yesterday I felt the impulse to read Aquinas. So I just took the secunda secundae from the shelf and landed on Question 17. Found this little gem I wanted to share with you. Have a great day.
When I’m at the computer, a great deal of my writing activity happens not precisely in a word processor (such as MS Word, or LibreOffice Writer), but on a text editor, preparing source code for a document typesetting and preparation system known as LaTeX (Wikipedia entry). This system is easy, powerful and beautiful, allowing me to prepare professional-looking documents with a minimum of effort, way less than with a regular word processor. This advantage is achieved by separating presentation from content; once you got your presentation parameters sorted out, all you have to do is write text. It is also batch-processed: you write text with some markup code in an editor, then you feed the text to a LaTeX processor, which in turn produces readable output (my system produces camera-ready PDF files). An additional advantage of LaTeX —though I have not explored that fully— is that it is cross-platform; LaTeX systems are available for almost any computer system imaginable, since LaTeX is FreeSoftware.
You can write LaTeX in any text editor, because the processor requires a plain text file as input. In Windows, Notepad would be adequate, and any barebones text editor would suffice in any platform. (Or you could use a gorilla such as MS Word or any other word processor, as long as you save your files as plain text, but that would be overkill.) There are document processors that act as a LaTeX frontend and that could be used more or less like “LaTeX graphical word processors”, such as LyX or GNU TeXmacs. They are great, capable tools, but they are also limited; if you want the full power and flexibility of LaTeX, the best approach is to code your document in LaTeX itself. (And besides that, LaTeX is not that difficult. It is actually quite simple to learn.)
The best way to typeset text –to code– in LaTeX is by using a dedicated LaTeX development environment: A special text editor that, in a way that is analogous to IDEs (integrated development environment), provides specialized access to tools, reusable code components, and such. For casual uses it may be too much; but when you’re really into LaTeX typesetting, it could be a lifesaver.
As a Linux desktop user, my graphical environment is KDE, and it has been so almost since the day I began using Linux. For the uninitated, let me explain that KDE is a graphical desktop for Unix-like systems built on top of the Qt graphical library. KDE is great and it is so friendly and powerful that it almost feels like an extension of my brain, staying out of my way and letting me getting my work done. The current stable version is KDE 4.14.1, from the great KDE 4.x series, based on the Qt 4.x graphical library:
KDE folks are now readying a completely new environment based on the Qt 5.x graphical library, which could be loosely known as “KDE 5”. This denomination is inaccurate; in fact KDE released so far Plasma 5.0.x and Frameworks 5.2.x, and the whole world of KDE applications are being ported to Frameworks 5.x as of now. Thanks to the work of Eric Hameleers, one of the Slackware Crew members, I now have the latest and greatest of KDE 5 on my computer: Plasma 5.0.2 and Frameworks 5.2.0. So far, it is behaving itself quite well:
The writing is on the wall, then; the applications I use on my workflow should be in the process of porting to KDE 5 or I risk being cornered with an obsolete version of both desktop and applications. As of now, however, and despite being totally usable, KDE 5 is in a very early stage of development to be useful. In order to make it my default desktop I need at the very least to be able to migrate my PIM workflow, which is highly dependent on KDE4’s aKonadi and there’s no clear upgrade path to KDE 5 yet. So, for me it’s KDE 4.14.1 for the time being.
In this regard, if you think that LaTeX is important in my workflow, you are correct. I code LaTeX with a great KDE application known as Kile (KDE’s Integrated LaTeX Environment). At version 2.1.3, it is a stable, mature and powerful application, perfectly suitable for any major LaTeX editorial project.
Founded by Pascal Brachet in the early KDE 3.x days, maintainership passed over to Jeroen Wijnhout, and then to a team headed by Michel Ludwig. They have all done a great job; and it shows. I wrote several mission-critical texts with it, including my lawyer’s thesis, my Th.M. major research paper, and several published works. Over the time, it proved itself an invaluable asset for my workflow. But there’s a problem.
KDE 5.x is already on the horizon, and Kile does not have an upgrade path to it. Version 2.1.3, while powerful and stable, was released on 2012 and there is no sign of active development on its SourceForge page. It is reasonable then to assume that Kile development was, for all practical purposes, abandoned. Now, for KDE 4.x this statu quo would be fine, since the current version works great and it’s rock-solid. But I had to find somethinhg that would work well with KDE 5 in order to be ready for the future.
I researched alternatives. One was Texmaker, which is developed by Kile’s founder, Pascal Brachet. Version 4.1 was released last August and it is clearly in active development. It is a Qt-only application, cross-platform, and it compiles under Qt5. However, it feels like a very early and limited Kile:
Don’t jump to conclusions, though. Texmaker is a great application, very powerful and well-designed. But it does not adjust itself well to my workflow. So, I had to look for an alternative. After some searching, I found what it seems a good option, Texstudio:
Developed by Benito van der Zander, Jan Sundermeyer, Daniel Braun and Tim Hoffmann, TeXstudio began as a series of patches to Texmaker, with the hope of integrating them upstream; however, it soon became apparent that it would not be possible. So they forked Texmaker, applied their improvements, and began development of a wholly different application. TeXstudio has a strong resemblance to Kile, and it could be made even more similar by applying customizations (such as keyboard shortcuts and menu items). Even better: like Texmaker, it is both cross-platform and could be compiled under Qt 5.x by passing a simple compilation parameter to the build system, so it’s future proof and could be used under KDE 5.x. I began to use it and I find it pleasant to use and a great drop-in replacement to Kile.
Thus, one major roadblock to KDE 5 was sorted out. I may not be able to use Kile, but I can certainly use TeXstudio.
Update – Sep 29: Jure Repinc replied in a comment that Kile is being actively developed after all, and there is also a porting effort to Frameworks 5. Great!
There is a pervasive tendency to ignore our Christian heritage and how Christianity introduced a respect for life and liberty that was completely unknown before the coming of Jesus Christ. In the ancient world, the teachings of Jesus Christ halted infanticide, emancipated women, abolished slavery, inspired the first charities and relief organisations, created hospitals, established orphanages and founded schools. In the medieval times, Christianity built libraries, invented colleges and universities, dignified labour and converted the barbarians. In the modern era, Christian teaching has advanced science, elevated political, social and economic freedom, promoted justice and provided the greatest inspiration for the most magnificent achievements in art, architecture, music and literature.
Christianity has been the most powerful agent in transforming society for the better across 2000 years. No other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation or movement has so changed the world for the better as Christianity has done.
Some of you may know that I was a graduate student at Calvin Theological Seminary. From 2000 to 2002, I was a student in residence for the Master of Theology degree, in the field of philosophical theology under the supervision of Professor John Cooper.
My time at the Seminary was a great time. John Suk, then director of The Banner, the official periodical of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (the denomination of Calvin Seminary), said: “When I was in seminary I had the time of my life”; and I wholeheartedly concur with that. My time at the Seminary is something filled with joy, and a cherished memory that I hope to never forget.
But it was also a challenge. I simply lacked the habits and proper discipline required of a full-time graduate student. The workload was an enormous undertaking, becoming a full-time student after being a part-time student (as it is the norm in Latin America). To complicate things further, Calvin Seminary had its academic activity organized not in semesters, but in quarters. Any subject had to be taught in a crash course format, and when you thought you were settled on it, it was time to submit the term paper. (Calvin Seminary moved to a semester system afterwards.) Nevertheless I had academic success, but at the price of a lot of emotional and physical effort.
Things got to the point that the only requirement remaining for my graduation was writing a small master’s thesis. Since my field of study was philosophical theology, I wanted to write on the philosophical theology of Spanish philosopher Xavier Zubiri (1898-1983). Concretely, I wanted to do a study of his work to prove that Zubiri was a panentheist on his theology. (Panentheism is a doctrine that maintains that while God and the world are different, they remain ontologically linked to the point that God is in the world and the world is in God. It is usually an offshoot of Neoplatonism. Well known panentheists are Philip Clayton and Jürgen Moltmann.)
But I never got around to write that thesis. I faced several constraints. I had to read all of Zubiri’s relevant work on the subject and there was no single book of Zubiri in the campus library, so I had to request them on inter-library loan. And then, funding from my country all but dried up; while I was in the States, Paraguay had to face one of its worst economic crises. And I was tired and homesick. So, I took the decision to leave and see if I could finish the degree from my country.
When I arrived here, things were very different from two years before. I remember the many “For Sale” signs in front of houses. People were migrating to Spain and Argentina. I was unemployed for seven months and then, the only job I got was as an English teacher in a day school; and teaching youngsters is something very difficult to me. The thing is, writing my thesis was something definitely put in the back burner.
By the grace of God, I slowly began to recover. I got married, some years later I got certified as a translator, and shortly afterwards I entered law school and graduated as a lawyer. One day, while I was finishing the procedures and paperwork for being a registered lawyer in my country (the equivalent to being admitted to the bar), my sister asked me out of the blue: “Why don’t you consider getting your seminary degree now”? And it really seemed a great idea.
I wrote to the seminary. It turned out that my graduation was certainly possible. I had so much credit accumulated that I could graduate with a major research paper instead of with a thesis. Thus I wrote the paper on Zubiri’s transcendental panentheism, the same subject of the original thesis; but this time I restricted the scope to only two representative Zubiri works: Nature, History, God and Man and God. The term paper was accepted (with an A, mind you) by Dr. Cooper, and I got my degree on Commencement Day, May 24, 2014. (I graduated in absentia.)
It was nice to be able to focus once again on philosophical theology, a discipline that I really love. For a number of months I was absorbed in the way only a graduate student knows. Every single available second of my time was devoted to research, reading and writing. That’s one of the reasons I blogged so little this year, despited having the desire to do so. Now you know the reason 😉
So, after 14 years of first setting foot on the Seminary, I was able to finish it. I am so grateful to God, to my family, to my beloved wife, to Calvin Seminary faculty, staff and former classmaates, to friends from the States and here for their support. It was quite a ride!
The last weeks brought a lot of new developments and I plan to share them soon. But now I’d like to report that the Paraguayan evangelical church has shown some change and not for the better. Sadly, Paraguayan Evangelicals of the traditional (perhaps, “mainstream” kind) are slowly turning to aberrant, deviant Charismatic practices.
One of the worst offenders here is the Prosperity Gospel, a heresy that affirms that one of the marks of being in God’s favor is financial wealth. The other is what has been called the New Apostolic Reformation, another heresy that maintains that the offices of apostle and prophet have been restored on this age.
Together, these two heresies have swept our churches with a putrid wave of chamanism and authoritarism, and the new generation of Evangelicals are growing like cult fanatics, totally ignorant of the Bible. It is a sad state of things. The worst part is that leaders are not doing anything to curb this; they rather jump on the bandwagon and take advantage of these heresies as much as they could. I cannot tell for sure, but the two chief driver for this approval by Evangelical leaders may be economic profit and spiritual influence.
Some Facebook posts of mine have been critical of these two cultic errors, and the backslash has been strong. I have been treated as a pariah, a leper, for daring to question these doctrines!
So, this is how the Church is in Paraguay now. Sad, sad state of affairs. But the good news is that there are some churches, a minority, that would have none of this cesspool of cult teachings. Please pray so they can make a strong stand for Christian orthodoxy.
For [the Gospel] is a doctrine not of the tongue but of life. It is not apprehended by the understanding and memory alone, as other disciplines are, but it is received only when it possesses the whole soul, and finds a seat and resting place in the inmost affection of the heart…
We have given the first place to the doctrine in which our religion is contained, since our salvation begins with it. But it must enter our heart and pass into our daily living, and so transform us into itself that it may not be unfruitful for us. The philosophers rightly burn with anger against, and reproachfully drive from their flock, those who when they profess an art that ought to be the mistress of life, turn it into sophistical chatter. With how much better reason, then, shall we detest these trifling Sophists who are content to roll the gospel on the tips of their tongues when its efficacy ought to penetrate the inmost affections of the heart, take its seat in the soul, and affect the whole man a hundred times more deeply than the cold exhortations of the philosophers!
— John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III:VI,4 (Battles translation).
The Lord is risen! I hope everyone has a great Easter.
As a token of celebration, let me share with you this magnificent piece of music: the Ouverture from the Orchestral Suite No. 3, by Johann Sebastian Bach, in one of its best renderings, by Karl Richter. Enjoy!
We are beginning the Holy Week holiday. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are full holidays, and many also worked the previous Wednesday only until noon.
Maundy Thursday is the day where we commemorate Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper. Thus, in our country is a day of karu guasu (Guarani: “eat a lot”). Families gather for a noon dinner filled with lots of food. Rural families usually kill one or more of their meat animals: chicken, turkeys, ducks, pigs, lambs, goats, cattle… you name it. They serve the food grilled or cooked in the oven. On the side, several typical Paraguayan delicacies are served. All in all, a typical family and their guests eat a meal that could feed a small army, and with a calorie count more appropriate for the Spitzbergen or Faroe islands ;-).
For my part, I plan to eat normally and spend the day writing and researching. It’s rare today to have a full day available without the hassles, noises and interruptions, so I plan to take advantage of it.
Let’s spend this day in reflection, being thankful for God’s redemptive work in Jesus Christ. And today’s institution reminds us that Christ’s redemptive work applied not only to persons — it built a community that could gather at the table in rememberance of Him.
Today Noah, the movie, is premiered in Paraguayan cinemas. Very appropriately, Mennonite Brethren pastor Lyndon Unger posted a detailed review article (warning: here be spoilers). Well worth the read. And after what I read, I agree with his evaluation: the movie is not worth watching out. Enjoy.
THE EMPEROR CÆSAR FLAVIUS JUSTINIANUS
PIOUS, FORTUNATE, RENOWNED, CONQUERER AND TRIUMPHER, EVER AUGUSTUS,
TO TRIBONIANUS HIS QUÆSTOR:
Governing with the aid of God the Creator our Empire which was delivered to Us by His Heavenly Majesty, we have ended the war successfully, glorified peace and sustained the Republic, and in such a way we lift our spirit to implore the protection of God the Almighty that we do not trust upon arms, nor upon our soldiers, nor upon those who conduct our wars, or upon our own genius, but we place all our hope solely upon the providence of the Most High Trinity, from which are derived the elements of the entire world and their disposition throughout the globe.
— The emperor Justinian, constitution Deo auctore, at the beginning of the Digest, part of the corpus of Roman civil law. This is the English translation of the text that appears on the header photo of this blog.
For fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of distributed and concurrent systems, notably the invention of concepts such as causality and logical clocks, safety and liveness, replicated state machines, and sequential consistency.
Lamport’s contributions are fundamental to today’s distributed infrastructure. Giants such as Google or Amazon, and indeed, anything related to cloud computing, rely heavily on his work.
In my personal case, I owe Lamport (and many folks who built on his contributions) a more direct debt of gratitude. He is the originator of LaTeX, a document preparation system. Thanks to him and many others, I was able to write my lawyer thesis without worrying too much on matters of format. So, from a grateful user: Congratulations Mr. Lamport!
P.S.: This is another theme. Let me know your thoughts on it.
For several years I used Fluid Blue as the blog’s theme. In my (always subjective) opinion, it was a great looking theme. However, it became too old and unmaintained. It has a newer version, F2, but I don’t like it as much as I liked Fluid Blue. Thus, I began shopping for themes.
Finally, I came with several alternatives. I didn’t make my mind yet, but the one you’re seeing now it’s one of the options. Hope you like it.
Off I went, an unemployed man, on Workers’ Day Eve. And I was thankful for it.
April 30th, 2011 seemed to be just another day at the office, compounded with the expectation that we would have the usual Worker’s Day holiday of May 1st, and then, perhaps, an outing at a local restaurant paid by the company in order to celebrate it.
However, it all changed near 5 pm, when I was wrapping around my workday. Three coworkers –two talented designers and my immediate boss– were called into the manager’s office, one by one. When they came out, each of them had serious faces. And then they called me in. I went, supposing what would was about to happen, but still hopeful that the reason would be something different.
It wasn’t. At the office, one of the managers –a very capable lady– with tears in her eyes told me that she was so sorry, but I was to be laid off. The numbers weren’t good, she said, and there was no way they could keep me. She assured me that every effort was done to see if I could be retained, to no avail. She asked me to wait for the HR officer of the corporate parent who would do the actual severance paperwork.
When the manager began to tell me the bad news, something happened. I felt relieved and thankful. But why? Well, there were several reasons.
I was thankful for the job I had. I was hired as a creative in an advertising agency. I had the opportunity to learn a whole new trade, to meet new people, to know much more about media, people, entertainment, and business, than I already had.
In addition, I succeeded in my job. I engineered, implemented, and worked as a chief copywriter of a campaign who won one of Paraguay’s most prestigious advertising awards. And this was a first for the agency. Overnight, the agency was the focus of the collective envy of all Paraguayan advertising agencies. And I had more than a hand on this achievement.
Moreover, I was thankful for how I was hired. I was hired on the spot at a time when I was desperately looking for a job, at a pay that was equal than of my former job. And I was a phenomenon: a copywriter at an ad agency, hired after I turned 40 years old. When I was laid off, I told that manager and also the HR officer that I was very thankful for that. And I told them: “tell M. (the owner) that I will never forget that he gave me a job despite my age.” To be honest, I was hired by one of the managers, a person who is a great friend, but the owner had to concur and I was being paid with money from his company, so I thanked him. A lot. I am certain that they did not expect me to be thankful for that fact, so they were pleasantly surprised.
And also I was thankful for the fair and understanding manner in which I was laid off. There was no distrust, no hostility, and I was paid a full severance package as prescribed by the Paraguayan law. As a lawyer, I knew that the company could try some loopholes in the law to pay me less, but they didn’t. The severance package bought me some time while I was looking for another job.
I must recognize, however, that I was thankful because this meant the end of that job. Certainly I was an award-winning copywriter, but life was hard at the agency and there were some aspects of the work that I positively hated. For starters, we worked in an open-office layout. I had to endure everything, and my coworkers had to endure me. The air conditioning didn’t work well, and the office could get hot. It was hard to get some focus and concentration with all the sensory noise.
All the noise and the tension of having to be there slowly began to get me. I began to dread having to go to work. I stayed after the appointed exit time on most days, because I could get at least one hour of silence and quietness. I slowyly became hypersensitive, overreacting (internally) to every tiny little bit of discomfort that the office gave me.
Soon after my layoff, I began working under very different conditions. The new job allowed me to work from home, at a better pay. It wasn’t perfect, of course; but it was doable and I felt much better.
That day, as I walked out of the office, I realized that one could be thankful for a layoff, and I was for this one. God was in control in many ways; and He showed me that fateful day that He is faithful.
This year is coming to an end. It has been hectic as usual, unusually challenging, but very enriching. Recollections and thoughts are set for another post. Now, I just want to wish all of you a merry Christmas and an excellent 2013.
I usually use a picture to go with a post, but today we are going to do something wholly different. I am pleased to share this video. There, Ms. Berta Rojas, a fellow Paraguayan who is a world-class, Grammy-nominated classical guitar player, plays “Christmas Carol” (Villancico de Navidad) composed by Paraguayan composer Agustín Barrios. A beautiful piece of music, its charm is heightened by the accompaniment of this very peculiar orchestra: the instruments are made from recycled trash. Even when they’re not perfect, the performance is beautiful and touching. Enjoy!
It’s been a while. I’ve been busy as usual, with really hectic days. My Christmas was nice, but January was a difficult month. I had to face several challenges, including several (and expensive) repairs to the car. I’m still sitting tight, but meanwhile there are news.
The PC I was using at the office (running an unpatched copy of XP; I don’t manage the IT operation, so don’t look at me) kept crashing again and again. The situation got so bad that one day I experienced > 15 crashes, thus seriously hindering my ability to get any work done. Since the only computer available was a Mac, guess what I’ve got.
The picture says it all. I’ve got an iMac with a nice screen, 300 GB HDD and 2 GB RAM. It is ancient, running Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), so you can get the idea. I think this is one of the first Macs running with Intel processors.
So far it’s been a nice experience. A Mac is a wholly different beast than a Windows or Linux PC. Things such as window or application management are done with a different workflow; and some of it could be downright annoying for someone used to a PC. But it gets the work done, and that’s important. All in all, an opportunity to learn something new. 🙂
As part of my work in the advertising trade, I was tasked with developing a public-interest campaign. In fact, “developing” is too high a word, since I am a litle more than an apprentice. I did most of the foundational work of the campaign, including writing the core briefs, but I received lots of help from my bosses and coworkers.
The campaign is Perdona, a public interest campaign promoting the practice of forgiveness in Paraguay. So far the campaign is going quite well, although some metrics show it still needs to gain more traction. Please pray for this campaign; the one and only thing it seeks to do is to make Paraguayans forgive and ask forgiveness, giving them hope and freeing them from hate and bitterness. Working for this campaign as an ad person is for me a blessing, especially when one thinks that I could very well be developing ads for beverages, tobacco, or other highly frivolous stuff.
Phew! It’s been a while. As usual, life has been nothing short of hectic. A full half-year has passed now; and the changes it brought were significant. I’m beginning now a series of posts that hopefully will bring you up to speed about the recent changes and also serve as a kickstart for new updates and writings.
Life has been challenging, as you might expect; but it also was full of blessings. The Lord has been good to us and I’m grateful beyond words. This has been evident especially in the recent changes.
Well, here goes one of the most significant ones: I have a new job. That’s right; I’m no longer Rev. S.’s assistant. Since last March, I am working as a creative redactor (i.e., copywriter) in a local advertising/marketing agency.
The fact is that while Rev. S. alwas has been a kind and compassionate boss, there were several signs in the air telling me that I should look for a job elsewhere. My job was to assist Rev. S. in his office as elected officer of a Latin American-level Baptist organization, and his term is scheduled to run until April 2012. However, Baptist politicking began to show its ugly face. Rev. S. always worked with the sole purpose of giving glory to God by extending His Kingdom, and no other purpose. But Rev. S.’s position carries a sizeable degree of clout and influence, and is therefore coveted by power brokers. Rev. S’s work was done without any string attached to any ulterior motive; he is of very senior age, and he gave up the chance of enjoying a quiet retirement from ministry with his wife just to further serve God’s cause. That fact notwhitstanding, intrigues, slander and old-fashioned cloak-and-dagger politiciking began in earnest against him.
This, of course, grieved Rev. S. greatly, and he thought about resigning. He was dissuaded by Rev. A., his immediate superior in ranking. Thus, Rev. S. chose to remain; but his ministry activities were greatly reduced. Thus, many days I just sat down at the office with nothing to do but idly surf the Web. I saw the writing in the wall, and began preparing my résumé. One day, I saw on Facebook a post stating that a local ad agency was looking for a copywriter. I didn’t know what a copywriter was then, but I saw the requirements, and they seemed a good fit for my skill set. I submitted my résumé, and it turned out that the agency is managed by E., a good friend of mine of years. We talked, agreed on the terms, and I began working there.
Rev. S. is still at his office, but his workload is greatly reduced. In my case, the new work is demanding, but so far I feel very good about it. Please pray that I could excel on it and make some real progress.
(Edit: minor corrections added. Markup sanitized… still need that for using Blogilo.)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14 ESV)
I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
For this writer, this time of the year was very challenging but also filled with hope and joy.
We had a nice Christmas Eve dinner at my mom’s place. There, we shared with my two sisters, my brother-in-law, and our nieces. When midnight arrived, we exchanged gifts and embraces; and it was a good time. On Christmas Day, we had a Christmas noon dinner at my mother-in-law’s home. There, and given the fact that the in-laws are a huge bunch of people, the dinner was noisy, but joyful and rather pleasant.
This time of the year was special for the inlaws since one of my sisters-in-law came from Spain. She is a direct descendant from a line of Spanish nobility, and she has an advanced degree on statistics and mathematics; but current economic conditions in Paraguay forced her to go to Spain, where she works now as a housemaid. (And, she told us, she’s doing fine.) To take advantage of her presence, we took her and her mother to the small town of Piribebuy, where we spent some days resting. We returned to Asunción the day before New Year’s Eve.
For the New Year’s Eve dinner, we went to my in-laws’ place. We had a great dinner; and my mother in law is a fantastic cook! We exchanged hugs and greetings at midnight among the noise and blasts of fireworks; at a time they were too loud, and almost deafening. Usually, at that time, a lot of people choose to go to several New Year’s parties, where they dance till dawn and even later. We chose to go to bed; we were simply too tired for even thinking of going to a party.
Mom told us that she would be gone to the country for the day, so we had the day to ourselves. I woke up at a time that is so embarrasingly late that I won’t mention it; however, it was way earlier than the rise-up time of most people, and I was able to enjoy a rare blessing: silence. Yes, it was quiet, really quiet; so much that I was able to put a chair under the shadow of a tree in my front lawn, and sit down and get some reading done while sipping a delicious tereré.
I hope you also had a great holiday time. May the Lord bless you all, and grant you an excellent year 2011, full of faith, hope, and love; peace and enduring joy.
(photo credit: Paraguayan manger scene, taken from Facebook page «Yo te muestro Paraguay», i.e., “Let me show you Paraguay”.)
First things first: Merry Christmas! A Christmas post is imminent. Stay tuned 😉
And second: It’s been a looong time! I know, I know… but work and law school conspired to make regular posting impossible. However, I have several writings maturing, so hopefully there’s going to be something for you in these days.
With that being said, I would like to share with you an excellent opinion piece by former programmer and sociologist Zeynep Tufekci on The Atlantic: Wikileaks Exposes Internet’s Dissent Tax, not Nerd Supremacy. There, and among other interesting points of view, she contends that the whole Wikileaks affair exposes the “dissent tax”, the fact that corporate entities, understood in its widest sense (i.e., agencies, governments, corporations) exert the power to swiftly restricting a pseudo-free speech of anyone who threaten their vested interests.
Some quotations are in order:
Horrifying as this vision is, it simply distracts from the main lessons of the Wikileaks affair: the increasing control of (relatively) unaccountable corporations and states over the key components of the Internet, and their increased willingness to use this control in politicized ways to impose a “dissent tax” on content they find objectionable. Ability to disseminate one’s ideas on the Internet is now a sine qua non of inclusion in the global public sphere. However, the Internet is not a true public sphere; it is a public sphere erected on private property, what I have dubbed a “quasi-public sphere,” where the property owners can sideline and constrain dissent…
Further, while one may disagree with the particular methods chosen by Wikileaks–and I certainly have my criticisms– […] It seems to me that states (and corporations) have become increasingly secretive and opaque, while people are increasingly exposed. This divergence was lampooned quite effectively by Saturday Night Live. “I give you private information about corporations for free,” SNL’s Assange quipped, “And I’m a villain. Mark Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money and he’s the Man of the Year.”…
During these past weeks, […] I saw the crumbling of the facade of a flat, equal, open Internet and the revelation of an Internet which has corporate power occupying its key crossroads, ever-so-sensitive to any whiff of displeasure by the state. I saw an Internet in danger of becoming merely an interactive version of the television in terms of effective freedom of speech…
The Wikileaks furor shows us that these institutions of power are slowly and surely taking control of the key junctures of the Internet. As a mere “quasi-public sphere,” the Internet is somewhat akin to shopping malls, which seem like public spaces but in which the rights of citizens are restricted, as they are in fact private. If you think the freedom of the Internet could never be taken back, I implore you to read the history of radio. Technologies that start out as peer-to-peer and citizen-driven can be and have been taken over by corporate and state power….
The real cause for concern is the emergence of an Internet in which arbitrary Terms-of-Service can be selectively employed by large corporations to boot content they dislike. What is worrisome is an Internet in which it is very easy to marginalize and choke information. The fact that information is “there” in a torrent, or openly on a website that is not easily accessible or has been vilified, is about as relevant as your right to shout at your TV…
What the Wikileaks furor shows us is that a dissent tax is emerging on the Internet. As a dissident content provider, you might have to fight your DNS provider. You might need to fund large-scale hosting resources while others can use similar capacity on commercial servers for a few hundred dollars a year. Fund-raising infrastructure that is open to pretty much everyone else, including the KKK, may not be available. This does not mean that Wikileaks cannot get hosted, as it is already well-known and big, but what about smaller, less-famous, less established, less well-off efforts? Will they even get off the ground?
Well, that is enough. Go check the article. It’s worth it. Thoroughly recommended as major food for thought.