Spammers are using addresses in their From: field again at the moment, so I’m being flooded with undeliverable message responses from really, really stupid MTAs. My junk mail filters are being pretty good at picking them up, but if I send an email to you and it really bounces, I won’t know. (I’m getting over 300 bounce messages per hour.)

In the past, they’ve moved on to other addresses fairly quickly (don’t annoy anyone enough to make it worth their while to go after you…), but if they don’t I might have to set my account to discard anything from mailer-daemon or postmaster, in which case I simply won’t see any warnings or undeliverable message notifications.

All Fine

We’re all fine here.

I’m just not finding time to write in my blog. That’s bad, of course. I really should write more here. But not today.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone. I’m going to spend time with my family today, rather than sitting in front of the computer, but they aren’t awake yet, so I have time to write a quick blog entry. I suspect this is likely to be the last Christmas for some time when Mayuki isn’t awake yet at half past eight in the morning, so I suppose I should be making the most of it.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, everyone.

The US Election

So, the US elections are finally more-or-less over. The American people appear to have given the Democrats larger majorities in the House and Senate, important results that should not be overlooked in the general rejoicing that they have also elected Barack Obama as president.

The first African-American president is of great symbolic importance, and it’s vital not to underestimate the significance of symbols. Furthermore, Americans have voted for what he has offered in his campaign, by a significant margin (at the moment, the New York Times website gives Obama a majority of seven million or so). Obama won Virginia and, apparently, North Carolina (the NYT gives 100% of the vote called, but hasn’t marked it as a Democrat victory, which may just be because they’ve all gone to bed, or may be because there are still technicalities to go through). A black Democrat winning in the South is a major change in the US political landscape.

This is already a significant event, and a positive one.

Can Obama live up to expectations?

Given that he is apparently not God, nor Superman, and rumour has it that there is no magic non-inflationary money pit back in the Obama bus (the money apparently was all donated by ordinary Americans), probably not.

However, in the campaign he has demonstrated that he is inspiring, that he can gather knowledgeable advisers and listen to them, and that he has both stamina and poise. If there is no more to Obama than that, he will be a better president than Bush, and better than McCain looked likely to be. (Although I do think McCain’s concession speech was very good.)

In short, to believe that Obama is likely to be a bad president, you have to believe one of the wacko conspiracy theories.

I hope he’s going to be better than “not bad”, but, let’s face it, even that is a major improvement.

Roll on January 20th.

(Cruel question to ask people who are almost-but-not-fully in touch today: Who is the President of the USA?)

Feminism Causes Cancer

… was not actually the headline of an article in the current Guardian Weekly, but it was pretty much what it said. Apparently, if women do not get pregnant young and then basically stay pregnant, it greatly increases their risk of breast cancer.

What this proves is that “X causes cancer” does not guarantee that X is bad. You have to look at all the benefits of X, and at who gets the benefits and who gets the cancer. In this case, feminism benefits women, and women get the cancer, so it’s entirely reasonable for women to decide that the trade-off is a reasonable one. Indeed, in this case women can actually choose to make the choice on an individual basis. A woman can choose to have lots of children and reduce her risk of breast cancer; the existence of feminism is no threat to her.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do anything about it. Minimising breast cancer is still a very worthwhile goal. Breast cancer is still bad, even if it isn’t bad enough to make feminism as a whole a bad thing.

I doubt that there has ever been a culture where public debate has been as sophisticated as it needs to be, but it would be nice if public debate could acknowledge that something can be good despite having negative features, and bad despite having one or two good points. In many cases, this really does seem to be difficult for everyone to manage.

Mayuki Recovered

It looks like Mayuki did just have a bit of a cold. She was a bit off-colour yesterday, and slept a lot, and she was rather restless last night, but this morning she seems to be back to her usual self. As I type this, she’s sitting in her bouncer next to the computer (so that Yuriko can get a bit more sleep, after the rather broken night), smiling at me, concentrating on her toys, and generally being the normal Mayuki.

So, that was a nice, gentle first illness for us.

Computer Fixed

Well, my computer is working again. Sleep on the problem, and work out how to fix it.

Since the keyboard was working on the login screen and on the Live CD, I figured that it had to be something to do with my setup. So, I used the failsafe terminal, which just gives you a command line, to create a new user, and then logged in as that user to see whether the keyboard worked then. It did. So I compared the configuration files in the home directories for the new user and my current user. (Fortunately, I was able to switch user in a terminal in the new user without breaking the keyboard for my normal account, which meant I could easily edit my files. From the command line.) The keyboard directory in .gconf was not present in the new user. That means two things. First, it’s not necessary, and second, it could be the problem. So, I moved it up to my home directory, because if it’s in the wrong place it won’t do anything, and I might want to check the contents later. Then I logged out of the test user and logged in again as myself.

And the keyboard works. Even Japanese input works. 見てご覧。Although that Japanese full stop looks a little odd.

Computer Woes

I’ve just upgraded the version of Linux on my computer to Ubuntu 08.04, and it’s broken the keyboard. What that means is that I can’t type anything on Linux. It’s only the software that’s broken, so fortunately I can type on the Mac side of my machine.

However, I work on the Linux side. I rather hope that the bug system provides a solution to this problem pretty quickly… If not, I’ll have to downgrade, which will be a complete pain, because I’ll have to reinstall the Japanese input system and a bunch of programs I use that don’t come with the default installation.

This sort of regression is really not supposed to happen with official releases. There’s a live CD version that you can use without upgrading your machine, and the keyboard works just fine on that. It might also be an upgrade conflict, but it’s beyond my expertise to solve, at least right now.

So, if you’re waiting for an email response from me, you could be waiting for a little longer than usual.

Surveys and Prejudice

The Guardian has just reported on a survey by Stonewall, headlining the article “Homophobia rife in British society, landmark equality survey finds”. However, the results quoted in the article are all the percentages of gays and lesbians who would expect to encounter prejudice if they did something. It’s not even how many of them think they have actually encountered prejudice in those situations.

I can’t help thinking that this sheds next to no light on the subject. There is good evidence that a lot of white people think that councils and the like are prejudiced against them, and would expect to be discriminated against if they applied for council housing or benefits. This is not, however, evidence that the British authorities are actually biased against white Britons.

A quick look at the original survey shows that Stonewall was actually investigating expectations of prejudice. This is an important thing to investigate: expectation of prejudice can prevent participation even when there would not, in fact, be any prejudice were you to try. However, without an investigation into actual levels of prejudice, it’s no use at all, for anything.

The actual level of prejudice could be higher, lower, or the same. Suppose it’s the same. In this case, the gay and lesbian community is remarkably perceptive, and there are good reasons to believe that, if prejudice were reduced, they would notice, and take advantage of the new atmosphere.

Suppose it’s higher. In that case, gays and lesbians are unrealistically trusting. In this case, and the previous one, all the action to be taken should be directed at the wider community.

Finally, suppose it’s lower. In that case, gays and lesbians are seeing prejudice where it doesn’t exist, and the need is for an education campaign aimed at gays and lesbians, to remove their prejudice against heterosexuals.

So, really not very good reporting at all. Much worse than the Guardian normally manages.