shlomi-fish-homepage / lib / pages / t2 / philosophy / putting-all-cards-on-the-table.xhtml

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<title>Invisibles of the World - Ascend, and become Alphas</title>
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<h1>Invisibles of the World - Ascend, and become Alphas</h1>

<p>
OK, I am really tired of having truly intellectual people like me “speak in
riddles”, so I'll put all the cards I have now on the table. Ther will likely
be more into the future.
</p>

<h2 id="playing_the_invisible">My biggest mistake - playing the invisible</h2>

<p>
For a long time now, I wanted to achieve greatness: be extremely
famous, have my stories be read, have my web-site be visited countless of
times, and become a household name, and also earn a lot of money in the
process (to allow me to travel, be able to afford going out, etc.). However,
having read in several places that “The Invisible Hacker is the
most powerful” (a hacker is a talented worker that bends the rules,
and for what “hacker” means, see
<a href="http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html">“How to become a
    hacker”</a> and Paul Graham’s
<a href="http://www.paulgraham.com/gba.html">The word “Hacker”</a>), I decided
to play it the invisible. So I remained a relatively unknown Tel Aviv,
Israel-based software developer, who studied Electrical Engineering in who
was constantly looking for jobs, and who found a lot of joy in working on
<a href="http://www.shlomifish.org/">his personal web site</a>, various pieces
of open source software, and has been doing a lot of one-to-one, one-to-many
and many-to-many communications on the Internet. I was happy, but constantly
had periods of hypomanias.
</p>

<p>
I gradually felt that I was controlling everything behind the scenes, and
finding trends right before they became mainstream, and having slowly gain
popularity by word of mouth, and influencing people, but I kinda hated it.
Some people can be quiet and benevolent value producers doing ordinary things.
But not me - I want to be very good, not play “The Invisible”. I am not a
follower of trends - I set trends. And I want to be recognised for the truly
wonderful person that I am.
</p>

<p>
Note that this is not about being what Americans call “a winner” and win
1st place at some silly competition of who has the highest grade average or
the highest television rating ever. I don't care about that too much, but
I do care about being acknowledged. My stories are not perfect, but it is
their imperfection and sometimes sloppiness that makes them perfect.
</p>

<h2 id="the_technion_and_loser">The Technion and the American concept of “Loser” and “Winner”</h2>

<p>
The Technion in Haifa, Israel, where I studied for my Bachelor of
Science degree, is overall a fine institute to study in, but it has several
problems. One problem is that it's "90% work / 10% play" instead of say
"70% work / 30% play", because there's a strong discipline to study and only
that. But an even graver problem is the fact that the staff prefers the scores
of their tests to be an approximate
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_distribution">normal distribution</a>
(or Gaussian) which makes many people who studied hard frustrated at their
low grades. A better strategy would be to give a solid workload during the
semester, and then to have a <b>relatively</b> easy test, so people who studied
hard during the semester will easily pass with a high score, while the slackers
will still fail.
</p>

<p>
It seems like there's a similar problem with M.I.T., but whereas in MIT they
have a major problem with suicides of people who had straight A's in high
school and became C average students in M.I.T., I have yet to hear of a
Technion student who committed suicide because of low grades. Why? Because
Israelis don't have the unhealthy obsession about not being a “loser” that
Americans do. Technion students know best to realise that their low grades
are not their own fault, but rather the fault of the institute's general
policy.
</p>

<p>
I received some flak due to this. One Technion professor (who graduated from
M.I.T.) once asked me why my grade average was relatively low. I told him
I had better things to do with my time, and did not want to invest the much
extra time in getting perfect scores, and that I never took a course or a test
again if I got a passing grade (no matter how low). I spent many hours in
my Technion studies working on my homepage and on open source software,
interacting with my fellow students, browsing the web for information and
knowledge, etc. and they later on provided fodder for my works of fiction,
humour and philosophy. So I knew that I was right in trying to enhance my
general skillset instead of just my grades.
</p>

<p>
Some Americans may think I’m a “loser” for finishing with an average grade
of only 84.6% (which still made me a cum-laude student) and not being
able to persist in the same job for a long time since. But I’m not competing
like an Olympic athelete at some silly race on life. Life is meant to be
enjoyed - it is not a silly race.
</p>

<h2 id="silver_linings_playbook"><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_Linings_Playbook"><i>Silver Linings Playbook</i></a></h2>

<p>
A good friend recommended me to watch the film <i>Silver Linings Playbook</i>,
and said it discussed a man who had
<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bipolar_disorder">Bipolar
    disorder (or “Mania-Depressia”)</a>, which is something I have been
suffering from as well. I watched the film and found it imperfect: slow
starting, irresponsible, and a little depressing at times. But it was a great
film, with some great acting, many jokes and many awkward and funny
situations, and many details I could relate to. So it was perfect simply
because it was imperfect. Films that are too perfect are too boring.
</p>

<p>
Anyway, the theme of the film was that you can be happy and content even if
it appears you are a “loser”. Despite the fact that I am still living with my
parents at 35, that I've never been in a relationship with a girl (and I
am a straight guy), that I had a hard time keeping a job as a programmer, and
it's been a while since I've gone out of Israel, I am not a loser, and neither
probably are you.
</p>

<p>
That put aside, I still want fame, recognition, money, and becoming a
household name. It's just what I want and what I think I can do. That's part
of who I am, and part of what I think I can do.
</p>

<h2 id="jennifer_lawrence"><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_Lawrence">Jennifer Lawrence</a></h2>

<p>
And Silver Linings Playbook brings us to Ms. Jennifer Lawrence, who played
a lead role there and won many awards including the Academy Award for
best actress (a.k.a the Oscars) at the young (for an Academy Aware winner)
age of twenty-two (22). I was
quick to dismiss her due to previously playing in the dystopian <i>The Hunger
    Games</i> (I dislike dystopian stuff) but I loved her on <i>Silver Linings
    Playbook</i>. Although attractive, Ms. Lawrence is certainly not the
most beautiful woman I met or saw, and I'm sure she has some personality quirks
(like we all do), but thanks to playing her card rights, she is now
a much coveted <b>Alpha Female</b>, who can have the rest of her life (and
I wish her a very happy and long life) go in a direction she chooses.
</p>

<h2 id="human_networking">The Importance of Human Networking</h2>

<p>
While being an Objectivist, I am going to make a surprise statement: Ayn
Rand’s books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged have a tragic ending. Yes,
in The Fountainhead, unlike in my parody and modernisation of it which
I called <a href="http://www.shlomifish.org/humour/TOWTF/">“The One With
    The Fountainhead”</a>, World War II is not prevented, and the characters
each end up unhappy. On the other hand, in my parody, Dominique Francon
becomes the president of the United States, Roark is her husband and father
of her children and decides to pursue a career in paleontology (having reached
saturation as an architect), Toohey starts a new career as an excellent
saxophone player, and Gail Wynand transforms his newspaper empire into
something more benevolent.
</p>

<p>
Furthermore, it is clear from the Fountainhead that like Howard Roark, Ayn
Rand expected fortune and success to come to her at the time without her
doing anything about it. In <i>Atlas Shrugged</i> on the other hand, all
the characters including the protagonist Dagny and the antagonist John Galt,
are constantly travelling and networking. Like it should be. Today you can do
the same using mostly (but certainly not exclusively) Internet means.
</p>

<p>
And that was also my problem, which I've decided to avoid now.
</p>

<h2 id="david_and_goliath">David and Goliath</h2>

<p>
The Israelites and the Philistines schedule a large battle. The philistines
have far superior equipment with armors made out of cast iron, which the
Israelites don't have. Eventually, Goliath, a tall Philistine giant, steps
forward and asks for an Israelite man worthy enough to fight him and determine
the fate of the battle (something quite common in the Near East). The
Israelites seem like they will lose the battle.
</p>

<p>
Out of nowhere, a young Israelite boy whom hardly anyone knew about steps
forward with a sling and a few pebbles. Goliath thinks this is ridiculous and
ridicules him. However, the boy quickly puts a pebble in his sling, and after
rotating the sling to achieve a very large velocity (not unusual with slings)
hurls it with great accuracy (also not unusual, because shepherds in the Near
East effectively used slings to kill lions and other predators to their flock)
into Goliath's face, which was uncovered to allow him to see. Even if Goliath's
shield bearer wanted, he could not have lifted the huge shield in time, and
Goliath was completely not agile in his suit and armor. The sling's rock
smashes Goliath brain, and he falls to the ground dead. The Israelites have
won the battle.
</p>

<p>
The Boy's name was David.
</p>

<p>
Why do I think it's important here? Because David was a hacker (see
<a href="http://www.paulgraham.com/gba.html">Paul Graham’s
    “The Word ‘Hacker’”</a>) - he knew the rules, and played by them,
but knew how to bend them, in order to earn his victory. There
were many other hackers since, and there are a lot of them today even if
some of them think that “hackers” only mean no goodnick and malevolent computer
intruders. Hackers come in all shapes and sizes - and many of them (including
Ayn Rand and Jennifer Lawrence) are female.
</p>

<p>
Was David Jewish and Goliath a Philistine? Did the battle actually happen in
its form? What really happened to David next? That is hard to know, because
in a true open source fashion,
the peoples of the Near East gladly borrowed legends and memes from other
people and improved them, or adapted them to their whims. This is similar to
how we now create fan fiction by the droves. (Only now it's in much greater
speed and capacity.) Moreover, in a way, the tale of David and Goliath is
obscured by the mentality of the times, and its context within the larger
epos of the Bible.
</p>

<h2 id="machines_that_can_give_questions">The Machines That Can Give You Questions</h2>

<p>
Back when <a href="http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Pablo_Picasso">Pablo Picasso</a>
asked for commenting about computers, he said
“But they are useless. They can only give you answers.” and in a sense he
was right, because most computers at his time were used for one-off (and
time-consuming) calculations and simulations. But there was another use of
computers that was still in its infancy then and unknown: computer networking.
But as technology improved, it became more and more powerful and pervasive.
</p>

<p>
The 1986 film <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumpin%27_Jack_Flash_%28film%29"><i>Jumpin'
        Jack Flash</i></a> Starring Whoopi Goldberg (which I highly enjoyed
and can recommend)
exemplified the power of early computer communications, though it was
still in its infancy. The early popular Internet around the late 90s, with
the so-called <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_1.0">“Web 1.0”</a>
was a hodgepodge of static web sites (often at Geo Cities), lots of useless or
incomplete information, search engines that were still not very good, and
naturally, lots of fan pages of Buffy and Sarah Michelle Gellar (who was the
Jennifer Lawrence of the time).
</p>

<p>
If you wanted an interactive many-to-many discussion, you had to use Usenet,
or mailing lists, or Internet Relay Chat (IRC), or Slashdot, or whatever.
</p>

<p>
That has changed significantly, with the fact that JavaScript matured, wikis,
web forums and blogs became popular, search engines (most notably Google)
became better, and, later on, we've seen the rise of web-based social networks
such as Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus, which provide a more integrated
experience and a quicker and easier one.
</p>

<p>
That does not mean that all the old Internet mediums are dying - mailing lists
, IRC, and even some Web 1.0 sites (including my own) are still alive and
kicking, and people now are increasingly using Jabber/XMPP/GTalk/GChat.
</p>

<p>
Anyway, because computer networking allows humans to communicate with
other humans, they can provide you with questions. Lots and lots of questions.
So I think Pablo Picasso would have loved the Internet (and other means of
online communications such as SMSes, phone calls, mobile phone calls, etc.)
of 2013.
</p>

<h2 id="chuck_norris">Chuck Norris</h2>

<p>
Which brings us to Chuck Norris, who reportedly lost only one fight -
to Bruce Lee - from the time he became a professional fighter, until now
when he is old, has a malfunctioning left leg, and can be beaten relatively
easily by some of the most competent of his younger peers. However, I am
sure this is not the only battle that Chuck Norris has lost, because we
all had many disappointments in our lives, and things that didn't work like
we wanted to, people we liked or even loved that hated us, moved out of
our reach or died, and opinions we thought or proclaimed that turned out to
be mistaken. Chuck Norris had those too. These lost battles are part of who
we are as human beings and a natural part of life on Earth.
</p>

<p>
That put aside, Chuck Norris recently lost a much bigger battle than the
one with Bruce Lee, because the seemingly silly and popular Internet meme,
the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Norris_facts">Chuck Norris
    facts</a> (and other memes that they span) have become a much bigger and
better fighting machine than he has ever have been. Only it is not a
physical war - it is a gentle and subversive (but equally as powerful)
psychological war. And despite common beliefs, a good psychological
war is not won by intimidation or "defeat", but by
<a href="https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Shlomif/Guidelines_Encouraging_Participation_in_Wikis#Learning_from_Saladin">Saladin’s method</a>
of respecting your adversary, showing mercy towards him, even supporting him
by what appear to be his mistakes, forgiving him and trying to reach a common
ground.
</p>

<p>
Many people were easily indoctrinated into the Chuck Norris facts meme. I recall
<a href="http://www.shlomifish.org/humour/fortunes/show.cgi?id=chuck-norris-and-perl-6">this
    conversation on Freenode’s #perl</a> in June 2006, shortly after
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randal_L._Schwartz">Randal
    L. Schwartz</a> (a really great guy, whose relationship with me
started on the left foot, but that we're now on good and even friendly terms
with one another) told me about the Chuck Norris Facts Internet "meme"
and I was quickly able to come out with my own fact. After collecting a few
original facts like that, I set up a page for them
<a href="http://www.shlomifish.org/humour/bits/facts/">on the humour section of
    my homepage</a> having figured out that even if I had a silly quirk
of writing such factoids about people and things, then people will still take
me more seriously due to my longer stories and screenplays and my longer
and more serious essays.
</p>

<p>
But the reason why Chuck Norris/etc. facts are so powerful is <b>because</b>
they are so accessible and easy to create, not in spite of it. Chuck Norris
facts like “Guns don’t kill people. Chuck Norris kills people.”
or “There is no theory of evolution - only species of animals that Chuck
Norris allow to live.” or my own “Chuck Norris read the entire English
Wikipedia in 24 hours. Twice.” or “A is A and A is not not-A — Unless
Chuck Norris says so.” highlight some major problems and assumptions about
our existence, and makes us think. They give us questions. A lot of them.
</p>

<h2 id="we_all_have_a_master">We all have a master, and should be humble</h2>

<p>
A Jewish tale tells of a mighty emperor, supposedly a “king of kings” who
conquered so many nations and people, that he believed and proclaimed that he
was unstoppable and not even God (the real “King of the Kings of the Kings”)
could stop him. God did not like him. So what did he do? He let a fly enter the
emperor's head and keep buzzing. The emperor could not stand the fly buzzing
in his head, and ended up being driven to insanity, and then committing suicide.
So his <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubris">Hubris</a> (= excessive
human pride) caused him to be killed by a creature as insignificant as a fly.
</p>

<p>
While this is a folk tale, it illustrates the fact that we as humans are still
at the mercy of forces beyond us. As the old thought experiment goes
tomorrow <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Torvalds">Linus
    Torvalds</a>, who created and still maintain the Linux kernel, and is
the poster child of the open source movement (and a really smart hacker,
and a father to three daughters) can get hit by a bus. I am almost
certain the Linux kernel development and the open source world in general will
survive this shock, but a wonderful and beautiful life will be lost forever.
I can also get hit by an automobile, and so can Chuck Norris, who may now be
old enough to have a heart attack or any other deteriorating health problems
due to old age. We are all fragile, and must realise we should not succumb
to Hubris, because even if God does not exist, then Hubris will make us do
some really silly stuff, which will end up causing our downfall.
</p>

<p>
As surprising as it sounds, even God has a master: logic. Ever since Aristotle
codified logic in his
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organon">Organon</a> (which back then
was not so taken for granted - “A is A, and A is not not-A? Of course A can be
not-A. What kind of drugs is he on?”), which mathematicians, scientists and
engineers have used to construct greater and better technology - both physical
and “concrete” (like the tall buildings in various cities around the world,
land, air and space travel, and naturally computer and computer networks)
and mental (like the various philosophies, idea systems,
and mythological systems, up to this very essay and very word), logicians
have proved that some tasks are impossible to perform and true omnipotence
is not possible. Perhaps the most famous
is “Can God create a stone so big that he cannot lift?”. However, a more recent
and more important one is
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halting_problem">the Halting problem</a>,
which specifies that one cannot write a program which will finish within
a finite time, that will determine if any other arbitrary program will
terminate or alternatively run forever. While the formal proof is complex,
there is a short and informal proof that most intelligent people can
understand. So the King of the Kings of the Kings, as mighty and wonderful
as he is, also has a master.
</p>

<h2 id="tie_your_camel">“Put your faith in Allah, but tie your camel”</h2>

<p>
The tale (a Hadith) tells that Muhammad saw a shepherd going to pray, while
keeping his Camel untied. He asked the shepherd why he kept his camel untied
and the shepherd told him: “I put my faith in Allah, that the Camel won’t
escape”. So Muhammad told him (and I paraphrase) “Dude, it doesn't work that
way. Camels can escape due to nature’s whims. So: put your faith in Allah,
but, for the love of God - tie your Camel.” (I am an Israeli, agnostic,
non-religious, Jew but I think I can borrow useful memes from Christianity,
Islam, or whatever, if I think they have merit, right? See
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem">Ad-hominem</a>).
</p>

<p>
As much as I admire God for his wonderful creation, I still have to help
myself, and help him help me. I also am not sure whether I will continue
to live after I die, so I'd rather not risk it. God's creation is wonderful,
but there's always a risk I'm being toyed by some evil genius and that reality
is not what it seems to be (see Descartes’
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum">“I
    think therefore I am”</a> thought experiment and naturally The Matrix
concept from first Matrix film, which I have yet to watch).
Alternatively, it is possible that God does not exist, and reality is simply
whimsical and random, but still enabled the creation of life, intelligence,
and finally - human consciousness.
So it may sound farfetched to you, but I don't want to die - not now, not in a
thousand years - never. Maybe it's a scary thought, but I have accepted it
now, and wish to enjoy youth rejuvenating biological immortality. And I don't
want me or any of the living heroes I admire in the present, both those
that I know and those that I have only heard about (including some
people I have a feud with, but still know are mostly good people and respect),
to ever have to die due to old age, accidents, or misfortune.
</p>

<h2 id="hackers_own_the_world">Hackers Own The World</h2>

<p>
Hackers like David are the true holders of power in the world. In the Jewish
Bible, the myth of David is muddled by him later becoming a tragic hero,
and that his only true love, the sexy, and likely minded, female hacker
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michal">Michal</a> becoming barren and
supposedly jealous, but there are plenty of other hackers, both living and
fictional, in the world whose story had a happy ending. And here's the thing:
this is what an
<b>Action Hero</b> is all about - he defies the rules, bends the rules,
and eventually wins. A tragic hero on the other hand is bounded by many
invisible rules, and cannot win. So Action is the exact opposite of Tragedy.
(And to truly see why this is true, you should watch and listen to the
1m43s-long
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z9Ismh1elM">trailer for
    Shakespeare’s Hamlet starring Arnold Schwarzenegger</a> from the excellent
film <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Action_Hero">[the] Last
    Action Hero</a>.) I also guarantee you that this very essay is not perfect,
and that’s OK, because I’m a hacker and like to
bend the rules, and while I care about quality, I also care about getting
something - anything - out of the door quickly. With the help of editors,
I can always fix the essay later, in case a prestigious magazine such as Time
Magazine or Playboy would wish to publish it, but if I wait until it is
letter perfect before I publish and announce it, then it will be a big waste
of time.
</p>

<p>
I also realised that even though I placed my
<a href="http://www.shlomifish.org/humour/stories/">stories and screenplays</a>
under the /humour/ part of my homepage, they were also almost always stories
of action. Many action films now contain a lot of humour, and humour films
and even dramas are often action films in disguise (and that includes
<i>Silver Linings Playbook</i>). Many people complained that each and every
popular Hollywood film now contains a mixture of action, love and sex, humour,
drama, and naturally - a happy ending. However, my stories also have all that,
and during writing them, I wasn’t trying to make their “ratings” higher - just
to write what was on my mind, and to make the story as fun as possible. And
as surprisingly as it sounds, some of the most ancient myths (e.g: the stories
in the Hebrew Bible, or those of the Greek mythology) also contained all
that in their own old and now antiquated way.
</p>

<p>
Many people will think I'm being blasphemous by paraphrasing the story of
David and Goliath or the Hadith about Muhammad, and spicing them up
a little, but the thing is - it makes these stories something alive and
dynamic because our times are different. Shakespeare’s plays were narrated
as they were during his times, but reading them now is boring. Because our
times are different.
</p>

<h2 id="best_warriors">Hackers Make the Best Warriors</h2>

<p>
I once read a feature in an Israeli adolescents' magazine
about the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Navy_SEALs">Navy
    SEALs</a>, who are the chief commando unit of the United States Navy, and
they said there that while many very muscular young men (which they called “a
Rambo and a half”) approached them about joining, they didn’t survive for too
long in their training, and that those who did were those with a
“high I.Q.” and a great character. The United States has an unnatural
obsession with
I.Q., which is not a good measurement for intelligence (for many reasons),
but the point is that they are intelligent and competent.
</p>

<p>
And what is the recipe for such intelligence and competence? The answer is
having a mostly happy childhood, being open-minded and knowledgeable about
all sorts of small things, getting a lot of information, knowledge,
understanding, and insights, and being a whole rounded person. The world’s
greatest warriors such as Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee were not overly muscular,
and Chuck Norris had a happy and supposedly uneventful childhood. He also was
aware that he has to stand for himself, and take decisive action (“The Gods help
them that help themselves”) instead of letting life lead him in its own way
("Go with the flow" or "Be a product of your environment").
So did most of the Navy SEALs.
</p>

<p>
A murderous villain can shoot to all directions and perform a lot of killing,
but a good warrior requires precision, accuracy, intelligence and competence.
This involves being a well-rounded, happy and benevolent person.
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saladin">Saladin</a> was the greatest
physical warrior of his time, and he was extremely noble, and spared and cared
for the lives of the Knights Templar (who were really crazy people), to say
nothing of that of innocent men, women and children who came in his way.
Whenever I run into a moral dillema, I think to myself
“What would Saladin do?” and then do exactly that.
</p>

<p>
A lot of people believe that the children of today are unusual because they
don't have the patience to read anything longer than a twitter utterance (
see <a href="http://www.robcottingham.ca/cartoon/archive/tldr/">Noise
    to Signal’s “TL;DR” cartoon</a>), but I recall that most of the youth
of my generation (I am 1977-born), also did not read any books like I did,
or read most of the history and other textbooks of my class (like I did too),
, and instead spent a lot of time playing with friends or
watching television or whatever, and they turned out fine eventually. Nowadays,
many kids are bound to do things that will make some of us as grown-ups
think that “the generation is diminishing” but naturally, this is folly
(see <a href="http://www.robcottingham.ca/cartoon/archive/this-brain-this-brain-fire/">the Noise to Signal’s “Fire” cartoon and the comments about it</a>),
and is just indicative that you are growing more cynical.
</p>

<p>
As a matter of fact, newer generations can build on the work, knowledge,
and wisdom of older generations (“Standing on the shoulders of giants”) and
achieve dazzling new heights. During Helenistic times, many people believed that
philosophy was a useless mind exercise, that philosophers were contaminating
the youth, and that they were parasites who make problems where none exist.
That was all well and nice, until the Romans had a lot of pain and casualties,
conquering the island of
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archimedes">Archimedes</a>
due to the many devices and inventions he came up and that were used to
protect it.
</p>

<p>
And like I said, there are many other ways to wage war that do not involve
bloodshed or even violence.
</p>

<p>
In my screenplay
<a href="http://www.shlomifish.org/humour/Selina-Mandrake/"><i>Selina
        Mandrake - The Slayer</i></a>, Selina runs into three vampire warriors
(“The Three”) dressed as Klingons, who tell her that
“Every mighty Klingon warrior has watched Sesame Street” to which she exclaims:
“Mighty Klingon vampire warriors who have watched Sesame Street… this decade
royally sucks!!”, but most of the best American warriors of the relatively
recent past (of all kinds) have watched Sesame Street, because they loved
it as happy children (and later as adults).
</p>

<h2 id="new_alexandrias">The New Alexandrias</h2>

<p>
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria">Alexandria</a> used to
be the “It city” of the Helenistic period. While some inland cities like
Jerusalem and Damascus had a good strategical position and were important
religious
centres, almost all the great philosophers lived and operated in Alexandria.
Why Alexandria? Because it was a port city and close to the sea. It is well
known that many of the peoples of the Near East lived by and loved the sea:
the Greek, the Phoenicians (which the Israelites referred to as Canaan),
etc. The Israelites (who are now the Jews) started as a kind of sub-culture
and fashion among the Canaanites (and Archaelogists witness a
transition in Palestine and other parts of the Levant from the Canaanite period
to the Israelite period) but they later on were heavily influenced by
both the Phoenician and the Greek, by culture, ideals and even by blood.
Even in the Bible, the tribe of Dan is described as “setting sail to ships”.
</p>

<p>
Today there are many Alexandrias: New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San
Fransisco, London, Barcelona, Rome, Rio-de-Janeiro, Hong Kong, Singapore,
Shanghai - even (and for us Israelis - especially) Tel Aviv. And even
Alexandria, in its more modern form, after at least a single destruction, is
the second largest city in Egypt, and probably more vibrant than Cairo, which
is the inland capital.
</p>

<p>
Here's the thing about human life: it's not preserved automatically. It must
be kept alive by effort. Often a lot of effort. You must fight death,
irrationality and stagnation, from within and from without. Often it involves
some pain, but usually fighting for your life is fun and rewarding, and
gives you a lot of joy. It is well known that of the
<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Wonders_of_the_Ancient_World">Seven
    Wonders of the Ancient World</a> only the Pyramids of Giza still stand.
But while the other wonders were marvels of aesthetical beauty, the Pyramids
were just giant, unaesthetic, graves, which no one would like to live in. Even
the
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uxmal">Mayan pyramids in Yucatan</a>
look more pleasant than them.
</p>

<h2 id="not_accept_who_I_am">My second biggest mistake: not accepting who I am.</h2>

<p>
Throughout most of my adulthood, I have been criticised for various things
I believed in or liked: the fact I was a pro-life, and non-cynical person
(or Aristotlean), the fact that I liked ponies, Ewoks, and smurfs (so
cute!), the fact that I hated being Mr. Macho in real life (and was instead
a gentleman among females), the fact that I didn't have a relationship yet,
the fact that I placed photos of scantily clad females on some of the
wallpapers on my desktop at home (and people claimed I was treating females
as sex objects), the fact that I found porn disgusting, the fact that I got
into <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypomania">hypomanias (literally
    "below-manias")</a>, the fact that I didn't consume caffeinated or
alcoholic beverages at all, the fact that I found porn disgusting instead
of arousing, the fact that I chat a lot on IRC, the fact that I listened
to mostly pop music, and so on and so forth.
</p>

<p>
However, I now realise that these are some of the things that make me
who I am, and I shouldn't try to be someone else. Geeks and hackers come in
all shapes and sizes, and there is no need to try to fit better among fellow
computer hackers, just due to
<a href="http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/appendixb.html">the
    portrait of J. Random Hacker</a> in the Jargon file. You should accept
who you are too.
</p>

<h2 id="trying_to_please_everybody">Please all → Please none</h2>

<p>
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesop%27s_Fables">Aesop</a> (who was
most likely an ancient Greek meme, similar to today’s
<a href="#chuck_norris">Chuck Norris facts</a>) tells the story of an old
man, his grandson and a donkey who walk from one city to another and no matter
how they utilise the donkey (without anyone on it; putting only the grandson
on the donkey; putting only the grandfather on the donkey ; both riding
the donkey; etc.), people criticise them for the situation. The conclusion
was “Please all and you shall please none”.
</p>

<p>
How is it important? Some people, especially those that are jealous or
envious of you are bound to complain. You smiled while performing a sad
song? Someone will complain. You’re wearing prescription glasses? (Like I
do.) Someone will label you as “half-blind”. You wrote some Star Trek
fan fiction? Someone will tell you it’s lame. You wrote
Chuck Norris facts or lolcats? Ditto.
</p>

<p>
You're thin? Fat? Chubby?
<a href="https://twitter.com/shlomif/status/307702411047350272">Look
    too normal</a>? Plump? Someone is bound to complain.
</p>

<p>
So just be happy with who you are. Naturally, if enough people complain,
and/or you think their criticism has some merits, you can try to improve in
some respects (without making a fuss about it). But be happy with what you
have and who you are, despite all the haters.
</p>

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