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RMS' Bio | The GNU Project
I do not have a favorite food, a favorite book, a favorite song, a favorite joke, a favorite flower, or a favorite butterfly. My tastes don't work that way.
In general, in any area of art or sensation, there are many ways for something to be good, and they cannot be compared and ordered. I can't judge whether I like chocolate better or noodles better, because I like them in different ways. Thus, I cannot determine which food is my favorite.
Until around 1998, my office at MIT was also my residence. I was even registered to vote from there. Nowadays I have a separate residence in Cambridge not far from MIT. However, I am rarely there, since I am nearly always travelling out of town.
Music genres I often like include some Spanish folk music (but not Flamenco), Latvian folk music, Swedish folk fiddling, Moroccan traditional music, Soukous, Balkan folk dance music, Turkish folk dance music, Turkish classical music, Armenian folk dance music, Georgian choral music, Indian classical music (I tend to enjoy Carnatic more than Hindustani), Javanese and Balinese gamelan music, Vietnamese traditional music, Japanese court music (Gagaku), Japanese folk dance music (Minyo), Andean folk music (except when the words are in Spanish and about romantic rejection), and traditional US folk music when it is lively.
I like European art music, but I have less appetite for it than I had a few decades ago.
I like polyphonic music from medieval times. Especially from the 1200's, with hocket. However, Gregorian chant has insufficient complexity to engage me.
I don't appreciate jazz much, perhaps because I never learned enough about it. However, I like some fusions that include jazz. For instance, Bulgarian wedding music (a fusion of jazz and Bulgarian folk music) and Latin jazz.
I like some avant garde works — for instance, Conlon Nancarrow's player piano music.
If something is popular in the US, I usually find it boring, but there are occasional exceptions. I liked much of what I used to hear on the radio before the Beatles. Around 1980 there was another period in which I heard on other people's radios a considerable amount of music I liked.
I dislike most country music especially. I dislike c…rap music too. I don't like slow romantic songs, or harsh-sounding rock. "Heavy metal" sounds too harsh to me; anyway, the name is deceptive: the metal in a bronze gamelan is far heavier.
If I generally dislike a certain genre of music, there can be occasional exceptions which I like nonetheless. For instance, I love Weird Al's "Can't Watch This", even though it's c…rap, because it's a parody of c…rap.
When a foreign musical style starts becoming popular in the US, it usually develops in a direction I don't like. For instance, I love Bulgarian folk dance music but I am bored by the Bulgarian women's chorus that became a big hit in the US in the 80s. Youssou nDour's music was exciting in the 80s, but then he started making records for US and European tastes and the spark disappeared.
I am an omnivore; I will try almost anything if it doesn't gross me out.
I refuse to eat the most intelligent animals, such as simians, cetacians and parrots.
On my first visit to Taiwan I ate insects — specifically, larval bees and crickets. I loved the larval bees, and sought another chance to try them. Strange to say, when I found them again in Taiwan, I did not like them; it seemed that the breading was too thick. I don't know whether it was the style of preparation that changed, or my tastes. On another visit to Taiwan, I ate snake (two kinds of snake, in two different preparations). I liked them well enough, but not tremendously.
Cooked tuna tastes terrible. What a waste of good tuna, to cook it!
I refuse to eat shark fin, because collecting the fins is wiping out the sharks. For similar reasons I now usually don't order tuna sushi (although I love that).
I uphold the total boycott of Coca Cola Company, which is a response to the murder of union organizers in Colombia and Guatemala. I will not use any of that company's products and I hope you will reject them too.
'Breakfast'? Is that the thing some people eat in the 'morning'?
Seriously, for many years in the 1970s I was almost always asleep when other people had breakfast, so I got used to waking up and having lunch or dinner. I thus lost all association between any particular time of day and any particular foods. Nowadays I am often awake in the morning, but I still have no such association: what I'd like to eat when I wake up is anything I'd like to eat at any other time.
I am an Atheist, for scientific reasons. The religious theory of the natural world ("It's this way because a god decided to make it this way") does not explain anything, it only replaces one question with another. That means it is so bad that "valid" and "invalid" don't even apply.
I also reject the idea that a god's opinions would provide us with a moral compass. A god that would allow so much suffering to occur — most of it not the result of anyone's free will — is clearly no guide to what anyone should do. It would be entitled to its opinion just like you or I, but its opinion would not be entitled to any special respect.
Religion offers no moral short-cut. It is up to us to figure out what is right and what is wrong.
Not all my shirts are red or purple, but many are. I like those colors.
None of my shirts carry messages (such as words or symbols). That practice strikes me as lacking dignity, almost like being a sandwich man, so I won't wear clothing with symbols, not even for causes I support. This is not a matter of ethical disapproval, so I don't mind selling hats and shirts with free software slogans on behalf of the FSF; but I choose not to wear them myself.
As a matter of principle, I refuse to own a tie.
I find ties uncomfortable, so I don't wear them. If ties were simply a clothing option, I would decline to use them but there would be no reason to make a fuss about it. However, there is an absurd social pressure on men to wear ties. They do this as a form of sucking up to the boss.
When I worked at MIT, I was shocked that MIT graduates, people who could have almost dictated employment terms, felt compelled to wear ties to job interviews, even with companies that (they knew) had the sense not to ask them to wear ties on the job.
I think the tie means, "I will be so subservient as an employee that I will do even totally senseless things just because you tell me to." Going to a job interview without a tie is a way of saying you don't want to work for someone who wants that.
The people who wear ties under these circumstances are victim-coperpetrators: each one who cedes to this pressure and wears a tie increases the pressure on others. This is a central concept for understanding other forms of propagating nastiness, including nonfree software and Facebook. In fact, it was in regard to ties that I first recognized this phenomenon.
I don't condemn victim-coperpetrators, since they are primarily victims and only secondarily perpetrators. But I believe I should not be one of them. I hope my refusal to wear a tie will make it easier for you to refuse as well.
The first time I visited Croatia, that country had a major PR campaign based on being the origin of the tie. ("Cravate" and "Croat" are related words.) You can imagine my distaste for this — therefore, I referred to that country as "Tieland" for a while.
The Free Software Foundation's dress code says that a propeller beanie is required, but other clothing is optional. However, we don't enforce it.
See also How I use the Internet.
I refuse to have supermarket frequent buyer cards of my own if they have any identifying data, because they are a form of surveillance. I am willing to pay extra for my privacy and to resist an abusive system. See nocards.org for more explanation of this issue.
However, I don't mind using someone else's card or number once in a while, to avoid the extra charge for not using a card. That doesn't track me.
Also, I use a frequent buyer card in one store for buying a few kinds of things, because I got it anonymously.
I do use airline frequent flier numbers because the airlines demand to know my identity anyway.
However, I won't purchase other things with an airline-linked credit card to get miles, because I'd rather pay cash and be anonymous.
I have a credit card, but I use it as rarely as possible. Effectively, only for airline tickets, car rental, and hotel checkin — because they demand identification anyway.
I pay some bills with checks. Once again, the payees already know my name.
I see that cellular phones are very convenient. I would have got one, if not for certain reprehensible things about them.
Cell phones are tracking and surveillance devices. They all enable the phone system to record where the user goes, and many (perhaps all) can be remotely converted into listening devices.
In addition, most of them are computers with nonfree software installed. Even if they don't allow the user to replace the software, someone else can replace it remotely. Since the software can be changed, we cannot regard it as equivalent to a circuit. A machine that allows installation of software is a computer, and computers should run free software.
Nearly every cell phone has a universal back door that allows remote conversion into a listening device. (See Murder in Samarkand, by Craig Murray, for an example.) This is as nasty as a device can get.
From the book Alone Together, by Sherry Turkle, I learned that portable phones make many people's lives oppressive, because they feel compelled to spend all day receiving and responding to text messages which interrupt everything else. Perhaps my decision to reject this convenience for its deep injustice has turned out best in terms of convenience as well.
When I need to call someone, I ask someone nearby to let me make a call. If I use someone else's cell phone, that doesn't give Big Brother any information about me.
I mostly ignore holidays, except for Grav-mass. They have no direct effect on me, since I work when I wish (which is most of the time) and do other things when I wish.
If I had a family, and holidays were a special opportunity to do some leisure activity when they did not have work or school, that would be a rational reason to pay attention to them. However, I decided not to have a family, and I don't need to wait for a holiday to see my friends.
Many holidays have become commercialized: corporate PR has taught many people that buying things for their friends or relatives on these days is "the thing to do", and the truest expression of love. I dislike the feeling that I am obliged to give a gift for some meaningless event, and get no particular pleasure from receiving gifts under these circumstances either, and hiding the fact that I don't like a gift makes me feel quite uncomfortable. So I would rather just stay out of it.
I like trains, and in general I would rather take a train for many hours than fly.
However, I absolutely refuse to take Amtrak trains because they check passengers' ID (not all the time, but it could happen at any time). Please join me in boycotting Amtrak until it stops requiring identification.
It's not that I expect my personal rejection to make Amtrak change. Rather, as long as Amtrak does not change, I resent it so much I'd rather take a bus.
First I study with a textbook to learn to read the language, using a recording of the sounds to start saying the words to myself. When I finish the textbook, I start reading children's books (for 7-10 year olds) with a dictionary. I advance to books for teenagers when I know enough words that it becomes tolerably fast.
When I know enough words, I start writing the language in email when I am in conversations with people who speak that language.
I don't try actually speaking the language until I know enough words to be able to say the complex sorts of things I typically want to say. Simple sentences are almost as rare in my speech as in this writing. In addition, I need to know how to ask questions about how to say things, what a word means, and how certain words differ, and how to understand the answers.
I first started actually speaking French during my first visit to France. I decided on arrival in the airport that I would speak only French for the whole 6 weeks. This was frustrating to colleagues whose English was much better than my French. But it enabled me to learn.
I decided to learn Spanish when I saw a page printed in Spanish and found I could mostly read it (given my French and English). I followed the approach described above, and began speaking Spanish during a two-week visit to Mexico, a couple of years later.
As for Indonesian, I have not got enough vocabulary to speak it all the time when in Indonesia, but I try to speak it as much as possible.
I hate being bored, and since I want to get a lot done, I don't like losing time. So I always carry a computer and a book. When I have a few minutes to wait and can sit down, I get work done. When I have to stand, or the wait isn't long enough to do anything useful on the computer, I read.
When I wait for my baggage in an airport, I always do one of these two. I notice the people around me, anxiously looking for their bags and getting nothing done. They would be happier if they did as I do.
I don't smile artificially for photos because such photos look puerile to me. Old photos from before 1950 seem much more digified, and I'd rather be photographed that way.
Sometimes I smile while being photographed because I feel happy.
If you take photos of me, or with me in it, please do not put the put them in Facebook (or Instagram or Whatsapp, the same company). That company tracks people that appear in photos.
Copyright (c) 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 Richard Stallman
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