Friendship, therapy, confession

The therapist, the priest, the penpal, the stranger on a train. We always need some confessor who isn’t among our friends. Why? Because in order to respect our friends, we must believe that they will disapprove of some things — particularly, that they share something of our own set of morals. So when you’ve done something shameful, there’s no hope in telling your friends. Either they’ll lose respect for you, or (worse?) they’ll accept your failure, and so you’ll lose respect for them.

Just as Groucho wouldn’t join a club that would have him as a member, so — beyond a certain threshold of self-hatred — you can’t befriend somebody who would have you as a friend.

Here’s the role for the expendable not-quite friend, whatever medical, spiritual or social guise s/he may take. Here also is another reason why religions and mores usually have some system of penance and forgiveness — not just for patching up broken relationships, but because the /possibility/ of repair allows for openness.


It’s an interesting compare-and-contrast question: why have parts of the CIS been resolutely pro-American, while the Middle East has largely not? Presumably in part it’s the effect of living under unpleasant Soviet rule, to which the USA was always the most visible opposition. But that effect can’t last indefinitely; will there ever be a mass turn towards anti-Americanism in eastern Europe, the baltic states or the caucasus?

In Central and Eastern Europe, the countries of the former Warsaw Pact followed more or less that script. But in 2004-06, when Condoleezza Rice tried to extend the model to Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine, she got a rude shock. Citizens in those countries, given anything resembling a free vote, tended to support strongly anti-American candidates.

— Helena Cobban

email over ssh/socks with evolution (to dodge wifi cafe firewall)

I’ve just been working in a cafe whose wifi blocks outgoing email. So I had to figure out how to send mail through an ssh tunnel. That is, hussle it through the firewall by sending it encrypted to a server elsewhere, and send the email outgoing from there.

For future reference, and in case it’s useful to anybody else, here’s how. This is assuming you are running ubuntu on your own machine, and have ssh access to a server somewhere else that’s capable of sending mail.

We use ssh to set up a SOCKS proxy, over an ssh tunnel. This establishes a port on the local machine (here, port 1234). any traffic sent through that port will emerge from the server at the other end:

ssh -D 1234

Now, install tsocks. This lets you run another program, with all outgoing connections sent via SOCKS

sudo apt-get install tsocks

configure tsocks to use the tunnel you’ve set up

sudo vim /etc/tsocks.conf

look for the default server settings, at the bottom. Edit so that:

server =
server_port = 1234

Now start your mail program under tsocks

tsocks evolution 

In order to make external mail sending work under this setup, I had to turn off TLS in evolution. I’m not sure if this is a problem inherent to the socks/ssh setup, or just with my particular situation.

more info: