Thursday, December 29, 2005

Woohoo! Paul Graham comes out in favour of procrastination.

Let's spend some time reading it instead of getting on writing this Java exercise I'm meant to be preparing.
Very scary debate going on at John Robb's.

Would Israel / US attack Iran to stop a potential nuclear program?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bolivian leader to cut own salary
BBC NEWS | Business | Huge new oil discovery in Brazil
A burst of new pages and axons on ThoughtStorms (for a change). Mainly on mashups and higher-level parasitic services growing in the web-as-a-platform ecosystem.
Kaunda keeps writing beautifully.

I really like this weblog (and not just because he's a Tribe-friend).

He's found a wonderful voice : a mix of wisdom dressed up as naivity, veering from personal to political and back, within the same post. And always hovering around the theme of Africa and development.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ivan Krstic not optimistic about Python web-frameworks.
I don't follow this stuff, but here's a fascinating slice of the culture wars in the US.

Aparently there are right-wing men's advocacy groups who's main aim is to attack the network of support for women who are victims of domestic violence, and try to get funding withdrawn from women's refuges.

Incredible!!

The main strategy is to claim that women are equally abusive and violent to men, and that government support for women's refuges is unfair on equally needy men.

Some people are so fucking twisted, it's amazing.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

Jorge Casta?eda on Brazil's corruption scandal.
Another article. If commodity prices go up, will the industrial north become dependent on the resource-rich south?

Hmmm. There should be another question asked too. As all the commodity resources of the south are getting consumed, who is getting the most benefit from them?
Interesting overview of Chavez.
Joseph Stiglitz reviews the progress in trade negotiations

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Radio 4 has a reasonable Analysis program on the consumer society. It's not a great debate. Half the time I'm jumping up and down shouting "But ... but ... but ..." at the things people are saying which can't be justified.

Particularly egregious ... John Kay quoting Greenspan's claim that the the weight of the output of the economy hasn't increased in 100 years. It's good rhetoric but even Kay is hedging himself by admitting he doesn't know if and how this could be measured. And certainly, the "weightless" services Kay argues we're moving towards consuming, require input in terms of energy.

Matt Riddley's breathtaking slide between "consumerism", "sexual signalling", and "a society where males become succesful through deal-making rather than fighting" presumably explains why sexy, sixteen year old girls are the last people to be found in shopping centres.

Nevertheless, thought-provoking.
Momus doesn't do pop-videos, but invites fans to make their own Flash animations.

The results can be impressive.
Guardian Unlimited | Guardian daily comment | The challenge in the south

The BBC thinks that Morales's heart is with Chavez, but the real world will constrain him to follow Lula's cautious centrism. A friend of mine here who knows Bolivia says the opposite is true. Morales himself is cautious, but that a strong sentiment among the people will push him in a more radical direction.
BBC NEWS | Business | Microsoft may face daily EU fine

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dave Winer wants to create an unconference about Wikipedia. I hope people would go.

But, really, how is Dave, sitting outside the wikipedia community, sniping at it from the sidelines, but refusing to actually get involved by reading, editing and correcting any entries; actually different from mainstream journalists who sit outside the blogosphere complaining about blogs? After all people can (and do) write all sorts of lies on blogs. And no one is stopping them!!

If you can handle that, and see why the blogosphere is a beautiful thing despite this problem, why can't you see the same is true of something like wikipedia?

Update: Dave corrects me and says he does read wikipedia.
Carr nails Google's increasing evility.
I'm having more Wikipedia arguments over here
Read the Judge Jones conclusion to the Dover School Board case.
David Mercer's Programming Language Philosophy


Lately Haskell has been my strictly typed language of choice (ah, total purity!!! I became a convert last month :-), javascript has been my dynamically typed language of choice, and apparently both java and C are my assemblers!

I think that any programmer who wants to master their art should always have at least one language in each category of the three that they are fluent in for their chosen platform. All three paradigms are at times required to most efficiently solve a problem, singly or in combination.
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Trade can 'export' CO2 emissions
Bolivia awaits final poll result, meanwhile Venezuela is putting the squeeze on Exxon.

Will Morales team up with Chavez? Seems plausible. Morales can renegotiate deals with foreign gas companies in Bolivia, if they baulk, then Venezuela can step in with investments to the Bolivian gas production.

Bolivia is the poorest country in south America. But with a huge wealth in natural gas, most of who's profits go straight out of the country. Chavez does have a record of taking profits from Venezuelan oil and putting it into development projects for the poor. Bolivia could do worse than follow the example.
I like these BBC photostories.

Here's one showing how a toy gets designed in Margate, built in China and ends up in the shops.

BBC NEWS | In pictures | Toy story
This is the right response to wikipedia. A user-contributed but expert-moderated alternative.

When I say "right", I don't mean that I think it will work. (It may, but I give it less than 30% chance of supplanting Wikipedia, and that's only if all the academics who are suspicious of wikipedia embrace it.)

But I do think it's the right experiment to try. A direct competition between wikipedia and an expert-moderated rival.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

BBC NEWS | Business | Will there be another trade round?


it is unlikely that there is the political will in the North to expand free trade any further.


At the end of the day, once free trade actually starts to be less beneficial to the developed countries than to the developing ones, watch how fast they backpedal.

What more evidence do you need that free-trade is not all good, than that the powerful avoid it out of self-interest?
Bolivians may vote for the guy who'll legalize coca growing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The academy vs. open source
Is it my eyesight or are capchas getting more difficult?

I think there's a real issue that capchas are going to reduce accessability for people with poor eyesight (let alone the blind using audio-browsers). This isn't the way to go for preventing bot spam on the web.
BBC NEWS | Technology | Wikipedia survives research test
John Robb :
Of course, I hope he is right that America, armed with this new sys-Admin force will sweep the world of failed states and accelerate the end of history (where everyone lives in a US-aligned capitalist democracy). However, I know he is wrong and this will only result in buckets of grief, blood, and red ink.


John Robb's Weblog: Barnett's Neo-Conservative Redux

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wow! Britain's last feudal state is about to end : BBC NEWS | Magazine | Shedding tears for Sark
BBC NEWS | Politics | Kennedy 'not worried by Cameron'

Here's something that I've noticed recently. BBC Radio 4 has started adopting the American term "liberal" to mean "left-wing". I don't use it, but life on the internet means my vocabulary has picked up a number of Americanisms. Maybe the two dialects are going to merge.

But, given that the "Liberal Democrats" are functionally to the left of Labour now in the UK. And if a generation is growing up familiar with the word "liberal" to mean left. It seems plausible that leftish youngsters are going to get the idea that the lib-dems are the liberal (in the American sense) party. And may join it accordingly.

Could the lib-dems really become the "liberal" party in the UK? They kind of own the namespace. And, if so, what would that mean?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Interesting. BBC NEWS | Americas | US state signs Cuban trade deal
Great! Having driven Iraq into civil war, the neocons now want to do the same with Lebanon.

What the fuck do they think is going to happen if they keep putting pressure on Syria? That there'll be a peaceful revolution that will put pro-US government in Damascus?

Have they sat down and thought about it at all? Have they, for example, considered whether there are rival sects or ethnic groups in Syria?

Here's a clue from the CIA world factbook :


Religions : Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo)

Languages: Definition Field Listing Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood


OK, maybe it's time for a fun, wacky conspiracy theory. The US knows it's in for a dangerous time withdrawing from Iraq. So what it wants to do is make a dash west to the safety of Israel. But if it can spin that as an invasion of Damascus (to protect poor little Lebanon) ... :-)
Bad move!

BBC NEWS | Americas | Venezuela jails opposition leader
BBC NEWS | Technology | Wikipedia joker eats humble pie
Kaunda launches a new diablog : Freedom-Kampala Dialog
Good lord! Did you think Microsoft had given up on dirty tricks?
However, jocular remarks reportedly made by a senior Afghan official to a visiting Dutch delegation about the number of 'body bags' they might need for the Uruzgan deployment didn't help, several western diplomats have told the BBC.


BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Nato in a spin over Afghan expansion

Turns out, NATO not so keen to be involved in Afghanistan. Maybe they'll try to avoid so many casualties by sending fewer troops!!!???

Still, could be good if they decide NATO's role isn't really to fight a war on opium production.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I do know the difference between "its" and "it's". I try to pay attention when I write.

But often, rereading some of my posts, I'm shocked to find painful uses of "it's" for the possessive, sticking out like a proverbial sore thumb.

But not as shocked as I am in finding the rare mixups of "their" and "they're". I never make this mistake normally. It's something that happens only when I write way too fast. Like when I'm writing on the internet.

It just looks totally stupid.

But recently I've noticed I'm not alone. The incidents of "they're" / "their" (and to lesser extent "there") confusion on the web seem to be growing. "it's" / "its" confusion is out of control.

Of course, "it's" / "its" is a stupid convention anyway. When the apostrophe is generally used as a way of communicating the possessive, (as in "John's book"), the absense for the case of "it" looks like a historical mistake that got locked-in by pedantic grammaticians. It's time to be finished with it. We can easiliy disambiguate the meaning of "it's" from the context.

You could start some kind of campaign to persuade people of that. But I realize that campaigns are hardly the point. People have always made these mistakes in their personal writings. And generations of editors and proof-readers have diligently hunted them down and fixed them.

But now the editors and other gatekeepers are gone.

One side-effect of the freedom of online web-writing is that these constraints on spelling and grammatical correctness are gone. Their's now a werld ware people can write what they think is write. Becos ov how it sownds. And no won's gonna stopem.

R. unifide, universly held, speling convenshuns gonna go away?
Gramatical wuns too?

Not entirely. Search engines are a powerful incentive to keep to some kind of standards. If you want your page to be found, you need to make sure the important words at least, are spelled in the way other people expect them to be.

And there's obviously the need to be intelligable to the reader. But beyond this, might spelling and grammatical conventions return to the state of variation and flux they were in before printing, and the invention of the dictionary, imposed standardization?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A fairly disasterous thing has happened politically in Brazil this week.

A parliamentary enquiry into the land reform movement has issued its report and recommendation to the government. The committee - hijacked by right-wing land-owners' representatives - has disregarded most of the original research and suggestions, and substituted a blanket condemnation of all squatter's movements and recommended that invasion be legally declared a form of "terrorism".

The committee's original intention was to study the mounting violence in MST (and other) invasions of land, and to search for a way forward. The MST are one of the largest political, social movements in Brazil. They opperate by organizing large groups of landless, poor rural workers (and their families) to invade unproductive land and start to cultivate it. The groups can gain "squatters rights" currently recognised by the government : in that "homesteading" land left idle by it's owners is legitimate.

The legality of invasions is a response to the very unequal distribution of land in Brazil, which is largely in the hands of families who got it as gifts from the Portuguese royal family, centuries ago.

However, as the movement has grown, violence has spiralled. Violence has been instigated by both sides. But the typical pattern is a covert invasion of unoccupied and uncultivated land by the MST, followed by the owner raising an armed militia to attack the encampment. The MST are, themselves, armed and defend their encampment. The police are called to restore order, but often arrive days later, and have been accused of violently supporting the land-owners' militias. Gangs who work for the land-owners can be associated with organized crime, and several prosecutions have been made.

Nevertheless, the final report which was bitterly argued about within the committee, has no mention or condemnation of criminal activity by land-owners or their hirelings, but places all responsibility on the MST and blames the government for tolerating the situation.

Furthermore it recommends that

a) government suspends all the grants it makes to the MST as a social movement;

b) that invasion is raised to the status of a "heinous crime". Not sure if the UK has a similar category, but this crime is regarded as something between a crime against humanity and treason. It's a wholly politicised category in that it's mainly applied for armed insurections against the state ie. "terrorism", and drug-dealing.

c) that connections between the MST and Farc be investigated

d) that the political leaders of the MST also have criminal charges made against them.

This is not a compromise document. In fact, although it comes from a multi-party committee, it's been entirely steam-rollered through by a right majority. Leftish members of the committee have allegedly stormed out in tears, and torn the report up on the steps of the Congress.

How will the report be received?

Hard to tell. My friends are all leftists who, if they criticise the MST, it's for not being radical enough. On the other hand, at our local swimming class, all our lower middle-class neighbours were laughing and sneering about the last demonstration of the MST in Brasilia. Their populist conception was that the MST were lazy wastrals, living luxuriously off government grants without having or wanting to work. There'll be little sympathy there.

The PT in government, have a historic connection with the MST. But have failed to deliver very much practical support to the movement, tending to try to play a neutral, placating role, and not to upset wealthy and powerful interest groups.

But the PT are now (almost fatally?) wounded by this year's corruption scandals. They've been abandoned by supporters on the left, because of their moderate, centrists, capital friendly policies. Most erstwhile PT supports I know are revelling in the embarrassments of new corruption scandals. Senior party members and officials have been thrown out of parliament and banned from holding public office for ten years. And yet nothing has been legally proven, and precious little actual concrete evidence has come forward about the main "mensal?o" scandal. Most evidence seems to be hearsay : one politician saying that they heard that other politicians were offerered bribes.

Lula has personal popularity but falling credibility. If the public mood is against the MST, it's unlikely the PT will make a stand to defend them. Although presumably it's also unlikely that they'll rush to embrace policies based on the recommendations.

Nevertheless, it's a disturbing sign that one of the strongest, in some ways most-dynamic radical movements in South America is finding itself under concerted attack. Were the recommendations to become policies it's disturbing to think what would happen. There are over a million members of the MST and at least tens of thousands of encampments around the country. If the recommendation is that all encampments are illegal then it will be open season on these families, with government removing what protection if provides them from the militias of the land-owners.

The MST response to the report in English is here :

Bipartisan Congressional Committee of Inquiry on Land Issues (CPMI) ? A declaration of rejection | Brazil's Landless Workers' Movement

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A discussion shaping up about location based services and why we log-in
Stylus Magazine on Tati Quebra Barraco

Tati was one gig we went to this year. And, for good measure, our car was stolen while we were in the venue. Whether this reflects on her or her audience I can't tell. My revenge is I have her whole album on my web site for your pleasure ;-)

I've been winning people over to Baile Funk since before she was in the novela. My friend Ricardo is turning up every couple of months with new CDs he's blagged from his pupils. (In fact, now it's getting all middle-class and, if not respectable, at least something for bourgoise teens, I think I might have to ditch the whole genre.)

Update : Just found that "popozuda rock'n'roll" track on slsk. It's the BigBeatification of Bailefunk :-(

Still, the Edu K mashup of Baile and Reggaeton sounds interesting. I'll be checking it when it comes out. But remember I've already been playing with mixing Bailefunk with Reggaeton (and Bhangra, Crunk, Candombe and a bunch of other stuff). If you didn't download it yet, don't wait for the world catch up next year. Get it now. :-)
Wow! What's this?


Hey! I got quoted here :

? Tipping point: The Web is easier to use than your hard drive | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | US 'shifts' position on torture
Brighton Podcast - Dance Music and Chat
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Delay expected in ozone recovery
BBC NEWS | Americas | New York gets Venezuela cheap oil
Did you know Brazil exports aircraft?
Don Park has some good discussions.

He suggested MS drop IE 7, which I didn't get.

But here's his further explanation (from the comments), which makes a lot of sense :


HTML is just another content type while the browser can be far more than just an HTML viewer. At the platform-level, built-in support for sessions, local storage/database, fine-grained caching, identities, directories, user-level zoning, graphics engine, and others could make new breed of web applications possible. Security-wise, what about running 'virtual machines' as a 'page' that can be accessed with a simple hyperlink? What if virtual machines can be 'stacked' together like slabs of concretes, each temperproof, to be used as 'platform' for rich web applications?

Must I go on listing all the things Microsoft and Mozilla could do?


And in a later post he points out how alien the desktop has become to users.


I can help noticing how little use they have for the desktop. They look bewildered when I open the Windows Explorer.

To them, file open or file save dialog *is* where the files go. My Documents? It's just an icon they never touch. The web is the little blue icon on the desktop that looks like a letter e. Email is another icon next to it. IM is the little person icon on the bottom right. Word is a W icon on the desktop. They don't even ask why only one click is needed for icons on the bottom right and double-click is needed for icons on the desktop. It just is.


Which has stimulated a re-iteration of my anti-desktop rant in his comments :


Turns out the browser model of pages and hyperlinks is way better. Here's the amazing thing : there are about 8 billion pages accessable through the browser. And not one of them is that difficult to get to. (Assuming you find links going there.)

How many OSs and desktop applications have 8 billion options and functions? Yet, access to these is through a bewildering variety of different methods : menus and submenus, button-bars, wizards, right-click on the icon to change configuration options, hidden XML configuration files, command line arguments.

Windows is so arbitrary when it comes to trying to figure out how to set an environment variable or share a folder (eg. why aren't these done via the Control Panel?)

We need to figure out how to hide the whole computer through a "pages and hyperlinks" interface (that mixes actions with documentation, tutorial help, search) All applications, even local desktop ones, should be on "pages" within the local computer, accessed via a (suitably human readable local URL).
Dowbrigade : As horrible as it sounds, we are waiting for another Tet.

Dowbrigade News: Dowbrigade News
Paul Craig Roberts blasted the Labour Party's aristo. pretensions

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Playing around with Fruityloops today, I knocked up a quick tune which is rather melodic and laid-back (unlike most of the more difficult noise I produce). Might as well share. Enjoy. :-)

Sketch 010.mp3

I'm putting it out as public domain. Do what you like with it.
Wow! Watch The French Democracy on your machine, right now!

Impressive piece of political machinima film-making.
"'Secretary Rice made extra-legal rendition sound like just another form of extradition,' said Tom Malinowski, a Human Rights Watch official in Washington.

'In fact, it's a form of kidnapping and 'disappearing' someone entirely outside the law.'


BBC NEWS | Europe | Rice and Merkel discuss CIA row

Monday, December 05, 2005

I disagree with Dave here.

If people want Wikipedia with a reputation gatekeeper, they should fork the existing content and start building a separate encyclopedia with all the checks and controls they like. Then we can actually compare the two approaches. Does the expertise outweigh the ease of updating?

Of course, maybe this is a way to disrupt the centralized Wikipedia. If you care about a page and want to become its editor, why not keep a local copy under your control, which you keep synced with the good changes that are made to the original.

Maybe something could be done with SisterSites so that people looking at an uncontrolled page could automatically get a link to moderated versions kept by off-site gatekeepers.
Remember what I said about Smalltalk being flexible because it's implemented in itself?

Here's Avi, the author of Seaside :


Ironically, in that moment [realizing he could use continuations in the server] I was at first convinced that I would have to move my code back to Ruby, because Smalltalk doesn?t have primitive support for capturing continuations as Ruby does. The subsequent experience of realizing that they could be implemented in Smalltalk at the library level, simply by some trivial manipulations of the stack frame objects, was one of those that really cemented my choice of environment.


A bit of history on Seaside.
More arguments for the resurgence of Smalltalk! :-)
Growing pains for Wikipedia - page 2 | CNET News.com

Following up. I wonder if there's much evidence that people do take Wikipedia too "authoritatively".

Seems like Adam Curry editing out a reference to Kevin Marks, because he hadn't heard about Marks's demo, is actually the opposite : Curry didn't take the authority of wikipedia seriously enough. If he had, he's have believed what it said.
Excellent essay : TomDispatch - Tomgram: Dreyfuss on Bush's Deadly Dance with Islamic Theocrats
Mickie Flick's CIA SABOTAGE MANUAL

If this doesn't satisfy your insurgent appetites then you could borrow a recent trick from a drug gang in Rio de Janeiro.
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

Sunday, December 04, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | Venezuelans vote for new congress

Hmm. Bad sign if Chavez wants to change law to be able to stay in power longer.
At the end of the day, this is why Wikipedia is OK. Not because it's authoritative, but because nothing is authoritative.

We can handle one more non-authoritative source of information, especially when it helps remind us that there are no authoritative sources of information. :-)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Danny Ayers posts on Tim Bray talking about "Beyond Java".

Some good points and links by Tim. Especially an excellent short description on how continuations help you writing web applications. (Recommended)

I'm still highly gratified by the whole "Beyond Java" thing, of course ;-)

Also interesting how much traction Seaside is getting. Wouldn't it be totally amazing if the "next big thing" turns out to be Smalltalk :-)

Well, good programming languages don't rust. Especially not something as flexible as Smalltalk where most of the language is implemented in itself. My Smalltalk writing skills though, have rusted a bit. :-(
Hello World: Tag-cloud my OPML

+1

I want tags in OPML too.

Friday, December 02, 2005

God! What a piece of inuendo and character assassination!
This is amazing. Aparently there's a move for a South America wide silver currency.

Latin American Congressmen Consider The Silver Coin

If you want to know what this means. And what the arguments are about fixed, commodity backed currencies, there's plenty on the alt.money tribe.

Executive summary : fixed, commodity backed money avoids some of the problems of fractional reserve banking. (We're not in a crazy dash for growth because of hypercompetition to pay back the money that was borrowed into existence)

But I'm starting to suspect that it's the ideal money for feudal aristocrats. (And wannabe aristocrats)
Everyone goes on about Memeorandum, but frankly when I go and look at it I see a lot of mainstream sites reporting the news straight out of the press release. Am I missing something?
Interesting discussion about the problems the US military has using the Iraqi legal system to prosecute insurgents. The US wants to give more control to the Iraqi legal process but also wants to keep suspects interned for longer. But the courts are demanding higher standards of evidence than the US can produce.

US dilemma : delegate and risk helping the insurgency vs. acting in a more heavy-handed process, and retard the move towards Iraqi autonomy and civil process?

New Rules In Iraq May Make It Tougher To Keep Insurgents Behind Bars by Elaine M. Grossman
"Fabius Maximus" (right wing pundit) on Iraq :

Perhaps the biggest losers: Iraq?s women. Iraq was the major secular state in the Middle East. A tyranny, but after Saddham?s death it might have evolved to become more like western States. As a result of our ill-thought-out meddling, a fundamentalist Islamic revolution has already begun in the Arab regions of Iraq.


Forecasts - November 2005 by F. Max.:

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

That OPML rendered in Tree widget experiment that I mentioned here is now available. It's very simple / simplistic.
Compare and contrast :

Creative people 'luckier in love' with the fate of the brain-in-a-vat ...

:-)
Bush to retrospectively define the strategic objective of the Iraq war in order to announce victory in time for next year's US elections.
Today I'm watching some interesting movies.

ClaiMaker: Internetworked Argument Mapping (ScholOnto Project)
Story about the soybean boom in South America. Includes worries about damage to the rainforest.

BBC NEWS | Business | Soybean fever transforms Paraguay

What's not mentioned is that soya farmers have also used illegal GM soya, and then presented the Brazilian government with a fait accomplis : "hey, we grew this stuff, and if you force us to destroy it, we'll go bankrupt." which the government has pretty much caved-in to.

This matters because there are real (ie. not mere technophobic, anti-science) reasons to be sceptical about GM.

The basic pattern is this :

The GM in soya is designed to make crops more resistant to strong herbicide (weed-killer).

GM crop is more productive, because farmers can now blast the land with stronger herbicides to kill off all the weeds, while the GM crop resists.

After 5 - 10 years, those few weeds which did survive the herbicides, having been selected for in this tougher environment, come back, resistant to the herbicide.

The weed problem resumes, and now you need even stronger herbicide which you then have to create even more resistant crops to.

Now you have further problems.

- can you find a crop strong enough to resist an even stronger herbicide?

- the stronger herbicide is finding its way into the food chain (and rivers, and us)

- you can't do crop-rotation, because the land is now so poisonous that only the single GM crop (and the super-weeds) can survive there. GM forces you into a monoculture.

- because you can't do crop-rotation, you need to use more fertilisers to put back the nutrients back into the land.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Update on previous message. BillSeitz suggests a "blogroll" class. Shouldn't be difficult.

Work in progress


outline
Originally uploaded by interstar.
OK. So this isn't the most exciting screenshot you've seen.

What is it? It's a list of a few of those UnfinishedProjects I'm working on. It came from an OPML file I created in Dave Winer's OPML editor. And it's being rendered by Gene Cash's great Tree widget (for Python Tkinter).

Don't worry, I'm not writing an outliner! :-)

Nor am I so on the OPML tip that I'm desperate to do anything with the format. No, really!

So what is going on? Well, one clue is in the open "Gutter Family" section.

GutterClique is the name of the script which manages and generates my blogroll. For various reasons, this isn't like a typical blogroll or subscription list. It's not stored as OPML or Xoxo. And it's not a hierarchy.

Instead, all the links are stored in a double-comma separated file and each can have an indefinite number of tags. When you see my blogroll in the gutter of one of my blogs, it's actually being pulled out by a simple template which matches links or tags. So, for example, the Smart Cookies section of my blogroll is produced by this line in the template :

*SmartCookie


which selects all the links that have been tagged "SmartCookie". That's why the same link can appear in several sections. This is folksonomy rather than taxonomy.

GutterClique is a simple, throw-away script. But I have another idea for it. And for various reasons, I want to give it a simple GUI.

At the same time, I do happen to have some OPML handling code I wrote recently. And today I wanted to look at this Tree rendering widget.

I'm looking at the Tree renderer for use in SystemSketch, which is my real work in progress, and which I'll give a status report soon.

Suffice to say, before deciding to slot it into SystemSketch (which is currently a confused heap of UI code because I'm still not sure what I want) I thought I'd just play with it in a simpler context. Plugging it into OPML reading code was the easy way to do that.

And now I think GC really ought to be able to import and export OPML - so much is happening on this front at the moment. OPML may be evolving into something for both attention and social networking (as I predicted here).

If GutterClique is going to be viable in this world, even though I have a very different trajectory in mind to take it in, I think it's going to have to know a little bit about OPML.

Bonus factoid : people who've been paying very close attention to me for a long time (ie. no-one), may remember that an early draft of Typed Threaded Discussion exported OPML. (Don't bother looking 'cos it's broken now.) TTD is no more. But see that SmartDiscuss project? :-)

At some point TTD will be reborn as Tagged Threaded Discussion. I'll take the advice of my critics and allow users to mark their responses with multiple free-form tags rather than forcing the users to choose one "type".

There's a commonality between TTD and GC: trees with tags. Not clear whether OPML can handle this, but if it can, it'll be part of the mix too. If not, I may find myself going the microformat route after all :-)


Update : my simple code is here.
The Building as Canvas | Metropolis Magazine
Good overview of The Blank Slate

However, the problem with all happy disclaimers along the lines of "we aren't really talking about biological determinism" is that at some point nature and nurture are going to come up against each other as rival expanations in a zero-sum game. Was this action done because of "biological cause" or "cultural reason"?

And it's not so easy to make a coherent blend of the two as you might hope.

What are your options?

You can argue that an act is commited for both biological and cultural reasons.

But then this supposes a miraculous (inexplicable) agreement between the two. And if you think that reason is always naturalized to, or constrained to be compatible with, biology, you've pretty much eliminated it in favour of biological determinism anyway.

You can argue that in the absence of cultural reasons, biology gives you the default "presets" for behaviour. But that, once there are cultural reasons, they trump the biology.

But this, of course, puts culture on top, because now biology only has an effect when given permission by culture. If it's sooo easy to over-ride biology, then it looks like appeals to biology are themselves just a cultural political choice.

So you may prefer a variant on the above, that says biology gives you tendencies which must be struggled against by culture. They can be over-ridden, but only at some effort.

But this throws the question back. What about about the act of struggling, the decision to fight your nature? Is that itself culturally or biologically caused? What determines whether such a struggle is sufficient - reason or cause?

Another way to go. You might think certain, very fundamental or primitive acts are biologically determined. But that most acts are complex, (represented in "software"), and this means that culture can intervene.

This is often the most popular intuition. However, it throws a huge burden of proof on the "naturist". What acts are absolutely immune to cultural intervention? The favourite domains : eating, sex, staying alive, can all be demonstrably trumped by culture. People adapt their diet, become vegetarian, prefer gay sex, fetishize inanimate objects, die for causes and commit suicide (sometimes by starving themselves to death.) And it only takes one example of each of these to falsify the claim that this behaviour is necessarily biologically determined without any culture involved.

The point I'm trying to make here, is not that there's no human nature. Or that the huge amount of scientific evidence of biological differences between sexes, or observable statistical preferences by men for young, symmetrical females must be discounted. But that a good coherent "compatibilist" theory which allows for biological causes, but denies biological determinism is much harder than is given credit here.

Some of the most striking and sophisticated attempts to negotiate the rivalries between reasons and causes are from Donald Davidson and John McDowell (who was here giving a talk a few weeks ago).

McDowell pretty much dissolves all talk of causes into reasons, arguing that the two can't be separated and the world (as understood through science) must already be coloured by our cultural assumptions. While Davidson buys a compatibility between the two called anomolous monism which claims that the biological, causal world has no "semantics". Maybe there are biological causes that push the body around, but we can't make sense of them as being "about" or "directed towards" the kind of things we care about. Biology can't give us a taste for "symmetrical mates" because the concepts of "symmetry" and "mates" only have meaning (and reference) when taken within our conceptual framework, which is part of our culture.

These are some of the real positions from which smart leftists are rejecting evolutionary psychology claims, and it might be more interesting for other smart people like Steven Johnson to address them rather than worry about dinner-party guests who equate Darwin with neo-nazis.
Hmmm. Robot Wisdom seems to have a good jukebox on his page. At least, some of the tracks are very nice (including Wilmot by Sabres of Paradise, one of my all time favourites I used to go crazy to in clubs around 10 years ago)
Dave Pollard has 10 reasons not to trade with China

Essentially it's a check-list of things that are wrong with China that need fixing; and the way China is driving "race to the bottom" for treatment of workers (eg. using prisoners (ie. slave) labour) to make cheap stuff for export.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Some very interesting stuff here : Nick Szabo's Home Page
Alan Kay, one of my heroes, is designing the interface for the $100 laptop which is intended to be a learning appliance for children around the world.

I think the idea of a Smalltalk based learning environment is perfect. I just hope the kids won't be confused by the Squeak interface. Particularly let's hope they've got an input device which is native to the machine and there's none of this "red button", "blue button" on a machine with no actual coloured buttons.
Compare and contrast : Martin Van Creveld and Philip Greenspan on the war.

(No, not Philip Greenspun)
Oh, and as of today I have Feral Scholar in my blogroll too.
John Robb's Weblog: Hersh Reads the Tea Leaves
Kaunda (now in the blogroll) points out this sad story. A Journey That Ended in Anguish - Los Angeles Times

I'm suspicious myself. I don't see a devout catholic killing himself over other peoples' sins.

Update : here's something on the Carlyle Group for all you conspiracy theorists.
Meanwhile BubbleGen's links have got me thinking more about ThoughtStorms: NetoCracy/MediaAgainstTheState
Wow! Here's an argument I was having with SunirShah (probably last year) which I'd forgotten all about.

Meatball Wiki: NetworkAcademics

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The state of globalization. The world isn't flat yet.
And I see I have a blogging neighbour.

(Not counting all the hundred of real brasiliense blogs of course :-)
He he! Great story about the city where I live
Call me sick and twisted, but at first glance I find something kind of hilarious about this.

'I can't tell you how damaging it is,' he said.

'Just imagine a young man turning up in his unit and being made to wrestle naked in a field while his non-commissioned officers are dressed up in women's frillies. I mean, it's not very dignified stuff, is it?'


BBC NEWS | UK | Marine 'bullying' video condemned

Or rather, I find it human.

If you're going to put people in a madhouse, (which is what I consider war and military organizations to be), then the natural human reaction is to go mad.

Except ... of coure ... that it's not funny at all.

It's a miserable thing. The organization is sham. Held together by perverse bonds of power : threat, fear, bravado. You can't ensure "discipline" without letting people "blow-off steam" in ugly, violent rituals of degradation.

It's important to remember this when we ask how our soldiers can torture and humiliate prisoners in Iraq. They can do it, because torture and humiliation are part of the structure of their lives within the military institutions.

These aren't "bad apples". They're canaries in the mineshaft : the weak links that buckle and break under the stressed power-relations that bind our military together.
A9 maps come with photos of the locality :

A9.com Maps

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Rival economics bloggers on French riots.

D-squared :
These young men have got a political grievance, and they're expressing it by setting fire to things and smashing them up. What could be more stereotypically, characteristically French than that?


Stumbling and Mumbling :
We should be able to use Bayes theorem to judge the relative importance of Islam, unemployment, or anything else, in the riots.
Good discussion on the bogus case for pension reform :


The key point is that, like everyone who trots out this line, Mr Hutton is ignoring an important fact.

On the DWP?s figures, male life expectancy at 65 has risen 58% since 1951. But productivity - GDP per head ? has risen much faster than this. It?s more than trebled*.

In theory, this massive rise in productivity should have allowed for a big increase in our leisure time ? for either shorter working weeks or longer retirement.


Stumbling and Mumbling: Hutton, Keynes and pensions

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Conjectures and Refutations is an interesting looking Popperian blog.

Fathers in immigrant families don't only lose their jobs when they're unemployed. They lose their authority in the family. This position is then occupied by their eldest sons who, although they may not be able to find legal employment, can provide for the family through their work in "parallel economies": car theft and drug dealing. With the authority they inherit, they are able to impose their conservative notions of religion and morality onto their social surroundings. Their spiritual nourishment comes from the Islamic fundamentalists, whose influence in the suburbs continues to rise.

For girls in the neighbourhood the message is: take on traditional female roles, dress chastely, don't go out and most importantly, remain a virgin until you marry. This unwritten law doesn't only apply to Muslim girls. The north African young men, although they constitute a minority, command the non-Islamic populations in the suburbs as well: African immigrants and lower class French.


Neither whores nor submissive - signandsight
Racism in Brazil: here, there and everywhere
Good BBC overview of Latin America

One thing not discussed is that Chavez has done a lot to appeal to "cultural" leftists. For example, its government has a policy against sexist language (difficult in Latin cultures where gender is so important grammatically) by publishing documents using the @ sign as an alternative to the vowel which would make words gender specific.

And people who've seen Chavez's new TV channel tell me it's very good.
Nicholas Carr worries about the end of Western Civilization as we know it


Experiencing the blogosphere feels a lot like intellectual hydroplaning - skimming along the surface of many ideas, rarely going deep. It's impressionistic, not contemplative. Fun? Sure. Invigorating? Absolutely. Socratic? I'm not convinced.


I think he's missing the point.

Socrates was just some guy (a stone-mason) who wandered around picking arguments with people in the market-place. He fisked his opponents with nit-picking fine-grained carping over details; made all sorts of outrageous anti-commonsensical claims - which an echo-chamber of dittoheads all dumbly agreed with; never respected any formal learning institutions or professionalism; and annoyed most people to the point of wanting to kill him.

How do you get more blog than that?

Yet this is the basis of Western civilization.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

If true, the Mirror report "would cast serious doubts" on U.S. statements that those strikes were accidental, the network said.

CNN.com - 'Bomb Jazeera' memo: Media warned - Nov 23, 2005
Interesting libertarian argument against the US War on Drugs. Similar effects in Brazil, of course.

Here's an interesting question though. Why has no country in the world simply declared narcotics like heroin and cocaine to be legal, and encouraged a legitimate market to form there? Surely it would be highly lucrative (you would tax all deals, naturally). And although initially it would attract an awful lot of members of criminal gangs, over time, more legitimate companies would get involved. Drug distribution would need to spend less on hiring hard-men to do the dirty work of gang-warfare, and more on advertising and PR for competition within the legitimate market.

Beyond this, an enlightened government could medicalize the problems of addiction. Encourage specialist training for research and treatment, run expensive rehabilitation clinics for US and European tourists etc.

So why doesn't anyone do it? Is this too hot to handle? Are there ferocious international / UN treaties that would get you invaded immedietely by the US? Or does illegality (and huge profits) suit the criminals, who discretely support it?
Joel Spolsky posts a reading list for his management training program.

I've only read three books from the list : "Don't Make Me Think", "Philip and Alex's Guide", "Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering" but they are all excellent.

Bit embarrassed I've never read "The Mythical Man-Month", though I've read essays by Brooks online. I've probably read most of the online essays collected in "Hackers and Painters" too. I suppose I should read "The Pragmatic Programmer" because these guys are very well thought of.
Chavez on the offensive.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Venezuela gives US cheap oil deal

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

This is very cool.

Not the TV story, but this interactive diagram that lets you explore stories in a network context.

Big Picture | Net TV start-up lands $16 million in funding | CNET News.com
Is growth moral?

John Robb's Weblog: The Moral Case for the Opportunity Society
Interesting mixture of ideas in the defeated Kenyan constitution proposal


Prime minister - works to the president

Bans foreign land ownership

Land commission formed - individuals can no longer distribute land

Christian and other religious courts set up; Muslim courts already exist

Regional parties banned

Elections for local officials

Same-sex marriages banned

Women get equal rights to inherit property

Abortion outlawed - unless permitted by parliament



Banning abortion and same-sex marriage, but granting women's property rights, banning regional parties but introducing local elections, creation of christian courts and government monopolizing land allocation.

Guess it's a major dollop of social conservative with a minor side-dressing of government interventionism.

Gallstones


IMG_0105
Originally uploaded by interstar.
OK, this is kind of horrible. But I have the bottle with the four gallstones that were removed from me last weekend. (Along with the gallbladder.) So I figured I'd share. That's a UK 20p piece alongside the bottle, for size comparison.

I'm now feeling much better. Down to a few twinges when I move suddenly.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Remember when I said Iraq was gonna be like Northern Ireland?

NO QUARTER: Good News in Iraq?

Maybe we're switching from fighting Sunnis to fighting (majority) Shias. Much like the switch from defending to fighting catholics in N.I. Then it gets really fun ...
BBC NEWS | Americas | Chavez, Kirchner in 'unity' talks: "
"

Friday, November 18, 2005

Fafblog! : God bless the plague.
Today I'm thinking about design patterns for GUIs as I'm still struggling with a fair amount of complexity and brittleness in the UI I'm developing for SystemSketch.

There seem to be plenty of wannabe pattern languages for UI. For example : Common Ground, Experiences, Sari A. Laakso's, Kent Beck's, erm ... Pattern Language for the Social Network etc.

But all these are centred on users. I'm looking for something for programmers that goes beyond Model-View-Controller.

Update : maybe this is it. Will go read.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

One Red Paperclip is entertaining and profound. The guy started with a red paperclip, and is trying to barter his way up to a house.

Of course, he has to make each barter for something better than he's giving away. But why should his barters be so profitable?

Clearly, one of the things is that the story gets bigger and better each time. Seth Godin would understand. So would Marx : alienation is the transfer of the story from the maker of the object to the object itself (often to the benefit of the seller).

These objects are mystified and animated by the spirit of the story. The blog puts that story out there, available for everyone to see. People get in touch, trade their old junk for the last piece of old junk, to be part of the story.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

BBC has a FAQ on White phosphorus

Executive summary : US use in Fallujah not actually illegal, but mainly because the US hasn't signed up to all the treaties that other countries have.

Key points :


What are the international conventions?

Washington is not a signatory to any treaty restricting the use of white phosphorus against civilians.

White phosphorus is covered by Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, which prohibits its use as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations or in air attacks against enemy forces in civilian areas.

The US - unlike 80 other countries including the UK - is not a signatory to Protocol III.

...

What is the current furore about?

...

Critics say phosphorus bombs should not be used in areas where there is a risk they could cause serious burns or death to civilians.

Some have claimed the use of white phosphorus contravenes the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. This bans the use of any "toxic chemical" weapons which causes "death, harm or temporary incapacitation to humans or animals through their chemical action on life processes".

Professor Paul Rogers, of the University of Bradford's department of peace studies, told the BBC that white phosphorus could probably be considered a chemical weapon if deliberately aimed at civilians.
Greg Palast on Iraq's oil and the conflict between Neocon free-marketeers, and the oil industry representitives in the US government.
Here's quite an extraordinary thing.


Earlier this morning, I wrote that more was to come on the story of the admitted American use of white phosphorus as a chemical weapon against the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

So, where is that additional information? Is there more to come on the white phosphorus story?

Well, there is and there isn?t. The story is that there is no story - not if you live in the United States, at least.

Journalists are reporting on this story across the world, except in the United States. Go on and do a Google News search for white phosphorus in the news. As of 12 Noon, hours and hours, after the story broke, you?ll find articles on the story today from the press in Switzerland, in Australia, in Canada, in Italy, and from across the United Kingdom.

But what about in the United States? There?s just one journalistic news source in the entire United States that?s acknowledging that the story even exists: The San Jose Mercury News.


Irregular Times: News Unfit for Print : More to come on phosphorus story? Maybe not!

Take home message. All that chatter on the internet? Still heavily driven by mainstream media.
Interesting ESR on RMS

Good article, ESR can be intelligent and insightful when he wants. Although he clearly can't help a bit of crowing at the end. The last points he tries to push seem to need some kind of response.

There are three parts to the branding issue : the name itself, the campaign tactics and the message (or moral vision) that goes with it. Stallman has been fairly explicit that the name "free software" is confusing. And that something else would probably be better. The tactics of OS might very well be more succesful, in that ESR worked well with O'Reilly and other industry representatives to push his line; although the main success of the OS camp was simply waiting around until Linus had written a kernel and put the last, crucial piece in the GNU jigsaw.

The real issue is the differing moral vision between both men. Both RMS and ESR are champions of extremely political / moral positions which are in conflict. RMS's is certainly anti-propertarian about information stuff. (Although, despite being on the left, he's explicit that he's not against some kind of property rights for scarce resources, nor commerce.) For Stallman code is a public good, produced collectively.

ESR's moral vision is anarcho-capitalist. It champions the virtues of property, and so whatever is going on in open source, it mustn't be seen as a denial of property. Instead it should be seen as a new kind of property, more suited to non-scarce resources. The best way of understanding this new kind of property is that it's a sort of reputation within the hacker community ("egoboo" is ESR's term)

How is the fight squaring off between these positions? Now that RMS has a new ally in Lawrence Lessig, the Stallman moral message against the enclosure of information stuff seems to be pretty strong. The new brand, "commons based peer production", (which stretches beyond software to all sorts of cultural artifacts) is anti-propertarian, stressing, as it does, the virtue of "the commons" and anti-individualism. Had this branding been Raymondite, it would have been something like "reputation based peer production", to stress the role of repuation-property.

The other great Stallman legacy is his understanding of law as a platform to be hacked. The GPL (Copyleft) is a monster hack, turning the legal infrastructure of intellectual property against enclosure. It's also the key tactical weapon of the Stallmanite tendency.

That weapon is still in major effect. With entirely copyleft versions of Linux now available. Of course, law always defines (co-creates) property. But Stallman turned the hacker community on to this particular platform. Today, it goes without comment that computer geeks should also be law-geeks. The ESRites have made their own attempts to promote alternatives to copyleft (though here they're just following the tradition of the Open Group and others who were resisting the copyleft revolution). But they certainly haven't supplanted this legacy.

Final point. Interestingly ESR says Stallman's greatest triumph is his code.

I haven't seen Stallman's code, and wouldn't be able to judge it if I had. But the greatest failure of the FSF was the absense of a kernel for GNU - which Linus had to supply. And arguably, the greatest intellectual contribution made by ESR to the movement is the cathedral vs. bazaar analysis : identifying Linus's decentralized, rapid-release model as the key to its success. Undoubtedly centralization on Stallman, and other possible bureaucracy explains the FSF's failures. But ESR doesn't mention these points because they don't fit the story he wants to tell : one which aims to debunk Stallman's moral vision.

But there's an alternative story to the one told by ESR, which might fit the facts better : that Stallman's moral vision has continued to attract and inspire millionswell maybe thousands of hackers, and under the new leadership of Lessig (an avowed Stallman fan) is pushing back against "intellectual property" all across the internet. While the role of Linus and ESR was crucially, to identify and explain a better operational model than that practiced by the FSF.

In this story, ESR's contrasting moral vision - of hackers as individualistic self-aggrandizers, battling for reputation property - is just irrelevant spinning. If ESR were right, and reputation was the crucial currency of the open economy, then you should expect that there'd be all sorts of ways that people would be using reputation tracking tools to improve the open development process. Source-forge would work like PopIdol, Technorati-style attention markets would be set up to stroke hackers into ever greater paroxysms of coding.

I didn't happen. Free software is produced for a whole variety of motivations : some idealistic, supporting Stallman's vision, some pragmatic. Some people want to scratch an itch, or to do something cool, some want to get famous within the hacker community. Just like the real economy or market, the free or open code market has a diversity of motivations. What enables this disperate group of interests to coordinate and thrive is not shared motivation, it's shared legal constitution : the software licenses. And particularly it's the looming presence of the GPL which helps idealists to protect their vision, and encourages pragmatists to join it.
Good lord! A science-fiction novel I almost feel I want to read.
Actually, I can see Edge are generally pretty worked up about intelligent design. I've been fairly chilled out about the whole thing, personally. If a couple of generations of American kids grow up ignorant about evolution, that will just help out the tech economies of the rest of the world. US kids are growing up learning far more dangerous nonsense. (Although I suppose anabiotic oil is the fruit of this tree.)

But here's another lazyweb request. What are the ALife community doing about intelligent design? Let's imagine that schools in the US are gonna have to teach kids to ask questions about whether certain kinds of order can emerge from chance. Well, this is a perfect opportunity for a software package stuffed with Genetic Algorithms, simulated ecologies, and statistical simulations to pump the intuitions in exactly the right direction. There's probably even good money to made. Could this be the best driver for a market for educational GA software?
Fascinating Edge on explanation, skepticism and religious belief. Read both stories.

Side-thought : the psychology experiments are fun, as such things usually are. I wish there was a better way to catalogue these kind of experiments that counter our illusions of our own rationality and independent thinking. What would be great is something indexed by self-illusion : "you think you're perception of colour / unlikeliness / explainedness is accurate? Here's a list of the experiments which suggest it isn't"

Could make a great coffee-table book, or maybe OPML outline, or ... come on lazyweb, where are you when we need you?
Over in Umair Haque's comments


Phil,

That article is *phenomenal*, and doubly so if you factor in the date. Amazing stuff, will link to it latre tonight.

Do you work at the Beeb?


A : No, I'm British, and that article originally appeared only in the short-lived British edition of Wired. I was always surprised it didn't get more widely known though.

Actually, I did once do a summer-internment kind of job in PC support at the Beeb when I was an undergrad. My boss was, I believe, Tim Berners-Lee's brother (which didn't mean anything at the time because the web hadn't been invented)

Didn't like it much. Horrible, bureaucratic organization, filled with people who were very talented, but way over-qualified for their menial jobs, but there because this was, like, the BBC and hoped to get somewhere better. Lot of people got bitter and twisted waiting for their big break while upgrading WordStar.

Of course, as a consumer, I *love* the BBC and everything it stands for (tax-funded, advert free media with a public service mandate). And I'm pretty sure they have cool people there on their web stuff now.
Umair Haque more and more freaked by the state of the US.


So, remember last week, when it was curiously noted that oil industry execs weren't being sworn in for their statements? Presumably, so they could avoid perjury charges?

Well, now we know why!

"...A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress."


A couple of questions that interest me. How can the US be both the origin of internet culture, the most forward looking, open, optimistic and generally "positive" wave of culture / technology / transformation in any recent time, and also be the country falling into all the traps and tropes of authoritarianism, irrationality and causing great harm to others around the world?

It would be easy to say the two are distinct. That it's a red / blue state thing. That those sliding back into the quasi-feudal mindset are those who are frustrated at being left behind by the rapid evolution of the techno-creative class.

But that's not correct. I've seen enough warblogs and techno-libertarians to know that the internet culture is also shaped by and shaping the right. Maybe these groups are really defenders of liberty, who now only lash-out at the anti-war left due to old reflexes rather than genuine enthusiasm for the whole Bush project.

One can hope.

Meanwhile, it's a poisoned atmosphere where William Lind, who's lastest piece might have been written by Jean-Marie Le Penn, sometimes smells sweet.
TURING'S CATHEDRAL by George Dyson

Worth a read.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Quite fascinating how many of the companies in this list are focused on paranoia.

About preventing information leaking from your company, tracking the behaviours of your employees, and looking for the people who lose you money.
Why I always have a sneaking admiration for Andrius Kulikauskas

Now he's trying to persuade God to become part of his open thinking laboratory. Beat that, Lion Kimbro.

:-)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ouch. Just back from hospital after having my gall-bladder removed. I knew I had gall-stones from a couple of years ago. And all the Brazilian doctors told me I needed to have the bladder removed. The British doctor I saw told me it wasn't necessary if it wasn't hurting, so I left it.

Then last Wednesday, I thought I had a bout of food poisoning. A kind of burning pain from my stomach through my right side to the kidneys.

On Thursday, the pain was increasing, so that evening I went to the hospital and got some strong anti-inflamatory / painkilling tablets. There wasn't a specialist that night, so I took the tablet hoping it would die down. Thursday night the pain had subsided and I got some sleep. But by late morning Friday, the pain was back, all over my abdomen, and stronger than before. Wasn't sure if I could hold out until 10 pm, to take the next painkiller (one every 24 hours, max). In the event, I ate nothing and lasted until 6 pm before I took it. Had a couple of hours of reduced pain, but by 2 AM it was full-on again. Didn't sleep. My wife woke up and found me vomiting at 5:30, and took me back to the hospital at around 6.00 Saturday.

Fortunately the GP was willing to put me on a stronger drip feed of painkillers and the specialist was in by 7. He agreed to operate then, although I had to wait until 2 PM for 8 hours to pass since I last ate. (Stupidly I ate a cracker at around 5 to try to relieve the burning sensation in my stomach.)

The waiting was weird. The painkillers were reducing the qualia of pain, but not the sense of discomfort. Couldn't find a position to stay in for longer than a couple of minutes.

Fortunately they put me under by around 1:45. Surgery was finished by 4 and I was awake by 4:30 (seem to remember some delerious dreaming about wiki and weblogs just as I woke up)

The operation can be as short as 15 minutes, or as long as around 5 hours. Because my stones were so large, they had to cut a bigger hole, but it wasn't the worst the surgeon had seen.

Saturday night was fairly miserable. I was on a painkiller and anti-vomiting drip. But I thought I had to stay lying in bed, when I was desperate to pee. Bladder hurt abominably, but I did manage to sleep. Sunday, I was able to get up and pee (amazing relief) and shower and walk up and down the corridor attached to the drip.

By evening though I was pretty weak and the pain was getting stronger. I did eat a little during the day.

Sunday night I hardly slept at all, althought the pain had reduced. Partly this was because I'd slept a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon.

Today (Monday) the doctor told me I was still in pain because he'd reduced the strength of the painkiller. Nevertheless I was feeling a lot stronger, so was discharged home with a prescription for several types of pills. So far, some tolerable pain every now and then, and spasms if I cough, laugh or move suddenly. Still I feel I'm getting better.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

OK, so I'm hooked. I know maps and attention are gonna be big. Just don't understand them yet.
Three cheers for Lula for watching pirate DVDs!

Shame he's trying to deny it. :-(
Eugeen Eric Kim : PhilJones almost stumbled onto something quite profound in his commentary last May, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it, and Chris and I consequently jumped all over him. We were right, of course, but Phil was onto something.

EEK Speaks


Well, I don't entirely see the difference between Kim's Here's where it gets cute. Doing this feels like tagging. You're just tagging granular content instead of documents... which is what PurpleNumbers are designed to enable in the first place.

and Dent's labels posing (miserably) as identifiers.
BBC NEWS | Business | Mexico fails to profit from Nafta deal
US Forces 'Used Chemical Weapons' During Assault on City of Fallujah
Just gets better and better, doesn't it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hey! John's Bazungu Bucks blog is coming on a treat! (And not just 'cos he blogrolled me, honest :-)
Aparently Momus now sees himself as more of a blogger than a musician :

I should perhaps mention that Momus doesn't really exist for me as a musician. Apart from the early, less-wacky stuff, I find it all somewhat anaemic. Far more interesting is Click Opera, the livejournal he publishes daily. Differing from his earlier essays or "Thoughts for the Day" , the journal has, in a short time, become one of the most fascinating (and influential) in the blogosphere.

"I think I?m a kind of Google star, which is the modern form of stardom. Every search I seem to do for related things comes up with my journal. I seem to come up on every search I do. I?m like Tintin the boy reporter (I'm even dressed a bit like him today), I?m always going on adventures, reporting on other people's doings. There forms a nexus of connections."


The Mind?s Construction Quarterly : How to Live like Nick Currie

More here
Remember many of my comments on web / tech. stuff like the new Gates / Ozzie memos is now on my other blog.

eg. Platform Wars: The "Service Wave"
Oh, and there's no UK exceptionalism either. BBC NEWS | Politics | MI5's 'torture' evidence revealed
Quick! Emergency! Help! Americans want to steal our time! ;-)

I guess the real issue here is that for a long time accurate time keeping has been something most important to astronomers and navigators, for whom time synced to the Earth's rotation is important.

The US proposal is presumably to do with some other notions of time they want to measure, which don't need this. For example, I wonder about internet or Unix time. Does it add the leap second when necessary?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Somehow this reminds me of something I wrote a couple of years ago.

(On the business of warblogging - scrolldown)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fascinating post on difference in advertising rates between Google and MySpace.

Why is MySpace so much lower? Advertisers think they can't control the editorial content. Look at the figures, that's how much advertisers figure control of content is worth to them.

Now. Do you think your media's editorial content isn't shaped by those advertisers?
Went to Chapada this weekend. So didn't have to share a city with Bush

What's Lula up to? Seems like his strategy is straight up hard bargaining for trade liberalization in favour of the developing world (or at least our corner of it). Look at the increase in sales to the US and Europe.

Bush can promise whatever he likes as long as he makes it conditional on European acceptance, it amounts to very little.

Meanwhile Lula seems to be stalling on the hemispheric free trade agreement. Maybe doesn't want to be seen as selling out that much by his coalition? Maybe as a bargaining chip?

Who's Pedro Moreira Salle, head of the 5th largest bank in Brasil. Why not someone from the other four?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Why is Phil Jones On-Line way above me in PageRank?

Nothing against the chap, but I was number two a couple of weeks ago. How come this guy got so popular?
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!!!!


Keep in mind that I'm suggesting Java will be dead like COBOL, not dead like Elvis. For the hardest enterprise problems, Java is safe for at least three to five years--things like sophisticated and scalable object relational mapping, two phased commit, and the like. Java is being threatened in a much more common, and I think important space: how do you build a simple web application that fronts a relational database? Especially a database schema that you control? This industry solves this particular problem over and over, and Java's not very good at it.


Web Developers Moving Past Java -- part 1
Wow! This is a totally crazy, freaky optical illusion!!!
Microbe and Machine Merged to Create First 'Cellborg'
Evo Morales: no concern for US interests
Scobleizer : Yahoo’s new pretty maps are doomed (and so are Microsoft’s)
Mr Bush said he hoped that Brazil, which he described as 'a very important player in Doha', would put pressure on the EU to cut its farm subsidies, which have been a major sticking-point in the world trade negotiations.

BBC NEWS | Business | US pushes for Americas trade zone

BTW : Bush is gonna be here in Brasilia over the weekend. Probably related to this. (Plus the various US military interests here.)

Can't decide if I should go out and protest or not. Will have zero positive effect, of course. But somehow it feels totally apathetic to just do nothing.
Don't let anyone fool you that the US is "different" from all those other countries which disappear and torture people for years on end. There's no US "exceptionalism" :

BBC NEWS | Americas | CIA 'running secret terror jails'

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

BBC NEWS | Africa | Urgent appeal for Africa's south
Utopia Research & Design - land reform in Zimbabwe

Tribe discussion Zimbabwean land reform. X.J. makes some good points :


Yes, this is a big tragedy and completely caused by Mugabe. If you enacted the same policy in the US, to suddenly seize farmland of farmers, drive the farmers off, and give the land to other people (the race is irrelevant) who have no knowledge of farming, the result would be exactly the same. The story about how 'the whites took all the good farmland and we are taking it back' is nonsense - the reason that the white farms are productive is not because they are on magic land but because the farmers have sane land management practices. They fertilize and irrigate properly, aware of mistakes in the past such as the poor practices that lead to the Oklahoma dust bowl of the 1930s (planting identical cash crops year after year depletes the soil and creates a desert). The soil in Zimbabwean farms is fertile because of the work the farmers have done to make it so. Such work is a necessary ongoing process. Farming is not easy and can not be learned over night - the knowledge transfer takes decades. Having wiped out their farming industry in only a few years, they are really screwed now and there is no easy fix. Reestablishing those farms will take fertilizer and it will take tractors. Yet Zimbabwe has now squandered their resources and can not afford to buy these things. And even if they bought these things it would do no good because the human resources with the knowledge to fix things have been driven out of the country and are not coming back. Mugabwe has created a racist, white-hating atmosphere that means it would be too dangerous to return, even if he is removed from power.

Zimbabwe and South Africa are the two bread-basket economies of Africa which grow the food that keeps the rest of Africa fed. Losing Zimbabwe is having far reaching effects throughout Africa.

On the topic of how to do this better, here is the solution. First, it is not true that the only good land is that owned by whites and therefore it must be seized. This is a recipe for destruction. Instead, a sane plan would be to have a farming education program. People interested in farming would be given free land grants. Farming offices would be established in those areas with agriculture agents to teach farming techniques. Modest land taxes would enable land that is not being used fairly by its owners to return peacefully back to the land available for further grants to others.
BBC NEWS | Africa | Zimbabwe admits 'errors' on land

(Watch the video too.)

People who believe governments have a right to reform land-use (like me), need to think carefully about this. Land reform in Zimbabwe is cover for essentially "cleansing" of political opposition, which has caused mass starvation and suffering.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Motive?

I'm downloading the UN report now, but does anyone know what the alleged motive for Syria was here? I understand they didn't agree with him, but what made them think blowing him up would help them?

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Syria faces sanctions vote at UN
BBC NEWS | Americas | Chavez calls for ban on Halloween

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | Miers debacle hits struggling president

This is a disaster. Bush is being taken out by those to the right of him, probably with a large amount of popular support.

Iraq is a debacle which ought to bring the neocons down. But it won't be anyone to the left of Bush who picks up the lost support.

It will be the anti-war, isolationist right. The paleo-conservatives. Probably with tacit support from the more propertarian faction among the libertarian right, and the backing of Murdoch and co.

Any chance of one of the smarter, more independent minded, anti-war, centrist Republicans taking control of the party next election? Not if the UK conservatives are anything to go by.
Interesting. Captive chimps don't do altruism.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Chimps fall down on friendship

Though is there a possibility that the guy next door was signalling he didn't want the handout? Or rather, not signalling that he did?
Interesting look at the shift from secular nationalism to islamic jihad within the Iraqi bazaar of violence.

Back to Iraq 3.0: A note on Jaysh al-Muhammad

Striking that it's not rival groups supplanting each other, but a growing religious influence inside previously nationalist groups.