Thursday, September 30, 2004

TeleDyn : No doubt about it, the workweek should be the two days, the weekend in four, and a day off for blogging.

TeledyN: Harvest Moon

Monday, September 27, 2004

Q : Phil, you've been very quiet.

A : Yep, by some amazing cosmic mischance I've actually got a job teaching in the local university.

Today (in about 5 hours) I'll have my first lesson : Advanced Programming. I'll be giving some basic C programs : "Hello World", "Square numbers up to 10" etc. And asking them to do a simple exercise.

Oh, yeah. And it's all in Portuguese. So of course, I'm terrified. Wish me luck ...

Monday, September 20, 2004

Robert Fisk : And in the days to come I learnt, too, what this meant. Merely to ask why the murderers of 11 September had done their bloody deeds was to befriend "terrorism". Merely to ask what had been in the minds of the killers was to give them support. Any cop, confronted by any crime, looks for a motive. But confronted by an international crime against humanity, we were not to be allowed to seek the motive.

We should not have allowed 19 murders to change our world - Robert Fisk: 11 September 2004

(NB: I'm pretty sure that page title should be murderers. Which is the title of the story. But this mistake seems to have perculated into the blogosphere. :-( )
What is Reggaeton?

A Spicy Mix of Salsa, Hip-Hop and Reggae

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Soros's complaint
I've been trawling through various right and left blogs and news sources today. (Haven't been paying much attention recently.)

And then I watched one of those lousy, straight-to-video Hollywood movies that end up as the big late saturday night entertainment on Globo.

And then I had this thought. "Wow! This is serious. The US is really screwed." Followed by two further thoughts :

* And it's Hollywood's fault.

* And also it's weblogging's fault.

Because on the one hand, it looks more and more as if Iraq is spiralling out of control. The Taliban / Al Quaeda are regrouping in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. Stigmergic inspiration is sweeping the islamic world : from Pakistan to Egypt, Saudi to Russia, Indonesia to Turkey.

Now, this lously film had a good cop. With a little hand-gun. And lots of thuggish, scary bad-guys. Good cop goes out into the world, kicks ass. Bad guys blast him from all sides with automatic weapons and he mirraculously survives, by ducking behind convenient obstacles. After which, he pops back, with a couple of spare, elegant flicks of his hand-gun, takes out each bad guy.

Good hearted people everywhere flock to him and help him. No one challanges "how" he does things. Sometimes he does dumb, stupid stuff that end in a fire-fight. Yet no-one ever questions afterwards if he couldn't have thought it through a bit first, and maybe minimized the body count. The girl who's father dies. The loyal buddy who takes a bullet. No-one gets bitter.

And then I remember, the US film industry has been telling this story for decades. At least since Stagecoach. Almost 70 years of the same thing : being the good-guy is more important than how many henchmen you have, how much fire-power in your weapons, how careful your planning or suave your social and diplomatic skills.

So when the Project for the New American Century say you win them over just by kicking out their big bad boss; or when Rumsfeld decides to overrule the military experts and use an undersized army; why should there be any surprise?

The majority of US voters see nothing wrong. We've worried about trashy films inspiring violence. But what about the problem that they inspire bad tactics and failure of common sense?

Like I say, 70 years of this. Three generations of Americans.

Then, on the other side, I'm getting really impressed by the division in the US. Maybe it was like this at the end of the 60s, beginning of the 70s. But the vitriol, the smearing, the absolute disagreement and disengagement between the sides is breathtaking to me.

And maybe blogging isn't helping at all.

Sure, the idea is we all read those we disagree with, and understand them better. And this happens too. But names of blogs become short-hand : the Oxblog "falacy". "Little Green Footballs", "Daily Kos" are used as labels for moral failings, not as places to go to correct your biases and enrich your view. The web lets us see how our opponents think. And often it's so unimpressive we're left with a deep revulsion.

What the hell will happen if and when Bush wins? Will some of the frustrated oponents give up on party politics? Switch to violence? How can US society hold itself together, when it's torn by such passion, and compromised by such stupidity abroad?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Matthew Yglesias, one of the early war switchers has a good post why Iraq is strategically way worse than Vietnam.

matthew: Iraq and Vietnam
I did most of my writing about the Iraq war on the Critical Cafe mailing list, arguing with a bunch of right-wing Popperians. (Amazing how so many people assume Critical Rationalism somehow justifies all kinds of rightist irrationality.)

Anyway, I copied a basic map of my reasoning to ThoughtStorms: AmericanWarOnIraq. Never updated it, but it might be interesting as a comparison with what's being said today.
More "War Switchers". Am I late to a trend here?

John & Belle Have A Blog: Why I Was So Totally Wrong About Iraq

Anyway, it's a good sign. It restores my faith in the blogosphere as system able to correct errors. I don't have much faith in big media or the US political process. But if at least the warbloggers can learn, then there is some hope for humanity.
Nasi Lemak : While I'm deeply ashamed to have been on the wrong side of the debate about the war in advance, turning out to be wrong has rather shattered my faith in the effectiveness of democratic feedback as a useful (realist?) constraint on policy-making.

Nasi Lemak

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The World's Shortest Blog
Clearly, I'm not keeping up to date with my Royal news.

An earlier royal embarrassment came in June 2003 when a comedian dressed as Osama bin Laden crashed Prince William’s 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle, kissing the prince on both cheeks.

I wonder why a man who looks like bin Laden shouldn't go to Prince William's party?

BBC NEWS | Iraq: Signs of desperation
Hopefully, this coming weekend, I'll make it to our local social forum :

Encontro de grupos autonomos
Huh? Why is the World Social Forum site built with ASP?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Sad day for musick. World Serpent goes under.
In a phone call from Baghdad on Monday, the US military was unable to clarify why none of the TV footage or press pictures showed armed people at the scene or recorded any gunfire

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Media spotlight on Baghdad deaths

Saturday, September 11, 2004

I don't have September the 11th plus 3, thoughts.

But John Robb explains pretty well why the "war on terror" is a totally busted concept. And why sensible Americans, who really want to secure their country, should have nothing to do with it, or the lousy government who got them into it.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Today on ThoughtStorms : I connected ThoughtStorms: MarketsAreConversations with "fractal loading"

This is a term used by L. Andrew Coward and Nikos A. Salingaros in their fantastic paper : The Information Architecture of Cities which attempts to analyse cities as information processing systems. In particular, by looking at the journeys people make within them.

All journeys accomplish a primary information exchange. But ideally (for Coward and Salingaros) journeys have secondary, serendipitous information exchange. For example, a pedestrian on the way to work visits shops, sees adverts, buys a newspaper, encounters a friend and has a quick word, and may have a coffee observing the behaviour and dress of those around her. This multiplicity of dimensions of information they describe as "fractal loading" of the journey with information.

The virtue of cities is this dense, fractal, multilayered information exchange. From it, cities generate economic wealth and culture.

Coward and Salingros derive a, perhaps none-too surprising lesson : urban planners should try to optimize the fractal loading of information within journeys rather than making individual journeys more efficient. This increases the information processing within the cities.

In practice it seems to mean promoting more walking and public transport (especially public transport hubs like stations) and de-emphasizing cars. Driving on urban freeways is particularly lacking in secondary information.

Anyway, today, I was reading the original Cluetrain chapter and was immedietly struck :

The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion, and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone.

These multilayered conversations are, of course, also an example of fractal loading. Each trip to the market, each encounter between buyer and seller has a primary information exchange. But in the Cluetrain ideal, comes loaded with secondary processing.

By extention, this should also apply to the other forms of communication in the contemporary market. Corporate weblogs fractally load extra information on top of an entertaining personal story. Gonzo Marketing demands that interactions between customers and employees have multiple layers. Ruthelessly focused marketing "messages" OTOH are freeways : sorry, one dimensional journeys which do little work.

It's worth noting the important difference. The general impression from Cluetrain is that "voice" is important because people like it. You get through to people by keying in to what they like. An urban planner can similarly suggest walking pedestrianised streets is more pleasant than snarl-ups on M11. And so is better for the inhabitants.

But Coward and Salingaros are suggesting there's a bigger picture.

Cities, in an objective sense, work "better" as information processing systems with fractal loading. If this is true, and the analogy holds, then the Cluetrain / Gonzo / commercial blogging system might have equal advantages.
Thomas Barnett tries to rationalize the invasion of Iraq.

Of course, he's wrong because the notions of "connectedness" and "disconnetedness" are too vacuous. Or rather, too focused on one kind of connection : capitalism.

In reality there are dozens of different ways of being connected. Different networks based on different types of links : capital flow, trade, tourism, cultural inspiration, stigmergic information sharing, marriage etc. etc. One reason the west comes into conflict with Islam is that Islam is also a kind of network. Of shared texts and values, of wandering teachers, and charismatic clerics.

Was Taliban Afghanistan "disconnected" when thousands from around the Islamic world travelled to study there? When it was the connector of Saudi money with Pakistani students and Lebanese tacticians?

But once again, Barnett is fascinating because he makes the raw capitalist agenda so explicit. These alternative networks must be over-ridden. A network of capital flows must be put in their place : "Therefore we must enlist the aid of all the forces of connectedness across the Core—not just their troops but their investment flows and their commercial networks.''

He ought to know better. He says "forces of disconnectedness" will resist. But what a crazy idea. There is no force of disconnectedness. Disconnectedness has no force. The only force comes from ''rival'' connectedness.

Actually, after reading that the US has finally begun exporting security to that part of the world for real It's clear the guy is pretty much mad. Read it and decide yourself ...

Update :

No, I'll continue. The point about China is sort of good. In the sense that there's a real prediction to be had there. The Barnett view is that war with China isn't a danger because connectedness doesn't want to fight. The alternative prediction might be made from an analogy with the FirstWorldWar : a war of growing industrial superpowers jostling for room to expand. If there is war with China, it will vindicate the latter position and drive a nail through the Barnett doctrine. If there isn't, then this might be corroberation of it.

Ooh! Ooh! Admiration for the IMF as good cop "processing" economic bad-kid states. This is too good!

And remind me, again, why anyone should "come when you can" to the peacekeeping?

Like I said. Totally loco!

Also on ThoughtStorms:PentagonsNewMap

Thursday, September 09, 2004

John Robb : This demonstrates the bankruptcy of the analysis done by the current "experts" on the war.

John Robb's Weblog