Wednesday, March 29, 2006

An interesting comment to a piece by James Kunstler

When folks discuss hybrids, they might as well consider combining the airship with the train somehow. Trains do use a lot of energy (far less than your jalopy, but still) - because they're HEAVY. Subtract some of the weight by adding something blimp-like (if this necessiates putting up guardrails on either side of the track, so be it) - and you'll have the most energy-efficient vehicle in history.
BBC NEWS | Political row hits Brazil shares

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

BBC NEWS | Brazilian finance minister quits

The story going round here is that the guy was sleeping with the wife of one of his underlings and the underling shopped him. Who knows?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Friday, March 17, 2006

My comments on the
debate about Europe vs. the US in economic terms at Umair's.

Ultimately, it's about "what you can measure you can manage" or "indexes become policy targets". They're truisms. And anti-patterns. Everyone recognises them, but no-one takes them *seriously*.

So, yeah, there are some kinds of capital that you can measure, and manage, and because it has a lot of liquidity and plasticity you can do cool tricks with it. You can build civilizations; co-ordinate global process networks of thousands of suppliers; get lots of new cheap stuff.

That kind of capital is a good thing.

But there are other kinds of capital you can't measure, you can't manage, and that don't have the fungability to do these kind of tricks with. Neighbourhood, family, religion, friendship, security, freedom from stress and risk.

If you can't measure them or compare them does that mean they have no value? Not at all.

But if you start with an *axiomatic* assumption that everything must be comparable in the same unit then it looks like that.

But that assumption is wrong. It's no more sensible to assume you can recognise social capital in financial terms than it is to say that music must be translatable into colour for it to be beautiful even though, sometimes the two arts conflict with each other for the same resource. Will I spend my time / money on painting or music? Yes, I have to choose, but no, that still doesn't mean music's beauty can be represented in colour.

Nor is it meaningful to claim that the US "chooses" one way of life over another when it shops at Walmart. By definition, all financial transactions at Walmart are part of a rationality which is wholly independent and incomensurable with our preferences for social capital. (Interesting how Hernando de Soto invokes Donald Davidson at the end of "The Mystery of Capital") even though, once again, the different needs of the different kinds of capital will come into conflict.

So, to say that people are "unwillingly" subsidizing the higher quality of life in Europe, may or may not be true, but that willingness sure isn't divinable simply by looking at their shopping behavior.

If anything, only the political process offers a chance to translate between the incomensurable spheres of financial capital and social capital. When I vote for a government I *am* making a decision between one party which will put the measurable (money, jobs, growth) ahead of the unmeasurable qualities of life. Or vice-versa.
PlatformWars : tools vs. formats

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Erm ... Wow!!!
Here's an interesting discussion. The State of the Scripting Universe

Just to note what I always tell my Programming Language class. Alan Kay (inventor of Smalltalk) wrote that "higher level" is synonymous with "later binding". In other words, the more things that are bound later, the higher level the language is.

My take on it is this. The more things that are bound at run-time, rather than compile-time, the more context aware the language is. The more it is able to take note of and adapt to its environment. Look at how Ruby on Rails uses metaclass hacking to dynamically update its classes as the description of the tables in the database changes.

Earlier, static binding, of variables to types, of function calls to blocks of code, of classes to particular data-structures, means that the code you write is context independent, a one dimensional list of instructions. Later, dynamic binding, of variables to types, of message selectors to blocks of code, or classes to data-structures, means that more of your code becomes more abstract, generic, fluid, meta-recipies which say "in this context do this, but in that context do that, and in t'other context do t'other thing"

It's not simply the extra finger-typing involved in static binding that's a problem. The compiler checks and restricts the behavior of programs to a well defined and (hopefully) understood set of behaviours. But this necessarily involves preventing more meta-level, generic, context-aware programming. Programmers working with static binding have to predict the future more accurately because they can't expect the code to adapt to it when it arrives.

Java's an interesting case. A lot is made of the kinds of adaptability that are available at (or close to) runtime; of how its polymorphism allows new behaviors to be slotted into old code. But it's less noted how all this dynamism is too ordinary to mention in the context of dynamic languages.

The more you think about patterns and good practice and underlying principles in Java, the more obvious it becomes that they exist to maintain a modicum of dynamism against the dead-hand of static binding in the compiler. Favour composition over inheritance? Only because you can't change the inheritance hierarchy at run-time, but you can slot in another Strategy object. (Assuming you got your dependency injection right.) Design to interfaces? Because you don't want to be anchored to particular class names in your code.

Well, in most dynamic languages, you can change the inheritance hierarchy at run-time (and add another mixin). Arguments aren't burdened with type restrictions, so you can be sure that you'll be able to pass anything you need to to a function, however unpredictable it was to the original authors.

All those expensive pattern-language books? All that training and time spent on good design? All to overcome the static bindings between variable and type, class and superclass, which the compiler set in concrete.
Hey! I didn't know Ben Roberts had a blog!!!
Brilliant catch from Loud Thinking

This wonderful snippet of Java :

UploadedFile uploadedFile = (UploadedFile) fileUpload1.getUploadedFile();
String text = uploadedFile.getAsString();

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hmmm. Is this a photo of Richard Florida?

'Cos otherwise, it's one of the least "creative class" looking web-site banners I ever saw. A dead white European male in a suit? In grey? Meaning "serious"?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Here's the link to that conference.
Interesting. Just went to Amazon (not that I can afford anything these days) and got presented with a "plog", a list of blogs by authors I'd bought books by. Currently only Mark Guzdial (author of Squeak books) features on my personal list. But he had some interesting news from SIG on computers in computer science education.

Still, this could be very interesting. Amazon are practically forcing authors and readers into conversation with each other this way. People who shop at Amazon but never got into blog culture, are suddenly going to realize that their favourite authors are accessible.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

This is very cool : ccDatabase

A database of various complementary currency schemes around the world, with contact details of the people running them.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Someone else got a couple of pics of the Portela school of Samba from a spectator's perspective. This is our school, although not our "ala" (costumed group)
I'm miserably ill in bed today. Nothing serious, but I'm unable to do much else, so I'm glued to BBC Radio on the net.

Just finished listening to pretty good version of Oscar Wilde's greatest play.

(You'll have to skip past about 5 minutes of continuity beforehand though.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Compare and contrast William Lind on Chavez, Morales and 4GW in Latin America with the Vila Isabel school of Samba who's theme this year was Latin American unity. There were even rumours that Chavez was going to parade with them, but he turned out to be a no show.

Nevertheless, a Portuguese speaking school who break the rules (essentially trashing any chance they have of winning) to use Spanish words in their Samba, are an interesting non-state phenomenon.

hilan / laura

Originally uploaded by interstar.

full tropicalia gisel

Originally uploaded by interstar.

what's behind us

Originally uploaded by interstar.
The only float we actually get to see ... this is preparing to go too.

it's daylight

Originally uploaded by interstar.
but we're still waiting ...

spot the gringo!

Originally uploaded by interstar.
Erm ... no comment.

The full tropicalia costume

Originally uploaded by interstar.
and yes, that top hat and collar is bloody heavy.

Rio Carnival 2006

Originally uploaded by interstar.
Of course, like all theatrical productions, when you're involved, you don't really see anything.

Here I am, missing half my costume because it's so darned hot, at 4:30 am, shrove Tuesday. We didn't actually get to parade until around 7 am when it was daylight. Which kind of spoils the whole lighting effect.