Monday, June 30

Perhaps you're not as obsessed as I am with how the eye works, but, hey, whatever -- here's a non-political blog just for the heck of it.

Tuesday, June 24

Nat Hentoff keeps excellent tabs on the Ashcroft regime in the US Dept of "Justice."
Shock and outrage! One of my favorite (online for me) magazines is denied the right to cover a major business conference despite their press credentials and a focus directly relevant to the matter at hand. Check out what the denied publication has to offer: relevancy, an attention to history, insightful journalism, and challenging political insight.

Monday, June 23

I admit I am mostly clueless about the upcoming presidential election here, but I liked the ideas from a recent speech by candidate John Edwards distilled in this article.
full text of the speech is here

Thursday, June 19

The way we treat kids in enlightened America.
The Internet is one of the most powerful agents of freedom. It exposes truth to those who wish to see and hear it. It is no wonder that some governments and organizations fear the Internet and its ability to make the truth known.

- The Internet under Surveillance: Obstacles to the free flow of information online

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a man who is the mayor of a small commuter-city within the NYC metro area. He seemed to be an upstanding individual, and had several municipal programs in place that appeared to be aimed at "doing the right thing" (social welfare, urban redevelopment, etc.). During that conversation, it was pointed out that a couple of his council members are opposing some of the good things he wants to do. I asked why--budget constraints, differing views of the correct solution? No, he said, they just didn't like him personally.

Later, an astute observer pointed out that politics is one discipline that never sheds the simplistic and immature social relationships we develop in high school. The above situation makes me think of the political wind-blowing described in this article from today's New York Times: The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.

In politics, it seems, attempts at objective thought are considered irrational idealism. (New York Times; login: opensewer; password: iswatching.)

Wednesday, June 18

Canada becomes only the third country in the world to stop discriminating against what are, after all, just family values.

Friday, June 13

The notion of The Creative Class and The Memphis Manifesto...genuine ideas to reinvent our cities, our lives, our culture, our economy--or just the latest fashionable flash-in-the-pan socioeconomic theory?

Tuesday, June 10

Wasn't it fairly recent, even still in our memory, when being a snitch, a rat fink, was the lowest thing a person could be?
Creepiest kid ever? Of course, many parents won't agree, and will be jealous. And American Junior Idols is on my only tv channel tonight again I think. Little performing robots. Consumer bots being bred for a life of driving and eating...

Monday, June 9

Foreign distrust of America has increased dramatically over the past year according to a new survey of 20 countries by the Pew Research Centre. The proportion of people with a favourable attitude towards the United States has dropped from 61% to 45% in Germany, 63% to 43% in France, 61% to 15% in Indonesia and 25% to just 1% in Jordan. (From the Economist)

Tuesday, June 3

"You wouldn't believe the things I've hauled off," Ciszek said. "Fully functional air conditioners, entire record collections, VCRs, unopened boxes of cereal and canned goods, like-new chairs, desks with barely a scratch, stereo components, computers--you name it. I don't know how many pairs of shoes still in the box, never been worn, I've tossed in the back of the truck. I must have junked 50 miles of extension cords, and I'm guessing 95 percent of those still worked."

Funny, yes... Less funny, though, when you think of the truth of it.

Monday, June 2

I ponder sometimes about all the spam that I get--in fact also about the amount of spam that everyone receives--and it makes me think... Spammers are a type of bottom-feeder within the information economy. Not only are they email marketers, which are bottom-feeders already, but they are the lowest type of email marketers, often using deceptive techniques in an attempt to separate one from his or her money. Then I look at my Popfile history, and it's buckets tell me that only 16.5% of the email I receive is legitimate (non-spam). Then, you know, naturally, I start to get a little upset. But I consider: Perhaps these bottom-feeders have a true place in our internet-economy…indeed, in our economy as a whole. They have always been around, after all, in one form or another. Could it possibly be that the snake-oil salesman serves a legitimate purpose? The most important thing: Bottom feeders exist in nature, in ecosystems…and they comprise important parts of those ecosystems. Bottom feeders are part of the cycle in nature--are they simply a part of the cycle in economics as well? Is it misguided and futile to try to get rid of them? That said, what purpose do they serve? Is it to punish naive customers for being so naive? Is it a “survival of the fittest” kind of thing? Is it the economic-ecological way of ridding the weak and uninformed economic agents from the game?
Media ownership is a war and the independent public is losing: F.C.C. Votes to Relax Rules Limiting Media Ownership (NYT: opensewer; iswatching).

Nevermind believing half of what you hear and none of what you read. It will be hard to believe anything anymore.
This one is for Rose: The new tax bill quadruples the deduction available on small-business equipment purchases, which include trucks. The catch? You've got to buy a big one. New tax breaks for SUVs is what it means!

Sunday, June 1

If there's one thing we've learned from the's this: distributed systems work. In any sort of goods or services production, we're always trying to achieve economies of scale--ever since Henry Ford taught us that lesson. But economies of scale can blaze a trail of destruction in their wake, because they have such massive levels of inputs (often natural resources) and outputs (what is produced PLUS whatever the waste product may be). Distributed systems have small point inputs and outputs of whatever they're producing-distributing-using, and aren't as destructive. I'm speaking in the most general terms possible here--it doesn't matter what the distributed system is "carrying".

Back to our example. The internet, and similarly P2P networks, rely on small scale, interconnected, redundant "pieces" to achieve their power. We should have learned by now that the network, not the central plant, is the key to our future. Actually, I believe we have already learned this lesson (nature of course taught us first), but there is much in this world that is highly dependent on the old ways of thinking, and fearful of losing economies of scale (because what would we do then?), so it will take a long time for things to change.