Saturday, January 29, 2005

slacktivist: Torture is wrong

slacktivist: Torture is wrong

"You may not know Alberto Gonzales, but we're sure you'll recognize his work."

Frankfurt, H.G.: On Bullshit.

Frankfurt, H.G.: On Bullshit.: "One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, 'we have no theory.'"

Friday, January 28, 2005

Just Thinking: When the dawn breaks and the alarm rings

Just Thinking: When the dawn breaks and the alarm rings: "In Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, University of Chicago professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi points out that our approach to getting up in the morning has a significant impact on our overall curiosity, creativity, and enjoyment of new experiences and knowledge. 'Wake up in the morning with a specific goal to look forward to,' writes Csikszentmihalyi. 'Creative individuals don’t have to be dragged out of bed; they are eager to start the day....they believe that there is something meaningful to accomplish each day, and they can’t wait to get started on it....It is easier if each night before falling asleep, you review the next day and choose a particular task that, compared to the rest of the day, should be relatively interesting and exciting. Then next morning, open your eyes and visualize the chosen event--play it out briefly in your mind, like an inner videotape, until you can hardly wait to get dressed and get going. It does not matter if at first the goals are trivial and not that interesting. The important thing is to take the easy first steps until you master the habit, and then slowly work up to more complex goals. Eventually most of the day should consist of tasks you look forward to, until you feel that getting up in the morning is a privilege, not a chore.'"

Zeppelin

When I get really rich I'm gonna buy myself a Zeppelin.

New Iraqi dinar design published

The new Iraqi dinar

Neuroenablement - Beyond Therapy and Enhancement: Corante > Brain Waves >

Neuroenablement - Beyond Therapy and Enhancement: Corante > Brain Waves > : "Within the context of today's terminology the use of neurotechnologies by 'healthy' individuals for “non-medical” purposes is currently defined as enhancement. However, this does not capture the actual intention and belief of most. This is why I am proposing a new model ethical model based on the concept of neuroenablement."

Timothy Leary would be proud.

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

Barnes & Noble.com - The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century: "When they write the history of the world twenty years from now, and they come to the chapter 'September 11, 2001 to March 2004,' what will they say was most important? The attack on the World Trade Center and the Iraq war? Or the convergence of PCs, telecom and workflow softwares into a tipping point that allowed India to become part of the global supply chain for services the way China had become for manufacturing--creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world's two biggest nations (India and China), giving both nations a huge new stake in the success of globalization, but also flattening the world in a way that requires us all to run faster in order to stay in place? Has the world gotten too small, too fast, and too flat for human beings and their political systems to adjust in a stable manner?"

(Heh, I oughta sign up for an affiliate program, make a few pennies when I plug a book.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

... all the way down

I'll just jump on the stack here, since I've been too lazy and/or stupid to think of anything original to say lately myself....

Brad DeLon's comment on Crooked Timber: Pundits all the way down : "If there’s something more removed from reality than webloggers engaged in a self-referential discussion, it’s webloggers engaged in a self-referential discussion about how webloggers engage in a self-referential discussion. And now, of course, I’m discussing (self-referentially) how webloggers are engaged in a self-referential discussion about how webloggers engage in a self-referential discussion."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Updated business site with CSS

I spent a couple of days (and nights!) doing a major design overhaul of my business website using cascading style sheets. Any feedback is welcome, especially (but not only) if something looks weird in your browser. Next I'm thinking of managing the links pages with Blogroll, and I definitely finally have to set up forms instead of just asking people to send inquiries by e-mail....

Monday, January 17, 2005

BBC: Global Dimming

As if we didn't have enough to worry about:

BBC - Science & Nature - Horizon: "We are all seeing rather less of the Sun. Scientists looking at five decades of sunlight measurements have reached the disturbing conclusion that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface has been gradually falling. Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought.
[...]
"Dimming appears to be caused by air pollution. Burning coal, oil and wood, whether in cars, power stations or cooking fires, produces not only invisible carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming) but also tiny airborne particles of soot, ash, sulphur compounds and other pollutants."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

4th anniversary of Belarusian youth/democracy movement Zubr

[ ZUBR/BISON ]
"During four years of activity Zubr carried out thousands of actions including mass actions “Final diagnosis” (April, 2001), March “Can’t live like that!” (April, 2002), “People’s march “For better life!” (March, 2003), “Your reply to the system” (July, 2004). That became known worldwide. Zubr activists and volunteers distributed more than 10 000 000 copies of printed production. These are leaflets, posters, stickers and independent newspapers that are the only source of alternative information in most of Belarusian regions. Thanks to it “Zubr” became leader of youth resistance and the most active actor of Belarusian political field."

Comparative examination of the German and British Green Parties (in English)

The German Greens Hit 25: A Tale of Two Parties - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE: "In Germany, the Green Party is highly successful -- it's the junior coalition partner in the national government and has 55 seats in the national parliament. But in Britain, where the party was established a full decade earlier, the Greens are still struggling for a breakthrough in national elections this spring."

More commentary on the article here.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Financial Times: Soros & friends to fund lefty think tanks

FT.com / World / US - Soros group raises stakes in battle with US neo-cons: The Financial Times reports that a group of billionaires including George Soros, Herb and Marion Sandler, and Peter Lewis has agreed to commit unspecified-but-very-large sums of money to "building institutions to foster progressive ideas and people. [...] The intention is to provide the left with organisations in Washington that can match the heft of the rightwing think-tanks such as Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. At a state level, the aim is to build what one person called a “deeper progressive bench”."

I'm not sure whether to welcome this or worry....

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Mac mini and the future of Apple

To my mind, Andy Ihnatko comes closest to nailing the real significance of the Mac mini:

Ihnatko - Thoughts on the Keynote || The Mac Observer: "The Mac Mini is probably the first grand experiment in marketing a desktop computer as something that could (conceptually, at least) be blister-packed next to the cellphone headsets and off-brand CD players over at Wal-Mart. [...]
The Mini's a $499 piece of hardware, but still, I'm inclined to wonder if it'll be the first true Impulse Buy computer. I can easily imagine someone wandering into a mall Apple Store and thinking You know, we've been thinking of buying a second computer for the house... The Mini's packaging and presentation seems to shrug and say 'Sure, why the hell not?'"

The megahertz race held off commoditization of computers for a long time, but at this point most of us have all the raw processing power we'll ever need. For years now, the performance bottleneck in the way most people use computers has been network bandwidth, not processing power. Increasingly, each new generation of mainstream computer models is likely to be substantially cheaper with only slightly faster performance, rather than substantially faster at only a slightly lower price. There will still be a high-end market for people doing serious video and the like, and Apple will continue to be all over that niche. Steve Jobs devoted a substantial portion of the keynote to Apple's video-related software products. But for the rest of the market, I think Apple has accepted the inevitable and decided to run with it.

At $499 it's not there yet, but a few years down the road, devices with the same power will sell for $99 or even $49. At that price, why not have one in every room in the house? And if the house is on a WiFi/Airport network, why not cluster them? Then if we do feel the need for a performance boost, we just stop by Best Buy on the way home from work and pick up another CPU to drop into the cluster. Gradually the computer fades into the background and processing becomes an invisible infrastructure service, like electric power (generated by the home fuel cell out in the garage next to the water heater?). Locations without computing capability to (wirelessly) plug into will become as rare as locations without electric lighting. Depending on availability of bandwidth, we'll keep our data--our Home folders and iTunes playlists, and possibly our applications--either on a server or on our cellphones.

Why cellphones? Obviously we'll want our data available anywhere and everywhere, and Firewire hard drives (like the iPod itself) are already plenty portable. But the ultimate limiting factor on the size of PDA-like or iPod-like devices is going to be the controls and displays, not the data storage, and they're not likely to shrink to a size where we won't notice we're carrying them. So why carry more than one device? Phones are already increasingly supplanting PDAs, and of course Motorola announced its iTunes-enabled phone last week. Since demand for mobile voice service isn't going away, and folding iPod-like functions into the phone is presumably easier than grafting a phone onto an iPod, the logical evolution is for everything to be absorbed by the cellphone.

Note the implications for Apple. It seems that iPods as such won't be around forever. The biggest rumor that didn't materialize at MWSF was the iPhone, so for now it appears that Steve has been telling the truth and Apple really isn't interested in entering that space. How about Macs? For now even Andy's impulse-buy Mac mini is a device that people are willing to devote time, thought, attention, and brand loyalty to. But it's hard to imagine a company like Apple that thrives on design and customer involvement producing the sort of commodity hardware that the mini points toward. So it seems that both of Apple's major product lines represent transitional technologies. Ultimately I think the cellphone is likely to pack a CPU as well--why not? Maybe that'll turn out to be the right time for an Apple iPhone, at least for a few more years until such superphones are commoditized too.

What else does this evolution leave for Apple? Obviously putting the CPU in a cellphone-sized package means no built-in CD/DVD drive, but even if network bandwidth doesn't end up making DVDs obsolete, I really can't see Apple as a peripheral drive maker (talk about your faceless commodities!). One element that, by its very nature, isn't going to fade into the background is the display, and I can easily see those continuing to get bigger rather than cheaper for quite some time yet. Even in recent iMacs, the computer seems to be vanishing into the display. There will probably also continue to be demand for laptops alongside superphones, since displays and optical drives won't be part of the ubiquitous background infrastructure. But the need for portability means laptop displays aren't going to get any bigger than they already are, so laptops are probably not far from commodity status either.

The big unknown, if things play out as I've envisioned them on the hardware side, is the software. Is the long-term master plan to make OS X (XI?) the operating system of the ubiquitous background computer? This is where my crystal ball starts to get cloudy....

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Slo-who-via?

The Glory of Carniola: ÖAMTC's 2004 Slovenia Travel Guide
Austria's auto club confuses Slovenia and Slovakia in print. Austrians, of all people, should know better.

Calm down, Bill!

billpalmer.net: "Apple can take its idiot box and stick it where the sun don't shine

For the love of God, it doesn't even come with a keyboard or mouse. You have just got to be kidding me. This just might turn out to be the darkest day in Macintosh history."

C'mon, Bill, tell us how you really feel.

Bill Palmer's not completely alone in his skepticism, but most of the other first reactions to the Mac mini have been positive, even giddy. I know I'll be buying one.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Texas Action Network (TexAN)

Texas Action Network (TexAN)

A collaborative effort among environmental, conservation and other public interest organizations to educate and mobilize their membership through an e-mail action alert system.

Fraser Speirs - Omni Group Loyalty Card

Fraser Speirs - Omni Card

Sunday, January 09, 2005

AroundAustin.Com: BookPeople--Austin's own bookstore

Worth a link:

AroundAustin.Com: BookPeople--Austin's own bookstore: "BookPeople--Austin's own bookstore


I go to Border's and occasionally Barnes & Noble like most people.  However, my favorite bookstore is Austin's own BookPeople. BookPeople began in 1970 in the student district at the edge of the University of Texas, Austin as Grok Books.  Now at 40,000 SF it's the largest independent bookstore in Texas."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Creative Commonists

Wired News: We're Creative Commonists, Bill: "When Bill Gates referred to copyright reformers as modern-day communists in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show, it didn't take long for the web community to respond with a big 'nyah-nyah-nyah.'


Bloggers and designers were quick to dream up 'creative communist' symbols, a play on one of the best-known groups working for copyright reform, Creative Commons."

Friday, January 07, 2005

My first post via ecto

My first post via ecto. Just trying it out.