David Weinberger's Weblog. Let's just see how it goes.
Monday, September 30, 2002
4Things to Look At
2. Web Collage generates collages from random images on the Web. It updates about once a minute.
3. Steve Himmer has an hilarious exposition on the meta-absurd copyright infringement case involving two silent recordings. It's just too wonderful for words. Of course, if I were to remain silent about it, I could expect an angry letter from the estate of John Cage.
4. At the palindromic I Love Me, Vol. I, you can see what happens when the sliding door of a radio station van is moved all the way to the left, especially if the radio station is called HITS.
9/30/2002 09:31:55 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, September 29, 2002
Copyright Common Sense
Jane Black writes in BusinessWeek online about the Eldred case about to be argued before the Supreme Court by Larry Lessig. At issue is whether copyrights can be extended past the point at which the cold dead fingers clutching the work have crumbled into a pile of greedy dust. It's a straightforward, well-written, balanced column that tells the truth and thus implicitly sides with Eldred.
I find this truly heartening. The hardcore arguments for Eldred/Lessig's position are all well and good and I believe every one of them. But we need much more than hardcore rants. We need our position to become common sense. Only thus can the tide be turned. Black's article helps, as do a slew of other mainstream articles to which Doc points.
Maybe there's hope for hope yet.
(Because I'm essentially a wuss, I won't point out that the Court that's deciding the case is 5/9ths asshole.)
9/29/2002 11:27:17 AM | PermaLink
Bogus Contest: Intellectual Whodunnits
AKMA writes with his usual refreshing candor about why, despite Margaret's irrefutable comparison of great suspense novels and Aquinas' Summa Theologica, one's a page turner and the other's snooze inducing.
Since the obvious answer is that we are naturally interested in the plight of other humans whereas the thrill of the intellectual hunt is an acquired taste, I got to thinking about the books I've read that combine personal narrative anda rigorous intellectual development.
The first book to pop into mind was Leon Wieseltier's Kaddish. As he does the ritual 11 months of daily temple-going to pray for his dead father, Wieseltier pursues an obscure question — Why does Kaddish fall exactly where it does in the service? — through centuries of Talmudic scholarship. It is a question in which I have absolutely no interest, but because the quest so clearly is the way that Wieseltier is grieving, the book is quite moving.
There must be a million other examples but to play the book's ideas have to be rigorously developed. For me, this excludes Jung's Autobiography, Robertson Davies' novels, anything written by Carlos Castaneda, and The Name of the Rose. Also, the works of Plato are excluded because they are, as apparently they say in golf, a gimme. What the hell, let's also exclude any autobiography by someone famous first for his or her intellectual development, e.g., St. Augustine's Confessions, because while those works recount how ideas were developed, they generally don't themselves develop the ideas.
Note that all rules will be applied with strict arbitrariness.
9/29/2002 11:08:57 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, September 28, 2002
"Changing Lanes" is better left unfinished
I just posted my first review at BlogCritics.org. Here's how it starts:
9/28/2002 12:22:27 PM | PermaLink
New "Get Your War On" comic strip is out
9/28/2002 10:43:36 AM | PermaLink
Getting Taken to Task
I completely agree. I should have put "intellectual property" in quotes. In fact, I've many times said exactly what Dylan says: We lost as soon as we allowed the term to go unchallenged.
Hmm, doesn't that mean that one of us must be a plagiarist?
I suspect that Dave and I don't actually disagree much. My column was in fact about the optimism and virtuousness of engineers, not a knock against them. But Dave's right: In my experience, software engineers are tremendously supportive of those they respect and tremendously cynical about those they suspect. So, I should have been more explicit about the domain of discourse within which engineering cynicism generally shows up: an engineer on a sales call isn't a mere skeptic.
9/28/2002 10:02:56 AM | PermaLink
Friday, September 27, 2002
Gurus in Their Own Write
Meanwhile, AKMA first explains why he can't live up to the high standards required for gurudom. And then, in responding to my post about plagiarism, he appears to be channeling Escher. Pretty durn funny, in a fractal, vanish-up-your-own-butt sort of way.
9/27/2002 11:09:49 AM | PermaLink
It's a bad thing when you come back from the feel-good Meet the Teachers night at the local, progressive public school and need a drink. After hearing what's in store for our 11 year old in sixth grade, Ann and I were shaken, angry and depressed.
After six blissful years of grading nothing, the school has decided to grade everything in sixth grade, in order to prepare the students for the "real world" of seventh grade. "When students know they're getting graded, their work just gets better," said the very fine teacher who educated our son's sisters. (No sarcasm: she's a terrific teacher.) How sad is that? And how's that for a meta-lesson: "Hey kid, want an extrinsic reward for doing schoolwork?"
On the positive side, I'm more sure than ever that I know what education is: Learning to love more and more of the world.
And before you accuse me of being nothing but a '60s dude (as if there were anything wrong with that), let me be specific: Education is learning to love the things we otherwise wouldn't know how to love, from Shakespeare to chemistry to Cubism to geometry to the history of Iraq. Learning how to do things — write in cursive, multiply numbers — is just a small part.
The culprits here are easy to identify since the staff of our local school is dedicated, loving, smart and thoughtful: It's raining stupidity from above. "Test and blame" is the message coming from the feds, the commonwealth and even the town.
Home schooling anyone?
9/27/2002 10:58:39 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, September 26, 2002
How to Become a Web Guru
(AKMA's article also spells out beautifully exactly why engineers frequently feel that cynicism is called for.)
9/26/2002 11:22:37 AM | PermaLink
Make Your Own Bush Speech
A cool Flash app. W speaks!
(Thanks, Martin Roell.)
9/26/2002 11:18:15 AM | PermaLink
Plagiarism and Copyright
Yet another public figure has had his reputation tarnished by plagiarism. The president of Hamilton College (Clinton, NY) has confessed that when greeting the incoming freshmen class, he used words first uttered by someone else. In this case, it was some phrases in a review of the book "Overnight Float." The president apologized abjectly and then explained that in speeches he "only occasionally" uses the "systematic footnoting" required in scholarly works.
How absurd. As absurd as pillorying authors who didn't alter phrases enough to meet some tastes but who cited the works in their footnotes.
I take it back. Asserting rights of possession over the wording of footnoted phrases — or of humiliating a college president because he didn't put footnotes into a welcoming address — isn't just absurd. It threatens to put up passport control points every ten feet in the landscape of ideas.
And doesn't it seem obvious that this is being fueled by the rush to lock up intellectual property on the Net? We are able to exert such exquisite control over every phrase we utter digitally that the real world is looking intolerably sloppy. So we're raising the stakes in the real world, and waving indignant fingers at people who demonstrably weren't trying to get away with anything. If you want to see how the Internet is affecting expectations in the real world, look no further. Too bad in this case it's the worst of the Net that's having an effect.
Official notification and confession is hereby made that the following words ("WORDS") were used in this public communication ("COMMUNICATION") with the full awareness that WORDS may have been used in writings or other public expressions protected by copyright, trademark and Geneva conventions covering luggage. No representation is hereby made or implied that WORDS were the unique creation of the author of COMMUNICATION. The author of COMMUNICATION apologizes profusely for whatever pain s/he may have inflicted and hereby renounces without hesitation or scruple any claims, rights, injunctions or prohibitions on WORDS.
YET ANOTHER PUBLIC FIGURE HAS HAD HIS REPUTATION TARNISHED BY PLAGIARISM THE PRESIDENT OF HAMILTON COLLEGE CLINTON NY CONFESSED THAT WHEN GREETING INCOMING FRESHMEN CLASS HE USED WORDS FIRST UTTERED SOMEONE ELSE IN THIS CASE IT WAS SOME PHRASES A REVIEW BOOK OVERNIGHT FLOAT APOLOGIZED ABJECTLY AND THEN EXPLAINED SPEECHES ONLY OCCASIONALLY USES SYSTEMATIC FOOTNOTING REQUIRED SCHOLARLY WORKS HOW ABSURD AS PILLORYING AUTHORS WHO DIDN'T ALTER ENOUGH TO MEET TASTES BUT CITED THEIR FOOTNOTES I TAKE BACK ASSERTING RIGHTS POSSESSION OVER WORDING FOOTNOTED OR HUMILIATING BECAUSE PUT INTO WELCOMING ADDRESS ISN'T JUST THREATENS UP PASSPORT CONTROL POINTS EVERY TEN FEET LANDSCAPE IDEAS DOESN'T SEEM OBVIOUS IS BEING FUELED RUSH LOCK INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ON NET WE ARE ABLE EXERT SUCH EXQUISITE PHRASE UTTER DIGITALLY REAL WORLD LOOKING INTOLERABLY SLOPPY SO WE'RE RAISING STAKES WAVING INDIGNANT FINGERS AT PEOPLE DEMONSTRABLY WEREN'T TRYING GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING IF YOU WANT SEE INTERNET AFFECTING EXPECTATIONS LOOK NO FURTHER TOO BAD IT'S WORST THAT'S HAVING AN EFFECT NOTE FACTUAL INFORMATION BLOG ENTRY COMES FROM AP REPORT BOSTON GLOBE SEPT 25 MAY HAVE BEEN STOLEN LARRY LESSIG SUE ME BRING BABY
9/26/2002 10:50:17 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Tom Peters and Branding
I got to be in the live audience yesterday of a Tom Peters webinar where for an hour he railed, riffed on great quotes, told stories, and test-i-fied. Hell of a performance. While the rest of us are nattering among ourselves, Tom is out making converts among the heathen. Go, Tom!
I nodded my head continuously for an hour. Business is about passion. Leadership is about being able to say "I don't know." "Don't rebuild. Reimagine." "Don't hire someone who had a 4.0 GPA. The definition of a 4.0 student is someone who's bought the act." And he tells how the war in Afghanistan was fought much more efficiently because direct, person-to-person communication was enabled — Instant Messaging was way important among stealth soldiers on the ground — rather than mediated through the Last War hierarchy of command.
And then he talks about branding and I find myself struggling to translate it into language I understand. Tom tells us to brand ourselves at work. My hackles go up because corporate branding suffers from two flaws: First, it reduces rich complexity to an annoying jingle. Second, branding exercises are the most cynical activities companies engage in. People sit in a room — I've been there — and try to come up with a corporate image that will sell. It has no connection to what the company is about. Can this be what Peters recommends that we do to ourselves?
No, it's not. Although Peters doesn't use the word "authenticity," he assumes it as a value. The people he admires aren't faking it. In fact, they've shaken free of the corporate pose that says that managers can never admit weakness, are not permitted to risk an original idea, and must "not rock the boat." So, when Tom tells us to brand ourselves, he does not mean that we should invent a persona. He means we should work on figuring out who we really and what we really do for the business.
That's what I tell myself as I cringe hearing the "brand" word applied to individuals. Tom's really talking about the enthusiastic embrace of self-understanding. He puts it in terms of "branding" because his audiences consider corporate branding to be a good thing.
I find it more useful — given my wanting to hurl when I hear "branding" — to think in terms of "reputation," a term that's begun to be used in place of "brand" in some corporate marketing departments. "Reputation" has three big differences from "brand": Reputations are earned, reputations are bestowed by others, and reputations can be rich and multifaceted.
Brand myself? Nah. Let me build a reputation. That's how I take Peters' talk of self branding.
On the other hand, Peters has been getting through to businesspeople for twenty years while we've been nattering. For example, last night at dinner, the waitress said that everyone at the restaurant is taught to be creative and human in their responses and to exhibit their passion for their job. The source? In Search of Excellence. Too cool.
[The fact that Peters ran an interview with me on his site last May certainly has not affected my opinion of him. I've been liking what he says for 20 years now.]
9/25/2002 12:40:20 PM | PermaLink
The Virtue of Engineer's Cynicism
Kevin Marks and Maf Vosburgh four years ago wrote, "Code and Personality: How to tell your personality type from your code" an amusing yet instructive guide to with copious examples of source code.
9/25/2002 09:37:35 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Googling for terror (and the Homeland Security page sucks less)
Peter Kaminski writes to a mailing list:
And why is it that if you google "oil", "war on terror," or "saddam," there are no ads, but "homeland security" has eight?
W. David Stephenson points out that the official Homeland Security homepage has been redone. Less overt PR for Ridge and Bush, but still a gigantic missed opportunity.
Frankly, I liked it better when it was an embarrassment. At least then we had something to laugh about. Oh well, there's always the video of W trying to get a cliche right.
9/24/2002 09:30:37 AM | PermaLink
Rot in Hell
I heard from Macy's and GiftCertificates.com that someone bought hundreds of dollars' worth of gift certificates online using my credit card. Obviously, I cancelled the card immediately.
Lessons to draw from this?
1. I was impressed that the two establishments caught the anomalous behavior.
2. I never had a serious worry about being stuck for the cost of the stolen goods.
3. It's not at all clear that my card number was stolen because of my own online use of it. It could have been any real world vendor who jotted down the number.
Overall: My confidence in the safety of online buying remains unshaken. I don't like the rest of you stinking humans as much as I once did, but I'll get over it.
9/24/2002 09:21:07 AM | PermaLink
People opening spam
According to Masha Geller's newsletter at MediaPost, a new DoubleClick report says: "The overall click-through rate for industry text emails was 7%, while Html emails was 10%."
Say wha'?? People on average not only open 7-10% of their spam but actually click on links in them? No wonder I'm getting so much spam! Will you morons stop clicking already?? You're ruining it for the rest of us!
Here's the overall clickthrough percentages by industry:
9/24/2002 09:11:34 AM | PermaLink
Monday, September 23, 2002
The LA Times has run an article, by David Streitfeld, about Lawrence Lessig and his crusade for reasonable copyright laws. Great reading. And, as Doc has pointed out, this is published right in the heart of the Copyright Cops, the Rustlers on the Commons, the Vandals of Fair Use, i.e., Hollywood.
Among the good points: Lessig uses Walt Disney as his poster boy since Disney himself took advantage of stories that had passed into the public domain as the basis for his early cartoon successes. And, Lessig tells about Sony's lawyers informing an owner of an Aibo robotic dog that he is not permitted to reprogram it to dance to jazz.
Then there's this bit of insight:
Most unexpected fact: "Lessig was a professional singer as a child..."
9/23/2002 10:55:59 AM | PermaLink
An Email Riot
Chris Gaither has a delightful account in The Boston Globe of a 14-hour email riot among students and relatives at Wesleyan University. A msg with a typo got sent to an administrative mailing list. As people tried unsuccessfully to unsubscribe, others told them that if everyone just shut up, traffic on the mailing list would cease. Others took it as an opportunity to goof. 300,000 msgs later, the list was shut down.
An anomaly, yes. And what do we conclude from it, hmm?
Note: The Globe will lock up the link after a few days.
9/23/2002 10:08:03 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Truth to Power
Andrius Kulikauskas couldn't take it any more. A general-purpose list we're on together has been going on about the coming war against Iraq, slowly descending into "How dare you insinuate"s and "If you just want to pose and exaggerate, then go ahead"s. He replied with this long message about his personal experience speaking truth to power, and truth to fear, and truth to neediness, at the most local level.
Andrius is enough of an idealist that he is sometimes shocked by the cyncism most of us take for granted. And lord bless him for it. And he never lies. This is worth reading.
9/22/2002 03:11:01 PM | PermaLink
The Boston Globe's "Ideas" section has an excellent article by Elaine Scarry, who teaches at Harvard, on why a distributed defense makes sense. Here's the way the headline writer put it:
After a careful and persuasive analysis of what worked (bottom-up action coordinated via cellphones and loved ones) and what didn't (centralized defense via scrambling jet fighters) on Sept. 11 after the first planes hit, Scarry enlarges the idea to nuclear policy, concluding that the world will not give up these "monarchic weapons" (because they are to be used without any consent by the citizenry) until the U.S. does.
The Ideas section of the Sunday Globe is only two weeks old, an expansion of the intellectual content of the journal after it contracted its book section a few months ago. Scarry's article is exactly the sort of piece that will make this section work: provocative without extremism, broadening in scope as it moves along rather than narrowing to details, and very nicely written.
Note: The Globe locks up its content after a few days because it would rather make a few bucks than be a continuing presence in the world's global conversation.
In poking around the Web about Scarry, I immediately found an interview with her (by David Bowman) at Salon about the relationship of beauty and justice. What a remarkable thinker.
9/22/2002 08:51:06 AM | PermaLink
My e-pal Gilbert Cattoire has joined Annotis.com, an outfit that provides a toolbar for your mail client that lets you do all sorts of funky things to your HTML-based email, like add customized stamps, highlight text, annotate text and add sticky notes. The recipient doesn't have to use Annotis to see what you've done, of course. It costs $25, and there's a 30-day free trial. Only Outlook and Outlook Express users need apply at this time.
9/22/2002 08:37:58 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, September 21, 2002
That Darn Web!
From Jonathan Arnold on a mailing list comes a rudely funny link: Taliban Reunited.
Dick Joltes, from the same list, recommends the latest in innovative services for today's highly leveraged executives: Cadaver, Inc.
9/21/2002 10:54:50 AM | PermaLink
The Voice of the Demographic, um, People
The FX cable channel, owned by Rupert Murdoch, plans to do an "American Idol" style show where the winner doesn't get to perform live on the Regis show but does get to run for president, according to an AP article:
Just when you think it couldn't get any fucking stranger.
9/21/2002 01:25:30 AM | PermaLink
Friday, September 20, 2002
Give Wood's Lot $5
From Euan Semple of The Obvious:
You'll find a PayPal button conveniently on The Obvious site.
9/20/2002 06:09:18 PM | PermaLink
Can't Fool Bush
I've captured from The Daily Show the clip of W struggling to say "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Notice the look of abject fear as he realizes that he's going to muff it and it's going to end up on the news, and on damn fool weblogs.
And so it has.
Higher res version of Windows Media file (wmv) (2.2MB) for broader band users
9/20/2002 04:57:33 PM | PermaLink
World Domination, Part 2
I think he's right that the article that cites the report imputes a close tie to the administration that may not be there. On the other hand, the new, official Bush Doctrine statement at the White House site reflects the ideas in that initial report all too closely.
Mitch Ratcliffe does a good job blogging about why the the Bush Doctrine is immoral, scary and impractical. Hey, I knew it was going to be bad, but I wasn't expecting a trifecta!
9/20/2002 02:07:47 PM | PermaLink
Fax your US Representatives
Common Cause has a page where you can fax a message to your Congressional representatives.
Here's what I faxed this morning to Sen. Kerry, Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Barney Frank:
[Thanks. Chip, for the link.]
9/20/2002 09:28:17 AM | PermaLink
Enterprise Blogging: Fact or Reality?
InformationWeek's "Secret CIO," who writes under the pseudonym "Herbert W. Lovelace," in the September 9 issue takes aim at enterprise blogging because it takes time away from real work, and if successful, it's hugely distracting:
The column puts well what I expect the corporate response to blogging to be. I imagine talking with a CIO who straightens his rep tie and says:
Here's what I want to say to The Secret CIO:
9/20/2002 09:11:03 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, September 19, 2002
9/19/2002 10:28:12 PM | PermaLink
Dept. of Inappropriate F*ckingTitles
That's the title of an article in "The Integration Survival Guide," the "Official Publication of Business Integration Conference Services."
Oy veh! What were the titles they threw out? "Heil Integration"? "Integration: The Final Solution"? "Integration Macht Frei"?
9/19/2002 09:39:03 PM | PermaLink
What happened to security?
This morning I made it all the way to the final boarding line at Logan Airport in Boston without once having to show any ID. After swiping my credit card to get my printed boarding pass, I went through the security checkpoint without anyone asking to see my ticket or ID. The only time I had to whip out my wallet was when they were doing the meet, greet and ticket-rip at the entrance to the jetway. This contrasts with the last time I was at Logan a couple of months ago when I had to show ID every 10 minutes.
Of course, what could possibly happen at Logan Airport?
9/19/2002 09:29:33 PM | PermaLink
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
On the road...
I have a one-day trip to NJ tomorrow, beginning with a 6:30AM flight and returning in the evening. Thus, depending on the state of Wifi in the Garden State I may not be blogging. Do try to carry on without me.
BTW, I'm trying out a new presentation for these CIOs: Messiness as a Virtue.
But I'm still gonna iron my pants and put on a clean shirt.
9/18/2002 06:26:26 PM | PermaLink
The Golden Age of Dreaming
I don't know about you, but most of my dreams aren't nightmares and most aren't particularly delightful. Usually, stuff just happens. Why then do we use the word "dream" as if it meant "delightful" or "perfect"?
My theory, based on nothing: When "dream" was first associated with "ideal," it made sense because our dreams were better. Our dreams have been in decline ever since.
9/18/2002 06:23:37 PM | PermaLink
Katriel Richman, and old e-acquaintance in Israel, writes:
It's a 5-day bike ride from Jerusalem to Eliat to raise money for the Alyn Pediatric Hospital in Jerusalem, "Israel's only rehabilitation center for disabled children and young adults that offers a full gamut of medical, paramedical and educational services seasoned with love and dedication."
Katriel doesn't mention that of course Alyn is open to Palestinian children as well as Israeli kids because that's taken for granted.
You can give online at Network for Good. Katriel would appreciate if you were to fill in the "Designation" line with the words "Wheels of Love" and the "Dedication" line with the name of the rider you wish to sponsor (Katriel Reichman), but he'd appreciate it more if you just gave something.
Emily Skarzenski reminds us about The Hunger Site where simply clicking causes sponsors to donate to projects to reduce world hunger.
9/18/2002 10:44:52 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Free Yang Jianli
Yang Jianli, a resident of Brookline, MA where I live, is being held by the Chinese government. He was a Tianamen protestor who , after being refused a passport many times, traveled back to China for a visit using a false one. He was caught and has been kept incommunicado.
The following letter has been signed by a number of US Congresspeople. If your representative's name isn't at the bottom of this message, could you please write or call him/her to urge him/her to sign?
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX
9/17/2002 02:46:29 PM | PermaLink
Axis of Everything
Pick any three countries and see what they're the axis of. Great site.
9/17/2002 02:09:08 PM | PermaLink
Odlyzko on Broadband Adoption
Andrew Odlyzko sent the following to the attendees of a small conference I was at recently:
These figures come from an article called "The Many Paradoxes of Broadband."
9/17/2002 01:59:54 PM | PermaLink
Monday, September 16, 2002
Deciding the Net's Future
Freedom to create innovate
Dan's assessment of the decisions we're in the process of making in each of these areas is pretty glum. And, unfortunately, hard to argue with.
9/16/2002 08:39:55 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, September 15, 2002
Blind to Color Blind
When I was designing my blog, I made the aesthetic decision to remove the underlines from the links because underlines are such horrid little things. Instead, I made my links red, which I thought made them distinctive without making them like they were words I particularly wanted to emphasize.
Ralph Brandi wrote to me yesterday. Ralph is color blind. My links don't look like links to him. Nor to anyone else with reg-green color blindness. So, the underlines are back in. For example, when I tell you that Ralph's blog is here, you'll see "here" underlined.
This being the day before Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, I hope Ralph and his color-blind sisters and brothers will forgive me.
9/15/2002 02:05:09 PM | PermaLink
A Global Conspiracy
Chip forwards a link to what may be an important article in the Sunday Herald that claims that the "regime change" in Iraq is part of a larger plan put together by Bush's cronies before he took office:
It is literally a plan for US global domination. Or, more exactly, a plan to make our global domination more thorough, direct and undeniable.
Peter Kaminski points us to the actual report, Rebuilding America's Defenses.
9/15/2002 09:10:11 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, September 14, 2002
Portrait of Bloggers Not Giving Me the Finger
AKMA sends along the following lovely snap of Margaret, Pippa and Si, and fellow bloggers Halley Comment Suitt and Steve OnePotMeal Himmer on a lovely Sunday afternoon in a park in Boston, thinking of me.
9/14/2002 02:58:45 PM | PermaLink
Why being a liberal really isn't fun
John D. Erickson took issue with my entry on why being a liberal isn't fun, writing in an email:
Yeah, I suppose, maybe, mumble mumble. I.e., nail on the head, John.
9/14/2002 09:10:42 AM | PermaLink
Friday, September 13, 2002
Cynics at the UN
The scene: a conference room in the White House
"Look," says the senior advisor, "They won't let us take this bastard out unless we have [making air quotes with fingers] an 'international coalition' behind us to cover our ass? Fine. Let's go to the UN."
The air pressure in the room drops as people gasp. There are outraged murmurs of "The UN??," and "No freaking way we're going to there!" and "My heavens, why on earth would we cede any authority to that illegitimate attempt to destroy our national sovereignty?"
"No, you're missing the point. We go to the UN and make our case. But here's the beauty part. Since we don't have evidence connecting Iraq to Al Qaeda..."
"Hell," interrupts someone, "We'd have to bomb Saudi Arabia if that were the point!"
"... And since we don't have evidence of plants building weapons of mass destruction, we'll say this is all about his failure to abide by UN resolutions. And we'll get the UN to issue our ultimatum for us, one that Saddam can't and won't honor..."
"Besides," adds a voice, "'honoring' is such a subjective term." [Snickers]
"... And then we go in with full UN backing."
A chorus of voices responds:
"We get Saddam and we pervert the UN at the same time!"
"And all without even paying the money we owe to the UN!"
"And we can get Russia to side with us in the Security Council by agreeing to look the other way as they bomb the crap out of Cechnya!"
"Pooty-poot will eat it right up! Sweet!"
"Gentlemen and lady, a toast! To the United Nations, at last showing its value by making the world safe for war."
9/13/2002 09:14:38 AM | PermaLink
Am I Spam? Spam I am
I just heard from a subscriber to my newsletter (which you could be for free if you clicked here) that SpamAssassin and its Windows version, Spamnix, decided that my latest issue was spam and didn't deliver it. So, now I may have to send a follow-on notice to all my subscribers asking them if they received the issue, the type of needless annoyance we use spam filters to prevent.
By the way, my 70K ASCII newsletter apparently got flagged because I put article titles in caps, because a robot found it pornographic (probably because of my Freudian analysis of Bush), and because it thinks I use "\#" as a filename (I don't).
You know what? False positives are unacceptable in a spam filter, especially one that doesn't even tell you what it's filtering out.
If you subscribe to my newsletter and didn't get a copy yesterday, please let me know. I bitterly thank you.
9/13/2002 09:09:50 AM | PermaLink
New issue of JOHO
I've published a new issue of my newsletter. Here are the contents:
9/13/2002 01:38:16 AM | PermaLink
Shirky on Community
Clay Shirky's written another sterling essay, this time on the nature of communities vs. broadcasting and why only fools think they're going to take their broadcast audience and build a really cool community and everyone will come and like hang out and then they'll be like all popular and everything.
The essay make five points:
Clay is one of my favorites.
9/13/2002 01:02:35 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Why aren't liberals fun?
I confess to being a knee-jerk, pacifist-leaning, NPR-listening, white-wine-swilling, heart-bleeding, Kennedy-voting, cigarette-banning, tie-dye-wearing, Mondale-mourning, Vineyard-vacationing, West-Wing-Tivo-ing, decade-old-spare-joints-in-a-bottom-drawer-stashing, male-distrusting, race-apologizing, criminal-coddling Jewish atheist pointy-headed bleeding-heart middle class middle aged Liberal.
So, Alex Beam's column in the Boston Globe today was thought-provoking. (I usually find his writing just plain old provoking.) He points out that the Conservatives have much more fun than we do. They get to drive in their SUV's, blow up bad guys, and rant on talk shows about how the media don't give conversatives any air time.
There's something to this. They're the Bad Boys/Girls. We're the scolds. It'd be real good to make Liberalism fun again.
Again? Yes, kiddies, there was a time when being a lefty-liberal meant that you were cool and the conservatives were squares. We got to smoke dope while they watched John Wayne movies. We got free sex while they reproduced via the missionary position. We got to rethink the world while they were pledging their allegiance. If nothing else, the left was the happenin' place to be. Now it's as glamorous as sensible shoes.
We should work on changing this. Maybe a new hairstyle or something.
9/12/2002 12:45:53 PM | PermaLink
LA Times on Blogging
There's a particularly thoughtful article by Renee Tawa about blogging and Journalism in the LA Times today. Best of all: Not a word about "teenagers writing about what they had for breakfast."
9/12/2002 11:41:50 AM | PermaLink
CNN is a putz
I like the idea of CNN's breaking news service. When there's news that's significant and urgent, CNN sends me an email to let me know. Thus has email replaced PointCast as the "push" technology of choice for me.
So, yesterday is September 11. In addition to the grief, occasionally overwhelmed by the beating of the war drums, there was the "heightened state of alertness" posted by everyone's favorite bluegrass group, Tom Ridge and the DC Fear Boys. So, when an email came from cnn.com with the subject line "Breaking news!," I tore it open expecting to read about a new outrage or calamity.
It was with more peevedness than relief that I learned that the urgent, significant news was that Johnny Unitas had passed peacefully from us. I should have known: cnn.com's news alerts routinely are trivial, no-need-to-know items with no long- or short-term bearing on my life.
What next? "Britney Reunites with Justin!"? Stop the presses! "Jack Welch Had Another Affair!"? Hold my calls! "Matt Lauer Regrets Haircut!"? Alert the media! Oh, wait, you are the media.
And, no, there is no way to set preferences at cnn.com for this "service."
9/12/2002 10:47:36 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
I've got nothing worth the electrons today.
9/11/2002 08:48:30 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
(Thanks S. Lamb)
9/10/2002 01:24:49 PM | PermaLink
Jacob on Faith and 9/11
Jacob Shwirtz blogs a response to my question "What did a faithful person see when he/she saw that attack on the World Trade Center." From a Jewish point of view, according to Jacob, we didn't see God and Satan arm wrestling....well, Jacob describes it better than I.
9/10/2002 11:17:44 AM | PermaLink
Removing the yap from remembrance
9/10/2002 10:26:35 AM | PermaLink
Yahoo the Censor
Yahoo has eliminated the email account for a long-term user, the Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace. From its home page, LMNO4P seems to be your basic community lefty-pacifist vigil-attendin', Pete Seeger-singin' peace group. According to the group, Yahoo says the account was turned off and the mailing list was deleted because the group violated Yahoo's service agreement, but Yahoo won't tell the group what its violation was. Yahoo does say that accounts are only terminated in response to complaints.
In a display of subtle, pre-emptive anti-Semitism, the group says: "We think Yahoo! overreacted to a complaint by someone who disagrees with our politics, especially our public support for peace & justice in Palestine," although it has no evidence of this. When in doubt, let's blame the damn Zionists.
It's bad enough that Yahoo is censoring groups it doesn't like, worse that the groups seem innocuous, and worst that it's denying any accountability. You might consider moving from Yahoo before it decides it doesn't like what you have to say, either.
9/10/2002 09:26:55 AM | PermaLink
Bring out your dead
The Veepers technology from Pulse3D animates a still photo of a face and adds the sort of mouth movement familiar from the movie "Babe" (you know, the talking pig) synced up with a voice track. The results are somewhere between laughable and ghoulish, especially after the talking head has finished and remains staring at you, randomly bobbing and twitching.
Seeing it for yourself requires a small download. There's an example here.
9/10/2002 09:16:24 AM | PermaLink
Jumping the Loan Shark
It was just a few days ago that I suggested ways for The Sopranos to jump the shark. And today, Steven Van Zandt is quoted in the paper — stealing my idea — saying that it'd be just swell if Bruce Springsteen were to make a guest shot.
9/10/2002 08:35:54 AM | PermaLink
Ah, the good old ads
At TheOldComputer.com you can download old TV commercials advertising computer and video games, back when sprites were sprites and there really was no reason to add color to Pong.
9/10/2002 08:28:33 AM | PermaLink
Monday, September 09, 2002
More goodness from Dan Gillmor. In a column about what we can do to make our homeland more secure, he says that broadband is central to securing our information infrastructure since it allows data to be distributed rather than clustered in cities. (He also comes up with some crackpot ideas about using renewable energy, conserving, etc. Those West Coasters are just so nutty! )
9/9/2002 12:17:59 PM | PermaLink
Ten Decisions that Shaped the Net
Dan Gillmor writes up the presentation Scott Bradner — one of the people who has shaped the Internet from the beginning — gave at the stealth conference I was at. Scott's presentation was brilliant and Dan synthesizes it perfectly. If you care about what really made the Internet into what it is, this is must reading.
Dan also points to some pretty durn funny UI humor.
9/9/2002 10:27:56 AM | PermaLink
EBooks still suck
From another reading list comes this quote from a study about ebooks:
9/9/2002 09:03:37 AM | PermaLink
AKMA and Margaret Transcend the Blogsphere
AKMA and Margeret dropped by last night, thus disproving a rumor: I can now confirm that they are indeed corporeal.
They schlepped all the way to our home late-ish because Ann and I spent the weekend at my in-laws' celebrating Rosh Hashonah (Happy 5763, everybody!), and then they stayed late because we were having fun.
AKMA wasted no time in raising the hermeneutical issue that he's been working on, a version of which he and I blogged about in the thread we now refer to as The Topic that Drove Away Our Readers.
But it's a really important topic, and one that has also deeply engaged both Margaret and Ann, because it unjams science, ethics, and the relationship of the world's religions. To my surprise, we didn't resolve it once and for all, but hearing AKMA and Margaret describe the current state of biblical studies gave me a much better understanding of the issues they face.
We will do this again, Margaret and AKMA. This is non-negotiable demand.
9/9/2002 08:38:07 AM | PermaLink
Wifi wants to be free
D.C. Denison at the Globe has an excellent article on the state of Wifi distribution. There are about 100 hotspots in Boston now, and over 150 in NYC. Still, those numbers sem paltry. But it'll change; Denison quotes Sarah Kim, an analyst with The Yankee Group:
Mainly what will drive adoption is that it's easier to create a hotspot than to force people to pay for it. Denison recounts the story of Michael Oh. On Labor Day, Michael positioned a black Saturn Coupe with a 6-foot Wifi antenna across the street from a Starbucks. Starbucks charges $3 for every 15 minutes of use, while Oh's Saturn charged $0.00 for all-day usage. The reaction of the company that provides Starbucks with connectivity actually was pretty enlightened: ''There's a place for those vendors. But our customers want to know who they are dealing with. They want security and the reliability that comes with a real network company."
But mainly we want free connectivity everywhere.
You can read Denison's article here until the Globe locks it in its 15-minutes-for-$3 archive.
9/9/2002 08:17:23 AM | PermaLink
More clicks than needed
I thank Norton Anti-Virus for discovering that my laptop caught the Nimda virus last night. I've come down with Nimda few times in the past couple of months. But, Nimda works by placing a file in a high percentage of the directories on your hard drive. For each file, Norton Anti-Virus puts up a dialogue box asking if you want to get rid of the infected file. Several thousand clicks later, you have a virus-free machine.
Yo, Symantec, you mighty maker of Norton Anti-Virus: How about putting in a button that says: "Shall we remove in one blow all the nasty files created by this despicable virus, or would you like to look at every single one in case some make a plea for their lives that you find compelling?"
9/9/2002 08:04:12 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, September 08, 2002
Explaining it to Ashcroft
Ralph Quezada has written a letter to John Ashcroft that tries to carefully explain to him how the Congress is getting copyright law wrong. If you like it, you can e-sign it, as I have. (Thanks to Kevin Marks for the link.)
9/8/2002 08:36:08 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, September 07, 2002
The Telecom story
Here's what I said during my five minutes at the front of the room at the stealth telecom conference I was at this week:
The strong sense of the room is that the telecom incumbents are going to go Chapter 11 in the next 1.5-5 years. I've asked every one of the people on the panel yesterday [on this topic] and they all agree that the best thing would be for the fire to burn bright and fast. And they — we — all fear that the government will try to resuscitate the corpse, pumping money into these companies.
To prevent this, we need a new myth. Not just a story, but the framework for stories.
The current myth is that the telcos have hit a bad patch but if they go away, then we lose our dial tone. We need to present a different picture. It's not simply that the telcos are a crumbling castle. It's that they're holding back a wave of innovation that will not only ensure the continuity of dial tone but will make life much better for us.
We don't have to tell the story about the doom of the telcos. They'll fall on their own.We should be out telling the upbeat, excited, enthusiastic story of the world that's waiting to happen once the old edifice falls: the innovation, the global connectedness, the scalable and robust network bringing us continuous service. Otherwise, our legislators will continue to identify AT&T and dial tones and will think that the only way to ensure service, cast as a Homeland Security requirement, is to prop up AT&T.
So let's go out and mythologize!
9/7/2002 10:54:36 AM | PermaLink
Friday, September 06, 2002
What faith sees
I asked AKMA what a person of faith saw when he saw the events of 9/11. I saw human mayhem. What did a faithful person see?
AKMA replies. I'm really glad I asked.
9/6/2002 11:57:07 AM | PermaLink
Stop that Talking in the Back of the Classroom
I'm in a beautiful room with 50 people smarter than me. We're sitting in a four concentric half-circle rows, all pointing at the hub. Three people are at the hub, staging a panel discussion. This is an extremely informal group. Over the past three years, the conference has gotten more formal because it — properly, IMO — started at an extreme of conversational anarchy. Each year we better understand what limits will be helpful.
This year, the organizer required all atatendees to arrive with a laptop and an 802.11 Wifi card so we can all participate in an online chat even while presentations are going on. The conversations are posted on a large ooh-I-want-one plasma screen at the front.
I've been interested in the way the online conversation organizes itself. Here's what's the chat room been used for:
Competitive speed posting of links related to whatever the speaker has just said.
Questions about what the speaker has just said, e.g., what's that acronym?
Occasional challenges to what the speaker is saying, usually with no followups from anyone, as if criticizing the speaker were bad form (as it probably is).
It was as distracting as having a news crawl at the bottom of the screen as the news reader is talking about some event. But in this case the distraction was directly related to what's being said on the main stage.
It's been a worthwhile experiment. I noticed a change during the times the big screen was down. Talk got looser. Knowing that everyone in the room is going to hear your wise cracks inhibits the wise cracks (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Next time, I'd vote for keeping the chat board but taking down the screen; comments from the back of the room are more valuable if they stay in the back.
9/6/2002 11:12:25 AM | PermaLink
The coming ice age
At the stealth conference I'm at we just heard from David Gallo from the Woods Hole Oceanic Institute (WHOI) who has explained that we're entering into a mini-ice age in the next 10-15 years that will drop temperatures 10-15 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the northeastern US and northern Europe. It will last 200-300 years. It is due to the current warming cycle which is melting the polar ice caps which is putting fresh water into the Atlantic which is disrupting the flow of warm air up the coast of the US and cycling down to Europe.
9/6/2002 11:00:23 AM | PermaLink
Yet more links again
Yet more links from the stealth conference I'm still at. These also come from the conversation on the chat board simultanteous with the front-of-the-room presentations.
9/6/2002 08:48:39 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, September 05, 2002
Yet more links from a stealth conference
More links from the conference I'm at. These come from the discussion going on on the chat board displayed at the front of the room.
Andrew ODLYZKO īs home page
9/5/2002 05:01:52 PM | PermaLink
More links from a conference
More links from the simultaneous chat board at the stealth conference I'm at:
Note on Congressīs role in pushing privatization
9/5/2002 11:15:51 AM | PermaLink
Links from a conference
I'm at a small telecom conference that the organizers would prefer be unidentified. The room is, of course, WiFi-ed. The conference has its own chat room which is displayed on a large screen at the front of the room so we can comment on what's being said at the front of the room. Much of the commentary consists of links, posted at the speed of typing, of links that relate to what the speaker is saying. The links have been great. Here are the ones I've collected so far:
9/5/2002 09:44:24 AM | PermaLink
Jeff Jacoby in his column in the Boston Globe today reports on a questionnaire he gave to the candidates for governor. One question was: "Name a position you take that is clearly out of step with most of your party." Jill Stein, the doomed Green Party candidate gave an answer I particular liked: In the Green Party it can be "hard to tell if you're out of step or just part of a good discussion."
9/5/2002 08:41:10 AM | PermaLink
If Iraq has weapons of mass destruction (= nukes and germs) and if Saddam is such a threat to us, why hasn't he used those weapons yet? Presumably because he knows that if he were to attack the US, or if an attack were tied to him, we would bomb the mother-loving shit out of his country. Deterrence is ugly but effective.
But it only works until the war begins. Then Saddam has no reason not to use everything he's got against us.
Why do we suddenly think that the certainty of massive retaliatory strikes by the US is no longer enough? Or are there other reasons (= oil and Oedipus) for starting a war against Iraq?
(For the record - as if someone were counting - if there were plants producing nukes or germs in Iraq, I would have little moral problem with our blowing them up, as Israel did in the early '80s. Illegal? Sure. But ultimately it'd make the world a better place. And, no, I don't think this is symmetrical: Iraq shouldn't blow up our nuclear capability. Why this lack of symmetry? It's not a matter of ethics but a question what would make the more stable. Of course, I am also here making some conservative judgments about the value of the world order that I'm interested in stabilizing.)
9/5/2002 08:37:03 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
I'm at a small conference on the telecommunications industry. The room is lousy with very smart people, almost all Telecom Rebels of one sort or another. The general consensus: A telecommunications industry meltdown is underway. A trillion dollars in debt. No way out. It's just a matter of time — and not a lot of time — before the giants go Chapter 11. They are trying to artificially maintain the value of an outmoded network infrastructure and are in the way of delivering bandwidth to every home.
And that's the good news, relatively speaking. The telco collapse will take pension funds with it. And then real estate bubble will pop.
Drink up, my friends.
Note: I helped David Isenberg, a gen-yoo-ine telecom guru, write the Net Paradox to explain what's happening.
9/4/2002 08:17:12 PM | PermaLink
Halley throws a conference
Halley is helping to run a conference on "Next Generation Growth." It's a Harvard Business conference (sponsored by Microsoft) and already has some interesting people attending, including Dan Gillmor, some international journalists and Andy Grove.
9/4/2002 05:59:30 PM | PermaLink
What faith saw on 9/11
I couldn't see last night's PBS Frontline show on the religious response to 9/11. Too bad since I remain curious about how people of faith see the event. I appreciate AKMA's response to this question, and of course I agree that it's a question raised not only by 9/11 but also by the Holocaust and the holocausts we have survived. Indeed, the question is raised every time a child dies of hunger or sickness. It's called the problem of evil and it has been with us since the beginning.
AKMA faces the whirlwind and concludes that we can't answer the question "Where was God?" when terrible events happen. And it would be unreasonable to expect AKMA to answer the question that has beset the greatest minds of our culture(s), the question every grieving parents asks.
My question is different. When a faithful person saw the World Trade Center collapse, what did he or she see? I saw a purposeful act of mayhem by humans. I didn't see God and I didn't even see God's absence or His abandonment of us.
What did the faithful see?
(Put technically, I'm looking for phenomenology, not a theodicy. There, wasn't that helpful?)
9/4/2002 08:57:17 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Jumping the Sopranos' Shark
According to an article by Renee Graham in the Boston Globe (which you can read here until they lock it in their pay-up vault), The Rockford Files were a major influence on The Sopranos. David Chase, the Sopranos' creator, cut his teeth writing 20 of the Rockford episodes, and they share his sharp dialogue, his strong women characters, his 3D bad guys, and even an occasional plot twist or two. (In one of the Rockford episodes, a character refers to his cousin Carmella back in Jersey.)
But can we convince Chase to make this season the last for Tony? David, ask yourself: What would Willy "The Bard" Shakespeare (AKA Eddie DeVere) do? Tony's gotta die.
Otherwise, we can look forward in seasons 7, 8 and 9 to jumping the shark episodes such as:
Dr. Melfi consults with her old college mentor ... Dr. Frasier Crane!
The lead singer in Tony Jr.'s high school band ("The Hits") quits right before the big dance, when, wouldn't you know it, Li'l Kim's tour bus breaks down outside the high school auditorium...
Ralph Cifaretto slips acid into the punch at the Soprano's annual Christmas Party (where Silvio delights everyone with his unexpected guitar skills), resulting in Matrix-like effects during the annual Christmas Party shoot-out.
Uncle Junior wins American Idol and gets to sing a duet with Celine Dion.
After an entire season of intimations, Meadow and Adriana make out.
After an entire season of intimations, Furio comes out of the closet. Is he whacked? Nah. Group hug!
Big Pussy is back — as a friendly but bumbling ghost. And get this: Only Tony can see him!
A new crime family tries to move in on Tony — The Boss and the E Street Gang.
9/3/2002 08:41:13 AM | PermaLink
Panama City, a Florida town of 9,000 souls, has decided to put ads on their police cars. The mayor said: "We had some concerns over the sponsors. We don't want to do anything that would make our city a laughingstock." It's a little late for that, Your Honor.
All that's surprising about this latest incursion of commercial propaganda is that, given its relentless logic, it took so long. (More surprising is that the Police Chief's name is Sam Slay.)
9/3/2002 08:29:35 AM | PermaLink
Monday, September 02, 2002
Let's see. I can spend the morning helping to close up the summer house we own with my two siblings and their families, or I can write something in my weblog.
Thinking ... thinking ...
9/2/2002 07:09:13 AM | PermaLink
Blog Reviews of Small Pieces