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Gonzo Engaged
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The Obvious
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TopTen First Names at Google award I've given to myself.

The Speech I Want to Hear


How to survive a nuclear war with just a hat

Sites Seeing



Wednesday, July 31, 2002

A Dram of DRM

Howard Greenstein has cogent reflections on DRM (including on my 3 Precepts).

Eric Norlin has blogged an interview with the technical director for Palladium in which Eric asks whether Palladium will be available to platforms other than Windows. Without this, despite whatever the Microsoft engineers say, Palladium is a Windows lock-in strategem: "Wanna listen to that CD? The record company has jiggered it so that it can only be heard on a Windows Palladium machine."

The technical director says some of the right things. But, there's no mention of Microsoft going Open Source with Palladium, and MS hasn't decided if it will license the software to anyone else. But why should licensing even be an issue unless MS were looking for some advantage to being the supplier of the software that enables entertainment producers to sell their wares securely? Further, the technical director is the technical director. And like geeks everywhere, he just naturally is sympathetic to the forces of openness. But technical directors don't make marketing decisions at Microsoft. I've been suckered by Microsoft in this regard before.

So, thank you, Eric, for getting this on record. Truly. You're doing important work. The tech dir's response is reasonable and gives some reason for encouragement. And flaming would be an unhelpful response. But I still don't trust what I'm hearing from Microsoft about how they're going to establish an environment that benefits me as a user as much as it benefits Hollywood and Microsoft.

Kevin Marks, Eric and others and engaged in a really useful colloquoy at Kevin's MediAgora. They're conducting a civil, constructive and incisive dialogue about the very nature of DRM.
7/31/2002 11:49:20 AM | PermaLink

A Bozo Goes to the Museum

We went to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMOCA) in North Adams yesterday. It's a really interesting space in a lovely place. Last year there the main exhibition had to do with games, and it was, well, fun. Not moving or even particuarlyly enlightening, but fun. This year it focuses on Viennese art and it's not moving, not particularly enlightening and not fun.

It is absolutely the case that I don't know enough about contemporary art to be able to understand what I was looking at. But here's my new dictum for myself: When viewing an artwork adds nothing to the verbal explanation of it, skip viewing it.

E.g., the video screen that over the course of half an hour cycles through every visible shade of green? Skip it!

E.g., the purposefully dull paintings hung on a plain white cube that's a statement about the importance of context? Skip it!

E.g., the ten minute video of a guy digging a hole in the forest? Skip it!

We did, however, get a cute windup toy and a bottle of artsy Bloody Mary mix.
7/31/2002 08:14:01 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Why Vacations Suck

The better the vacation, the worse the bandwidth. It's a law.

Huge disruption in your schedule of daily activities.

Hourly encounter with non-human species.

The rest of the world, which isn't on vacation, doesn't stop sending you email.

Stephen King and Tom Clancy: ridiculous plots, stupid characters, a cliche a minute.

Bugs think they own your ass.

It's someone else's toilet.

If your real house hasn't burned to the ground by now, it's probably either been looted or infested with silverfish.

No matter how much you use, calamine lotion doesn't work ... and it tastes damn funny.

When you get back, people have no sympathy for what you've been through.
7/30/2002 09:01:34 AM | PermaLink


Monday, July 29, 2002

Three Rules of Digital Rights Management

I was happy to see Doc talking with the Head Lemur about shifting the "Right to Listen" tactics:

We both sense the need to get the whole Independent Thing happening in a major way. Fighting politicians on their own turf is an icky necessity, but a far more enjoyable one will be getting independent artists, venues and media together. Let the MPAA and the RIAA protect the old star maker machinery. We've got better work to do.

If artists want to distribute their stuff locked up so tightly that I can't sample it, share it, play it on every device in my house and quote it in my blog, then they should go ahead. And I hope we'll band together in not buying their stuff.

Let the market decide.

In fact, here are my Three Rules of DRM. Each rule supercedes the previous one.

1. Companies that want to sell us works of creativity can do so with whatever enforceable licensing agreement they want.

2. Fair use isn't just protected but is expanded in the face of the new reality.

3. The basic architecture of our computing and networking environment — which maximizes openness, connection and innovation — isn't degraded.

Unfortunately, I don't know if these three are mutually consistent.

[The traditional way the Problem of Evil - the fact that bad things happen in a world created by a perfect God - is formulated is: God is all-powerful, God is all-knowing, God is good: pick any two.]
7/29/2002 08:40:46 AM | PermaLink

Norlin, Doc and Dan on the Eating of Our Rights

You really ought to read Eric Norlin's coverage of the Microsoft Palladium Press conference. Unfortunately, with a 19.2 dialup connection on a line being shared by three families, I've been doing no browsing and didn't keep up with Norlin's (or anyone's) blog until he sent email saying that he's had enough abuse from mean-spirited assholes and is packing it in for a while. That's a shame not only for the noble reason — Eric's an important commentator and guide — but because I don't understand Palladium and Digital IDs well enough and was counting on Eric to explain them to me.

Also informative and full of pepper: Gillmor on the latest bad news from Washington.

And Doc has posted his presentation to OSCon.
7/29/2002 08:38:13 AM | PermaLink

End User Abuse License

Ryze.com promises to be your online business networking network and it might be a great service, but I didn't get past the privacy policy. It begins well and then gets worse and worse:

Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc. share your concerns about personal privacy. Through the Ryze Web site, application and service, and through other contact with Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc. as a company, Ryze Ltd., Aereal Inc. and affiliates may collect personal information and data including, but not limited to, application and web site usage data, viewing data, file transfer and e-mail data, and personal contact information such as e-mail addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers. Additionally, Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc.'s applications and web sites may use technological facilities for tagging and tracking including, but not limited to, Web cookies, login usernames and other technologies to track and correlate data. Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc. own and reserve all rights and all usage and distribution rights to any data it collects. Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc. may share user data with parties including, but not limited to, business partners, affiliates, customers and licensees.

7/29/2002 07:30:22 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, July 27, 2002

Harkin Haiku

Bob Treitman (of the lovely SoftPro book mini-chain) forwards a stunt contest from Gregory FCA, a Philadelphia PR and investor relations firm. We are to rewrite the annual report of our favorite disgraced corporation in the voice of an author of our choosing.

I doubt haikus count, but then I'm not really entering, am I?

Harken! The bush moves
unaware of its motion.
Crows do its thinking.

Dubya sells his stock
for far more than it is worth.
Saudis rub their hands.

White water almost drowned
one president. This one swims
in barrels of oil.

Run, Osama, run!
You are a dead man...after
the next election.

7/27/2002 12:18:19 PM | PermaLink


Friday, July 26, 2002

Three Recommendations: Two Validated and One Blind

Tom Poe asks "Will you still want to buy a computer in 2004" and, after looking at how restricted their use will be and how much privacy you'll be giving up, answers no.

I went to Pop!Tech a couple of years ago and had an excellent time. It brings together social-minded, humanistic technologists (generalizing rather broadly) for a couple of days of presentations in the lovely Opera House in the lovely Camden, Maine. I'm going again this year as a participant, not a speaker. There are still some seats available.

I'll blog from it, of course, but I think a semi-official blogsite is being created for it by other blogging attendees. And so blogs, inevitably, become topic- and event-based as well as based around individuals.

Because I am in a rural area where the corn is high and the bandwidth is low, I am pointing you to this site without actually having been there myself.

I heard from Steven Akstakalnis in response to the Miami Herald op-ed I wrote with W. David Stephenson about the suckitude of the Homeland Defense web site. Steven's group (company?) administers the National Homeland Security Knowledgebase. According to this msg to me, it sounds great. There's a free "knowledgebase" of information about "homeland security" that Steven claims is the largest anywhere. There's a free "Terror Alert Mailing List" of warnings. There's a free weekly newsletter.

If this site turns out to be an online casino, an offer to lengthen your penis, or ads for cameras that will let you spy on your neighbor's hot 18-yr-old, you only have yourself to blame for following a recommendation from a guy who told you he hasn't visited the site himself...
7/26/2002 12:48:18 PM | PermaLink


Thursday, July 25, 2002

InformationWeek on Blogging

The new issue of InformationWeek's cover story is on blogging in the workplace. I haven't had time to do naught but thumb through it. but it looks promising and cites Dan and Doc and Dave, so how bad can it be? (I did happen to notice, ahem, that they quote me also.)
7/25/2002 10:24:46 AM | PermaLink

Service Interruption Notice

I'm about to head off for about two weeks to the land where the air is sweet and the Internet connections suck. Dial-up makes blogging as slow and difficult as the word onomatopoetically suggests. So, I'll still be blogging but probably won't be as responsive as I'd like to be.

Damn rural life!
7/25/2002 10:22:27 AM | PermaLink

New issue of JOHO

I just published a new issue of my newsletter:

Dreyfus on the Internet: Hubert Dreyfus, philosopher, has a monograph about the Net that is profound and off the mark.
Bluetooth Pro and Con: How do you want to go wireless? There's no simple answer yet.
Sham compromises: We're losing the Digital Rights Management battle
Keeping Telcos Simple, Stupid: How do you explain the telco mess?
Pocketful of Standards: A bluffer's guide.
Blogger Dead Pool: Who will be the first journalist fired for what s/he says in his/her blog?
The Anals of Marketing: Stupid, stupid marketing.
Walking the Walk: Automated integration: Boring but helpful.
Cool Tool: Multi renamer.
What I'm Playing: Jedi Outcast.
Internetcetera: News on the Net and off.
Eighth First Name Award: Google searching for first names.
Links: You suggest 'em, I run 'em.
Email: You write 'em, I run 'em.
Bogus contest: Tomorrow's Moral Monsters

7/25/2002 10:17:35 AM | PermaLink


Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Lessig and Stallman on Freedom

Dan Gillmor and Doc are blogging from Open Source Conference where Larry Lessig and Richard Stallman have given keynotes:

Ask a venture capitalist how much he's willing to invest in new technology Hilary Rosen or Jack Valenti won't sign off on. The answer is zero, says Lessig.

We're watching our freedom evaporating.
7/24/2002 04:14:45 PM | PermaLink

More Bad Law

Jeff Chapman points out an article and discussion at Geek.com about the Cyber Security Enhancement Act that passed the House of Reps on July 17 on a vote of 385-3, the lopsided majority just about ensuring that it was a vote based on expediency backed by ignorance. According to the article:

Before the Patriot Act passed, law enforcement needed probable cause and had to go through slow legal channels to get ISP information. After the passing of the Patriot Act, law enforcement could get ISP information more quickly if agents believed that it could be used to stop a dangerous situation. Now, under CSEA, law enforcement or any government entity (not specifically law enforcement agencies) can get subscriber information if agents/representatives of that group think it relates to a threat to national security

So any government agency could tap the Net without probable cause. No possibility of abuse there, eh? Why'd we need that stupid ol' Constitution anyway when we can trust all those government agencies not to abuse their powers?

There's more at Geek.com and at slashdot.
7/24/2002 11:13:19 AM | PermaLink

Isenberg on the Telco Meltdown and Revolution

David Isenberg's new SMARTLetter has his must-read analysis of the "utter crisis" in telecommunications, as FCC Chair Michael "Son of" Powell calls it. Isenberg puts it in perspective. For example:

Let's not call the current overcapacity situation a "bandwidth glut." Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. The scarcity folks — the telephone companies (and others) whose business is based on the fact that communications capacity is scarce, therefore expensive — are controlling this "glut" dialog. Nobody talks about a glut of clean air or a glut of traffic-jam-free roads. No — to an end user it is great to have a lot of cheap >network capacity.


Everybody believes that fiber to the home is the end game of the Communications Revolution. It is not expensive, about US$600 to $3000 per home with today's technology (and less in the future, and less with economies of massive scale). But just as Qwest's 1997 transcontinental fiber build-out fatally maimed domestic long-distance (including Qwest itself), fiber to the home would kill the Incumbent Local Exchange Companies.

Therefore, fiber to the home is not coming until the Incumbent Local Exchange Companies become considerably weaker.


ATM and SONET are not the only technologies that are becoming obsolete even as they're being deployed. There's DSL and MMDS and 3G and WAP and a whole lot more. Technology marches on. And it is not as if Telecom executives made the wrong decisions — mostly they made the best decisions they could at the time.

The debt movie is playing at the Global Crossing theatre and the WorldCom playhouse — but soon it will be playing at a telephone company near you. Verizon and SBC and BellSouth will not be immune ...


So if you hear that somebody is going to "enhance" the Internet — to make it more efficient, to Pay the Musicians, to Protect the Children, to thwart hackers, to enhance Homeland Security, to find Osama, or whatever — this is almost certainly propaganda from the powerful businesses that are threatened by the Internet. Remember that the Internet became the success it is today — and the threat that it is to existing telcos — because it is a Stupid Network, an end-to-end network.

This is the most coherent, understandable explanation I've read of what's goin' on technologically and economically.
7/24/2002 08:33:57 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Marek's Hermeneutickles

For a shorter, lighter-hearted expression of the Hermeneutical Dilemma, read Marek's digital rendition of Hamlet.
7/23/2002 12:41:23 PM | PermaLink

Revelation, Relativism, Relevance, and Other Near Anagrams

AKMA has responded to my response to his thread on "differential hermeneutics." (He's also responded to email from Tom M.)

On the key question of whether there's something special about Scripture, we're not yet in agreement. And we may never be, thus providing an example of Differential Hermeneutics in Action. AKMA, and post-Modernism in general, wants to untie reading (= interpreting) from the meanings "behind" a text. In particular, the "right" interpretation is not the one that reconstitutes in the reader the author's original intention. There are lots of good reasons for recognizing this rupture between what we understand and what the author meant, and when it comes to scriptural interpretation the reasons include the terrifying result of believing that you have the right interpretation; armed with a belief that I know what God meant, I may feel justified in wreaking destruction on those who disagree.

And yet, if there is such a thing as revelation (and I am required here to note that I don't think that there is), doesn't it have to mean that God is telling us something in a way that we can understand? And if revelation tells us something that we can understand, then isn't it telling us what God thinks and feels — God's intentions? I don't see how you can exclude the possibility of understanding what God had in mind and still think there's revelation. [1]

So, here I am about to engage in the hermeneutic act of trying to figure out what AKMA has in mind. I think AKMA thinks that if we say that a hermeneutics of revelation tries to get at what's in God's mind, it has to be an "integral hermeneutics" that assumes only one interpretation is right, thus leading to intolerance. But that doesn't necessarily follow. Suppose we say that revelation expresses God's meaning in a way that humans can understand but God's meaning surpasses our simple understanding and overwhelms languagw. So, we are forced to engage our understanding together, through discussion and disagreement. Further, to speak in a way that humans can understand means to speak in way that can be reappropriated by each generation with its differences in culture and language; that's why scripture has survived the ages.

Why do I insist on this to AKMA? Because we share ethical/political aims. We want to be inclusive, not intolerant. We want a way of sincerely embracing people who also trying to understand God from widely divergent starting points. We don't want to slap people down and shut them up simply because they understand God differently. AKMA writes:

We�ll rely on people we trust, we�ll look back on what the ancients have taught us, we�ll try to help one another along, and we�ll try humbly to accept correction when people whom we respect suggest that we�ve got something important wrong.

What this doesn�t allow us is a stick with which to beat the annoying people who persist in promulgating erroneous interpretations; we can�t say, �That�s just not what it means!� (not in an absolute way). In response to mistaken interpretations, a differential hermeneutic would advise that we make as plain and persuasive a case for our interpretation as we possibly can, and let willful or foolish interpreters do their best.

If that's all DH did, then every tolerant person would agree to it. But DH says more than this. (It has to, for otherwise DH is nothing but tolerance.) It says that we cannot read the author's intentions:

Differential hermeneuts will, however, allow that different people will imagine [my emphasis] different authors, and there�ll be no way to pin a really real intention to a really real author and make from that a really final interpretation.

Granting the impossibility of knowing the real, final interpretation of the author's intentions especially when it comes to God, there's got to be more to interpreting than imagining, especially when it comes to scripture. If revelation is God speaking in a way that we can hear (and, by the way, can not hear or mis-hear), then there has to be more than what I as the reader bring to the party. That does not mean that there is a unitary meaning or a meaning that we foolish mortals can be confident enough is right that we can stop listening to others.

Earlier, AKMA explains the result that's driving his line of thought, I believe:

I�m not reluctant to ascribe authorship of Scripture (in some sense) to God, but I refuse to exclude people who disagree with me on this from my account of hermeneutics.

... <big snip>

..."the Bible� already constitutes an interpretive decision that includes some people and excludes others; ascribing its authorship to God narrows the body of agreeable interpreters even further. And (as a differential hermeneutician) ... I have to account for those people�s interpretations, too.

But I think AKMA doesn't have to exclude non-believers from his account of hermeneutics; he just has to exclude them from people he thinks are capable of understanding what revelation says. How can you believe that revelation is God talking to us in a way that we can understand — which to me simply means believing in revelation — without excluding atheists from the body of "agreeable interpreters"? When I say that scripture was written by barbaric humans (stone the witches, kill the homosexuals) and has less revelatory power these days than Updike's Rabbit series, AKMA ought to stop paying attention to what I say God meant by the book of Job [2]. You may still want to listen to me when I discourse about the history of Canaan or about Paul's word usage patterns, but I have announced that I am not engaged in trying to hear what God is saying through scripture. You can still "account" for my interpretation — DH explains why people have different interpretations and gives us a way to try to find value in them. You just won't count it for much. You will, however, keep in mind that all interpretation is situational and fallible, so you won't tie me to a stake and gather bundles of wood to show me the error of my thinking.

Let me sum up (sorry for the length). AKMA writes:

I just don�t believe texts have �meaning� in any way that escapes our attributing meaning to them.

"Attribute" puts the bulk of the burden of interpreting on the reader; "imagine" puts all of the burden there. If we take "attribute" to mean "involves us" or "depends on us but not just on us," then we get what I think is a clearer picture. Every act of understanding is situated in a specific person, language, culture, and history. But if understanding revelation consists of nothing but me throwing meaning at a text, then there is nothing left of revelation. It is indistinguishable from me reading the words formed in my bowl of alphabet soup. If, on the other hand, revelation is God speaking to us in a way that we can understand, it doesn't mean that there is a unitary meaning and that those who don't get it are simply wrong. The advantage of differential hermeneutics is that we can say that the differences among those who are trying to hear the word of God engender the conversation that is the way to hear what God is trying to say.

So let me do my own rephrasing of AKMA's differential hermeneutics as I would apply it to scriptural interpretation: The way we humans can try to hear the word of God is by talking with one another. We aren't arguing about who does a better job of inventing meanings for a text that is incapable of speaking for its author. We're arguing about words written by God to speak to us — a voice we can hear, a voice that is there, although we can only hear it together and can only understand it imperfectly. Our conversation is aimed at hearing God's intentions more clearly. If hearing His intentions is impossible, then revelation doesn't speak and our conversation is mere chatter.

Two notes:

1. What I think is true of interpreting revelation I actually think is true of all acts of interpretation. I don't think we are as cut off from the author's intentions as AKMA seems to believe.

2. Perhaps we should leave room for atheist scriptural interpreters who preface every remark with, "Now, if there were a God, we can see in this passage that He would have meant..." and then proceed to explicate God's word without believing it's God's. I'm sure there are examples of such. These people are worth reading. But they are only worth reading if the text they're explicating is worth explicating, and it only has accidental and incidental value if the text isn't God speaking in a way that we can understand.
7/23/2002 12:16:55 PM | PermaLink

Children's Art

Mark Feldman points us to a collection of children's art maintained by PaPa iNk, a non-profit he heads. Some beauty, not just cuteness.
7/23/2002 09:51:19 AM | PermaLink


Monday, July 22, 2002

Who Bought Bush's Shares?

Gary Nexcerpt Stock passes along a fasinating article by Christopher Caldwell in the NY Press about the sweetheart deals that made W a rich man. But the most tantalizing bit is at the end where Caldwell speculates about what the WS Journal last week called "interesting Saudi connections on the finance side" with regard to who bought who bought W's Harken shares. Caldwell suggests "the ex-president�s ne�er-do-well son appears to have been used by the Harken board as 'Arab bait'."

This story is only going to get bigger.
7/22/2002 09:19:04 PM | PermaLink

Differential POMO

AKMA continues his deeply important blogging about what he calls "integral" vs. "differential" hermeneutics. (It begins here, goes here with a response to Tom Matrullo, continues here with a response to my email, and goes here.)

I hesitate to try to characterize briefly the difference between the two hermeneutics, but I'm gonna anyway. Hermeneutics, usually explained as the study of interpretation, is actually the study of how we make sense of things, where "things" includes texts and the world. Integral hermeneutics thinks that to understand X is to see the simple, unambiguous, single meaning behind X; it is fundamentalism and literalism applied beyond the realm of scripture. Differential hermeneutics not only notices that there are many ways of understanding X but thinks that the best way to proceed is to pay attention to the differences among those interpretations. AKMA sides with the differentialists. (AKMA, if I got this wrong, set me straight!)

When AKMA first blogged about this, on July 10, it took me a while to muster a response, which I sent to him privately. I like his distinction and I also side with the differentialists. I wrote to AKMA with two aims. First, I wanted to know what he thought about what DH (differential hermeneutics) means for revelation. Is revelation a special type of truth-giving? If so, what does that do hermeneutics? Second, I suggested that AKMA still gave the sense (or was I merely projecting it?) that DH implies a failure: Too bad we can't get at a unitary meaning, so we'll have to settle for DH. Judaism, on the other hand, has taken DH for the past couple of thousand years anyway as quite positive. Judaism's interpretations - that is, the Rabbi's interpretations - are grounded by a text that's taken to be revealed but not susceptible to a fundamenalist, literal reading; by a tradition that preserves the losing arguments; by a tradition of how to conduct an argument; and by an embedding of interpretation into practice since the resolution of arguments over interpretation determine how daily life will be conducted.

AKMA responded to my comments with his customary brilliance and gracefulness. Here's one salient passage:

Differential hermeneutics, however, can locate revelation not in the text by itself, such that we�re left to assay the content of an unambiguous revelation that we can�t get at. Instead, differential hermeneutics can locate revelation in the shared practice of interpreting the Bible under the social, liturgical, communal, ethical conditions of participating in life under the Law, or under the Cross.

I'm not entirely comfortable with that, although I think there may be no practical difference in our positions. (As if I'm entitled to have a position in this conversation! Got to have standing before you can have a position.) I'm in the odd position of saying that I don't think AKMA is giving enough weight to the scriptural text. His view of DH finds all of interpretation's value in the play of differing interpretations and none in the meaning behind the text or the text itself. (Am I getting you wrong, AKMA?) So, we interpret revealed scripture and a restaurant menu differently because people encounter them "under different conditions, with a different stake in what they�re interpreting, and different goals in taking on the interpretation..." Notice that the difference is not that one text was written by God and the other by a person working in a restaurant.

But isn't something crucial and real lost if you can't acknowledge that difference? And if you'll momentarily grant an atheistic Jew the standing to ask this: Why does AKMA seemingly shy away from saying scripture is special because it's revealed? Is he worried that this puts us back into the game of thinking that there is a single, integral meaning behind the text, which in turn means that only one position is right and that we are justified in being intolerant of those who get the meaning wrong?

But you can believe that scripture is special without becoming an integral hermeneuticist. Suppose, for example, one were to believe that:

  1. God is the author of scripture.
  2. Scripture in some way stands for God's beliefs and intentions.
  3. The meaning of scripture overwhelms our mortal understanding.
  4. Human understanding is always situated in a time, culture, community of practice, and language. Human understanding is only possible within such a situation.
  5. Scripture is designed to maintain its meaning through multiple human situations, as human history unfolds.
  6. Scripture needs a differential hermeneutics — a tradition of argument and discussion and the "proactive" preservation of differences.

Then you would be able to maintain that revelation reveals God's truth without resorting to the simplistic integral hermeneutics that has led our species down such dark alleys. And, I believe, that that position sketches the Jewish stance towards scripture, although my belief here is strictly second-hand.

I very much like AKMA's comments in his most recent blog about "performative criteria" — i.e., "testing truth-claims by living them out." A right interpretation isn't one that corresponds to the concealed meaning but one that enables you to live well. This is in response to Happy Tutor's blogging about post-Modernism as a way of avoiding responsibility. The Happy Toot writes:

Postmodernism is to be resisted not because it is false, nor because it can be refuted (you can't refute an ideology), but because the moral type it produces is detestable.

My initial complain about post-Modernism agrees with this. POMO produces academics who use it destructively to position themselves as the smartest person in the room, showing why everyone else is still stuck in "the old metaphysics." But POMO also captures a great truth, one that is liberating and is increasingly required for humans to continue inhabiting the planet. AKMA is a fearless partisan of the liberating force of POMO, and bless him for it.

What's missing, I believe, is a sense of the joy of being situated. Yes, we are "stuck" in a culture and a history and that inevitably colors our view of the world. And, yes, there is no escaping being situated to achieve a superior view, free of cultural bias and prejudice, that can identify the One Truth. But if we stop there, we are left with the POMO the Tutor abhors. The other side of this coin, however, is that being situated is a joy and would be a blessing if there were a God. Further, within a situation we have ways of discussing and conversing that give some views more standing than others. (That's why DH is important.) Further further, if there were revelation, it would provide a basic text that orients the conversation. Further further further, as Toot points out, practice and practicalities drive the important conversations, whether it's soldiers arguing over tactics or Jews arguing over whether telephone wires count as demarcating a bounded community (i.e., whether they count as an erev). POMO untied from situation — and from the life of practice that constitutes a situation — does indeed suffer from the tyrannical relativism both the Tutor and AKMA abhor.

By the way, AKMA is using BlogAmp, a plugin to WinAmp that automatically generates a bloggable list of the tunes you've been playing in WinAmp. (I'd consider using it but I don't use WinAmp.)
7/22/2002 12:16:28 PM | PermaLink


Sunday, July 21, 2002

Letters from Afghanistan

David Farnham is keeping a blog about his service in Afghanistan. He writes: "One of these days I'll get back to my life as a web architect, but for now I'm trying to get online and post whenever I can. Have a look." In fact, yesterday's post reads:

This is the last post I will be able to make for several weeks. After a month of waiting for a mission I have been assigned to a team and will be in-country for awhile. Despite the constraints and requirements, we are managing to do some good work down there and I look forward to playing a part. The danger is real, but I am confident in my abilities and encouraged by the ineptitude that has been displayed by our enemy so far.

At David's home page (which is no longer up to date) you can read about his participation in the Army's SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School.
7/21/2002 10:19:37 AM | PermaLink


British eDemocracy
The British government has posted a site with ideas for how to use the Internet to make democracy work better.

Open Recording Studio
Tom Poe is in the front of the pack creating a free recording studio to encourage the distribution of alternatively-business-modelled music.

Complexity Digested
The Complexity Digest is a good resource for finding what's being written about complexity.

7/21/2002 10:09:30 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, July 20, 2002

US Dept. of Brain Enhancement

Matt Oristano points us to a remarkable report that would read better as a premise for a cheesy scifi movie than as a serious statement from the National Science Foundation and Commerce Department. It's called Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance. Says Matt:

It includes lots of helpful government recommendations for enhancing our brains with nanotechnology, according to standards that presumably the government would set. It's quite amazing.

He especially commends to our attention a section on "memetic engineering" "where they propose to engineer our culture in a Darwinian mold as well."
7/20/2002 08:55:36 AM | PermaLink


Friday, July 19, 2002

Marks and Marek and the Copyright Thing

Kevin Marks pulls a great quote from the Recovering Marek:

[Jack Valenti's] notion is of a zero-sum copyright, as if there were finite amount of ideas in the world where one has to come up with one and then build a fortress around it so no one else can use it to extend it or derive from it.

And don't forget Kevin's MediAgora, a plan to build a market capable of dealing in digital works of the mind.
7/19/2002 07:26:43 PM | PermaLink

Right to Listen

(By the way, did you like the way I snuck "Right to Listen advocates" into my blog entry on the sham Commerce Dept. DRM meeting? Think it might catch on as an alternative to "content thieves," "pirates," "baked college students too cheap to pay for CDs," "anti-American, anti-Disney destroyers of civilization," etc.? Just a thought.)
7/19/2002 02:03:04 PM | PermaLink

DRM meeting update

Grant Gross, in an email, updates his excellent coverage of the Commerce Department's Digital Rights Management meeting, which I blogged a couple of hours ago:

During this workshop, the Commerce Department was just not interested in hearing from the public. So to get the point across that the public wasn't represented, the Free Software/Linux/fair use crowd almost had to shout and wave their hands.

Those tactics actually may have worked. Sources tell me that the Commerce Department is now asking around for suggestions on consumer advocates to include in a future workshop.

As for the EFF, Robin Gross tells me today that they've been invited to comment in writing, and the EFF is doing so.

Here's what I *think* happened: The Commerce Department just didn't comprehend that consumers might want to be part of this discussion about how to implement DRM. Groups like EFF just didn't fit the focus of this meeting, so Commerce set up this workshop with the goal of getting the IT people and the Hollywood people talking again, but made no provisions for the public to participate.

7/19/2002 01:51:54 PM | PermaLink

The Stacked DRM Meeting

David Isenberg recommends Grant Gross's coverage at Newsforge of the Commerce Department's Digital Rights Management meeting last Wednesday. This meeting is intended to help forge a compromise for protecting copyrighted works but the deck was entirely stacked against customers/users and Right to Listen advocates. Says Isenberg: "Reading his article seemed almost like being there . . . an excellent piece." Yup.

Read it and become enraged. And engaged.
7/19/2002 12:27:39 PM | PermaLink

Book Chat Q & No A

One of the attendees — Alexandra Davis — at the book reading I did last night posted a thoughtful blog entry on it. Although Alexandra liked the event overall, my answer to the question she asked disappointed her, and I can see why. She writes:

I asked what one could do if she say, received a rape threat in a chatroom or someone somehow obtained her personal information, and posted her phone number and address on the web. I expressed my frustration over the strong possibility that people who would do things like that, hack, threaten people, and invade privacy, were most likely complete losers in person, but because they had this one skill, a skill I'm probably smart enough to learn had I the means, I had to be afraid of them. I then asked if he had covered accountability for one's actions online at all in his book. Though he said that the dark side of the internet and accountability for one's actions online were important topics, he hadn't gone into them in his book. Perhaps they're supposed to be implicit in his assertions about the humanity of the internet, but I was still disappointed and became skeptical...

Alexandra's recounting is accurate and fair. But her question is one of many important ones for which I have and will have no answer worth listening to. Accountability is a hugely important issue, and a really tough one that involves everything from psychology to philosophy to digital IDs. Sorry, Alexandra. I wish I did have an answer.

FWIW, I don't go into the dark side of the Net in Small Pieces because it is a partisan book — there are enough nay-sayers — that tries to get at the roots of the (positive) excitement about the Web. There are lots of things worth discussing that aren't in the book.

Alexandra's weblog overall is one of the frankest I've seen, and also one of the most reflective. Strong stuff.
7/19/2002 12:18:43 PM | PermaLink


Thursday, July 18, 2002

This 'n That

I have to prepare for a Book Event at the Brookline Booksmith tonight at 7 (you're all invited) so I've been bad about blogging today. A couple of tidbits...

Gotta love Gary Turner's sleazeball scandal rag parodies...

And speaking of Gary, Frank Paynter has a long interview with him that, as always, gives a great sense of the Person Behind the Blog.

Dave Curley writes about the Citizen Corps TIPS rat-out-your-neighbors page:

As pointed out by Rob Morse in today's San Francisco Chronicle, clicking on the Join Now! link generates one of those "there's a problem with the sercurity certificate" errors.

The Law of Irony continues its uninterrupted reign.

Gary Unblinking Stock points us to a complement to Steve Himmer's now-famous RATS page by. It's a public service reminder of who exactly needs to be turned in.

Good article, that not so incidentally says nice things about my book, by Charles Leadbeater in The New Statesman. Charlie is the author of The Weightless Society and is an advisor to Tony "Anthony" Blair.
7/18/2002 02:43:50 PM | PermaLink


Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Personal Postage Stamps

So, we're going to be allowed to print our own US postage stamps on our own printers. Why not let us create our own designs as well? After all, the paper is watermarked. Here are the first ones I'd do:


7/17/2002 03:37:27 PM | PermaLink

Google First-Namers

Madeleine Begun Kane, Humor Columnist, gently informs me that I've been scooped with regard to my Google Top Ten First-Name award:

I enjoyed your comments about Google's first name top 10 and thought you might be amused by my piece on a similar subject written 3 or 4 years ago back when Madeleine Albright was Secretary of State:

Surfing for Madeleines

Meanwhile, Mark Dionne would strip me of my award for minor, perceived technical breaches. He writes:

I checked Google for "David" and on the first page I get:

JOHO the Blog
... W. David Stephenson, with whom I wrote an op-ed for the Miami Herald about why the Homeland Security page sucks, has two followups: ...
www.hyperorg.com/blogger/ - 72k - 15 Jul 2002 - Cached - Similar pages

It would seem that David Stephenson gets the award, not you! And it's number 9, not number 8.

First, it's only #9 if you count the sub-page hit for The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. I choose not to.

Second: No freaking way! The link is to my blog, not W. David Stephenson's. It's not even a link to the particular blog entry that makes the now-obvious mistake of mentioning W. David Stephenson: it links to this blog's home page. So, if W. Stinking David Stephenson wants to make up an award for himself that says "Mentioned on a Google Top Ten First-Name Page," he can. Otherwise, the prize is mine mine mine mine and not you nor a platoon of embittered loser Davids can take it away from me. And if you try, I'll just change the rules again. Bwahahahaha.

7/17/2002 10:45:01 AM | PermaLink

Latent Semantic Search

The always-provocative Arnold Kling suggests in an email that we take a look at the Semant-o-Matic site that uses latent semantic indexing to search blogs. The current site is an open source test bed, indexing only 11 blog sites, but the idea is provocative. Here's how I understand it, from the site's readable and informative explanation of searching and LSI.

When you click on the "Find more like this one" button on a search site (= "Similar pages" at Google), the site does an analysis of the word usage pattern on that page and runs a query to find other pages with similar patterns. LSI does this not when a user presses the button but as it's indexing the page so that it always knows other pages that are similar to the first one. So, when you do a LSI search for, say "French Impressionism," it finds not only pages that contain that phrase but also pages that are similar to ones that contain that phrase. Thus, an LSI search might turn up a page that talks about 19th Century painters concerned with the play of light in paintings of haystacks even if it never uses the phrase "French Impressionism." (Of course, it may also turn up a page about Haystack Calhoun, the old professional wrestler. playing with the lights in the arena.)

One of the very cool things about this approach — whether pre-computed or done on the fly — is that it lets a computer find two pages that are about the same thing simply by analyzing the way words are arrayed on the page, without making amighttempt to understand what those words mean.
7/17/2002 10:24:21 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Rat Your Neighbor for America

Thanks, Steve Himmer, for your improvement on the TIPS campaign.

One suggestion for a link on the RATS page: "How to Tell an Arab." America needs to know!
7/16/2002 11:25:06 AM | PermaLink

First Names and Misc.

David Gallagher, author of the article that proposed the Google First Name Top Ten Award says that there's some "back story" to his article. (E.g., apparently there's a photo he is suppressing.) He also has an entry about the Making Of his piece on Mahir "I Kiss You" Cagri that ran in the NY Times. His blog has lots of pictures, too, including one of a handlettered sign advertising "Waterbaloons already filled - 10 cents" — it could be a New Yorker cartoon if it weren't already a photograph.

Anita Rowland writes:

I took action to add a blogroll to my site when I was shocked, shocked, to find Anita Bora ranked higher than me! Always before the only Anita ahead of me was Santa Anita Racetrack.

We've been teasing each other about it since: http://www.anitarowland.com/gmarchives/00000384.html

On an unrelated note, Euan Semple (who is moving The Obvious weblog to http://www.theobviousblog.net/blog/) writes:

I thought of you as soon as I saw this:

I assume this street guide to sign language reminded Euan of me because of the UnFuck forgiveness gesture I have initiated, trademarked, copyrighted, legally adopted and cryogenically frozen.
7/16/2002 11:19:31 AM | PermaLink


In the righthand column you'll see a little face drawn in blue. That's my "blogchalk," Daniel P�dua's attempt to provide some semi-standard metadata so we can search for weblogs more precisely. The metadata goes like this:

Google! DayPop! This is my blogchalk: English, United States, Boston, Brookline, David, Male, 51-55!

There are complete instructions on how to enter your own blogchalk here.
7/16/2002 10:55:35 AM | PermaLink


Monday, July 15, 2002

Google's First-Name Top Ten

David Gallagher has written a very amusing article in Business 2.0 about his attempt to get his full name moved up Google's hit list, a challenge complicated by the fact that there is a teen actor named David Gallagher ahead of him in the listings.

At the end of the article, he gives himself a new challenge: Move himself up the list when you search just for his first name.

I had never searched Google for "David" but, guess what? I'm Number 8, baby! Woohoo! I am introducing a new award for myself:

TopTen First Names at Google award I've given to myself.

Feel free to copy and reuse the award. But, remember, it's the honor system, so cheating will be ignored.
7/15/2002 09:34:50 AM | PermaLink

Lisp Re-Rulz

Mark Dionne points out (via Ray Kurzweil) that Crash Bandicoot, one of the most popular Playstation games, was written in Lisp. Why would a modern game be written in a dead language? Because it ain't dead. The power of Lisp isn't in its conspicuous use of lists and parentheses. As Andy Gavin, the co-founder of the gaming company, explains:

With lisp one can rapidly develop meta constructs for behaviors and combine them in new ways. In addition, lisp allows the redefinition of the language to easily add new constructs, particularly those needed to deal with time-based behaviors and the layering of actions. Contrary to popular belief there is nothing inherently slow about lisp. It is easy to constuct a simple dialect which is just as efficient as C, but retains the dynamic and consistant qualities that make lisp a much more effective expression of one's programming intentions.

Paul Graham has argued in favor of Lisp in a more systematic way (as I blogged in February), raising the question of what constitutes a "higher level" language. (Here is a keynote Paul gave.)

So, do I program in Lisp? Nah. It's such a pain in the ass for someone like me who writes mainly little utilities for himself like a tiny text processor that automates the production of HTML tuned specifically to the needs of this blog. (Well, actually — he says with a little pride — it also stores the blog entries in a text base, lets me browse through them, and automatically assembles and formats selected blog entries for inclusion in my newsletter, JOHO.) So, what's the choice of a non-manly hobbyist programmer like me? Um, Visual Basic.

And now you write to me to tell me to switch to Squeak and I tell you that I'm good enough at VB that the switching costs are too high and then you lose all respect for me, so then I spend two years in a Zen monastery eating wheatberries and mastering C++ and come out and marry Uma Thurman. Thanks! That's just the nudge I needed!
7/15/2002 09:19:15 AM | PermaLink


Sunday, July 14, 2002

The Google Mirror

Have we (well, S. Lamb) found the most pointless use of the Google API? It's a Google mirror in case Google is running too slowly. But, you'll have to go there to understand...
7/14/2002 10:49:30 AM | PermaLink

Verisign's Waiting List Gambit

Here are a couple of answers to the question I posed about Verisign's attempt to own the "Domain Waiting List" market. Right now, you can sign up with various companies to claim existing domain names if and when they are not renewed. I wondered in my blog what happened if two people both claimed, say, "amazon.com" using different services and that domain became available. Who would win? And is that the problem that Verisign is proposing to solve, enriching itself in the process?

Udhay Shankar says, yes Verisign's solution would solve the problem "for those people who don't have expensive lawyers, and who can't move WIPO or whatever. This would probably exclude Jeff Bezos. ;-)

The One True b!X writes:

Verisign is attempting to regain too much control. As it stands right now, what you sign up for with waiting list services as they currently exist is a service in which the company will TRY to snag your desired domain once it returns to the pool of available domains.

Verisign's proposal creates a waiting list service (provided soley by themselves and SnapNames) which will take precedence — if someone "reserves" a domain thru it, they are guaranteed to get it when it becomes available, because it doesn't return to the general pool of available domain names, where it can be competed for.

You can register your opinion at ICANN until the end of July, and you can sign an online petition against the Verisign proposal here.

7/14/2002 10:29:59 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, July 13, 2002

Plain-Talkin' Judge Rules against Bush-Cheney

A federal judge has ruled that the lawsuit trying to force Bush-Cheney to list who they met with when crafting the administration's "energy policy" can go forward. The judge found a pattern of deception in the administration's arguments to the court that can't be explained by mere incompetence. According to the article by the Environmental News Service:

In his opinion, Judge Sullivan wrote that Cheney and his co-defendants were seeking a ruling from him that "would eviscerate the understanding of checks and balances between the three branches of government on which our constitutional order depends."

The judge chastised the Justice Department lawyers for attempting to mislead the court, writing that, "the fact that the government has stubbornly refused to acknowledge the existing controlling law in at least two cases, does not strike this Court as a coincidence. One or two isolated mis-citations or misleading interpretations of precedent are forgivable mistakes of busy counsel, but a consistent pattern of misconstruing precedent presents a much more serious concern."

[Thanks to Gary Unblinking Stock for pointing me to this.]
7/13/2002 08:51:24 AM | PermaLink

Secondary Domain Market: How Do I Feel?

Dotster, which has been my favorite place to register domain names, is circulating a letter to all its users asking for us to tell ICANN that we don't like Verisign's proposal for the "secondary domain market." As far as I can tell from this, Verisign is proposing that SnapNames be the only authorized provider of the "Domain Name Wait Listing Service" that lets a user grab an existing name as soon as it becomes available. So, if I want "www.amazon.com," I can pay a service a subscription fee so that if Amazon forgets to renew its registration of "www.amazon.com" it goes to me. Verisign — the owner of Network Solutions. which is the monopoly ICANN was established to break up — apparently would be the only one entitled to offer this service, which is currently widely available on the Net. It would charge $24/year whether or not the name came available, whereas other services charge less and only charge if the user succeeds in getting the name.

Now, here's what I don't understand. If two people register for "www.amazon.com" with different services, and Jeff Bezos forgets to put "Renew domain name" in his Palm Pilot, which of the two wins? Is this the problem Verisign is attempting to solve?

Let me know how I feel about this so I can register my opinion at ICANN by the end of July, and so I know whether I want to sign the online petition against the proposal.

Thank you.
7/13/2002 08:39:29 AM | PermaLink


Friday, July 12, 2002

Marek's Doing Better

I spoke with him a couple of hours ago (around 6pm EDT) and he sounded chipper. We'd never talked by phone before. Not surprisingly, he's a funny guy; he's what 30 years ago hippier people than I would have called "a trip."

The problem is some type of intestinal infection and he should be going home on Sunday.

Whew! Don't do that to us, Marek!
7/12/2002 10:17:25 PM | PermaLink

Homeland Page Follow-up

W. David Stephenson, with whom I wrote an op-ed for the Miami Herald about why the Homeland Security page sucks, has two followups:

1. Adam Gaffin has cited it in his NetworkWorld Fusion blog. Adam points us all to the Homeland Security Monitor, a resource on security issues.

2. David points us to Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism because, unlike the Homeland page, it actually provides useful information and ways to contact the group. It's a start, anyway.
7/12/2002 10:46:00 AM | PermaLink

Marek: Get Well Now!

Jeneane points us to Ann's blog. Marek is in the hospital. Something is wrong with his stomach. Apparently, no one knows what yet.

Marek's voice is powerful, beautiful and truly unique. And treasured.

Those of us who don't believe in the power of prayer will have to fall back on the old standards: superstition and hope.

[For an introduction to Marek, read Doc's blog. Thanks, Doc, for putting it so well.]
7/12/2002 10:30:34 AM | PermaLink

Pig in a Poke

Because I am still on The World's Slowest Net Connection - I'm actually picking up CompuServe reruns from 1987 - I have not been able to listen to the following link, but I trust its provenance: an email from RageBoy. I reproduce it here in its entirety:


RB leaves late-nite voicemail for Gary Turner. Ricky don't lose that number. Hear one of the World's Top-50 Business Thinkers say "fuck" a lot, propose a massive panty raid on Blog Sisters, and explain how blogging is the necessary and inevitable precursor to Systemic Ass-Yodeling & Wide-Area Telephony (SAY-WAT). Rare mutant RageBoy image appears courtesy AP Wirephoto archives.

7/12/2002 10:20:09 AM | PermaLink


Thursday, July 11, 2002

Presidential Medal of Freedom

According to the NY Times: In a White House ceremony today, President Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, to a dozen prominent people, including:

Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the greatest force for democracy since the privately-owned newspaper and the curtains that surround voting booths.

Lawrence Lessig for fighting to return copyright protection to its original role: to maximize the sharing of ideas and works of creativity.

The Linux community for building something bigger than itself for others, and for doing more to protect the open market than the FTC has done.

Shawn Fanning for enabling 70 million people to do a de facto redefinition of the verb "to own."

Google for making it possible to find shit.

Mnftiu for being funny just by telling the truth (edging out TheOnion).

We can dream, can't we?
7/11/2002 11:14:35 AM | PermaLink

Good News?

David Reed is no fool so if he's excited — positively — about possible changes to the FCC's policy on licensing spectrum, then so am I. His blog entry has links to lots of comments filed with the FCC, including his own. (Whether the FCC listens to any of the sensible comments is a different matter.)

A passing comment from Dan Bricklin at a conference last week puts the issue in perspective. When someone commented on the fact that so many technologies use the 2.4gH stretch of spectrum, he muttered: "It's unlicensed, which is why the innovation happens there."
7/11/2002 10:39:11 AM | PermaLink

The Whitehouse Responds

David Stephenson, with whom I wrote an op-ed piece for the Miami Herald a couple of days ago pointing out how stupid the Homeland Security web page is, writes with an update:

We heard your complaints, America, and took action. We hope you enjoy this new, larger picture of me on the Homeland Security web site.

BTW, apparently the White House has invested in a printer capable of turning out backdrops for Presidential Events with the Message of the Day emblazoned on it: Yesterday "Corporate Responsiblity," today "Protecting the Homeland", tomorrow "I Am Not (technically) a Crook."
7/11/2002 10:10:06 AM | PermaLink


Wednesday, July 10, 2002

A Neatly-Edged Square of Wilderness

Jeff Gates writes in response to my comments about trying to de-grass our front lawn:

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley of LA and now reside in an almost forest of trees in the burbs of DC. It takes me a couple of hours to mow my lawn (if you could call it that since we don't get a lot of sunlight in the summer). I wanted to leave a "rectangle" of grass unmowed for the entire season to see what it would look like and how much it would grow but my wife wasn't too sure about my "public art piece." Oh, and I thought the definition of a "weed" was simply an unwanted plant (I always liked that). What I think is a weed, someone else could think is a beautiful flower (I know my children LOVE dandelions).

I really like the idea. Giving corners to wildness. Maybe next year.
7/10/2002 12:16:11 PM | PermaLink

Some Questions for W

If CEOs ought to be held responsible if the financial disclosure statements they sign are wrong, then are you saying that Ken Lay's excuse that he was misled by other managers ought not to hold and that Kenny Boy ought to do hard time?

Are you confident that no CEO could be misled by crooked accountants or an errant CFO in any part of her or his business? For example, might a "lawyer's mistake" result in a member of the board of directors filing notice eight months late of a major stock transaction that has the appearance of insider trading? Ought the Board Member do hard time?

No, Bush is once again over-simplifying vastly complex problems so he can use his Blame-and-Punish strategy to give us the delusion that they're under control. Terrorist attack? Pin it on one evil-doer so we have someone to track down rather than addressing the complexities that give rise to terrorism. Widespread corruption in business due to the systemic flaws in the way our stock market works? Pin it on CEOs and threaten to jail them. Failing educational system? Reduce the problem to what can be diagnosed by federal, standardized tests ... and then punish the schools that need the most help.

The problem is that even if we get rid of the evil-doers, we will still have a world in which the next evil-doer will seem to make sense to a whole bunch of people.

Some nice puns:

Slate's "Today's Papers" has the headline (written by Eric Umansky, one assumes): "Bush Whacks, Wall Street Wanes." And Hal Blakely's weekly W newsletter has the subject line "W Is Taking Stock."
7/10/2002 08:57:22 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Do Libraries Need Books?

Really interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

7/9/2002 01:24:42 PM | PermaLink

The Good, The Absurd, The Hateful

Three pieces of self-centered media news.

First, the Miami Herald today is running an op-ed written by David Stephenson and me about how bad the Homeland Security homepage sucks and some ideas about what can be done about it. (This expands on some stuff I'd written and David has been thinking about.)

Second, I got quoted in the NY Times on July 4 in an article about Mahir, the I Kiss You guy. The author of the article, David Gallagher, sent me a message to let me know that a Turkish newspaper covered his coverage and apparently quoted my quote.

Yeah, but they translate my comments as �Hollywood bize kendi �rettigi yildizlari sunuyor. Biz de internet araciligiyla siradan bir kisiyi yildiz yaptik. Fena mi?� Can't they even get the oblative right? Besides, I think "yildizlan sunyor," while correct in a pedestrian literal sense, really doesn't capture the sense of what I was saying. I think "kisyildzik aryiskadilzi" would have been much closer, as I'm sure you all will agree.

Well, you know what they say: "No tiskilyazi is bad tiskilyazi so long as they spell your yaptik right!"

Third, Small Pieces got the worst review of any book in history in the Washington Post. The reviewer actually used the monkeys-at-typewriters trope. Feel free to console me with small gifts. (FWIW, I agree with his comments about the mysterious "we" in the book, although I made the choice intentionally.) >[I should probably note that my book has actually received some good reviews. There's a list of reviews here. And, yes, I will add the stinker from the Post when I get a chance. And when the Prozac kicks in.]
7/9/2002 10:43:50 AM | PermaLink

3 Funnies

Gary Unblinking Stock has three pointers for us.

First, there's a list of philosophical humor. I'm laughing. I think.

Second, Gary lets us know that the mnftiu book, Get Your War On, is coming soon. You can sign up to get a signed copy for $20 with all profits going to landmine clearance efforts in Afghanistan. (Here's the latest Get Your War On comic strip.)

Third, Gary points us to a site with funny fake banner ads.
7/9/2002 09:31:10 AM | PermaLink


From James Sisk comes the following call to action:

I just finished reading up on the most recent linking case in the Danish courts, and came upon an idea I'd like your feedback on, (and possibly you help spreading). The basic idea is this: although there are many out there who would like to control who does and does not link to there sites, even the biggest of the big shots need use more then we need them. So. Any organization that restricts free linking gets "blackblogged" ( I want credit for this term). If you don't let everyone link freely to your site, then none of us will link to you at all. Imagine if Google said, due to the restrictive policies of the church of Scientology, Google does not list links to their sites. Even if the Googles and Yahoos didn't buy in, the risk of damage from losing the links they like, would almost certainly force a higher level of tolerance for the ones they don't.

James Sisk
Senior Instructional Designer
Epic Learning

Good idea, but since this won't happen only on blogs, maybe it should be "de-linking" or "a-linking." "Hypolinking"? "Hacksawing" (to cut the links)? Or the old word for this: "shunning." "Connect-shun"?

Of course, when it comes to the search engines, it would be a clear case of "ind-excommunication."
7/9/2002 09:15:06 AM | PermaLink


Monday, July 08, 2002


Transcript of the first sax solo at The Blue Note after musicians, thanks to neuro-implants, were able to play their "instruments" simply by thinking the music:

Fi fah di tweee di
Wow this works fa deeeee
Tweeee dah dah di fahhh di
Di dwah di brah bruh feeee di dah
Doo dweee That sounded like Coltrane dah
Ti fa di fah fah tweee dwah di fah
Brrraaah di Stop tinkling the ice in your glass
You fat fuck in the front row di fum di fraah
Twee fah di fah fah Tweeeee di di di fah
Fah di twee I'm better than Coltrane fah di
Dah dah di fee Coltrane got away with a lot di fah fah
Shit. Out of ideas. I'll play fast. Di di dat di di
Di di di fah fi di fah di di dah fah di di fah tweee
Brraaaap Damn embrochure parameters
Braaaaap One more time so they'll think it was on purpose
Braaaaap twee fah di fi fi dah fi dah fah
Faaah di dah I'm not as fat as you, you fat fuck dah dah
Di twee Am I? di fah di fah fah

7/8/2002 09:22:08 AM | PermaLink

Blogs Worth Every Penny

Some nice writing by Halley about what we lose as adults. And some nice writing by AKMA about e-learning within the larger context of learning and teaching.

Jeneane, who blogs movingly about her Aunt Penny, was the inspiration behind the "How's my blogging" blogsticker, although she credits RageBoy with the original question: Why don't we put our phone numbers on our blog sites? (My answer: Because I'd rather interrupt people than be interrupted.)
7/8/2002 06:59:28 AM | PermaLink


Sunday, July 07, 2002

Three Notes from around the World

Dethe of LivingCode writes in response to Elaine's response to my piece on turning a lawn into a meadow:

Good tips for creating meadows (add our thanks to Elaine and her mother-in-law). We want to do this with our front yard (the back yard is kids' play area and vegetable garden). Something about what you said reminded me of an article I read on English hedgerows—they date these by how many individual species are found in a hedge, roughly 1 species per hundred years. Not sure what the metaphorical implications of this are, maybe *diversity takes time.*

And I think the technical term for spreadiness is "promiscuous." %-)

More serious alternatives are here: http://www.thesaurus.com/roget/I/168.html

Gary Turner writes:

I thought this might appeal to your sense of humour.

Gary's right. It's a meta-approach to "warchalking," the instantly-amusing idea of adopting the old hobo chalk signs to mark when you are within WiFi range, because heaven knows there's nothing worse than running your WiFi card over the beach only to find out that you were getting false positives from old tin cans and crumpled foil candy wrappers, not from the pile of gold doubloons and lost engagement rings you were hoping for.

Martin Roell blogs enthusiastically about some thoughts inspired by Gary Turner's site where he has recorded the voices of a handful of his readers and co-bloggers. "I could suddenly feel the Internet," writes Martin.

(Martin blogs in German, which is something of an obstacle for many of us, including me, even with the absurdist help of Google's translation tool. On the other hand, where else are you going to see the word "faktenfaktenfaktenreichen"?)
7/7/2002 08:31:14 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, July 06, 2002

I thought I said I thought

I was interviewed yesterday by a radio station in the area of the US with "big states with pointy corners," as the host put it. It went fine, except for one patch. "Isn't it easier to come out of the closet on the Web?" the host asked.

Here's what went through my mind:



I don't know anything about this. And I don't know why he's asking about gays in particular. So, take it up a level of generality.

The Web makes it remarkably easy for any group — gays or breast cancer sufferers...

Uh oh! Don't put gays together with women with breast cancer as if homosexuality were a disease.

...or model train enthusiasts —

Uh oh! Trivialized it!

to find other people with shared interests, to talk in their own voice, ...

Try to de-trivialize it! Use a word with a vaguely sexual connotation.

to share their passions.

The host then asked, "But isn't it easier for gays to come out online?"



Why is he insisting on talking about gays? Is this a gay-themed show? Well, I don't want to pronounce on this topic any more than I want to say what it's like to be a Moslem online or a recovering alcoholic online. I don't have the standing to talk about this. But I don't want to sound like this is a topic that I have a personal problem with. I mean, I'm 51 so I grew up homophobic like everyone else in my generation, including the gays. But I'm pretty sincerely over that now. It's odd how now being a Real Man means being able to talk about homosexuality whereas in the bad old days, a man who talked about homosexuality without using the word "fag" or "queer" was considered to be a little "light in the loafers" himself. What a weird phrase. Anyway, this is a really complex question to which I don't even have simple answers. But, what's the harm in admitting that I don't have an opinion on this? Isn't it good to model public ignorance?

I don't know.

And so I probably sounded either homophobic or so conflicted about my own sexuality that I'm unable to talk about it. Oh well.

Ten minutes later, I found myself thinking about what I should have said:

I don't have the personal standing to talk about this. But I know it's a very complex question. Yes, the anonymity of the Web may make it easier for someone to acknowledge something difficult to acknowledge in the real world. But coming out of the closet must be a really complex decision, different for each person. Are you admitting to what you think is a flaw or are you embracing as positive something you had once seen as a flaw? Were you in the closet because you had internalized shame or because you were afraid of the consequences? By coming out, are you owning up to yourself for the first time or working on altering your social relationships or both? All those factors and more will bear on whether coming out in the anonymous public of the Web is easier or harder and also whether it brings the same sort of satisfaction or healing or joy that coming out in the real world does.

I just don't know.

For the record, how homophobic was I growing up in the '50s and '60s? Enough to worry as a teenager that I might be queer. Not enough to ever call someone "queer." Enough so that about a third of my circle of hippie friends in college waited until they graduated to come out of the closet. Not enough to change the way I felt about those friends. Enough so that I had some very stupid cocktail chatter as a graduate student about why gays weren't taking enough risks in their loving because no child could result (ah, the days before AIDS). Not enough to keep talking when my housemate came out of the closet. Enough, plenty enough.
7/6/2002 10:31:25 AM | PermaLink


Thursday, July 04, 2002

Why I Love the Web

Elaine Nelson sent me the following message in response to my comments about trying to turn my lawn into a meadow (and about their ripeness to serve as the second term in a metaphor):

I'm getting ready to buy my first house, and was discussing garden plans (right now it's a big square lawn, a good croquet size) with my mother-in-law. She is an avid and amazing gardener. (See here for a photo from her back porch.)

I mentioned my desire for a meadow in one part of the yard...she said to never, ever use those "meadow in a can" things; instead, get a few good specimens of self-seeding annuals (she mentioned poppies, yarrow, foxglove and daisies), dig a few holes in your existing lawn, plant these at 18"(?) intervals. Mow around them the first year, let the grass grow with them the 2nd year, and the third year you'll have an honest-to-god meadow.

YMMV, of course, since this is in the Pacific NW, and with a larger yard, at that.

hmmm, but for metaphor credit:

tearing up the existing (end-to-end) structure [grass] and attempting to build a new (closed) structure is a mistake...the heartier structure will always attempt to build over/through the other one. the only way to build a smarter structure is to add in the seeds of smartness and allow it to take over gradually until it becomes its own end-to-end structure. [note that the plants recommended by Mom are all grass-like in both their hardiness and...can't think of the word...spreadiness.] the stupid but catchy system wins!

or something. it seemed to me at the time to be a good metaphor of patience in general, waiting for nature to do what it does best. (which goes to the 2nd point: if your metaphor expresses a constant of human (or otherwise) existance, then it should certainly be applicable to multiple fields of human endeavor. then again, IANAP (where the P stands for Philosopher).)

So, I person I don't know takes the time to craft a response that is informative, personal and thought-provoking. What a gift. Nice to meet you, Elaine.
7/4/2002 12:19:33 PM | PermaLink


Dave Rogers points to an article from the WS Journal (by Lee Gomes) posted at MSNBC about whether the cyberworld needs its own cyberlaws.

Is there really a cyberspace full of �cybercitizens� who need only be accountable to their own �cyberlaws�? A loose-knit group of law professors is bucking one of the big fads in the legal field by calling that whole idea �cybersilly.�

Dave's response is pointed.
7/4/2002 12:14:54 PM | PermaLink


Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Private Dots

From a mailing list (quoting a quote from a quote, so hell with it) comes four places providing privatized domain name resolution. You can register names with them with extensions such as ."agent," ".mp3." ".love," and hundreds of others. But there is, of course, a rub. The domain name servers that do the look-ups when you click on a link don't recognize those extensions. So, you either have to modify your browser to use them, or, in one case, the names actually mask conventional domain names:

http://www.New.Net: "Enable your browser to see New.net domains." (You can also become a registrar, selling New.Net names. Hmmm, is "avarice.amway" taken?)

http://www.Name-Space.com: "Clients who host their DNS with Name.Space are mirrored in the domain '.XS2.NET' for compatibility with legacy domains. (i.e. name.space = name.space.xs2.net) "

http://www.NameSlinger.com: "To view this and other NameSlinger Websites, you should enhance your browser. "

http://www.MOX1.com: "3. Download the plugin."

The only way I can imagine these succeeding is if ICANN makes such a hash of it that balkanizing the Web begins to look good. (See Bob Frankston on ICANN.)

The Bob Frankston Corner

Bob has posted his thoughts about Bluetooth. These amplify and clarify the thoughts he dashed off in response to my coverage of the Bluetooth foodfight.

Bob has posted a terrific article explaining clearly the benefits of an "end-to-end" (= "stupid") network by explaining how caller ID works within the "smart" (= closed) telephone network and how it would work if it were implemented in an Internety way. (For why it's difficult to finance an end-to-end network, see NetParadox.com.)
7/3/2002 09:41:52 AM | PermaLink

Norlin's optimism

Eric Norlin writes:

I guess at my core i'm a die-hard capitalist — I have an insanely optimistic faith in the ability of the marketplace to sort itself out (please don't send emails about MSFT monopolistic practices)...

Hmm, isn't that like saying that you believe you can fly and please don't send emails about gravity?
7/3/2002 08:52:53 AM | PermaLink

A Metaphor in Search of a Meaning

I pulled up all the grass in our front yard this spring. That's a small task since the yard is about large enough to bury two people comfortably (or, as my mother used to describe the capacity of a friend's cabin cruiser: sleeps 4, fucks 8). I then sprinkled "meadow mix" and waited for my garden to bloom. But, the only plant I recognize is crab grass, which I have been dutifully pullling. Otherwise, I can't tell a weed from a flower, so it's all a-growing.

In 50 words or less, please apply this to:

a) The Web
b) Being a parent
c) The endocrine system
d) Something of your own choosing

For extra credit: Must any metaphor be capable of describing disparate phenomena? In general? In this case?
7/3/2002 08:51:01 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, July 02, 2002

At Harvard Course

I'm currently blogging from a course: "Creative New Media and the Web". More to follow.

Ok, I was a guest speaker at a course this morning. That first paragraph was a sample blog I did from the class to illustrate a point. The question had to do with the future of linear, sequential thinking which I inadvertently provoked (the question, not the thinking) by saying that my book developed some ideas over the course of its 200 pages. Isn't linear thinking so '50s? Well, yes and no. I don't think it's dead in our digital future, but I do think that the non-linear, web-like, hyperlinked mare's nests of blogthreads can often be a better way to get a view of a topic. I'm just not an Either/Or type of guy, I guess. Color me wishwashy.
7/2/2002 11:25:04 AM | PermaLink

Gillmor on Lessig: Scary, Depressing, Important

Dan Gillmor is attending a seminar at Harvard on Internet law and is blogging his notes. But Dan's notes are better written than the final drafts of the rest of us. And his notes on Lawrence Lessig's session on exactly how we can - and will, according to Lessig - lose what's most important about the Internet are a superb critical summary of Lessig's position. Read it and weep. Or, better, read it and fight.

Hylton Jolliffe writes: "I wanted to point you to another real-time blog on ILAW that you might find interesting and worth pointing to. It's edited by the Berkman's Donna Wentworth: www.corante.com/copyfight/." Well worth visiting. (Dan G points to this site also in his bloggage from the seminar.)

And Eric Norlin is POed that we're not paying enough attention to digital ID since that's a linchpin of the entire scheme. He highly recommends what looks like an excellent conference. Why, I'd be tempted to go if someone were to pony up the travel expenses. (That's the problem with being self-employed: you have to engage in some serious self-delusion to enjoy the perqs fully.)
7/2/2002 09:59:54 AM | PermaLink

visualizing blogthreads

Jon Schull is visualizing blogthreads. To him they might look something like this:

BTW, don't forget the discussion of Shelley's ThreadNeedle project at QuickTopic. It's how we're going to get honest-to-object blogthreads.
7/2/2002 09:33:21 AM | PermaLink

Frankston on Bluetooth

Bob Frankston adds a critique of Bluetooth to the blogthread that began with my blogportage of a contretemps between the estimable Landry and the venerable Bricklin (or was it the venerable Landry and the estimable Bricklin?) and continued here (Bricklin) and here (Fleishman, Peterson, Marks).

I've written a lot about Bluetooth and don't want to revisit it again but will risk some short and brief comments. Bluetooth reminds me of the story of the blind men and the elephant – each feels a part and presumes that it represents the elephant. People find some claim about Bluetooth they like and assume that it is the best way to get that particular aspect. But Bluetooth is like the days of dedicated word processors – they couldn't compete with the ability to quickly evolve products on generic PCs.

Bluetooth would simply be a curiosity as the triumph of marketing over reality were it not for the damage of sucking the energy out of the wireless marketplace. Just a few quick bullets before I run down to the dinner waiting for me:

  • Replacing a cable. This is a lie. If that were the goal, then I'd be able to get a generic cable replacement rather than a better way to get to my cell phones.

  • Replacing a cable. It doesn't just replace a cable, it requires I not use a cable since Bluetooth insists that the protocols work only over their transport and no other. I can't even use a wire as way to go faster or use less power.

  • Lower power. I don't see any reason why the cost per bit for IP is any lower. The low power is an artifact of the higher level protocols which are designed to reduce traffic for trivial apps. If you use it like 802.11 you blow the design point.

  • Low power? If it's so important use IP over HomeRF.

  • Low power? It is it so important then provide power management for 802.11

  • Cheap. Cheap is 100% about volume. Color movies are now cheaper than black and white. I can make anything cheap by assuming a volume of a billion units per year. 802.11 is shipping and thus has the advantage.

  • Bluetooth requires I use 802.11 Bluetooth's design point is so limited it can't be the only protocol so why bother? In order to do all the things a normal user wants, even if you have Bluetooth you will still need 802.11. [Later addition: Bluetooth�s profiles and applications and radios are all tied together and tethered by their accidental properties. Bluetooth�s competition is not 802.11, it is the concept of IP and the separation of transport from applications. If you like the Bluetooth profiles you can use them atop IP but, as you may notice, they don�t seem to have enough value for that to be considered worth doing.]

  • It's all about paying for connecting by making the cell phone the center of the universe. Even if you accept that I simply use a second cell phone in a PCMCIA slot in my laptop.

  • Cell phones are bad designs anyway and date back to FM modulation tricks in the 1970's and now are mainly ways  to pay for foolish 3G investments.

  • Bluetooth is awfully slow.

  • Bluetooth is IrDA with the same mistakes of being too clever and treating IP as a third class protocol over a simulated serial path

Enough – I could go much further in dissecting and trashing Bluetooth but this dead horse is already leather.

The real point, however, is that Bluetooth is a bad design that has the advantage of making expansive claims that have no basis in reality. Demos will work very well and that is a bad sign since it means that that which is not the demo is given short shrift.

Bluetooth – why should anyone care except insofar that it is a way to annoy us.

Mary Lu pulls together two threads by noting that Belkin has introduced a Bluetooth USB adapter.
7/2/2002 09:27:46 AM | PermaLink


Monday, July 01, 2002

Belkin Customer Support Rocks

For the second time, my Belkin Nostromo 500 Speedpad, an essential add-on if you play computer games, broke. For the second time, a simple email to their support folks resulted in them sending out a new one. These folks are great to do business with.
7/1/2002 04:38:41 PM | PermaLink

BlueTooth FoodFight

Glenn Fleishman, journalist to the stars and WiFi enthusiast, takes up the cudgels against the comments from Dan Bricklin I ran about the inadequacies of BlueTooth.

We're in the early phases of Bluetooth which is now clearly a technology that will be here to stay. I used to be a Bluetooth denigrator, but having seen it survive some early nonsense (overhype by its backers, lack of hardware, lack of standards, a terrible 1.0 stack, etc.), it's got a lot of advantages.

Advantages over 802.11:

1. No set up "cost": ad hoc networking is and will continue to be a pain with Wi-Fi which is Ethernet sans fils (I mean without strings, but I might have said without parents). Bluetooth doesn't have setup and breakdown costs, which reduces power use, network traffic, and user complexity.

2. Bluetooth is low power: it will work in devices in which battery life is at a premium.

3. Bluetooth chip costs are plummeting: yes, of course, it's ridiculous that you pay $150 for a Bluetooth adapter, but, frankly, those are proofs of concept right now. In less than a year, you'll buy a Bluetooth-equipped printer that may cost less than $25 more than a similar non-BT model.

4. Another point on ad hoc networking: Wi-Fi *must have* a base station to allow more than two devices to talk to each P2P. This is an inherent limitation of the protocol. If you want to have 3 devices exchange data, you need extra hardware, or one of the devices must turn itself into an infrastructure node which requires special software (available for Mac OS 9, for instance, but not Mac OS X yet or possibly ever).

Some of this will change as discovery technology improves. Apple's great interest in offering discovery over several media (FireWire, wireless, wired, etc.) means that Bluetooth's discovery protocol could be less important.

Wi-Fi can "discover" other devices, but it doesn't know what to do then unless you join a network.

In a follow-up email, Glenn writes:

I thought Bluetooth was a lousy idea. However, they're going to make the chips so small soon that they'll be able to do some of the very cheap, very powerful concepts, like embed them in otherwise ridiculous devices (books, flexible drawings, e-paper), and make them super cheap and super low power.

Wi-Fi devices must conform to the certification process (otherwise, they're just plain 802.11b), so they have to have minimum power and distance compliance.

Jonathan Peterson responds with an email supporting what seems to me to be Bricklin's main problem with BlueTooth:

The real problem with bluetooth is that it isn't an open transport standard that anyone can build on. You want to build an atomic clock wristwatch that acts as a timeserver to keep all your devices in sync (a cool idea if I say so myself)? Not only will your users have to dick around with it incessantly to convince everything to take time information from it, but the manufacturer will have to apply for certification to 7 Layers AG, you they won�t be able to sell the product until it has been approved.

How long would current WWW technologies have taken to mature if Tim Bremmers-Lee et al had to submit everything for ISO approval before moving forward with implementation?

Which among other thoughts I blogged of course:

Kevin Marks writes:

I know you have trouble with numbers, so here's a handy guide to relative speeds in orders of magnitude

BlueTooth is 10 times faster than a 56k modem
USB is 10 times faster than Bluetooth
802.11b is as fast as USB
10baseT is as fast as USB
100baseT is 10 times faster than 10baseT
FireWire is 4 times faster than 100baseT and 40 times faster than USB
Gigabit Ethernet is 10 times faster than 100baseT

BlueTooth was designed to replace the slow things on USB (mice, keyboards, serial ports - the oens tht run at the slow speed).

It has no chance in hell of competing with 802.11b.
7/1/2002 09:02:37 AM | PermaLink

Locke on Blogs and Penises

Halley runs Jeneane's transcription of RageBoy's comments on NPR about weblogs. Well put, RB.

Meanwhile, RB blogs some spam promising to enlarge his penis. A quick calculation shows that had I responded to every spam offer to enlarge my penis, my dick would currently be 2.36 miles (3.64 kilometers) long. Ok, ok, like all men, I rounded up my starting length. It'd really only be 2.357 miles long.

(You'll find a witty metric conversation chart here).
7/1/2002 07:56:03 AM | PermaLink

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