ben hammersley asks given the US?s unique role on the international stage, is it morally right for its election to be decided, or even participated in, only by its own citizens? a while back joi ito wondered about this too, and a long thread of comments followed. with all due respect to the rest of the world, i hope non-americans never get the right to vote in america. if you don't like the influence america has on your country, i would encourage you to vote for representatives in your own country who won't accept that influence, use your voice and money to influence american public opinion, and do whatever else you want to push your political agenda. but i draw the line at voting. i realize these arguments don't need to be made, as there is no chance of this happening, but i make them here anyway.

there's no clear distinction between the framers of domestic and foreign policy in american government, so if non-americans were allowed to vote in american elections, they would be effectively deciding domestic policy for americans. our government system already does a poor enough job of representing us without this influence. this would also set a terrible precedent. i could easily cite influence on my own life as an american from numerous other countries, so following the logic of international voting, i should have a right to vote in these elections. but what happens with a country that doesn't have elections, or one that claims to be democratic, but in practice is not? should i allow them to vote in my country even though i don't have the same right in their own?

representative government needs to be getting narrower, not broader, to improve effectiveness. it's bad enough that i'm choosing government officials who are controlling events in california or alaska (or worse yet, iraq). i prefer the federal government stay out of state affairs as much as possible precisely because i don't want to be responsible for what happens in california or alaska - i don't live there to experience the full effects of my voting. allowing non-americans to vote in american elections would be far worse, as non-americans could easily vote for people who would bring disaster to america and have no idea they were doing so. at least when americans vote for people who bring disaster to america, we have to live with that disaster. this connection between the rights and responsibilities of voting would be lost if non-americans were allowed to vote in american elections. any improvements in policy wouldn't make up for that loss.

 

irridentism is n : the doctrine that irredenta [regions that are related ethnically or historically to one country but are controlled politically by another] should be controlled by the country to which they are ethnically or historically related (from dictionary.com). a few examples should make it clear that irridentism is the primary cause of war. people will continue to describe other causes of war, but wars having nothing to do with irridentism are so rare that these other reasons are relatively unimportant.

i'll start with the exception that's currently foremost in my mind: america's most recent war against iraq. this had nothing to do with irridentism. america didn't attack iraq because of any ethnic or historical ties to the nation. the reasons given by the american government are various and changing, but the reason for the american people, who are ultimately responsible for the wars our government wages, was clearly revenge (or "justice", if you prefer). 70% of americans believed iraq's leader was responsible for the 9/11 attacks on america.

which brings us to 9/11. it was not exactly a war, but it had basically the same effect, and was caused by irridentism. there are certainly other causes, but i don't think the attacks would have happened if there wasn't a belief among the members of al qaeda that america had too much control over saudi arabia - a land full of ethnic and historic ties to al qaeda. if you doubt this, read osama bin laden's own reasoning for his actions.

now on to the seemingly endless conflict between israel and palestine. the position of both sides in this case is irridentism, and this is precisely why this conflict has continued for so long with so little movement toward peace. both sides have ethnic and historic ties to the same land, and both believe they are the rightful authority over that land.

the list of irridentism-caused conflicts is long: ireland, china/taiwan, china/tibet, north korea/south korea, serbia, india/pakistan, russia/chechnya, and so on. so if i'm right when that stopping irridentism would stop most wars, stopping irridentism is an incredibly important goal. so how do we do it?

this part i'm not so clear on, but it occurs to me that irredenta may not be considered in need of saving through war if it was clear that the people had the means to choose their own government. that is to say that democracy may be the best cure for irridentism. you could argue that israel is a democracy and this hasn't helped much in that case, but i'd respond that israel is not a democracy for the non-israeli people living in the disputed territories, who don't have the right to vote to give these territories to palestine. i think this right, whether or not it was exercised, would do much to end palestinian irridentism. in the same way saudi arabian democracy would do much to end al qaeda's irridentism, tibetan democracy would have weakened china's irridentism, and so on. democracy isn't a perfect antidote for irridentism and the wars it causes, but it's a good start.

 

this (christmas) morning, i read this BBC article summary:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed to the secular world to overcome its mistrust of religion.

and i thought to myself, "if the archbishop is really interested in overcoming mistrust of religion, he should call on the religious to stop doing things that generate that mistrust." then i read the rest of the article:

Dr Williams said part of the reason lay in the misuse of faith for oppression and violence, as an alibi for atrocity.

The Archbishop called on Christians to show their faith was "on the side of humanity".

...

The Archbishop said religious faith had too often become the "language of the powerful".

i'm happy to see someone of authority within the church publicly recognizing these problems, when a question like "is god a white racist?" is not clearly answered by the church.

 

just stumbled across this and found it amusing:

The judge said the evidence showed that Shizawa was mentally "off."

Shizawa's lawyer, Simon Robert Hiller, said his client was a law-abiding citizen.

"He was in love," he said.

 

a few days ago i unsubscribed myself from yet another conservative weblog. in principle, i believe it's possible for someone with a liberal bias such as myself to have a reasonable discussion with someone with a conservative bias. but in practice, i've found it difficult to find someone with a conservative bias who doesn't equate my liberal bias with terrorism. of course, the same problem exists with overtly liberal weblogs, which too often equate conservatism with fascism.

maybe this makes sense outside of america, but here i just don't get it. whether you are a liberal or conservative american, roughly half of the country is in the opposing camp. i don't understand what sort of views would support the painting of half of all americans as evil. maybe it makes those who agree with the writer feel better about themselves, but isn't it more important to be changing the minds of those who don't agree with the writer? isn't it a safe assumption that the american government will continue to (albeit poorly) represent both liberal and conservative americans, and will thus be required to find some middle ground? is there no longer a middle ground in american politics?

as someone with an admittedly liberal bias, i'd like to offer an example to conservatives of how to change my mind on an issue. doc searls quotes a passage from Iraq: Setbacks, Advances, Prospects (PDF), by Adeed Dawisha:

It is undeniable that insecurity and at times chaos have reigned for a dismayingly long time in some parts of Iraq, particularly in sections of Baghdad (whose sprawling environs contain around a fifth of Iraq's total population of about 25 million people) and in the "Sunni" zone. This area, which is often called the "Sunni triangle," is actually more of a quadrilateral whose corners rest on Baghdad in the south, Saddam's home city of Tikrit in the north, Ramadi in the west, and Baquba in the east. The Arabic-speaking, Sunni Muslim tribes who predominate in this area received ample largess and many privileges from Saddam, and in turn staffed much of his secret-police and military apparatus. It is in this area that the vast majority of U.S. casualties have occurred. Saddam loyalists, who stand to lose the most from the demise of his regime, have perpetrated almost-daily attacks on U.S. convoys and personnel in this zone. Well-equipped and seemingly generously financed by Saddamist remnants who raided Iraq's treasury before fleeing Baghdad, these guerrillas have been waging a low-intensity war that U.S. commanders have been hard-pressed to contain, let alone eliminate.

this passage tells me things i didn't know, and it gives me cause to reconsider some of my beliefs about the situation in iraq. it doesn't turn me into a conservative, but if such a conversion is possible (i've never met a "former liberal" nor a "former conservative"), this is a good place to start it. calling me a terrorist is a bad place to start. i've changed my mind on too many issues too many times to believe i'm currently right about everything i believe, and this is why i seek out people with differing opinions to challenge my own. do you know of any overtly conservative weblogs that don't equate liberals with terrorists? if so, please share, because i haven't had much luck so far in my search.

 

daniel berlinger had the same reaction i did to joel spolsky's latest article, "biculturalism". joel says:

Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers.

to which daniel responds: while there certainly are two lines of thought, there are those of us who prize both. joel's example of command line unix programs is really an explanation of where "unix culture" was five or ten years ago. but modern unix systems wrap command line programs in more user-friendly interfaces in recognition of these values of "windows culture". and the next generation of windows software aims to make windows applications and data more programmer-friendly, in recognition of these values of "unix culture".

so increasingly the unix and windows worlds are both recognizing the value of software being both user-friendly and programmer-friendly. making software programmer-friendly is largely an exercise of faith. one programmer puts a lot of time into creating programatic "hooks" in the hopes that other programmers will come along and make some use of those hooks. but that doesn't always happen. sometimes other programmers don't come along. but the unix faithful go on believing.

if unix is faith, windows is reason. if you want your software to be used by many, windows is your platform for better or worse. joel labels apple's user-friendly version of unix as "heretical", but is there such thing as a "heretical" way to do windows software? i say no, because the basic rationality of "how many users?" is the primary measure of value in the windows world. we unix geeks can say "microsoft is evil" all we want, but this doesn't change the fact that most people are using windows.

but as i pointed out before, the faith of "unix culture" and the reason of "windows culture" are increasingly mixing. about 700 years ago, a similar mixture of faith and reason in europe brought about much of what is now western civilization. and for all its faults, i'd say it was a pretty good product. we're not quite there yet in the software world, but i look forward to a day when we can stop talking about user-friendly or programmer-friendly software, and just talk about friendly software.

 

anyone lived in a pretty how town is a poem by e. e. cummings, sent to me by ann a while ago. i set it to music, and now you can listen to it.

 

the color of money lets you see how much americans in different areas have historically given to either of the two major parties. i learned that peoria, illinois - where i grew up - is much more republican than bloomington, illinois - where i live now. (via doc searls)

 

i was just browsing different meetup topics and noticed that in the middle of more conventional religions in the "religion" category is a new one: "jeff bezos". for those who don't know, jeff bezos is the founder and CEO of amazon.com. and now apartently there is a religion dedicated to him. this wouldn't surprise me so much if there were also a "bill gates" or "steve jobs" listing in this category, but jeff bezos currently stands alone as the only technologist who has spawned a religion on meetup.

 

shelley powers has what i think is a wonderful suggestion for a new award:

To be honest, if the Wizbang awards person had taken the nominations, went out to Technorati and found the least linked of them and put them into the award lists, I would have promoted the hell out of it. I wouldn't have been on that list, but I still would have promoted the hell out of it.

as it is now, the wizbang awards only sends yet more links to the most linked weblogs, which isn't helpful for most writers or readers. most writers aren't on the list, and most readers are already aware of these weblogs because they're the ones everyone links to all the time.

what we need is awards for under-read weblogs. as a reader, i want to know what's good out there that i'm not already being pointed to by everyone i read. and as a writer, i'd like a few more readers. maybe i'll make these awards after i gain some financial stability.

 

ann writes:

I also despise the riaa's bully tactics, which I see as a last ditch attempt to maintain the recording industries oligopolistic pricing policies in the face of increased competition. I don't doubt that theatening to sue 12 year olds will decrease the amount of file sharing, but unless those 12 year olds have very generous allowances it's not going to increase record sales.

i'm no fan of the RIAA, but i've been wondering lately if these tactics aren't more calculated than i'd previously given them credit for. it's often pointed out that the RIAA has a long history of trying to outlaw technologies it ultimately profits from, as this discussion from boycott-riaa.com summarizes:

The RIAA tried to outlaw dual casette decks. One of the any things they tried to outlaw, along with player pianos, wax cylinder recorders, record, radios, television and DAT.

i'm not sure how much of this is true (it doesn't make any sense to me that the RIAA would have any interest in television), but i trust enough of it is true that the general point is the same.

but certainly the RIAA is aware of this. so why are they making the same mistake again now? that question assumes it was a mistake before. maybe the RIAA's strategy assumes an eventual failure in their attempts to halt technological progress, but sees these attempts as buying time while they figure out how to profit from the new technology.

i once looked at these lawsuits and thought to myself "the RIAA can't possibly win the battle against file sharing", but now i think that's not the battle they're fighting. they're fighting the battle for maximum profit, and as services like itunes and buymusic start to replace services like napster and kazaa as the standard means of obtaining music, it increasingly appears the RIAA has already won this battle.

 

i have two comments on "is dean stoppable?", at salon: the first is that mario cuomo gave a quote that shows he has no regard for democracy when he said:

'Because [Dean] has people excited. Because he has money. Because he has a lock in the polls in New Hampshire. Because he has two big unions, he has the kids, the Internet loves him, because he came out early against the war.' That's all fine. But should he win?

i'm not sure what cuomo imagines would determine if someone should win, if not the kind of widespread support dean has, but i suspect it's the kind of top-down structure that has been failing the democratic party since bill clinton left office.

my second comment is what i suspect is the only winning strategy for a democrat running against dean: change your name to "anyone but bush". "anyone but bush" has more support than any current candidate. i hear more people say "i'll vote for anyone but bush" than "i'll vote for dean" or even "i'll vote for bush". even most of dean's supporters are really "anyone but bush" supporters. millions of americans support "anyone but bush". they've even set up a campaign website for "anyone but bush". they just need a candidate to take the name.

 

via metafilter, the japan SAQ (Seldom Asked Questions) contains some useful information. for example:

Q.?On the news why are the handcuffs fogged out when they show someone being arrested?

Q.? Why all the cherry trees and no cherries?

Q.? What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Q.? Why do Japanese people say that they have blue traffic lights when they are really green?

and many more questions that make japan sound about as interesting as it is.

 

i don't remember who first introduced me to the peanut butter and pickle sandwich, but it has recently come to my attention that not everyone is aware of this tasty treat. in fact - believe it or not - some even react with disgust when the combination of peanut butter and pickles is mentioned. but the nay-sayers say no nay after trying it. although i found no recipe on recipezaar, an otherwise wonderful recipe site, i did find one on freerecipe.org that goes like this:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped pickle
1/4 cup hot water

Cream peanut butter and water together and add chopped pickle.

now i've never used 1/4 cup of hot water, so my recipe is even more ridiculously simple:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped pickle

Put on bread and enjoy.

 
i'm reluctantly facing the possibility that the brickhouse gazette is not an online journal, (personal reflections put up to start a dialogue with others) but rather a newspaper than nobody reads (pretentious in style and pathetic in existence). i don't want to change who i am. can i change my writing style without compromising myself?
 

i'd like to be a better citizen. i'd love to kick bush out of the white house. these two reasons are why i've started attending "meetups." meetup is "a free service that organizes local gatherings about anything, anywhere."

of particular interest to me are the meetups for presidential candidates. according to the "top topics in usa presidential" list on meetup's usa presidential candidate site, meetups for a nonexistent campaign, gore in 2004, have better attendance than meetups for bush in 2004. not that this reflects the true quantity of bush supporters, but it shows they don't use this convenient, grassroots method of mobilizing. i'd say it was a shame, but i'd be lying.

if you want to fulfill a civic duty, or you're just fed up with the status quo, combining your small effort with a few other people adds up to a large effort. meetups are one easy way to connect with those other people.

if you want to know more about a candidate, attending (or starting!) a meetup is a great way to find out why other people in your area support him or her.

you don't need to have your mind made up to get involved. i signed up to attend meetups for one candidate, decided he wasn't for me, and have since been attending meetings to support howard dean.

 

the new york times has an interesting article about new "voice fonts":

These fonts are made up of a database of phonemes, the basic sounds that make up any language. To create the database, technicians record a singer performing as many as 60 pages of scripted articulations (like "epp, pep, lep"). Assorted pitches and techniques like glissandos and legatos are also thrown in the mix; with all the combinations, the process takes a week of five-hour singing days.

i'd really love to hook this, or something like it, up to my computer-generated poetry page (which also uses a database of phonemes) to produce computer-generated music. it doesn't look likely i'll be able to do something like this any time soon, but maybe some day.

 

ann maria bell stopped by here last week, and did a good job of obscuring the more obvious similarities between [her] mental state and a bowl of pudding. i'm not sure i achieved the same. i think i was under the influence of too much insulin at the time, though i can't be sure because i can no longer afford to take proper care of my diabetes (which is not to say i always did before, but at least it was my choice then). but that was only part of the problem. the other part was that i'm an introvert, and as soon as ann walked in the door i realized that my online personae doesn't convey this at all. online all i do is communicate, but in the physical world i do relatively little of that. ann, on the other hand, is just as communicative and interesting in person. perhaps i'll deal differently with the problem of reconciling my online and offline identities next time it comes up. i just hope it comes up again.

 

my noun page is a PHP implementation of mark pilgrim's universal noun pluralizer. if you run one of the 600,000 sites that boast of "1 comments", you should use this code.

 

i did robots.txt handling for the job search over at dismployed (which, by the way, is now the most user-friendly and useful job search on the internet, in my biased opinion) by extending the open source "snoopy" php class. i thought this might be useful for others, so i tried to come up with a less complicated demonstration here on randomchaos. what i came up with turned out to be more complicated than i expected, and it's almost certainly missing something, but i nonetheless point you to browser spoof.

if it isn't obvious from the name, the tool lets you pass as other browsers (or more broadly, user agents). it will hopefully be useful for those sites that do browser sniffing and prevent access to certain browsers (among other uses). it will also stop you from accessing a page if the user agent you're passing as is disallowed in the requested server's robots.txt file. to do this, it uses the new robots.inc class, which was designed for exactly this purpose, in the interest of having a standards-friendly search engine over at disemployed.

 

on the boston globe:

Using a database of over 100,000 brief segments of speech, they noted which frequency had the greatest emphasis in each sound. The resulting set of frequencies, they discovered, corresponded closely to the chromatic scale. In short, the building blocks of music are to be found in speech.

why is that assumed over the alternative conclusion, that the building blocks of speech are to be found in music? either way, interesting stuff.

 

i imagine at some point we will have applications (or operating systems) that do the work of subscriptions for other applications. we will subscribe to addresses, and individually assign each subscription an interval to wait between reloads. when new content arrives, it will be automatically sent out to applications that can handle it. new events will be sent to our calendars, new music will be sent to our music applications, new photos will be sent to our photo applications, and new web content will be sent to applications that will look a lot like modern news readers, only without the subscriptions. the usefulness of subscriptions is general enough that i already have multiple unrelated applications using it. these applications would be easier to develop if the work of subscriptions was already done, which would result in better software for users.

 

i'm generally skeptical of much of what's newly available for diabetic treatment, such as implants and vaccines. but the bbc today reported the first news that excited me in this area: a possible cure for diabetes.

 

shelley powers writes about what she calls a "gender ghetto":

The power of weblogs is that anyone can have one and post their thoughts online. There is a true democracy at work. However, a democracy isn't always the best form of group organization within a heterogeneous body. What happens is that the majority tends to hold all the influence.

Supposedly within weblogging, women form over 50% of the webloggers, and you would think that they then receive 50% of the links. However, what I'm finding, at least in the weblog circle that I tend to traverse on my daily prowls, is that links to women occur much less frequently than links to men. I'm not talking blogroll links; I'm talking about links to posts, with associated commentary.

shelley's assumption that the top echelons of weblogging would be come close to representing the broader population stems from a confusion between the majority holding all the influence, and exercising it. the parable of mouseland seems appropriate:

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn't put up with it any more, they decided that something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

shelley seems to be advocating voting for white cats without questioning why the mice are voting for cats at all. why everyone fills their weblogs with links to the same few people is, i think, a more interesting question than why these few people are men. (the answer to that question is simple: they're men because weblogging came from the real world, in which men have long enjoyed priviledge over women.) the gender gap shelley has described is nothing more than one aspect of the power law clay shirky described. if women were at the top of the power curve, most links would be to women. women get disproportionately less links in the current system, but so does anyone who is in some way unlike those at the top of the power curve. the top will never be representative of the bottom because it can't be. the power curve is a power curve because the top is significantly different than the bottom. if it weren't, the curve would be flatter, but it's not. shelley's "gender ghetto" is in no way segregated from the rest of the bottom of this curve, so the real "ghetto" is the whole bottom of the curve, which contains about 99% of all webloggers. it's not much of a "ghetto".

gender doesn't strike me as an interesting distinction here, partly because i don't believe you can reliably tell someone's gender from their writing. the gender genie found that i often write "like a female", and jessica often writes "like a male". shelley concludes her piece with I want to be an influence now, but she is an influence now. she's just not a power now. she's not one of the few people whose links are copied on thousands of other weblogs. but does she really want to be? if we're only concerned with concentrating the power in new hands at the top of the power curve, we're missing out on the bigger opportunity to flatten the curve by finding ways to turn our influence into networked power at the bottom. because while the power may rest at the top of the power curve right now, the potential power is undoubtedly largest at the bottom. we all use our influence (linking) to increase the concentration of power at the top by turning over our influence to them (if they link to something, we do too), but how could we be using it to create power at the bottom, where it could be much greater? i think this is a much larger and more important question than shelley's Women's voices have not not been heard as loudly as they should in these areas in the past -- is this same lack of influence now going to be taken into the communication media of the future? but if that's a good catalyst to get people interested in the issues of how we could better use our influence, it couldn't hurt. i'd just like to see the issue expanded a bit to include the other 49% of us down here at the bottom of the power curve.

 

i've been wanting to put into clearer words my reasoning for ending my support for kucinich, because i've found that i'm actually anti-kucinich now. i haven't talked about this with any of the few people i know who still support him, because i didn't really have an argument against him. it was just my own bad experiences, and a vague feeling i had this these experiences were a reflection of the campaign. i just found an argument that puts my feelings in better words than i could:

If running for the presidency was a left-wing essay contest, then we would all vote for Kucinich. It isn't. Presumably Kucinich has heard of the Internet. Where was his Internet campaign? Where, indeed, is the Kucinich organization at all? Does Kucinich believe that there is some invisible, natural majority for his ideas that will simply appear like genies when he says his magic words? Kucinich is running a vanity campaign, pure and simple.

that's precisely what i feel it is too: a vanity campaign. what bothers me so much is that it's at the expense of people who are spending their time and energy supporting him. it's one thing for him to talk about peace, but the kucinich campaign was in practice by far the worst internal bickering i've ever experienced, and i saw no sign (and have still seen no sign) that anyone at the national campaign cared. so i'm anti-kucinich. i not only no longer support his campaign; i oppose it.

 

shelley powers writes about health insurance as the new class system in america:

Now you can have no health insurance and you'll either be the working poor, or you'll be rich enough not to need it. Being completely poor, and I mean on the street homeless, you'll not need it either because you use the emergency rooms for all your medical needs.

i hadn't previously thought of myself and part of the working poor class. and i'm not even working regularly (for pay, anyway), so i guess that makes me just poor. but i'm at least enough a part of the middle class to have savings, which i can rely on for a few more months hopefully before i'll need to give up and go abroad again.

my previous two trips abroad were mostly adventures. the first was to japan during university. then after university, i went to teach english in taiwan. that was slightly less for my own enjoyment and enlightenment, as i was certainly conscious of how the salary would help me quickly pay off my school loans. but it increasingly appears that my next trip to asia will be primarily influenced by my need for healthcare. being diabetic, i simply can't find affordable healthcare in america. and by "affordable", i mean less than what i'm paying in rent.

if i have to leave my country because i can't afford health insurance here, i won't be coming back until i can. i'm not so arrogant as to think i alone am a significant loss for the country, but i think i'm a symptom of a larger problem. i graduated with honors from a pretty good university. i was a good student. i'm a smart guy and a good worker. and i can't find affordable health insurance in america. this must be having a tremendous negative impact not only on my fellow uninsured americans, but also on the country as a whole, as we lose too many good citizens to countries with better health care systems.

 

thanks to boingboing, i have my valentine for next year written already:

you activate my dopamine-rich brain regions and parts of my anterior cingulate cortex.
 

a post on boingboing talks about how lists of shows to watch on tivo become "to-do" lists:

When I first got my TiVo, having a lot of programming on the drive felt like someone had done me a large favor; but over time, it felt almost like a nag: here's all this "work" I've got piled up for you to do.

i have this problem with both my email and my news reader. i have real work to do this morning, but i can't bring myself to leave the 47 unread items sitting there. and there's no way to make the new item notification go away. i've just shrunk it down as far as i can, and i'll do my best to remember that it's not really a to-do list; it just looks like one.

 

the wiktionary is the dictionary form of the wikipedia. both are collaborative open content projects. i regularly use the wikipedia, and the wiktionary is promising, but just short of its potentional currently.

one thing missing from the wiktionary now is the important function of a dictionary in maintaining a complete set of known words. a dictionary not only provides definitions for existing words, but also provides a definitive list of which combinations of characters are words and which are not. if i search dictionary.com for a string of letters and no entries are found, i have a fairly good indication that string of letters isn't a word. but if i search wiktionary.org for the same string of letters and nothing comes up, i don't know if that's because it's not a word, or because no one has yet entered it. and of course the same problem exists with found words, as there's nothing stopping someone from entering definitions for words that don't exist. this incompleteness will likely be an ongoing problem for the wiktionary unless a conscious effort is made to fill in all the gaps.

making the wiktionary comprehensive isn't necessary to make it incredibly useful. it already does a great job of cross referencing words of different languages, making it a promising (though again, not complete) translation aid. also, if the wiktionary implemented some wiki markup specific to its task, such as standard means of marking things like synonyms, antonyms, other grammatical forms of the same root word, pronunciation, and so on, the wikipedia could be used as a huge data source for computational linguistics applications.

computational linguistics requires both a lexicon and a grammar, and the wiktionary could provide the first half with some minor tweeking. i had previously considered implementing the second half in some sort of distributed system wherein one site would define a sentence as (amount other things) a noun phrase followed by a verb phrase, and then point to other sites which would define what makes up noun phrases and verb phrases. it occurs to me now that this could all be stored in a central wiki, and cross-referenced with the wiktionary.

in other news of wiki applications, see wikiquote, which makes me question whether there is any further need for QML. again, what is needed is standardization of format so that the data in this wiki can be reused and reformated. as it is, it's just a bunch of text.

 

reading jonathon delacour's revelation that he's "conservative" makes it clear to me that the old left-right axis is almost entirely useless. i generally consider myself "liberal", but i generally agree with jonathon's opinions, as expressed in his weblog. so either i'm not really "liberal", or he's not really "conservative", or those words aren't really important. i strongly suspect the last option.

so along comes the political compass, which explains itself:

The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left' , established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape.

i took the test and ended up a lefty libertarian, which wasn't surprising. what was surprising to me was the the political compass itself, specifically it's use of "libertarian" and "authoritarian" as a second axis. i was immediately reminded of seeing a strikingly similar political compass at libertarian.org. this site is currently in transition, and seems slightly less influenced by the libertarian party than it was back when i first saw that compass, but as the site points out, it was originally developed by chris whitten, a libertarian himself.

while putting "libertarian" at the opposite end of the spectrum as "authoritatian" is something libertarians like to do, i think it's ridiculous. "authoritarian" is not the opposite of "libertarian". dictionary.com defines "authoritarian" in part as against individual freedom. the problem is that "libertarian" means both advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state (as dictionary.com recognizes) and "member of the libertarian party". were the word not capitalized at the political compass, the compass may not so strongly imply that anyone not a member of that party is against individual freedom (which is not the same thing as individual rights - another way in which the labeling is inappropriate), but it is capitalized.

we see this problem with the word "democrat", which dictionary.com properly defines as both An advocate of democracy and A member of the Democratic Party. we commonly show the difference by capitalizing when referring to the party. but imagine if the political compass had "Democrat" at one end and "Authoritarian" at the other. authoritarians are, after all, against democracy, so this would be reasonable were there not an established political party with that name. but as there is a democratic party, this compass would imply that all republicans are authoritarians, which, current administration aside, is an unfair characterization. that's my problem with using "libertarian" and "authoritarian" as opposite ends of an axis.

i think there's a real need for something to move us beyond thinking of politics in terms of "left" and "right", but i don't think the political compass is a solution. rather than adding another axis, i think we need to get rid of the axes altogether. a new axis just doubles the number of ways in which you can be "with us or against us". i'd like to think my agreement with "conservative" jonathon or my support of a presidential candidate the political compass has placed in the completely opposite end as myself are indications that you can be with us and against us.

 

brad sucks writes:

I find this whole iTunes universe totally bizarre and unnatural. To me it seems too much like the old decidedly F'd up model dressed up to look like something new. Maybe it'll stick, but right now it just feels like a step backwards to me and that technology + progress is going to lay the smack down on it any day now.

it's not as clear to me that "the smack" will be laid down any day soon. i'm afraid all those arguments from filesharing proponents about how musicians don't get a fair shake with the current music distribution system were just empty rhetoric. now that cheap and legal music distribution systems exist, few users seem to care whether or not they're fair. the debate has shifted to which unfair system is the best, which is really just a question of user interface. the money in all of these systems is going to the same people - not the musicians, but the distributors. only now the distributors aren't even doing the distributing. it's not even "the old decidedly F'd up model" as brad puts it; it's worse.

 

if you search for "hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh", google will ask you if you didn't intend to search for "hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" (via language hat, from cinderella bloggerfeller). this raises the question of what makes google think 26 h's should be 25 h's. certainly that sort of spelling correction isn't entered by a human, but it can't be just pure numbers either, or ostitch, with only 22 results, would have a spelling suggestion, and disemployed with over 1,500 results, would not. further testing of the letter "h" shows that it's not only 26 h's that returns a spelling suggestion. according to google, 4 h's should be 3, 7 h's should be 8 (as should 9), 12 h's should be 11, and so on, up to 128 h's, which is google's maximum allowed word length. clearly google has some minor tweeking to do. i, for one, will not be satisfied until i can search for 129 h's and have my spelling properly corrected to 128 h's.

 

jonathon delacour writes I also enjoy talking about interesting things with not just “one or two” but up to three people! last night i attended a meeting with three other people. the meeting went well. the night before, i attended a meeting with six or seven other people. that meeting also went well, but looking back, it occurs to me that it may not have gone so well (from my perspective) had we sat at a round table. as it was conversation generally polarized toward the ends of the long table, in groups of three or four. last week i attended a meeting with about twenty other people, but we split into groups of two or three for a large part of the meeting.

this last meeting was for the bloomington-normal citizens for peace and justice, a local community organization i've been involved in to varying degrees, depending on my geographic distance, since it was founded shortly after september 11, 2001. now that i'm back in bloomington-normal, i'm much more actively involved than i was from taiwan or michigan. and i've resumed pushing for more small group time. this pushing played some part in the small group time we had at the last meeting.

prior to today, i would have said that my reason for pushing for small groups is something i read a long time ago in a book about the practice of organization. the book said something like "meet in groups of six or less", and i've since been encouraging organizations i'm involved in to do just that. but it occurs to me now that my interest in that advice and my remembering it for years after are likely strongly tied to being an introvert. were i an extrovert, i might well have read that same passage and discarded the advice in an instant, finding large groups much more conducive to getting work done.

i still think the advice sound, however, even after realizing my own bias toward accepting it. my reasoning now is that any organization is likely to have introverts as members, and i suspect (though i'm not at all sure) whatever discomfort an extrovert may feel in participating in a small group is significantly less than that an introvert feels in participating in a large group. for the groups i'm involved in, participation is vital. elizabeth lawley has done some intial explaining of extrovert perspective, but i still have a question for any extroverts out there: do extroverts feel uncomfortable participating in small groups? maybe "uncomfortable" is the wrong word even. when i'm in a large group setting, i don't usually feel "uncomfortable" participating. i more often feel unable to participate, because the pace of conversation is faster than my ability to solidify my thoughts. do extroverts have a similar (or opposite) sensation in small groups?

 
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i'm collecting the daily outputs of the prose page. so far, according to a handy online word counter, i have 2,062 of the 50,000 words i need to constitute a novel before the end of the month, putting me terribly behind schedule. but that's okay.

the prose page is entirely driven by google results. when i wanted to know how many words i would need to produce in a day to reach 50,000 in a month, i used google to do math for me. and when i wanted to get a word count, i again used google to find a page that would do that for me. there was a time when i would have launched applications to handle all of those tasks, but now i do them all in my browser, and i don't see any indication that this trend will change any time soon. increasingly, the web is my operating system, and google is my finder.

 

i have a theological question for anyone out there so inclined: why were a people who weren't allowed to use god's name told not to use it in vain?

 

i'm running out of time to tinker with my prose page before the national novel writing month begins. i thought this event would be a good chance to test out some computer-generated prose, because It's all about quantity, not quality. so i signed up a long time ago, but then i forgot about it. and now i'm not even sure i'll be able to generate 50,000 words in a month.

the problem is that i don't have a lot of opportunity to test what i'm doing because google only gives me 1000 queries a day, and when i run out, i have to wait until the next day to do more testing. and then i forget until a few days before the national novel writing month begins. it would be great if i could just have one testing day to do however many queries i needed. but i guess i'll have a whole year to tinker before next year's national novel writing month.

 
Search: "a * *" "kra'vak" Snippet #:the vo san fighter is the kra vak equivalent to a torpedo fighter but instead of carrying a single large missile it is fitted with a smaller version of Search: "fighter * *" "articles" Snippet #:between the mid s and early s and following from a greater geopolitical study of what most plagues this world l ron hubbards authored an Snippet #:latest deep fighter news articles on file date headline deep fighter the tsunami offense preview view all news articles
 

i've registered to participate in this year's NaNoWriMo event. National Novel Writing Month, november 1st to 30th, is an challenge i can't resist. can i write a novel in just 30 days? beginning at 12:01 am on the first of the month, i have until midnight on november 31st to submit a 50,000 word novel.

in 200 pages i should write something worth keeping.

 

i've had this idea for a while now, and i've come to terms with the reality that i'll likely never be in a position to implement it, so i'm just going to talk about it here, and maybe someone else will put it together. the idea is for a website that allows for advertisments to be created by anyone.

the website is very simple. i have an idea for an ad. i go to the website, type up my idea, and give it a price. maybe i'd like $2, or maybe i think it's a really great idea, and i'd like $2000 for it. someone else goes to the website and reads my idea. they think "what a great idea! i could make that" and then they do. they send the ad to the website along with a price. after the ad has been approved, anyone can go to the website and view the ad. but the ad can't be (legally) published elsewhere unless someone pays the fees for both the idea and the production, plus a small standard fee to pay for the website costs.

moveon's new bush in 30 seconds website is close to what i had in mind, but it's far more specific, both in subject matter and in medium. both subject matter and medium would ideally be open. moveon also requires the idea for an ad and the production of an ad to come to the same place, but it seems to me that people with no production skill can have great ideas for ads. moveon's prize is a videotape of the ad. wouldn't the winner already have that? i think money is a better prize.

moveon's site is a step in the right direction. i just think someone else needs to make the idea into a general purpose website. most ads are terrible, and i think this website would help change that while opening up the market to everyone.

 

the web robots FAQ defines a web robot as a program that automatically traverses the Web's hypertext structure by retrieving a document, and recursively retrieving all documents that are referenced. i think the part about retrieving all referenced documents is really beside the point. a web robot is any application that acts as a web browser, but has no human controlling it. if a human is controlling a web browser, a server can send a "go away" message and the human (if they are well-behaved) will go away. if there is no human, we need a standardized system for sending "go away" messages that the application can understand (and if the application is well-behaved, it will also go away).

robots.txt is this format. i've built quite a few web applications that load pages from other servers. and i've done a bit of worrying that one of these web applications would bother the owner of one of the loaded pages. the solution, of course, is to follow the robots.txt standard. by following this standard, i allow the owner of the pages my scripts are loading to say "go away" to my applications whenever they chose to do so, and i no longer need to worry about that cease-and-decist letter arriving.

i started looking for something coded in PHP to check robots.txt files, but i found nothing. so i wrote my own. robots.inc contains the function ok_for_robots which will take a URL and tell you if it's okay for a robot to load this URL. it will also take an optional name for the robot, but this part isn't as widely useful yet because there is no quick way in PHP to specify the name of the application while loading remote content. so the next step is making this easier to do in PHP. meanwhile if you - like me - have PHP scripts that are loading remote pages and you - like me - are concerned about being a good neighbor, you might consider using robots.inc.

 

dress up doll magnets are fun, but the simpsons set rocks.

mutant forms of lisa and bart simpson frame the progress report on my refrigerator. marge's extra eyeballs hold up the top corners. the bottom is supported by homer's pants. it's an "A." yes, i'm bragging. bear with me, please, as i'm unable to lord it over the rest of my class.

i have no contact with classmates because, after completing my bachelors the traditional way at illinois wesleyan university, i thought i'd try an online course through heartland community college.

the course is "growth and development of the young child," the most basic child development class at hcc.

the course description "completely online" wasn't fully accurate; i do have to venture up the road to hcc's main campus to take exams.

i'd say i enjoy the class overall, however. besides the interesting content, the format of the class could hardly be more time efficient.

the only real drawback of this course: i'm lonely for class discussions and opportunities to force my opinion on my classmates. but this is mosly outweighed by the convenience of attending class from the comfort of my recliner.

plus, i make up for it by annoying my loved ones by turning every discussion around me into a debate about issues of child development.

 

my favorite musician comitted suicide last night. sigh.

 

outside the inboxis a compilation of songs inspired by and titled after the subject lines of mass-email (spam). brought to us by "brad sucks", "a one man band with no fans". i've enjoyed the songs, the idea, the band name, the band's (clearly untrue) description, and brad's own music. it's all wonderful and free to download. go listen.

 

so i have this great idea for a joke. let's build a web application around an open source project, with direct ties to an open source web browser, and then make it only available to users of a closed source web browser. the irony would just be fantastic.

 

as i was reading this robert davies quote: The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past, the local NPR station played "the best is yet to come", and i couldn't help noticing the irony. i think this would be a great song for the dean campaign. maybe change a few of the lines, but the general idea seems appropriate.

 

i don't know about everyone else reading joel on software, but for me, $750 is not a "ridiculously low price" for software. it's a ridiculously low price for a house, and maybe a really, really nice car, but not software.

 

the shocked and awed gallery contains pictures drawn by iraqi children depicting the american attack and occupation. some of the pictures are amazing. one titled "christian love" shows an airplane is attacking iraq with cross-shaped missiles. some are just odd. one has a tank flying an israeli flag, something which by news accounts never happened in iraq. it's definitely a gallery worth seeing.

 

my hat's off to james patten, who created the corporate fallout detector, a tool much like an old-fashioned gieger counter that scans barcodes of individual products and then beeps according the amount of complaints about that corporation's ethics. flip the switch to measure their reported environmental damage. its guys like patten who make me wish i invented cool stuff.

 

everyone else may be pointing to cnet's coverage of this story, but you heard it here first.

 

i wasn't going to bring it up again, but tom did. i still think manufacturing scarcity - for the public, at least - is bad. i'd rather put up with spam than pay to send email, and i think the introduction of a "trusted email network" would practically force all email networks to be "trusted". to the extent that "trusted" means "paid", this is bad. free is not the problem. your neighbor buying herbal viagra is the problem. to the extent that "trusted" doesn't mean "paid", i don't see any difference between the trust we currently give an SMTP server and the trust we'd be giving the new trusted relays. both are just passing the message along, with no understanding of what it contains.

this all reminds me of what jessica was telling me about the high school she's been working at for the past few weeks. every student at the school has to wear an ID badge at all times. it's for security, and while it may seem like overkill, it didn't immediately strike me as being utterly ridiculous until jessica told me what one of her students said, which went something like this:

the kids at columbine who shot everyone were students there, so they would have had ID badges. and anyone who has a gun can just hold someone up and take their ID badge, and then they have an ID badge and a gun.

the point being that manufacturity scarcity creates the illusion of security under the assumption that troublemakers can't afford the cost of making trouble (in this case, getting a badge - in the case of email, getting a signature from a "trusted" server). but this assumption is false. spammers don't care about our rules, and they can afford to find and exploit every loophole in the system to work around the system.

they'll do the equivalent of holding up a student to get an ID badge, if that's what it takes to get into the system. they'll pay someone who's already in the system to join their ranks. they'll find a way. meanwhile, the rest of us will be paying the cost of fooling ourselves.

what doesn't get pointed out often enough in these discussions of what to do about spam is that too many people respond positively to spam. these people not only don't want to get rid of spam - they're willing to pay for it. these same people will be using the new "trusted" email networks, and the spam will follow them in, only it will now be "trusted" spam.

 

on oblivio:

Also, I?ve never really thought of making the various lies different colors; I just liked saying I had. I?m totally sticking with black for everything.
 

joel on software writes If someone wants to write up a nice article about how to develop multilingual, Unicode applications with PHP or point me to an existing article on the subject I will link to it here. so i wrote an article and titled it How to develop multilingual, Unicode applications with PHP. it's not comprehensive, but it ends with an open invitation to send your PHP-with-unicode function problems to me to solve.

 

mark twain wrote The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. intimated means "made known subtly and indirectly; hinted". this definition is quite different from that of intimidated. intimidated means "made timid; filled with fear".

i mention all of this because today i noticed a BBC article, which began (and until they correct it, will still begin) The top US official in Baghdad has said the US-led coalition and the Iraqi people will not be intimated by Sunday's suicide bomb attack. i assume paul bremer did not intend to suggest that the "coalition" and the iraqi people will not be made known subtly and indirectly. this was a mistaken word choice.

i wanted to see how far this mistake had spread (because often the same story gets published all over with different headlines), so i searched google news for "intimated". the mistake in this particular story hadn't spread beyond the BBC, but four of the top ten news stories using the word "intimated" use it incorrectly, with the intended meaning of "intimidated". the misuse was so common, i had to check the dictionary again to reassure myself that the two words don't mean the same thing. they don't mean the same thing at all. bombs intimidate. bombs do not intimate. certainly they have proofreaders at these newspapers. do they not know what these words mean?

 

because i had read several headlines stating that verisign had shut down sitefinder, i was surprised when i went to http://puzzleblog.com/, and was redirected to sitefinder. i haven't been able to find another domain (or even subdomain) that does this. and to further confuse me, a whois search reveals that the puzzleblog.com domain name isn't even registered with verisign. it's registered at pairNIC. so when you do a domain name search for http://puzzleblog.com/, your search is sent to pairNIC's DNS servers, which are for some reason redirecting everything without a subdomain back to sitefinder. odd.

 

credit where due: steve minutillo asks:

Why would you use a ridiculous page like this one to convert non-ASCII characters to HTML entities when a totally sweet bookmarklet is available?

he links to his own implementation of a utf-8 to unicode entity converter, but he might as well be linking to mine, which is put to shame by his slick bookmarklet. and to think just yesterday it was cutting edge (impossible, even). great job steve.

 

after yesterday's post in which i attempted to suggest that joel was wrong about PHP, my favorite weblogger, jonathon delacour, accepted joel's statements as truth:

I wish Joel Spolsky had published his excellent introduction to Unicode and character encoding a week earlier, because then I wouldn't have wasted a couple of hours trying to write a snippet of PHP code to convert Japanese characters to Unicode character entities.

so today i wrote a snippet of PHP code to convert japanese characters to unicode character entities. now i think we must either conclude that joel was wrong about it being darn near impossible to develop good international web applications or i am somehow capable of performing the impossible. i'll be satisfied with either conclusion.

 

joel on software writes:

When I discovered that the popular web development tool PHP has almost complete ignorance of character encoding issues, blithely using 8 bits for characters, making it darn near impossible to develop good international web applications, I thought, enough is enough.

to say PHP's character encoding deficiencies make it "darn near impossible to develop good international web applications" is only partially true. the only thing you really can't do with PHP and non-ASCII character sets is edit text (and you can even do that in some very limited ways). but there's nothing stopping anyone from writing a good international web application in PHP, so long as that application doesn't require text editing.

take my daily japanese lessons for an example. i won't be so bold as to suggest this qualifies as a good international web application, but i use PHP to post new lessons, display lessons, and organize lessons, all with non-ASCII text. i won't say it wouldn't be nice to be able to edit my lessons through a web interface, but that's not such a problem that i can't work around it. i get the impression joel hasn't actually tried to develop an international web application with PHP before declaring it "darn near impossible".

 

thank you to my instant friend, ann maria bell, who pointed out to me that the ladybug-esque creatures moving in with me are asian lady beetles.

i failed to mention that these ladies greatly prefer our south windows, which are likely the warmest part of our building.

it sounds cute, but ann sent me some bad news and some worse news. the bad news: they bite. the worse news: i was wrong about the frost displacing them. they're staying the winter.

i'll complain, but i won't try to poison them. that would be a hopeless battle with too great a cost, as ecologists have known since before they were called ecologists, rachel carson being one whose work i recommend.

so, if you're feeling overrun by asian lady beetles or any other pest, think about what you're poisoning before you take action.

 

i've just completed the process of making all my music available for purchase via bitpass. the implementation was incredibly easy, and staff member rachel has been more helpful than i could reasonably expect. the only reason i see for them retaining the "beta" label is that the instructions for selling content are still a bit confusing. but i spent more time uploading my full song files than i did setting up bitpass.

of course, the downside of using such a nice sales system is that future sales will increasingly be a reflection of how well my music is recieved. problems with paypal and cashets provided a handy excuse for why no one was buying my music. now if no one buys my songs, it will either be because they don't know about it, or they didn't like it enough to pay fifty cents. and both of those problems are mine to solve.

 

unpacked boxes and piles of books block the path around our apartment and occupy every available chair. obviously, scott and i aren't ready for visitors, but this hasn't deterred the scores of ladybugs that eagerly clamor at our windows. they even creep inside in apparent eagerness to welcome us, the new tenants, into this old house in this old neighborhood.

i think they're ladybugs. i've been told, because they're orange, that they are japanese beetles. but they just don't look like the pictures i've found of japanese (scarab) beetles.

whatever they are, they don't mind our sparse furniture or clutter. they don't even mind us. why should they? beetles have helped themselves in every autumn and will do so regardless of their human roommates.

it's probably a beautiful metaphor of nature's faithful attempts to perservere through every trial. maybe i'll come back to that when they're gone, but right now i can't say i'll miss them when frost spreads across our windowsill in their place.

 

last december i wrote if you want to take a more active (and fun) approach to showing your displeasure with the [grocery] card system, make an effort to frequently trade cards with other customers. well now you can do so online at rob's giant bonuscard swap meet. it should be simple enough to expand this to cover other grocery chains, and as soon that's done, i'll be swapping.

 

i've made a few changes around the site. if you look at the list of recent changes, you'll see that the vast majority of everything on the server was edited today. it was brought to my attention that this site is difficult to navigate. so i'm doing a site-wide clean-up and reorganization. the major change so far was doing away with the style switcher, which had prevented me from making changes in the past, for fear of how they might affect the various styles (which few were using anyway). so now there's just one style. if you don't like it (and you're alpha-geek enough), you can still apply your own style sheet to the site, but i'll be focusing my limited design skills on a single style from here on out.

 

of everything i've ever heard on the radio, my absolute favorite listening was episode 188 of this american life. you can (and should) listen to it in realaudio format from their website. jon udell is also a fan of this american life, and actually went to the trouble of creating an encapsulation file of a particular segment he wanted to talk about. but i'm not quite as interested in the technology (or lack thereof) of realaudio, so i'll just take the easier path and let you know that my favorite part is about thirteen minutes and ten seconds into the stream. or, you can just read a transcription of my favorite part on debbie3's weblog.

 

i don't want arnold schwarzenegger to be governor of california (because he seems to have a history of abusing his power), but i also don't want to support moveon's campaign against him, because they haven't provided me with enough information for me to know if i support what they'll say. i certainly don't support their assertion that the recall vote "is an attack on American democracy", and if that's going to be included in the anti-arnold ad, i don't want to support that. so instead i'm posting this to publicize that i don't like arnold.

 

sadly, both the ACLU and the kucinich campaign support causes i believe in, yet both have mistreated me enough that i can't bring myself to continue supporting either.

you may recall that last year i joined the ACLU, and then later i complained that i was getting junk mail from non-profit organizations. it turns out the ACLU was responsible for that junk mail, as brian dear has discovered.

in related news, i've withdrawn my support for dennis kucinich after the group of volunteers working on the illinois website fell apart through internal disputes caused by a complete lack of direction from the campaign. if this problem were just in the website development group, i probably wouldn't be giving up on kucinich altogether, but the exact same problems exist with the whole illinois campaign. for example, there are two different email lists for the state campaign, representing two different management groups, each claiming to be the proper authority of the kucinich campaign. the whole thing is a massive failure.

i'll probably be supporting howard dean, and trying to convince myself that his understanding the internet is more important than his driving an SUV.

 

i've been spending a lot of time working on the illinois for kucinich website lately. actually most of my time has been spent trying to get some idea of what the goals of the site are, but i'm now unsure there really are any goals, or ever will be, so i'm taking a break from that until they change their slogan from "most disorganized campaign ever" to "kucinich for president".

meanwhile, i'm back to working on disemployed, which is humming along nicely. not a lot of users yet, but i added enough functionality today that i felt justified in adding links from the job feeds on this server, so hopefully that will drive in some traffic and we can start building a community or users.

we're already the third google result for "employer review", which is something i'm rather surprised none of the major job search sites have offered yet. and, of course, we're the first google result for "disemployed". not surprising, given that google still thinks it's a typo. (it's a real word, i swear.)

the next result for "disemployed" on google is the logos universal conjugator, a nifty little language tool i'm happy to have stumbled upon. language tools are a topic i've returned to lately, with the encouragement of ann marie bell, my wonderful new instant friend, who i suggest you get to know yourself.

what i've been working on is a system of programmatically creating new sentences by combining overlapping sentence fragments from existing sentences. it runs on the google api, so it's limited to 100 ten-word sentences a day currently. eventually, i'll save the sentences, so it doesn't just time out when it runs out (so don't reload too many times, or you'll be hogging all the fun).

and if all that weren't enough to back up my assertion that busy people don't write as much, i'm in the middle of moving to a new state with me beauty (don't forget it's talk like a pirate day). soon, i hope, these will be those days.

 

today is international "talk like a pirate day": a good day to learn your pirate name and fight against word piracy (including, though ironically endorsing, that of the word "pirate" itself).

i have a rather simple way of distinguishing between people who carry swords, wear eye patches, have pet parrots, rape, pillage, and plunder, and get scurvy from people who make copies of artwork. the former i call "pirates", pronounced with a short "a", like "pi-rats". the latter i call "pirates", pronounced with a long "a", like "pi-rates". maybe this isn't enough distinction, as the two have next to nothing in common, but it works for me.

anywho, i hope you - or ye (i suppose i should make some attempt at getting in the spirit of things here) - have a happy pirate day whether you spend it drinking grog, or getting sued by the RIAA.

 

on languagehat:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro.

did you read it? it took me just a tiny bit longer than i suspect it would have were all the words spelled conventionally. i believe there is some difference, which contradicts the assertion, but it is surprisingly small. very interesting.

 

with the overwhelming popularity of google, i find it interesting that it doesn't even list itself first in a search for a search engine. of course, no one (except me) is searching google for a search engine, but still...

 

rumsfeld's comments, quoted today by reuters:

Instead of pointing fingers at the security forces of the coalition because there are acts of violence taking place against Iraqi people in this country, it's important for the Iraqi people to step up and take responsibility.

sound as if he really believed that iraqis would unanimously welcome the american occupation. the only time in history an occupied country has ever welcomed america was the american occupation of japan following the second world war. it didn't take a lot of intelligence to at least strongly suspect that iraq wouldn't be like japan. but why? what made japan so unique? a group of students of the american occupation of japan answered this question indirectly by comparing japan to iraq back in january in a document titled U.S. PLANS FOR WAR AND OCCUPATION IN IRAQ ARE A HISTORICAL MISTAKE. a sample:

The U.S.-led occupation of Japan (1945-52) derived its legitimacy from a broad Allied consensus ... The Allied army of occupation relied on a staff composed largely of American civilian administrators who induced democratic reform by working indirectly through already existing governmental institutions ... Japan's Asian neighbors, victims of Japanese wartime aggression, supported the Allied occupation ... Japan possessed few natural resources ... U.S. policy planning for postwar Japan began three years before the defeat

none of these factors existed in iraq, nor are they likely to exist ever again anywhere. perhaps it's time we stop occupying countries altogether.

 

i'm always looking for a simple way to distribute my own music. i make it available on filesharing networks as well as on my music website. but i don't think many people at all have heard it. enter irate:

iRATE radio is a collaborative filtering client/server mp3 player/downloader. The iRATE server has a large database of music.

sounds like a nice alternative to piracy. unfortunately their answer to If I like a band can I give them a tip? is No. Not through iRATE. Some cultures find the concept of tipping to be mildly offensive. did someone write them and say "please don't implement tipping, as my culture finds it mildly offensive"? i highly doubt it. some cultures find music mildly offensive. that's no reason not to implement a feature your users and content suppliers want. there's also no automated method of submitting tracks. so for now i'll keep looking for that mythical music distribution system everyone keeps talking about - the one that will fairly compensate musicians while reducing prices for consumers by cutting out intermediaries.

 

a little over a week ago, i linked to holiday inn's towel amnesty plan, and suggested the recording industry should do something similar with file-swappers. now they're doing just that. it's not quite as customer-friendly as the holiday inn, but it's better than nothing.

 

after some discussion in mark pilgrim's comments about user entry systems that require a person to read an image (in the interest of preventing computers from entering), accessibility guru joe clark admits Even the suggestions I made for password-verification systems aren?t so hot. this doesn't strike me as a particularly difficult problem to solve. existing systems typically rely on the ability of a person (and the inability of a computer) to see. a better system, one accessible to the blind, would rely on the ability of a person (and the inability of a computer) to think. randomly generate a sentence with a simple pattern that a child could read and understand, such as: "tom's coat is big and brown." change the names, objects, sizes, colors, and even sentence form every time. then ask a simple question: "what color is tom's coat?" not only will this be a (blind) human-accessible and computer-inaccessible system of entry, but it will also - as an added bonus - push funding of spam towards computer cognition research.

 

doc searls defends weblogs against an (unlinkable) attack by jimmy guterman:

First, so what if blogs aren't mainstream? Why should The Mainstream exclusively confer legitimacy? And what the hell is that legitimacy anyway, other than a big media stick for whupping on stuff that isn't? And what makes bloggers any more elite than the next 2% slice of some survey?

Second, one big reason I blog (speaking self-referentially, terrible me) is that it doesn't take ample free time. As I've said before, it's like answering email in public. Guess when all those bloggers get jobs they'll stop writing email too.

while jimmy's attack was a tad inflammatory, most of his remarks were more accurate than doc is giving him credit for. "so what if blogs aren't mainstream?" asks doc. i don't know if blogs are or are not mainstream, and it's not a problem if blogs aren't mainstream, but we shouldn't continue to talk about how important weblogs are in the mainstream if they're not. the mainstream doesn't exclusively confer legitimacy, but we can't have it both ways, praising weblogs both for how successful they are in the mainstream and how revolutionary they are for bypassing the mainstream. it's just not true.

what is legitimacy? it's subjective, but that doesn't make it unimportant. the small circle of friends description of webloggers is mostly accurate, and it's the same small circle that get listed by default in popular weblog readers. some even pay their way in. these people then become the voice of the community because they are the most read. the rest of our ideas are at a disadvantage in being heard, even if and when they are equally or more valuable. whatever happened to "Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy"?

what makes bloggers more elite? having computers for one. and having free time to read and write. heck, having electricity. what doesn't make bloggers more elite? doc's suggestion that "it doesn't take ample free time" is simply not true. it does take ample free time. i know this from personal experience publishing a weblog, but also from reading weblogs in which the authors apologize for the lack of writing, saying something like "i don't have time to write".

i'm sure there's a response to jimmy that goes beyond rhetorically questioning him just waiting to be written, but doc hasn't written it.

 

the discussion of religious fundamentalism continues over on akma's weblog, and as i expected, the christians aren't converting to shinto just yet. this whole conversation thread was prompted by some separation of church and state issues. now i'd like to talk about separation of church and commerce.

yesterday i went to my mother's church service, where i watched a light rock concert and part of a hollywood movie. and there were some bible verses in there somewhere as well, but i honestly don't remember that part. the last church i visited with my mother had a coffee shop in the lobby. today, i see an article from abc news about a new cosmo-style bible:

"People want to lead integrated lives," says Mahan [a professor at the Iliff School of Theology]. "So their entertainment life, their political life and their work life are integrated with their life of faith."
...
Revolve and similar efforts typically emphasize aspects of Christianity that might appeal to teenagers' attitudes. They describe Jesus as a radical who was not afraid to challenge mainstream society.

the irony here is that the cosmo-bible and screening hollywood movies in church is in no way a challenge to mainstream society. it's an attempt to increase the popularity of christianity among youth by imitating mainstream society. as someone raised in the christian church, this strikes me as a sign the church is failing miserably. there is no shortage of engaging content in the new testament. the problem is most of that content is a challenge to the mainstream ethics of consumption that the church has too often adopted. youth are disinterested because they don't hear the interesting parts of the biblical story in church. no one is seriously suggesting to american christians that they should love their enemies, give up their privilege, or challenge religious authorities. this is the exciting stuff in the bible, and it's stuff that young people would be interested in.

instead the church is mixing commercialism with faith. perhaps this will provide a bridge away from commercialism and toward faith, but i suspect the bridge will lead the other way. if youth are engaged in religion based on eye candy rather than substance of faith, they will leave as soon as the newest eye candy is found elsewhere. people do want to lead integrated lives, but the church should be careful that these lives are integrated with a common base of faith rather than a common base of glossy covers.

 

my new project, disemployed, is live for labor day. go check it out and have a happy labor day.

 

in response to the recent discussion of church and state in america, joi ito wrote As we Shintos like to say, you can put your god over there next to our other gods. this has inspired a good deal of discussion of japan as an alternative to american fundamentalist religious views. but i don't think "tolerant" is an accurate description of japanese religion. japanese have killed people in religiously-motivated wars not altogether different from the christian-motivated wars and the "tolerance" of modern japanese religious beliefs is rooted in secular, not religious, beliefs.

my senior thesis (PDF link) topic began as a vague "homosexuality in japan". before narrowing it down significantly to lesbian suicide between the world wars, i gathered a general overview of homosexuality in japanese history. there are only a dozen or so books dealing with this topic, and too little of the known history has made its way online. one of the few online summaries is the poorly named "Japanese History For Gay Men", which briefly discusses the early accounts of homosexuality in japan, first among buddhists (a popular myth even suggests homosexuality was "imported" into japan from china by a single buddhist monk), and then samurai:

Since the samurai was seriously influenced of Buddhism or they served for the aristocrats, they inherited priests' custom as it was, and spread the custom further.

after the presumption that homosexuality is a "custom" that can be "spread", the most surprising aspect of this history is that buddhism seriously influenced samurai, as buddhists are most widely known as pacifists, and samurai as warriors. of course these are terribly oversimplified representations of these two groups. samurai culture involved much more than war, and buddhists have at many times and places been directly involved in wars. japanese buddhists have been no exception.

as japan's indigenous religion, shinto provided a natural tool for promoting nationalism in japan. in "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM PROBLEMS IN JAPAN", tokihisa sumimoto writes:

Japan embarked on a war of aggression against Asian countries in 1937 and against the United States and their allies 1941. The wartime regime was built upon the foundation of pure religious statism. This was made possible by elevating State Shinto to the position of the "only religion" which provided a spiritual basis for Japanese ultranationalism. The emperor was vested with both sovereignty and divinity, and the entire country was forcibly converted. All other religions were either persecuted or subordinated to the cult of emperor worship.

but buddhists also contributed to the militarist fervor. the book zen at war (which i haven't read) provides a detailed account of how zen buddism in particular helped fuel japan's advance toward world war two. because of all of this, i was surprised to read jonathon delacour's recent suggestion that Whatever the faults of the Japanese...religious bigotry isn't high on the list.

while the history of japanese religion contained such religious intolerance, modern japanese religion contains secular tolerance. an often repeated description of modern japanese religion goes something like this: "everyone in japan is born shinto, marries christian, and dies buddhist". you would never see a survey of japanese asking them to pick their "religion" because nearly everyone has "religions". but this isn't really religious tolerance in the sense that japanese buddhists don't tolerate japanese shintos. japanese buddhists are japanese shintos. the japanese can't really be suggested as an ideal of religious tolerance without also suggesting polytheism as an ideal of religious belief. jonathon writes of his friend natsuko: She wasn't actually saying that the Japanese don't have strongly held beliefs since that clearly isn't true. if he means beliefs in general, he's right; japanese have strongly held beliefs. but i also think it's true that japanese (generally) don't have strongly held religious beliefs to the extent americans do. for example, it's clear that japanese don't have christian weddings so often because they strongly believe in the religious significance of a christian wedding. the reason japanese commonly choose christian weddings is that the ritual of a christian wedding is seen as more "modern". a wedding signifies something new, whereas birth and death naturally emphasize family roots, so are more commonly performed with traditional (shinto and buddhist) rituals. an article on "christian" weddings in japan (notice the quotation marks around christian) quotes a bride on her decision of wedding style:

"If we had thought about our parents, we would have had a Japanese style ceremony but we are young, we wanted a more casual style," said Yuko

i don't mean to suggest the rest of the world doesn't have a lot to learn from japanese religious views. but if we ever hope to solve the problems of religious intolerance, i think it's important to recognize that they aren't unique to america. and for most believers, "switch to shinto" isn't a solution.

 

jon udell has compiled a list of 60 people, including both the richest man in the world and myself, who remains unemployed. he did this with some interesting use of structured text. but i'd like you to focus on bill gates and me.

 

i have used camino for too long. so long that i know what to do when it crashes, which is to delete the cache folder - without opening it mind you, as doing so would crash the finder - or else it will never open again. so i'm switching to safari, which i will also unhappily use and have been avoiding, mostly because of the metal theme, which i find ugly. i'm also starting to use ichat, having previously used proteus. proteus allows me to use aol, yahoo, and msn instant messaging simultaneously, so that aol isn't the only means of messaging me (though 90% of my messages come through aol anyway - it's the principle). i started using ichat because proteus doesn't handle group chats correctly (by which i mean at all), but i will continue to use it because the interface is too slick to pass up. but i won't be happy about the lack of support for other IM services, nor the metal theme, though it's not as annoying in ichat because there's less window border.

i really have nothing to complain about. i only notice these unfortunate choices between the lesser of inconveniences because the rest of the software i use generally does everything i want with clean interfaces and no crashing. and these problems i have are with software for which i've paid nothing. these are my worst computer problems. life is good.

 

i'd like to see an instant messaging client that supports simple editing. the editing would be clearly marked as such, perhaps looking something like net news wire's new HTML differences view (or, optionally, the user could enable unmarked editing). commands matching a defined editing syntax, maybe something simple like 'teh -> the' would cause the previously sent text to be edited accordingly. naturally, edit commands would just show up as text in clients not supporting editing, so the editing syntax would need to be human-readable.

 

having no previous knowledge of mike lea, i just read on joi ito's weblog that he killed himself on friday, and then followed the link to his homepage, which, in retrospect at least, could hardly be more indicative of his impending suicide. his weblog from two weeks ago, for example:

holes and memories. i have a hole in one of my teeth. when i move my jaw in a certain way, or explore the hole with my tongue, i get shooting pains through my head. i have a hole in my life, sometimes I think my life is nothing but holes. Whenever I think about them, it sends shooting pains through my life, and I want to die. I can go to a dentist and he'll pull the tooth with the hole in it. The holes in my life are what my life is made of, they are my memories, and the only way to excise them is with a bullet. It seems like other people heal with time, forgive with time, change with time, forget with time. I don't. I seem to be stuck here with my holes, memories and holes.

i don't really know what to add to that, except that i have the song, "another man's done gone" running in my head.

 

RSSlets are single-purpose html-to-RSS page scrapers. if it takes off, it could spread RSS widely, and demand answers to the questions surrounding unauthorized RSS feeds. a huge amount of content on the web exists as lists (whether or not it's marked as such), and RSS clients offer better interfaces for viewing lists than web browsers. work like RSSlets suggests that when simple semantic markups exist, the tools will soon follow to translate non-semantic content into something semantic. if these tools survive the inevitable legal challenges, we'll have a smoother road map to the semantic web than the w3c is currently offering.

 

in a brilliant move to transform a financial loss into a marketing tool, holiday inn has declared august 28 to be "towel amnesty day". if the RIAA would do something like this, it could be a great opportunity to promote its music. instead, it's suing its customer base.

 

after the made-for-tv movie series "news", i'm sure you're aware that there's a recall coming up in california. what you may not be aware of is that this recall is part of a vast conspiracy, often blamed on right-wing extremists, but with much more sinister roots.

the progressive majority writes right-wing interest groups are pushing to overturn the results of a free and fair election. moveon.org suggested that the recall is part of a trend undermining our democratic institutions. the nation called the recall tragedy, farce and a lot more. clearly something is going terribly wrong in california.

but what these organizations don't want you to know is that the california recall is only part of a much larger threat to our democracy, and the very organizations criticizing the recall are participating in this insidious practice, known as "voting". the practice of "voting" allows individual citizens to throw politicians out of office simply because they don't like them. this practice is responsible for the recall in california, and it will be part of a much larger scheme planned by extremists on both the right and left as soon as 2004.

i've managed to dig up some quotes hinting at this secret plot. the progressive majority published a document stating If we are serious about getting rid of George W. Bush in 17 months, then we have to make some decisions and some commitments. (emphasis added) they're talking about getting rid of the president, an elected official, using the same means they've criticized in the california recall: "voting".

the nation wrote changing hearts and minds can at times be as important as changing the President (emphasis added) they're not only talking about getting rid of the leader of our country, but also about a related plot to perform forced organ transplants. all of this can be traced back to the practice of "voting".

moveon.org even went so far as to publish a document titled VOTING AND DEMOCRACY: THE CHALLENGES AHEAD clearly this "voting" must be stopped before it "challenges" and destroys democracy. but is there any hope? cnn reports that "voting" has already spread as far away as rwanda.

to stop the plague of "voting", we have to first understand how it began. this is the truly frightening part of my investigation. it seems that way back in 1870, our own government approved and even formalized "voting" in a secret document known only as the "15th Amendment". perhaps we are indeed too late to stop the scourge of "voting". but we must try. the first step is clearly to stop the recall "vote" before any more elected officials are "voted" away. if we don't act now before it's too late, we may soon have no one left to abuse our trust in government.

 

boing boing has a post about the "save christiania" gathering on august 30. a friend of mine recently visited christiania, and sent me this in an email journal:

chrisitiania was an abandoned army base that was made home by hippies in the 60?s, it has been allowed its own government and has an atmosphere as happy as the smurfs. there are posters and graffiti everywhere that say ?say no to hard drugs?, one such sign was located right behind the gaurd at the gate. you see in denmark it?s legal to smoke pot though looked down on by many, it?s just illegal to sell it, except on pusher street in christiana, however there have been rumours that the police are going to shut it down so there are gaurds at all entrances with radios to warn in case of a police raid. oddly enough, this small sect of the city with its own governemnt has little to no crime even though it has ?soft drugs? legal and runs itself. there?s alot to be said for that. makes one think. we wandered down pusher street and into the surrounding neighborhood, the houses were all painted crazy colours and the grass and gardens were allowed to grow free, i wouldn?t say they were unkempt, just free. some of the houses were beautiful and some seemed architecturally impossible, something like smurf huts. in fact the whole thing had the happy laid back feel of the smurfs, the smell of marijauna floated as freely as the gardens and the wind carried that and a lady singing opera in her house out into the colorful streets. i took few to no pictures because there was a big sign that had the ghostbuster logo up except a camera was in the ghosts place...
 

you may have noticed that after a flurry of posts related to the job feeds, i stopped updating it. you may have assumed this was merely an extension of my regular pattern of switching projects every three days, but there you'd be wrong. what's really happened is that i've bought a new domain name, disemployed.com, and begun working with two of my friends to improve and expand job search tools. barring unforeseen circumstances, the existing job feeds here on randomchaos.com will remain unchanged, and a better and for-profit version of the same will appear soon at disemployed.com

 

a few weeks ago a friend of mine told me about synaesthesia, a rare condition in which a stimulus received in one sensory modality gives rise to an experience in another. althought it sounds like LSD or fiction, there seems to be a good deal of evidence suggesting that some people can actually do things such as seeing sound or smelling light.

it was just today that i discovered that i am possibly one of these people. i have a very strong tendancy to sneeze when i'm going from an indoor to an outdoor environment. because i spend a good portion of my day in front of a computer, i've joked that i'm "allergic to outside". but after reading that about 25% of people sneeze when exposed to sunlight, i suspect that sunlight is actually the cause of my own sneezing. this also makes me wonder if there might be a relationship between sun sneezing and anosmia.

neither synaesthesia nor sun sneezing have been researched much at all, unfortunately. this kind of phenomenon is so contradictory to how we normally think of the physical world that i would think it has great potential to drastically improve our understanding of a wide variety of scientific issues.

 

brent just added gzip compression support to net news wire, and noted that few webloggers are gzipping. i've been gzipping for nine months now, so i'm a qualified expert to offer a short tutorial for weblog authors using php:

to enable gzipping in php, add the following code to the top of each script (or to a single script included at the top of all others):
ob_start("ob_gzhandler");

i know it looks complicated, but with a little trial and error, you too can type those twenty five characters and do your part to reduce bandwidth. for advanced coders, there's a special method involving procedures known as "copy" and "paste", but i won't get into that here.

 

mark pilgrim, should atom use RDF:

What About the Semantic Web?

I don't care about the Semantic Web. Next question?
 

just think about this: Terrorists declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got. no really - think about it.

 

in the interest of ending the name election of 2003, i spent about thirty minutes looking for a name that the everyone can't help but to agree is clearly the best name for this project. failing that, i came up with "koko".

in japanese, "koko" means "individual", "separate", "one by one", "every house", and "here". most of these meanings, i think, vaguely suggest the functionality of syndication (especially "one by one").

among english speakers "koko" is most commonly associated with a gorilla famous for speaking sign language. i like the association with communication.

on the domain name front, koko.com is a radio station company in england, koko.org is a nonprofit dedicated to the gorilla, and koko.net is available (via resale).

potential trademark issue: koko interactive, who abreviate their own name to "koko", is a company that specializes in technologies that enable you to foster collaboration. the closest match at the uspto is a patent for computerized medical equipment.

i've now spent more time writing a pitch than i did searching for a name, completing my one hour of contribution to this project. hope it helps.

 

brent simmons writes about why he can't afford to not display broken feeds. this is a chicken and egg problem. feed producers don't have a real incentive to fix broken feeds until feed readers stop reading them, and feed readers don't have an incentive to do that until most feed producers are already producing valid feeds. but with a new format, we have an opportunity to stop this problem before it starts.

all we need is widespread agreement among feed reader vendors to refuse to parse broken feeds. to make that unlikely scenario more likely, the group working on the format should make it clear that they encourage ignoring broken feeds, and suggest some alternative behavior that would relieve the burden on developers that brent described, such as replacing a broken feed with a link to a fixed URL explaining to the user that the feed is broken and the producer should be contacted.

 

i've added incoming trackbacks to the weblog, integrated with the comments as much as possible. i also added more style to the comments, hopefully making them easier to read.

 

dave winer writes: we already have enough mail readers, wire up RSS to email and you're done. Who needs another piece of software to do what an already-existing category does so well obviously i agree here, or i wouldn't have written an application to wire up RSS to email. i love net news wire, but i just don't see a compelling distinction between the content of RSS and email.

brent simmons responds: The thing is, the mail reader aggregators are not very much like mail readers. They are smart about what they?re displaying. he goes on to mention how the net news wire interface is targeted toward the content in different ways. but his two examples of the differences between a news reader and an email reader strike me as lacking real substance. first, most email clients also have the concept of groups. second, the ability to read unread items (of subgroups) within any group is a feature that could (and should) be applied to email just as he's applied it to news items.

these differences between net news wire and an email client are so minimal that brent dismisses them in his own product description, which mentions Its familiar three-paned interface—similar to Apple Mail and Outlook Express even before discussing what the program does. i continue to see no reason that mbox couldn't have been used to syndicate news back when RSS was created.

off on the horizon, implementing initial drafts of the emerging syndication format has made it clear to me that it's substantially more than a replacement for RSS. it's custom-built for weblogging in ways that will make it overkill for something like a simple mailing list. and when it's incorporated into news readers like net news wire, i suspect it will provide the clear distinction between weblog and email content that i still don't see in RSS.

 

i donate money from time to time to what i find to be worthy causes, but i'm not sure i don't do more harm than good. when i buy something for my computer, i am sent piles of computer catalogs, both from the company i ordered from, and from other companies selling related products. this goes on until i change addresses (and who knows how long it lasts after that). there must be some registry of potential computer customers with my name on it. while i regret the waste of resources in this situation, i take some comfort in knowing that eventually these companies will spend more money advertising to me than they earned from my initial purchase, and i'll have done my part to put them out of business.

unfortunately, the exact same thing happens when i give money to charitable or political organizations. i get put on some sort of philanthropist registry, and i get solicitations from dozens of related organizations. and i can't take the same comfort in the wasting of money here, because i don't want these organizations to end. i just want them to gain clues.

in many cases, i'm not even sure if the soliticitations aren't costing more than i've given. some of this is my fault. not realizing that so many nonprofit organizations had such ridiculous solicitation schemes, i neglected to read fine print, and probably missed opportunities to opt out of much of this junk mail. i've been trying to remember exactly which organizations i've donated to and checking websites, but i've found no means of opting out after the initial donation (and damage) is done. one potential avenue would be to use the direct marketing association's opt out list, which i've found suggestions that nonprofits use, but i have no idea if they do use this list, and i'm not really interested in spending my own money if it's not going to help the nonprofits. luckily, i'll move again soon, and i can take more care in giving out my address next time. meanwhile, i hope the federal no-call list is soon followed up with a federal no-mail list.

 

i know i am an internet geek because the highlights of my day were registering a domain name, writing a regular expression debugger, and hooking up a script to notify me via AIM when someone reads a post on my weblog. these are all neat, yet of questionable usefulness.

 

a few weeks ago, i wrote that i think the harvey milk school is modern segregation. there is now a lawsuit against the school claiming exactly that. today tom coates writes But let's not close our minds to the option of schools that advertise themselves as gay-friendly just yet, eh? fair enough. i remain skeptical that there aren't better ways to deal with homophobia, but i'm also fairly confident that the lawsuit against the school is not motivated by a desire to end homophobia, but rather to spread it.

 

as mark pilgrim has already pointed out, google's new calculator function is nifty. as i was looking around for some more easter eggs, i searched for "six times seven don't be blue" to find that - shockingly - there are no results for that. am i the only person who had that rhyme drilled into my brain while learning mutliplication with flash cards? the whole rhyme is:

six times seven
don't be blue
turn me over
i'm forty-two
 

i spent much of last weekend on the interstate around chicago. specifically, on a stretch of about two miles, i spent far too long. this gave me time to reflect about some of what i've been reading in weblogging circles these days. flaming isn't a new phenomenon, but it seems to have moved closer to the fore since the the project to build a new syndication format began. all of the more famous webloggers have strong opinions regarding this project, for obvious reasons. and that passion has made it clear, in several instances i won't link to, that too many don't have a conscious strategy when responding to flames.

yesterday burning bird discussed the same topic in a post titled "fight or flight", which she concluded: I've thought long about the discussion I was apart of, earlier this week, and one thing that I realized from it is that flight is not an option for me. that was perhaps a foregone conclusion given the false dichotomy of the title. personally, i like to think people are intelligent enough that we can come up with better approaches to our problems than frogs can.

every time i'm in a traffic jam, i remember an article i read five years ago about traffic jams. in it, william beaty used wave physics to come to a zen-like conclusion: A single solitary driver, if they stop "competing" and instead adopt some unusual driving habits, can actually wipe away some of the frustrating traffic patterns on a highway. the idea is that while traffic jams generally have an inciting incident, such as an accident, they only continue after that point because of anti-social behavior. "stop energy" might be a good name for this behavior. perhaps it's just that i was simultaneously thinking of the two topics, but while waiting in the traffic jam, i was struck by the similarities between traffic jams and flaming.

because of the nature of beaty's solution to traffic jams, anyone practicing his suggestions won't see the results. this uncertainty, and the desire to punish the idiots who will jump into any little space make improving traffic a largely faith-based action. still, it's one i personally try to practice because it makes sense to me, and it gives me something to think about while i wait.

waiting, the solution to both traffic jams and flaming, is hard to practice. particularly on the internet, where life seems to have a faster pace (though, of course, the people living it still function at the same speed), it's hard to let an idea about which one cares passionately exist without comment. i remember when john robb wrote of a project of mine, this feed sucks. my immediate reaction was to post a response in my own weblog. but then i read the rest of the sentence. and i can tell you now, i'm glad i waited. this is as close as i have come to being involved in a flame war. as a result, what i say here may carry less authority, but just like the traffic jam solution, it makes sense to me.

waiting isn't going to work for everyone in all cases, but i think it will decrease "stop energy" more effectively than direct response. the two practices are opposite ends of a long spectrum of solutions. in an article in response to what might be called "flames against buddhist monks", ajahn amaro writes: The Buddha was asked a lot of questions in his time, and he once said there are four ways to respond to a question. The first way is to give a straight answer. The second is to ask a counter question. The third is to rephrase the question. The fourth is to remain silent. i think too many webloggers have been relying solely upon the first way. i hope we can give some consideration to the other ways before weblogs start to look any more like chicago's highways.

 

on request, i've added dice.com support to the job feeds. because dice.com has a much less transparent interface, you can't just copy and paste a search URL like you can with monster.com and hotjobs.com, so the searches are currently restricted to keywords. i'll probably end up doing somethign similar to rssjobs.com's copying of individual site's search form. i've avoided that before now because it adds another step at which a site can break the feeds with a minor interface change.

in other job feed news, phil wolff interviewed steve rose, who runs rssjobs.com. if anyone had interviewed me, i would have given many similar answers.

 

neat. diddly.com offers a tool to view random personal pictures. they do this by searching on google for pictures with names common digital cameras save to by default. it works very well. there's a lot of results, and i'm surprised how many good photographers there are out there.

 

the "RSS w/ RDF" feed option in the job feeds is no longer marked as "experimental". i've extracted all the metadata i can from both hotjobs.com and monster.com. in the process, i discovered that my scraper had been missing those jobs on monster.com with extra paid emphasis. how's that for irony? yet another reason monster.com should be providing their own feeds.

the next step is to look more at XML resumes and see how i can integrate that with RSS/RDF job feeds. my new end goal has moved beyond simply targeting job feeds to resumes. i also want to play around with a system of manufacturing job-specific cover letters, to be automatically emailed with a resume. it may not get anyone a job, but it will be interesting.

 

last week, i was pulling up ivy when i started thinking about jonathon delacour's weblog. mind you, this was several weeks after he'd stopped writing it. that's when i realized that jonathon delacour's weblog is my favorite weblog. and now he's started writing it again, so you should go read it.

 

very few of the examples given in RDF tutorials pass the w3c's RDF validator, which is the only RDF validator i've found. this is likely because the w3c has been deprecating it's own recommendation in favor of working drafts, which it seems no one is keeping up with. the RDF i'm including in the job feeds also doesn't validate. and the error messages aren't particularly useful. so i'm giving up on validation for now. i know it's valid XML, and it makes logical sense. if anyone wants to explain to me in english why it's not valid RDF, please leave a comment or email.

 

my first reaction to google's news alert service was wishing it was an RSS feed instead of email. although i've wished before that an RSS feed was email, in this case i would prefer the temporary nature of RSS. if i go away for a week, i don't want my mailbox filling up with news that will be outdated by the time i read it. i just want the current news. then i remembered mailinator, the web email system that allows anyone to check any address. so i subscribed a mailinator address to google's news alert system, and suddenly i have a custom news website at mailinator. and because mailinator automatically deletes older messages, it's a lot like RSS. now if only i could link directly to a mailinator account, i could scrape the content and convert it to RSS. but for now, this is good enough.

 

i'm about half done with adding RDF to RSS in the job feeds. when i started implementing, i realized i had done too much planning. because in the end, i'll just be providing whatever information i can take from the job websites. i've taken everything i can from hotjobs.com (short of following links to individual job descriptions). tomorrow i'll do the same with monster.com.

i was wrong about including alternate namespaces within the description of an RSS item. maybe i wasn't wrong that it is theoretically possible, but it breaks the feed in netnewswire lite. so i'm going to leave the information outside of the description, which means that i'll have duplicate content, both in the description and in the metadata. unfortunate, but still usable.

while attempting to include as much metadata as possible, i came up with what i think is a nifty hack. for companies that don't provide links to their websites, i'm using google's auto-forwarding feature to do a search for the company name and send the user on to the first result. because the company names are generally a few words long, and because most companies have websites, the first result has a pretty high likelihood of being the company website.

 

i have a few issues to catch up on related to the job feeds, after out of town all morning. first, john robb pointed out that job feeds is doing page scraping, which is of questionable legality. i emailed monster before i started this, but i never heard back from them. i will take it down if they don't like it, but the source has already been copied. i assume rssjobs.com will run into such issues before i will, because they're actually charging money to reformat someone else's data (i assume) without permission. john's suggestion was that this should be a desktop application, and ideally someone will eventually write some desktop job search applications, but i can imagine a variety of ways in which you might want to use the feeds. i don't want to lock this content directly into a single use by making the feeds inseparable from the presentation.

jon udell continues to raise interesting issues. he writes:

But there's a chicken-and-egg problem. You can't do the RDF experiment until there are interesting amounts of metadata floating around. But if we say that all metadata that can benefit from RDF must first be expressed in RDF, it's kind of a non-starter.

that was my initial thinking when i said in jon's comments that this will all be worthless if someone doesn't build the applications to read this metadata. but i've since changed my mind. RDF can encode metadata in a variety of ways such that we can selectively choose which data will be visible to an application unaware of the metadata. this means that a user of a standard RSS reader shouldn't even notice if i start sticking metadata into my RSS feed, either as descriptions of existing text, or as additional information.

so here's the plan for me: 1) design a feed that looks pretty much like the existing RSS job feed until you look at the source, and then you'll see that the job information is all marked up with RDF. 2) write myself an XML-based resume. 3) design an application to filter the RSS/RDF job feed down to jobs that match (in some yet to be determined way) the data in my resume. 4) ??? 5) get a job.

 

jon udell appended his piece about rss job feeds to include some mention of what i've been working on, restoring some glimmer of hope in the internet for me. before that, i'd already tried to implement what he's talking about in the job feeds (see the "experimental" RSS/RDF option), but i don't really understand a lot of things about his example, and many of his answers to questions posted in the comments reveal that he doesn't either.

so i read a bit more about RDF, and then i started wondering if there isn't already a namespace dedicated to job posts that could simply be put inside an RSS feed. sure enough, there are multiple XML formats for job posts. the first i found is only accessible through google's cache anymore, and looks a bit verbose. but then i stumbled upon the HR-XML consortium, a high-price club including some big name companies, dedicated to developing XML formats for human resources (that's what they call us when they give us jobs). the irony here is that monster.com is paying tens of thousands of dollars to this consortium, and hasn't even implemented anything as useful as what i and rssjobs.com have for free just by scraping their pages. (note to monster.com: give me that money, and i'll make you some XML feeds and write the software users would need to read them.)

unfortunately, all of HR-XML's formats are geered towards being used by businesses rather than job seekers, and so don't include information any job seeker would probably want, such as salary. so i'm just going to expand on jon's very brief description what information a job post would include.

the only decent-looking XML format i found in all this was XML resume library, a project that will possibly open up some automated job matching possibilities once we get a job format established. my initial thoughts from looking for jobs for the past few weeks are that the following information should be included, probably some of it optionally:

  • job title
  • job description
  • job location(s)
  • salary (amount and currency)
  • name of employer
  • URL of employer
  • contact email

i had some other thoughts, but i don't think it makes sense at this point to include any information that isn't very common. for example, some jobs have application deadlines, but that information could always be included in the description. comments are welcome.

 

i've updated syndicator to produce valid 0.2 feeds of the unnamed format, which is in use on the main weblog, and will be in use later today on job feeds.

 

although most people's first thought when they read about the device for turning blood glucose into electricity is of cyborgs, mine was that this technology is ideal for diabetics, who have trouble controlling blood glucose levels. insulin pumps already exist, but now an insulin pump could operate without batteries and activate only when needed (when there is too much glucose in blood). insulin pumps are probably the one device in which it would even make sense to use glucose as an energy source. in every other case i can think of, all available glucose is being used for more important tasks like operating vital organs.

 

in the sixteen or seventeen odd years i've been an insulin-dependent diabetic, i've been asked probably a dozen times or so "what would happen if i took your insulin?" my answer has always been something like "i don't know, but i suspect your body would compensate its natural insulin production so that there would be no noticable effects." but thanks to an article i just read at the bbc, i can now answer more accurately: "you'll get stronger."

 

i had no idea so much thought had gone into international paper sizes. (via boing boing)

 

i've decided that weblogs are ideal for learning japanese. and i'm not talking about daily japanese leasons (although those are also good). i'm talking about japanese weblogs. for someone who has already gone through a good number of textbooks on japanese, japanese reading materials are an important step toward fluency. i've been slowly wading my way through a japanese novel for a few months now, only to discover in the last few days that my time would have been better spent reading weblogs, for a few reasons.

when i come to a word i don't know in a japanese book, i can't just look up the word, because there is no real alphabetical order for kanji. i have to find the character by some combination of stroke counting and radicals. this takes some time. when reading a weblog, i can just copy and paste the japanese into my dictionary, removing the whole process of looking up kanji. this is true of websites in general, but weblogs have other advantages.

one problem with the world of weblogs is that it's hard to find new and interesting content because the same things get pointed to by everyone. probably about 95% of the readers are reading about 5% of the writers. when learning a foreign language, this problem becomes a benefit. i wake up in the morning and read all my english language weblogs. then when i go to read my japanese weblogs, chances are pretty good that i'll find them pointing to the same material i've already read in english, which makes translating that much easier.

many weblogs also tend to break up text into small chunks, a few sentences or a paragraph that i can sit down and translate in a few minutes. when reading a japanese book, or even online news, i have to invest a significant chunk of time before i can complete a section of text. if you're learning intermediate japanese, or any other language for that matter, i highly recommend you subscribe to a few weblogs. i'm very glad i did.

 

tom coates has an interesting piece about his atheist views. my favorite part is in the comments, where he defends his atheism against agnostics:

I simply refuse to accept that there's anything distinct and different about "God" that makes it different at a conceptual level from Mind-Control Cheese from Denver - ie. it's basically ridiculous. I do not consider myself 'agnostic' about Mind-Control Cheese.

personally, i don't think the existence of "god" is quite as ridiculous as mind-control cheese from denver, but i just love that last line: I do not consider myself 'agnostic' about Mind-Control Cheese..

 

one thing that bothers me - right up there with the non-word "alls", as in "alls you have to do" - is the common belief that automation is a bad thing, or an unfortunate thing, or anything but good. it's a common idea that robots or computers are going to take our jobs, this will be the cause of huge problems throughout the world. worse than the great depression.

marshall brain's robotic nation essay is a prime example. it concludes: The arrival of humanoid robots should be a cause for celebration. With the robots doing most of the work, it should be possible for everyone to go on perpetual vacation. Instead, robots will displace millions of employees, leaving them unable to find work and therefore destitute.. you can read the whole essay, but that's probably enough to give you the basic idea i'm trying to refute here. my argument goes something like this: we don't need jobs. we only need jobs today to get us things we really need, like food, shelter, and clothing. before they are able to replace us in all other jobs, robots will be able to provide us with food, shelter, and clothing, at which point the loss of jobs will not be a problem.

we don't need jobs. no one will die from lack of employment. some of us enjoy working. some of us don't. there's no way for anyone to prevent anyone else from working. if mcdonalds fires everyone and replaces them with robots, that doesn't prevent you from starting your own restaurant and serving food to people. if you want to work, you'll always be able to work. if you don't want to work, unemployment isn't a problem.

people complain about unemployment, but lack of work isn't what really bothers anyone. it's lack of money from work. that's why the US government is sending out checks to millions of americans rather than giving everyone a job. people don't care about being unemployed if they have money.

and people don't really care about money. go give a homeless american a big pile of euro if you don't believe me. money only has value if we can spend it on things we really do care about. these things are different for everyone, but one common item of concern is food. many people don't realize that the US government has paid american farmers to not grow food. they do this because if too much of a given food is grown, the supply becomes so high that the price drops very low. extremely low prices seem like a good thing, but has some negative consequences in the long run, such as destroying the entire market for a particular crop by removing profit motivation from farmers.

in a future world in which robots are doing most or all of the farming, compensation of suppliers is no longer an important factor (robots don't get paid), and the food economy becomes entirely driven by demand. a government would have no reason to not provide a welfare net of food, at least, for all citizens, as the cost would be minimal and the demand would be high. the same is true of other common needs, like shelter and clothing, though less so than of food.

so what will all these unemployed people do? whatever they want, but there is good reason to believe it will be less manual labor and more intellectual work. throughout history the primary sector of work has shifted from agriculture to industry to service. (see continuity and change in world politics) that's a steady shift over time away from manual labor and toward intellectual labor. this isn't a shift in job interests, but an increase in automation that allows more people to do easier jobs. that's right - robots.

automation will significantly change the structure of our economy, and those unable to change with the times, like always, we be hurt in the process. but this is not a new phenomenon. this economic shift has been taking place since the dawn of civilization. we need only compare our modern lives with those of people a few hundred years ago to determine whether automation is generally positive or negative. i believe it's positive, and thus, robots are cool.

 

i know i said the next version of mail log would have OPML subscription options, but i lied. i decided that's going to take long enough that i shouldn't wait to release the minor changes i've made since the previous version. mail log 0.96 fixes a minor problem with email addresses and fulfills teh only two feature requests i've had so far.

 

rssjobs.com is offering - you guessed it - rss feeds of job searches for $5 per month. and brent links to them. i offer the same thing free and open source, no less. and does anyone notice? of course not. sigh. why do i bother?

 

governments have no business having anything to do with marriage. if american homophobia hasn't made this obvious enough, israel has just made it even more obvious. but it should be common sense. marriage is a ritual acknowledgement of love. i can't think of anything more personal, and less appropriate for a government to be involved in. for further reading on how governments abuse control of marriage, check out the marriage laws of countries around the world.

UPDATE: take action to help free marriage.

 

i added hotjobs.com support to what was formerly "monster feed" and is now "job feeds". i also gave it better error reporting. obviously i didn't get a job yet.

 

yes, most people in japan speak some english. more than people in america speak japanese (or anything else for that mattter). but that doesn't mean there's isn't a demand for ESL teachers in asia. clearly there is much work to do.

 

jay fienberg wants to formalize, in the transition to pie/atom/echo/??, the idea that syndication feeds pointed to by any web page should contain the contents of that page. this seems so obvious to me that i never considered the possibility of doing otherwise on randomchaos.com.

 

i don't agree with much of what bush says. but one issue i do agree with him on is that weapons of mass destruction are bad.

 

it wasn't until my last year of college that i experienced broadband internet access. and it wasn't until going without it that i realized how nice it was. the ability to access of information instantly at any time dramatically changes the experience of using the internet. questions i wouldn't bother to lookup in the dictionary or encyclopedia, nor bother dialing up to lookup on the internet, i will always lookup when doing so requires little more effort than typing a few words.

last month i first uses a wireless card and hub to connect. and today when that connection failed for some still unknown reason, i had the same experience of realizing how much the convenience has become a must. the leash of the ethernet cord that once seemed perfectly normal to me now seems as odd as chained books. soon enough a new generation will be growing up with as little use for modems or ethernet cords are as today's youth have for VHS.

 

on the smoking gun, a high school student defends a constitutional right to use the word "fuck" after calling his principle "a fucking fag". the motion to dismiss the case is seven pages long and provides an extensive history of the word "fuck". it's an interesting read, but why is there no mention of the word "fag". i think it's both more offensive and more threatening, given the history of the word "fag". is this kind of bigotry so accepted that the lawyer didn't even bother trying to defend it?

 

blogstop is a nifty acronym game. i see two potential improvements: first, requiring meaningful links within the text would make it more interesting to read and more difficult to write. and having the server automatically add <acronym> tags around the words as the acronyms are created would make it more readable.

 

monster feed will take a monster.com job search URL and produce an RSS feed of the results.

UPDATE: monsterfeed has been replaced by a more useful "job feeds".

 

my statistics page reveals that someone was searching for "Scott Reynen" "hair". further inspection of the logs shows that it was a google search coming from the california department of health services. curious...

 

mailinator has interesting uses beyond spam reduction, although i do enjoy the "flicking a booger at spam" analogy. the creators have already recognized the potential as an anonymous meeting point, and added the capability to mask from addresses. one could also use it to make a virtual treasure hunt. send an email to an address and then give people clues as to what the address is. then in the email you sent, point the players to the next secret address. for example: according to "they might be giants", how many dollars does a prosthetic forehead cost? an email from me is waiting at the mailinator address of the correct answer.

 

the new york post reports: The city is opening a full-fledged high school for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students - the first of its kind in the nation. this is segregation. it's likely segregation that the concerned parties are happy with, but that's precisely the problem. removing glbt students from the rest of society will hinder the ability of everyone to solve problems of homophobia. it will be easier for "straight" teens to develop ignorant beliefs because they won't be exposed to glbt youth, and the glbt students will develop a false sense of security. and what about closeted students, who are stuck at the "straight schools"? with no exposure to publicly glbt peers, how will they ever come out themselves?

also, this assumes homophobia doesn't exist among glbt youth, which simply isn't true. anti-gay prejudices also exist within glbt people, so moving them to a different school isn't going to remove the prejudices. it's nice that someone is trying to do something about these issues, but segregation is not the answer. why not put this money into improving the atmospheres of already existing schools?

 

in my attempt to discover a feed for a blogger blog, i discovered a viewable directory full of RSS feeds. surely this isn't every RSS feed on blogger. is this how many sites get grouped on the same server? what is it?

 

one of the dozen or so projects i have in the back of my head is a distributed computational linguistics. i had a pretty solid idea of how i would implement this until earlier today. different grammatical structures (simple sentences, noun phrases, verb phrases, etc.) would be defined by components in OPML files. word-level objects would then need a seperate XML format, and could be easily distributed. simple interfaces for maintaining these XML files could be written, allowing anyone to participate in a widely distributed computational linguistics project. individuals might take charge of prepositions, intransitive verbs, etc. my knowledge of linguistics is quite limited, but i think i know enough to get this kind of system working well enough that it could produce interesting results. unfortunately, today i learned that there is no such thing as a noun phrase, so now i need to relearn (or unlearn) a bit about linguistic theories before i can even think about the project. meanwhile, i continue to wonder: why is it that people who study language for a living can't explain language using common language?

 

honestly, i expected the random feeds to be of higher quality. too many bloggers are just pointing to the same stories with no commentary. why bother? or keeping personal diaries. why publish? it wasn't until today, after reading through forty or fifty feeds, that i found one i'm interested in reading further, ironically titled: the blathering idiot.

 

in my increasingly desperate attempt to make money doing something i enjoy, i've added google ads to the weblog. the ads aren't as targeted as those on the japanese lessons, because the weblog itself isn't as targeted. but hopefully you'll find them useful enough to make up for the distraction from my infinitely more important words. if you really don't like the ads, simply give me a job and i'll remove them.

 
 

the next version of mail log will allow users to subscribe to OPML lists of feeds, which will have the same effect as subscribing to every feed in that list. but it will also have some added functionality because the contents of the list can change, automatically changing the users subscriptions. this is my solution to the same problem some are trying to solve with more complicated centralized subscription "harmonizers". ironically, among these people is the inventor of OPML.

anyway, the default subscription will be the OPML file i just posted at randomfeeds.php, which is a list of random feeds pulled from syndic8.com. i don't believe there are currently any newsreaders that allow users to subscribe to an OPML file. but many allow importing of feeds from OPML files, so you can use this utility now to add some spice to your regular reading by saving the results and importing them.

 

i grabbed the rsscreator class from kai blankenhorn, improved it a bit, and added experimental "pie" support. so if you happen to have a news reader for the format that would not be named, you can now use it to read this weblog. i renamed the class "syndicator" to reflect that it's no longer rss-specific. i also plan to add mbox support. as with everything on randomchaos.com, you can see the source.

 

the following will only be of interest to you if you read "dive into mark" with a news reader: a few weeks ago mark pilgrim announced he was supporting RSS as its creator has specified, and getting rid of the "funky" elements of his feeds. everyone thought that was nice of him until he actually implemented it, at which point his feed became nearly useless. i put up with it for a few weeks and then it occured to me that i don't need to - i can syndicate mark's feed and make it "funky" again. after doing that locally, i thought someone else might like to use the service. i emailed mark yesterday and asked him if he'd mind. no response today. i'm assuming that's because he doesn't care and making it publicly available now. if you want a "funky" version of mark's feed, simply redirect your news reader to dive into funky RSS.

 

if you haven't signed this petition already, you should. it's potentially the most important petition you could ever sign.

 

nothing on the technorati ping page or the technorati wiki explains exactly what information needs to be send to technorati via XML-RPC. i'm assuming it's the same information weblogs.com and blo.gs use, so i added that to my makemefamous script. and with this post i'll see if that assumption is correct.

 

i've finished putting up the lyrics for all of my songs. the last one i did was "stories and money", which includes my favorite line i've written:i'll pull myself apart or together. if you don't want to download all the music, now you can just read all the lyrics.

 

doc searls quotes:The basis of ethics is man's right to play the games of his choice. I will not trample on your toys and you will not trample on mine; I won't spit on your idol and you will not spit on mine. that's only the basis of an ethics of independence. you could just as reasonably suggest that the basis of ethics is man(people)'s obligation to protect other people. i will not protect you from my toys and you will protect me from yours. i will pacify my idol and you wil pacify yours. this is the basis of an ethics of interdependence. these two frequently come into conflict (humanitarian intervention or imperialist occupation?), which leaves us without a clear general rule upon which we can make ethical decisions. there is no external basis for ethics.

 

i haven't bought a cd for a few years now, mostly because i don't want to support the RIAA. the RIAA general hurts musicians and music enthusiasts to help record companies make more money. there are plenty of cds that aren't produced by the RIAA, but it has previously been such a hassle to figure out which ones that i just wrote off the whole medium altogether. but now RIAA radar makes it easy to boycott only RIAA music.

 

ray ozzie asks: Has anyone yet attempted to create "RSS email". yes, my mail log application (for OS X) originally allowed migration between RSS and email in both directions. but because the interface was too complicated, i redid it and in the process cut it down to RSS to email only. you can still download the 0.9 version, if you desire that functionality, and a future version will allow email to RSS publishing with a simpler interface.

 

i added a new song, "george come clean" (mp3 link), to the music section. it's there in full (not just a clip). it's my latest work. it's the first piano piece i've put up. and - if i may say so - it's good. download, listen, enjoy, share, rinse, repeat.

 

the french have proven themselves our equals in the international don't-you-have-something-better-to-do? contest, by attempting to remove english words from use in france. they're starting with e-mail.

 

emmett plant wrote a nice letter to congress about why a bill intented to protect musicians actually does the opposite. as an independent musician, i completely agree. i'm not giving all of my music away for free like plant is, but what i do give away for free, i want to be freely shared on peer-to-peer networks. please, share my music.

 

an initial fifty six cents of income from google ads has inspired me to put more work into the more promising sources of revenue from randomchaos.com. i added a new style sheet for printing, added comments, and improved my own interface for editing the japanese lessons, which i will now resume. i also posted two new full songs and fifteen new clips to the music section, and tried to make it clearer that i will sell custom cds. now you should give me money.

 

the washington post noted that bush's approval rating is dropping as casualties in iraq rise. this trend seems to be restricted only to american casualties, or bush's approval rating would have dropped dramatically when america killed of thousands of innocent iraqi civilians. (what does that say about america's compassion?)

now here are some interesting numbers: slightly more than half the country -- 52 percent -- believes there has been an "unacceptable" level of U.S. casualties in Iraq...Still, only 26 percent said there had been more casualties than they had expected. assuming those unexpected casualties are among the unacceptabl casualties, that means that 26 percent of americans were expecting unacceptable casualties in iraq. most of that (24 of that 26 percent) can be assumed to be among the 24 percent who didn't support the war in iraq before the casualties began to mount. but that leaves a few questions: if those 24 percent of americans were expecting unacceptable casualties, why weren't they doing more about it? and more importantly, who are those 2 percent of americans who simutaneously expected unacceptable casualties and supported the war? that's about six million people who supported a war they expected to be unacceptable.

 

i just uploaded mail log 0.95. it's a vast improvement over mail log 0.9. i clearly have a lot to learn about version numbering. but now i think it's pretty close to 1.0. as always, download, use, and post comments. oh yeah, and pay if you like.

 

i made a suggestion regarding echo. i'm just posting it here, because i'm not sure how anyone would notice it otherwise. i think feed-level information is similar enough to entry-level information that the feed information should be defined in an "entry" element, perhaps with a "default" attribute.

 

i've added google ads to my daily japanese lessons. after this weblog, the lessons are the most popular content on the site. i find this surprising considering i haven't worked on it in about six months. the google ads are very well targeted, so it's as much a feature as an annoyance for users. and if i start making some money, i may resume work on the project.

 

after volunteering to help with the kucinich campaign for president, i've learned that his entire website is built with open source tools, with plans to release all new code under GPL. it's often hard to tell if a candidate really supports issues, or if they just adopt them to gain political support. if there was ever an indication of the a candidate's desire to do the right thing, i'd say this is it. it's not as if he could expect to get more votes this way. they aren't even publicizing it. they're just doing it because they think it's a good thing to do. that's so rare in politics, it's hard to believe.

 

business 2.0 reports the economics of recorded music sales haven't changed much since the vinyl era -- despite the fact that digital files cost very little to produce and distribute. the musicians aren't making a larger percentage from mp3 sales as many, including myself, had assumed.

 

apparently roughly a third of americans believe america found weapons of mass destruction in iraq. this is an accomplishment in ignorance above and beyond the belief that iraq was somehow responsible for september 11. the philidelphia inquirer asks How could so many people be so wrong about information that has dominated news coverage for almost two years? i can't search beyond one week ago in the inquirer's archives (lame), but if i could, i'd look at what their headlines were saying seven months ago while bush was declaring that iraq had weapons of mass destruction. i don't remember seeing any headlines along the lines of "bush makes wild unsupported claims about iraq" or "is bush lying?". when the president says things, and the media simply repeats what he said with no scepticism, people believe the president. and even if the media is really just the government puppet it appears to be, people still believe that if bush had lied, he would be facing some hard questions in congress now. after all, that's what happened to clinton, and 5563 people dead is more important than an affair, right? .... right? we'll see.

 

i downloaded firebird after jon udell mentioned the ability to add custom searches. the browser itself is severely lacking in polish. but the extensible search capability is nice. it's something that should have been standard in browsers since 1996. that was when a company called privnet (later bought by PGP) released a hack to both netscape and internet explorer called anysearch that added this very same functionality. that was seven years ago, and the browser world is just now catching up.

the only reason i remember all of this was that anysearch was not particularly user friendly (but firebird's search feature is). i took the time to figure out how the important information was stored in anysearch's undocumented and mostly binary format and wrote some more searches to add to the default package. i thought other people might find the searches useful, so i put them online under the name "anysearch extras" and notified the mac resource page (which amazingly still looks today almost exactly how it did in 1996). this was my first software, and as far as i was concerned, i became famous overnight. (anysearch extras is currently google result #44 for my name). i don't even remember how many people downloaded it, but it was enough to make a big impression on me at sixteen years old.

interestingly, in a search for "anysearch extras", the first result is a link to an unauthorized server i ran (from an ip address - which i still have memorized) on my mac (8600 ppc) over a dialup connection from my home. the ip address hasn't been an active server for seven years, but google hasn't given up yet.

anyway, my point is that the technology has existed to offer this simple functionality for seven years, and the only reason it hasn't become standard is that no (browser or plug-in) developer has provided a documented format for search engine descriptions, probably for fear of losing control over a potential source of income. a general lesson here is that people can constrain innovation as much as or more than technological barriers. so if users want innovative software, in the long run the social politics of a company can be more important than the company's technological achievements. this is a lesson too many consumers haven't learned.

 

moveon.org, "democracy in action", has a plan to interview presidential candidates and then, through direct democracy (limited to members) choose one to support. i thought this was a nice implementation of "democracy in action" until i went to review the potential interview questions, and found 914 of them awaiting review, including some exact duplicates and many near duplicates. this is a prime example of a situation in which simply making a process "democratic" doesn't necessarily make it good. with no filtering, organizing, or editing being done to the potential questions, only the first few, which don't appear to be ordered (though perhaps they are by date), will even be read. the most important questions will almost certainly not be asked.

so what's a better system? i would probably go with a wiki, but that's probably a bit radical for moveon.org. so maybe a rating system in which the lowest-scoring posts are removed. or one in which similar posts can be grouped and ranked against each other. there are several ways to sift the best questions out of the hundreds, but moveon isn't using any of them. it's sad to see poor planning preventing good intentions from producing results.

 

i have an apple powerbook g4. my cable broke at the base of the powerbook a few months after i bought it. since then, i've tried reattaching it different wayws with varied success. currently, i just manually press the bare wires to the disconnected base, which isn't as difficult as it probably sounds. i'll have a new cable waiting for me in a few weeks when i return to america.

i've always suspected this was a product flaw, but my girlfriend blamed me for putting too much strain on the cord. so i took great pleasure in discovering that i was right, according to this article on macfixit. i can also add further weight to the speculation that the higher voltage used in some countries may act as a catalyst for power adapters' demise, because my adapter's demise occurred here in taiwan.

 

i released mail log 0.9 today. you can now convert mutliple rss sources directly to email. after the initial setup, you just run mail log once before you open your mail and you have new messages from the authors of your favorite weblogs. go download, use, and comment.

 

the first release of letter box, a mac os x word game i've been working on for a few months, is now available. it's small and (i think) fun. go download it, and give me some feedback. or if you're feeling particularly generous, you could even register it. this is my first shareware product. i'm not really expecting to make any money from this particular release, but i expect the 1.0 release will be my first profitable software.

 

at bbc news: US Senate opens Iraq weapons probe. i quote: This is the first serious domestic pressure on the Bush administration to give a detailed explanation of its pre-war claims about weapons of mass destruction. the first serious pressure to explain a war would ideally come before the war, but i guess this is better than nothing.

 

if you're one of the few people who downloaded the wordchecker source, you'll probably want to grab the new faster version. i finally got around to using the class in a real application only to discover it was far too slow. so now i've fixed that. if you're part of the slightly larger group of people who downloaded the sample application, don't bother downloading the new faster version. you won't notice the difference on individual searches.

 

regular readers will note the blogroll has moved from the main weblog page to an OPML browser. this cleans up the layout of the weblog, and allows me to play a bit more with OPML.

 

i posted the first release of mail log, a mac os x application for converting between RSS and mbox formats. i'm anxious to get some feedback.

 

i'm generally against all the anti-france and anti-german protests. i'm all for the sudden increase in general awareness of international politics. i just wish more people would form opinions more substantial than "[SOME COUNTRY] sucks!" all the boycotts are being carried out primarily by people who haven't even paid enough attention to international affairs to notice that we've found no weapons of mass destruction in iraq, and france and germany were right to tell us to wait. and the "freedom fries" are just silly.

what i found today was also silly, but mostly it's just cute. tucked away on ebay, in an auction for a power cable, that only 16 people have looked at, with no bids, i found this little grain of a political protest: WILL NOT SHIP TO FRANCE OR GERMANY. if it weren't so pathetic, it would be annoying. but as it is, it's just cute that someone thinks this will have some impact on international politics. as if someone in france or germany is going to see this and say to themselves "gosh, i was against killing people before, but now that my opinion has lost me the chance to bid on this powere cord, i've changed my mind."

 

my favorite movie is "buffalo '66", which was written by, directed by, and stars vincent gallo. before seeing this movie, i had no idea who vincent gallo was, and i still have never seen anything else he's done. the movie seems to be largely based on vincent's life, which is probably why it's so great.

unfortunately, vincent gallo has vowed to quit the movie industry after his latest film, "the brown bunny", was actually met with booing. now i'll have to get myself a copy of "the brown bunny". it must surely be interesting to warrent such negative reviews. i think it's safe to assume gallo will never make another film comparable to "buffalo '66". but after seeing the potential, i'm still saddened by the prospect of gallo leaving the industry.

 

Some fanatical vegetarians insist they could never eat meat... is it just me, or does this sentence seem ridiculous to anyone else? ignore for a moment the context of this statement (meat trees), and try to concentrate on what the word "vegetarian" means. there are, of course, a variety of definitions for the word, but they all indicate that vegetarians do not eat meat. why, then, is it "fanatical" for a vegetarian to not eat meat? i dread the day when "meat-eating vegetarian" becomes part of our vocabulary. that's right up there with "war is peace" on the list of ideas that will drive me mad. i guess i'm just "fanatical" about words meaning something.

 

on slashdot: After 9/11, Bush made two statements: 1. "Terrorists hate America because America is a land of freedom and opportunity." 2. "We intend to attack the root causes of terrorism." Sounds like everything is going according to plan.

 

google says my domain is only 28% pure.

 

many of the upcoming features for NetNewsWire already exist in most email applications. i think NetNewsWire is a great application, but increasingly often, the similarity between email clients and news readers makes me wonder whether they aren't fundamentally the same application. certainly chandler will take us in this direction when it comes of age. but we must wait for that. granted, it's not an ideal format, but mbox does 90% of what RSS does, with an already existing base of clients and servers. and it could easily be extended to do the other 10%. i could understand if mbox syndication was proposed and rejected back in the day, but i can't find any suggestion that anyone even considered mbox before RSS was developed. it looks a lot like reinventing the wheel.

 

one of my friends said to me the other day "culture determines language". i said "sure, but the opposite is also true", and i gave some anecdotal evidence. jonathon delacour recently wrote about this in more depth, quoting "language is the house in which we dwell." that my be true, but my friend would be quick to point out that we can always move. we can always create language to match our (desired) reality.

that's great, but have you ever tried to make a new word? i have, and it's no trivial task. for me, this issue always comes up in political groups i'm involved in. a peacenik group or a gay rights organization exists because its members have an idea of a world they think would be slightly better than our current reality (e.g. a world with peace, or without hate). the challenge of describing such a world can be incredibly frustrating. so often the ideas are there, but the language is not. in the end, the hours spent arguing over the merits of words like "homophobia" or "heterosexism" or "hir" mean very little. the larger culture adopts whatever language is wants without first consulting affected peoples.

but the larger culture generally chooses from words that were, in fact, created by a smaller group, and ultimately, an individual. so while an individual has next to no control over the culture's use of language, one can still, maybe like a parent, provide options and hope the culture chooses a good word. but coming up with a good word is very hard - much harder than moving to a new house, or even adding a room to an existing house. it's something that often takes a large group and a lot of time. it's also something that can take you somewhere new. something more like road construction. which means language is the road. i like that metaphor much better than the house. we don't sit inside language; we move through it. if it won't take us to where we want to go, we have to stop everything and make it better.

 

here's a thought: if email clients were used to write, read, and organize weblogs, content could be easily filtered for spam. it would be interesting to see how many weblogs get tagged as spam. an email client could also prioritize weblog content based on certain rules.

 

i just sent my first trackback ping. if you have a weblog and don't have trackback enabled (i know, i know, everyone should), you can still take advantage of trackback by sending pings to related content from a no-host trackback tool.

 

after reading a number of weblogs suggesting that william hannas is an idiot, i wanted to find out exactly what he said that was so idiotic. unfortunately, the article that sparked the fire is "temporarily unavailable". the closest i could come to hannas' point was this post by one wonderchicken, which says that the new york times says that hannas says: Asian science has suffered because the main Asian languages are written in "character-based rather than alphabetic" systems. hannas is then quoted as saying we now recognize that the writing systems of East Asia, including Chinese, Japanese and Korean, are "syllabaries," which is what he is then attacked for.

i don't get it. these two ideas, both attributed to hannas, seem to contradict each other. certainly hannas is an idiot if he thinks chinese is a phonetic written language. and he may be wrong if he says that character-based writing prevents people from thinking innovatively. i'm not sure what the direct relationship is between languages and the level of innovation in asia (or even what that level is). but having lived in japan, and working with children in taiwan, it seems to me the indirect effects of the language on the education systems certainly discourage innovative thinking.

this isn't as true in japan, where the pictographic writing system isn't the only way to read, but in taiwan (and china), children spend hours upon hours copying characters to learn how to write. they no only spend more time per day learning writing (and i suspect also reading), they continue to learn to write through a higher age than their english (and i suspect generally phonetic language) speaking counterparts. if nothing else, this is time that could be otherwise spent practicing creative thinking if the chinese phonetic alphabet were used more widely. now it is used only as a stepping stone toward learning how to read non-phonetic chinese characters.

another consideration related to the time issue is that the age of entry into writing is higher for chinese students. writing is an important means of clarifying thoughts. unfortunately, by the time chinese students have learned enough characters to write down their thoughts, they've already learned to think less creatively.

when i learned to write english, i did so by repeatedly running my pencil over patterns until i had physically memorized the motion of each letter. for 26 letters, that's not a huge investment in memorization-style learning. the chinese language (at least in taiwan) is taught in basically the same way. but instead of 26 characters, chinese has over 10,000. that is a huge investment in memorization-style learning. even if this were the only memorization chinese students did in school, their minds would be trained to memorize. but because the teachers spend so much time teaching language through memorization, it's only natural that they use similar (memorization-based) means of teaching other subjects.

i teach at what is probably one of the most americanized english cram schools in taiwan (if not also china), and my students still learn english mostly through memorization. why? because that's what they're good at. eight year old chinese students can memorize english almost as fast as i can. but trying to get the same students to think creatively is often a lost cause. i've heard stories about chinese graduate students who found it easier to write entire essays and memorize them before an exam rather than retain the ideas and organize them during the test. memorization not only doesn't end when language study ends; it doesn't end when students leave chinese school, or even when they leave asia.

maybe there's a more creative way to teach chinese writing. if not, creative thinking could certainly be encouraged more in other subjects. but right now it's not. if we're accepting the assertion that asian people don't innovate as much, the cause isn't hard to determine. people learn how to learn in the education system.

 

i've enabled comments on the weblog. go crazy.

 

web dawn is a new weblog about "the social marketplace", where i discoved that globe alive is a search engine that returns actual people interested in talking about topics. it's such a brilliantly simple concept. unfortunately, they require to you use yet another instand messaging client to participate. surely there's a better way. but i was pleasantly surprised to discover that they have a very small mac version of the client. so now i'm all signed up and excited to begin answering questions about what i know.

 

the birmingham peace project says Birmingham Peace Project invites you to join with us on June 7, 2003 as we celebrate Dixie Chicks Day. It is our hope that every man, woman and child around the world will support the Dixie Chicks on this day by going to their favorite retail outlet and buying at least one of the band's CDs.

That's a nice idea, but perhaps not the best way to show support. Most (up to 90%) of the money spent on a Dixie Chicks CD will go to the Dixie Chicks' record company, Sony Music, who remained silent while the Dixie Chicks were being censored. Sony could have taken a stand against censorship by exercising their enormous influence over radio stations. Instead they did nothing, which is somewhat understandable, given that the Dixie Chicks have been trying to get out of their contract with Sony (claiming Sony was defrauding them) for the last two years.

I'm afraid this action will do more to help Sony Music, which passively endorsed the censorship, than to help the Dixie Chicks, who suffered from it.

 

some other people's previous thoughts about mbox and RSS: crazy bob has already made an RSS to mbox convertor in java. luke francl wants to go the other way and so does chuqui, from mbox to RSS. also interesting potential that way. in fact, by combining the two, an email client could be used to read and write weblogs. the user could just write "draft" messages to something like "weblog@localhost" and an external application could scan the drafts.mbox file for anything going to that address, and convert the results into RSS. or heck, even HTML. and to go really crazy, an email client can save files in a directory structure, so there's no reason we couldn't build an application to convert email messages into a full website, which could be auto-synced via ftp, and edited by anyone via email. it would be almost like wiki, but with no editing or deleting capability after an initial post. maybe that would be a useful commenting system. a mbox-formatted weblog could have a comments email address, so when readers reply by email, their email goes straight back into the website. a lot more to think about and implement.

 

there's a new link on the main weblog page to the mbox version of the weblog, which you can download and read in your email application (assuming it supports mbox format, which basically everything but microsoft does). you can also change the url to the address of any other weblog feed and turn any feed into an mbox file. i was surprised how easily weblog content can function as email and the ability to click "reply" and fire off an email to a weblog author, or click "forward" and send a weblog entry to my friends has exciting potential. i hope others will toy around with mbox as a syndication format.

 

i was excited yesterday to discover a mailing list archive was available as an mbox file, which i could just import into my mail client and read as if someone had emailed me the entire archive. this got me thinking about other potential uses of mbox. as an experiment, i plan to make my weblog available in mbox format. right now, it can be downloaded and imported by anyone with an mbox-compatible email reader. but all it would take is the ability to load web-based mbox files to turn an email client into a news reader.

 

the makers of x-men 2 actually took my advice on movie pirating. on financial times:By launching worldwide, Fox, the News Corporation subsidiary, hoped to short-circuit the market for pirated copies. this strategy of fighting piracy by developing a better product is a huge improvement over conventional tactics (encryption, localization, etc.), which tend to harm legitimate consumers. maybe this will catch on in other industries.

 

apple's new music store is certainly an improvement over what previously existed. now there is a simple and relatively cheap way to pay for music per song. and it's not outright theft, which is a step up from file sharing. but it's not really much better for musicians, who are still getting a small fraction of what they deserve. apple says ...all five major record labels are in play. And since it?s legal, you know the artists are getting paid for their work. ha. since only all five major record labels are in play, you know the artists are not getting paid for their work. fortunately, if apple's store becomes successful, more musicians will realize that the record companies aren't really doing anything for all the money they take. then maybe apple will start selling music for independent musicians, who have this crazy idea that they should be getting paid more for their music than the people who package it. or maybe someone will clone apple's store and make it available to anyone.

 

wordChecker is my first open source cocoa class and application. i made the application just to test the class, which i'm using in another program i'm working on. but then i thought someone might find it useful. for example, you could download the official scrabble dictionary word list and use wordChecker to settle game disputes.

 

jeffrey zeldman no longer has my favorite weblog i don't read because he now has an rss feed, so i'll read his weblog.

 

there are a large number of topics surrounding SARS i'd love to address, but i'll just tackle one here: the "SARS masks" myth. many people are perpetuating this myth, but leo lewis should really know better. he wrote: FOR the fashion-conscious east Asian there is no need to look dowdy while protecting yourself from Sars. The region, famous for the speed with which it produces designer knock-offs, has risen to the challenge of branding surgical masks.... why should leo know better? because, according to his byline, he's in tokyo. anyone who has ever spent a day in south-east asia should know that these masks have been around for years to protect people from pollution and germs. they did not suddenly appear after SARS. they are no more "SARS masks" than the shirts SARS patients wear are "SARS shirts".

 

gandhi wrote Non-violence is a quality of the heart. Whether there is violence or non-violence in our actions can be judged only by reference to the spirit behind them. i think that statement is true of nonviolence and violence, but also of good and bad. i think the intent of our actions, rather than the results, determine their goodness. of course, the two are closely related, but the intent we know very well, and the results we often don't. i think we can accurately judge our own goodness, though we don't always do so. and conversely we can not accurately judge others' goodness, though we can still make reasonable estimates based on observation.

gandhi also wrote I know there is a flaw in this reply. One may commit violence as much as one chooses and then, deceiving oneself and the world, justify one's actions with the plea of their being unavoidable. this was presumably an attempt to prevent gandhi's words from being used to validate violence. but i don't think it's possible to really deceive oneself, so i don't see any need for gandhi's disclaimer here. i adopt this belief from sartre, who labels an attemp to deceive onself "bad faith.

ernest brown summarizes sartre: What is the structure of bad faith? Essentially, it consists of the individual consciousness appropriating a false notion of self. Sartre very carefully points out that bad faith is not a state of consciousness that is imposed from without, but a willing act of accepting a situation as fact on what the person knows is objectively faulty evidence.

all of that might suggest that ignorance is the surest road to goodness. after all, if you don't know you're doing bad, following the above reasoning, you're not really doing bad. and i think this is true enough. you can easily make good decisions when you're ignorant. but your choice to be ignorant was still a bad one, perhaps the worst.

 
 

iraq body count provides an up-to-date count of civilian casualties in iraq.

 

i finally got around to making a statistics system using a database. the previous system would start to die toward the end of a busy month as the log files grew longer. the new system only checks the log files for new data and then passes that data to a database, from which it can be quickly sorted and displayed. the database also allows me reuse the data for tasks like automatically pointing back to incoming links on a given weblog post, or tracking downloads of software or music.

 

just in case anyone is reading this who is unclear about my views on the war in iraq, i think the war is bad. i'm unconvinced that iraq poses an urgent threat. i think the war is a testament to a vast lack of creativity in american government and a civic laziness among american citizens.

 

the grammar page makes grammatically correct english sentences. they will eventually be integrated with the poem page, which - by the way - now makes haikus and limericks.

 

randomchaos: poetry will currently spit out mostly meaningless ten-syllable couplets for your consumption. future plans include grammar enforcement, haikus, limericks, and sonnets.

 

Some British "human Shields" Flee Iraq, Cite Safety Fears: Some of the peace activists who went to Iraq to serve as human shields in the event of war returned home, fearing for their safety you have to question the integrity of people who called themselves "human shields" with no consideration of the possibility of actual war breaking out. the respectability of people who are actually willing to die for the sake of peace only increases the cowardliness of these people, who are only willing to solicit the respect of a martyr and then run away.

 

i'm not a big fan of PETA. for starters, PETA seems to have decided long ago that the best way to bring about more ethical treatment of animals is by convincing everyone that animals are people too. and while i acknowledge that there are a frightening number of ways in which animals are routinely abused and i don't like it, i just don't believe that animals are the same as people. on top of that, i sent PETA my personal information in exchange (i thought) for a free vegetarian cookbook, and i never got it. and i (though i realize unjustly) blame them for that.

so it is not my love of PETA that is stopping me from joining the international eat an animal for PETA day campaign. it's just that i'm vegetarian. but on march 15th, i will maintain my vegetarian diet with a special contempt for PETA. maybe i'll even make a point to tell people that i became vegetarian before i even knew PETA existed. that'll show 'em.

 

i made an implementation of reversi, the game also known as "othello". you can currently play against a local player (at the same computer as you), or play two different computer opponents. it's a work in progress, but it's far enough along already that you can use it. and if you're a web developer, you can peak at the source and see how easy it is to make your own reversi bot. i plan to soon implement bot-to-bot games, and remote games, as well as make some bot-writing documentation.

 

before you become familiar with regular expression syntax, it just annoys you. after you become familiar with it, you become annoyed that you can't use it more widely. for example, i'm often wanting to search for words that match some sort of pattern. most dictionary searches will only tell me "this is a word" or "this is not a word", but if i want to know which words end with "tionally", these dictionary searches are useless. onelook dictionary search allows you to search for patterns such as "*tionally". while this is better than most dictionary searches, it would be really nice if it supported more complicated patterns, like everything you can do with regular expressions. for example, say i wanted to find words that had only a single vowel repeated at least three times (like "banana"). with regex, this is easy: /(.*?[aeiou]){3,}/ (i haven't tested this, which means it almost certainly doesn't work.) of course, most people would look at that and wish there was an internet protocol for throwing shoes at people. but there's no reason why onelook (or someone else) couldn't implement regular expressions as an option that most people would never use. the ARTFL Project is actually closer than onelook to providing full regex word searches. but it still doesn't allow me to find words like banana.

 

today (2/28) is a national holiday in taiwan (where i am). this is something i knew nothing about before i came here, so i thought i might use this opportunity to educate you, assuming you also know nothing about it. basically, on this day in 1947, the KMT government began a genocide of the taiwanese which resulted in the murder of somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people (by most estimates). you can read more about it at The February 28 Holocaust and Remembering 2-28. or you can read a critique of 2/28 memorials:Taiwan Independence and the 2-28 Incident.

(unfortunately, the critique is really of taiwan independence, and 2-28 is just used as an excuse to villify pro-independence politicians. i don't have much opinion on taiwan independence, but i don't care much for the opportunistic (ab)use of people's deaths to support political opinions of any sort.)

so anyway, as my (one) taiwanese friend was telling me about the history of 2/28, i began to wonder why the KMT was still a relatively well-supported political party in taiwan. he said every country has a dark past. i guess what the KMT did following 2/28 wasn't much different than the american democratic party supporting slavery before the civil war, and yet most african americans vote for that very part.

(don't get me wrong - i'm not advocating voting republican. but i am advocating third-party voting.)

 

i have very little sense of smell. today i came across a post by tom coates: On people who can't smell... this is not something most people discuss, nor something most people have the vocabulary to discuss. i'm not sure which is the cause and which the effect. but having been empowered by a vocabular lesson from tom, i'm excited to say that i have anosmia. (or maybe just "partial anosmia", but anyway...) i also learned from tom that there are treatments for anosmia. i'll have to do some more investigating when i am back in america. (like tom, this doesn't strike me as a serious problem.)

right now, i think i'm probably experiencing a small bit of what woman once felt (maybe some still do) when they learned words like "feminist" and "sexism". actually, "anosmiac" is not currently a word. right now, it seems there is no word to describe the person who has the condition of anosmia. but i'm confident "anosmiac" will find it's way into the english language after we bring about Global Anosmiac Liberation#8482;.

 

famous open-source musician fred rogers (i hear he also had a television show) died yesterday. a sad day for sweater-wearing folks everywhere.

 

as i happened upon a few links to news.com, i thought to myself "what a great domain name". news.com could easily compete with google news, even with poorer service, just because the address is so easy for users to remember - "you want news? go to news.com..." sadly, this domain name is largely wasted to promote the CNET brand. as if to formalize this brand-over-service strategy, CNET owns com.com, allowing it to redirect news.com to news.com.com. so news.com doesn't really exist in the sense that you can never load a page from the news.com domain. some day, domain names will fade away in favor of auto-generated site descriptions. maybe only then will CNET regret their failure to capitalize (intransitively) on the news.com name.

 

do you remember what i wrote in december? didn't think so. lucky for you, i'm around to remind you of my ponderings of the fate of domains after death. and lucky for all of us (who own domains), there is now AfterLife.org, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to archive Web sites after their authors die. now at least the website-as-memorial option is feasible, if still somewhat vain (in most cases, anyway).

 

joi ito writes: The world needs emergent democracy more than ever. The issues are too complex for representative governments to understand. it all sounds nice to me. my main worry is that emergent solutions only work with emergent problems. ants can make triangles because the problem of making a triangle can be broken down into the less complex problem of going far away. but ants' ability to create emergent solutions doesn't do much good when a foot comes down on half the colony. there is no discernable order to that problem from the ants' perspective. is it correct to assume that all important problems facing people today can be broken down into smaller problems? stephen wolfram believes so, but his predicted major intellectual revolution has yet to materialize. i'd like to see that take shape before we start revolutionizing democracy, which, despite some flaws, has worked rather well so far.

 

if a domain is on your blacklist, no email list in your domain should be allowed to send an email to that domain. otherwise, one will find oneself in the situation i am currently in. i am subscribed to mailing lists that i can't unsubscribe from because the mailserver i need to send an unsubscribe request to won't accept my email. but that doesn't stop them from sending me email. and lots of it...every day....

my situation isn't actually that bad because i can send my unsubscribe request through my webmail interface, and bypass my ISP's (apparently) blacklisted mail server. but my ability to work around it doesn't make it any less of a problem.

 

i really don't know what to say about this article in the telegraph , other than to quote the first sentence: The promiscuous sex life of lesbian Japanese monkeys is challenging one of the central tenets of Charles Darwin. you should really read it yourself.

 

on abc news: A congressman who heads a homeland security subcommittee said on a radio call-in program that he agreed with the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. this could perhaps be spun as some sort of misunderstanding if he hadn't said some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us. if coble's "us" doesn't include arab-americans (or japanese-americans), who does it include? it's offensive enough that americans of any non-european decent can be so thoughtlessly excluded from "national security" interests, but it's doubly outrageous coming from the chairman of the judiciary subcommittee on homeland security. why not just rename it the "subcommittee on white people's security"?

 

i made myself a FOAF file, complete with a myers-briggs personality descriptor, which i determined at human metrics. i'm INTJ, which seems pretty accurate to me. and i'm not just saying that because keirsey.com calls this "mastermind".

 

i guess i missed all of the discussion leading up to this, but the internet now has a working implementation of a user-controlled digital ID system based on existing technology and formats. the basic idea is that you create a FOAF file containing the information you find yourself frequently typing on websites to identify yourself (name, email, address, phone number, etc.). or you can feed this information to a computer and have it auto-generate your FOAF file. then, you put this file on your website. or one someone else's website - if this takes off, we can expect to see digital ID servers pop up that do nothing buy host/manage your FOAF file for you. maybe your email provider could do this. so then when you go to a site, rather than typing in all of this information, you (somehow) tell the site where your FOAF file is, and they figure it all out and fill in your information for you. neat, eh?

the only problem with this is that it doesn't have any level of security beyond obscurity. what if you don't want someone to know all of this information? you don't have to tell them, but what if they find your FOAF file? i can hardly imagine how we could make it any easier for spammers to track us down than by creating a standardized format in which we publically display all of our personal data. of course, you can always not include a field, such as an email address. but then you must type it every time you want a site to have it. isn't there a better solution that allows for both privacy and convenience?

what i like is apple's keychain system. any application can ask for a password on my keychain. but when they ask, the keychain asks me if it's okay (just once or always) before divulging my passwords to the application. what i'd like to see is a web browser (safari is a nice candidate) that can grab my keychain information and pass it to requesting websites, asking me if it's okay first. then i can password protect my FOAF file and have control over who can view it. when i go to a website, they can request the password for my FOAF file, and i can decide whether or not i want them to have it. then they know everything about me i want them to know and nothing more. better yet, my keychain could just contain my whole FOAF file locally.

 

dictionary.com: One folk etymology, which is incorrect, is that it derives from "[booked] for unlawful carnal knowledge." so i was wrong.

 

dear thesaurus.com: when i search for a misspelled word on thesaurus.com, don't give me the option to Check your spelling at Dictionary.com. you are dictionary.com. you check my spelling. and correct it if it's wrong. why tell me there was an error when you could have just fixed it?

 

the word "christian" means many things. one of those things is "christlike". there are two ways a "christian" can be like christ. the first is to take an honest look at the character of christ and to try to emulate that character. the second is to take that same universally admirable character and twist it to the point that it resembles oneself. in my experience, the overwhelmingly majority of christians choose the latter approach. joseph loconte is a prime example of just such a christian. you'd have to be a real christian to believe that christ was pro-war. and when i say "christian", i mean something else.

 

Imagine if average citizens were holding peace talks clever, but iraqis don't speak english. and everyone knows god speaks english.

 

in this houston cronicle article on using nuclear weapons to prevent iraq from developing nuclear weapons (ha! stop, you're killing me): A White House spokesman declined comment Friday on Arkin's report, except to say that "the United States reserves the right to defend itself and its allies by whatever means necessary." (emphasis added) clearly malcolm x is the inspiration behind white house policy. it all makes so much more sense now.

 

united press international: In the last week, Democratic Party leaders have called on the president not to exercise the authority their party granted him in their votes last fall to declare war on Iraq without consent of the United Nations. [emphasis added] what exactly has changed from the time when the democratic party granted bush broad war powers to now (when they don't want him to use those powers)? or more to the point, when and why did the democratic party re-establish its independence from the republican party?

 

brent simmons writes I?m not a fan of George Bush. But if he proposes a mission to Mars in his state of the Union speech?as the Guardian reports he may do?then I still won?t be a fan of George Bush, but I?ll be hugely excited about the mission to Mars. well put.

 

this is really cool.

 

alex macfarlane is probably the first person in the world to have an officially recognized gender (or lack thereof) other than male and female. a significantly large portion of the world doesn't fit into our binary gendering system. this is a positive step towards recognizing that not all people are male or female.

 

Jeannette Rankin:You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.

 
 

the title of this article, NASA plans two-month manned dash to Mars, brought to my mind pictures of a reality tv show in which two separate NASA missions head for mars. whoever gets there first "wins", and the world gets to watch it all on tv, helping to pay for the missions. of course, that's not what the article is about, but that's what i was thinking.

 

Scientists explain Arctic stone circles. neat.

 

chris adams writes corruption is anathema to capitalism. which capitalism is that? america's current economic corruptions reflect poorly on capitalism in the same way that totalitarianism under communist rule reflects poorly on communism. neither are prescribed by the economic system itself, but both are practical results. chris also writes There aren't that many people who still think socialiam is viable untrue. whether or not they are right, there are still roughly a billion people in china alone who find socialism to be viable (even if they don't recognize they are no longer practicing it).

 

QuotEdit 0.9 was released today with the following improvements:

  • Bug fixes. All known bugs were fixed.
  • Persistent document-file connection. QuotEdit no longer has File-Open or File-Save menu items. New files are automatically created in a user-specified directory. Existing files can be opened by dragging them into any application window (or onto the application icon). Files are saved periodically and before windows are closed, so the user doesn't need to worry about saving files.
  • Find and Replace All. Users can find any text within quotations and (optionally) replace the text.
  • Preferences. Users can now specify default values for new quotations.
  • Improved printing. Quotations are never split between two pages now.
 

So TIME asks you: which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003? only after voting do you see the results. when i voted, the US had a lead with 81.8% of all votes. (iraq was second with 9.8%.) unfortunately, it's not even close to a good polling system, so there's really no conclusions to be drawn. but it's still interesting.

 

meanwhile, back in never-never land, sjoerd visscher has migrated his (appropriately titled) w3future.com site to XHTML 2. he says Things will probably get buggy for some weeks. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out. in chimera on mac os x, i'm getting all the content from his pages, but the style sheets aren't loading, so it's just a stream of text. but it's an interesting stream of text. i think i'll wait at least until XHTML 2 is a recommendation before migrating.

 

normally, mark pilgrim's "further reading" section is full of comments like "wow, mark is so insightful" or "what a clever trick mark came up with" or "i was going to do something, but mark did it first". today, however, the comments are generally mocking mark's choice to "migrate" (seek asylum?) to HTML 4. for example: And Let's hope he doesn't mind if we don't choose to follow in his golden 'well-linked' footsteps, Will Mark turn to ASCII?, HTML 1.0?, and I don't see the issue. I also don't see the issue.

this is the first time i've ever linked to anything mark has written and disagreed with it. if i were alone in my disagreement, i'd probably keep reading until i could discover why mark is right and i'm wrong. but i haven't found one person who can offer anything more sympathetic than "it's okay to give up; markup is hard." but markup has always been hard. XHTML 2 doesn't even exist yet. mark writes Now that I?ve had a taste of what it?s allegedly a stepping stone towards, I just can?t see the point. but HTML was a stepping stone towards XHTML. so what's the point of going backwards?

 

i was trying to figure out what exactly "backtracking" involves and if i want to spend the effort to do it, when i came across this: realise that the difference between a post and a comment is superficial and do away with seperating them. that's exactly what my old weblog system did, before i moved from an ASP system to a PHP system. every weblog was a text item. the title of the item was the title of a weblog. the text of the item was the description of the weblog. each post was a child of the weblog. the title of the item was the title of the post. the text of the item was the text of the post. from there, each comment was a child of a post. any post could be read as if it were a full-fledged weblog, using a templating system that allowed any text item to be viewed in mulitple ways. it was all very flexible and "neat" and open, but i scrapped it because 1) only i was using it and 2) the templates were becoming increasingly complex in order to handle the wide variety of ways in which one (i.e. i) might want to associate various text items. in short, i found the system was slowly evolving into a poorly-designed operating system complete with a poorly-designed markup/programming language.

but i think i'm going to recreate this old system to some degree when i set up a commenting system here. i'll scrap the most taxing/useless parts of the system: templates, user/group permissions, etc. but i'll keep the comments as weblogs system. so a comment will be a child of an individual post, and will share the same structure. except comments will be structured text, or a variant thereof that enforces a certain markup of comments. this time i'll try to stay away from creating an operating system, and stick with PHP as my programming language. coming soon...

 

it's like jesus just came back and said "you know what, this whole religion thing is a crock." mark pilgrim, semantic markup poster boy, says: Standards are bullshit. XHTML is a crock. The W3C is irrelevant. but he really only points out one tag missing from the XHTML 2 specification that he can't easily work around: the <cite> tag. what is the <cite> tag? it's used to cite external sources. of course, the cite attribute has been part of the <q> tag since (at least) HTML 4.1, so this shouldn't be too much of a shock.

and, though it isn't quite as simple as converting all <q> tags to <quote> tags, there is a way to maintain the same functionality (and even increased functionality) by using cite attributes rather than tags, in combination with <a> tags. you can use an <a> tag with no href attribute, and a rel attribute of value "citation" to replace <cite>. better yet, you can include the href attribute (pointing to the source's top-level site), and (if you must) turn off linking via CSS. ironically, this technique seems more descriptive than a vague <cite> tag. this can be implemented by replacing all <cite> tags with properly-marked <a> tags. you can also place a cite attribute within <q> tags and create a descriptive connection between a quote and its source (again, better than ever). so, what's the problem here?

 

jason kottke wants safari to be further integrated with other internet applications. judging by his mockups, he just doesn't like the abrupt transition between applications. putting other applications within the browser is just a step away from making the browser a full system user interface. but rather than importing application-handling functionality into a browser, why not pull some of the browser niceties back out into the system's interface? i don't mean actually tying the browser to the operating system, but just using the same interface elements that are popular in browsers within the operating system.

 

mark pilgrim is toying with the (admitedly evil) idea of intentionally adding a "bug" to safari's handling of CSS for the sake of allowing designers to detect the browser. this functionality can be achieved with minimal harm. a CSS statement such as onlysafari body { display: none; } would be technically valid, and could be interpretted only by safari (despite the lack of any actual <onlysafari> tags in the displayed page). additionally, similar syntax could be handled by all browsers without doing significant damage to the CSS standard.

 

i'm against war in iraq, i don't like bush, and i'm afraid it will take lifetimes (quite literally) to regain the freedoms we have given up to fight a "terror" scarcely discernable from our own actions. but even i find ridiculous any argument that revolves around comparing current america to nazi germany, or inserting phrases such as with automobiles burning oil stolen from dying Iraqi children. i mean, come on - dying iraqi children do not have oil. there are plenty of people who are actually suffering and dying as a result of america's failed military-economic-political regime. such fantastic imagery does them no justice. and if this is my reaction, i can't even imagine what a bush supporter must think. the "left"'s reaction to bush has been so pathetic that conservative writers have nothing better to do than criticize movie critics.

 

the globe reports: Possessing marijuana is no longer illegal for anyone in Canada, an Ontario judge ruled yesterday. because pot is legal for medicinal use, making possession illegal disrupts legitimate medical practice. but apparently this doesn't make it legal to smoke for non-medicinal purposes. interesting how changing one law creates this kind of cascading effect. i have a question though: isn't morphine legal for medicinal use? does that mean it's now legal to possess morphine in canada?

 

if you're looking for a formal definition of DTD, and all you can find is formal definitions as DTD, you may like to know that DTD is formally defined in a subsection of the XML specification at w3.org. i know i would have liked to know that a few days ago.

 

herm albright: A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.

 

geourl.org is just getting started, the author (joshua schachter) is interested in connecting with bloggers, and the site has all the data necessary to provide a "libraries close to you" service to tie into jon udell's library lookup. if i were jon, i'd email joshua and inquire about his interest in doing so. (and if i were joshua, i'd say "sure", but since i'm neither i'm just making a suggestion.) it would stimulate interest for joshua's project, and make jon's project more user-friendly. synergy.