Wednesday, September 18, 2002

I shouldn't stay up so late that I turn into an insomni-zombie (grumpy and tired but can't sleep). But I did finish the hat for now-2-week-old Payton:

A closeup of the hat shows where I finally departed from the pattern, and did my own thing on the crown of the hat, terminating in a bit of I-Cord.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds is right that we're seeing more meta-commentary (he's speaking particularly about Democrats) about the justification for a war than actual positions: There's a case to be made against war -- maybe even an intelligent one as opposed to the of-course-America-is-wrong line we're getting from the usual Chomskian suspects. And we'd be better off if someone were making it clearly and responsibly. (Robert Wright has been doing a much better job than Daschle, et al.) But making that case requires taking a position that someone might hold against you later, as opposed to carping from the sidelines and hoping to capitalize if it all goes wrong. Those who lack the backbone to take a position at a time like this aren't qualified to hold office.

Well, I for one enjoy carping from the sidelines! Though I'm not attempting to hold or obtain office, so I hope he'll excuse me.

Natasha asked me (rhetorically, I hope) in email why the administration should go to war against Iraq, when there are larger dangers to the lives of Americans. This Pravda article supports that position -- it's about 200 Soviet-era nukes in Ukraine that nobody can account for. Link via Instapundit.
More on Chretien's bad-taste comment on Sept 11, 2002 from National Review Online.

I find Tom Nichol's article a little much, though. E.g. "Given Chretien's inane comments prior to the meeting, Bush can hardly be faulted for not trying to lay out a case to his Canadian colleague. Indeed, given the lack of substance in their meeting and the clear Canadian aversion to shouldering the burden of the fight against terror — an aversion, by the way, that does not seem to be shared by the brave and able men and women of the Canadian armed forces — ... " Hey, Canada was there in Afghanistan, and not just because the armed forces decided to go. The government decided to send them. Nothing excuses Bush from laying out a case -- to the world, not just to Canada.

The same paragraph ends with "September 2002 might well be the date affixed by future historians to Canada's last days as a world power." Nice to know in retrospect that Canada was a world power! Heh heh.

Co-workers report the usefulness of Starbuck's wireless support. Yes, the press releases were a year ago, but more locations seem to have it now. On the other hand, you now have to pay, but that's worth it to these three road warriors.

Of course, you don't have to go into Starbucks to access their wireless (no wonder you have to pay). They can take a cab from one place to another in NY City, getting in and out of range of Starbucks instances, and racking up enough connection total to synch up email during the trip. Or if they're driving, they park in a Starbucks parking lot and whip out their laptops. Unless one of them says "You know, I'm actually going to go in and get myself a coffee, too!"

Sunday, September 15, 2002

I have finished a sweater for a week-old baby named Payton (hope Payton's parents aren't reading this!). It's a little large for a newborn but I'm basically happy with the way it turned out:

I took a larger picture too.The sweater is knit with Mission Falls 1824 Cotton in light blue, light purple, green, dark purple, black and grey. The pattern is from Mission Falls "Wee Knits" book, called "Colours".

I can never get the gauge tight enough (typically I'm 10% off and changing needles doesn't quite get me to gauge), so I'm used to making adjustments. This time I had to cut the sides in a couple stitches. Rather than reknit the back after I had completed it, I just moved the seam over two stitch widths on the back. Unfortunately, this makes the seams a little bulky, not as flat as I like to make them. Then for the rest of the stitch counts I just subtracted 5-10% and it all came out.

The buttons are little purple hearts on top of dark purple circular buttons. That's right, two buttons, just attached together with the thread used to tie them on. The light hearts are cute, and the purple circles give the overall button enough size to fit in the button holes and not be too hard to button up.

Some, particularly Paul Krugman, criticize the White House for citing first one reason to do something, then another. Krugman calls it a "shifting rationale" and accuses the White House of this both for justifying tax cuts and for justifying the war on Iraq.

Critics should be clear on whether the administration is abandoning its earlier reasons or not. It's not truly a shifting rationale unless early reasons are abandoned when the situation changes, at which point new reasons suiting the current situation are brought out. On the other hand, if the administration brings out one argument and exposes it to the media, lets it sink in and explores the details, then brings out another reason without disclaiming the previous argument, then the administration is actually building a case on many arguments.

My impression is that tax cuts were justified by a shifting rationale, but the war on Iraq is being justified by accumulating several independent reasons to attack. I don't claim that the sum of arguments is sufficient, I just claim that's what the administration is trying to do.

It's an odd facet of human nature that presenting multiple independent arguments can be a bad tactic. If one of the arguments is perceived as weak, opponents seize on that argument. Then the other arguments are ignored, as if they depended on the weak argument, and it becomes very hard to convince that person. However to a rational listener, a weak argument should only cause the stronger arguments to be thrown away if they depended on the weak argument, as in a chain of causes.

Ekr and Terence have significant experience designing protocols. Ekr's also a chemist. Recently they were asked by a regular programmer "What are the top things to keep in mind when designing a protocol?" Ekr compared this to having a layman ask a chemist "What are the top things to keep in mind when synthesizing phosgene in the lab?"

Phosgene is a toxic inhalant that quickly destroys the lungs, so clearly this is not a good idea. I like the comparison.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Tax compliance costs are taxes that benefit nobody. Duane Freese puts it into numbers.
Why it's been a busy week: a few pictures from the WebDAV Interop event at UC Santa Cruz, Monday to Wednesday. These pictures show people testing WebDAV clients and servers against each other. While I did very little testing myself because I was busy talking about careful changes to the standard, some great testing did get done.
Ekr suggests that if dissent has been crushed, it's only from being smothered by news articles about how dissent has been crushed -- so many, that there's no column inches left to discuss real issues! As usual, the media's favourite topic is the media.
I find it hard to disagree with the adjectives "boorish", "weak and petty" used to describe Chretien. His exact words taped for Sept 11 were "You cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation for the others. And that is what the western world -- not only the Americans, the western world -- has to realize. Because they are human beings, too."

His timing, at least, was bad: It was laudable for him to try to bring up the debate about poverty ... but this may not have been the most opportune time. People need to grieve and people should be allowed to do so. (from Edmonton Journal) And he could have prefaced this remark with an explanation that it does not justify killing innocents.

But it's not just this interview, it's other actions too. His fit of pique when Bush did not visit Canada first after his election seemed -- well, petty.

I claimed in a recent post (Sept 8)that there had been no dissent-crushing to speak of in the US since 9/11. And it's not just bloggers that provide alternative viewpoitns. Tim Blair provides more data to back that up.

McCalman also repeated one of the two great post-9/11 myths: that dissent in the US has been crushed. She didn't provide any examples because there are none. "In the first two weeks after the September 11 massacre," reports Los Angeles journalist Matt Welch, "the LA Times published more than a dozen impassioned antiwar essays from the likes of Barbara Kingsolver, Robert Fisk, Howard Zinn, Alexander Cockburn and Jonathan Schell." (Note to Janet: All of these dissenters were, at the time of writing, still alive.)

Neil Clark defends Americans in The Australian. Even more strongly, he blasts "the left" for racism:

The Left of Smith, though, while preaching equality and brotherly love between all races, conveniently does allow for exceptions. All men are equal; all men, that is, except Americans, Serbs, white Africans and Protestants from Northern Ireland.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

A lot of people are saying the US should be more "multilateral" (Slate, Guardian). Bush addressed the UN this morning, asking basically "Are you going to take this?", reminding the UN of all its resolutions broken or unheeded by the Iraq regime.

Some might consider Bush's appeals increased multilateralism, but it's not at all clear to me that everybody will think so. In other words, I bet that what would be an acceptable level of multilateralism to Europeans will be considered unacceptably high (too much sovereignty ceded) to Americans. Even if we all agree "more cooperation", it's not clear that common ground can actually be reached. So I predict (and this is an easy one) continued criticism of American arrogance and unilateralism, for years to come.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Penny Arcade (video game critics and cartoonists) is running an interview series (parts 1, 2 and 3) with Dr. Henry Jenkins of MIT on some rather social and philosophical issues related to video games. Topics discussed include education, ratings, art, using games as a military tool, and the legal case that decided that video games aren't free speech.

For one thing, Dr. Jenkins is critical of the research that claims to show that video games promote violence: If you look at criminals incarcerated for violent crime, you find that on average they consume less violent entertainment than the general population does.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Code visualization has come a long way in 6 years, when I considered doing my master's degree in that area. There's now a map of the Linux kernel, done by the Free Code Graphing Project. At the lowest level, each routine in the code is represented with its loops (circles) and branches.

It's very cool looking, but has a ways to go (as they authors discuss) before being very useful. For example, one could use code graphing to mark modules with a lot of dependencies for review or rewrite.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Matt Welch has a article in the National Post on alleged press censorship. The American Prospect had a similar article way back in January. These are in response to articles like Michael Steinberg's recent complaint that although he has 5000 Web readers of his site, people at his office seemed hawkish and thus he's afraid to promote peace at work.

One of Welch's paragraphs caught my eye (since I'm Canadian): The view looked just as bad north of the border. Linda Diebel of The Toronto Star wrote an article under the banner, "Freedom of speech casualty of a new war." The Globe and Mail's Simon Houpt lamented, "Dissent has all but disappeared." (To be clear, Matt Welch thinks these writers were wrong). Why do Canadians seem to believe that dissent disappeared? It sure didn't in the Bay area (Berkeley can be counted on), among the people I talk to, on the Web, or on the news I read.

It seems rather normal for a country to veer towards a more militant attitude after an attack. The US did. It also seems rather normal for people who suddenly have a common enemy (all sides of the political spectrum) to agree somewhat more rather than less. But to say that dissent had disappeared any time after 9/11 was always ridiculous. Even without counting the anarchy of voices on the Web (blogging exploded), mainstream media covered and included views opposing invasion of Afghanistan, methods of war, and treatment of prisoners. The only voice I'm aware of that tried to stifle debate is that of John Ashcroft, who is an asshole.

Instead, what I think is happening is that people who fear to express dissent directly turn that into a claim that dissent is being crushed. But the only reason I can find for that fear is the worry that ordinary people and other pundits might disapprove, and hotly disagree in articles, emails, Web sites and letters to the editor. That's not crushing dissent, that's lively debate, and commentators who are afraid of that and try to use political correctness to get people to nicely agree are using underhanded methods.

At the same time, people who oppose war cite a "growing chorus of dissent" opposing the hawks. Can't have it both ways, you know!

My friend Natasha has her own blog now. Although I'm dismayed I won't be able to steal from her emails to me, and she'll probably blog links to Guardian articles rather than email them to me, it's a good thing. Just take a look at her no ballot, no bitching post for proof.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

A picture of the quilt I'm working on right now. It's my own design based on a machine pieced triangle grid of fabrics that remind me of the colours of the ocean at sunset. The wave designs are machine couched variegated cotton yarn. Around the crest of each wave are clusters of sparkly seed beads. In the middle, you can kind of see the hand quilting between each line of the cotton yarn (that's the step I'm finishing now).
Pictures of my team (left to right: Michael, Melissa, Barry, and Orlando, Ed, Brian, Conrad and Henry at the other table). We had a farewell lunch for Conrad, the intern, who has finished his summer to my dismay. Best picture is Michael with Cutlery.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

The Daily Summit blog referenced below was started by David Steven and friends just to cover the Johannesburg summit. Interestingly, it's funded like science (including travel), according to an article covering the blog (very meta): "Steven, who doesn't think of himself as a journalist, says he approached the British Science Council in early August to pitch the idea and it agreed to sponsor the site and his travel expenses. A week later, he says, the site was up and running."

It's an excellent site. Too bad I only found it today. I love this Q&A from the FAQ:

Do you know what you’re doing?

No. But we think we can find out!
The Times Online has an interesting analysis article from Anatole Kaletsky (link found via Daily Summit). I hear echoes of Julian Simon, particularly in the fifth paragraph: "The experience of the past two centuries suggests that the generations of the future will be infinitely cleverer than we are. They will devise solutions to their problems with an ingenuity that we cannot begin to imagine today. It is not just lazy and selfish to leave the solution of many long-term problems to future generations; it is rational."
A picture of me from last night, occasioned by new haircut.
His Excellency the Honourable Saufatu Sopoanga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, made an unfortunate choice of words when he told how his country was being annihilated by rising sea levels (from Times Online). He said “We are being submerged because of the selfishness and greed of the industrialised world. "When are the leaders of the industrial world going to take the moral high ground?”

But since they've already taken the physical high ground...

Monday, September 02, 2002

Natasha clarified her position: "It's not necessarily that yuppie activists represent the poor better than the poor themselves, but that truly poor people can rarely afford to attend summits like this. Many (though admittedly not all) activist organizations that attend these events often spend a significant amount of time speaking to farmers and tradespeople in the developing nations, and work directly with them to shape their agendas and debate. The developed world citizens who can afford to travel, and who are voters in the countries that make many of these decisions act more as lobbyists, many times with the blessing, encouragement, and guidance of the people whose issues they take up."

That's great when it happens. Still, when a group is too weak to represent themselves, what happens when the motivations of their supporters finally conflict? Another example from Other Powers (book linked below) is that Horace Greeley, editor of the Tribune, originally supported
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton in their suffrage movement. However, they fell out when Greeley asked the women to wait for blacks to get the vote first (rather than all at once). When Greeley's wife signed a petition that made it publicly obvious she disagreed with her husband, he took his revenge on Stanton, vowing she would never get positive treatment in his paper.

I've been corresponding with Natasha about the Johannesburg summit, which is always interesting because we see different things and point them out to each other. Not only do we notice different articles about the same topic (we tend to frequent different news sources), we notice different things inside the same articles. Then we firmly agree on some important things like this: "But the main things produced for export by the sort of mom & pop shops and struggling laborers conjured up by the word poor are durable goods, like cloth. These goods have been heavily tariffed for years on purely protectionist grounds. This is an issue that has nothing to do with environmentalism, mocks the idea that free trade is any kind of true ideal, and genuinely hurts a great many people."

One thing I haven't made up my mind on is who best represents "the poor"? In the Tech Central Station article we discussed, James Shikwati says "Where are the poor in the summit? They are hardly represented by those "Third World" NGOs here - who pander to wealthy countries in the name of Sustainable Development - perhaps to sustain themselves." Natasha thinks however that first-world "yuppies" (activists) do a better job of representing the third-world poor than their own government ministers. So there are at least four main options (and I'm not sure what Shikwati himself is, although he appears to try to represent the poor):

  • Third World NGOs
  • Third world government ministers
  • Citizens of rich countries (activists, global NGOs)
  • The poor themselves -- voting, demonstrating, etc.

I'm reminded of the book I'm currently reading, "Other Powers" by Barbara Goldsmith (loaned to me by my co-worker Quinn). This biography of Victoria Woodhull, a spiritualist and women's rights activist, contains lots of material on the movements that fought for the rights of women and blacks. It's interesting that the first woman's rights convention had a man (James Mott) chairing it. However, soon they attempted to elect a female president for the convention, "a move so unprecedented that even Elizabeth [Stanton] opposed it." Ultimately, men had to approve universal suffrage, which vastly improved the ability of women to represent themselves.

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