Friday, September 12, 2014

Terrorists and Abusers: Ounces of Prevention Wanted

Terrorists and abusers: two groups of (mostly male) people are very much in the news this week.

Press and politicians are using words such as 'destroy' and 'punish' as the proposed remedies.

But are these words not the equivalent of saying: 'let us terrorize the terrorists' and 'let us abuse the abusers'?

By the time the terrorist or abuser acts, their mental state is well-formed. It's very late, often too late to adjust the mental processes of such people.

And even if you could 'get even' or trade an 'eye for eye' with such people, you would be doing little to stop their followers.

What really needs acting on are the circumstances and conditions that allow and enable these types of thoughts to grow and develop in young people without consideration of the consequences of their actions to society.

In turn these thoughts beg the question: What are the steps that people should take to identify and prevent abusive or potentially terrorizing behavior?

Living and working in San Francisco - a place where the Internet touches the ground - I can't help but wonder what are the technologies and the networks to be developed that will be part of the eventual solutions to these grievous issues. And who will be the people that will lead this engagement with creating a more equitable world?

Are you ready yet?

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Behold the Behemoths: How long will the Maersk fleet stay afloat?

Attribution: Walter Rademacher / Wikipedia

My friend BillB sent me this link to a BusinessWeek article relating to the Maersk organization currently operating the world's largest container ships:

This article provoked some questioning:

If there are going to be self-driving cars in the near future (and self-driving trucks) then surely there will be self-driving ships - with crews hopping aboard just before coming into a tricky port or to go through the Suez Canal for example. When that happens, will the ships then become bigger or smaller? My guess is more, smaller ships. Perhaps slower and solar powered,

And also, my guess is that the Chinese and Russians will finally wake up and build an effective trans-Siberian railway. In the US trains are often 12,500 feet long - carrying perhaps 2,500 containers at 100 kph This would most likely be faster and cheaper than the container ship. Even if the ship carries 18,000 containers, it would not take that heavy a schedule for the trains to sink the ships.

If a trans-Siberian route is successful, then a Bering Straits crossing would surely follow.

And as photovoltaic power costs continue to fall and as the transcontinental railroads pass through mostly desolate countryside, it will become effective to power the trains by electricity generated just adjacent to the tracks. Even if the the trains could only run during the day, this would be more effective than a container ship burning 33,000 gallons of fuel per day.

I feel confident that these ships will return good profits to their owners. The changes I am talking about may take decades. Nevertheless, if you ever get to view one of these awesome behemoths, do have good look because she and her kin may stay in the record books for quite a while as some of the largest movable things ever built.

Monday, July 08, 2013

NY Times: Three Mostly Clueless Articles, One Heavenly Moment

Three recent articles in the New York Times discuss issues with current life in France.

All three articles are for the most part somewhat clueless. Only the final article, in the final sentence, of the final paragraph finally begins to not bad (as in 'my bad', 'your bad').

The first article is 'The Best Hope for France’s Young? Get Out' by Felix Marquardt, published 27 June 2013. Mr Marquardt's point seems to be this:
Young French people need to go abroad, to work, to travel, to see how things can work differently in cultures and countries that don’t play by the same old rules — and then come back to France, and reinject some of the energy and enthusiasm they’ve absorbed to help reconcile the broader population with the global reality that France has shunned for far too long.
Mr Marquardt, where would you like the young people to go and find work? Spain, Greece, Poland, Romania? These countries are all within the EU and so immigration and travel costs are not a big issue. But do you really think that a young French person will walk into a job in any of these places? OK, so how about China or Chile or New Zealand? Travel costs become a huge issue and what is the likelihood of immigration officials in any of these countries looking kindly at the work permit application of a young inexperienced French person?

And it is not as if that the French do not travel. Go to almost anywhere in the world and in the local pharmacy you will find French perfume, at Saturday's wedding you will be served Champagne and at your beach picnic you will eat French Brie served on a locally-baked baguette. How did those products and their French exporters get to whatever remote place you happened to be in? There's a very good chance the French exporters - and you as well - traveled there via an Airbus assembled in Toulouse and the goods arrived via CGA CGM, the third largest container shipping fleet in the world.

There's more. The French government provides financial support to over 600 schools around the world so that French-speaking people around the world can educate their children in French. Various state-sponsored internship programs send thousands of young French interns to companies and government agencies around the world.

The jobs for young people issue is not just a French issue. It's that there are not enough jobs to go around. Mr Marquardt's article is simplistic at best.

The second article also discusses issues of the young in France. 'Rite of Passage for French Students Receives Poor Grade' is by Scott Sayare and published 29 June 2013. This articles disses the French education systems' baccalaureate (or 'bac') college-prep exams. Points raised include:
The bac’s primary function now seems to be to identify and punish the weakest students...
Critics worry that too many students earn the bac these days...
The test does not function terribly effectively as a filter for higher education...
The test does not evaluate the most relevant of students’ capabilities..
No alternatives to the bac are proposed and perhaps more tellingly no comparisons are drawn with other systems such as the SAT in the US or A Levels in the UK. Are the criticisms disingenuous or what? Mr Sayare himself highlights the pointlessness of his article when he remarks:
But change is slow in coming. Lawmakers have in recent years moved to include classroom grades in criteria for diplomas, Mr. Davidenkoff said, but withdrew their proposals after student protests. (italics mine)
The third article was penned by a writer I very much admire. 'Goodbye Old World, Bonjour Tristesse' was written by Maureen Dowd and published on 6 July 2013. Ms Dowd's point is something like this:
The French are so busy wallowing in their existential estrangement — a state of mind Camus described as “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” — that they don’t even have the energy to be rude. 
'The French' is like 'The Americans' or 'the Chinese'. When I read words like this my eyes begin to roll. Yet another pronunciation of a vapid generalization is about to occur.  How can you adequately state the summary of all the emotions and knowledge and well-being of millions of people in a single sentence?

Ms Dowd does get in the occasional bon mot and it's sort of a fun read.  But the culmination of the article is a chat with Claudia Senik, a French professor, and the conclusion is that:
 In others words, unhappiness has been bred into the French bone. 
The are deep, sad and quite depressing thoughts for sure. These are words of a transcendental or very large scale phenomena. Yet here's the closing sentence of the article:
“Our happiness function is a little deficient,” she said over espresso at Le Rostand across from the Jardin du Luxembourg. “It’s really in the French genome.”
When I read these words I laughed and nearly fell out of my chair. Kindly allow me to deconstruct this sentence. Here are the important words of the sentence: 'over espresso at Le Rostand across from the Jardin du Luxembourg'.

I know 'Le Rostand' very well. There are few public places in the world where you will find people as good-looking, well-dressed, engaged and serene as at 'Le Rostand'. After a dozen visits or so, you become part of this ( even if it means buying a new jacket) . If I were not such an atheist I would say that places like 'Le Rostand' become a proof of the existence of god. So, yes, by all means let us discuss the depths of French unhappiness, but let us choose to do so in a French heaven.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Former Fanboy's First Feelings: Favorable & Fail

New MacPro

Favorable: every tech exec will want the large black soup can to be seen sitting on their desk.

First fun-looking desktop in a decade.

Pricing: I'm guessing models will range between $1,999 and $10,000.

"Wow, you have a computer that could have cost $10K!?!"

Lots of up-selling and up-posing (is that a word?) possibilities.

iOS 7

Fail: my first impression agrees with Ryan Katkov's post above. It's a bit messy in there.

Do remember, however, that the OS is still at an early stage. There will be many clean-ups before iOS 7 ships.

On the other hand:

Now we can be post-anti-skeumorphic.

Yay! And thanks to PaulM for the link.


Robo Raven (UMD Robotics) - Weapons and Saviors of the Future?

Devices like these - quadcopters for example - tend to have short battery charge lives. These days perhaps 15 minutes at the most. In the future battery charges will last longer, but probably not long enough to cross an ocean.

I can see future robotic birds being transferred to remote areas of interest to NGOs and the military via  larger Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that stay safe high and away.

The robotic birds fly to the target. Some take videos while others carry out actions - such as dropping medical supplies or sniffing/sensing for signs of life after earthquakes or doing whatever the military of the future has to do...

Then the robotic birds either return to the mother ship to refuel and resupply and or perhaps just dispose of themselves in some environmentally suitable way.

Link courtesy of BillB.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A linguistic dissection of 7 annoying teenage sounds - The Week

The sounds people - especially young people - make in between the words they are saying are fascinating.

The following video provides a studied look at seven of them.

I also find the contemporary singers such as Rihanna and Kesha are doing a superb job of listening for such sounds and incorporating them in the the vocalizations of their lyrics

I don't find such sounds particularly annoying. I wonder if such sounds can be considered as words and therefore part of a vocabulary. Also I wonder if the sounds cross borders. Are they like the 'home' and 'refresh' icons in your browser and work in any language?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Will Robots take all the jobs?

My feeling is that the robots will take the drudge jobs.

We will (somehow) in response create more jobs for artists, teachers, musicians, semi-pro athletes and other creative, artistic and helpful people.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Say Hello to the 100 Trillion Bacteria That Make Up Your Microbiome -

Michael Pollan is one of my favorite writers on food, diet and the creation of food.

Here he talks about you (plural) are what you (plural) eat.

With you (plural) being the mass of bacteria you cohabit your body with.

Making Your Own Website: Your Career Will Thank You Later

I think you all know this. In any case here are some good tips on how and why to have your own web site.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Help with Terence Deacon's Incomplete Nature now on GitHub

My current favorite book is Terence Deacon's Incomplete Nature.

It's about an attempt to resolve René Descarte's mind-body dilemma while obeying the rules of the good contemporary science. Kant, Darwin, Einstein. Final cause, DNA, quantum mechanics. It's got them all and more.

Guess what?

It's a bloody hard book to read.

So I am in the process of coding and creating an online cheat sheet for the work at:

The GitHub web site is where over three million programmers keep their programs in the cloud.

The nice thing is that you can use GitHub for other uses than for merely keeping software.

My work, which comprises content, appearance and behaviors, is still very much a work in progress.

From time-to-time, I will inform you here of worthy developments.

And, well, just remember what they say: "You can't enjoy the show without a program!"

Friday, December 28, 2012

Yay! I made a drawing. Actually, I copied Jean Cocteau.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Future of the Book ~ an Update

I met a nice person at a party the other day and we talked of the future of the book. So I updated some of the work I had started in 2008, sent it him and include it here.

Anybody else interested in the future of the book?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Festivus Day ~ a holiday I can celebrate

Today I learned about Festivus day through the kind auspices of Matt Cutts.

In acknowledgement I have added a reference to the Festivus pole to the Wikipedia page for Google hoaxes and Easter eggs:

And also to the Wikipedia entry for Festivus:

At last I have a festive season holiday that I can celebrate. Yay!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

PhiSci Icon

If I am to write about Incomplete Nature (see previous post) then I need a category or label for the topic. My current name seems to be PhiSci for philosophy and science - and it's a play on Si Fi as well.

Well, what would an icon for this topic look like? How about electrons swirling around a brain?

Back into Incomplete Nature

I am reading again Terrence Deacon's Incomplete Nature. This time I am starting with the epilogue and am reading a chapter at a time in reverse order. I'm now at Chapter 15.

It's a hard book to read. It's a fun book to read. The process is like trying to solve a puzzle - where the obstacle you are trying to overcome is the slowness of your own brain.

It's also a scary process.

I think the reason I am reading this book is because I feel that it may be a shortcut. Instead of spending thousands of hours trying to formulate an education based on Kant, Kierkegaard, Kuhn et al, one could jump onto a more modern, scientifically verifiable foundation and use this new, unified structure as the basis for building a personal cosmology faster miles an hour.

Well, we all know about the "10,000 Hour Rule" - that it takes 10,000 hours of work or effort to master a particular skill or discipline. So, shortcut or no shortcut, if I get into this science/philosophy thing then it will take years to get out to the other side.

And even if I did - then what? Scary thing #2 then pops up.

You run into the conundrum posed by that very smart lad, Paul Graham, in his essay "How to Do Philosophy"

Here are some quotes from Paul's essay:

The proof of how useless some of their answers turned out to be is how little effect they have. No one after reading Aristotle's Metaphysics does anything differently as a result.
If I say this, some will say it's a ridiculously overbroad and uncharitable generalization, and others will say it's old news, but here goes: judging from their works, most philosophers up to the present have been wasting their time.
Fortunately Paul leaves a bit of wiggle room. There may be, after all, some utility to philosophy:
These seem to me what philosophy should look like: quite general observations that would cause someone who understood them to do something differently.
And this is what I hope for. It would be a fun and fine thing to be able to apply what I learn from Deacon and others to the other topics I am interested in - including follow-ups to Christopher' Alexanders A Pattern Language and my own investigations into the visual display of huge amounts of data.

I have started the process by beginning to write a summary or synopsis of each chapter - which I plan to publish here and elsewhere as soon as some of it begins to look as if it might look like something. And given my extremely low standards of quality, I will probably publish way too early. If it's worth doing then it's worth doing badly. Right?

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Boat ~ Drawing in the Modern Way

It is a nice to draw something on a digital device and then have the drawing 'appear' on the web 'just like that'.

The 'A Boat' drawing is an approximation of such a process.

The boat was dawn on a Nexus 7 using Skitch.

Skitch is a very nice drawing tool produced and maintained by the Evernote team.

The underlying data is saved by Evernote.

From Evernote you can obtain a URL to a Skitch drawing.

Add that URL as the source to an HTML IFRAME tag which in turn is embedded into a Blogger post while editing in HTML mode and - presto - the drawing is publicly available.

Here's the code for the boat drawing.

<iframe height="100%" src="" style="border: medium solid #000;" width="100%">
Your browser does not support iframes.</p>

There is a significant side effect: any edit to the original Skitch drawing automatically updates Blogger and appears in the post with the next refresh. Whether this is a good thing or bad thing could be debated. The modern tradition is that once a blog post is posted it should not require further editing. Perhaps this is the precursor to post-modern blogging.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kindle Fire versus Nook Color ~ Day #2

I have had another day with my Kindle Fire and I am perhaps a bit less gloomy than yesterday.

Don't get me wrong, the Kindle Fire is an awesome device. It was just four years ago in November that Amazon released the Kindle First Generation for $399. This device is half the price and is a gazillion times sexier. [The same month saw the introduction of the OLPC and the first Asus netbook. Each of these was also $399. I still have my first Asus netbook and it is a total piece of junk.]

But now that we are in the land of milk and honey – device-wise anyway – we can be ever so picky.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Facebook: Incomplete Nature - a book by Terrence Deacon

Incomplete Nature - a book by Terrence Deacon that came out this week is a work that I have been studying for several months – having been the recipient of some of Deacon's early drafts.

Although I prepared a number of comments on the text for Deacon, the book is so dense that I cannot say that I fully understand it as of yet.

What I do recognize is that Incomplete Nature is an important book and perhaps one of the most important books to be written on what it is to be conscious and what it means to think about things. It is far too early, however, for me to even begin to think of how I would structure a review of the book.

Part of the process of learning to deal with such a complex work is to approach the work from a number of different points of view. One approach I am taking is perhaps a bit wacky and that is to build and manage the Facebook page for the book.

Which brings me to this: I need help!

In order to register a username on Facebook and thus be able to obtain the elegant URL one needs to have twenty five people "Like" the page. As of tonight there are just three Likes.

So please, please - if you are on Facebook - click on the link below and when you get to the Facebook page then click on the Like button. Thank you!

You do not need to read the book. Just wait a while and I will tell you all about it...


On Facebook: Art Technology & Culture (ATC) at UC Berkeley

One of my very favorite activities is attending the lectures at the Art Technology and Culture (ATC) Colloquium at University of California Berkeley. This is a project run by the Berkeley Center for New Media.

Over the past 15 years, Professor Ken Goldberg and his colleagues have invited some of the most interesting, unique and innovative individuals on the planet to come and talk to students of new media.

The lectures are open to the public and I have become a regular member of the audience. So much so that I've been asked to help out on the ATC's Facebook page.

In these times when money is ever so precious, it is really nice for an organization that needs help to ask for help rather than money. In my case, I happened to do a little bit of both but my real pleasure is in the helping part.


Kindle Fire: First Day

Instant Video via Amazon Prime is awesome. Free movie streaming.

Accepts Gmail but no support for Google Docs, Maps, Calendar etc.

I use Google Apps frequently every day - so this is a deal-breaker for me.

My rooted Nook Color hands all of these well - plus the full Kindle Reader app

NY Times
I am already a subscriber to the New York Times digital edition.

But it looks like I would have to subscribe again in order to read it using the Kindle version.

First Impressions

It's beautiful hardware. Bright and very responsive screen.

But for the moment I am dismayed by the software and content issues.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moved This Blog from WordPress to Blogger

If you are a heavy-duty blogger, WordPress is definitely the way to go. WordPress has a lot of great tools for writers built into the software. The software is open source and can be run on any server or  hosted by for free. The founder, Matt Mullenweg, is a San Francisco Bay Area hero and still very much involved with the company. I could and probably should write a number of posts just about the good things of WordPress.

Nevertheless I have moved to Blogger – a free service offered by Google – for a number of reasons. The first is cost. I run a number of websites for a variety of people for which I receive no money. With Blogger I have more freedom - at no charge - to control the appearance of the site than I do with WordPress. With WordPress I would have to pay $30 per year per site.

With WordPress if I want a domain name to point to set hosting service offered by I have to pay $12 per year. With Blogger I can do this at no charge. When added all up, we are talking only about a few hundred dollars a year. So the cost is not really that important.

On the other hand I do help a lot of people with their websites for whom such an expense would be too much. So I feel that my expertise with Blogger may be more helpful to people than xpertise with WordPress – for people for whom such a charge would not be feasible.

The ultimate back story, however, is what happens sometime in the future. At some time somebody will stop paying for the domain name registrations and for the styling charges or whatever. I feel that Blogger office of greatest chance so that some years from now – even with pay no money – the websites I work on will still be around and look much the way they do the last time I happen to touch them.

So what I'm saying is that the historians of the distant future will have an easier task parsing through Blogger sites than the WordPress sites. And this is very important. Since nobody today reads the stuff I write, my only hope is you guys way out there sometime in the future.

Friday, November 11, 2011

New on MangoJango: Clever Robot - Created by 3D Printer

A quick post on a cleverly made 'bot.



It's raining here today...

So Many Jobs Available in Technology - Even More Jobs for Females

There is an upbeat story in Techcrunch today by David Kirkpatrick about the current state of technology in the world today.
The fastest-growing resource in the world is computing power and storage.
How To Be An Optimist In A Pessimistic Time

And yet in most every country in the world today, too many people are looking for work. The only significant exception is the technology sector. Every major and minor player in the San Francisco Bay Area is looking for talent.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Cup of Coffee

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be somebody who draws things. For good portions of my life I have been able to fulfill this ambition.

Monday, October 31, 2011

New on MangoJango: The Power of Free Electricity

Re-igniting the Mangojango web site. It will cover architecture, 3D printing, robotics, transport and design. You'll see - they all do really combine well - when you have a utopian vision of things.

The Power of Free Electricity

New on BC News: The Decrease in Crime: The Nice Thing Nobody Tells You

There was an angry and strong response to my post on the decrease in crime is San Francisco here.

The Decrease in Crime: The Nice Thing Nobody Tells You


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New White Paper: "Learning to Program"

I have written a number of white papers. As the Wikipedia link explains, a white paper  is "an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem". The ones I have written are usually prepared for people I am working with to build some kind of product or service. They are often written quickly casually being under some kind of deadline. Nevertheless they have tended to have some content interesting to me and, I hope, to others. Therefore I've decided to start cleaning some of the papers up and make them readily available on the web.

The first white paper I offer is called "Learning to Program". This paper shows you how to use the Internet to learn about the Internet and then using this knowledge explains how you can be  not only be a passenger on the Internet and but also one of the drivers.