From print to revolution

The change from paper-based text to electronic text is one of those elementary shifts — like the change from manuscript to print — that is so revolutionary we can only glimpse at this point what it entails. – Jerome McGann

Web statistics tell the tale

The top 10 websites accounted for 40% of page views.

Richard MacManus reported trends in online traffic over the past five years.

He found that between the end of 2001 and the end of last year, the number of Internet domains expanded by more than 75%, from 2.9m to 5.1m. At the end of 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31% of all the pages viewed on the net, and 40% in 2006.

There are more destinations online, but we seem to be visiting fewer of them.

On the internet, the big get bigger.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that.

Nicholas Carr examines ‘Web Plantations’

Rope or glue?

There are reaching, lifting, trying.
There are duties, tasks, dying.
This is human.

Who are you talking with?
What are you doing?
Where are you?

Have you any forward?
Have you any well?
Have you any sky?

Sprinkle bone.
Voice life.

No timetable required

Hate me for abridging ordinary loyalty with foolish impatience.

ordinary loyalty / foolish impatience

There have been Administrations.
Equity, the distillation of conflict.
Referendum, the secession of fear.
There have been Administrations.
Treaty, the victory of the militian.
Service, the summit of the State.
There have been Administrations.
Sustenance, the face of peace.
Freedom, the finance of calm.

see history / know tomorrow

Biting a bit of Vista

What is Microsoft selling?

A thirty two bit shell to a sixteen bit patch to an eight bit operating system originally coded for a four bit microprocessor and sold by a two-bit company that can’t stand one bit of competition.

…pretty darn old, but witty and fun

Government spending breakdown

Death and Taxes 2007 by Mibi at DeviantArt For each dollar of federal income tax we paid in 2006, the federal government spent about:

41 cents – for war and preparing for war (28cents), and obligations from past wars (13 cents), including veterans programs and interest on the military portion of the national debt

19 cents – for health programs, including Medicaid, which provides nursing home care for the elderly poor, and health care for the poor and disabled, and parts of Medicare, which subsidizes health care for older Americans

12 cents – to respond to poverty in the U.S. with food programs, housing assistance, income supports, and energy assistance.

10 cents – for interest on the non-military portion of the national debt

5 cents – to promote community and economic development, including agricultural programs, highways and mass transit, and federal communications commission

5 cents – for education, job training, employment, and social services

4 cents – to run the government, including law enforcement, homeland security, and benefits for government employees

3 cents – for science, energy, and environmental programs

1 cent – for humanitarian aid, diplomatic missions, and international cooperation – Friends Committee on National Legislation, Washington March 2007 [source not here]

Death and Taxes 2007 by Mibi at DeviantArt is one of the top illustrations on the web showing spending across our government. Each part of the graphic is proportional, providing a ‘one stop picture’ to educate us quickly. I’ve used Mibi’s illustration as a desktop image as I learned how our dollars are distributed.

Temper’s end

Marcus Aurelius - Gilded Bronze Equestrian StatueThe vulgar confine their admiration chiefly to things of an elementary order, which exist by virtue of mere inorganic cohesion or processes of nature: things of timber and stone, for example, or groves of figs and vines and olives.

Minds of a somewhat higher degree of enlightenment are attracted by things that have animation, such as flocks and herds.

A further step in refinement leads to admiration of the rational soul: rational, however, not yet in the sense of being part of the universal.

Reason, but simply as possessing certain skills in handicraft or other such talents.

But the man who values a soul that is rational and universal and social no longer cares for anything else, but aims solely at keeping the temper of his own soul and all its activities rational and social, and works together with his fellows to this end. Marcus Aurelius

Everything harmonizes with me, which is harmonious to thee, o Universe.
Nothing for me is too early or too late, which is in due time for thee.

The delusion of certainty

Thomas Jefferson would say:

The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subject to the coercion of the laws.

But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God.

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.

But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. If it be said, his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them.

Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only.

Had not the Roman government permitted free enquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free enquiry been indulged, at the aera of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged.

Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potatoe as an article of food. Government is just as infallible too when it fixes systems in physics. Galileo was sent to the inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere: the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error. This error however at length prevailed, the earth became a globe, and Descartes declared it was whirled round its axis by a vortex. The government in which he lived was wise enough to see that this was no question of civil jurisdiction, or we should all have been involved by authority in vortices. In fact, the vortices have been exploded, and the Newtonian principle of gravitation is now more firmly established, on the basis of reason, than it would be were the government to step in, and to make it an article of necessary faith. Reason and experiment have been indulged, and error has fled before them.

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.

Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desireable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter.

Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.

What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force.

Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free enquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves.

But every state, says an inquisitor, has established some religion. No two, say I, have established the same. Is this a proof of the infallibility of establishments? Our sister states of Pennsylvania and New York, however, have long subsisted without any establishment at all. The experiment was new and doubtful when they made it. It has answered beyond conception. They flourish infinitely. Religion is well supported; of various kinds, indeed, but all good enough; all sufficient to preserve peace and order: or if a sect arises, whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play, and reasons and laughs it out of doors, without suffering the state to be troubled with it. They do not hang more malefactors than we do. They are not more disturbed with religious dissensions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparalleled, and can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance, because there is no other circumstance in which they differ from every nation on earth. They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them.

Let us too give this experiment fair play, and get rid, while we may, of those tyrannical laws. It is true, we are as yet secured against them by the spirit of the times. I doubt whether the people of this country would suffer an execution for heresy, or a three years imprisonment for not comprehending the mysteries of the Trinity. But is the spirit of the people an infallible, a permanent reliance? Is it government? Is this the kind of protection we receive in return for the rights we give up?

Besides, the spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims.

It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united.

Notes on the State of Virginia

The delusion of security

A mammoth database system is hiding in the immigration bill.

Wouldn’t you know it?

News about the proposed The Employee Eligibility Verification System:

As well as merging Internal Revenue Service databases, employers would be required to submit information for all of the American work force to Homeland Security – data on roughly 150 million people in one overarching agency. [story]

Harper’s Law:
Security and privacy risks increase proportionally to the square of the number of users of the data.

“The government definitely seems to have two consistent problems—one is bad data getting into the database … and the other is getting bad data out of the database,” said John Pescatore, an analyst for Gartner.

Homeland Security promotes security policy that too often is merely scratching an itch.

If you want to do something that makes security sense, figure out what’s common among a bunch of rare events, and concentrate your countermeasures there. Ignore the movie-plot threats, and concentrate on the real risks. Bruce Schneier

Home of the Petrified
The sons and daughters of the nation that stood up to Hitler and Tojo now file through airport security barefoot…. Bernard Chazelle

Hethen slaye yow;
Ovens are hotte;
Inquisitores flaye yow;
And plague-sik haue snotte.
Abbesses growe fatter;
Prechours moote wirche,
Pilgrims oft chatter:
Wall me in a chirche!

Traffic top killer of tourists

Car accidents will soon surpass HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis as a cause of death.

Crashes are the leading cause of accidental death for American and British nationals travelling or resident abroad. [story]

“Globally, millions of people are coping with the death or disability of family members from road traffic injury,” says the WHO report. Traffic injuries are the leading cause of death in people aged 10 to 24 worldwide.

Traffic collisions cost an estimated $518 billion per year.

China and India account for close to half of the world’s deadly traffic accidents, despite having just a fraction of the private cars and other vehicles. Nearly 600 people are killed on the highways and back lanes of China every day.

China traffic jamIt was a classic China traffic jam.

Trucks, taxi, a gaggle of bicycles, mopeds parked perpendicular, all on a narrow street…

For one still moment, everything stopped…

Nobody, but nobody, moved.

Nobody made eye contact.

I’ve never seen anyone in China back out of a congested situation. And they didn’t: this culture doesn’t back down. And then the van, going in the other direction from the garbage truck, simply inched forward. Space compressed; it always does here.

The drivers could’ve met pimple to pimple; instead they gave no sign that the other existed and went forward. I did what everyone else did. I found a toe hole between a mop and a saucepan, wove between five people and moved forward, none of whom budged; perhaps I’ve lived here too long. I didn’t even say excuse me.

Perhaps it was my imagination that things came to a standstill, because the culture, the directive here is to move forward: “Don’t look at anybody, don’t recognize anything, but shimmy your way around, on, over and through.”

Microscope for the mind

For a number of years there was hope in the psychiatric community that the mind-altering substances we now know as psychedelic drugs would prove to be as indispensable to psychiatry as the microscope to a cell biologist or the telescope to an astrologist. So why are we so shocked to hear about LSD mentioned in a clinical setting now?

Let’s explore its history as a medicine.

It will take true dedication for scientists to convince the public, and more importantly the media, that hallucegenic drugs deserve a place in medicine.

Research is unlikely to be funded by pharmaceutical companies, as most of these drugs were synthesised long enough ago to be out of patent. Additionally, compared with recent big-sellers such as Prozac, these compounds are very unlikely to ever be given more than a few times to an individual, certainly not every day. In fact, one of LSD’s properties is its rapid tolerance and as such there is a refractory period following its use in which additional dosing has no effect. This is one reason that it does not have addictive properties.

Indeed, many advocates of its introduction into psychiatry find it strange that these non-addictive compounds are prohibited whilst opiates and cocaine are placed in less restrictive Schedules and are, in fact, considered essential to medical practitioners.

Pumping years backwards

Exercise reverses the aging process.

This post isn’t saying that exercise improves health, but that exercise reverses the aging process itself.

Much of what we call aging occurs in the finctional decline of cellular mitochondria,

“…the powerhouse that supplies energy to cells. Studies suggest poor mitochondrial function is involved in the loss of muscle mass and function commonly seen in older people.

“Older adults showed a decline in gene activity for mitochondrial function, but exercise was linked to a reversal back to levels similar to those of younger adults.

“While aging studies on worms, fruit flies and mice have shown similar results, Melov said the researchers were surprised at the extent of the results in humans.” [story]

No plate on the table

We live in the land of biblical idiots, says a column in The Los Angeles Times:

U.S. citizens know almost nothing about the Bible.

Although most regard it as the word of God, few read it anymore. Even evangelicals from the Bible Belt seem more focused on loving Jesus than on learning what he had to say.

In a religious literacy quiz I have administered to undergraduates for the last two years, students tell me that Moses was blinded on the road to Damascus and that Paul led the Israelites on their exodus out of Egypt. Surveys that are more scientific have found that only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the four Gospels, and one out of 10 think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. No wonder pollster George Gallup has concluded that the United States is “a nation of biblical illiterates.”

Last week, the Georgia Board of Education gave preliminary approval to two elective Bible courses designed to teach religion rather than preach religion.

Biblical illiteracy is not just a religious problem. It is a civic problem with political consequences. How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment or the environment without knowing something about the Bible?

More than 90% of federal legislators call themselves Christians, making Congress more Christian than the United States itself.

The president is an evangelical Protestant. Catholics enjoy a majority on the Supreme Court. Biblical references — from the Jericho Road to the golden rule to the promised land — permeate political speech.

Yet U.S. citizens know almost nothing about the Bible.

  • Four in ten Americans think Billy Graham delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Sixty percent can’t name five of the Ten Commandments.
  • Eighty percent believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse.
  • Fifty percent think Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.

We are all intents and purposes….

No standard Wi-Fi ethics

Do the police go around arresting people who use the light coming out of a store window to read something?

Mike Masnick at Techdirt laments the arrest of a fellow using free Wi-Fi. He says it much better than I ever could:

Will it never end? Just months after a guy was arrested in Alaska for using free library WiFi from outside the library, Broadband Reports points us to a man in Michigan getting arrested for using free cafe WiFi from outside the cafe.

The story gets more bizarre the further into you read. The police chief saw the guy, and went over to talk to him, thinking it must be wrong, but not knowing of any law that said so. Following that, he went searching for a law, and found an old law about unauthorized access — which is designed to make hacking illegal.

Of course, that’s not what the guy was doing, and you could make a pretty compelling argument that the access wasn’t unauthorized. After all, the cafe was offering it for free and there was no loss to the cafe for having this guy use it as well. In fact, the cafe owner didn’t even know it was illegal either.

Once again, this is based on a bunch of people being extremely confused about how open WiFi works. If the WiFi is open, it should not be a crime to use it.

Do the police go around arresting people who use the light coming out of a store window to read something?

Also, does this mean that police can now arrest you just for using a laptop in your car? As someone who has used a laptop with an EVDO card in parking lots more than a few times, are the police going to accuse me of “stealing” WiFi?

The whole situation is pointless. Nothing is being “stolen.” Nothing is even being accessed in an unauthorized manner. Even professional ethicists have chimed in to say that there’s nothing wrong with WiFi piggybacking.

Focus on the segment

via Joi Ito

The monk tells the man to focus on the tangerine segment that is in his mouth rather than focus on the next.

“I think this mode of focusing our attention on future rather than the present is a very common ‘affliction’ of our times.”

“not really here” syndrome.

The University of Unlearning

  • Many-to-Many: Clay Shirky — The (Bayesian) Advantage of Youth
    “Young entrepreneurs have an advantage … that older people don’t have and can’t fake … a mental advantage. … they don’t know a lot of things. In almost every other circumstance, this would be a disadvantage, but not here”
  • A VC: Clay Weighs In On The Age Question
    “I don’t think it’s totally about age, it’s about a mindset. If you are willing to throw out old habits and start anew, you can compete with anyone. But Clay is right that you have to unlearn a lot of things in order to do that.”
  • Everything is Miscellaneous » Knowledge has always been social …
    “our metaphysics has led us to say that knowledge is a type of belief … something inside a head. … social knowledge — knowledge that arises through conversation and that thus is not contained in any single head. Social knowledge is among, not in”

Why the world fights

Urban fighting and warBoth the power of the elite and the degree of social inequality have grown hugely in the last two to three decades. It strikes me that the growth in state terror is fundamentally linked to the continuing growth in the concentration of power in the hands of the power elite, and the increase in the social inequality and stratification — the ever widening gap between rich and poor, within countries and between them — which every social observer has noted as one of the main characteristics of the global scene since the rise of the New Right in the West in the 1970s. There appears to be a direct correlation between the increasing power and wealth of the elite, the steadily increasing gap between rich and poor, and the growth of state terror, perhaps the three most obvious global characteristics of the last quarter of the twentieth century. – Jeffrey A. Sluka via inspector lohmann

Who will explode to make the next Chaos?
The white dwarfs and red giants
of the sky
have all died like dynamite at the guessing
of their names,
and worlds have risen from their shrapnel.
If that is all a universe can create,
then what greater thing must die
before new men are made?

[emperor of ice cream cakes]

Conspiracy of goodwill

The mature man lives quietly, does good privately, takes responsibility for his actions, treats others with friendliness and courtesy, finds mischief boring and avoids it. Without the hidden conspiracy of goodwill, society would not endure an hour. – Kenneth Rexroth

Menu Foods drops China

Flag of 'No China'Menu Foods, the dominant wet pet food manufacturer, is phasing out ingredients from China. It won’t resume using them until Menu and the “world community” are assured that they are safe.

If you’re not a climate scientist

NYC water risingGlobal warming is much more complex than a simple yes or no debate. It depends on what the meaning of the word of ‘is’ is.

What We Don’t Know About Global Warming And What It Doesn’t Mean [dead link here:]

The problem is not one of good science versus bad, or “sound” science versus “junk” science. The problem is that nature can be viewed through many analytical lenses, and the resulting perspectives do not add up to a single, uniform image, but a spectrum that can illuminate a range of subjective positions. – Dr. Daniel Sarewitz

Geologists struggle to piece together a historical record of atmospheric change, but there is little that they can say about causation, because the details of the complex climate system have been erased by time.

Atmospheric scientists, on the other hand, are awash in detailed observation and bolstered by theory, but they can never validate their models because climate is an open system, and is therefore unpredictable.

The very notion of a consensus is at best unrealistic and at worst unattainable.

The debate at this point is exactly how much warming can be attributed to man-made greenhouse gases, at what rate future warming is likely to occur, and what the impact of that warming will be.

It is important to keep in mind that, while the current research is nearly unanimous in its conclusion that the earth is warming, the certainty of future predictions is far less so.

…if you are one of the roughly 6.5 billion people on this planet who isn’t comfortable discussing the effects of water vapor feedback or the ocean’s role as a carbon sink – in other words, if you’re not a climate scientist – how are you supposed to reach an opinion one way or the other?

Lighting a learning fire

When we think of education, we tend to think of formal teaching in classrooms by teachers. This remains important. But the range of resources to support learning is far wider than that – from workplaces and museums to individuals with skills to contribute, and passions to share. They lie beyond the school gates and they are 24/7. And the key to genuine educational transformation is inspiring children and adults to learn more for themselves – what Yeats called ‘lighting a fire’ as opposed to ‘filling a pail’. – David Miliband from a speech posted at preoccupations