Monday, July 31, 2006

Our dinosaur-in-chief

It is very telling when Bush's lapdog for the Iraq War, Tony Blair, decides that Bush is doing little for the environment and takes matters into his own hands by partnering with the Terminator-as-governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to reduce greenhouse gases.

As mentioned in this article, Blair and Schwarzenegger are working to create a trading market in carbon dioxide emissions. They are taking two important steps (as I see it). First, they are working to create a price for those emissions. This is progressive thinking that will likely be part of the future solution set for global warming. Second, this arrangement will work to create a reward for those industries that create new technologies that lower the amount of emissions.

Why I call Bush a dinosaur in the headline is that his thinking is old and tired. He has stated so many times that changing this pollution habit will cost five million jobs. However, groups such as the Apollo Alliance realize that many new jobs will be created. Bush's propaganda is horrible on this and shows his lack of imagination as well as his loyalties to some of his constituents who also embrace backward thinking on this critical moral issue.

I've realized quite a while ago that although Bush shows little leadership, there are many individuals, non-profits, and corporations who realize the need to adapt to this challenge. I've included a link to BP, because they have been working on investments in alternative energy. Another company I think is highly laudable in this regard is General Electric with their Ecomagination efforts.

30 Days: A great television show!

Melissa and I have watched most of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days on the FX network. It is a very intelligent reality show that places people in living situations that are potentially uncomfortable for 30 days. The last episode featured a Cuban-born legal American immigrant, Frank, who was part of the Minutemen group that patrols the U.S./Mexican border. He had very strong feelings about people living here illegally.

He lived with a family of illegal immigrants for 30 days. This episode captured the experience and thoughts of Frank and the Gonzalez family. It shows the complexity, the humanity, and the controversy surrounding the issue. I think this is a highly valuable show, as understanding and devising solutions to complex problems requires communication among individuals and groups who have a wide variety of opinions.

I look forward to the next episode which will feature Chris, a former American programmer, living and working in India at a call center.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

An interesting book review.

One of my classmates from the Masters of Liberal Studies program at the University of Minnesota has posted the following book review of The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille on her blog.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Amazon Rainforest: news of drought for second year in a row

I have just learning today that the Amazon rainforest is suffering a drought. I am trying to grasp if this will happen, and if so, how catastrophic it will be. Here's the beginning of the story.

"The Amazon rainforest is at risk of turning into desert in the near future, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, according to research reported in The Independent newspaper this week. The process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year."

Here is the link to the full article.

I am going to do some more research on it before drawing any conclusions.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I finished The World is Flat

I read Thomas Friedman's updated edition of The World is Flat in the last two weeks. I think it is a great book which definitely helped me to understand the current world situation so much better than I did before the book.

One of the major themes in his book is sourcing (outsourcing, insourcing, etc.). For a few years I have had familiarity with outsourcing having worked for a large company who outsourced much of their IT work. What I thought was good about the practice was that it shared wealth among other nations, which would help strengthen those societies in the long run. Part of the equation that I did not understand was how this benefits the United States economy. Friedman highlights how many small- and mid-size U.S. companies are benefiting from the lower prices on outsourced parts and labor for commodity work, which drives competitive pricing and the additional hiring of domestic staffing for more innovative and complex work. This drives demand for those products and services globally as the pool of consumers increases. This does not often make as big news as a large company laying off staff, but it is an upside to globalization that is important to comprehend.

What disturbed me about his book was how he points out the way in which the United States has been losing its competitive edge in science and technology. I hope that leadership in this country, whether at the federal level or at the local school board level, deals with this serious issue.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Art Car Parade was great!

This year there were 80 cars, up from what I think was 53 last year. (Don't quote me on the latter figure). The parade began and ended with the Savage Aural Hotbed guys playing their stuff from the top of a moving van!

I tried to catch a head of garlic tossed by the Pizza Luce car, but I fell on my tuckus instead. That took lots of skill!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Spore looks interesting!

My friend, Carillon, just told me about this interesting simulating game, Spore. I love Civilization, so I may really love this game.

Art Car Parade: Saturday, July 22nd

I went to this event last year. It was really fun! It starts at 2 p.m. at Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street.

Intermedia Arts

Monday, July 17, 2006


My buddy, Javen picked up tickets for Tool, coming Saturday, September 16th. Javen has been into them for quite a few years, while I just recently picked up my first CD, which is their newest release, 10,000 Days. I've heard only great things about their live shows from a few different people, so I'm really psyched for this show, one of the few I have planned for this year.

(I saw Particle in April and will be seeing X and Rollins Band next month.)

Somehow we survived this weekend...

It was so bloody hot and humid, we didn't want to go out. On top of that, Melissa got a bit sick on Saturday night, so we recovered by laying in front of the TV all day Sunday. We survived nine hours of "I Love the 70's, Volume II" on VH1. Boy, it feels like my IQ has dropped about 20 points from doing that!

Project Runway started its third season recently! I know very little about fashion (I'm a simple jeans and T-shirt kind of guy), but I find it very interesting seeing these creative people compete against each other to design clothing. That show was highly addictive last year, especially with the inclusion of the notorious Santino Rice!

Friday, July 14, 2006

PZ Myers--world's top science blogger

City Pages published this short article on PZ Myers, a professor at U of M--Morris.

He is the world's top science blogger with Pharyngula (link to the side).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

New Energy Policy 1.0: Ethanol is not that great.

I was listening to a good story on MPR yesterday. The relative efficacy of ethanol in moving the United States towards independence from foreign oil is small, and the production of ethanol is not all that clean, said the researchers from St. Olaf College and the University of Minnesota.

Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today. Here is a link to the abstract of that article.

Another great article by Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, wrote a very interesting editorial this past Sunday. In it he observes that the high price of oil allows repressive countries that are highly dependent on oil production to stifle the formation of democratic societies. Please take a moment to read to understand the implication of this.,1249,640193084,00.html

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Syd Barrett has passed away...RIP

Syd Barrett, the creative writer for early Pink Floyd but unfortunate acid-casualty, passed away this last Friday, July 7, at age 60.

Pink Floyd was the first band I really got into, at age 16.

RIP, Syd.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Resurrecting the lawn


That was a good finale yesterday, although it was a shame to see Zidane head butt the Italian player in the chest! It makes me both sad and angry to see such poor sportsmanship.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thursday Knighter VII

Well, I didn't play Perry last night. The turnout was low last night, so I ended up playing the TD, Norm Myrin. It was a pretty interesting game, in which I played Black. (I usually end up with the White pieces against him.) I played what started out as a Benoni Defense (A56). On move 14 I played an exchange sacrifice, my Rook for his Knight. (I've gotten into many games lately where I've intentionally exchanged for better piece mobility of my minor pieces.)

As chess is a game of imbalances, this is not necessarily a bad strategy. However, I need to examine carefully where an exchange sac is definitely advantageous to me.

I played well with the pair of Knights and a dangerous Bishop on the a1-h8 diagonal. However, it was not enough to muster a point, and Norm eventually won.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Becoming a Deadhead

It will be 20 years ago tomorrow, July 7, 1986, when I became a Deadhead at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. I had seen three other Grateful Dead shows between the previous and that summer, but it was not until the second set during Terrapin Station that something clicked for me. It was not that it was the best Grateful Dead show I had seen, but just some quality and understanding came together to make me smile anytime after that that I listened to a tape or went to a show!

1: Ramble On Rose, Minglewood Blues, It Must Have Been the Roses, It's All Over Now, Baby Blue*, Desolation Row*

Box Of Rain, Playin' in the Band > Terrapin Station > Drums> The Other One> Wharf Rat> Around and Around > Good Lovin' E: Satisfaction

*With Bob Dylan singing

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Back to the Castle tonight

I haven't played a full month of over the board chess since March. As you can see from the link, my rating has been going south since April 2005, when I was at a high 1471.

Anyways, after tonight's scheduled Minnesota State Chess Association board meeting at The Chess Castle, I will be playing in the July Thursday Knighter. Unless the mix of players has changed radically, I'll probably be playing Perry Zentner again (he's a strong player who just recently crossed the 1800 mark). Statistically my odds of beating him are roughly 32:1, so I am just hoping to play a sound game. Wish me luck!

Minneapolis Weather

Melissa, my neighbor, and I have talked about the weather, especially since it has been so dry lately. My grass is turning yellow and crunchy, and I need to get a sprinkler.

Normally I don't care that much about the lawn. In the past I entertained starting a group called the Lawn Liberation Front (LLF), whose motto would have been "We must destroy the lawn in order to save it." I much prefer flower beds and the like, and I have historically spent energy replacing ugly sections of lawn with flowers.

I found a link that shows the long-term climate for Minnesota. We are definitely a couple of inches below normal rainfall for the year in Minneapolis. With that info and the sense data that my feet are sore from needle-like grass, I will break down and water the lawn.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Celebrating this weekend

We went to Harriet Island for fireworks on Monday night. We got to "rawk out" to Herman's Hermits while ingesting our annual quota of fried-cheese product. Mmmm Mmmmm!!!!

(Sidenote: I ran into a couple of people who had seen the Ministry/RevCo show three days earlier, and they still could not hear properly! I was hoping to see them, but I'm glad to have saved my hearing just a little bit by not going. My ears were ringing for two days when I saw them in 2004.)

Some forward-looking thinkers celebrate their 16th anniversary this Monday, July 10

EFF defends liberties in high-tech world

By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet WriterTue Jul 4, 5:24 PM ET

In March 1990, when few people had even heard of the Internet, U.S. Secret Service agents raided the Texas offices of a small board-game maker, seizing computer equipment and reading customers' e-mail stored on one machine. A group of online pioneers already worried about how the nation's laws were being applied to new technologies became even more fearful and decided to intervene.

And thus the Electronic Frontier Foundation was born — 16 years ago this Monday — taking on the Secret Service as its first case, one the EFF ultimately won when a judge agreed that the government had no right to read the e-mails or keep the equipment.

Today, after expanding into such areas as intellectual property and moving its headquarters twice along with its focus, the EFF is re-emphasizing its roots of trying to limit government surveillance of electronic communications, while keeping a lookout for emerging threats even as the Internet and digital technologies become mainstream.

In one of its highest-profile lawsuits to date, the EFF has accused AT&T Inc. of illegally cooperating with the National Security Agency to make phone and Internet communications available without warrants.

"It's quite possibly the most important privacy and free speech issue in the 21st century," said Kevin Bankston, an EFF staff attorney formerly with the American Civil Liberties Union. "We are trying to force the government to follow the law. We are trying to force the phone company to follow the law."

Shari Steele, the EFF's executive director, described the NSA program as "a place where technology and civil liberties collide in a big way."

The EFF was born July 10, 1990, as three men who met on the online community The WELL grew concerned that the ACLU and other traditional civil-liberties organizations didn't understand technology enough to question government actions like the Secret Service raid.

"It's difficult at this stage of the game to remember how few people even knew the Internet existed," said John Perry Barlow, a co-founder who used to write lyrics for the Grateful Dead. "It wasn't on their radar."

Even the World Wide Web wouldn't be invented for another five months.

Software pioneer Mitch Kapor, another co-founder, said that even when a group like the ACLU had the will, it didn't have the technical know-how to consider how basic, constitutional rights would even apply to the online world.

"Nobody had done the thinking," he said. "The questions hadn't been raised."

So from Day One, the EFF sought to become a high-tech ACLU and ensure that offline rights indeed transferred to emerging technologies.

Early on, the EFF took on government efforts to treat encryption technology as military weapons rather than speech, and later it joined other groups in successfully challenging — on free-speech grounds — congressional efforts to block online pornography.

The group also defended developers of file-sharing software, arguing that technology with legal uses shouldn't be barred even if others can use it to commit crimes, such as trading copyright music and movies.

There have been internal tensions along the way as the organization left Cambridge, Mass., for Washington, D.C., in 1993. The EFF started trying to influence legislation, and some in the organization grew uncomfortable with the need to compromise in that setting.

So the EFF moved once more, to San Francisco in 1995, and after dabbling with corporate issues like privacy policies and spinning off the TRUSTe privacy-certification program for businesses as a standalone organization, it redirected its energies to litigation.

Most of the EFF's 25 employees now work in a former sewing factory and paint warehouse in San Francisco's gritty Mission District, its cubicle-less offices having the makeshift, open feel of a political campaign rather than a law firm. Attorneys walk around sans ties and suits and hold impromptu meetings on colorful couches. Chewed up tennis balls scattered throughout provide evidence of a dog-friendly environment.

Although the EFF was among the few tech-focused groups when it formed, many other organizations now complement it.

The Center for Democracy and Technology, or CDT, formed by former EFF staffers in the rift over its role in lobbying, is housed in Washington and tackles issues before Congress and federal agencies.

The ACLU also became active in technology and led the online pornography lawsuits. In challenging the Bush administration's domestic-surveillance program, the ACLU sued the government, while the EFF sued AT&T.

The EFF's nonlitigation projects include ongoing funding for the Tor system for anonymous online communications and research last year exposing tracking codes embedded in color laser printers. Its staffers also testify at public hearings; one took part in an electronic-voting task force that released a report on security in late June.

But the bulk of the work is legal — 60 percent to 70 percent, Steele estimated.

That focus has left the group open to criticisms that by refusing to play the Washington game of compromising, its views are idealistic and sometimes extremist.

"They are the lawyers for the open vision of the Internet," said Peter Swire, the Clinton administration privacy counselor who sometimes tussled with the EFF. "They are the Left Coast advocacy group."

Companies targeted by the EFF say the group appears overly skeptical of intellectual property and the free market.

Paul Ryan, whose Acacia Research Corp. the EFF cited for "crimes against the public domain" for claiming patents on streaming media, said the EFF ignores the fact that without patent protection, companies have less incentive to innovate.

The EFF also has faced criticisms that, despite its many victories, its losses can establish legal precedents that make subsequent cases harder to win. In the file-sharing case, the EFF won twice in lower courts, but the Supreme Court narrowed a 1984 ruling that technology shouldn't automatically be barred because it had illegal uses.

"The decision to expend energy on cases and in some sense to work to get them to the Supreme Court is to really gamble with the outcome," said Danny Weitzner, who left EFF in 1994 to help form the rival CDT.

He said the EFF should have waited for a better case, so that the high court wouldn't be "deciding about whether kids could steal music."

EFF attorneys say that they can't always wait for the perfect case and could at least prevent a worse ruling.

Others say that by refusing to take risks, no rights will be left.

"People will always second guess what you do," said Lee Tien, an EFF attorney active in the AT&T lawsuit. "If you're going to be afraid to complain about something wrong, you deserve to have wrongdoing done to you."

The EFF continues to tackle issues like anonymity, electronic voting, patents and copyright, but the Sept. 11 attacks nearly five years ago have forced the EFF to spend more time on surveillance.

It has sought to require more evidence before law enforcement can legally track people's locations by their cell phones, and in January the group sued AT&T, saying the San Antonio-based company violated U.S. law and the privacy of its customers. AT&T and NSA officials declined comment for this article.

The AT&T lawsuit already has generate grassroots momentum for the group, which gets the bulk of its $2.5 million budget from individuals. About 1,400 joined the EFF and sent in contributions after the EFF sent a mid-May appeal that cited the AT&T case. The group now has about 11,500 dues-paying members.

Basic online rights are more established today than when the EFF formed, but EFF legal director Cindy Cohn said there's no shortage of cutting-edge cases.

"We're not near the end of the digital revolution in terms of new technology being rolled out," she said. "Just because some stuff is mainstream, there's still a lot of stuff coming down the road to raise new issues or raise old issues over again in slightly new ways."

The EFF, she said, remains committed to fighting the battles "nobody's talking about yet."

Starting this blog...

...because of peer pressure! :)

My friends, Jeff and Tiffany, just had their baby, Alexander! Jeff started a blog and linked to my website, so I wanted to do the same!