The unbearable little talking paper clip from Microsoft Word has recorded a song entitled "It Looks Like You're Writing a Letter."

If Microsoft isn't a monopoly, why does it act so much like a government agency when allocating resources? Do you know anyone at PricewaterhouseCoopers who has been assigned to write a parody song for one of their despised corporate mascots? Isn't that more of a HUD type of thing?
Update on Tolkien vs. Jackson.

I've been reading The Fellowship of the Ring online and it seems like Tolkien left a lot of things up to the imagination. There were indeed hordes of snarling orcs, but they were quick to flee if their leader was slain. The landscape features as described could be either breathtakingly majestic, or only so from a homebound hobbit's perspective depending on one's reading. I still would like to see a more subdued version of the film - one that spends more time with the details of travelling and feasting and tale-telling that are skipped over in favor of visceral violence and stunning effects.

Naturally too much of this and we'd all be snoring into our popcorn, but it was the scenes with carrots and teapots that tickled me the most. Jackson insisted that making everything believable was a primary concern - but he seems to have put it slightly behind making everything unbelievable. In any case, I'm hungering to go again and pay more attention to details.


"Innovation makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old regime, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new."

- Niccolò Machiavelli, quoted in "The Internet Under Siege" by Lawrence Lessig. Foreign Policy. (Nov-Dec. 2001) - Lessig's article makes an excellent case against the wave of restrictions which are being applied to the internet. Most powerfully, he identifies current trends as warfare by the entrenched and powerful against the potential of the internet to ensure freedom and establish justice.


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I find myself wondering how much of a difference in scale there is between J.R.R. Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring and the new movie directed by Peter Jackson. Is Saruman's tower really supposed to be so unbelievably tall? Did the fellowship really slaughter scores of hulking, snarling orc-goblin creatures with only one casualty? Are all of the waterfalls of Middle Earth so tremendous?

Then I wonder if it's the scale which makes it a successful film. What if all these places and events were a little more mundane, or at least more recognizable, if the movie wouldn't work. I'd like to see that version, though. ...And the soundtrack sounds way too much like Williams' score for "The Phantom Menace"
I find your lack of faith disturbing. (via Pigs and Fishes)


Here's an article that explains the real reasons I am wary of global trade liberalization. This overarching injustice is what moves the thousands of protesters - at least as much as any anarchic / dionysian protest vibe or testosterone-fueled affront to police power:

"The administration's selective adherence to its professed principles confirms criticisms that public interest groups have long lodged against the agreements. One is that far from promoting free trade, the agreements favor power and privilege, and allow wealthy countries like the United States to flout them. A second is that trade principles degrade democracy and national sovereignty by inhibiting countries from legislating in the public interest."


Perhaps more to the point is the fact that we are fundamentally defenseless against motivated martyrs. Israel has far more experience in wars against terror than we do, and we can see their successes every day now. Surely if they just eliminated Arafat, their worries would be over.

Oppenheimer described America's reputation for fair play as our first and strongest line of defense against potential terrorists. Hijacking planes is an act of desperation - of taking a grievance to the only arena where it might be heard. For the sake of security, if not for the greater purpose of human rights and justice, we MUST support alternatives to violence. Evildoers would have no influence if aggrieved peoples could peacefully petition effective institutions of justice. Those who have cheered the attacks against the US are not bloodthirsty, they're just thirsty.

The truth will remain true in spite of our wishes to the contrary. Those institutions who find themselves in conflict with the truth will find it exhausting to maintain the conceit that war could possibly deter terror.
Forty years ago the joint chiefs of staff prepared plans for how to create a pretext for war against Castro's government in Cuba. Among the plans discussed: Instigating conflict between Cuba and another Latin American nation, Baiting Cuba to attack American troops or planes, Fabricating evidence that Castro was behind a US tragedy, such as a failed NASA mission (the death of John Glenn was discussed), and even the possibility of sinking a naval vessel or staging terrorist attacks in the US which could be blamed on Castro. The Kennedy administration rejected the plans and the documents were buried, only to come to light when records were opened up to defuse alarmists after the release of Oliver Stone's "JFK" conspiracy tale. (Here's the ABC story)

Well, now we know that the military considered those proposals to be critical, even if they were treasonous and homocidal. We also know that they held the Kennedy administration in contempt for its "gutless" approach to national security. So now that we do have a right-leaning executive and we do have a war that is convenient to American interests no less so than Castro ever was, and we do have a pretext... What are we to think? That it is NOW unthinkable that that type of planning could be considered?

We have to ask, and we have to be wary of the increasing secrecy surrounding executive matters. This war is being waged in our name and with our overwhelming support - but if it is not a just war - if it is the result of pretext meant to win support for otherwise unsupportable goals... Well, then we've lost our country already; perhaps decades ago.


Here's something I was trying to talk about today, but not very well:

The Principle of Subsidiarity: Governmental decisions should be made at the lowest possible organizational level, respecting the right to self-determination which is traded voluntarily by societies for the benefits of civil authority. In effect, it is a strong statement for individual human rights, but it implies a moral judgment to be made by the community at large about which decisions must be made collectively in order for the benefits and harms to be fairly distributed among all contributors and all those affected. As it is put into practice, this moral decision is determined first by treaty, and then by planners who are given their role by treaty. The treaties themselves have been negotiated by national governments, but under the principle of subsidiarity, those national governments are losing power in favor of regional, and in some cases, local, concerns.

See this "European Parliamentary Fact Sheet" for more on the subject and how it is used in European Union treaties.


"Accusing a Muslim or a Muslim group of disbelief is in itself an act of disbelief. The prophet never accused even the individuals he knew to be hypocrites of disbelief, nor did he treat them in a way any different from other Muslims. No good can come from Muslims accusing Muslims of disbelief; this can only lead to arguement, resentment, and further division. If you find a Muslim saying something which you believe to be in error, present to him/her your reasons for believing them to be in error and try to help them see the truth. Don't waste your time squabbling over petty differences."

A posting by the "American Taliban," John Walker to soc.religion.islam in June, 1997. (He's 20 now, so he must have been 16 when he posted this. By the way, I found this via Robot Wisdom)


I'm back in Birmingham after a jam-packed week in Leuven. My excuse for going was this colloquium on Architecture, Gender and Domesticity. The presentations were, for the most part, quite good - and held to a topic which interests me a great deal. I wish it were possible for me to have contributed more, but I was quite outgunned by the other participants. I did have a chance to throw in my two franks on Saturday morning at the workshop - but I'm afraid I may not have been in peak form after staying up all night dancing at a Club Charlatan in Ghent. Anyway, we'll see how much of me they edit out of the transcript before it's published next year.


I couldn't have said it better myself.

(p.s. - Greetings from cold, rainy, windy Leuven. Place orders for chocolate through dystopos-at-yahoo-dot-com.)


"[...] But what I worry about is homeland defense--the notion that somebody who wishes us ill will find other ways to get at our vulnerabilities. And we are vulnerable in so many ways domestically here at home, [...] The bad guys are right here at home looking for ways to bring down our economy, to do damage to our society, and maybe kill millions of Americans. We need to start thinking about that problem--how we deal with it; how we have to shape our expectations that we have for key institutions; what roles they're going to play in our society, if we're going to be equipped to cope with that kind of threat."

-- Vice Presidential candidate Richard Cheney, interviewed on Frontline during the campaign last year.

So the VP is both prescient and a bit cagey. When he says that the bad guys are those that "wish us harm" and might "do damage to society," - exactly how does he distinguish those bad guys from those whose freedoms are granted by their creator and protected by the constitution he has sworn to defend? Does the Federal Government exist to protect a particular society? And does wishing for change (i.e. not being conservative) make you a bad guy? Maybe so... and maybe recent events have made it a lot easier to get rid of you and your bad influence.


By Executive Order, the President has placed the means by which terrorists will be indentified and prosecuted into the hands of the Department of Defense and sealed their proceedings against any other outside authority, including public disclosure.

The individual shall not be privileged to seek any remedy or maintain any proceeding, directly or indirectly, or to have any such remedy or proceeding sought on the individual's behalf, in any court of the United States, or any State thereof, any court of any foreign nation, or any international tribunal.


Things for which to be Thankful

1. Love and Friendship. For this, I am thankful every moment of every day.
2. Comfort and Prosperity. I can't begin to appreciate how rare these are in human history and in today's world.
3. Pretty girls. One smile can make me happy all day.
4. Literacy. That part of the world that I am best equipped to appreciate is the part that's been written down.
5. Humanity. I've never been so consistently choked up as when I've heard stories of people selflessly giving of themselves to others in the face of cruelty and chaos.
6. The internet. This is how I have access to all these things.

So.. Thanks be to God.(and, of course, Al Gore.)


The following quotes are from the Hearing on U.S. Interests in the Central Asian Republics conducted on February 12, 1998 by the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Committee on International Relations

"One hundred years ago, Central Asia was the arena for a great game played by Czarist Russia, Colonial Britain, Napoleon's France, and the Persian and the Ottoman Empires. Allegiances meant little during this struggle for empire building, where no single empire could gain the upper hand. One hundred years later, the collapse of the Soviet Union has unleashed a new great game, where the interests of the East India Trading Company have been replaced by those of Unocal and Total, and many other organizations and firms."

- The Hon. Doug Berueter, Chairman of the Subcommittee

"The U.S. Government's position is that we support multiple pipelines with the exception of the southern pipeline that would transit Iran. The Unocal pipeline is among those pipelines that would receive our support under that policy.
I would caution that while we do support the project, the U.S. Government has not at this point recognized any governing regime of the transit country, one of the transit countries, Afghanistan, through which that pipeline would be routed. But we do support the project.

- The Hon. Robert W. Gee, Assistant Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Energy, in testimony

"The second option is to build a pipeline south from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean. One obvious route south would cross Iran, but this is foreclosed for American companies because of U.S. sanctions legislation. The only other possible route is across Afghanistan, which has of course its own unique challenges. The country has been involved in bitter warfare for almost two decades, and is still divided by civil war. From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company."

- Mr. John J. Maresca, Vice President of International Relations, Unocal Corporation, in testimony

"So the government doesn't necessarily have to be acceptable to the people of Afghanistan as long as it's internationally recognized?

- The Hon. Dana Rohrabacher, Subcommittee member, questioning Mr. Maresca.

"I wish you luck in the project. I will do my best to help your project succeed. But at the same time, I think that we have got to put the effort into bringing freedom and peace to Afghanistan."

- Rep. Rohrabacher, concluding his questioning of Mr. Maresca


"The Afghans [...] wish nothing more [...] than to live their lives in peace, to practice their religion in freedom, and to exercise their right to self-determination. As a consequence, they now find themselves struggling for their very survival as a nation."

-President Ronald Reagan - Remarks on Signing Proclamation 4908, Declaring March 21st as Afghanistan Day in the United States. (10 March, 1982)

"The resistance of the Afghan freedom fighters is an example to all the world of the invincibility of the ideals we in this country hold most dear, the ideals of freedom and independence. We must also recognize that the sacrifices required to maintain this resistance are very high. Millions have gone into exile as refugees. We will probably never know the numbers of people killed and maimed, poisoned and gased, of the homes that have been destroyed, and of the lives that have been shattered and stricken with grief. [...] Our observance again this year of Afghanistan Day on March 21, the Afghan New Year, will recall for all the world America's unflagging sympathy for a determined people, its support for their refugees and commitment to achieving a political settlement for Afghanistan which will free that country from tyranny's yoke."

-President Ronald Reagan - Proclamation 5034, Redeclaring March 21st as Afghanistan Day in the United States. (21 March, 1983)


A Voice in the Wilderness?

"But the war on terrorism starts within each of our respective sovereign borders. It will be fought with increased support for democracy programs, judicial reform, conflict resolution, poverty alleviation, economic reform and health and education programs. All of these together deny the reason for terrorists to exist or to find safe havens within those borders."

Secretary of State Colin Powell, Remarks to the UN Security Council. 12 Nov. 2001

As far as I can remember or determine, this is the first indication that our leaders recognize that terrorists have any reason to exist. Moving the war on terror to the causes rather than the effects seems to me to be a move toward sounder tactics. (My hurried version of the same sentiment)


"Throughout the five-hundred years since Columbus's first landfall in the Bahamas, the evangelist has walked beside the conqueror and the merchant, too often blandly assuming that his cause was the same as theirs. [...] [O]ur destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy. It is flinging God's gifts into his face, as of no worth beyond that assigned to them by our destruction of them."

- Wendell Berry. "Christianity and the Survival of Creation", found at CrossCurrents via Wood S Lot


125 Years ago in the News:

"If at this moment it has been decided to invade the Ameer's territory, we are acting in pursuance of a policy which in its intention has been uniformly friendly to Afghanistan."
-London Times editorial, November 21, 1878

"Save me from my friends!"
- caption of cartoon appearing in Punch later the same year.


Best Costumes on Five Points:

1. Frauleinen in Leiderhosen
2. Harlem Globetrotters
3. Carmen Miranda (with Cleopatra)
4. Sexy female police officers
5. Flasher (camera attached to crotch)
6. Princess Leia
7. cute bumblebee girl
8. Goth kids (unless those weren't costumes)
9. Frat kids (ditto)
10. disgruntled bunny rabbit


"Some of your bosses have told us that they can't support anything with the name 'School of the Americas' on it. Our proposal addresses this concern. It changes the name."

- Colonel Mark Morgan, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

This article asks whether the U.S. is a state sponsor of terrorism. At issue is the operation of a terrorist training facility at Fort Benning, Georgia whose graduates have been involved in the deaths of tens of thousands of [Latin] American civilians. More information on WHINSEC can be found at the official site above and at SOA Watch's website. My take on the campaign to close the school is that the school is being blamed for atrocities that would have happened whether those involved were trained by or in the U.S. or not. Perhaps it would be more effective to seek to establish accountability for human rights violations among the myriad commanders, warlords, and governments in the hemisphere through, I don't know, some sort of International Tribunal? (Like the one the U.S. refuses to support for reasons other than the values embedded in our Constitution...)

Naturally, WHINSEC's charter and curriculum would require more than cosmetic changes in order to support a commitment to human rights - but that commitment, rather than more pressure to close any one facility, is what is needed.


Here is the most illuminating article I've yet read about the competing views in the Muslim world about what has been happening. Warning: it ain't optimistic for our chances to win any wars against terror.


Friday was Satan's birthday (observed) in which a gathering of celebrants munched on hot chili and goo-goo cluster brownies, partook of frankincense and Air Fresh'ners, visited the basement of terror, the bloody murder WC, the haunted back yard, and put up with howling spirits who spake in foul tongues. In the end, the robots saved the day. (And the wise man profited from following his star)

Saturday was a day of thanksgiving. The sourness of the many cranberries and the bitterness of the bourbon were easily surpassed by the sweetness of everything else. Thanks!


A good short appraisal of our response to terrorism, especially important for those who believe that anyone who expresses doubt over the effectiveness of warfare in stopping terror is a traitor.


I went to MT Laurel (a "new urbanist" development) today to check out their 'town architect.' As he describes it, his job is to make sure all the choir members are singing the same piece of music. In this case, the choir members are houses and the music is "I'm a cute little town." The subject of the lecture was the influence of English Arts & Crafts style on Birmingham's architectural heritage. The reasons for that influence in 1900 are clear, but the reasons to mimic it now are less so. More compelling is the climatic and social sensitivity he talked about in relation to front porches. But, as I walked around, I didn't see a lot of porches that invited relaxation or interaction with the streets. I did admire the effort to preserve or relocate existing trees. My general impression is that the landscape is awkward, but uses great materials while the architecture is competent, but perhaps a bit careless with materials and too cute with paint colors.


Thank you for your patience. I am back at GMT-06:00 now, a seven hour move that required seventeen hours of elapsed travel time. When I got home I found very little that has changed. Here's a brief run-down on new things in Birmingham:

1. Three Starbucks Coffee shops, a net gain of three since I left.
2. Stainless steel columbarium niches have been put in place.
3. City Council elections have soured former mayor Arrington on politics.
4. All the ATMs have brighter screens and the option of Español.
5. DART buses ply three routes through the city center at 10 minute intervals until midnight!
6. Fewer teachers, more students, lower budgets, more trailers - and the education governor is in office.
7. Flags everywhere.


Architecture complicit in Disaster: According to this article by a phusicist at Swarthmore College, there were three sources of energy that contributed to Tuesday's devastating event in New York. The first was the jet fuel contained in both planes, estimated to total 6.9x10^10 metric joules. The second was the kinetic energy of the speeding planes, which he estimates at 1.9x10^9 metric joules in total. The third source of energy was the arrangement of the structure, specifically the positioning of a great deal of mass at great distances from the ground, a potential energy estimated at 6.8x10^11 metric joules, or by far the largest contributor to the furious unleashing of terror.

Even while architecture is guilty, engineering saved hundreds of lives. This article in New Scientist magazine discusses how the particular structural solution used to achieve the evil architectural scheme prevented an even worse catastrophe.

Microsoft has announced that they will remove the towers from future versions of Flight Simulator. It is unclear whether this is to make the game more harmless or more realistic. Also it is unclear whether they will remove potentially threatening language from Word's dictionary.


"They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety."

- Benjamin Franklin


"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."

from George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, (1949)

This is what they're telling you to believe. You can't accept it.
Two things you never want to see made:

The chaos of war is reflected in the semantic history of the word "war". "War" can be traced back to the Indo-European root "wers-", to confuse, mix up. In the Germanic family of the Indo-European languages, this root gave rise to several words having to do with confusion or mixture of various kinds. One was the noun "werza-", confusion, which in a later form "werra-" was borrowed into Old French, probably from Frankish, a largely unrecorded Germanic language that contributed about 200 words to the vocabulary of Old French. From the Germanic stem came both the form "werre" in Old North French, the form borrowed into English in the 12th century, and "guerre" (the source of "guerrilla") in the rest of the Old French-speaking area. Both forms meant “war.” Meanwhile another form derived from the same Indo-European root had developed into a word denoting a more benign kind of mixture, Old High German "wurst", meaning “sausage.” Modern German "Wurst" was borrowed into English in the 19th century, first by itself (recorded in 1855) and then as part of the word "liverwurst" (1869), the liver being a translation of German Leber in "Leberwurst."

from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

In all this confusion, I would like to reflect on the use of "war" to characterize the situation in which we are caught up.

A criminal act and an act of war are often the same act - what is different is the context. An act of war involves a relationship between powers in which one seeks to assert its dominion over the resources of another outside the rule of law. A criminal act also seeks to redistribute power, but it takes place within a legal framework for resource distribution.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was an act of war not because it was a surprise, nor because people were killed, nor because of the scale of the destruction. It was an act of war because no legal system encompassed the relations between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

The attack on New York and Washington is a criminal act not because it failed to meet some standard for ferocity or loss, but because international law provides a way to enforce justice without resorting to lawless violence.

To characterize Tuesday's tragedy as an act of war, and to further frame our response plans in terms of waging war is to release the criminals from the rule of law and to insist that they operated from a position of sovereign power. Given the nature of the likely perpetrators, this can only result in an unwinnable campaign (e.g. the war on drugs or the war on poverty) or a tragically misguided attack on people who should have recourse to the rule of law before they are executed.

Our leaders claim that Tuesday's attack was waged against freedom, against openness, against civilization, against our way of life. The only way this attack can be successful is for us, through our fear, to betray our guiding principles and to aid the enemy. If we value America's freedom, openness, and way of life, then we must honor those principles centrally in our response to deplorable terror and lead the way toward a world united under the same values, enforced through the civilized rule of law.

Now is the time to rally behind our leaders: we the people, created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; having established a government of the people to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense. I hope that George W. Bush is remembered as the best president we've ever had. I don't think that the intentions he has already outlined could lead to that future assessment. We can hope that wisdom and compassion will prevail over poll results and chest thumping. More than ever the world needs the leadership of a people devoted to human liberty - and yet already our representatives are tellng us outright that the terrorists will succeed in their "cowardly attack on freedom." -- that we can expect to sacrifice more of our personal liberty in order to expand an illusion of security. It is already a cliche, but I think it encapsulates the only reasonable approach to a "war" on terrorism. If you want peace, fight for justice.

cc: my representatives in congress


I'm worried about the practicality of using Israel's anti-terrorist policy as a model for a global campaign of retribution. I don't see that it is either morally justified or at all successful...


Twenty three years ago today, President Carter was at Camp David working with Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel and Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt. This treaty called for the return of Sinai by Israel to Egyptian control and promises to negotiate for autonomous government in the West Bank and Gaza. The meetings concluded on the seventeenth of September, 1978. The warring ceased, as planned, before Christmas of that year, and the agreement was officially signed on March 26, 1979. Here is the text of that agreement.

Out of curiosity, I checked the home page of that site and found the following passage from the Talmud:

If you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles, go forth and examine the judges of Israel, for all retribution that comes to the world comes only on account of the Judges of Israel, as it is said, Hear this, I pray you ye heads of the house of Jacob, and rulers of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money; yet will they lean upon the Lord, etc. (3) They are wicked, but they place their confidence in Him Who decreed, and the world came into existence. (4) Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring three punishments upon them answering to the three sins which they cultivate (5) as it is said, Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. (6) And the Holy One, blessed be He, will not cause His Divine presence to rest upon Israel until the wicked judges and officers cease out of Israel, for it is said, And I will turn my hand upon thee, and thoroughly purge away thy dross, and will take away all thy tin.


While my heart is out for all who are suffering, I must take a minute to disagree with Mr. Bush's appraisal of today's terror as an attack on freedom by cowards. I don't think such a scenario is possible. Far more frightening, I think, is the likelihood that these were planned as attacks on oppression by brave - though obviously inhumane and evil - people. Our congressmen are likening today's attacks to Pearl Harbor. Perhaps there are similarities, but in this case, the question of where to direct our unified outrage and collective resources is less clear. (Perhaps it was TOO clear in 1941.)

It would be a nice gesture to the lost to use this day to seek peace rather than war.


"Americans died so I could have
this right to speak in public on this street and no one is going to
take it from me without a fight!" I told the Sargent. He told me that
I was pushing it.

From the battlefield reports of someone who has managed to sustain bravery and motivation enough to actually exercise her rights when everything is against her. Of course the actual substance of her protest is difficult to extract from the jubilation and drama of fighting the good fight.


Not long ago a great meeting was held in this city, of all denominations of religious faith, to discuss the question how to lay hold of these teeming masses in the tenements with Christian influences, to which they are now too often strangers. Might not the conference have found in the warning of one Brooklyn builder, who has invested his capital on this plan and made it pay more than a money interest, a hint worth heeding: “How shall the love of God be understood by those who have been nurtured in sight only of the greed of man?”

From the introduction to Jacob Riis' 1890 publication, How the Other Half Lives


Someday. Probably when I reach retirement age, or if I become desperate to meet women, I will buy a hot-air balloon. I was going to a hot air balloon show today in Sint-Niklaas, but it rained all day. Instead I learned a little bit about how they work. Here's a wee bit more on their history. Also, a team of French researchers based at the Ecole des Mines in Saint-Etienne has designed a new balloon called OVMI to take advantage of solar heating to reduce fuel usage from 35kg/hour to only 7. Not having to torch so much propane appeals to me as a future balloonist. Maybe by the time I'm flying them, they'll use only smoke and mirrors.

Anyway, the thing that I never really thought about which seals the deal as far as loving ballooning goes is that, because you're moving with the wind, you fly in total calm.


A cubicle designed by Dilbert's Scott Adams. It has a biofeedback flower, a hammock, and a private cooler so the dirtbags can't steal your lunch. Also - closed circuit view of the boss' door. Read the story at CNN.com


"The [Federal Civil Defense Administration] constructed "a typical American community" complete with houses, utility stations, automobiles, furniture, appliances, food, and even mannequins simulating the people who might live in the town."

Then they dropped an atomic bomb on it
Not much going on here at this weblog this week. Why don't you check out Ensign Wesley Crusher's ? (Warning: He's at a bit of a low point and looking for support.)


Here is a primer on fabric intended for bachelors ("of any gender") who might want to upgrade their wardrobe. Elsewhere on this site is a long series of articles on reconstructing the absurd hats of the middle ages.


People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

- Adam Smith - Book 1, Chapter X of An Inquiry into the Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 5th edition, 1789

Such as, for example, the assembly on NAFTA or on Energy Policy or on Internet Privacy...
Please visit my Yahoo! photo album for the rest of my photos from Istanbul, including the wedding of Morgan and Nesteren. The wedding this past weekend of Walter and Irmak will be available soon, I hope.

BTW, Yahoo! frustrated me today by renaming the pictures I uploaded. Actually, it gave them the names I typed in, but it put shifted the names to the wrong photos. If this happens to anyone else, please let them know. I don't feel like talking to them to complain about a free service.


Most people would never think to make a "hurricane of fire" by molding five jet engines into a circle. The jets have about 130 pounds of thrust apiece, so when they are turned on, they create a stationary tornado with wind speeds up to 300 mph. Gas then gets shot into the wind, where it is ignited creating, well, a hurricane of fire.

A short article on Eckerd College grad Mark Pauline and his fabrication/performance art group Survival Research Laboratories


More on the political control of water resources: Here is a critical summary of some declassified US Defense Intelligence Agency documents outlining our best guess at how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children have died of disease as a direct result of the Gulf War. (Bombing of water purification infrastructure and subsequent sanctions against importing purification material into Iraq.) At least a few of our elected representatives have expressed concern that this is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention, but the policy remains unchanged and 5000 children per month are dying for lack of clean water.


Here are two more tidbits on corporate attitudes about water:

First, (via Pigs and Fishes) a cached page, formerly on a Coca-Cola site, describing their "H2-NO" program to discourage restaurant customers from choosing to drink tap water instead of more profitable (and Enjoy™-able) beverages.

Second, a report summary from the International Forum on Globalization describing the havoc being caused by the commercialization of water resources. The author, Maude Barlow, (a former senior advisor to Canada's Trudeau administration) advocates treating clean water as a human right rather than as a market commodity.

Such ideas fly in the face of today's corporate influenced "public" policy. Want a good example of such policy? Examples are easy to find, here's a lucid and penetrating historical critique of how corporations have restructured America's income tax for their own benefit. It was co-written by the brilliant economist Jonathan Rowe who has elsewhere proposed a fundamental redefinition of the GDP. At least somebody is thinking.


The ongoing story of a nice and wonderfully resourceful girl, her friendly dog, her neighbor, and his arsenal of high-pitch sonic devices.
I'm back from Istanbul. The wedding was happy and functional, the party afterwards was splendid, full of smiles, raki, and wonderful ottoman music.

The city itself is paradoxical: Chaotic and restful, impossible and simple, polluted and pristine. If there is one unifying concept behind Istanbul, it would have to be "negotiation" - apt for a city of traders. A few of my pictures of Istanbul are available here. Pictures from the wedding itself and the following days will follow.


Tomorrow I am off to Istanbul to witness the wedding of my good friend Morgan to his Turkish sweetheart, Nesteren. The wedding will be on Saturday somewhere in this neighborhood of Istanbul. I will bring back some good photos for you.


More news on high-tech shirts. This one can be "ironed" while you wear it with a blow-dryer and, when it gets warm, it rolls up its own sleeves.


Among the tidbits in the recently passed Foreign Aid Bill: $498 in total aid for each resident of Israel and a lot less for other countries whose needs are actually recognized internationally. Meanwhile various sanctions are approved against Palestine and aid to Peru is being withheld until we investigate the plane that was shot down last April.


20% of American wives are of the jazz or "can-opener type."
15% are of the nagging type.
20% are of the drudge type.
15% are of the "baby doll" type.
30% are of the home-maker or ideal type.

This, coming from a woman, indicating that 70% of American married women, or nearly 17,000,000 wives, are of a kind that is below an admirable standard, is certainly frank and a bit devastating.

This statistic, attributed to a former president of the Illinois Federation of Women's Clubs, is included in Chapter 9, Types and Classifications of Women Consumers of the book Selling Mrs. Consumer, 1929, by Mrs. Christine Frederick, America's foremost expert on Household Engineering.


Robot Wisdom delivers a timely link to this summary of what's wrong with the IMF as world government. The harsh part is the extent to which you and I are complicit in massive injustices. I feel like the "debt relief" bandwagon is probably the right one to push.

And if you doubt that this is really the way the IMF works, look at what they're requiring of Argentina and Turkey, and the debacle of privatization in countless other countries who have been forced to sell off their only assets to Western corporations. Bolivia's water system is probably a good example.


Before I fall into Timothy McVeigh's trap of referring to Thomas Jefferson for all things egalitarian and democratic, I should share with you this quote I found on interact:

Neither Spain nor Britain should be models of the German expansion, but the Nordics of North America, who had ruthlessly pushed aside an inferior race to win for themselves soil and territory for the future.

- Adolf Hitler


As promised, some discoveries from recent travels. The artists name is Willem van de Velde the Elder. He sat in a little boat and sketched a huge naval battle and then went home and drew the whole thing in minute detail with a reed pen on a huge canvas. The canvas now hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and is very nearly worth a trip. Here's a high-res scan that does it no justice whatsoever.


If you would like for the Navy to pick up your electric bill, first you should make sure that it exceeds your budget, and then make sure that you are, in fact, the vice president.

(found via Pigs and Fishes


This morning, after a full English breakfast, I walked from the Priory station in Dover down to the Hoverport where I caught a shuttle bus to the Superseacat Hovercraft. After an hour I disembarked in Calais and was transported by another shuttle to the passenger terminal. There I boarded a bus to Oostende station where I was able to catch a train to Leuven station. From the adjacent bus station. I took the number 8 bus to the end of Kapucijnenvoer and walked to my studio. A full day.


I have been touring the Netherlands this week with my parents. I'll link some interesting discoveries here when I have time to find them. Right now, I'll just complain about the closing-time procedure at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. If you want to feel what it's like to be rounded up by sheepdogs, then go wander around the decorative arts section about ten minutes before closing. The staff become very impatient and disrespectful - which I guess is typical of people whose job it is to discourage human nature on a daily basis. It's still not as bad as having uniformed (and armed) police officers stationed throughout the museum and squawking to each other by walkie talkie as at the Birmingham Museum of Art.


You won't believe these Remarks by the President During Visit to the Jefferson Memorial which are posted at his official web site. This guy was graduated from Yale? (Thanks to Pigs & Fishes)

From here, this presidency seems to be shaking a lot of things up. World leaders appear to feel a lot freer to criticize and disagree with American policies. A good portion of the US is actively questioning if they live in a democratic nation or not, and I myself have modified my position of gun control. I now believe that the government should be allowed to have guns either. (This goes for you too, Kofi.)


"Now this is made from a space-age fabric specially designed for Elvis. Sweat actually cleans this suit!"
-- Clerk at the Corpulent Cowboy, "The Simpson's" Episode #8F19 (March 26, 1992)

"So if your shirt was impregnated with a strain of E. coli designed to feed on human sweat and the proteins that cause body odours, you'd only have to wear it to jolt the bugs into action. For some other strains, you might have to douse it with additional nutrients occasionally. 'You could end up having to feed your shirt instead of wash it,' says Fowler."
-- from New Scientist magazine (July 5, 2001)


"The 'working poor' as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else."

- Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America

Read the interview at Identity Theory


"America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves.... It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor."

- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

from wood s lot via William Newell Fields
As a demonstration of my weakness as a human being, I agreed to go see a French film subtitled in Dutch. As it turns out, though, Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain is the best movie I've seen this year so far. In fact, I will recommend that you also watch it once without subtitles, if possible. The reason is that if you're reading a translation instead of watching the visual story, you're cheating yourself. Perhaps it's only my impression, but this is really a fairy tale story book movie. Anyway, it's beautiful and funny and hopeful and fantastic and real at the same time. Of course if you understand French, you might find more to like.

The reason to go out was to wish Ingrid "bon voyage". Tomorrow she is going to India for five weeks. Ingrid has more spirit than most people.


And I almost forgot another excellent suggestion from MisterPants. If you're looking for an elegant way to avoid using the word "elected" in the context of our current president, you could subsitute "anointed," which means, among other things, "smeared with oil."
On the subject of commercial messages aimed at children, MisterPants brings us the news that Sesame Street is still brought to you by the letter Z, except that the Z stands for "Zithromax" which is brought to you by the pharmaceuticals firm Pfizer. Are we all happy that learning to read is now effectively joined to the use of pharmaceuticals?

A little bit of research reveals that the letter Z has already led a long life of unauthorized appropriation - from Egyptian beginnings it was adopted by the Hebrews, then the Greeks, who saw it stolen by the Romans (who briefly outlawed it). After that it came into general use in European languages (existing as a complete word in Czech, which holds the z in an unusually high esteem). It is now nicknamed "zed" among the more Anglophilic speakers of English. One hopes that Pfizer and company don't torture the poor z like they have the P and f.

There's an interesting story that was researched by a [dreadlocked] reporter from the Guerilla News Network that begins with an ad agency not returning some designs made by one of their consultants, progresses to the agency's violation of their contract with the consultant, then to copyright infringement by the Coca-Cola Corporation, then suddenly to espionage, tampering with the federal courts, intimidation, and now a potential $4 Billion liability that has been in litigation since 1997 and has now been submitted to the Supreme Court for review of potential collusion in the 7th Circuit of Appeals. The fact that major media outlets are NOT reporting this story, and that even the SEC has never received proper notice of the potential liability from Coca-Cola is a bit worrying. The facts of how the case proceeded through the district court, heard by a judge with a startlingly bad record, are positively repugnant to the idea of equal protection and due process regardless of the actual merit of the charges.


Yesterday was a long, happy day at the Rock Werchter festival just up the Dijle from here. We saw JJ72, Incubus, the Stereophonics, Anouk, Weezer, Sigur-Rós, PJ Harvey, Placebo, Afro-Celt Sound System, Sparklehorse, Zita Swoon and Roxy Music

Of those, I was most excited to see Afro-Celt Sound System. I was prepared for disappointment, but they were magnificent - whipping a very large crowd into a frenzy of really happy, smiling people. Good show. I also recommend checking out Sigur-Rós sometime when you're in the mood for something Icelandic. (i.e. other-worldly). Roxy Music was fun in a "Love Boat cast reunion special" way. Brian Ferris looked like a cross between Austin Powers and Prince Charles doing a Reno show (complete with showgirls). The other band members looked like they all went clothes shopping with Eric Clapton in Beverly Hills. In other words, fine aged cheese.


News from the intellectual property division of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

This whole trade liberalization thing is producing some shockingly bad results. Entire nations of small producers lose their livelihoods, consumer prices rise, environmental damage increases, consumer choice disappears, labor rights dissolve, and anyone (including your government) bold enough to object to the free reign of corporate power is overruled by a closed-door arbitration panel.

If free trade is such a good thing, why is it so afraid of democracy?


Congratulations to all the students at the Post-Graduate Centre: Human Settlements for completing a grueling series of examinations. And special congratulations to Joy for all the amazing work she did on her website while she should have been studying.


Do you think this is an outrage? And what about Pepsi?
J.S.G. Boggs is a Pittsburgh artist who draws pictures of currency and barters them for goods and services at face value. Those who agree to accept his artwork as payment and give him a receipt are often approached within a few days by an art collector who bought the receipt from Boggs and wishes to buy the drawing for many times the face value. Ira Glass calls it a con game in reverse. This in-depth article from the Indiana Law Journal explores the constitutional issues involved in attempts to charge Boggs with counterfeiting.


Here's an essay with some good points to make on the problems of intellectual property. For future discussion...


"[T]he image problem for industry is serious among the young and could ultimately have a profound effect, on the free enterprise system itself. [...]The task of improving the image of the business-industrial complex is too vast for the MCA alone and requires a well coordinated-well financed national effort.[...]We foresee that EAC could serve member companies in supplying information and recommendations on successful programs of industry/education cooperation at the grassroots of education."

- from the 1974 Annual Report of the Education Activity Committee of the Manufacturing Chemist's Association (now the American Chemistry Council)

My enthusiasm for the power of public relations is frequently transformed into terrified awe. For example, here is a history of campaigns by the chemical industry to use schools as public relations battlegrounds. On the one hand, it may be argued that there is a pro-environment "bias" in primary education, but the counter to it should not be even shoddier scholarship or opinions masking as science. Instead students should be encouraged to seek the facts of the matter and derive there conclusions therefrom. If this is too difficult a task for a fourth grader, better to teach the incontravertible facts than to pursue the premature formation of opinions.
Pol Pot was a visionary who wanted to create an agrarian utopia. He personally oversaw the killing of more than a million people.
Thomas Jefferson was also a visionary who wanted to create an agrarian utopia. He was just a slave-owner and an adulterer.
Zeno, the founder of the stoic philosophy, wasn't really a visionary but he believed in an agrarian utopia. He thought it was more creditable to operate from within society and to follow a fairly reasonable code of personal ethics that made him stand out, but didn't get him in trouble. He never killed anyone. He never owned a slave. And, he never broke a vow. (So far as we know)

See you at the stoa.


Another group encrypted the original DeCSS source code by splitting it up and hiding it in the image encoding of a picture of a cow - and then set up a service that attached alternate halves of this image to comments emailed to the U.S. Copyright Office, which will then become part of the public record, thereby enabling anyone with the encryption key to view the DeCSS source code. The DeCSS opponents would have to break the encryption to see that the 'illegal' code had been distributed, though, and their own argument is that this sort of encryption reverse-engineering is illegal copyright infringement, so although they'd rather squelch the distribution, they're in a bit of a bind.

Culture jamming is very cool. A brilliant tactic indeed, to put the bad guys at the mercy of their own machinations.
I'm always amazed at the power of publicity. A good PR campaign seems to be able to reduce reason and logic to clouds of dust effortlessly. Here is one small example from the brazen career of Harry Reichenbach. (Thanks to Flutterby)

By the way, that story is part of an online encyclopedia of "culture jamming," a field of fun and frolic into which I aim to dip my toes someday. (Some might argue that my feet are already wet.)


Twice now I've gone to the cinema on the night before a dreaded exam, and twice now I've gone on to do really well on the exam. On Wednesday night I saw "High Fidelity" with Joy. It was actually quite good. Normally I'd get tired of John Cusack talking at me for ninety minutes, but there was enough structure to the narrative (adapted from Nick Hornby's novel) that I didn't mind. I'll have to consider his statement that keeping your options open (i.e. lack of commitment) is piecemeal suicide. I appreciate that this mild epiphany didn't present a magic remedy for all his problems. Any suggestions for what I should see tomorrow night before the "Urban Sociology" exam?


I'm a little busy this week. Perhaps if you're coming here looking for something to read it would be useful to pop over to The Birminghamster and catch up on the news from Birmingham, where all the men are dense, all the women are made-up, and all the children don't know what they're missing.

P.S. - I have been told, based on the rantings below, that I may be off my rocker. If I need to be straightened out, please mail me: dystopos at yahoo dot com.


Listened to a debate today on the ethics of "transracial adoption" (Diff'rent Strokes for diff'rent folks). The fact is that children up for adoption in the U.S. are mainly non-white while prospective adopting families are predominantly white. (Some part of this reflects the middle-class standards for approving adoptions). Public adoption agencies are instructed by Federal policy to be colorblind, but many professionals see this as a policy to degrade ethnic cultures and can recount the horrors faced by children whose parents can't prepare them for a society in which racial identity is a key part of personal identity. In fact, in 1972 a national association of black sociologists proclaimed the wave of non-white children being adopted into white families to be "cultural genocide." At first glance, there is a strong point there - but I think a more principled response is to deny neither the importance of ethnic culture not equal protection. I think we should stop assigning cultural identity by color. Why can't a white child participate in and become a contributing part of african-american or korean culture? Why can't the Drummond kids just BE white? Is it because their peers won't accept their cultural identification? OK, then, THATS the problem, not the loving families that adopt these kids. Sure, parents have to be ready to deal with real issues and have to help their children make decisions about their own cultural participation. But none of these are the responsibility of an adoption agency. Maybe if it would be more difficult to make assumptions about people, we wouldn't be so tempted toward prejudice.


"Her Majesty the Queen charges and commands all persons being assembled immediately to disperse and peaceably to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business upon the pain of being guilty of an offence for which, upon conviction, they may be sentenced to imprisonment for life. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN"

(I just read you the Riot Act)


Champions of Free Speech emerge in unlikely places:

"RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 12-13, 2001, object vigorously to any attempts to abridge the free speech rights of any American citizen or group" - 2001 Southern Baptist Convention, Resolution No. 8 (opposing restrictions on campaign funding)

Oh, wait a second. It appears there are conditions...

"RESOLVED, That we call on all government agencies to enact and to enforce laws that protect our homes and communities from the transmission of pornographic material over the Internet." - 2001 Southern Baptist Convention, Resolution No. 5 (opposing internet pornography)
Adding to the growing list of exceptions to the protection we thought the first amendment would give us: "Persons whose presence or acts interfere with the peaceful conduct of school activities may be asked to leave, regardless of the content of their speech." according to a Utah Law which was recently upheld by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson. The interfering persons were animal rights activists protesting the display of a McDonald's flag at the school by demonstrating after classes and off of school property. It makes you wonder about the "educational process," that it must be so staunchly protected from free expression of political controversy while McDonald's and Channel One are allowed to buy as much of the same process as they need to get their own messages across.


Sometimes it's just to easy to ignore history. I learned today that the bombig of the Murrah Federal Building was not the "worst act of domestic terrorism in peacetime America" - in fact it wasn't even the worst in Oklahoma.
A Short List of Things That Have Recently Aroused My Suspicion

5. "One Minute in American History" on the Armed Forces Radio Network
4. Buying milk from an unrefrigerated section of the grocery.
3. The fact that I have yet to receive a phone bill by mail despite correcting my address for the phone company every two months.
2. A group of people wandering around in the middle of the night carrying signs that say "Dorst!"
1. Could Pearl Harbor and the recent spate of super-patriotic movies be covertly preparing Americans for something... something big?


News Flash: The protection of the First Amendment no longer applies to the entertainment media, to Puerto Ricans, to critics of religious organizations, or to anyone within eyesight of the President.

More later (I hope)


"Art is in the eye of the beholder. The American people -- not the government -- should make the judgment on which art to support."
- Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-AL

Does it strike you as odd that someone whose title is "representative" would complain that the government can not carry out the will of the American people? The whole constitution depends on the effectiveness of representational legislation. If Bachus is right and the American people should take art patronage into their own hands, then the American people should also be making the judgment on which corporations to subsidize, which treaties to scrap, which terrorists to support or sanction, and which animal habitats to drill for oil.


I saw Sonic Youth last night in Gent perform music of John Cage, Yoko Ono, Steve Reich, James Tenney, Cornelius Cardew, Takehisa Kosugi, George Maciunas and others. They ended up playing two or three of their own songs too. It was a nice, cheap, short little performance and I enjoyed spending the day wandering around in Gent with my friend Ingrid. We had a nice lunch at another friend's fantastic little house as well. All in all, a very pleasant day. Now... back to studying.


Remember when you voted to approve the use of genetic modification in all your food? Remember when your elected representatives promised during their campaigns to make sure genetically modified food would come to the market as soon as possible? Remember when the Food and Drug Administration carried out all those extensive, long-term tests to make sure that genetically modified crops were safe for human consumption? Remember when the USDA revised their guidelines to insure that the use of genetically engineered crops would serve the public interest? Remember how the companies that sold genetically modified seeds came up with a comprehensive and effective way to control their spread? Remember when we decided that labels should no longer reveal the actual content of your food in order to preserve the profits of agro-business? Remember when you had any say in the matter whatsoever?

No, me neither. (story)


Happy Birthday, Joy!


"There is some fear of the mob coming to destroy the works at Cromford, but they are well prepared to receive them should they come here. All the gentlemen in this neighbourhood being determined to defend the works, which have been of such utility to this country. 5,000 or 6,000 men can be at any time assembled in less than an hour by signals agreed upon, who are determined to defend to the very last extremity, the works, by which many hundreds of their wives and children get a decent and comfortable livelihood."

- The Derby Mercury (22 October, 1779)

The "works at Cromford" were the first cotton spinning mills built by Sir Richard Arkwright and utilizing the process he patented (but did not invent) in 1769. The success of these works in undercutting the cottage-spun output of thousands of workers throughout Britain earned him the acclaim of "Father of the Factory System" as well as the attention of those who failed to appreciate the juggernaut of industrial progress. While the disappearance of hand-work was obvious before 1794, government commissions were claiming as late as 1806 that the prevailing fear that domestic labor would disappear because of the rise of factories was unjustified. Sometimes, those in charge are the last to know what's going on.


"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."

- Thomas Jefferson

Reading Assignment: John Perry Barlow. "The Economy of Ideas: A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age. (Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong.)" WIRED 2.03 (March 1994)
Do you suppose that specialization and innovation have the sort of relationship that could be graphed as a parabola? That Adam Smith was right to imagine that being able to focus on one process would allow a laborer to master and improve that process, but that at some point the law of diminishing returns hits a wall and bounces back? I'm thinking about the daunting task of becoming an expert on anything these days. It seems you can't exercise any influence until you've spent most of your life indoctrinating yourself with the enormous mass of knowledge on which your innovations are supposed to be built. I made reference earlier to the possibility that we are now able to "construct our essays from paragraphs instead of words" and then later to conversation littered with references from "The Simpsons" - Perhaps there is a way to climb the mountain of knowledge by taking bigger steps through some sort of meta-process of learning. I mean we use words like "paragraph" (para "beside" + graphein "to write") all the time without investigating their inner meanings. Perhaps the broadband revolution, the cut-and-paste, the iMovie, etc. will give us the tools to speak in a higher-level vocabulary. (You know, like artists and musicians have done for centuries)


I've been discussing the poor today. In the context of social justice and global economics on one hand, and in the context of Biblical exegesis and faith and hope on the other. The European Union is committed in their inter-European agreements on trade liberalization to channel a large percentage of their operations budget toward 'conversion' and 'cohesion' - meaning that it is in the interest of all parties to reduce discrepancies and inequalities between different regions of Europe. This is a topic which has, as far as I know, escaped the rhetoric on global free trade. The basic problem is that in an unregulated environment, the strong overtake the weak. Coca-cola, for example, gets marketed to a billion Indians before they get a chance to generate their own production and marketing apparatus. Indian products, mostly raw materials, become cheaper without export levies and so, again, Coke gets to reap the profits of buying their tea leaves for less and selling iced tea to a bigger market.

I don't think I'll get into the Biblical exegesis tonight. I did want to mention, in regards to democratic access to the global liberalization of trade, that the World Bank has cancelled its planned meeting in Barcelona. Instead, they will meet behind secure servers in cyberspace. You know, cyberspace, the great democratizer where all voices can be heard... and apparently even more can be silenced.

Good night. By the way, my email address is dystopos@yahoodotcom if anyone wants it.


Ten Things Americans Expect (no matter where they are)
10. Coke will be served in a large glass with lots of ice which will be refilled frequently with no extra charge.
9. Anyone crossing the street at a crosswalk while a car is coming is either insensate or insane.
8. Elevators will comfortably accommodate 6 to 8 people, including personal space.
7. Aspirin can be purchased almost anywhere, and many of those places are open all night.
6. Voting is a right, not a requirement. (Apparently counting votes is a pseudo-science)
5. Anyone my age will understand my frequent references to 'The Simpson's'
4. It is futile to estimate the amount of the bill before it comes. Credit Cards are ok.
3. Bacon is crisp.
2. Normally it's too far to walk.
1. Attempting to bribe a police officer will get you arrested. Shoving one out of the way will get you beaten.


"Competition, we have now learnt, is neither good nor evil in itself; it is a force which has to be studied and controlled; it may be compared to a stream whose strength and direction have to be observed, that embankments may be thrown up within which it may do its work harmlessly and beneficially. But at the period we are considering it came to be believed in as a gospel, and, the idea of necessity being superadded, economic laws deduced from the assumption of universal unrestricted competition were converted into practical precepts, from which it was regarded as little short of immoral to depart."

Arnold Toynbee, "Lectures on the Industrial Revolution," 1880

Perhaps the continuing reports of thinning ice-caps, the result of liberalized global industrial capitalism, indicate a remarkable prescience in Toynbee's choice of metaphor.


Yesterday, I was asked, in an examination on Urban History and Theory, to situate Patrick Geddes in the anarchist tradition. Anarchy, I have recently found, is much more disciplined than a slashed red "A" would lead you to believe. It's not about recklessness, but about cooperation -- inherently Utopian. So my assignment for myself (which all one or two of you are party to) is to read up a bit on Proudhon, Reclus, La Play, Bakunin, and Kropotkin and see what it is that the public might be able to accomplish if given the means.

And it seems that French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin envisions the European Union as an international policeman, protecting the general interest (social justice and the environment) from short-term private interests. This, I suppose, would put the EU in a bit of a difficult position relative to the flurry of trade liberalization agreements which have identified the public interest to BE short-term, unjust, environmentally degrading private interests. The consensus is that the French PM's version of the future of the EU has more to do with internal political grandstanding than with reality. It's a shame.


Here is Alan Kay in an early article about software: "The intent of these examples is not to get everyone to drop all programming in favor of spreadsheets[...]Users must be able to tailor a system to their wants. Anything less would be as absurd as requiring essays to be formed out of paragraphs that have already been written."

My first impression is that this crank had it all wrong, that programming is more or less irrelevant now to the vast majority of computer users. But then I looked him up. As it turns out, Dr. Kay is responsible for 1) the idea of personal computing, 2) the laptop, 3) the overlapping window interface, 4) object-oriented programming, 5) workstations, 6) EtherNet, 7) Laserprinting, 8) Client-servers, 9) 3-D graphics, and 10) ARPANet (later, the internet)

So let's revisit that early pronouncement and turn it on it's head. I think we HAVE reached the day when we require essays to be formed out of paragraphs that have already been written. Welcome to the metasphere.


Today I bought a large bottle of Blanche de Namur to enjoy on the terrace while I read Rem Koolhaas. In this world, so many things are possible. You should also do something today which one never would have expected to be possible given only the rude outlines of the world.


Today I was reading in Working for Change about what they call the U.S.'s "gift" to the Taliban of $43 million in foreign aid to "reward" them for cracking down on poppy-growing. The U.N. has responded favorably to the precipitous drop in opium production. Their inspectors (which, for security reasons did not include US representatives) were elated to find only onions and wheat where they had seen opium a year before - a year during which Afghanistan was the world's leader in opium production. They UN called on the world to help Afghani farmers convert to other crops - a process that is not easy since opium was so much hardier and more profitable than any alternative. Nevertheless, when faced with grenade-launchers, beatings and jail sentences, farmers are eager to comply with the new revelation that poppy growing is incompatible with Islamic law (as is, apparently receiving medical treatment if you are female, preserving monuments to other cultures on your land, wondering if someone might be a hindu, etc.). It seems like the question isn't whether the help is needed, but whether it comes in the form of development aid to farmers or as a reward to a regime that spits on human rights. (Later we'll ask the question about whether either option is good.)


I should mention that during this period of exams (and potentially during the period of thesis-writing and travel that follows) that weblogging can not be a priority. Nevertheless I do have an addiction. If you really want to keep track of me, then for now, the best place to go is FilePile and look around. My contributions are archived under my username (Dystopos) for 48 hours.


Today I read Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre's 1976 article "In the Name of the People" about the Populist movement in architecture. They argue that this movement, seemingly a reaction against the scientific rational modernist approach to delivering shelter as prototypical design products was in reality merely a refinement of that process making use of the success of establishing populations as markets. This is an ongoing process which seems, in the recent news about clashes over global trade liberalization, to be reaching a critical point in its establishment as a universal paradigm for living. In this reductive scenario all aspects of life are made consumer choices and issues of justice are reduced to making the global market of consumer goods more evenly accessible. Their take was that this masks the underlying dependencies based on the means of production which in fact structure all social relationships. That argument, either because they're off-base or because they're exactly right, doesn't really hit me. What does interest me is that in Ultima Online, that bizarre hybrid of role-playing social experiment and work of historical fiction, users faced with a society that rewards experience and violence more than it does economic practices, and an economy structured to give no real benefit to hoarding, someone amassed over twelve thousand shirts. When and how did the instinct for competition translate so effectively into monetary terms?