Friday, April 28, 2006

When Did Network Neutrality Become A Partisan Issue?

good question

Helena Cobban: Darfur: negotiators close to peace agreement?

Where the coalition for Darfur blog posts scores upon scores of articles about Darfur, Helena boils it down to one or two cogent posts. Check out her post, Darfur: negotiators close to peace agreement?

I hope the peace talks in Abuja can really succeed, and the rebuilding process that they envision can really take hold. That is far and away the best way to end the commission of atrocities in Darfur and start rebuilding a rule-of-law-based society there.

But what about the reports of the recent escalatory acts? Let's hope they were just one last push that each side was making, trying to win one last spot of negotiating advantage, before they both sign onto the peace deal...
She knows about conflict resolution and she knows about Africa. If you read just one person's opinions about Darfur, you should read her.

Remembering Chernobyl

Here's an excellent gallery of pictures from Chernobyl, many taken shortly after the disaster. Here's a view of the destroyed reactor #4:

If you have not seen the "Kid of Speed" site, check it out. There is some dispute about the authenticity of the story of this woman's motorcycle through the Chernobyl exclusion zone. But you can take the photos at face value. They are powerful.

Gorbachev Sounds Off on Nukes

Clearly, Chernobyl's memory is still vivid for Gorbachev

"You don’t actually solve problems by finding solutions that create more problems down the track. It doesn’t add up economically, environmentally or socially. Of all the energy options, nuclear is the most capital intensive to establish, decommissioning is prohibitively expensive and the financial burden continues long after the plant is closed."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Switched On: Pandora's Box (Part 1) - Engadget

OhMyGod. That does it. I absolutely must have this device. I've been wanting one for over a year now, and it looks like it's a good thing I waited. Pandora's Box
the Squeezebox recently became the first non-PC device that can stream Pandora channels.
If you haven't discovered Pandora yet, go check it out.

Now the big problem is that my stereo is a joke. I need a home theatre sounds system to go with this squeezebox. This could get expensive....

Fatter than we admit

US states grossly underestimate levels of obesity

Widespread wishful thinking has left some US states with gross underestimates of their obesity rates, a new study suggests.
They rely on phone interviews? Of course they're understimating. Not only are we fat. We're liars!

Putting FEMA out of its misery?

Political Animal wrote it down before I could. The notion that FEMA is beyond repair seems incredible to me. To Kevin Drumm too: The Washington Monthly

FEMA was a fine organization for eight years under Bill Clinton, widely recognized as one of the best run agencies in the federal government. But after a mere five years of George Bush's stewardship there's now a bipartisan consensus that it's so rundown that the only choice is to get rid of it and build a completely new agency in its place. Astonishing.
I guess it goes without saying that FEMA will remain broken during the coming hurricane season...

Turn off your TV?

This is tempting... Lifehacker takes note of another way to purge a major distraction and a major time waster from your life. Turn off your TV this week
Could you do without the tube for an entire week? Would it make a difference in your TV habits the rest of the year?
My recent post about the dangers of fast food fries and nuggests seems to have worked. Sam has sworn off that junk food! Getting him off the tube would be really, really good. But no NBA playoffs? Gotta think about this...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Jane Jacobs, RIP

In memorium, Jane Jacobs in her own words:

"Being human is itself difficult, and therefore all kinds of settlements (except dream cities) have problems. Big cities have difficulties in abundance, because they have people in abundance. But vital cities are not helpless to combat even the most difficult problems."
"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody."

"Vital cities have marvelous innate abilities for understanding, communicating, contriving, and inventing what is required to combat their difficulties... Lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves."

"In our American cities, we need all kinds of diversity."

"Intricate minglings of different uses in cities are not a form of chaos. On the contrary, they represent a complex and highly developed form of order."
Part I of The Death and Life of Great American Cities was one of the most powerful things I've ever read. It changed my life, and probably shaped who I am, where I live, and how I live. I just might have to pick it up and re-read it now.

Google Maps Mania: Google Maps street maps for ALL of Europe!


Monday, April 24, 2006

TPM: the White House shake-up

Josh Marshall is hot today. Check out his summation of an E.J. Dionne op-ed about the recent changes in the White House. TPM: the real meaning of the White House shake-up

The White House and the entire DC GOP for that matter is just sitting on too many secrets and bad acts. The bogus investigations of the pre-war intel is just one example, if one of the most resonant and glaring. Keeping control of the House and the Senate is less a matter of conventional ideological and partisan politics as it is a simple matter of survival.

They have too much to cover up. They could not survive sunlight.
He also takes some info from a 60 Minutes interview with a retired CIA officer and discredits Congressional investigations into pre-war intelligence failures. Check it out.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Leon Powe drives to the rim

Leon Powe will enter the NBA draft (probably) and I'm so glad for him. I've watched Leon play since he was a Sophmore from Oakland Tech playing—and dominating—in the SF ProAm league. I've watched him at Oakland Tech and at Cal, and there've been times when I wondered if he wasn't another kid whose dreams were cut short by bum knees. But he's overcome so much and come so far. And now it looks like his knee will be OK.

I have my issues with Ben Braun and his rigid system. I don't really think Leon has much to gain basketball-wise by staying at Cal. I mean, come on, can't they run him off a screen just once? Not in Braun's world, apparently.

But getting into Cal was his reward for focusing on hoops and books and staying clear of all the other troubles in his world. Going to Cal meant getting his first ACL operation—probably a botch job by some rookie intern at Highland Hospital(??)—fixed by the best possible surgeons. Going to Cal meant getting an education that will keep him from ever falling back into the desperate world he grew up in. I just read a great story about his past, The Making of Leon Powe that tells his story better than any I'd read before. It's long, but check it out.

I really am looking forward to seeing him selected in the first round. No one could possibly be more deserving. Anyone who's only seen Leon play for Cal, you have no idea how good this kid really is. Once he stops hesitating with that giddyup gallop run of the past year and returns to his pre-knee surgery form, watch out. This was a kid who had dreams of going pro after his junior year in High School. If his ACL hadn't cut him down then, I have to wonder if it might not have gone down that way. Four years later, I hope we get to see that Leon Powe dominating in the NBA.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Kirk Anderson? Cool cartoons...

Props to Juan Cole for the link!

20,000 Iraqi kidnap victoms?

Wow. This come to me via ThinkProgress: Nearly 20,000 people kidnapped in Iraq in 2006

The 19,548 people kidnapped includes 4,959 women and 2,350 children, according to the report prepared by a group of 125 non-governmental organisations and made public in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

The high-profile seizure of foreigners in Iraq has numbered only a few hundred since the practice began two years ago and is usually aimed at scoring propaganda points against the US-led occupation.
The article is pretty vague about the sources and the people behind the survey, but the thrust of the report is unquestioned. Iraq is being torn to pieces. As Juan Cole says in response to this article, "That would make kidnapping one of Iraq's major industries."

Dam bums out Shanghai industrialists

New Scientist dryly notes: Dam puts Shanghai wetlands at sea's mercy

Tidal wetlands on the Yangtze delta near Shanghai in China are in danger of disappearing because of sediment trapped in the Three Gorges dam. The amount of sediment coming downstream has more than halved since the dam's construction. As a result the tidal wetlands around Shanghai have been eroding rapidly, damaging coastal ecological systems and limiting Shanghai's ability to expand.
Curious that they consider one of the big impacts the limits on their ability to exploit the wetlands...

Climate change and the insurer's bottom line

Here's an interview with a DOE scientist who has studies the impact of climate change on the insurance industry: The insurance industry prepares for climate change

I would say that insurers are better equipped to understand and evaluate the science than most other industries, and they have no particular vested interest in propping up polluting industries. To the contrary, pollution liability is one of the emerging (often insured) risks that keep them up at night. They are also more vulnerable to the impacts; they can’t afford to overlook or be wrong about the science. Insurers who have looked at the climate-change issue closely see more burdensome economic costs from inaction than from prudent action, and, in fact, they are developing business opportunities associated with climate-change mitigation and adaptation solutions. They are also quick to recognize that investments in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions can be highly cost-effective in terms of reduced energy expenditures.
The article is rather dry on the whole, but it does get at a favorite theme of mine—that the actuaries in the insurance industry have just as valid a voice in the policy debate about climate change as the scientists do. The scientists will observe, probe, understand, and predict. The actuaries are left to boil it down to setting the odds and tabulating the dollars and cents impacts.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Political Animal: Too much John Wayne

More sanity from our UK allies. Once again, can we please just hand the entire operation over to them? Please?

British brigadier attacks America's John Wayne generals

A senior British officer has criticised 'shoulder-holster' American generals for trying to emulate film stars.

Brig Alan Sharpe, who worked alongside Americans in Baghdad, said there was a 'strong streak of Hollywood' with officers trying to portray themselves as Sylvester Stallone or John Wayne.
He wrote the comments in a paper on Britain's influence on US foreign relations and the essay is likely to strain the 'special relationship' further, coming after other British officers' criticism of the American approach.

An important part to being a successful American officer was to be able to combine the 'real and acted heroics' of Audie Murphy, the 'newsreel antics' of Gen Douglas MacArthur and the 'movie performances' of Hollywood actors, the brigadier wrote.

While this might look good on television at home, the brigadier suggested that 'loud voices, full body armour, wrap-around sunglasses, air strikes and daily broadcasts from shoulder-holster wearing brigadier-generals proudly announcing how many Iraqis have been killed by US forces today' was no 'hearts-and-minds winning tool'.

Chips down, Bush prepares a Hail Mary bet

Another great article by Mark Morford: Chips down, Bush prepares a Hail Mary bet

Now, here he is, sitting right next to all the other countries at the Big Table, representing America, it's little Dubya Bush, stewing in his own juices, his poll numbers hovering right near Nixon levels, mumbling to himself, smelling vaguely of sawdust and horse manure and dead Social Security overhaul plans.

He is pockmarked by scandal, buffeted by storms of disapproval and infighting and nascent impeachment. He authorized the leak of classified security information merely to smear an Iraq war critic, he lied about WMD and lied about Saddam and lied about making the United States safer and lied about, well, just about everything, on top of launching the worst and most violent and most expensive, unwinnable war since Vietnam.

His pile of betting capital is down to a tiny lump, nothing like back when he had the table rigged and all the pit bosses worked for him and the pile was as big as a roomful of Texas cow pies. But now, fortune is frowning. In fact, fortune is white-hot furious at being so viciously molested, spit upon, raped lo these many years. The truth is coming out: Bush has now lost far, far more bets than he ever won.
Nice to see this article cited over on the Daily Kos.

Intel Dump - Clear on Rumsfeld

I haven't linked to Intel Dump in a while, so here we go with a good one: Questioning Motives

Yes, Rummy is dedicated, patriotic, and a hard worker. Good for him. Now how competent is he? Has he ignored advice that was later seen to be correct? Has he attacked generals who disagreed with him by publicly rebuking them? Has he bullied senior military officers and stifled dissent? Has his arrogance and micromanagement led to needless deaths of American troops and harmed our national security? Is he the worst secretary of war in the history of our nation? Most importantly, has he consistently been proven wrong by events on the ground turning out just as his critics predicted, instead of how he predicted? The answer to all these questions is clear.
Yipes. But how do you really feel?

Treehugger: GE Invests in Wave Energy

Treehugger has garnered a lot of blog awards recently. I like it well enough to track it closely, even if it is a bit more commercial and way too prolific for my tastes. This post reports good news about a clean green energy technology I first read about on WorldChanging:

Treehugger: GE Invests in Wave Energy

GE has announced that it is providing capital to Ocean Power Delivery (OPD), a Scottish company that specializes in generating electricity from offshore ocean waves. OPD developed the Pelamis Wave Energy Converter, which generates 750 kilowatts of electricity from offshore wave motion.
Sure sounds like a technology that could scale quickly and generate some serious energy. I have to wonder though, if the open ocean is too inhospitible an environment. Will these installations last without inordinately expensive maintenance? I guess we'll find out.

Beijing's Complicity in Darfur

Another surprising and disturbing nuance in the Darfur crisis: Beijing's Silence Bolsters Tyrants

The people of Darfur have paid perhaps the steepest price for this policy of indifference. China's massive investment in Sudanese oil fields has helped Khartoum finance militia in Darfur that have murdered tens of thousands of people and displaced more than two million.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Good news / bad news in Babylon

Easy to forget that we're occupying the cradle of civilization. This article reminded me of the horror of the sacking of the museums in Baghdad after the war. Ruined Treasures in Babylon Await an Iraq Without Fighting

Babylon, the mud-brick city with the million-dollar name, has paid the price of war. It has been ransacked, looted, torn up, paved over, neglected and roughly occupied. Archaeologists said American soldiers even used soil thick with priceless artifacts to stuff sandbags.

But Iraqi leaders and United Nations officials are not giving up on it. They are working assiduously to restore Babylon, home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and turn it into a cultural center and possibly even an Iraqi theme park.

No one is saying this is going to happen anytime soon, but what makes the project even conceivable is that the area around Babylon is one of the safest in Iraq, a beacon of civilization, once again, in a land of chaos.
Interesting to note that this particular corner of Iraq is not caught up in the violence and madness. Hopeful too.

Fast food really is bad

Fast food awash with 'worst' kind of fat

French fries and chicken nuggets from two major global fast-food chains contain very high levels of artery-clogging "trans" fats, researchers warn.
So why isn't Sam fat and unhealthy? No matter, time to crack the whip on that boy!

Would you report for work in a flu ward?

Nearly Half Of Public Health Employees Unlikely To Work During Pandemic

Over 40 percent of public health employees surveyed said they are unlikely to report to work during an influenza pandemic
Not so surprizing, really. If (or when) this shit hits the fan, it really will be a whole new ballgame.

As if Cheney needs a tax break!

Think Progress » Cheney’s tax return

suggests he was “a major beneficiary of the Hurricane Katrina tax relief act” aimed at spurring increased charitable donations, despite the fact that “it looks like none of the charitable contributions actually went to Katrina-related charities.

Friday, April 14, 2006

NSA's big net

Ars has a nice short update on the NSA wiretap story, based on information revealed by a retired AT&T engineer. Check it out: AT&T engineer: NSA built secret rooms in our facilities

Given the massive scale of the spy operation in the US (and this is only one company; it's not yet clear if the NSA has partnered with other telecom firms), it's growing increasingly difficult to believe that this is truly 'targeted surveillance.' The equipment used and the vast scale of the information being monitored both suggest that the NSA is sifting through massive amounts of user data and phone calls. Much of the information that passes through their spy system must therefore be domestic rather than international in nature. It is possible that phone calls, for instance, that begin and end in the US are simply passed through the system without being scanned, but if so, this must certainly tempt the NSA, which has only to tweak their settings to see all that new data. What is actually being monitored is still unclear, but it looks as though this trial could bring much of it to light.

ScienceDaily: Eat more fish

Mom had her reasons for making us down that cod liver oil. But gawd that was awful stuff:

ScienceDaily: Anti-inflammatory Effects Of Omega 3 Fatty Acid In Fish Oil Linked To Lowering Of Prostaglandin

The biochemical basis of other benefits of dietary fish oil -- for example, omega 3 fatty acids' impact on neuronal development and visual acuity -- are probably due to effects on biochemical pathways regulating nerve transmission. Understanding the different pathways through which omega 3 works to convert prostaglandin helps explain why the plant-based omega 6 fatty acids don't simply provide the same benefits. Because of omega 3 fatty acids' known benefits to health, especially cardiovascular health, Dr. Smith's advice is simple: eat more fish.

Why avian flu hasn't killed us yet

Hmmm... can't truthfully say that I understand much of what they say in this article. But it is pretty reassuring for one who has worried about bird flu. Sugar, Sugar ...

But for the moment, we're okay, it seems like the avian flu doesn't spread easily from one human to another.

And now we know why.
At least, they know why today's form is hard to propogate to and among humans. What they don't know is the likelihood that it will mutate into a form that does transmit easily.

Stoat: Media garbling: "Scientists forecast metre rise in sea levels this century"

Returning to the theme of sea level rise related to melting ice on Greenland and Antarctica, here is a more sober read of the recent data: Stoat: Media garbling: "Scientists forecast metre rise in sea levels this century"

So this is (once again) the idea that once CO2 levels get high enough, we will be committed to melting Greenland. Which is fair enough, but it *isn't news*. Is it something to worry about? That depends on a lot... suppose we assume this melt happens linearly over 1kyr; thats 5m/1kyr = 5mm/yr, or 0.5m/century. And you can add on thermal expansion and maybe some Antarctic melt and other stuff on to that. But still, 0.5m/century is not *fast*. It is, though, cumulative. How will our descendants cope with 5+m of SLR? I would guess that this would cause large problems over many parts of the world, if we were at todays tech levels. But we won't be: we'll be back in the stone age by then... or we'll have reached the nearer stars... who knows, really?
They key nugget is the 1,000 years horizon. The temperature may quickly rise to a point sufficient to melt Greenland — but it will still take time to complete the job. Lots of time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Kos is bummed

The dreadfully low turnout for the Randy Cunningham replacement election has Kos severely bummed. CA-50: Turnout

My sense of pessimism for November's elections only gets deeper the more elections show lower and lower turnout. Our supporters have stopped giving a shit. They were burned three elections in a row, and seeing nothing different come from the leadership, it has become easier for them to tune out.
But didn't I hear that the R's spent heavily on a very negative campaign against Busby, the D? That might explain voter apathy as much as any Democratic failures. This is a solidly Republican district after all.

Whiskey Bar: Mutually Assured Dementia

I know I've been suffering from outrage burnout recently. Hence the lack, of political posts recently. Thanks to Billmon for slapping it out of me.

Mutually Assured Dementia

I mean, what exactly does it take to get a rise out of the media industrial complex these days? A nuclear first strike against a major Middle Eastern oil producer doesn't ring the bell? Must every story have a missing white woman in it before the cable news guys will start taking it seriously?

The Rude Pundit's Question

"Was Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez an Illegal Alien?"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Getting to Zero my way

I've been reading the Inbox Zero series over on 43Folders and I feel compelled to finally lay out my way—which is in some important respects far more sensible and feasible. Not that they are full of it. Not that they don't make some important points. They describe some pretty common sense approaches to email overload. I just think the common sense is, in this case, immature. And wrongheaded.

First, let me say that as one old fogey to another, I don't think they are living in the latest version of the modern world. Haven't they heard that email is passé? It is. My email burden has shrunk in recent years (aside from the mountains of goddamned spam). My younger colleagues have turned to IM, and I've gladly embraced it. The single most important key to containing email overload is to get the hell away from email. If you can complete a communication using IM, or the phone, or better yet by getting off your ass and talking to someone face-to-face, then do not use email. Duh. This is doubly true in my programmer world. Coders would much rather tap out an email than walk over to a coleague's desk to talk—especially if they're in QA, or shudder marketing.

But the same advice works for everyone. Keep email in its place. Sure there is a very important and appropriate place for email. It is a non-invasive, always available, effective way reach someone. It is often the best way to reach a group of people. It allows you to compose your thoughts with care. I still love email and use it a lot. But curbing email and culturing proper email use in an organization is at least as important as building better email mulching machines.

OK, so they are assuming we're stuck in the '90s and have a deluge of (presumably non-spam) emails intruding on your psyche every day. Fine. I've certainly been there, done that.

The first mistake they make is target selection. They really want you to keep your inbox empty. Ha! Sorry, that is a hoot. What good does it do for me if my current, active correspondences -- the threads I'm tracking, the fresh contacts I'm making with the people I need to hear from and speak to, is moved out of my inbox. Why? For the zen of it? Even if I had the problem of zillions of unprocessed loose ends in my inbox, how is nuking them all at once and shuffling them into a "DMZ" going t help anything?

My personal variation on this zen is to keep my unread count down to zero. Same placid openness of mind. Same unburdened feeling, free of the nagging loose ends and "open loops". But without requiring that I frag my email world. Everything is there, in chronological order, with nothing tugging at my attention.

And the next big cannon they roll out is... filters? I guess this maps onto the GTD roots of 43Folders. Here I think they actually get it mostly right at 43Folders, even though the GTD book gets it totally wrong. I use filters heavily for many of the same things proposed by 43Folders. List emails, blog traffic emails, and all the other bot-driven impersonal stuff gets filtered and separated into appropriate piles. I do not feel any need to keep the unread count down to zero on these filtered mailboxes. They are info-only resources that I may or may not even open. And if I find that I never open certain types of emails -- like my daily slashdot digest -- I eventually unsubscribe and stop the traffic. Filters remove the obvious clutter from my inbox. Feeds are also solving this problem too, and allowing me to reduce that filterable stream—but that falls into the use-email-wisely-and-less category.

The most important lesson I have learned over the years is this: do not sort the email you want to keep. This is where I part company with the GTD and 43Folders canon. They have you push it out of the inbox into various other boxes. To me this is not only wasted effort, it actually degrades the value of email. And it pollutes your email history. There is only one lasting dimension to my email life, and that is time. For this to work though, it helps to pull a lot of weeds.

One point from "Inbox Zero" that I heartily agree with is the importance of the Del key. Anything you think you might be able to delete should be deleted. If you're wrong, you have a few weeks to retrieve it from the trash. But think for a moment how rarely you've had to rummage through the trash. Never? You need to use Del more. It's actually pretty damned easy to search through the trash. So don't be afraid to delete. Some things you can delete after reading the subject. Other emails are trivial, useless, annoying,... and deletable as soon as you open them up. Delete, delete, delete... and feel better instantly.

For all the other emails that remain after deleting and filtering, just do whatever you have to do to get them marked as read. Read them, or scan the subject and mark them read. Whatever you need to do to process them, acknowledge them, and move on. Do not try and sort them into piles. The key for me is to keep one copy of every retained email, and keep it in one stream (two actually: inbox and sent), and keep them in chronological order.

But not all email is of equal importance. Not all email is handled in the same way. Which is where marking and labelling come in. The particulars vary with your email client. Outlook supports a handful of marking options that I find useful, like follow-up, review, read, etc. I use this feature a lot, mostly for time-limited follow-ups. In the Outlook world, some emails will become notes, or tasks. But the email remains where I can find it in the only order that is guaranteed to make sense for all kinds of email: chronological order.

I'm falling in love with Gmail's label feature. It supports an open-ended approach to classifying emails that does not require copying or relocating the message. Gmail combines labels with views of labels that provides the best of both the chronologically ordered world and the sorted-into-piles world -- and you can have one message in multiple "piles" without creating copies. I look forward to this feature spreading to other clients. It just makes sense.

Another good filter trick that I've used for years is described over on LifeHacker: Highlight messages addressed to you. This really helps me process my inbox by letting me know if I appear on the To: address list. If I'm only on the cc:, or if I'm getting something via an alias I instantly know before I open it that the author was not speaking to me. That is important. There have been times in my work life, when I've been managing a team for instance, when I was deluged with cc:'ed messages. In those days I had another filter that looked for messages sent from my immediate team members -- my management peers and my work team -- and I used that filter to highlight those from:colleagues in the same way I marked the to:me emails. But that has not been a problem recently. My project teams use wikis, blogs, and other info repositories effectively to reduce those annoying cc:-shotgun emails.

Of course, keeping everything in the inbox cannot last forever. Unless we're talking about Gmail. For my non-web hosted email I keep a tree of folders called Archives where old emails go to pasture. Whenever my inbox or sent box grows to about 700 messages, I take the 500 oldest ones and create a new archive mailbox in the Archives folder tree. I name these folders based on the date of the newest message in that folder. So if I'm archiving 500 received emails that span the dates 12/15/05 to 1/28/06, I call it "Inbox-06-01-28", if it is for my sent messages from 9/1/05 through 12/18/05, I call it "Sent-05-12-18". Note that the yy-mm-dd format, along with the zero-padding, make it so the list of archive folders sorts in correct chronological order. A few other qualities to note about this method: the list mail, and other bot-mail has already been removed from the stream, so it will not clutter your archives. Filters take care of it and eventually you can delete it and forget about it. The other thing is that physical back-up is a breeze. You can occasionally run a full back up, but mostly all you need is incremental backups via CD, DVD, or mirroring.

Oh, and one more thing: if you use Outlook, I feel sorry for you. Archiving is harder than just letting Outlook do whatever it does. That leaves you with a huge, monolithic and impenetrable binary blog of email that only Outlook reads. Be sure to export your emails out of Outlook to a format you can archive. Thunderbird knows how to hoover all your email out of Outlook. Other clients can probably do the same. Rescue that old email now, preferably to a near-plain-text format like mbox (what Thunderbird uses) that can be safely archived and easily accessed in the years to come.

The salient beauty of this chronological system of mine is that it is simple, universal, predictable, usable, and easy to maintain and archive. I don't waste any motion trying to classify and organize everything into categories, or themes, or any squishy ill-defined order. Nothing about the system changes as my life changes, as my work changes, or as my correspondences change. Life happens in chronological order. So does my email.

There. Thanks to the 43Folders folks for spurring me to write this. I've watched other people struggle with their emails for years now, smug with the knowledge that I know better. Now I've laid it out, I hope someone reads this and let's me know what they think. It may not work for you. But it sure works for me. And I have nearly 15 years of archives that prove it to me.


Add lots of energy and stir

Remember when global warming was in dispute and no one was willing to predict the specific consequences of warming on local climates? We seem to be advancing well beyond that now that warming is here, local changes can already be observed, and local climate / weather models get better and better: EO News: Better Estimates for Future Extreme Precipitation in Europe - March 29, 2006

Researchers in Switzerland report that extreme rains in Europe may grow stronger and more frequent in the near future and have significant effects on the region’s infrastructure and natural systems.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I bet I can do better

From Engadget: Toyota's self-parking car coming soon to US

US drivers may soon be able to sit back and let Toyota's Prius do the parking for them, as drivers in the UK and Japan can already do, using a $700 'parking assist' option. With the option, drivers need only sit back and control the speed of the car with the brake pedal while the car takes control of the wheel and maneuvers itself into place.
I bet I can get into smaller space faster. Let me at 'em! Something tells me I'll buy this around the same time I get an automatic — which is not to say never. Some of the CVT transmissions look pretty hip. I could go without a clutch for that. But I'm betting the first generation of this stuff will be pretty tame. I'm confident I can whip its sorry butt...

Smithsonian deal with Showtime draws fire

From Ars Technica: Smithsonian deal with Showtime draws fire

With the new partnership between Showtime and the Smithsonian, it's probable that much of the Smithsonian's extensive archives will be locked down, meaning that documentary and educational filmmakers will lose out. By extension, the public will too. Coming up with creative ways to fund government institutions such as the Smithsonian sounds good in the abstract. Unfortunately, the reality involves putting a lock on the door to the nation's attic and handing the key to a private entity.
Does every damned thing have to be for sale?

DeLay on Hillary

DeLay on tape: ‘There’s nothing worse than a woman know-it-all.’ What a schmuck.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

War and Piece:

Holey crap. Culture of corruption indeed. This from War and Piece:

LAT: "Two eyewitnesses say that former lobbyist Jack Abramoff proposed to sell his services to the much-criticized government of Sudan to help improve its abysmal reputation in the United States, especially among Christian evangelicals..."

Pharyngula: Treating honest science as a crime

I find myself reading every single post on Pharyngula, even though I don't much care about evolutionary biology, nor debunking ID. I just like what he writes and who he skewers. And this post is a good example of why I like him so much: The swiftboating of Eric Pianka

Get used to it. This is part of the right-wing strategy to attack the academy: when scientists honestly state bad news (and there is much bad news, and it's growing), they are going to be rabidly accused of all kinds of outrageous crimes. It's the new McCarthyism. The majority of us do not support short-sighted policy, we don't endorse jingoism, we are going to urge people to think before acting, we are going to predict the consequences of bad policy, and we are generally going to be critical of demagogues and fools…and that is being treated as a crime.

Darfur: Egypt's Pernicious Role

Hmmm.... I had not thought about this, but it makes a lot of sense: Darfur: Egypt's Pernicious Role in the Genocide

By consistently defending Sudan's genocidal leaders on the international stage, Egypt has earned considerable goodwill from Khartoum, and therefore leverage over the regime. That is exactly what Cairo wants.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Feed Readers, revisted

One of the earliest posts from this blog, which I still link to on my sidebar, was How do I read your blog?. I still keep a link to that on my sidebar. Ten months later, it's time to update my advice. Or is it?

Yesterday I ran into this review: TechCrunch » The State of Online Feed Readers

If you are looking purely for performance, Google Reader and FeedLounge are the fastest in our tests. Bloglines and Rojo are the best choice if you are looking for a feature rich application (and Rojo blows Bloglines away on "web 2.0" type features).

None, however, yet approach the speed and agility of the best desktop based readers like NetNewsWire and FeedDemon.
Which is more or less what I was saying a year ago. Rojo was brand new then, but clearly had some interesting features. Since that time I still visit it occassionally. It gives me a nice way to sample the latest posts on my favorite blogs. But I don't like using it to review all my feeds and catch up. Bloglines, esepcially since I keep my feeds in categorized folders, is much better for that.

I also have played with the feed features in gmail, in the google deskbar, and on the Firefox bookmarks toolbar. These tools may work if you don't have a lot of feeds to track. I've set a few readers of this blog up with a Firefox toolbar feed, so I know it works for some people. But they are just not good enough for the volume of feeds that I like to monitor.

As for the desktop readers, I said then that I don't know about 'em because I don't use 'em — and it's still true. Web based feed readers have the advantage of being available anywhere you go. And I regularly check my feeds from at least three different workstations. So the desktop readers may be fast and wonderful. But they are not for me.

Bottom line: go to and sign up. Take a look at my public feeds. You might find a few you want to subscribe to yourself. Jump in, the water's fine.

Darfur: 'Disaster of Biblical Proportions'

Here are a couple of reports from the Coalition for Darfur blog. By tracking the headlines coming from this blog I've learned more than I could by reading, avidly, the news. First up: Coalition for Darfur: Darfur: Aid Worker Fears 'Disaster of Biblical Proportions'

Matthew McGarry has spent a year crisscrossing West Darfur with food and aid to help the victims of a government-supported campaign of rape, killing, looting and destruction. Unless the situation improves quickly, he fears he may have only delayed their horrible fate.

Not only has violence flared up again, hindering humanitarian aid but the conflict has spilled into neighboring Chad. To make matters worse, money is running short after a year wracked with international crises.
'If there is no progress or a solution or relief funds dry out, all the work that went in keeping people alive is going to vanish,' said McGarry, a 27-year-old relief coordinator for Christian Relief Services.

He fears a 'disaster of biblical proportions' unless more people pay attention to this parched corner of Africa.
Next up, President George Bush on Wednesday Said That 'Genocide Has to be Stopped
In remarks that do far more to highlight US impotence and lack of resolve, President Bush went on to declare that, “‘this is serious business. This is not playing a diplomatic holding game.... When we say genocide, that means genocide has to be stopped’” (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, South African Press Agency [dateline: Washington, DC], March 29, 2006).

Perhaps President Bush has forgotten that his administration made a formal genocide determination over a year and a half ago: on September 9, 2004 then-Secretary of State Colin Powell testified to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “genocide has been committed in Darfur, and the government of Sudan and the Janjawid bear responsibility.” The many hundreds of thousands of Darfuris who have subsequently perished, experienced violent displacement, rape, torture, and the misery of lives defined by fear and deprivation provide gruesomely abundant evidence that the genocide continues. These victims also make clear that the Bush administration does not really regard genocide in Darfur---and increasingly eastern Chad---as urgent or “serious business.” In fact, all evidence suggests that the administration is indeed playing precisely a “diplomatic holding game.”

War and Piece: Rummy to go?

War and Piece is quoting The Nelson Report on the odds that Bolten's will appointment will lead to Rumsfeld's demise: From tonight's Nelson Report

... Republican friends say do not expect to see any major moves, including asking Treasury’s John Snow to retire, before Bolten is in place. But when that happens, it will shock few. The “Big One” is Rummy...has President Bush finally gotten to the point where he sees Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld as a liability, not an asset? You can see evidence for this, if you want.

Specifically, note who has been run out for TV recently defending and explaining Iraq...Bush, not Rumsfeld. The President has been forced to put himself irrevocably on the line, both in public, and with the press, because Rumsfeld has lost all credibility...that’s what our Republican friends say is the “inside word”.

Sources also confirm that the President has absorbed the fact that the professional military has completely given up on Rumsfeld...admittedly a process which began for some “uniforms” even before 9/11, but which has continued to affect...or infect...virtually the whole military establishment today. (Rumsfeld’s contemptuous treatment of the senior brass...including the Joint Chiefs...has become legend, if somewhat under-reported, since these folks are loyal to the institution, if not the man, despite the provocations.)
Not a moment too soon. Not that his replacement will make everything better. But maybe it won't continue to get worse.