Monday, December 12, 2005

Writing On the Stone

I picked this up at CNN:

Tonino Tola is a 75-year-old farmer from Sardinia, Italy. He starts his day at dawn with a little coffee, some cheese and one or two glasses of wine from his small vineyard. By midmorning he has milked his cows and walked miles to reach his pastures.

"If you don't drink to avoid dying, if you don't eat to avoid dying, if you don't smoke to avoid dying, and if you see a beautiful woman and you don't go after her... then you may as well be buried alive!"

Zorba lives.

In these days of overocculated existence, relentless pursuit of digital perfection, and the elitist bad habits of the boomer generation that strangle the careers of our younger compadres while we try to hang on to that title as the Magic Bus Generation, it's nice to know some folks still get it. Living is live, it is messy, it is fun and it breaks your heart but without that, you can't know how good it is to have one.

Rock on, Tonino.

We watch too much TV, too many DVDs, and too many web sites with airbrushed perfect professionally posed pop tarts. To keep our attention, the images get brassier, the colors more colored, the music too loud and the emotions too cruel to contemplate. Working on the Dickens reading and giving it away as digital Christmas cards, I am being reminded of the joy of listening... just listening, as if the ear for so long the servant of 5.1 HDTV, becomes glad to be the main sense, to let the mind make up images in accordance with the dictates of the sound, the reading, the voice actors, the sound effects and Ludvig.

God bless Ludvig where ever he is. And thank you.

People say emotions are bad for business. Possibly. Do I really want to be in a business where that is true? I don't. Modern life in TechnoLand is too much like London in winter, and maybe that was Dickens' point. The relentless pursuit of any perfect moment, color, sound, love or just a cup of mocha is too much like sanding off my skin with coarse grain because I think beneath the blemishes of real life there is a better one. I don't think there is. There is this one. The difference is how much pain I create trying to perfect a world that already endures so much pain it has to paint it digitally and remake it into surround sound to escape. It is as Scrooge's fiance says to him as she irrevocably releases him, "You fear the world too much." and in her tears for what he once was, his heart dies.

So as the merchants go about taking Merry Christmas off the signs, making sure the ads are neutered of all special emotions and replaced with politically correct ones, while the hard Christian right has to face the facts that using Christ's name in the pursuit of power over others, to defend the unforgivable, that in doing that they caused the very pushback they say they are afraid of, that in their fears they found their demons and embraced them, I say listen to Dickens.

See the writing on the stone. It is a name.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

SOA: Like Ludwig Did It

What are the qualities one wants from federated aka, 'mashup' pages built over services?

  • Seamlessness: no big glaring boo boos in format or behavior.

  • Reliability: no piece mysteriously failing and causing the other pieces to look bad

  • Composability: pieces can be assembled together quickly and intuitively

Web components should fit together as neatly as Ludvig Von Beethoven's music and assemble as easily as Adobe Audition. Music tools are always about a decade ahead of the rest of the software industry; so if like other aphoristic models of technical development (see Moore's Law), I should get this eventually.

For my Christmas card this year, I recorded Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" doing all of the characters (except the Cratchits: my wife and kids took those parts), narration, sound effects, etc. I used Adobe Audition to do that in case that is interesting. Audition is good easy to use multitrack recording and mastering software with plenty of clean effects and an intuitive interface. But the real serendipity was choosing to use Ludvig Von's music over composing my own.


Beethoven and Dickens are close in era, so in timing, tone and theme, they are quite composable and reliable, but the delight is that Beethoven's works are seamless. I avoided the 'hits' (say Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata, opening of the Fifth, etc.) and grabbed bits of lesser known pieces and inner pieces of the symphonies. Some of these were composed years, even decades apart and recorded by different performers in different periods. Using various recordings both vinyl and CD, I had to do some serious click and pop removal but, that is what Audition does well.

They fit together seamlessly. The effect is as my wife says, 'enchanting'.

Web Services Should Work Like Beethoven's Music: you can slice it and dice it and it just works. The level of knowledge of keys, transitions, melodic development, chordal progressions, dynamics and orchestration required are enormous yet almost all of his works are memorable, hummable and accessible. When he applied technical virtuosity, it was in service of the dynamic perceived by the user as emotional anticipation, fulfillment and release, not the performer's angst about playing fast and accurately on the device of the day. It's a high standard for musicians and I wonder if there are similar prodigies in the world of software services.

That is the challenge for the mashup component builder. When someone puts the services together, they have to just work. I can get that fromBeethoven.

The question would be, what would be the experience if I tried that with Beethoven and Mozart and Bach and Schumann. The challenge of today's software behemoths is exactly that: what happens if I take your components and mash them together? Will they just work? Will certain melodies stand out garishly in bad taste where taste matters? Or is it a matter of taste where taste is knowing what to choose or to stick to one company just as I stuck to Beethoven even with that Mozart CD staring at me like Marley on the knocker?

If we are to pick common formats, we should choose based on the ability of the web service builder to compose, mashup, and serve up without seams, without glaring bugs, and with the ease of putting together slices in sequencing/recording systems that are to web pages what Adobe Audition is to audio production. If Enterprise Engineering is to come to the Service Oriented Architecture, that's what we need for productivity.

Having discovered the joy of working with dead collaborators who don't object to me remixing their work, I plan to work with more famous decomposers in the future.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Meaning Of Life and What We Can Do About It

Life has meaning. As soon as the intellectual property issues are settled, the Americans will license it to the English so they can sell books about it not being worth discussing, the French will claim the meaning is really different or at least not what the Americans are selling, the Russians will implement it faster, the Japanese will improve it, the Germans will write precise algorithms for identifying it on sight, the Indians will sell services for it and the Australians will live it.

If there is someone I managed not to offend with that, I apologize in advance.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Kate Bush: Aerial

There it sits on the desk in front of me, opened but unplayed. It was twelve years in the making. The last time I had a new Kate Bush album, I weighed a lot less and had a lot more hair. I lived in a different neighborhood, worked for a different company, drove a different car, had different friends, still had my band, well.... lots of things were different.

What hasn't changed: my utter fascination, admiration and adoration of the music of Kate Bush. I won't explain that. It's like explaining a nicotine addiction to people who have never smoked cigarettes. You won't understand and I don't care. She simply is the one real genius of modern pop for the last fifty years. Every disposable tart act out there stands in her shadow, and so do most of the modern songwriters. It isn't that she is perfect. Kate takes some getting used to if you were as I was raised in the American South on country and blues and whatever the radio served up in the Sixties. On the other hand if like my son, you never are too far from your Pink Floyd mp3s and have a slightly cynical attitude toward whatever the machine is serving up this week, well then you might understand. I dunno. If you understood, you'd have this CD.

And maybe like me, it would be sitting there open and unplayed. You see, when I get a new Kate Bush CD, my mind goes away for awhile. It's like getting a sugar straw full of liquid LSD. It makes me doubt my talent, my skills, my music, my romances, my life, my job.... it makes me weak kneed and slobbery. For you readers who think this is a sex thing, well... you are right about that. She is 47 and I am 51 and so the f**k what.... she is Kate Bush. No one does it better; no one ever has.

I've simply too much to do to risk losing it to this sultry delicious maddening woman. I may have to stare at that soundwave profile of a bird call for another month until I've completed mixing my own album and finishing this production of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". If I listen to that album, I'll stop working, start analysing and comparing, and dammit, another silly season will be done before I've the guts to get back to my own work.

.... it's just too risky.... it's like... well... you know what it's like.... but i just gotta... too weak... too overcome by.... KateLust.

Bye bye focus... hello Kate.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Secret Poobahs

I saw this earlier at Kurt Cagle's blog and that is a nice compliment. I'm not an important person in the world of XML nor was I ever important in the world of SGML. And I am not an expert in 3D. Just a hacker. Think of me as a fair witness, but not a contributor, and like Marley, I will fade backward out a window that opens magically into a world of nothing.

So I'm not a hero but I've seen some. Like Jim Mason and Lynne Price, they take care of young people, they see to it things connect, and even in anonymity, wield incredible power over world events by working for those who share their values.

I've seen a lot of office politics, proven performers, up and comers and all the rest. They don't impress me. If you pick a target and shoot often, you hit something. Who cares? That is the question. Shared values are the keys to the suite of the secret poobahs who change the world.

So I ask you, what are your values and who do you share those with?

No matter what games you learn to play, your ultimate impact on the world will be determined by those values and who shares them. Some people want to run the place, and they can get what they want. Some people actually want to change the world and the rules for doing that are quite a bit different.

Winning is not owning.

You discover the closer you get to the top, the less real power you really have because you are too closely watched and the system is too sensitive to your every mood. When that happens, you have to spend so much time controlling yourself, you can control very little else. That isn't much of a victory, I'd say.

So you must always ask, qui bono? Who benefits? If it is just you, that is a very small kingdom. True power is knowing where the system is sensitive and thumping it just a little even at risk to your own career because if the values are right, the results will be right and in the long term, you will win.

Dare to do but do that for those who share your values. That is all you need to know.

For those of you who celebrate it, have a Happy Thanksgiving. For those of you who don't, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2005

All The Gold In California

Dave Pawson sends the URI for Paul Graham's blog about what Web 2.0. is. I know what it is. My question: qui bono? Who benefits?

iTunes is Web 2.0ish in this sense. Finally you can buy individual songs instead of having to buy whole albums. The recording industry hated the idea and resisted itas long as possible. But it was obvious what users wanted, so Apple flew under the labels. [4] Though really it might be better to describe iTunes as Web 1.5. Web 2.0 applied to music would probably mean individual bands giving away DRMless songs for free.
Paul Graham

Notice that this is one big monolithic corporation taking over the turf of other big corporations. In the old days, it would be iTommyGuns.

If you are on the production side of music instead of the consuming side, you notice that the last sentence is right precisely and only because iTunes will sell you individual songs, BUT they don't accept songs from individual artists.

Good for you. However, those hoping for freeing the artists from groveling to the record labels take note: now they grovel to Apple or one of Apple's designated MiddleGuys.

That's right. If you are an independent artist who wants to get a few shekels for your work and you see iPods as the new transistor radio, take note of Apple's policies: artists deal with middleGuys who deal with Apple. The middleGuys only deal with artists who make CDs (no submission of individual tunes) and have representation in the form of a label that represents many artists and they do this for tadaaaa: a percentage. Now I ask you, as iTunes proves, why should we be making CDs when they are selling individual songs?

Qui bono? The guys in the middle taking the bite are also selling CDs. And taking a bite. The artists, ahem, the labels still have to produce CDs and kids, that ain't cheap.

So that's Web 2.0 for the artist: the bad old business model reconstituting itself on the web and Apple making sure that happens. Volitionally. Good guys? Think again. These are business people with a market to conquer. Apple and their "contributors" take lots of little bites making one big bite into the product with no value added but to say 'yes'.

Umm... excuse me but that is exactly what we were doing before the web, during the web, and now Web 2.0 comes along to tell us no 'natch for the content makers without representation. Wow. Some victory....

So for you dweebs out there dwelling on how good it all is, Web 2.0 is good for programmers, venture capitalists, and people who believe the cost of software should be an item on their phone bill. Big artists are still a product of marketing. Street musicians and garage bands are still street musicians and garage bands. The only real improvement is they can pick the corner. The cost of recording is time and a few thousand bucks for gear. So sure, the good artists can record cheaper but that is about it. They are still on the street, on their own, out of luck and out of the money.

So if you pass one of them, toss a few coins in the hat and they'll toss back a few DRMless mp3s which by fact of having given them away, reduced their economic value to zero.

So artists are what they always were: meat. Smart ones build their own Web 2.0 web sites and have Paypal or its ilk anyway. The rest of us do it for boo.

What does Web 2.0 mean? It means exactly what the market always means: the same people get to make money again for the same software except this time it will be cheaper, come in smaller boxes, and do less than it did last time which means you will buy/download/subscribe to more to get the same. But this time, when it gets obsoleted, you will change like it or not. You may not notice, and you won't have to hunt through your old CDs for the backups but if you lose your credit card number, it won't matter anyway because they don't know your name, just your credit card number.

The Web 2.0 is the next version of progress for the same reasons for the same people: items based on scarcity may not be interesting to investors, but scarce capital is everyone's problem. The ownership society never acknowledges that and that is Graham's social network.

"All the gold in California is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else's name..." The Gatlin Brothers.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

XML 2005: Document Formats

As chair of this session, it seems appropriate I provide personal notes. First, let me compliment all attendees on the tremendous and evident respect they brought to the discussion and each other. You are clearly leaders and deservedly so. While none, I think, believed decisions could be made in the town hall, your seeking common understanding in respectful debate was a marvel to experience. Thank you.

The following are questions that were in my opinion, pivotal in the discussion with my personal opinions about the issues arising from them.

1. What is open?

A clear consensus for this question did not emerge. All sides have valid arguments for the technologies they sell, specify and standardize. Questions of the open and closed market models resolve to company choice.

Opinion: The participation agreements of the consortia make adoption and participation separable. While there is an emerging consensus on the qualities of openness, their is no policy or means of enforcement without a clear means of identification. It may be sufficient to say that open is best defined in accordance with the policies of the publishing authority such as OASIS or the W3C given an ontology of concepts for that term and the provability of assertions of duty in the records of authority for the obligated parties. It will be well for the market if such ontologies are sharable among consortia and government alike. This is a significant challenge.

NOTE: Tim Bray made the valid point that the participants in the discussion are not legal experts. IANAL.

Opinion: It is clear that all sides have market ambitions. Mutual interests are likely to converge around costs of sustaining loss leader technologies. A specification represents opportunity; a standard represents market reality as costs to producer and consumer. The advantage of a standard to the vendor is that development costs can be shared and components are interoperable. The advantage to the consumer is that costs can be controlled. A clear shared interest is cost control.

2. What is open enough?

Given item one, there is no consensus here. However, this is where the most progress is being made. XML provides the opportunity to create a common markup for word processing document types and much technology is being provided for systems to share formats. At issue is sharing semantics such that the rendering and behavioral qualities are predictable and reliable for the end user as far as possible.

Opinion: The concern expressed by Microsoft was early adoption of standards such as XSD are costly and if not well liked, contribute to premature obsolescence. In my opinion, this is a risk all early adopters take. The vendor is expected to evaluate a specification and the process of its development. Thus, this is not simple a question of open enough, but also, good enough. In the market, I expect consumers to understand the relative development maturity of software and to choose wisely. It works for cars and other consumer goods. All sides assume this risk.

The concern expressed by open software advocates has both practice and egalitarian appeals. They assert that open specifications developed by all of the market vendors provide the best software, a position sometimes known as, the wisdom of crowds. However, XSD. It is a workable technology, but is it the best or good enough? So in fairness, this wisdom does not always work as advertised. If the best advice is to create as few languages as possible, parties must create very good ones or this strategy saddles the market with mediocrity.

Again, this is a risk of early adopters. RelaxNG is a viable alternative. The problem of the market is sales cycle. A vendor does not see a customer again for some time. The question of standardization can vary by application. The strategy of specification over standardization is to give the market time to decide. Given this, for specification of new products, it is prudent to standardize as little as possible to enable decisions to be made more granularly and timely.

The winning strategy is found in reducing the complexity of the application itself, such that the end user is receiving only those components clearly needed by role and task or preference. This is where the question for egalitarian positions is: given the disadvantage accrues to the vendor with the most legacy, how does the vendor adopt an open specification if the immediate results break fiduciary duty to the company ownership?

But is this question that cut and dry?

Metaphorically, legacy is to market what mass is to momentum and distance traveled over time. If one suddenly cuts the mass, the distance over time can beat the speed of light. An example as Matt Fuchs pointed out over breakfast is XML itself. The task of refactoring SGML for web applications cut mass. Then the market achieved momentum and distance.

So, if the answer to what is open enough is, the market chooses and what the market chooses becomes the standard, then a specification must achieve enough mass in terms of users to achieve momentum. The conundrum is the vendor of a product with sufficient legacy releases a large number of customers as well as software support when legacy is terminated. So the vendor will wait until the software components and the language achieve a point of inflection.

Analysis of Outcome: The open document community must keep up the pressure. Microsoft will implement openDoc as part of a strategy to move their customers from their loss leaders to lower cost software that enables a switch to service systems. The question is timing and the complaint is that this is not an open market. This is not as open a market as some need or think more provident to more companies, but it is an opportunity to do this better than the current marjority market leader.

Because a standard becomes a game model where the evolutionary stable strategy is a Nash equilibrium, it is best to defer standardization until need is clear to all parties. Disruption isn't always good, but winning need not be defined as owning.

Offtopic Lessons Learned at XML 2005

Bloggers with technical training and technical assignments are blogging the important lessons of XML 2005. I am neither. I've never contributed a single topic or technical item of any importance to XML or the web in general. I am a pundit, an observer of the mammals, and really, just a poet/songwriter. Life among the mammals fascinates me and I do pay attention to that. In a technical world of technical assignments, that is offtopic. Let those who care to read, read, and otherwise, must-ignore applies here.

Lessons learned:

  • Once a greased pig is let loose, no man or woman is its master. There may be a profound lesson about XML and/or the web there.

  • To keep coyotes away, kill one and nail its corpse to the fencepost. Texans have known this for years. That explains the career of the Dixie Chicks.

  • In the American South, addressing a woman as "mad'm" is a gesture of respect. In other parts of the world, it's a putdown. Tolerance is best.

  • Science often gives evidence for things best ignored in polite conversation. Let the world work out the consequences for that which it cannot admit.

  • Snakes fear their handlers. Understanding that is the key to keeping them as pets.

  • At every markup conference I've attended, there is a group of contractors and civil servants telling the audience that the lack of interoperability among Tri-service (think DoD) systems nearly caused the last war to be lost. This problem either has no solution or the lack of a solution is profitable. Since the web is an existence proof that whole continents of festering souls have achieved communications over systems that interoperate, it may be time to look at that second possibility squarely and meanly.

  • On the other hand, in a world where keeping secrets and only giving information within a legal framework designed to protect human rights and freedom, it is very hard to interpret the law and apply the technology while still doing those jobs. Future-proof seldom is.

  • I am told that at the last three markup conferences I've attended, I've 'chatted up' at least one brilliant beautiful woman. Guilty as charged. No remorse. Brilliant beautiful woman are not only fun, they can be the best friends a po'boy ever has. It's not about one-nighters; it's about life long friendship with someone I wish to care about because they are capable of caring even if they don't. As the song says, "I can't make you love me if you don't.", but I can get to know you in that short time granted. That is treasure enough and a good reason for what others might consider, bad behavior. As a friend said to me, "You can never know what goes between two people". It is possibly less than you think and more important than you can know.

  • It isn't always best to sit at the front table. The informative conversations are often with people who's acquaintence was a random accident. I crabwalked my way into my career and that is a design pattern.

  • The music industry is corrupt because of its origins in the nightclubs and speakeasys of the early part of the 20th century. The book industry is not corrupt because of its origins in the patronage of nobles some centuries earlier. The people managing the room make the difference. The reason for the success of the web and XML is because of the values of the very small groups of scientists, technicians and humanists who created these. That they cohere and persist are the driving and shaping forces. As these people fade from the scene, the only guarantor of future success, that this *stuff* does as little harm as possible, is the persistence of those values. For that reason, even though there may be no technical contributions, it is important that stories be told, examples made, and that these people be both honored and remembered. I was most glad to see Jim Mason honored and to converse with some of the other SGML cognoscenti. They took care of me when I was younger and just as dumb as I am today. It is about the people, not the stuff. If you really intend to "do no evil", remember that while you are building these marvelous toys.

  • If the room staff accidentally breaks your $50 Norelco, it is good luck that it happen in an expensive hotel that replaces it out of the overpriced gift shop with a $100 Remington. ;-)

  • Kids always like the t-shirts you bring home. Dad's live for the hugs.
  • The Goblet of Fire

    After a long drive, a nap and a cup of coffee, I went to see Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire with Dana, Buddha and the Boo. It is excellent. The makers really got this right. It is not for younger children but for anyone else that likes this kind of thing, this is that kind of thing. The special effects are purposeful and stunning. The action is fast and the plot is not belabored as it is in the book with foreshadowing details.

    Because the main characters are well-established at this point, they play no more time on the screen than necessary to keep the plot moving. Yet, the movie does take all the time needed to put the values the author says are so important to the stories front and center: loyalty, courage, tenacity, inventiveness, friendship, love and learning. When Hermione chews Ron after the dance, we see that magic or not, the struggle to grow up is what establishes those values, and at the end, change will come; so we best value what we value, fight for it and understand life is not without loss no matter how strong we are, how magical, how clever, or how well loved.

    Well done. Go see. Enjoy.

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    XML 2005: Y'all Come

    Off to Atlanta this week for XML 2005. I am looking forward to spending the time with friends and being tutored on the latest developments in XML and the Web. These are exciting times. Many years of work have blossomed and the world wide open communications we dreamed about years ago have come into being. Many of the people who made that happen will be there.

    This is fun. This is real. And it makes a difference. Since this year XML 2005 is being held in a great Southern city, as we say here in the South, Y'all come.

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    Sam (For Liz): Video

    For giggles and an experiment, I made this video of pix and music. It's a lovely thing at full size but that is around 22mb, so this reduced version is on the web.

    Sam (for Liz)

    The music has been up at my web site for awhile. The pix are gathered off of download sites. Many thanks to the people who provided those.

    I miss her too.

    Friday, November 11, 2005

    The Sociopaths in The White House

    The paper cited below is about the sociobiology of sociopaths and their social strategies. The media talks about culture wars. This isn't that. My theory is this: the Republican leadership at this time is made up of sociopaths, and given their prominence, they created an environment that made it attractive to the sociopath in each of us.

    A sociopath is typically created by early childhood experiences plus genetic disposition in the case of primary sociopathy. The emergence of that personality feature is frequency dependent particularly in secondary sociopaths.

    As Linda Mealy puts it, the sociopath becomes "apparent at a time when immediate environmental circumstances make an antisocial strategy more profitable than a prosocial one." and that is exactly what the strategies of the Republican and evangelical right have done: made cheating advantageous. Karl Rove is the exemplar.

    What is fascinating about the sociopaths in charge at this time is how much emphasis they place on morality while pursuing immoral ends. That is almost the clinical definition of sociopathy at the extremes. America saw this once before during the administration of Nixon and Agnew.

    I've been explaining this to my son who wants to know why things are as dark as they are and why we are seeing a sudden upsurge in student violence here in the South where the solid base of support for the Republican agenda is. I am noting smaller examples of it in behavior of some who now confronted with the evidence of the sociopathy of the administration are in deep denial and actively hostile toward anyone who was not historically supporting the hard line conservative position.

    But the damage and concern are much greater and more insidious than what we do to ourselves. In effect, unless the moderates of both parties pull toward the center, we are poisoning our children for at least a decade much as we were poisoned in the late Sixties and early Seventies. The impact on our lives varied by environment (parents and other social advantages/disadvantages) but they are there.

    We've seen this movie before. It is long, fatiguing and ends with the sound of children screaming followed by a terrible silence.

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    XML: When We Wuz Fab

    Innovation is when someone folds the universe, taking two distant points and connects them. Otherwise, it is incrementalism. The vision for innovation is most always outward seeking. That means someone knows just enough about something to try or say something they won't if they know too much. I'm writing a course on XML this week and had to get XML for Idiots to do it. It isn't that I don't know enough; it's that I know too much. Even then, I keep looking up pointsto be sure I'm right. So the chances that I will ever innovate on XML are pretty slim.

    That's Ok. XML is mostly done and the undone parts are undone to keep us honest. Otherwise, we'd cheat and take LISP and a Volkswagen repair manual and come up with something really cool and totally obsolete. But reallllly efficient.

    And that would die. Why? Too hard to innovate on that... and the heater wouldn't work. You have to leave something undone for the next guy. Otherwise, he won't take possession and get passionate about innovation. When something becomes plumbing, everyone thinks they can do it, and where's the fun in that?

    When XML was SGML and not well-liked by the programming community, the documentation and hypertext communities that did like it conceived of many extraordinary uses for it. When SGML became XML and was well-liked by the programming community, most of those extraordinary uses dwindled as the programming community was as it always is, absorbed in the minutiae of tools and syntaxes, content to treat it as bits on the wire, not as a fertile ground for extraordinary uses. Thus to the world at large, XML became plumbing, a dull subject and mostly one that is well understood.

    I cannot conceive of a commercial like the one for faucets where an attractive venture capitalist is shown a software firm. She places a chunk of XML down on the table in front of a CTO and asks, "Can you design a business around this?"

    But I think perhaps someone will. I want to work for that guy or live with that girl.

    The Rules of Sex For Men

    So many serious subjects; so little bloggin' time.

    Tonight, the rules of sex for men.

    Not wanting to blog about topics I have no expertise in, these are the rules for Hetero-mutual sex for men. Women may have rules but they don't tell. That may be a rule. Men need help.

    Not the how; there are no rules for how. That is a topic for scrupulous study and experimentation, so take it to the lab and make careful observations. Watch some films. Or do both at the same time. It's all ok as long as it's mutual. Oh... and ask questions when in doubt... laughter is not no. No is no.

    Anyway, the rules:

    Rule #1: Everybody gets their cookie. Otherwise, it ain't mutual.

    Rule #2: Women come first. Otherwise, given nature's machinery, men break rule #1.

    There may be other rules, but those will get ya by until she tells you what they are. She can break the rules. Men... don't. Rule number one is there to make sure you get enough chances to master rule number two in case you break it.

    That's all. That's enough rules for a lifetime for men. We are simple creatures and too many rules will make us forget rule number one.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Take It To The People

    If you are keeping up with the Massachusetts decision to require OpenDoc, you possibly know that a bill has been filed to require any such technical standard to be approved by a four member panel appointed by the Commonwealth Senate to contravene this decision. The politics of special interests over the interests of the people of the Commonwealth are clear.

    The decision to adopt OpenDoc was based on thorough research into open formats by people who are experts in this field: The State IT staff.

    I am extremely impressed that IT professionals are stepping up to the challenge. The profound possibilities and dangers of the World Wide Web aren't fully understood, and because they evolve with the technology, we will never have such assured understanding. IT professionals get this. Others only see business potential and as a result, the Web continues to be fielded witlessly by some, greedily by others, wisely by a few.

    The best minds I know in the business all agree that regardless of what transpires in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the future for large interoperable and cross-referenced systems is open formats just as the past has been for HTML, SVG, X3D and the SGML application languages that preceded XML. Markup professionals for the most part understand why: cost control and preserving the rights of individual expression. This is not a trivial issue nor one that can be neglected by the States and even the Federal government.

    To the Patriots in Massachusetts: take it to the people. Make sure the Senators who are sponsoring the bill in question are fully engaged by the press, both in the Commonwealth and world wide. Be there to answer and be there to explain to the people what they are losing when such bills become law.

    And point to the Senators.

    Power corrupts. The only cure is consequences. Take it to the people. One lesson learned on the Internet is that crowds are not always right, but they are often wise.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005


    Rewritten for parsability. Thanks Norm.


    Issues of legal expression surround the relationship of vested authority to a namespace. Ownership rights obtain to the authority over changes to the definition of the namespace and the semantics by which it is enabled.

    XML moves the data but XML is a syntax for formats. The legal rights of expectation obtain to compliance to the XML 1.0 and 1.1 specifications but not semantics. Format rights are negotiable, but experience says closing these limits their growth if closing them means

    1. Syntax changes of labeled values and structures can only be made by the owner

    2. Extensions by relationship to semantic definitions cannot be made by the user of the format.

    The ecosystem favors open formats. Open formats that evolve in collaboration with the environment faithfully track the requirements of the environment. That closed formats exist in the ecosystem is undeniable and is also the right of the owner, but that systems which support public work do not support open formats, the closed format acts to remove rights of ownership from the public. Authorities who close formats obtain not just the rights of the syntax, but of the expression because they own all rights to the implementation that enables it, that is, the semantics.

    The decision in Massachusetts to impose open formats asserts the right of the owners of expression, the content, in the case, the people of the Commonwealth. The decision is an assertion of State sovereignty over the means and manner of fulfilling the obligation of the State under law to best fulfill the sacred contract between those who have such authority and those whom they serve, in whose authority rights through governance obtain, to provide the most ownership, therefore, the most freedom to the people.

    Massachusetts is to be saluted for once again, showing the leadership born in the Boston streets, demonstrating by example that most essential American trait, Yankee ingenuity and just a touch of revolution. They drink sassafrass and dump the King's tea in the river rather than pay a Stamp Tax.

    We call them Patriots.


    It is our country, and in my corner and yours, a value shared as Americans is our patriotism. Patriots know when the people are the most free, they are the happiest, the most fruitful, and the most tolerant. Thereby, they obtain the most love, for the duty of patriotism is not love of country, but of making a country safe for love of country.

    Sunday, October 30, 2005

    Outing the White House Spinmeisters

    Watching the Tim Russert round table on NBC this morning, one would conclude that the only wrong done was failing to keep good notes of conversations.

    Raise your hands: how many of you know that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA agent?

    All of you. Enuff said.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    March of the Intelligently Designed Penguins

    The conservatives are touting March of the Penguins as an ode to monogamy. It confirms what I've always thought: it's for the birds. They also say it confirms intelligent design. So an intelligent creator dresses you in a tuxedo and makes you walk hundreds of miles to find a mate, then after sex, you have to stand around rolling an egg between your toes while she goes fishing.

    Ok, I get that last bit. I live in Alabama. But I don't fish in a tux. It scares the bait.

    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    VRML and The Numbers

    The deal for authors of content on open source software should be that the content is open. Trust works better than technology.

    If the programmers accept this deal, I don't see why the content authors believe they have to get a better deal.

    But it keeps VRML from being adopted by the $ content paid for by employers that pay the salaries of engineers for 3D content. CAD. So far, no one has invested the $ into a VRML project that it takes to assemble and maintain a team to create a very compelling VRML-based game for online or single-download play.

    Worlds, yes.

    Look at the price difference though: say $35 to $40 to belong to a chat site, vs $35 to $40 to download a single copy of a game. Downloading worlds is having the band come to play for you instead of buying their records except they come for pennies a gig and someone else has to own the club. So while online worlds are where much of the best VRML content is, cost per gig has to increase to pay the band and the bar.

    Or the teams that build both have to sell both. Gigs and games. This takes serious chops and serious chops earn serious money.

    If someone with serious shekels to bet wants to make a bet, funding a team to build an open format online game with all of the secondary add-in sales is even money tonight. Maybe better. VRML has numbers and technology. By the way, when I say VRML, I mean X3D too. The differences are mostly in the minds of the browser makers. They are for the most part, the same thing.

    Except X3D has encryption and some other baubles, but encryption stands out.

    Lack of encryption denies some vendors access to markets that can buy far more copies of software and services. While computer scientists know that anything you can compile, I can decompile, it is nonetheless believed it constrains theft to only those smart enough to pull it off.

    Sorta true. It gets rid of the bleachers.

    When I saw the first diskcracker in the 80s that started with "Ho Ho Ho! A pirate's life for me..." I gave up on encryption. If it's cool, they'll get it. If it's not, who cares. If they get busted for stealing the Bewitched movie, they are dorks-for-bucks anyway.

    Who cares?

    If they are stealing to learn, that is a different story. That is a compliment. Encryption slows those who can be slowed, but the players hungry for it get it anyway. Might as well smile and accept the compliment.

    It comes down to the variables you believe you can trade-on with your partners. I want to make money from content, but I will make content anyway. Copyright is good enough. My songs are in mpgs and wavs. Anyone with a speaker wire can copy that; so tell me what good those are except to stop another musician from learning my licks and he can do that by listening? Or buy my midis, but all that is saving you is typing time. If you want them, we can talk.

    How exactly does encryption help me? Nada. Copyright is good enough.

    So it comes down to how you pick the variables you trade on.

    This blog is a part of an email response to a Google survey Viveka Wiley did. It showed that VRML use is growing. Other entries to the 3D market such as Adobe's new PDF 3D are entering the market, but VRML by dint of history and community has grown fourfold in the last year. 3D interest is increasing. Why? It's generational. Dominance isn't the issue. PDF coexists with HTML. it is an issue of who gets good numbers, not who is the last browser standing.

    I believe VRML gets good numbers because of the variables selected as it emerged. They shape it. They are deep parts of the networks of selected variables now. In the genes.

    1. PDF with 3D is a done deal. What you use it for and who chooses to use it remain to be seen. I note only that so far, the success of 3D has not been a function of its format but of the difficulty of authoring in the medium and imaginative use of it for one-off downloads. PDF is still a slow loader for anything complex or deep. Hardware happens, but it floats all boats. It comes down to content and reach just as it did for Flash.

    2. VRML's numbers such as they are are increasing because VRML has been adopted by research universities who understand the rationale of the choice to keep VRML open:

    Students can afford it.

    Students are still young enough and loose enough to want openness in their relationships. What loves them, they love. Mathematics departments get it. Archaeology departments get it. Navy scientists get it. As long as the code is open, people are learning it. As long as people are learning it, it is alive. Life is learning; VRML's choice of variables chooses education.

    Don't need no stinkin' badges.

    3. A tipping point in 3D on the Web is approaching. The frequency of new entries into 3D plus the history of VRML in creating 3D presence on the web are coupling to the entry of younger 3D-proficient users onto the web. The first generation of native 3D users has begun to arrive in increasing numbers.

    Pick up your prize. If you pick up mine, send me an email. If you pick up something I was paid to do, it will be encrypted and that makes it the problem of it's owner. Not mine.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    Call Ray: The Recording

    Most songs I release are produced. That means I spend a lot of time in my home studio working on an arrangement, writing out the midi, recording tracks, fixing bad notes, etc. etc. onward to the slickness that technology affords.

    For Call Ray, I sat in front of a mic and sang it one time with my guitar. No retakes, no overdubs, no synths, no technical magic; just the song and the emotion.

    So warts and all, this is as honest as it gets. Why? This one needs to be honest.

    Someone else might produce it and give it slick but I'm not of a mind to do that. Of all the people I've known, things I've done, honors good, bad or ugly, the honor closest to my heart has been to be a member of the tribe of musicians that play rock, blues, folk, country, and classical in bars for people who came to hang their blues on the tab, leave a tip, and be with other people just like themselves. It has always been a privilege. So for all of you who spent time with me particularly in the very early days before I had anything but long hair and a guitar, just my songs, here is an honest song.

    We miss ya, Ray. Happy trails, Man.

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    Katrina and Public Safety

    While I am glad to see the individuals pulling the online resources together in response to Katrina, I reiterate Rex Brooks' post that getting more professional and informed resources into the specification processes for the public safety and justice systems is a very positive response.

    Had CAP and EDXL been online, the response effort could have been better. Among the systems that gather name information, we have location and address, phone numbers, classes of registered vehicles, and named relationships among these. Between your Utility and other public safety agencies, there is sufficient information to warn you and organize the recovery.

    It comes down to cost. What doesn't?

    Sign up lists for notification are optional and through the receiver of your choice as long as it conforms to the specifications for the system and the standards for the data.

    Interoperable asset cataloging and management is needed.

    Interoperable dispatch systems integrated with wide area and broadcast communications are now possible and being implemented.

    Standards are lacking but emerging.

    While large scale sensor systems are vital to homeland security, we are seeing in Katrina the results of overfocusing on one source of hazards to the neglect of more probable ones.

    "Fear is the mindkiller." Frank Herbert.

    We have to face this squarely. This stops. From 9/11 forward we have been operating in a climate of fear and distraction, somewhat normal given the enormity of that event, but ever since being played as a card in the game of political distraction.

    Officials using the destruction of the Gulf Coast by Katrina as the means to push agendas for left or right political causes are not doing their jobs to serve the people. Turn them off for now and remember them later at the ballot box.

    The media is not excused either but frankly, they were in fast and providing real time data.

    We all failed. Too many people are dead, dieing, homeless or grieving to believe otherwise.

    Beware the blame game. It doesn't helo people off roofs.

    From my desk, it is clear that the call list systems were inadequate. Call lists are part of the major incident response protocols that enable resources to be brought on line quickly and efficiently.

    It is likely that inadequate provisions were made for rapid mandatory evacuations, and just as obvious that some people don't heed warnings even when the evidence is in and time is short. It is obvious that some people even with adequate warning do not have the resources to evacuate. That is a very tough problem to solve logistically. When the danger is coming fast, there are no magic helicopters or fleets of ships. It comes down to school buses, flat beds, tractor-trailers, Wal-Marts and Lowes.

    Remember that.

    Think hard about what is on their shelves and which parts you want on the street the morning after. Pass laws.

    A top-down response is always combined with a bottom-up response. There are plenty of lessons to learn for everyone involved. It is obvious that we must step up the pressure to implement a well-thought through and fearless National Response Plan. It is obvious that State and Local protocols must be improved NOW to cope with the need to interoperate at a national level.

    For you XML geeks, it's just the message set, D'oh!

    While local and State control of resources remain standard procedure, requests from these officials are not required to mobilize national assets under the NRP.

    Old habits can be bad habits. New habits save lives.
    Old habits can be good habits. New habits can kill.

    What do you know about your location and what is near you?

    Do you have a plan to find family members fast if your cellphone callist is unavailable?

    Do you know your neighbor's name? Do you know their children's names?

    Do you have an evacuation plan that all of these people know?

    Are there large chemical plants or nuclear reactors near your home? Do you know about plumes and prevailing winds?

    Do you have alternatives?


    If you see a Cat 2 or 3 enter the Gulf in August, you don't need much analysis to know time is wasting. The engine of a hurricane is hot water.

    As a member of the public safety industry watching my company stock climb even as I know public safety systems are inadequate in the face of a Cat 4/5 hurricane, I have that same sick feeling I had on 9/11: making money on misery. On the other hand, I know these systems save lives. And more can be saved.

    Public safety is an industry where ego-driven competition kills people. It is the industry that in the face of this disaster, must come to the standards table.

    The amount of senseless local deviation in your dispatch and records management systems to keep your local response officials nice-to-your-mayor or unions will get you killed. Kick their heads until they implement GJXML, NIMS, CAP, EDXL and other document protocols that work Just-In-Time.

    Regionalize. Immediately.

    Train your cops and firemen on computers. There is NO excuse for a computer illiterate in a cruiser or any other first responder vehicle.

    There is NO excuse for software that is so hard to operate that a college degree is required.

    Know what the real problems are and don't let your public safety systems become political footballs. In my experience, it means you cutover slower and often pay the same money multiple times for bad procurements.

    Coverage and technology are not the same thing. Choose wisely particularly with respect to scale. LANs rule; WANs fuse.

    Networks don't fight floods, fires, or CBRNE but they can place a lot of the right calls to the right people at the right time. At the very least, fix the callLists by event type and support subscription-based notification on any eligible receiver.

    Buy wisely. Pay attention. Act.

    len (speaking only for myself and not my employer)

    Wednesday, August 31, 2005

    Civil War Thinking

    From: Mike Bullard []

    Received this from a friend and the father hits the nail on the head. During the 40s she would have been run out of the US and the threat now is greater than then. We won that one because we stood united. When the politicians are through with her she will be left to die on the vine by herself and they won't be mentioned.

    "An Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan From the Proud Father of a U.S. Marine
    By Brantley Smith
    Posted On August 17, 2005"

    NOTE: Mr Smith's letter is not presented here because of copyrights and permission. Please find his letter and read it.

    I wish it did. It doesn't. Like Ms. Sheehan, it hits to one side of the nail. It is two people with very opposite positions about the way of American foreign policy and the cost of not correcting mistakes quickly before losses mount higher. Brother, I do read a lot and not just the Bible or the Constitution, but history, philosophy, religion, analyses from foreign policy experts and so on. They may know more than me or you, or maybe not. So this is just another whack at the American nail.

    Our fight is not with the Muslims; it is with sects. These are the people who attack us; not the world of Islam. Unless we wish for this. If we do, it will come true.

    Here's the deal with the Muslims: Islam is a religion of peace. The law of Sharia about occupiers on their land is the man who owns it must fight, if he cannot his neighbor must, and if not he, his neighbor to the extent of the whole of the Muslim faith.

    That means eventually, we will have to fight them all if we do not leave the lands of the Middle East when asked by the people of those lands. Who we fight about over that will depend on who welcomes us and who does not. Oil doesn't matter; religion does. We invaded and like VietNam, we will face an insurgency that will only grow stronger. When we leave, a Civil War will occur whether we provide cover or not if this is the will of the people of Iraq. Today, they fight us because we are there. Whatever we think we are achieving, we are not stopping the insurgency. We are prolonging it just as we prolonged the Civil War in VietNam by taking a side after the French failed to hold their colonies in SouthEast Asia.

    Whether Cindy Sheehan is right to protest the loss of her son in a war we should not have started, or whether this man truly believes the sacrifice of his daughter will somehow make him safer, Iraq did not start a war with the United States. We did.

    We violated the one tenet most Americans share: we would not strike first. We say we did this out of fear of Weapons of Mass Destruction when America possesses the
    greatest stock of such in history. If it really is our intention to liberate, then we have done that. If it really is our intent to turn Iraq into the war where all terrorists come to learn how to fight us, we have done that too. If it is our intent to leave in peace and enable the people of the region to choose as freely their lives as we do here, then we must leave.

    If our intent is other than that, then we must ask ourselves if we do as Americans share such cause. If all that sends us there is fear, then we are a dishonored nation before the world for we of all peoples have learned by history and experience the costs of stocks in the village square, or sending our children into harms way to satisfy the craft of craven leaders.

    Bodies. Ours. Theirs.

    At the end of this when we do withdraw as we eventually will, those costs are not unnoticed or dishonored. The children and men who go to die as professional soldiers
    will have as they always have when called, fight selflessly for each other and for whatever else they value.

    It is Their fight. Not mine. Not yours. Not Cindy's. Not Mr. Smith's.

    When they come home, they will tell us if it was worth it, but they will come home, to say or be buried. That is war.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Intelligent Design

    After going into full flame mode on XML-Dev about intelligent design, I should apologize.

    But I won't.

    You see, every time anyone in America apologizes to the evangelicals, their extreme members use it to push their agendas harder. This is the only group I know of this side of the Moonies that have summer camps for preparing children to debate their agendas. I don't want that taught to my children. There are lots of parts of their agenda I oppose, but most of them can be debated without pulling the rest of the world into the debate.

    Intelligent design is not science. It is religion. Science does not admit universal first cause. Why? Because this premise is not testable or verifiable. Once introduced, logical investigation stops. Competent well-trained scientists know this. Those who mix their faith into their technique of investigation, and science is technique, know this.

    My position on the existence of God can be found all over my writings. My beliefs are as strong as they need to be. My relationship with God is not for anyone else to judge.

    But I do not and cannot accept this thesis that attempts to beggar that relationship because some believe they can strengthen their own position with it. It adds nothing to my faith, and it detracts from the body of science.

    In the past, when faced with the political agenda to create a unified faith in this country, the result was to build stocks on the village square. From that experience and others, we learned to separate our religion from our State, but this is not why intelligent design cannot be a subject for a science class. The thesis has no tests for proof and no proof offered adds knowledge that strengthens faith.

    It isn't science. Teach it in the temple and I will be there with you. Teach it in a science class, and I will remove my children from your class. Make it a State-enforced requirement, and I will remove my family from the State. No negotiation.

    The world today is filled with extremism. We are pumping these emotion-stirring positions into a system that amplifies them and gives them power over otherwise reasonable men and women. We do this at our peril. Any fool, whether foolish about religion, science, or their own relationship to God can see that. Fools that we are, if we wish to harm ourselves, this will achieve a fool's end.

    Let the worshipper be known by that to which they live assimilate.

    Getting Fed

    Tim Bray is right, as usual.

    If blogs, vlogs, mlogs, in other words, subscription systems are to grow faster, subscribing should be a one-click operation. On the other hand, the web is full of one-click nasties and if the XML icon is to be used for that operation, it should be safe. It seems to me, getting people to learn and trust the operation because they are fairly certain they can is the challenge.

    Otherwise, yes: drive learning through the common interface convention. That is what hypertext has done best for decades.

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    Gas and The Suburban Warrior

    My son turned 16 and I bought him a six cylinder car. Gas prices rise. My plan to keep him close to home is working.

    Next year, you will see very poor people driving very nice previously owned SUVs. You will see very rich people driving very nice restored VW Beetles. There is a rough justice in that.

    The men in my neighborhood are organizing group expeditions to Wal Mart and Home Depot on the weekends. Our wives are organizing whose lawn will be mowed on alternative weeks.

    The beneficiaries of the gas prices are local TV stations. We can't afford to drive to the movie store, and we gave up on the movie industry last year anyway. Come to think of it, Hollywood is the one place in the nation that is truly low on gas.

    I could take this seriously, but first I have to help repair my neighbor's push golf cart. In return, he is sharpening my wooden handle hedge clippers and swingblade. That's ok. The fellow across the street is blowing his leaves off his driveway.

    The knee pads help.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    To The Canadians

    When my country needed its friends, Peter Jenning's friendship was a great gift. For boys my age, he was a truthteller, the greatest gift that friendship gives. I grieve with you. We will remember our friend, for his goodness, his charm, and his wit but most importantly, his truth.

    God, give Peter a job.


    Doing Business in The Jungle

    The fastest gazelle rises early to outrun the slowest gazelle.

    The fastest lion rises early to chase the slowest gazelle.

    The lazy hunter rises at noon, loads a gun, and shoots the fastest lion before shooting the slowest gazelle.

    The slowest lion waits in the bush for the hunter to reload.

    The crafty vulture patiently waits to feed on the slowest gazelle, the fastest lion, or the lazy hunter.

    Be the middle gazelle.

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    Call Ray

    In memory of
    Ray Brand
    "master bluesman, saint, husband, father, friend, legend"
    1946 - 2005

    Look around this room at all these beautiful people
    Holding on to what they've got and memories
    All the times they came to play
    All the loves they took away
    All the fights they had when the night was bad
    And the room was dead and the Man was short
    Weren't we lucky?

    And the Man that's laying there, He was a friend of ours
    He could play the sweetest song you ever heard
    He could make you cry or laugh
    Set you on a better path
    Teach you to play, show you his way
    If you needed a friend you could talk to, you'd

    Call Ray
    Call Ray

    He played your song and talked to you at the table
    Never forgot the band or the till or the take
    No matter who came his way
    He had a cheerful thing to say
    Not a word for dues just a powerful blues
    And believe in the thing that you're doing,
    Aren't you lucky?

    So all of you saints and sinners and friends and lovers
    Do one last gig for the man who cleared the way
    As long as you play, you will always hear Ray
    In your hands, in your hearts,
    In the notes of the songs that you're bending

    Call Ray
    Call Ray

    When the storm above your head's
    Too warm to let it rain
    When the face you see's too sad
    To keep away the pain
    There's a sound you want to hear
    There's a hunger in your ear
    There's an aching in your heart
    That just won't go away
    Call Ray

    Len Bullard - Aug 03, 2005

    Thursday, July 21, 2005

    Ibn Abu Archie

    As the British government works to create alliances with the British Muslim community, they take the path that the law is law for all citizens and not a minority. This approach that favors legal remedies was proposed in the United States post 9/11 but rejected loudly and derisively by the religious right and the neocons of the Republican Party. As recently as a month ago, their acknowledged spokesman, Karl Rove dismissed this strategy as weak just prior to being plunged into a scandal based in his own disregard for the law. At least he is consistent.

    The danger in this thinking is summarized in the remark made in the run up to the 'war on terrorism', that it is 'our right wing religious nuts against their right wing religious nuts'. There are tempting parallels but I don't think that exactly catches the image I see and hear in the hallways of American business and private enterprise. It seems that since the return of the Republican Party to power and the September 11 tragedy, an old and comic figure has come to dominate the speech of the right wing: Archie Bunker is back. Archie was a comic figure as he emerged at the end of the period of social revolution of the 1960s, but coming at the beginning of one, he is a terrible omen.

    I find him sitting at his desk with his door closed listening to the hate mongers such as Rush Limbaugh, who eerily resembles the religious instructor at a madrassa repeating the edicts of the illegitimate fatwa. His lack of deliberation has that same empty eyed 'challenge me not' purpose, accepting his fate and the fate of his enemies as he works his purpose: to unify believers, destroy non-believers, and make his office environment pure. He knows without purity of intent and action, we can never defeat our implacable adversaries because to understand them is to justify them, so any attempt to open our minds is to be resisted first with derision, and needs be finally, with force. He lives for that moment when his force can be felt because then he will be triumphant and pure before his God.

    His law is the law of the presumption of might. He believes that we can have both peace and cheaper gas if we will just unleash our nuclear arsenal on the countries that oppose us. Unknowingly, he embraces the dark vision of his opposite number: the gates to paradise are under swords.

    He is our worst enemy and he is us. He is Archie Bunker not simply telling Edith to 'stifle', but his fellow worker, his mates, his neighbor, his children's teachers, and if needs be, the opposition party. His way is right. His way is rule. All others are his enemies.

    While Archie sits stewing listening to the fat man with the radio show, others are beginning to realize that rule of law is the best means to defeat terrorism. Terrorists are murderers. They are not freedom fighters and are not even devout Muslims because Muslims live under religious laws, the sharia and understand the hadith. Mohammed The Prophet was only a warrior for eight years of his life and he taught that even in war there are limits that cannot be trespassed without invoking the wrath of Allah. The members of al-Qaeda have trespassed and have no place in paradise. They have raised their sword against the innocent and in so doing, have violated both divine and human law. Their punishment is to die and their self-chosen destiny to suffer the agonies of eternal separation from the divine.

    Here on Earth, we have the law of man and it is the best solution if it can be applied equally, transparently, and where just, mercifully. When the Bani Quraiza were judged by Sa'd bin Mu'adh, he judged them in accordance with their own law, the Torah. This is of importance: we have both international law and the law of the local countries.

    Systems of justice are now supported by information systems. This is a business I know well because that is what my company provides. I do not speak for my company, but I do see the immediate potential of such systems as they are provided internationally. Where law can be made transparent, it can be applied equally and where just,mercifully. Where such systems are integrated with the ever growing surveillance systems as they are being, evidence becomes more difficult to obscure and available to all sides in a case. Where integrated with the open source intelligence systems now coming into being, they are incorporated into the deliberative systems that can make it possible for both religious lives and secular lives to be lived if not in perfect harmony, at least in constant reexamination and growth.

    The danger is that all sides of the war on terror are enabling the fundamentalists, the Archie Bunkers to drive our deliberations. This is a terrible mistake because whether he sports a cigar and an old hat, or wears a khaftan and a scowel, he is always the same bigoted loudmouth terrorizing his family and his neighbor. We must see him for what he is and understand that in this circumstance, he is not a comic figure but the agent of Shaytan. He leads away from peace, paradise, and the righteous life lived under the law of God and Man, away from dar al Islam to dar al Karb.

    Monday, July 18, 2005

    Deliberate Means

    Today, President Bush changed his story. Now, he says if anyone in his administration has committed a crime, he will fire them. So one can be pretty certain that his lawyers have assured him that his buds, Karl and Libby, can't be convicted because by some technicality, they haven't committed crimes. But...

    Rove & Co. outed a NOC: someone who volunteers to serve in deep cover overseas without diplomatic credentials, meaning if caught, disavowed by their own government and executed. Further, he and his destroyed a CIA front for deep cover operations during a time of war.

    If you or I did that, we'd be in prison awaiting execution.

    So the President's statements don't express a deeply moral position but I'm under no illusion about President George W. Bush and moral convictions. Yet this story hasn't played out. I was asked, what I thought and I replied,

    "I think of 1973 and what happens when one starts pulling a thread on a carefully knitted sweater." The ghost of Tricky Dick visits George W. in the wee hours of the morning.

    "So when will McCain dive into the fray. He has felt the lash of Rove's tongue?"

    I wrote back, "If he is smart, when it formally becomes his obligation and not before. The lawyers are still parsing. Wait until the result tree is there to be deliberated, then strike like a black mamba."

    A smart man is deliberate in his actions and his words. McCain was a naval officer and combat veteran. He is no fool about timing given a known enemy. He learned patience in many life experiences, not least of all, the Hanoi Hilton. He can wait.

    The problem is we are at war and can't afford another zedGate. So this is a game that has to end without overtime or a Hail Mary pass. If Rove Inc has one ounce of patriotism, they will resign before the investigation is completed. Because they don't, we have to pray for their survival instincts to take over. All administrations end; thriving is a matter of what one does AFTER the next guy's innaugural. Traitors don't have careers on the salad circuit or sweet consultancies, so if the results of the investigation lead toward prosecution, their survival instincts may kick in.

    How this plays out could make or break the next slate of presidential candidates on both sides. So they will be quite deliberate in their deliberations.

    That word... hmm?

    The press smells blood. If it bleeds, it leads. No moral required; just business. Rove can be hung by the very dynamic he has created, and that may not be justice, but it is bloody well karma.

    What works for Rove also works for Jon Stewart. It is a matter of presentation.

    Yep, that is Rove's problem. He is the master of the mirror image response. That is a proven tactic on the playground, but it works for anybody. Rove managed the evangelicals because they are conditioned to accept nonsense and the more fantastic the assertion, the more readily they accept it. The rest of the mammals like a good belly laugh. That works for Jon Stewart.

    Presentation to the tastes of the audience matters. Is that deliberate? Sure. Is it democratic? Maybe it is just entertainment on both parts.

    A good and dear friend writes to me and says

    "Regarding Rove,, the subject of a paper I am writing is the need for increased civic engagement and deliberative democracy. If the average person had any idea what goes on up there..."

    Well, we engage often. We present, we communicate, but that word again... deliberation. Hmm?

    Most people don't know who Rove is. They view politics as corrupt from jump, so a master at corruption looks like someone who is a master at cooking or knitting. They have to see something very graphic repeated before it rises to the forebrain to be considered pertinent to themselves. They sleep through their lives lulled by a 4/4 beat of consumption of mediocrity. Who can blame them? The truth is ugly. We can't be bothered to deliberate about what we don't believe we can change.

    That word again...

    She made an excellent point: a democratic process is deliberate. That is a precise term. It has meaning. It creates conviction. It exercises reason.

    Let's deliberate...

    I keep reading that it is important to understand what blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. have offered, that the citizen journalist can change the nature of modern democracies. I wonder if these technologies have offered any new fundamentals or merely changed the character of the existing processes of deliberation. For example, the fact that we can send email speeds up deliberations at a distance, but letter writing is an old and established means. Only the character changed, not the means.

    Whereas it has been possible to control most media easily, these new media are not easy to control and they can be used by any participant with access to the Internet. So what? Niche positions emerge quickly.

    Is that a fundamental change of means?

    Some say that people get More Of What They Want To Know instead of diversity (think Fox News), thus fracturing the electorate, enabling them to be driven by sensationalized issues. In a sense, this is Yellow Journalism come back with a vengence. Success comes down to the strategy for establishing the belief in a system of distraction.

    That is manipulation. It is NOT deliberation.

    Rove builds a mirror image of any position his opponent takes and uses it to demean the issue into banality. He is able to smear without penalty because even if verified or denied, the damage is already done. Facts don't matter; he is using a non-linear model of recursive self-interests to create emotional perceptions of superiority. That is why the evangelicals are useful; they are conditioned to accept faith-based proclamations without argument and from there, it is easy to get them to accept nonsense of any kind. Goebbels 101: prepare the ground and plant The Big Lie.

    Blogging seeds niche issues. Blogs and niche issues don't always have much effect because of a limited readership, but blogs are a testing ground for the talking points.

    What succeeds best is a blog-inspired information chase picked up by a central medium. This is amplification. By co-opting blogs AND talk radio and stifling NPR, public radio and E-TV, they are creating a perception of solidarity. Is it real? Perhaps not, but it is effective because it distracts OR informs and it is hard to tell which on any given issue. Even if blogs catalyse and dissolve false positions, they also create support for them. The shared metric is acceleration. Once the talking points are vetted in a blog, it is simply a matter of presenting them in a mainstream media such as TV, then they take off.

    Presentation is NOT deliberation.

    Democracy is participative. The problem is an abundance of signal and few good reliable filters. I predict the near term result is fatigue. Information overload leads to the desire to opt-out but that isn't easy to do. People want to turn off the cellphones but discover they are addicted to the feed. They organized their lives and schedules around being always connected and now they can't easily disconnect. By participating, they become easy targets for information.

    Infoglut is only suffered by gluttons.

    In the long run, there is more information, some better information, and those who have a will to know can know... something and they can participate.... across borders. That is better. The influence of the global observers is felt. That is, British, Canadian, etc. citizens become part of the American political conversation, and given the role we play in their economies, they participate to help themselves. It isn't unselfish, but it is the wildcard limiting centralized attempts to steer the conversation with propaganda. The outsider by nationality can participate.

    But it isn't entirely global.

    In countries and cultures such as China, a different dynamic is emerging. They are using their economic clout to persuade technology vendors such as Microsoft to become partners in filtering the conversation to enable more centralized control. The question is, as the western powers observe this, will central planners attempt to do the same here? The average wirehead believes it is impossible to control the internet, but that is false. It is not only possible, it is reasonable to do so given that unfiltered communications also makes the invasion of privacy, stalking, identity theft, rise of hate groups, and so on more probable. Participation is dangerous.

    Participation is NOT deliberation.

    The politics of the 90s until now have been about the suppression of deliberation.

    Communication is not deliberation. Presentation is not deliberation. Participation is not deliberation. Yet deliberation is the critical skill for participative democracy reliant on communication and presentation. What must be mastered is discriminating among these qualitatively as means to suppress deliberation and these as means to enable deliberation.

    Democracy is not only communication, participation, or simply the global conversation. Emphasize the meaning of deliberation: a process of coming to a reasonable position BEFORE voting based on verification, critically noting the results, and continuing a deliberation with new facts. For that to work, one must be able to verify facts. The Internet has made it possible to both get facts and to work in community to verify facts, but it has also made it possible to create false and reasonable domains of interest that distract us just as television did and continues to do. In the end, the Internet is simply an amplifier; it is still the will of the listener to deliberate that settles issues shouted from a merely louder podium.

    The short version of this long rant is this: democracy can only survive by mastering the critical ability to discriminate between the means of real deliberation and means that even while disguised as communication, are really means to suppress deliberation.

    What about the web enhances deliberation?

    An overlooked power of the web is the wikipedia and, not the blogs, the podcasts, and the online newspages.

    This is not Googling. This is the power to type in a word and instantly get back a definition and all of its available references. Awesome. The ability to 'look at all sides of a question' is the definition of deliberation. That I can find the definition faster may not change the nature of deliberation, but it sure as hell improves the speed and accuracy when the terms are there for everyone's immediate access so we can look at all sides of a question with the same shared meanings.

    Those wise in the ways of power will become very aware of these online dictionaries and ontologies. Because these are edited by communities instead of authorities, they make a persuasive case for both the vox populi and the intelligensia.

    When ANYONE can post and EVERYONE can edit, a new dynamic emerges and that is a qualitative change. That is participative, that communicates, and that convergence on a sharable, verifiable meaning, is deliberate.

    Sunday, July 10, 2005

    Reason Is Not Treason

    With the recent London bombings, Tim Bray quotes from CNN,

    “Authorities across the United States worked to increase security on subways, trains, and other potential targets...”.

    then goes on to comment, "That’s really, really stupid. If someone wants to kill you so badly that he doesn’t mind dying in the process, chances are he’s probably going to get you, and a few more cops on the subway aren’t going to help."

    Here we disagree. Cops help. Surveillance helps. There is a considerable amount of technology and human resources one can apply to secure mass transit systems. XML, for one. We of the markup community created the core technology for the systems to be applied to global terrorism. Will our technology stop all of the terrorist acts? Never has, but it reduces their severity, intensity and frequency. A sad fact of war, and this is a war, is that it isn't about saving everyone; it is about denying an enemy their chosen target.

    My friend goes on:

    "My other radical suggestion—which some will denounce as treason—is to work harder at figuring out the “Why?” of it."

    Reasoned inquiry and learning is never treason. If one believes the published writings, reasons range from reestablishing a worldwide Caliphate under Muslim law to driving the US out of the Middle East. To the first, that won't happen so we are beyond reason here. To the second, that will happen anyway.

    "...when something is driving enough people into insane belief systems that we see regular explosions in our cities, it would be smart to care—a lot—what that something is. Because, on the evidence, I don’t think the leaders of the Western world have a clue."

    This is the nut of it: I don't think it is one thing. I believe on the evidence one will find it is many reasons, some fantasy, some an expression of deep discomfort with life as they lead it now. Which is to say, it is not that people adopt insane belief systems that mystifies me. That is common enough. It is that sane people give them support, and for our leaders in the West to change this, they must find and work with these people and change their attitudes about the worthyness of supporting the insane actions of the few.

    When the reality of the Palestinian living conditions are brought to the screen, they are compared to the Israeli lifestyle. The Israelis built their country of their own effort. Whose effort improves the conditions of the Palestinians? One thing I've observed in my half century on this rock, when living conditions are made better by the effort of those who live in a place, they seek to keep that place safe. Golda Meir said it best: "When we love our children more than we hate each other."

    Some think the Middle East is a culture committed to its own destruction. That's baloney. That is the mote in the eye of the West, and by our own experience, we know that this can change. Thirty years ago, the Russians and the Chinese were a Red Peril. Today they are cagey economic allies working to get a bigger slice of the global economy. The streets of Beijing are not filled with soldiers. It is filled with businessmen. One doesn't read about Great Leaps Forward. One reads about pressuring the US Congress to allow the sail of UNOCAL to Beijing. One reads about the reforms in the banking systems.

    Where the West and George W. Bush are blowing it is in creating extra-Middle Eastern terrorists. The next wave will be Caucasians, Western European, the dissatisfied of the well-off seeking a purpose and finding it in the call to worship and the slums of the inner cities. Terrorism is cheap, and as warfare goes, not that challenging. Slaughter of innocents is the easy means to stay in the game. But that game builds no dams, improves no banks, feeds no hungry, frees no prisoner. It is only death come to speak for the disgrace of hunger and powerlessness through the acts of the demented.

    This can change for the better. It always has. Through the long slog from global threats of anilhilation to this taste of terror as we board a bus, the one constant has been when someone has more to lose, they work harder to keep what they have. It is a simplistic analysis, but I believe by experience, it is the surest path to a day when we will be able to turn off the cameras.

    But until that day comes, be prepared for a world where every act on every public stage is real time hyperdistributed, cataloged, indexed, and analyszed. May we, if we learn nothing else from this experience which is new in human history, the truth about ourselves.

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    Five Days of Independence

    Five days of independence... no gig, no job, a lawn, a picnic, two days of old friends, old movies, one more song in the can.

    My son tells me he is becoming disillusioned. At sixteen, I say, that's normal. You are comparing your values with the values of the world, thus, discovering your own values.

    That's a good thing.

    Will it get better, Dad, and how long?

    It will and I don't know. Our culture phases, and so do our relationships. They will swing about as far as they swung. The important bit is what you are doing now: learning about your own values.

    Five days of independence. My country is divided. Some say our religious values and our politics are too far apart. Some say they are too mixed. I don't think that is the problem. I think our values are too far from our hearts, our own values too far from our own desires. We've let symbols, wealth, and politics become too centralized and forgotten that it is the single human heart that chooses good, evil, truth, falsity, fidelity, cause and compassion. We believe stories that make us comfortable or resigned and forget that we should be about changing ourselves because that is ALWAYS within our power.

    My independence is that I may choose for heartfelt reasons, or for mindfulness, but that in this land, these can be the same for not man nor government may force that choice from me. The beliefs that divide us may divide us from each other, but the heart that chooses against itself chooses a broken heart.

    Those who seek power through our hearts seek wisely because that is where power is to be found in politics, but the mind of the broken hearted turns away from the politics of power yielded to power wielded. When democracies cry, change comes.

    Friday, June 24, 2005

    Bewitched: The Movie

    We saw the movie tonight. It sucks.

    Hollywood threw all of the talent, wit and ideas at the movie they could devise, and it still sucks.

    Some things can only be made of a time and a place and one true love. Liz Montgomery loved Bill Asher and he her. Between them, they could make Bewitched in the light of that love. Some of the best episodes are when Liz is pregnant with her children, and certainly the first two seasons. It doesn't translate to today and it can't be made again because it isn't honest, and it isn't Liz and Bill.

    Somehow that makes me glad.

    Magic is real. Maybe that is the point of the movie and that is the best they can do is make that point: magic only happens to people in love.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2005

    Ingrid Bergman

    In the roles they choose, their screen time, and the spaces within which they perform, actresses use light to accomplish their goals. Some would be "Sister Mary Benedict" or "Golda", a passionate saint or a leader of nations, while others, are merely "Ilse" dutifully flying beyond the fog

    "... not today or even tomorrow but soon and for the rest of your life..."

    only to become "Maria" for whom

    "... it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest."

    yet for herself, Ingrid Bergman chose to live a passionate life because she knew that a passionate light illuminates a life even as it wanes. A dutiful light illuminates the moment of discharging that duty otherwise casting no shadow nor making clear the way for any other act.

    Time and space pilfer light. The bitterness of the dutiful choice is to finally understand that all we get is old.

    Sunday, May 22, 2005

    Revenge of The Sith

    Revenge of the Sith is a GREAT movie. Of it's genre, it's one of the very best. No polemic required; the packed movie house and the cheering says it all. Vox populi. Buy a bag of popcorn and a giant belly buster of a cola and sit with your kids for a few hours of pure thrills.

    Of course, the ultra right will see that differently and applaud its critics. That is expected. Their inability to relax and enjoy the ride is totally in character. That's why they wear ties: it keeps their heads attached when their hearts are trying to gnaw their red necks off.

    "So that is how liberty dies: to the sound of thunderous applause."

    Well said, Lucas.


    Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    Advice for College Graduates

    It's not who dies with the most toys that wins, but who has the most fun with their toys while they are alive.

    Swing for the fences, but don't be ashamed to be walked to first base.

    Wealth without fame is slightly boring, but fame without wealth is surprisingly dangerous.

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; so, sell the bird and buy the bush.

    Good looks vs good cook: cooking can improve with practice.

    A map of popular trends looks like a map of soil erosion for exactly the same reasons.

    The surest way to get more of the same is to keep getting it from the same source.

    Better is the enemy of More.

    Sunday, May 08, 2005

    Tuesday, May 03, 2005

    A Get Out Of Hell for Free Ticket

    A good day at work is when the CEO calls all of the developers and staff in and says, "I'm putting you all back together as one team. Let the code flow."

    Today was such a day. Praise the Lord Almighty; change at last.

    Verticals in small companies make for good bookkeeping but bad development. Too many product lines emerge and given platforms, versions, customer domains and the local politics of sales and development, it doesn't make for a merged set of services, and more importantly, a sharable codebase. As Jack Welch taught GE, the goal of enterprise engineering is to take OUT work.

    The first and last bit of business is product. No idea no plan no product no customer no pay. Services are in the long tail, but they don't have a network effect. Timely innovation is where the risks are and all the fun.

    The essential challenge is the codebase. No d'oh. Even if a software company is not publishing open source, within it's own IP and contractural boundaries, it must practice open source to reduce the semantic load from the applications. Uncertainty is proportional to semantic load, thus the high cost of reliable customer-specific adaptations. Where cost == features, features lose unless the business model is features. Customizations cost, implementations cost, conversions, new forms, new interfaces to old systems, help desks, technical documentation, all are features with costs. You Mr. Customer, get to choose what you want.

    "Speed is money, how fast can you afford to go?" (Ron Harlow)

    Some dumb costs:

    1. Rich formatted printed forms designed to reduce the size of a file cabinet but obsolete in the digital age. Yeah, I know about the law and printed forms, but really, get over it. You are out in the range of 10k to 20k to get one from a vendor given a complex report. Simplify.

    2. Interfaces to legacy systems. This is unavoidable for ecologically active software environments. Do work with the IT staff to work out with the vendor how to phase this better. Beat the everloving tarnation out of the vendors who refuse to work with you on this. Remember, you pay for it.

    3. Multiple languages and platforms are the maximum contributor to dumb costs in software development. Specialty languages seldom are. On the other hand, in an active web environment, failing to master the skill of XML application language development and implementation and not just the standard implementation of a standard vocabulary is failing to master survival. Tags are local even if they are not.

    If you are an IT wonk, do the software hood a favor: read the RFPs the contracts wonks are publishing. Show some nuts and insist on taking out the excess. Simpler is more reliable. Cheaper too in most cases.

    If shooting consultants is necessary to achieve this, party on. Consultants are just salesmen in lawyer's clothes; bounties vary. I'm not saying consultants aren't useful, but use them wisely, then feed them to a tank of piranha. Fast replacement rates strengthen species.

    If there is a lesson to the last of the big ticket big iron vendors from the lowly but doing ok web developers, it is this: less. Use the basic web languages to do as much of the work as you can. The tradeoff of rich vs reach is not just a tradeoff with your customer but within your codebase. You trade on opportunity and cost when you deal in complexity as a barrier to competition.

    Monday, April 25, 2005

    Remixing History

    This is proof that the remixing of history is alive and well on the web, and that there are very talented funny people with far too much time on their hands or on their shirts. So there it is; the mockumentary that Ken Burns was too wussy to make: the faux history of

    the Old Negro Space Program.

    Some things the Internet made possible should be impossible possibly.

    Sunday, April 24, 2005

    A Quantum Riff On God

    Light is in superposition to the observable universe.
    It is continuous therefore to the discrete observer, constant and indivisible, so waveform. Lightspeed is the observable and measurable.
    It is the measurements that are discrete and create the illusion of the particle universe.

    Observations are made at will.

    What is the role of choice in semantic loading?
    What are the rights of the chooser?
    What are the rights of the chosen?
    Whence comes the will to choose?
    Whence comes the knowing of choice?

    Uncertainty increases proportionally to semantic load.

    Simplification reduces uncertainty. It does not induce choice.
    It increases the particularity of choice. Choice is particulate.
    Infinity is continuous and everywhere the same.

    We evolved to be particulate so to measure infinities.
    Faith evolved so we could be conscious that we are infinite.
    We are light.

    What is faith that it gives light the power know itself?
    It is the choice to love.

    Light gives up the infinite to know that choice.

    So we become particulate, to be measured by the immortal light
    that thereby knows itself yet always is itself.


    Jane Fonda

    No one will tell the story of Jane Fonda better than she tells it. Her life has been one of privilege and searching and now of faith. That is altogether a good life. Along the way, she crossed paths with many other lives great, small, privileged and simply searching too.

    When I saw Jane Fonda she was speaking at our university in my hometown. I was a high school ROTC cadet dressed in my Army green watching a tall unadorned woman in her shag haircut looking as if she had just stepped off the set of Klute. Her voice was strong, her convictions firm, and she spoke the truth of what she had seen in Southeast Asia, giving voice to what we all knew even if we did not want to say it, that the war was wrong, that people were dieing for reasons that made no sense, and that it was our responsibility to say no. This speech hit home. I returned to the ROTC class the next day with questions for my instructors, questions they could not answer, did not like, yet could not turn away easily from an earnest if far too young cadet.

    Regardless of what others think of her, Hanoi Jane, a traitor, a fool, a shallow actress who did not realize that the same media that made her famous could make her hated, Jane Fonda spoke the truth. In that one moment of her life, she stepped up to her convictions and responsibility. She used her privilege and her wealth and her stardom to go to the heart of the conflict and find the truth for herself. Then she used those same qualities to come home and tell her generation of which she was the first and I was the last, that truth. In that moment, if she was foolish, she was also brave, and if she was believed to be a traitor, she was also believed to be a true American. While I was willing to take that step in my uniform, willing to go, because of Jane Fonda, I knew it was wrong. Because of Jane Fonda and those like her who had a truth to tell, before that time came, the war was over. However else she is viewed, she, the first of my generation, saved the last.

    The core of American values is independent initiative. By our own initiative, we set out with whatever strength and position and privilege we have to find the truth as well as it can be obtained by one person. If we have that value, then we also have the strength to tell that truth to others, for it is the moment we share, our place in time and history, and our responsibility is to the others who share that moment. This may not be uniquely American, just merely human. But not all Americans or all humans have the strength to seize that moment and present that truth. Jane Fonda has and did and will.

    Thirty years on, long after the bombs have stopped falling on the rice paddies, long after the thump thump thump of the Huey blades have quit sounding there, they sound elsewhere. Whatever it is we learn from our moments, however we share the truths we find in them, another generation from first to last will be born and live out their moments. One wishes they would learn the truths of the generations that have come before them, but often they do not and that is another sad truth my generation learns from the present.

    I wish that for this generation, a Jane Fonda would come to their university and tell them a truth, a truth to give them questions to take back to their classrooms, for evidently, there are few answers we can share but we can share our questions.

    Thirty years on, as the time comes that it may be my son or my daughter's time to go, I thank Ms. Fonda. Thank you for sharing a truth in a moment and a time long ago, but unfortunately, not so far away. You are American, you are of your generation, and you are one of the best of us. Thank you for sharing your truth. It did not come without cost or hurt, but it was generously given and gratefully acknowledged.

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