Friday, December 31

Google's 2004

Reading the Zeitgeist (and the International and the Flash summary (again, no Flash warning on account of good flash))

Major impression: A lot of women use Google (duh). The evidence: the most popular images are often men and the most popular Froogle queries were: 1. bikini 2. mini skirt 3. prom dresses 4. lingerie 5. little black dress 6. poncho 7. t-shirt 8. sports bra 9. red dress 10. low-rise jeans. (Insert homosexual and transvestite jokes qualification jokes here.)

Thursday, December 30

To coin a phrase

I have been laboring under the increasingly heavy burden that I didn't really know what this phrase means. Does it mean 'to use a phrase everyone knows' or 'to make a new phrase'? Google time.

Well, are you descriptive or prescriptive, because people use it both ways, contributing to my confusion. Indeed, you can make an argument for both usages from the words themselves. Here's OUP on different usages. (scroll down) says it's 'make a new phrase'.

Similar argument on Take our word for it (scroll down).

That seems to be the consensus, which brings me to say 'Why bother using it?'. How often do I 'coin a phrase' as opposed to 'use a hackneyed, over-exercised phrase'? :-)

But there you have it.

Death to the press?

Macon's got an interesting post on the death of the press. It links to a Flash movie (no flash warning here. This is what Flash is for.) fictionally from the future. Google, TiVo, and Amazon merge to form EPIC, a personally tailored information service that puts media out of business (or thereabouts). My comments:

1. Dystopias are unlikely and serve the purpose of warning.
2. Could news become so individual that it ceased being news?
3. I hope news factories do get cannibalized to some degree.
4. EPIC isn't that different, in philosophy, from what current media tries to do: producing products to sell to a market.
5. Does the press really safeguard truth for the masses? Won't there always be people we can trust to tell us the truth, whether they draw a paycheck from the Times or GoogleAds?

Then, from the comments at Kith and Kin:
1. I agree this is unlikely.
2. I think Macon's likely right that EPIC would get subverted, if it needed to be. As distributed as the world is these days, aren't we free from the possibility of Big Brother? But what if Big Brother becomes our own disconnectedness and lack of authorities at all? Hmm...

Lots of links

First, to put you on notice: I'm thinking of scaling back my weblog reading and writing to take another crack at my autobiography. The fact that Tom's going to be gearing down to write his new book, hence posting less, should be a good coincidence.

The NitPicker's Guide to LotR (this guy's hard core, even moreso than me)

Hack to speed up Firefox for broadband. I've only got DSL lite, but I think I notice a difference. The process was interesting, though. My first experience with configuring Firefox that way.

A new, cool search tool for It tells me only one person has bookmarked me via :-(

I'm not interested in RSS updates on my UPS package, but you might be (Christine would be, if she used RSS).

Interesting post on interacting with the web these days. It's more like Push (in some ways). It's stripped down.
in a subscription age, where publishers don't have to entice you back each day with a flood of new content, quality trumps quantity
(Though this would only apply to subscribers and not actual visitors.)

John Hardy has a good, South Pacific, virtually eyewitness take on the tsunami. I'm glad he and his family are OK.

Lots of links

First, to put you on notice: I'm thinking of scaling back my weblog reading and writing to take another crack at my autobiography. The fact that Tom's going to be gearing down to write his new book, hence posting less, should be a good coincidence.

The NitPicker's Guide to LotR (this guy's hard core, even moreso than me)

Hack to speed up Firefox for broadband. I've only got DSL lite, but I think I notice a difference. The process was interesting, though. My first experience with configuring Firefox that way.

A new, cool search tool for It tells me only one person has bookmarked me via :-(

I'm not interested in RSS updates on my UPS package, but you might be (Christine would be, if she used RSS).

Interesting post on interacting with the web these days. It's more like Push (in some ways). It's stripped down.
in a subscription age, where publishers don't have to entice you back each day with a flood of new content, quality trumps quantity
(Though this would only apply to subscribers and not actual visitors.)

John Hardy has a good, South Pacific, virtually eyewitness take on the tsunami. I'm glad he and his family are OK.

Wednesday, December 29


Tom thinks his next book, 'A Future Worth Creating', will be shorter than 'The Pentagon's New Map'. His editor thinks it'll be 100k words.

I predict it'll be as long or longer than PNM. Tom has a lot to say.

Question: would it be worthwhile to explore some, in this book or another (or some other forum) what the things are that could derail this vision? If Great Power War isn't a danger anymore, what is?


The Bad News: We returned Monday to loose front and back doorknobs. Our surmisal: someone tried to get in.

The Good News: They didn't. They didn't try that hard. They didn't break anything. We're grateful.

Tuesday, December 28

Catching up with Tom

Looks like Tom's going to be leaving the Naval War College and striking out on his own. Godspeed...

Tom reports that the Pentagon didn't have a written plan for reconstruction and occupation in Iraq. He says Tommy Franks should give back his Medal of Freedom.

Officially, America doesn't give a lot of Official Foreign Aid. But, as Tom points out, by the time you add up our military actions, legal immigrants who send PILES of money back home, Foreign Direct Investment, private charitable giving (including religious), and indictments of human rights violations in places like Sudan; we start to look pretty good.

Critt, Tom's webmaster, put together a generally categorized index of some of Tom's posts.

Here's one of the reasons I like Tom's work: there's hope in it for poor people. The good news is the number of people living on a dollar a day has dropped from 40% of the world's population to 20%.
Steffen: The top third of humanity has unquestionably gotten much richer in the last decade, but there's also a billion people on the bottom who seem to be going backwards. And those people -- the part of the developing world that's no longer developing -- seems to map pretty exactly to your Gap.

Barnett: The Gap is the bottom third. One of my main points is that the middle third has joined the Core. The lives of the middle third have improved. There's been a reduction of about 400 million in the number of people in absolute poverty over the last 20 years. The number of people living on a dollar a day went from 40% of the world's population to about 20%.

There is still, though, about a third at the bottom who are shut out of the benefits of globalization. About half of them are kind of getting by in a subsistence way, but the other half, about one billion, are not only not getting by, they're falling off the edge of the planet.
The quote's from this interview.

Another good comment therefrom:
The UN rules, in retrospect, look odd. To pretend that a Sudan, for instance, which is doing what it's doing within its borders should have its sovereignty treated with the same respect as a France or Japan is ludicrous.
I hadn't thought of it that way before.

What the UN's good for and what it's not:

So while in the popular imagination, the UN is the forum for addressing international crises, the reality is that the UN is largely impotent, except for its internal technical rule-making, which functions quite nicely, frankly. The UN has become primarily a bitch-session, where the developing countries can complain about their lot and the direction of the advanced world. I think that's fine in many ways; it's good that the Gap has a venue and forum to complain in the direction of the Core. In fact, increasingly what you see is one position held by what I call the "old Core" -- the U.S., the E.U., Japan -- another position held by the Gap, and what I call the "new Core" -- the Brazil, India, China and South Africa -- acting as a sort of go-between. This is an arrangement which serves us well in terms of trade and economic and technical arguments.

But in terms of security, in the realm of violent situations, it's not realistic to pretend that 1) all countries are equal -- 'cause they're not: we have huge military capabilities and almost nobody else really does -- or 2) that every state has good intentions or treats its own people well. There are terrible things happening in certain parts of the world, and I think it's unrealistic to pretend that the U.N. is going to be able to stop these things.
Tom's proposed A-Z process for politically bankrupt states (He says we have such a process for economically bankrupt states)(compiled by me from memory):

1. Grand Jury: UN and UNSC. Indicts the state.
2. Executive: G20. Agrees that US military should take down and commits own troops to follow-on nation building/peacekeeping (System Administration Force, in Tom's parlance).
3. Leviathan force: US Military takes down regime.
4. System Administration force: G20 troops anchored by US Marines, along with various necessary agencies and contractors follows in immediately behind Leviathan to rebuild.
5. International Reconstruction Fund: This money is pledged in advance by G20. You get to vote how it's used based on how much you put it. Modeled on International Monetary Fund.
6. International Criminal Court: The Hague tries bad guys who are taken captive.

On the environment:
Look. I put protecting the environment where I put democracy: everybody wants them, and it's clear that they are both goals we're ultimately aiming for here. But first you need development and stability and some basic rules. First things first.
My point is that we got to exploit our natural resources for a long time before we ever started worrying about anybody else saving theirs. This is my concern with ANWR. It's paternalistic of us to tell them they can't use theirs. Like Tom says, the best way to get poor countries to be good stewards is to help them improve their standard of living.

If Tom became the Secretary of Defense:

One. I would advocate a massive redistribution of resources towards that System Administrator function. I'd accelerate that dramatically. In terms of acquisitions for my war-fighting force, I'd keep buying high technology, but I'd buy in much smaller numbers, and take the freed-up resources and plunge them into building the new force.

You would see, very quickly, a four-star military police general in my Pentagon. You would see position and authority accrue to people that had been considered lesser includeds: I would have four-star military medical generals and four-star military supply generals, not just the war-fighting guys running everything.

Two. I would redesign the unified command plan, which was really built for another era. Having European Command have its Area of Responsibility extend all the way down to Sub-Saharan Africa is really kind of a mis-match. I would create an African Command, and an East Asian Command and a West Asian Command. In East Asia, once we get rid of Kim Jung Il, I'm looking at a relatively peaceful region, and I'm building a NATO there. That's a place we can draw resources from.

I'd put those resources into Africa. I think Africa needs a lot of dedicated attention. To the extent that we drive that fight against terrorism out of the Middle East it's going to head south, especially to the Horn of Africa. People ask me "How do we know we've won in the Middle East?" And I say, "When all our troops are on peacekeeping missions in Central Africa."

Three. I'd abolish service identities once you reach flag rank, meaning once you became an admiral or a general (and I suppose you'd have to come up with a single term, which will really piss of the Navy, because I'm sure you'd end up with general), you'd serve the Pentagon as a whole. That'd solve one of the biggest problems, because now, once you become a one-star general, the way to become a two-star general is to protect you service's force structure in budgetary battles, to make sure that no matter what else happens, you've got twelve carriers or three armored divisions or whatever. These idiotic budgetary battles go one forever and ever and lead to all sorts of overlaps and inefficiencies and acquisition scandals.

If instead, the incentives for becoming a two- or three- or four-star would be how gloriously "purple" you were -- which is the color they associate with "jointness" -- how seamlessly you could cooperate. That would also, I think help people to be more interagency, more international, to adapt to unexpected situations.
Sounds good to me...

Saturday, December 18

Interview on Intel

Slate's got an interview with Bob Inman (I got this from kottke) - '[formerly] director of the National Security Agency, vice director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, director of Naval Intelligence, and deputy director of Central Intelligence Agency...In the 1990s, he was asked by Bill Clinton to run the CIA as director and also offered the job of secretary of defense. He declined both offers to enter the private sector.' His views:

Reasons for 9/11: intel budget cuts and the wall between the FBI and CIA.

We need spearation between intelligence collectors and intelligence analysts. The analysts, in the current set-up, can't resist the temptation to try to make the collectors look good.

There's a lot of ugly politics in intel and defense, including leaks.

Intel would get back notes on info they sent up that said 'Why don't you withdraw that? It's potentially politically embarrassing.'

Rumor: 'Rumsfeld, as chief of staff, had persuaded President Ford to appoint George H.W. Bush as director of Central Intelligence, assuming that that got rid of a potential competitor for the presidency...He was looking forward. You know, Ford was going to run in '76, so Rumsfeld had his eye on '80.'

Bill Casey was slimy, including having held Oliver North's strings.

'Rumsfeld didn't get the job in Defense through personal loyalty to Bush; he got it because Cheney was his sponsor.'

'If Rumsfeld were to be there for the next four years there will be a lot of my military colleagues who will be very unenthusiastic about it.'

'[Wolfowitz and the neocons] don't want to take the blame. … [T]hey were willing to take credit for things earlier; they don't want to take blame.'

Stale links

They've been sitting on my machine for days waiting to get logged. But you might not have seen them.

President Bush has ordered plans for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of global positioning satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using the navigational technology.

Rajat Paharia talks about the proliferation of things to pay attention to, especially digital acquisition of music and photos. It can certainly be a problem.

Jason posts on the value of Iowa farmland. What this means for me is: When I win the lottery and reconstitute the farm I grew up on (mostly owned by my Grampa Jim), I'll have to pay >3000$/acre. For 500 acres, that's 1.5 million $.

Jason also comments on the Oxford comma, which he calls the serial comma. Good name.

Google's future

Tech Review's article on Google's business future is fascinating. It's long, but worth it (to me). The author obviously doesn't buy into the business argument for more open source approaches. He insists on the necessity of proprietary standards. I'd like to see someone review this article from another side.

A few quotes and comments:
Show me everything about the Chinese economy that has appeared in the last month in my e-mail attachments, Word documents, bookmarked websites, corporate portal, voice mail, or Bloomberg subscription.
This is the Holy Grail of search. May it come soon.
Nor does it control the architectures of the newer computing platforms, whose markets are growing much faster than the PC’s.
In all of Microsoft’s successful battles, it has used the same strategies. It undercuts its competitors in pricing, unifies previously separate markets, provides open but proprietary APIs, and bundles new functions into platforms it already dominates. Once it has acquired control over an industry standard, it invades neighboring markets.
And don't forget 'Lets its product stagnate into crap.

Barnett thoughts

I didn't know the Kyoto treaty went easy on China and India:
Conversely, when the Old Core is tasked by the Gap to clean up its pollution like CO2, and the world comes up with a Kyoto Treaty that places all the onus on the Old Core (plus Russia) but ignores surging New Core powers like India and China, that's patently unfair.
It's fair from a certain perspective, since the Old Core has had many years to pollute without getting limited. I don't know what's best here.

[N]ukes are for having in a mutually-assured destruction balance, not for using.

Our battlefield medicine is amazing.
In both Vietnam and Desert Storm, 24% of those wounded ended up dying. In Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Afghanistan operation, that percentage drops to 10%. That is not just impressive, that's amazing.
Saving the lives of American soldiers who go into combat is worth almost any price tag. But there's one costly consequence:
[W]e now have to plus up extensively our commitment to dealing with the psychological late effects that emerge from combat duty. The Army says it's seeing a traumatization rate of roughly one out of every six soldiers, and experts say the ultimate rate may be one in three, or roughly what we saw in Vietnam.

This is the reality of modern warfare (much like modern police work): you are more likely to be psychologically damaged than killed or maimed, but the responsibility of the government remains the same.
Guard enlistment is way down, not least of all because of the employment ramifications, for employees and employers:
Essentially, you hire a Guard or Reservist and it's much like hiring a woman of child-bearing age: you the employer must expect that soldier will be gone one out of every five years of employment. So what are you, the employer, likely to do? Put that person on the military equivalent of the mommy track?
In America it's the economy, stupid. We need those big tax cuts. We want to defend our country. We want to wage a Global War on Terror. But those Guardsmen and women don't get paid very much, usually nowhere near replacement income. There's no guarantee they'll have a job when they come back. They might be traumatized. They tend to be older and have families to support.

Why in the world would anyone sign up for the Guard or the Reserves these days? If we want this component to work, we will have to change its structure.

Good news from Mexico. They're successfully getting folks (personas) into home ownership.

More on health care

President Bush said yesterday he is "passionate" about protecting the business community from "frivolous lawsuits" (source).

*cheap shot*: I wish he were passionate about protecting patients from malpractice and a potential loss of physicians.*end cheap shot*

I'm sure he thinks this is the way to fix it, but it's not that simple.

Christine reminded me of a conversation we had with my physician brother and his physician wife where the main point was: you can weather one (rightful or wrongful) guilty malpractice ruling, but after that you're in big trouble in the next one or the one after that. That's important to know in this debate. It softens my position (a little) on the money physicians make.

They also pointed out that Obstetricians and Neurosurgeons are the most susceptible to malpractice (which I knew once, but had forgotten), so this is where we're seeing shortages in certain areas.

Then, I got some good input from Paul. He's a lawyer, and a friend, and more conservative than me. I always value his opinion. First, I'm reprinting his comment from below:

When I was in law school, there was a Friday afternoon social event each week called "Wine Mess". Mainly there was beer. Not only did law students attend, but other graduate students, including medical students. As I was conversing with a new medical student at one of these events, I asked him why he chose to go to medical school. "The money", he said. Maybe he was exceptional or maybe he was baiting me.

I think the problem is not only the greed of some people in the medical profession (I'm simly astonished that they are no better than the rest of us!), but also the way we pay for them. Or the way we don't pay for them. The insurance companies pay for them. While we climb all over the latest iPod clones to find the best value, we spend a lot less time choosing a doctor, and I would say that we do so because we are not paying for the doctor. If his fees were coming directly out of our pockets, I think we would do a better job of applying discipline to the medical arts by making choices based on the price/value equation.

On the other hand, even with the system we have, we do really well in this country, provided we have the means to pay the premiums and oft-times when we don't. I have had wonderful doctors all of my life. I really don't mind the nice cars they drive, particularly if they can heal my wife, my children, and me. And they have.

I think its a fortunate thing that we have plaintiff's malpractice lawyers. Otherwise, the medical services delivery system would be completely unaccountable to the consumer. I don't think the malpractice lawyers are the problem. But I'm prejudiced, of course. I guess we shall see, now that the ability of the lawyer's to get paid in malpractice cases is being severely restricted in state after state.

I'm not doing very well in anwering your question. Its not an easy one. I don't think Canada has the answer, as we have discussed before.

Also, if we had to pay for the services ourselves, I think we would take better care of ourselves. I like the HSA [Health Savings Account] idea, as you probably infer.

Thanks for asking my opinion.

Interesting point about the market effects of how we pay for health care (that's one reason why Paul's opinion is so valuable). In addition, Paul is a cancer survivor, so he knows intimately about receiving care.

If Paul says we need plantiff malpractice lawyers, since he's an above-board lawyer-type, then I'm sure he's right. Besides, that capitalism, too, right?

Then Paul posts a story that illustrates one of the problems with socialized medicine.

So, where does that leave us?

Paul's tack (I think) would be to re-marketize the whole thing:
1. Pay less for insurance, and then mostly for catastrophic-type stuff
2. Save more for health care (eg, in HSAs) and pay for health care out of pocket.
3. Reduce the role of the middle-man, ie insurance agents, companies, and HMOs. Put the market to work on these guys.
4. Let juries of peers regulate as needed.
5. Physicians need to police themselves better. I think Paul would agree with this.

I another solution would be to regulate more - go more socialist.

Then there's the Bush/AMA solution: legislate against patients and lawyers interfering with business. Back to the 1890s. *end snark*

Calling John Hardy: I'd be interested in your input from an Australian perspective. What's health care like down there? How does it work?

Wednesday, December 15

Barnett Today

One of the reasons I like Tom's ideas is they give hope within the context of a robust theory that accounts well for many factors. That's what Ignatius concluded in his Post column. And that was one of the take-aways for me from the email Tom posted from a student at Columbia who's advocating for ROTC in a very liberal environment.

A post addressing the condition of women and children in the gap
And if the Core as a whole has to lower its standard of living a bit to make this inclusion happen, tell me what's so wrong about that? Is America's survival based on how much stuff we can buy while kids live in misery throughout much of the Gap?
You'd think America's survival is based on numbers on the Street.

Also, Tom got interviewed briefly on BBC4 yesterday. That's pretty cool.

My ongoing mission...

You know, to understand stuff better (and, arguably, on the dark side, to be more right).

So here's The State's overview of the 'capping medical liability' debate. My thoughts:

One of the major problems here is premium increases, right? Could there be other reasons for this? Could the insurance companies be gouging us? I assume they're still making good money. My agent has a nice car.
According to federal figures, South Carolina is the second-highest paying state for obstetrician-gynecologists, and such physicians are the highest-paid in the state. Their average annual wage was $207,870 in 2003.

Subtracting a typical price for obstetrician insurance, as cited by a state Legislative Audit Council report, many of the physicians made more than $170,000 before taxes and expenses, or about five times what the average South Carolinian was paid to work.
So how is insurance costing physicians too much? Did they leave something out?
plaintiffs’ lawyers say physicians do not sanction their own often enough
This seems to be something the doctors should do immediately.

There's no doubt that malpractice suits are too prevalent and often frivolous. However, we need some protection, too.

In one of the sidebars, a bereft mother says:
In my opinion, the patient safety situation has gotten worse since (Lewis) died. There is a very great pressure to cut costs and do things more cheaply. ... There’s pressure to hire people with less and less training. They’re pushing more and more patients through (hospitals) more rapidly.
These are market pressures. So how does the market correct them?

I don't have a lot of conclusions here. I don't pretend to know the answers. From what I do know, I think insurance companies and doctors are making plenty of money. Patients need to be more reasonable about their health care expectations (you can't usually get better, Cadillac care for less money) and should curtail malpractice suits to some degree. Some lawyers are guilty of greed and pushing patients to sue and to sue for more money (to increase the result of their percentage). I wonder what will give...

Help me understand this better (I'm looking at you, especially, Paul, Esquire.)

Two thoughts

I use that extra comma, but never knew it had a name (I did know it tended to be more common among Brits). Turns out, it's called the Oxford comma. There are a lot more articles about it on Google. I've been thinking of switching my usage to using it only when it disambiguates something.

My old friend, Terry, wrote from out of the blue Monday and recommended The Mountain Goats (a band) to me. I downloaded some mp3s to tryout, but haven't...err...tried them yet. They do have a song called Color In Your Cheeks (Iowa City Trance Remix) , so that has to be a good thing.

Tuesday, December 14

Links from today

McCain Has 'No Confidence' in Rumsfeld. This is too far to go, according to Tom, although he agrees with McCain that we didn't and don't have enough troops over there.

Tom got reviewed in the Post (Some registration required.)

How to build a better web browser. I love reading this kind of thing, but it's a little weird, I know.

I won the prize over on Finches' Wings

Automated Suggested Google Alphabet

Worked two jobs at UPS in the last 24 hours. I'm off to the first one again soon (11pm-2am). It's interesting so far. I'm only seasonal help at this point. Also had another job lead today, something turn back up that we thought was dead and gone. So we're feeling a little more chipper around here today.

Caveat Lector: The books and the Google

Dorothea quotes some guy (re: Google's digitization program):
Didn’t we [librarians] collectively think we’d be leading the way into our rightful future as the guardians and disseminators of digital text?
My point: Google has the dough. They've got this huge market cap and all kinds of capital, and they can afford to do this. If they use it for search and selling and we get some reasonable benefits from it, I say bully.

Sunday, December 12

Plastic surgery sucks

(Get it?)

I was stunned today by an ad for plastic surgery in the Sports section for gift certificates for plastic surgery saying '(Good news, your wife did not pay for this ad.)'. The firm (nudge, nudge), is Carolina Cosmetics, if you want to know who to blame. Nothing says love like a gift certificate chin liposuction.

I also recently saw an ad for plastic surgery (may have been the same company) where the pitch was to old people to help you renew the passion in your relationship. Ugh.

One of my all-time, most-hated ads is one I saw in Charlotte for plastic surgery that said 'Confidence is no coincidence.'

What I don't mean to imply here is that I'm not tempted by cheap beauty like most of us are. However, I do try to resist it sometimes.

Introducing the twins to Star Wars

(Or, Jaq, you're either going to be so happy, or so disgusted that their education hasn't begun before now ;-)

So many of these things happen by accident. I won't go into anatomy lessons with Wil.

We had a White Elephant gift exchange and Wil ahd a chance to pick AT-AT Legos, which he thought were pretty cool. So I said 'Would you like to watch the movie your vehicle is in?'. He said yes. So we started with 'Empire...' and watched through it in about two sittings. Then 'A New Hope' in about three. Now we're two into 'Return...' with one more sitting to go.

He loves it, though he really hurt his had playing 'life savers' with Corbin today (before that he called them 'laser swords').

They can't resist saying 'Dark Vader', either. (Elizabeth watches some, but isn't as into it).

A couple of my impressions on rewatching 'Star Wars':

1. ANH and ESB aren't bad. There's almost nothing I would change in them (you know, apart from bad acting and bad dialogue ;-)
2. Princess Leia was the first great love of my life. Three of the subsequent great loves have been brunettes as well. Two had brown eyes. Coincidence? I think not...
3. I REALLY object to the resurrection of the Death Star in RotJ. The Tatooine/Jabba stuff is very serviceable. Dagobah: fine. Infiltration of the forest moon and Luke and Vader's connection: no problem. The Emperor's presence and the big gamble on both sides (way bigger on the Rebellion's): I like it. But not another Death Star!


Anyone want to tape the visit for me? I don't have cable.

SciFi's doing Earthsea. I'm watching through the trailers. Thoughts:

1. Magic seems more common in the film-version. One of the things I like about Tolkien and LeGuin is that magic is somewhat subtle. They don't have to give you the level of the spell, the incantation, the THAC0, etc. ;-)
2. Bobby Drake is Ged? Iceman is Ged? Not in my mind. But we'll see...
3. Looks like there might be some of that funky-quick camera-work. Not my preference...
4. Hmm... Kristin Kreuk's delivery... 'So this is our desitny?' Hmm...
5. I enjoyed the LeGuin interview. I'd never 'seen' her talk before.

At any rate, I'm hopeful it will do some justice to LeGuin's masterpiece.

Note: I went to the website after I got an email from Amazon. They're promoting the movie (with the understanding that it will sell books). Smart.

Update: I'm sorry to report Ms LeGuin isn't hopeful. I side with her, of course.

Saturday, December 11

Catching up

John links the world's oldest board game. This is a must-see. The picture of the dice alone is worth checking it out. Click! (you know, in a tab that loads in the background so you can read it after 'interact' ;-)

Tom fantasizes about what Rumsfeld should have said.

And Tom on the dollar:

But with the dollar held by so many all over the world, that decline in dollar value better be both gradual and seen as a temporary shift, because each time it happens, the euro seems to get a bit bigger on global markets, signaling the rise of an inevitable financial near-peer in Europe to go along with the manufacturing near-peer in China and the R&D near-peer in Japan. Eventually, all those economic near-peers will alter political relationships the world over, and those altered political ties will impact America's security relationships with the world, meaning the transactions implied by our exporting of security will become far more transparent, and thus will be far more scrutinized, debated, and challenged—far more so that they are even today.

This is why America's retreat to "homeland defense" sends all the wrong signals at this point in history. It says we're scared, that we're in it for ourselves, and that we less and less equate international stability with American security.

Wednesday, December 8

The links

Congrats to Matt on the coming baby girl.

Subscriptions have actually worked for Salon. Who knew?

Interesting list: Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s

Wired had an article about better road design. Short story: take away signs, move pedestrians in closer, make it somewhat confusing.

Looks like we got ourselves a little controversy here: Black Coaching Group: Stay Away From South Carolina

Monday, December 6

Fitter, happier, more productive...

Actually just the latter ;-)

Worked hard today. Now I'm crushing through some web-stuff pretty good. A few notes:

Erik Benson has an interesting morale sparkline (graphing caffeine, alcohol, sleep, and morale). If any of us were open enough, it'd be interesting to at least also see 'sex' on that list. Exercise and diet would be good as well. Productivity... Lots of things you could graph. Anyway, it's interesting...

Here's exactly what I want: tags for my weblog...except this plugin's for WordPress. Drat.

Tom Today:

I supported energy independence in my presidential platform, but maybe I was wrong.
Thomas Friedman is now pushing almost non-stop for America to "go to the moon" on some new energy form that will allow us to disengage politically and militarily from the Middle East, so convinced is he that this will foster positive economic change. You might ask if this is not basically bin Laden's desire set in motion, but no bother, if Bush does this, according to Friedman, he can "be both Nixon to China and J.F.K. to the moon—in one move."

same idea, different post:
That's why everyone says the best thing that could happen right now is for the dollar to slide slowly, while the U.S. reins in its spending ways.

Is this likely if the U.S. has no friends or serious allies in a Global War on Terrorism that's costing billions upon billions?

(BTW, if you don't understand how the US and SinoJapanese economies are linked, you might want to check out the groovy graphic in the last-mentioned post.

Tom's com. on Hillary: I'd rate him in a range between open and supportive...

Sunday, December 5

Tom on clandestine connectivity

First, a brief note: You'll probably be hearing less from me about Tom Barnett in the future because I have volunteered to help him out with proofreading. It's a different kind of reading, and I have other things in mind, so I probably won't digest his stuff as much. I'm excited about being involved in a small way with his work. Since I'll be posting less, you should just read his weblog if you want more of him (obviously).

On to today's post. Cell phones are banned by the government of North Korea.
Who's stirring up this trouble? The Chinese, who are installing relay stations along the border, which in turn seems to be fueling a mini-boom in illicit cell phones in the Hermit Kingdom.

What drives this infrastructural development? Whenever cross-border trade begins with either China or the South, North Korean officials and merchants ask their counterparts for cell phones. Gotta like that.

Subversive capitalism from the Chinese: there are so many nice things about that...

Catching up

More from kottke on Sony's action against him.

An interview with the guy (whether you love it and want to read more, or don't understand and want to learn more).

Stats from Brad: Real estate is a good investment.

Thursday, December 2

The rest

Matthew's got a funny picture of himself holding the Squirelly in camoflage.

I keep seeing David Brooks' name in conjunction with smart comments. Brad is touting him as someone who gets Evanglelicalism, though he describes himself as Jewish, because he writes that John Stott would be a better spokesman for us than Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. Speak the truth! Heck, Billy Graham would be a better spokesman.

But wait, you say, Stott and Graham wouldn't go on CNN and talk about 'the' Evangelical view on politics.

That's precisely my point. Evangelicals should be socially active. But we're not a block. Some of us come down in different places.

Estoy famoso!

Debil Estar from Pescozada stopped by and left a comment (gracias por los comentarios.) on that post! Cool.

Following that up, I found some more streams and mp3s to download on their site. No permalink since it's Flash. Click on PU-LUM (whatever that means).

So I checked Google. I'm the seventh result for Pescozada, and the first in English. Aww yeah.

This tells me The World needs to work on their Google Page Rank, but there you have it.

Tom Today

The Bush Mandate
preemption is in, multilateralism is in, but the UN is—in many ways—out, unless it changes its own rule set rather dramatically. That's why I don't think we're done creating the new institutions needed for this new era in security, which is why I continue to push hard for the SysAdmin force and the larger A-to-Z rule set on processing politically-bankrupt states (UN as "grand jury," G-20 as executive, US Leviathan force followed by Core-enabled Sys Admin force, then an IMF-like entity for reconstruction and the International Criminal Court to end the process).
The reality of the coming "national" elections in Iraq
Great op-ed by Krauthammer reminds us of how we need to remain realistic about what a “national” election in Iraq will really accomplish, and what it will really signal:
In 1864, 11 of the 36 states did not participate in the presidential election. Was Lincoln’s election therefore illegitimate?

In 1868, three years after the security situation had, shall we say, stabilized, three states (not insignificant ones: Texas, Virginia and Mississippi) did not participate in the election. Was Grant’s election illegitimate?

There has been much talk that if the Iraqi election is held and some Sunni Arab provinces (perhaps three of the 18) do not participate, the election will be illegitimate. Nonsense. The election should be held. It should be open to everyone. If Iraq’s Sunni Arabs—barely 20 percent of the population—decide they cannot abide giving up their 80 years of minority rule, ending with 30 years of Saddam Hussein’s atrocious tyranny, then tough luck. They forfeit their chance to shape and participate in the new Iraq...
Krauthammer’s point is that American troops are dying—in effect—to prevent the Sunnis from trying to reestablish, through civil war, their minority rule. In the end, as he puts it, “This is the Shiites’ and Kurds’ fight.” Which gets me to the logic that drives my upcoming Esquire piece: we need to find—or create through some radical diplomacy—some local ownership for this fight. The partners are rather obvious, as are the logical asking prices. The question is, who will have the courage to forge the deals?
Prediction: no change in the UN
Yes, what Kofi Annan’s commission is proposing is good stuff, and it moves the UNSC much closer to the sort of executive function required to bolster and populate an A-to-Z global rule set on processing politically-bankrupt states. The problem is, it can’t really be pulled off without amending the UN charter, and that’s a UN General Assembly process. And that’s where my friends’ pessimism kicks in.

Expanding the UNSC to include New Core powers really only makes sense if you’re trying to get a critical mass of large states to come together in institutional agreement on security issues that will inevitably involve rogue Gap states. I know I’m using my particular lexicon here, but believe me, everyone at the UN will be thinking the same thing, so no illusions about what Annan is trying to achieve.

And so you can count on most Gap states rejecting this idea. And since there’s roughly 100 or them, you can kiss good-bye your two-thirds majority of 191 member states required to amend the Charter.

Unless you tell one really good story about why such a move makes sense. Right now the story Annan basically tells is, “Look what happened with Iraq, for crying out loud!” And that’s not much of an incentive, frankly.

The real story truly appeals only to Core states: Don’t you want a transparency process by which the Mugabes, Saddams, and Kim Jong Ils of the world can be gotten rid of in a standard, mutually-agreed-upon way?

Why? The unspoken caveat of such a system, frankly, is that it can never be used against fellow Core states. That’s the realistic approach to getting India, China, Russia et. al on board for things like Sudan.

And that sort of logic will never survive a UN General Assembly debate—no matter how much it makes sense.
The China Price
Economists who went on and on about globalization always being good for America seem somewhat flabbergasted to admit now that—geez!—it’s actually going to make things awfully hard and competitive for the U.S., meaning it will force dramatic internal changes (all desired and needed) upon us or we’ll suffer in the end. So globalization has gone from being a big win for an America that didn’t have to change itself much at all to one in which it’s—at best—a tough victory for an America only if its willing to revamp things like how it thinks about debt (both personal and public) and how it educates its people throughout their lives (and not just at the beginning).

Economic competition within the United States, the world’s oldest and most successful economic and political multinational union, has always been fierce. By replicating that source code across the Core as a whole in this era of globalization, we’ve enlarged the playing field dramatically, pulling in all sorts of previously “frontier” areas full of people who are desperate for better lives and willing to work their asses off to achieve it. Trying to deny their entry is a lose-lose and we all know it, but clearly we’ll have to adjust not just our economic and political rule sets to accommodate that new competition, but those of the Core as well.

This is why I say that America’s number one strategic relationship for the next twenty years or more will be China—and to a lesser extent India. Adjusting the Core’s rule sets to accommodate those two states’ integration into the global economy is the most important foreign policy and—frankly—national security task that we face right now and for the foreseeable future.
In the very obvious way, it only makes sense to think strategically about the world's two most populous nations, both of which are having rising economic and political impact.
Yes, I want to transform the Middle East, but that’s a secondary goal to securing both China and India as long-term strategic partners—economic partners, political partners, security partners.
This is amazing to me. Not that I disagree. It's just that we've been focused on peace in the Middle East for so long. And that's where the oil is! But Tom's saying China and India are more important. He's right, of course.
China’s rise is very similar to that of America’s at the beginning of the 20th century. That’s why a Wal-Mart will let its workers there remain in unions even though it doesn’t here at home. I know that flabbergasts some people: “But China’s communist for crying out loud!” No, it isn’t. It’s very capitalist while still have a significant state sector. In the capitalist portions of its economy, it very much resembles the rough-and-tumble labor world of the U.S. at the beginning of the 20th century, and that’s why it still makes sense for unions to exist. I mean, don’t you want those unions to force Wal-Mart (and every other manufacturer there) to pay their labor better there so the goods they produce/sell cost more and thus reduce China’s “price” over time? Of course you do.

China’s “price” will grow less competitive the more it integrates with the global economy. It happens to everyone. So, in reality, China’s rise is less a threat the more it unfolds, so long as we don’t fix to make them our enemy for lack of imagination. China will dominate Asia, and that domination will lead to the rise of an EU-like entity there in which China will be the obvious center of gravity. We want that to happen, because it secures China in the Core and makes Asia a peaceful, prosperous place.

But for that to happen, there will have to be a NATO-like entity there to mitigate and ultimately eradicate lingering security issues, and getting that process to unfold and to include a U.S. as a founding member is another key task of U.S. foreign policy over the next two decades.

But as you know, alliances rise either out of shared fears or a common victory. There doesn’t seem to be enough shared fear right now, so where do you think we might achieve a common security victory in Asia right now?