Sunrise in Iraq

Five minutes until polls open in Iraq. Regardless of how much you may or may not hate Bush and this war you have to admit that this is a big day for democracy. I read in Foreign Affairs that the Saudi government is much more progressive and tolerant than its people. Democracy would possibly lead to even fewer rights for the people. Many of the quotes about democracy refer to the fact that an informed populace is a requirement for a successful democracy. On that note, the first quote below is from an Iraqi blogger. Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine has more links to more Iraqi bloggers here.

UPDATE: Looks like the first bombs are going off. They really need to figure out a way to allow online voting. I don't think many insurgents know how to write a computer virus.

"Tomorrow as I cast my vote, I'll regain my home. I'll regain my humanity and my dignity, as I stand and fulfill part of my responsibilities to this part of the large brotherhood of humanity. Tomorrow I'll say I'M IRAQI AND I'M PROUD, as being Iraqi this time bears a different meaning in my mind. It's being an active and good part of humanity. Tomorrow I and the Iraqis that are going to vote will rule, not the politicians we're going to vote for, as it's our decision and they'll work for us this time and if we don't like them we'll kick them out! Tomorrow my heart will race my hand to the box. Tomorrow I'll race even the sun to the voting centre, my Ka'aba and my Mecca. I'm so excited and so happy that I can't even feel the fear I though I would have at this time. I can't wait until tomorrow."

"Voting is one of the few things where boycotting in protest clearly makes the problem worse rather than better."
Jane Auer

"I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master."
Thomas Jefferson

"The only force that can overcome an idea and a faith is another and better idea and faith, positively and fearlessly upheld."
Dorothy Thompson

"The spirit of democracy cannot be established in the midst of terrorism, whether governmental or popular."

"In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than just ideals to be valued - they may be essential to survival."
Noam Chomsky

"So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men."

"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
Hermann Goering

"Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time."
E.B. White

"... the 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy."
Alex Carey

"If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
C.S. Lewis

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."
George Orwell


Driving Simulator Update

Lots of interesting things happening with the driving simulator these days. It turns out that the problems I was having with shadows was the result of a bug in the graphics engine we're using. We applied the patch and now our little project is starting to look a lot like a big budget game. We're using fairly low resolution textures for the mountains in the background but those will be upgraded soon.

If you have a Mac and want to help out leave a comment. Our code should work on a Mac in theory but we've yet to try it out. In case you're new to my blog I'm working on a driving simulator project with some gearheads from around the world. In fact, most of our team is outside of the US. We're all doing it for fun in our spare time and relasing it as Open Source software which means it's a free download. Right now it's not much to look at, you can drive around on a big parking lot and flip over the car but we'll eventually have online racing enabled as well as AI. For more info you can check out our website at motorsport-sim.org.


Copyright vs. History

An interesting act of civil disobedience is happening in the form of a re-release of Eyes on the Prize, arguably the most important civil rights documentary ever made. A quote from Wired:
"Old VHS tapes that remain in schools and libraries were the only way to view the landmark series, until now. Downhill Battle enlisted the help of a group called Common Sense Releasers to digitize the series and convert it to MPEG-4 format for distribution on the internet. The group hopes people will organize community screenings of the series around the country."
You can read more about it at Wired or at the project homepage. I worked with the DownHill Battle guys who helped with the release of the Tsunami Videos which also use BlogTorrent. They really know their stuff. It's amazing what can happen when a group with a cause also happens to know how to write software. The fact that someone is breaking the law if they download this and show it to their kids seems fundamentally flawed to me. If you're feeling dangerous, grab the film here. They've done a good job with the server, I heard from a friend that you can download it at 400kB/s right now, not too shabby.

Documentaries should be released to the public domain after fewer years than a typical film in my opinion. Especially if the owners are unwilling to re-release it for the public good. There are signs of hope. The US Copyright Office is attempting to address this issue and is requesting your input
The Copyright Office seeks to examine the issues raised by ``orphan works,'' i.e., copyrighted works whose owners are difficult or even impossible to locate. Concerns have been raised that the uncertainty surrounding ownership of such works might needlessly discourage subsequent creators and users from incorporating such works in new creative efforts or making such works available to the public. This notice requests written comments from all interested parties. Specifically, the Office is seeking comments on whether there are compelling concerns raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other solution, and what type of solution could effectively address these concerns without conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right holders.
Read the whole thing here.

Update: I'm going to pull the old Blogger vs. Mainstream Media thing. The Wired article isn't technically accurate. You can buy Eyes on the Prize here for $775. It wasn't hard to find either. The fact that it's VHS only (and expensive) restricts its availability to some degree but it's a tough call saying that it should be totally free. Should all films with historical value that are only available on VHS be pirated? If the owners are smart they will re-release the documetary on DVD due to the free publicity generated by DownHill Battle and everybody will be happy.


Time is money...

... and my watch is homeless. I've got a ton of ideas for things I want to write about, must.. find.. time... The sunset is from another San Diego blogger. Check out her site here. It doesn't suck to live here I suppose.

Thinking of trying to create a little Internet radio broadcast with all of this new technology that's coming out. It's changing so fast that I could literally sit here 24 hours a day and not run out of interesting things to read about. Currently listening to a guy with an Internet radio show in Cardiff, my home town. He's one of a handful of SD podcasters. That won't be the case for long.

A really interesting poor man's Ipod is available for $25. The unique thing here is that he actually installs an application and sets it up to autorun - like a CD does - when you plug it in. There is a great writeup on it here. Or if you'd prefer, listen to it here. You can listen because he's podcasting, I'm chipping away at an article on Podcasting. Stay tuned.

The fish was emailed to me by a friend. Apparently it was washed ashore during the tsunami. Unique looking beast.


Podcasting, I-Tunes, Grey Album

I'm writing a piece on Podcasting. It's basically a marriage of radio and Tivo on the 'net. I'll try to get it up sometime early this week.

For the love of god, if you're using Windows Media Player, please consider ITunes for managing your music library. I don't say that because I hate Microsoft or because Apple stuff is ooober hip. The software is simply better. For instance, Quicktime/Itunes supports Mpeg4 video and Internet radio playlists - like Winamp used to. I'm a fan of ease of use and good user interface design, it's got my vote. Grab 'em here.

Now that that's out of the way why not watch the Public Domain movie Santa Claus Conquerors the Martians. It's Campy like The Gap but even more affordable.

If that's not your style check out the Grey Album by DJ DangerMouse. From the Rolling Stone review:
" It's the ultimate remix record: Underground DJ Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton) takes a cappella tracks from Jay-Z's The Black Album and composes new beats for each song using only samples from the Beatles' "White Album." The result, the aptly titled Grey Album, is an ingenious hip-hop record that sounds oddly ahead of its time."
It's kind of strange that the album is illegal. Books of the past were burned because of their morally corrupt fiber, in the future it seems books will be burned because of copyright excesses.


Media Conspiracy Theory

Tsunami Videos here.

Some facts then some predictions:
The DRM enabled Cell processor from IBM will be inside the PS3.

DivX allows levels of compression which will in turn allow cheap video distribution over the Net.

Cable set top boxes will move to the Cell processor (my Pioneer HDTV set top box is currently too slow to render the channel guide effectively)

Google is snatching up dark fiber for unknown reasons. A Slashdot quote:
"You can lease dark fiber from a telco... I worked for a company that did it for a short while...
There's probably 100* more dark fiber than lit fiber in the world - when they're putting it down it's dirt cheap to put a few more bundles in. You can get it pretty much anywhere to anywhere (where there's some kind of physical link anyway)."
Maybe Google is thinking that instead of the typical "distribution sky is falling" theories that the demand for content in the near future is underestimated (maybe they read the longtail blog) and that the distribution monopoly of the future will be in fiber optics.
"If Google were to build its own global or national fibre network, the project would likely cost billions of dollars and take years to implement, an investment that would be hard to justify based on the networking needs of most companies. Renting "lit" fibre from carriers is generally a cheaper, and therefore preferred, way to go."
That quote is the current (I'd argue short term) thinking.

I was setting up a content filtering device for schools at the Cox data center and saw the Video on Demand server during an impromptu tour. It's a fairly small (3' high) RAID array considering what it does. Time Warner now has a channel that lets me rent High Definition movies on demand which begs the question: Why do I need a $600 next gen Blu-Ray DVD player if I can just use Video On-Demand and get it over the net? This is different from previous "next big thing"s because it's so damn easy to use.

Pretty much any content will be available at any time and the expense will be lower thanks to better distribution technology and economies of scale from the long tail. The Cell Processor, DRM and things like fiber to the home will also bring down prices. So the question is then how to make money in the media business if you don't own content. My guess is search, filtering, all the fancy new ideas happening with metatagging and blogs except applied to High Definition 1080p video over the net, content journalism. If that's the case then Google's mysterious dark fiber acquisitions and their purchase of Blogger.com starts to make a lot of sense.


Flu = Crazy Dreams

I've got the flu which lead to some fairly interesting dreams. One was about dropping Ipods on Iraq. Finger muscles hurt... back later...


Blog Photog

I'm having my photos taken right now for an article in a local magazine about bloggers. I'm trying to look natural so I'm writing in my blog of course. The guy is right next to me with a fancy looking camera with a detachable flash and a light meter. The goal here is to look natural, easier said than done. The lights are off, he's using the glow from my LCD to create the geek ambiance. I laughed and he pounced, snapping a bunch in rapid succession, interesting experience.

I'm migrating my blog to the highly acclaimed but non-free TypePad. Check it out here.


Emerging Technology Conference

The O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference is coming to San Diego and I'm going. Some of my favorite mentally endowed nerds are going to be there... Lessig, Anderson, etc. I'll be keeping you all posted in the spirit of citizen journalism, possibly even moblogging, from the conference. Unfortunately they prohibit the recording of video or audio but I'll be taking a lot of notes. I've been thinking a lot about these topics lately but haven't had time to put my thoughts down in a coherent form on my blog yet. In the mean time check out the following article and movies. If you're interested in culture or the economy they're worth the time...

The Long Tail

"Forget macroeconomics. While you're at it, forget microeconomics, too. The really interesting new work is in nanoeconomics, or economic behavior in markets of a million niches far down the long tail of demand. From Pareto distributions to the rise of secondary markets, the ability to find big businesses in small sums is casting a new light on the dismal science."

Lawrence Lessig Speech (.wmv video file)
Explains his take on culture and common assumptions that we shouldn't be making. Website here.

Mixter is a great site with really good free music, no really... Here's a remixed song I found on it. Yes, it's legal.
And finally, a movie about the emergence of the Creative Commons license in Brazil.

My co-worker has been sick for the last week so I've been teaching his class. I did a nonpartisan brain dump of everything I know about economics, technology, culture, etc. to the kids on a big whiteboard with a bunch of blobs, arrows and colored pens. One of them said "Nobody has ever explained it to me like that before." It was sorta nice, makes me want to be a teacher.

The above creative commons licensed photo made me think about parking enforcement robots of the future. That will be their face (I added the red dot in the O for effect). It's the best way I can explain what the Creative Commons license allows. The song above was remixed into something new becuase of the less restrictive license placed on it. I modified the CC licensed photo above, legally, to get an idea across. This was of course all illegal under copyright law until fairly recently.


Gates, the new McCarthy

Tsunami Post HERE

Bill Gates has claimed that Free Culture advocates are commies. For an explanation of why he's horribly mistaken, read on. Joe McCarthy preyed on the fears of Americans to create a sort of mass hysteria during the cold war leading to his downfall. If you look up demagogue in the dictionary there is no picture of McCarthy but you will find the following quote. "A consummate demagogue, McCarthy played upon cold war emotions and made charges so fantastic that frightened people believed the worst."
In a McCarthyesque interview with CNET Bill Gates said
"I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist."

Unfortunately Bill hadn't done his homework. Lawrence Lessig is the de facto leader of the free culture movement. The uninformed (Gates') assumption is that he's a left wing fanatic, looking to rid the world of intellectual property. If you dig a little deeper you find that he's not anti-IP, in fact he wants to make the system more efficient. The former head of the RIAA (the recording industry's knee breakers) even softened up to him after a debate.

There is an old tounge in cheek argument that the kid that bashes car windows while his neighbors sleep is a good thing for the economy. He creates business for the window repair people, jobs are created, GDP goes up, everybody wins? Obviously that's not the case but that appears to be the logic Gates is using. In fact, he's been breaking Windows for nearly two decades.


Malpractice Insanity

Tsunami Post is HERE

I used to think that nationalized healthcare was financially logical based on the numbers showing our health care costs compared to European and other nations as a percentage of GDP, 15% in America vs 10% in Canada.. A couple of months ago I realized that the problem wasn't with failings of the free market, it's a failure of the judicial system that allows frivolous and massive payouts which leads to ridiuclous malpractice insurance premiums for hospitals/doctors.
A quote:
"But the lawyers who win those awards for malpractice victims and other opponents of Bush’s initiative say the real problem is insurers who look to raise premiums and, consequently, their bottom line."

It's amazing to me that people still use that argument. The last time I checked there was more than one insurance company in America. That means that like any other business if you jack up rates too high people with flock to the competition. So the implication is that there is a malpractice insurance monopoly yet I haven't heard any Democrats complaining about this implied monopoly. In fact a Google search for malpractice insurance monopoly returns all of two results.

You can't put a price on someone's life. Doctors are only human, they make mistakes too. A 15Billion dollar payment for a family victimized by malpractice isn't sufficient if you consider life priceless. We know life is worth more than money but we have to put a price on it. Not only that but that price can't be detrimental to the rest of society. I've heard arguments about how healthcare should be a right. It is a right in America right now. You can walk into an Emergency room if you're really desparate and legally you can not be turned away. For the rest of us though, the free market is a healthy alternative.

So my thinking goes like this: Malpractice frivolity is fixed - health insurance premiums drop dramatically - disposable income for all Americans increases - that income is spent on innovative new things - the economy benefits - tax revenues increase - we're able to use some of the newfound wealth to pay for new clinics for the needy - everybody wins.

EDIT: Someone left an interesting comment, here's my updated thinking.
I appear to have learned something. 'pubs are blaming malpractice. Dem's are blaming greedy corporations. I'm going to blame nobody, technically I'm blaming the baby boom demographic shift and a newfound ability to make cheap unhealthy food which leads to the counterintuitive rise in lower class obesity.


Lots of Eyeballs

If you're looking for the tsunami videos check out my last post here.

Well my guess was right. BlogTorrent became the number one way to download the tsunami videos from the Internet resulting in over 100,000 visitors to my blog over the last week. I took down all of my blog images because my server wasn't able to cope. They'll be back in a week or so when things return to normal. There is a buzz in the air about blogging these days, probably due to the Pew Internet and Family Life Project poll. A quick Google News search for blog returned 3,920 results. In fact, TechCentralStation now has an entire section devoted to the blogoshphere.

A bunch of you have been checking out my profile so I've decided to link to my favorite posts about various topics below and took some time to summarize my thoughts on some topics beneath these links.

My thoughts:
For Love of Monkey
Modern Living
Driving Fast and Mortality
The Big Bang
The Media
Standards v. Choice
Artificial Intelligence
Cavemen and the Baby Bust
Necessary Demagoguery

Democracy, Marriage, Human Nature

My Ideal Retirement Situation
The Nuclear Family
Noam Chomsky Answers my Question
God, Coffee, Japanese Warlords
The Driving Simulator
Robots vs Striking Workers -- Woody Allen vs Brad Pitt

Basically my thinking boils down to the following:

Why I Write: It occured to me a few months ago that I write to sort out my thoughts. I learn more when I write than I would if I simply read something and moved on. Hopefully some of you will supply my impressionable 26 year old brain with feedback so I can learn something and write better articles.

Economics: Raising taxes to help the poor is counterproductive in the long run. Of course this has its limits but Germany's high unemployment is a result of extensive vacation time and generous unemployment benefits. America is the richest nation in the world because we nurture entrepreneurialism. Yes we have a wealth divide but our poor are considered wealthy in most countries. In short, raise taxes too much and it hurts the poor. Cut taxes too much and it hurts the poor. I do think the government should spend more on education/youth but that's long term thinking and doesn't really happen in a democracy. Democracy is the best system we've found so far but it's not perfect. Stephen Roach sums up my beliefs about economics with the following quote:
"In the future there are two roads. One is to look backward and hang on to what we think we're entitled to. The other is to recognize what has made America. Our virtues lie in a flexible and open, technology friendly, risk-taking, entrepreneurial, market-driven system. This is exactly the same type of challenge farmers went through in the late 1800's, sweatshop workers went through in the early 1900's, and manufacturing workers did in the first half of the 80's. We've got to focus on setting in motion a debate that pushes us into new sources of job creation rather than bemoaning the loss. There are Republicans and Democrats alike who are involved in this protectionist backlash. They're very vocal right now, and they need to be challenged."

Politics: Bush and Kerry? Both unfit for the job. I don't blame them though, human nature when applied to democracy results in the choices we're presented with. Democracy is no doubt inflenced by the media which is undergoing a major transformation right now due to the Internet and bloggers in particular. So while I don't think human nature will change any time soon I do think that technology will change the media which will in turn give us a purer democratic process. I have a degree in finance, I know a little bit about money and as far as I know there were no multinational corporations in the 1700s with armies of lobbyists. Now they use the 1st amendment as they once did the 14th to shore up their power all in the name of our founding fathers. A quote by Abe Lincoln:

"The money power preys upon the nation in times of peace and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

He's right except for the fact that a large slice of corporate power lies in the control of the media which is now slipping away because of the distributed nature of the Internet. I disagree with a lot of Noam Chomsky's points but he does make some valid arguments.

Media: Dysfunctional but recovering. Jon Stewart had a point on Crossfire. I have faith that the Internet is going to come to the rescue here as well. The cable news networks have already split down partisan lines for the most part and it stands to reason that the blogs of the future will do the same. The difference is that the cost of producing and distributing content is now approaching zero. Musicians are producing albums in their bedrooms with laptops and Open Source software. People are making money by adding donation links to their websites even while giving away their art or software for free. Capitalism without Capital applied to culture is a beautiful thing. Ideas can more efficiently proliferate with new media technologies combined with the Internet. Journalists are scared of fact checking bloggers so they check their own facts. In the run up to a presidential election facts are good for democracy regardless of the winner. Dan Gillmore says it best in his free online book We the Media.

"This is also a story of a modern revolution, however, because technology has given us a communications toolkit that allows anyone to become a journalist at little cost and, in theory, with global reach. Nothing like this has ever been remotely possible before."

Faith: My blog isn't strictly political. In fact I don't think any of the topics here are really distinct. Personally I don't really understand faith yet. I grew up reading books about science and believe that we lived in caves 15,000 years ago. I'm agnostic, I don't know if there is a God but I found a quote about faith by a professor at a theological academy that makes sense to me.

"Marx said "Religion is the opiate of the masses!" And I agree with him … to a certain extent. If there is a drop of truth in Marx's words, it's when we forget that religion is a means which God has given us for achieving holiness and salvation. It's when we use religion only as a means of comfort in difficult moments of our life. Religion for us is just a soothing narcotic. It becomes an opiate for us if we forget that salvation is not merely our private business."

Faith, hijacked by partisan interests worries me more than the use of faith as an opiate. Something in me can't accept faith, some say I'm too rational. Strip away the opiates from faith and you're left with something fundamentally good. I simply chose a different means to the same end.