Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fallacy of the week - No true Scotsman

No true Scotsman - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
No true Scotsman, or the self-sealing fallacy, is a fallacy of equivocation and question begging. Its name was coined by philosopher Antony Flew in his 1975[dubious – discuss] book Thinking About Thinking – or do I sincerely want to be right?.

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the "Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again." Hamish is shocked and declares that "No Scotsman would do such a thing." The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing."
—Antony Flew, Thinking about Thinking, 1975

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Argentina Takes the Olympic Points Race

Argentina's Juan Esteban Curuchet and Walter Fernando Perez shocked the track cycling world by winning Olympic gold in the men's madison event on Tuesday at the Laoshan Velodrome in Beijing.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Danny and Hugo

Why am I not surprised to learn that Hugo is funding Danny?

Google Reader (1000+)
Apparently actor Danny Glover’s planned film on Haitian independence hero Toussaint-Louverture is being shelved due to lack of funds.

Though the Venezuelan government has provided $18 million of the $30 million needed to shoot the epic, foreign producers are supposedly reluctant to sign on to the project:

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Hunters claim to have nabbed Bigfoot, Internet goes nuts


Making Mac Development Fun

It's getting harder and harder for me to avoid developing something in objective-c.

entropydb - Google Code
EntropyDB can be used similarly to db4objects (db4o). The current preview version is distributed as a static library and can be embedded in Xcode projects by adding the header files and the file libEntropyLib.a to Classes and Frameworks, respectively.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Aint Reality a Bitch?

Megan McArdle (August 12, 2008) - Dope fiends
Athletes are crazy competitive. They will do anything to win. Why not acknowlege that, rather than making fruitless rules? It's not "natural" or "fair", you say? But is there anything less natural or fair than sport? I will never be a good athlete because I don't have the genes for it--hours of practice would make me somewhat better than I am, but not good enough to compete with a decent JV athlete. Hardly fair, that I am shut out by accidents of birth. And as for natural, just imagine what our Homo Erectus ancestors would think if they could see us suiting up for a modern track circuit, swimming competition, or basketball game.

The time is coming when the average Joe is gonna have to come to grips with these facts. The sooner the better, if you ask me.

Intelligent drug use is a good thing, people.

Originality is Overrated

Here's some product development advice that really resonates with me.

Stevey's Blog Rants: Business Requirements are Bullshit
The easiest way to build a product that kicks ass is to start with someone else's great idea (camcorders, for instance), and take stuff away.

In any event, originality is overrated. Coming up with something completely original isn't just hard to do: it's also hard to sell, because investors (and possibly customers) will need to be educated on what this new thing is and why people would want it. And when it comes to buying stuff, nobody likes to be educated. If the product isn't immediately obvious, investors and customers will pass it up.

It's easy to come up with new product ideas if you start with the understanding that everything sucks. There are no completely solved problems. Just because someone appears to be dominating a market with an "ideal" offering doesn't mean you can't take market share from them by building a better one. Everything can stand improvement. Just think about what you'd change if you were doing it for yourself, and everything should start falling into place.

Found In Comments - The Conscience of a Slave

I was doing some research on the effects of inflation and came across this comment on Paul Krugman's blog "The Conscience of a Liberal."

As far as the rugged individual, how long do rugged individuals last in a corporation? It is 20 years of saying “Where and how high?” and 5 years of Ayn Rand to restore your confidence and to dismiss the image that you actually are a loser, once you finally claw your way to the top over the dead bodies that were your tests of loyalty along the way.

Clearly not all of us are happy with the choice to work in the Corporate world.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nanny State News - Christina To Keep us Lean

Argentina Lurches Toward an Obesity Law… | The Temas Blog
By all accounts, Argentina’s Senate will pass an “obesity law” this coming week. If President Cristina Fernandez signs it, Argentina will become the first Latin American or Caribbean (LAC) country to adopt a national law or regulation directly addressing the issue. [Some Brazilian states have laws on aspects of the issue, and several nations currently have bills pending on the subject.]

Will the new Argentine law deserve brickbats or bouquets, or both?

I'm all for improving food choices but give me a break. Does anyone, besides the ego maniacs that draft such legislation, believe that government can solve this problem?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Paraguay's War of the Triple Alliance - 1864 to 1870

While listening to a podcast, I cam to learn about Paraguay's War of the Triple Alliance.

War of the Triple Alliance - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The specific numbers of casualties are hotly disputed, but it has been estimated that 300,000 Paraguayans, mostly civilians, died; up to 90% of the male population may have been killed. According to one numerical estimation, the prewar population of approximately 525,000 Paraguayans was reduced to about 221,000 in 1871, of which only about 28,000 were men. Definitively accurate casualty numbers will probably never be determined. After the war, the Catholic church temporarily allowed polygamy to help repopulate the country.

Is it just me or are we getting better (fewer losses) at this war thing?

Food sovereignty

How would you like to be told to work like a slave?

A brief history of Argentinean “withholdings” « Machetera
Let me explain…if to have a dairy farm, with cows and milking barn, you have to pay many employees, veterinarians, medicines, etc. and “work like a slave” from dawn in order to clear 200,000 pesos a year, but planting soy, with very few workers and without having to get up at 4 in the morning, clear 600,000 pesos, logically you’re going to kill your cows and dedicate yourself to soy.

So, the way to preserve food sovereignty is to make it so that soy is not such a brilliant business (if the state were to appropriate a large part of the earnings).
Food Sovereignty? What the heck is that? Let's go ask Wikipedia:

Food sovereignty - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

If a person has a right to food, that means they are entitled to have it supplied to them without doing anything to earn it. This is called a Positive Right and implies not only that tax payers have to feed people but supports of Food Sovereignty go further and place restrictions on how that is to be done.

Can anyone seriously defend this sort of policy?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fear of Poor People

It's always been my view that poor people simply lack money; not brains, work ethic, etc as some imply. For example, being poor is often cited as a cause of terrorism. If this were true you'd expect to see a hell of a lot more terrorism given that much of the world is poor, don't 'cha think?

Arthur De Vany
The wealthier the country, the more likely is terrorism. The absence of democracy is also cited as a “root cause” by some commentators. Professor Weinberg says there is no evidence for that proposition either. Indeed, the more democratic a society, the more susceptible to terror.

In short, the Islamist movement is not primarily socioeconomically driven. That is a serious misunderstanding of the enemy. Its impulses are perversely ideological. The central stimulus to contemporary Islamist atrocities is to be found in the rejection of the values deriving from the 18th century liberal and sceptical enlightenment. Its epicentres were Scotland and England. The civic culture that arose from it is central to Western civilisation. It recognises the role of reason in social life, a liberal economy, democratic forms of governance, the rule of law, equality of women, individual liberty and pluralism in religion.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Most organizations are average, act accordingly

The Bill Gates Interview
GATES: I don't know anything about employees in tears. I do know that if people say things that are wrong, others shouldn't just sit there silently. They should speak. Great organizations demand a high level of commitment by the people involved. That's true in any endeavor. I've never criticized a person. I have criticized ideas. If I think something's a waste of time or inappropriate I don't wait to point it out. I say it right away. It's real time. So you might hear me say, That's the dumbest idea I have ever heard many times during a meeting.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Term of the day - Moral Hazard

Hey, Enterprise Architects! Pay attention.

Moral hazard - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Moral hazard is the prospect that a party insulated from risk may behave differently from the way it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk. Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not bear the full consequences of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would, leaving another party to bear some responsibility for the consequences of those actions.

And by the way, how did it come to be that we call ourselves architects? Nothing I do all day looks much like architecture. We're more like a CIO's Professional Shoppers.

Maybe I'm biting the hand that feeds but the IT industry is a joke. I won't be surprised if Silicon Valley goes the way of Detroit in 20 years.

Hugo's Crystal Ball

Venezuela's Chavez welcomes lower oil prices | Markets | Reuters
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday "it's good" that oil prices have come down, saying $150 per barrel would be irrational.

The leader of OPEC member Venezuela has said several times recently that $100 per barrel is a fair price for oil.

How the heck does Hugo know what a fair price for oil is? For that matter, what's fair and for whom? He goes on to deplore speculators.

Why is it that when oil prices go up, it's the fault of speculators but when the price goes down they are not give "credit?"

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

You Might Be an Expat If...

You watch this video and think she's on to something rather than simply on something.

[Hat Tip to Jeff Foxworthy]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


This ought to keep tourism rock'n.

Argentine president calls for decriminalization of drug use -
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNN) -- President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner repeated her call this week to decriminalize personal drug use and crack down on traffickers and dealers.

"I don't like it when people easily condemn someone who has an addiction as if he were a criminal, as if he were a person who should be persecuted," she told a meeting of the National Investigation into the Consumption of Alcohol, Tobacco, Psychopharmaceuticals and Illegal Drugs.

"Those who should be persecuted are those who sell the substances, those who give it away, those who traffic in it."

Funny how a government that is so wrong with regard to its economic policy seems to get its drug policy right.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Obama Interpretations

Debbie Schlussel
An Israeli journalist called out to Obama: "Can you ensure that there will be no second Holocaust?"

Obama walked into the museum's main building without responding. . . .

In the "Hall of Remembrance," Obama put on a white yarmulke, lit the "eternal flame" and placed a white chrysanthemum wreath on a stone slab.

Obama then went to the museum's Janusz Korczak Plaza, where he signed the guest book.

Once again an Israeli journalist asked the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee how he'd help prevent a second Holocaust. "Senator can you assure Israel that there will be no second Holocaust despite Iran's threat to wipe us off the map?" he asked.

Obama demurred, saying that it wasn't appropriate to answer the question there.

"This is Yad Vashem!" the journalist responded.

Obama said he would answer the question at a later press availability.

There sure are a lot of ways to interpret this. What is he signaling and for whose benefit? Why couldn't he just say something like "In so far as it is in my power, I will work to prevent the genocide of any people."

I wonder if the story is even true.

Simulating the Future

I'm in a complete Alan-Kay-Fan-Boy frenzy tonight. This happens to me every couple of months, usually after realizing that the joy I once found in computation is fading. It's a lot like discovering that you've been taking your spouse for granted. I think this is called shame.

In moments like these, I try to re-kindle the flame by reading Christopher Alexander, Alan Kay or Hayek. Tonight I reached for The Power of Context by Kay. What stood out for me on this reading was the description of the principles that enabled Kay and the other folks at PARC to create much of the computing environment that we use in today.
  1. Begin with good will
  2. Have visions rather than goals
  3. Funded people, not projects
  4. Respect complexity and lack of knowledge
  5. Grow your systems
  6. Avoid putting any externally controlled system, in-house or out, on one's critical path. This included vendors. This was called committing Error-33.
In summarized form these principles look simplistic or even a bit formulaic but if you read his explanation, I think get a taste for depth of the man's thought.

I'll leave you with this mind bending quote.
Most things done by most people today are still "automating paper, records and film" rather than "simulating the future".

Alan Kay, IT Slavery and Coping.

Alan Kay on Mark Guzdial's Amazon Blog:
So, I've been positing that it is precisely "powerful ideas in computing" that needs to be taught more in universities, even as I doubt seriously that most professors in most universities are up to it. The reasons for this are partly the difficulties of academia in general with respect to a developing field.

Another part of the problem has to do with the psychology of being a programmer (I worked my way through college as one) and it's mostly about *coping* (with someone else's computer, OS, programming language, problem, techniques and architectures, etc.). I did just that until I got into an ARPA grad school by complete accident and into a culture that was as "anti-cope" as one could imagine -- they were quite happy to invent everything they needed, and to build from scratch everything they needed, including every gate of the HW if necessary, and every bit of the SW.

This was a shock and a revelation to me. And it was followed quickly by an even bigger shock: it wasn't as difficult to work from scratch as it seemed from the outside. And it got much much easier when techniques from real math, science and engineering were adapted to the weak shapes of computing. The results from this "ARPA/PARC" community are well known and revolutionized computing. But in spite of their success, essentially none of the processes, techniques and learning curves used and invented by ARPA/PARC are taught anywhere today.

But we can't build! We have to buy, right? Isn't that the way to get ahead, make forward progress and be a responsible IT slave, er, I mean citizen? Well not always. I know that folks like google and ebay have taken the "from scratch" approach with some of there IT infrastructure and the result has been competitive advantage.

I suppose it comes down to whether or not IT is merely a cost center. I can also appreciate the drivers that lead IT Managers and Architects to think the way forward is to hire more slaves -- er, I mean contract labor -- to cope with the mess but, as Alan Kay pointed out in his Turing award speech, this approach to architecture and development does not scale.

So what's the powerful idea that will move us forward?

I don't know what to think about academia, but in corporate IT, where we treat developers and architects like slaves, I think the big idea is the "Free Man." I work with a couple of Distinguished Architects and none of them own a budget or are empowered in any meaningful way to evolve our systems. The net result is that the systems collapse and the new budget holders start over again.

And what does starting over look like? Well, they turn to the same vendors, talent pool, and institutions that got is into the problem in the first place. What's worse is that we turn around and buy the latest version of their bad ideas and expect different results. And its all done in the name of Core vs. Context. Blah, blah, when's my next promotion and cap award?

I wish someone was keeping score.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Common Knowledge

I was just reading a paper called "The Argentina Crisis: Bad Luck, Bad Management, Bad Politics, Bad Advice" and came across the following:

At a time when the IMF had given no real indications that further funds would be forthcoming, there was now an admission that there was no prospect of any private sector funding either. In the terminology of game theory, this might be thought of as an event that changed the degree of ‘common knowledge’ among investors.
Common knowledge in game theory sounded interesting so I looked it up in Wikipedia. Here's a little puzzle that provides a taste of the concept.
It is common to introduce the idea of common knowledge by some variant of the following logic puzzle:[2] On an island, there are k people who have blue eyes, and the rest of the people have green eyes. There is at least one blue-eyed person on the island (k >= 1). If a person ever knows herself to have blue eyes, she must leave the island at dawn the next day. Each person can see every other person's eye color, there are no mirrors, and there is no discussion of eye color. At some point, an outsider comes to the island and makes the following public announcement, heard and understood by all people on the island: "at least one of you has blue eyes". The problem: Assuming all persons on the island are truthful and completely logical, what is the eventual outcome?

The answer is that, on the k dawns after the announcement, all the blue-eyed people will leave the island.