Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Fri Apr 2 09:19:10 2004
Chez Guerilla

The depression and near depth created a kind of nervous energy in the air. It was all about fighting the good fight -- when the enemy invades, they'll would certainly win, but not without a damned good fight. Pits were dug, with sharp spikes being fashioned out of the remainders of dead vehicles. 11 months until the end. Many of the remnants of society were productive, preparing the last bastion of their civilization for its final defiance. A slow trickle of families left the site every week, deciding to face death quietly. Noone really minded -- in the face of a certain end, the time for judgement was long past. Helpful hills, moats of acid, primitive cannons were fashioned. In the basement of the fort, preperations to seal off the bottom floor were made, and a large bomb was being fashioned, a last tribute to the transgressors, to be used after all else were gone. The final efforts of a doomed people.. Finally, the month came, and the people waited, patrols watching the plains for motion, each person armed, trained, and ready to go out, bringing down as many of the foe as possible.. The days slowly moved by, the nervous tension rising. The patrols went out further and further, and found nothing. An impromptu meeting - had intelligence been wrong? A vague sense of disappointment.

Despite it being announced on 1 April, apparently Google was serious about starting a mail service. I wonder if the adverts will really manage to pay for it, and further wonder if Google is really making money, and if so, how.. They are a cool company, in what they give the net, and from the people I know who've left to go work for them. From what I hear, people spend Fridays working on something unrelated to their normal job that's of interest to them, and that's presumably where Orkut came from. Of course, Orkut is designed to get interesting data sets about people, that they can do analysis on inall sorts of intersting ways.. It's kind of a 'you scratch my back..' situation..

Apparently, in the 5th century, as recorded in a text called Hanno's Periplus, a Carthagean explorer came across some of our hairy relatives (likely gorillas), and described them as savage hairy people.

"Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king" -- Bob Dylan

There's an article on control of the internet that's worth reading... a particular quote catches the eye,

"They claim all they are advocating is a deregulated environment where the market can reign supreme. But in reality, they are seeking government help to allow a few companies to turn the Internet from a place of completion and innovation, into an oligopoly. Power over the Internet would then reside with the network owners, who could use choke-point power to constrain consumer choices, limit sources of news and information and entertainment, undermine competitors, and quash disruptive new technologies."

Basically, the claim is that a small group of telco companies are attempting to control the internet, dictate standards, and control the internet, in the name of deregulation. In particular, currently there's legislation in place mandating that people who control, metaphorically, a 'pipe' (physical hardware usable for conveying voice or data, like cable or phone/DSL lines) must allow competitors access to these lines at certain 'reasonable rates' in order to promote competition. The people with the pipes naturally don't like this -- they'd prefer to have exclusive use of the pipes so they can set prices. No, this isn't at all unusual for companies, large or small -- the theoretical idea that competition isn't dangerous to a business doesn't work in the real world. Small companies usually are trying to think of a way to kill or buy their opponents so they can do some price setting, so instead of competing against existing opponents on cost (which is hard), they're just balancing prices against theoretical investors who would swallow the costs of starting from scratch, and using patents to block that. Anyhow, it'd be unwise for me to name names here, but it's everywhere. The problem with the above quote is that it fails to understand that the two things are the same -- a deregulated environment, in some markets, with sufficient time, tends to lead to consolidation. Very few companies in a market are interested in promoting consumer choice for the market they're in (although some, like pricewatch, would be happy to assist in choice in other markets). Consolidation doesn't happen in all markets -- where there isn't sufficient economy of scale (there's usually some), the borders to entry into a market are low enough, patents are hard to use to squash competition, and there isn't enough money involved to buy politicians to tilt the playing field, the market remains diverse. We should be wondering, how many markets are there that don't tend towards a small number of extremely powerful players crowding everyone else out? How long will it be until the entire .. hmm.. marketplace-world? I don't have a word for the world of all markets.. until all of that ends up being like Pepsi versus Coke? Further, while it seems likely that this consolidation is inevitable for many fields, are there any effects pushing things the other way?

I recently was reading about the origin of Jewish lastnames -- apparently, like with my (Scottish Gael) ancestors, the Jews went for a very long time without last names, while they were widely used throughout the rest of the world. Many of the Jewish last names had to be purchased from european officials, as they wern't allowed to pick their last names when they became necessary in the 15th-18th century, which is why many families today have names like Goldmann. Apparently, there's a Yiddish joke about this, which goes:

There was a man whose friend consoled him because he hadn't had enough money to buy a nice name such as Rosenberg or Lilienthal and ended up with Schweissgeruch. His response was, oi, what I had to pay for the w.

I also found This writing site, which is amazingly cool.

Apparently, someone screwed up in arranging a 'mock rape' on an online bulletin board, and the .. well... mock rape was delivered to the wrong person. It seems really strange to me that people would trust someone they've never met to come and 'forcibly' have sex with them. Specifically, it seems likely they'll sometime end up with someone who would kill them, or rob them, or something. I don't know if it's prejudiced of me to say that though -- these are, presumably, just people having some fun (well, when people don't screw up).. still, I'd be a bit worried about people I knew if they were to get involved in this kind of thing. It reminds me of a recent conversation I had regarding someone letting their kids engage in sexplay. I was bothered by this, but at the same time, based on my knowledge of other cultures that have typically allowed this kind of thing, I feel a tension in myself -- that it bothers me to the extent that I think it makes said person an unfit parent, but at the same time, I can also see it as a cultural norm that can vary without large detriment to society. Basically, this is a conflict in my interpretation of weak and strong moral relativism -- how can I condemn it in our society, while not condemn other societies that permit it, and remain a strong moral relativist? I haven't yet resolved this issue yet, although it amuses me to bump into this kind of thing so soon after suggesting that my readers go looking for it. I guess it's because it's fresh in my memory.

A little bit of science for you... Speculation on the transition from water-dwellers to land-dwellers Yup, a fish with 'fingers' Glass made in magnetic levitation It's gotten surprisingly little coverage, and, from what I remember from physics, glass is not supposed to be a conductor or in the least way magnetic. I'm really curious how they're suspending it in midair for it to form. They do promise interesting properties for glass made in this way.. German Talking Trashcans Antarctic Dinosaurs Cells on Silicon Yes, like with the glass, I'm going to generalize a bit, and say that half of interesting breakthroughs are breakthroughs in materials science. I'm kind of jealous of this person's adventures...

"War is God's way of teaching Americans Geography" -- Ambrose Bierce

Finally, and note that I'm adding this in as an after-note, I've had the pleasure of starting to conduct psych research for the first time yesterday. I have a flash-based voice recorder, and am recording people talking their way through solving math problems, in order to attempt to understand changes in mathematical strategy based on specimen^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hubject tiredness. It's neat! I look forward to doing a lot of this kind of thing, although in the future, I hope to be tying it to fMRI machines and similar.