2004-06-30

MJ

Kirsten Dunst:
“George Bush is a moron, so I definitely don’t want him in office. I’ll vote for John Kerry but he’s not really standing up for anything either, so I’m not sure how much of a difference that would make.”
Agreed.

Hippies & India

"... by buying this book you are funding the ruination of hard found havens by the unwashed hippy masses. But I suppose that's inevitable."
(from the Amazon comments on Lonely Planet: India)

Anybody have any other guidebook recommendations? I'll be spending a few weeks in Ladakh, and a few more in Hyderabad.

Here's a map—Leh (far north) is the capital of Ladakh, and Hyderabad's down south.

2004-06-29

Tiger Server

Woah, my Blojsom schwag just got a whole lot cooler. I just gotta make sure I don't wear it the same day Shellen does...

Arrr SS

I'm really, really stoked to play with Safari's just-announced Feed support. Dom however, is already digging it; he sent this screenshot this morning:

Safari's RSS support

2004-06-27

Microloans

Yesterday I finished reading an amazing book—Banker to the Poor—Micro Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who recently gave a talk at work. Thirty years ago he started Grameen Bank, which has enabled over three million Bangladeshis to rise above the poverty line via microloans. The rate of loan recovery is almost 99%, and 95% of Grameen's borrowers are women, incredibly significant given Bangladesh's patriarchal Muslim society:
"UN studies conducted in more than forty developing countries show that the birth rate falls as women gain equality. The reasons for this are numerous. Education delays marriage and procreation; better-educated women are more likely to use contraceptives and more likely to earn a livelihood. I believe that income-earning opportunities that empower poor women and bring them into organizational folds will have more impact on curbing population growth than the current system of 'encouraging' family planning practices through intimidation tactics.' 'Family' planning should be left to the family."
Here's a snippet that describes how borrowers use their loans:
"I firmly believe that all human beings have an innate skill. I call it the survival skill. The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability. They do not need us to teach them how to survive; they already know how to do this. So rather than waste our time teaching them new skills, we try to make maximum use of their existing skills. Giving the poor access to credit allows them to immediately put into practice the skills they already know—to weave, husk rice paddy, raise cows, peddle a rickshaw. And the cash they earn is then a tool, a key that unlocks a host of other abilities and allows them to explore their own potential. Often borrowers teach each other new techniques that allow them to better use their survival skills. They teach far better than we ever could."
Here's the story of a specific borrower named Murshida Begum, who was featured in a PBS documentary called To Our Credit:
"At first Murshida borrowed 1000 Taka (~$17) to purchase a goat and she paid off the loan in six months with the profits from selling the milk. She was left with a goat, a kid, and no debt. Encouraged, she borrowed 2000 Taka, bought raw cotton and a spinning wheel, and began manufacturing lady's scarves. She now sells her scarves wholesale for 100 Taka with tassels and 50 Taka without. Murshida's business has grown so much that during peak periods she employs as many as twenty-five women in her village to manufacture scarves. In addition, she has bought an acre of farmland with her profits, built a house with a Grameen Bank housing loan, and set up her brothers in businesses that include sari trading and raw cotton trading."
One final snippet:
"Critics often argue that micro-credit does not contribute to the economic development of a country. And even if it does contribute something, that something is insignificant."

"But it all depends on what one considers economic development. Is it per capita income? Per capita consumption? Per capita anything?"

"I have always disagreed with this kind of definition of development. I think it misses the essence of development. To me, changing the quality of life of the bottom 50 perfect of the population is the essence of development . To be even more rigorous, I would define development by focusing on the quality of life of the lower 25 percent of the population."
Further reading:I'm adding this book to the Library of Awareness, in case any of you co-workers want to check it out.

2004-06-23

¡Viva Flamenco!

Last night's concert at the Saratoga Mountain Winery was superb (including the weather, unlike last year). Ottmar set me up with two tickets & backstage passes, so Danah and I headed up after work for the show. They played plenty of (not-so) new tracks from La Semana as well as some oldies, and I think they closed with Santana? One particular melody embedded itself in my mind all day today, and I had to listen through my whole collection until I found it... Duende del Amor! (listen)

After the show we got to chat with the band backstage — it was my first time meeting Robby and Jon, who hooked me up with his new album.

Though the Winery has a no-camera policy, Ottmar made me promise to sneak a few shots with my Treo: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

2004-06-21

Iñtërnâtiônàlizætiøn

SteveJ mentions that yes, Blogger passes Sam Ruby's i18n test with flying colors.

Now if only our users could pass the test...

2004-06-20

What happened?

The other night, Tony (my landlord) and I got into a somewhat lengthy discussion about energy, renewable and otherwise. He told me about the energy crisis thirty years ago, and how the vision then was for the US to achieve energy independence by 1980. After telling me about various schemes involving propane and solar power I asked him, "Here it is thirty years later and our most popular vehicles are less efficient than back then. What happened?"
He replied, "I don't know. What happened?"

And I replied, "I dunno. What happened?"
We left it at that.

I think I just found the answer though — Reagan:
"On July 17, 1980, as he accepted the Republican Party's presidential nomination, he declared, 'Those who preside over the worst energy shortage in our history tell us to use less, so that we will run out of oil, gasoline and natural gas a little more slowly.' The Gipper continued, 'Well, now, conservation is desirable ... But conservation is not the sole answer to our energy needs. America must get to work producing more energy.' Reagan's idea was to liberate the oil companies from controls, as part of his belief in 'getting government off our backs.'"

...

"During Reagan's two terms, oil prices fell by three-fourths, and the real output of the U.S. economy grew by a third. Lower prices? More wealth? What's not to like? Only this: The market produces miracles, but it's nonetheless blind; it makes no distinction between a barrel of oil pumped in Oklahoma and a barrel pumped in Saudi Arabia. If the foreign crude is 1 cent cheaper, that's what Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' selects. Oil, said the Reaganites, is just another commodity; it doesn't matter where it comes from. So while the economy boomed, the vision of energy independence withered."

"And thus the catch: The free market lowered the price of energy, but since the United States was a high-cost producer, domestic production was a big loser. And the long-term decline in U.S. oil production -- accelerated, too, by environmental concerns -- continued through the Reagan years and has kept on ever since. Today, the United States imports 59 percent of its oil; it has gone from being one-quarter dependent on foreign sources to three-fifths dependent."
Read the rest of the article at Salon — Abolish the terror tax — written by a Reagan administration staffer.

Media $

Another day, another must-read article. This one's from Charles Lewis (a former 60 Minutes producer) of the Center for Public Integrity, written for the Columbia Journalism Review: Media Money, How Corporate Spending Blocked Political Ad Reform & Other Stories of Influence. A few snippets:
"No media corporation lavishes more money on lobbyists or political campaigns than Time Warner, Inc. The media giant spent nearly $4.1 million for lobbying last year, and since 1993 has contributed $4.6 million to congressional and presidential candidates and the two political parties. The second-heaviest media spender in Washington is the Walt Disney Co., Inc., which paid $3.3 million for lobbying and just under $4.1 million in political donations during the same period of time."

...

"Under current FCC rules, a single company is permitted to reach only 35 percent of the national audience through the stations it directly owns, preventing a handful of companies from owning all of the television stations in the country. With the CBS deal, Viacom went over the cap. To meet regulatory muster, Viacom will have to sell off some of its stations by May 2001. Within a week of the merger's announcement, Senate Commerce chairman McCain introduced a bill that would help Viacom skirt that requirement, raising the audience cap to 50 percent of the national audience. As noted in the Center for Public Integrity's book, The Buying of the President 2000, Viacom was McCain's fourth most generous "career patron."
While you're there, poke around CJR's site — there's some great material there.

2004-06-19

Copyfight

Cory Doctorow, one of my favorite authors and bloggers, just gave a talk at Microsoft about Digital Rights Management (DRM). It's fascinating, humorous, enlightening and long. You should read it immediately. Here's a snippet:
"It used to be illegal to plug anything that didn't come from AT&T into your phone-jack. They claimed that this was for the safety of the network, but really it was about propping up this little penny-ante racket that AT&T had in charging you a rental fee for your phone until you'd paid for it a thousand times over."

"When that ban was struck down, it created the market for third-party phone equipment, from talking novelty phones to answering machines to cordless handsets to headsets -- billions of dollars of economic activity that had been supressed by the closed interface. Note that AT&T was one of the big beneficiaries of this: they also got into the business of making phone-kit."
Once you've read it, head over to the EFF's site and donate — they're the folks who defend our digital rights against absurd FUD.

Update: Because the Internet is so frickin' cool, and because Cory used a Creative Commons license for his talk, there's now an audio version available, as well as a wiki-fied version for annotation. Nice!

2004-06-16

Awareness

Control Room is an awesome documentary about Al Jazeera, and its coverage of the Iraq War. You should go see it, because it will make you think.

Also of interest (and highly recommended) is Anne Garrels' Naked in Baghdad, her personal account of her time there as NPR's correspondent before and during the war. Better yet, listen to it. The only side she takes is the only one that matters — the human one.

Hey Sugar

The Hungry Tiger has a great little piece about sugar and corn (the high fructose syrupy kind):
"Subsidies make [corn] so cheap that there's an enormous incentive to use it in all kinds of unsavory ways, filling processed foods with corn syrup and stuffing cows with corn silage..."

"Of course cows weren't built to subsist on grain, which means that feeding them corn makes them much more suceptible to a variety of diseases, which process is largely responsible for the routine dosing of beef and dairy cows with antibiotics..."

"And humans aren't built to have the super-digestible and otherwise valueless calories of fructose in their every food. Our good friend high-fructose corn syrup pops up all over the place: in breakfast cereal, salad dressing, "fitness drinks," hamburger buns, peanut butter, cough syrup, tomato sauce, pretzels, "nutrition bars," soups, blah blah blah blah blah."

"An intersecting problem is the US tariff on imported sugar, which not only encourages people to use corn syrup where you'd expect sugar, but also deforms a cascading series of markets in some nasty ways. The idea is that US sugar producers deserve a break -- you don't want all that fat sugar-money going overseas, do you?"
Here's the original NYTimes article linked in the above article: The (Agri)Cultural Contradictions of Obesity

Also linked in the post's comments is Richard Manning's Against the Grain, which looks quite enlightening.

2004-06-09

Google Doodles

If any of y'all have ever been curious about Google's holiday & event logos, check out Dennis's latest post to the GoogleBlog:
"My name is Dennis, and I'm the guy who draws the Google doodles. But the doodle tradition started here before I did. The first doodle was produced by (who else?) Larry and Sergey, who, when they attended the Burning Man festival in summer 1999, put a little stick figure on the home page logo in case the site crashed and someone wanted to know why nobody was answering the phone."

2004-06-08

Danah.org

The brilliant and beautiful Danah Boyd has joined us for the summer!
"So, i officially took an internship for the summer yesterday. I will be working for Blogger (Google)... When Google approached me, i felt as though somewhere in the universe, someone was prepared to help me get my shit together. A research project directly in line with what i love with a team full of the coolest, kindest folks at a company with massage therapists, a fully-functional physical therapy-style gym, physical therapists, pilates, organic food, etc. and a pay that will let me survive grad school."
We're the luckiest kids in the world. :)

2004-06-06

Mt. Everest Hat Trick

First Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer's exhilarating personal account of the 1996 Mt. Everest expeditions & subsequent disaster. Or even better, the audio version as narrated by the author.

Second, the movie.

Third and finally, Everest: IMAX, simultaneously filmed alongside the above expeditions, including photos, video clips and interviews with the participants.

(Just priming myself for India...)

Bonus photo: Sir Edmund Hilary at Stewart Island, New Zealand. (he's the first person to summit Everest.)

Bonus videos: Hilary speaking.

Bonus hat trick: Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban; all were brilliant!

Bonus fact: Three years ago I completed my first 10-day Vipassana course.

1984

The Guardian: "On behalf of the non-thuggish American majority, my sincere apologies."

[via Kevin]

2004-06-05

Re: Actíonal

First Ev, then Dick.

Heh.

2004-06-04

The Horror

First, the BBC News:
"A catastrophe is now unavoidable in Sudan's Darfur region, the United Nations and aid workers say. Some 300,000 people will starve, even if emergency aid is delivered immediately, according to the head of the United States aid agency."
Then via Jim Moore, Ingrid Jones writes:
"The UN asks for $236m like it is a drop in the ocean and puts the blame for today's situation on donors and the Sudanese government. Who's blaming the EU, UN and the charities funded by the public? After all that's been said and done about the Holocaust, Bosnia and Rwanda: what is going on with these cash mountains of aid in this day and age?"
If I were Microsoft, I'd withdraw 0.4% of the cash from my bank account and give it to the UN to sort this out, just because I could. Then I'd do the rest of what Ingrid is saying:
"After Bosnia and Rwanda, they can't be allowed to get away with it. They've had enough years. Let's shake them up. Monitor them. Make them work better. Put the heat on them. Name and shame them. If their jobs and reputations are put under real pressure, they will put real pressure on politicians. And perhaps the whole business of providing timely help and protection to people in times of crisis - such as genocide in Darfur - could be made to run much more efficiently and effectively.
After all,
"How can the EU and UN allow this happen? Or is it just a fact of life. Like we are all ants. Squish. There goes another 300,000. Who cares? America and Europe sure cared about 3,000 of their own on 9/11. Is an American or European life of more value than an Sudanese life? And if it seems so, who says it has to continue that way?"

2004-06-02

The Heat

The Fahrenheit 9/11 trailer is live.

Hooooooh boy!

Update: Andy's tracking the mirrors.

[via Waxy]