Via The Huffington Post, “West turns blind eye as police put Saddam’s torturers back to work – World – Times Online

“In their haste to put police on the streets to counter the brutal insurgency, Iraqi and US authorities have enlisted men trained under Saddam Hussein’s regime and versed in torture and abuse, the officials told The Times.”

Here’s a perfect example of how complexity will get you every time. I know that I certainly wondered about the way that existing pre-invasion police and other infrastructure was not utilized more in Iraq. So, here is direct evidence that my own notion, to use the existing infrastructure instead of dismissing them and starting over, would have been a bad idea.

So, I feel for the people caught in this quagmire. It’s a thicket of delayed consequences that just become impenetrable barriers to peace. Without the already trained people, there are not enough. With the already trained people, there’s torture and abuse.

Now, of course, one also has to question whether, at this point, the “problem” is unintended. At some level, if the US is relying on foreign nationals in other arenas to carry on torture and detention, then the natural extension of that policy is to use, and then scapegoat, non-US people in Iraq itself for the same purpose – plausible deniability on the existence and control of torture and abuse.

“He denied any allegation of torture, but admitted: ‘This is a dirty war. We are the only ones with the nerves to fight it.'”

We can’t handle the truth, perhaps. Are we so caught in the cycle of invasion and occupation, which seems to be a significant part of the military history of the US, that we have no choice but to lie to ourselves?

There was an radio interview yesterday. I forget what station, either KAOS or Free Radio Olympia, in which the interviewee talked about the recognizable pattern where atrocities are denied. It is difficult for a population to accept that atrocities are being committed by their military proxy. Populations deny out of ignorance, need for an illusion, or inability to hold the horror in their minds, and probably other reasons as well.

There’s something like the necessary illusion of an idyllic family or small farm which masks the extreme, brutal world of food production here. I recognize in my own mind that I have an image of the small farm when I think of food production that pushes from my thoughts the truths of food production. This further removes from my mind the social implications of massive industrial food production, as outlined to me in Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation.

There is a necessary illusion of militarization as honorable, and at the service of the target that allows for the use of the military as enforcers of capitalist opportunity and mercenary protectors.

Via BoingBoing, “Faculty of Arts & Sciences: News and Events

Researchers at Harvard University have found evidence that the retina actively seeks novel features in the visual environment, dynamically adjusting its processing in order to seek the unusual while ignoring the commonplace. The scientists report in this week’s issue of the journal Nature on their finding that this principle of novelty-detection operates in many visual environments.

“Apparently our thirst for novelty begins in the eye itself,” says Markus Meister, the Jeff C. Tarr Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Our eyes report the visual world to the brain, but not very faithfully. Instead, the retina creates a cartoonist’s sketch of the visual scene, highlighting key features while suppressing the less interesting regions.”

I have not completely thought through the way this links to visual design, but there’s something about visual saturation, sensory overload/sensory deprivation, etc … Certainly this is another level of the need for people to socially construct their views of the world, or the way in which eye witness testimony is always suspect. Interesting, also in conjunction to the work of Ramachandran.

LSC Library: Evaluating Internet Sources

So, this is very amusing, and a blatant sign of narcissism or at least egoism that I even look for this kind of thing.

My SPCP (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pumpkins) site is being used as an example on critical thinking. Well, okay, so it’s really about trying to identify valid and good internet resources … and I’m assuming mine isn’t the one they want you to think is authoritative of the set on Halloween.

I am the very model of modern speciousness. My mother will be so proud.

Wired News: See If You’re a Good Friend

Great visual metaphor for social relationships. If you go directly to the website for the software, or rather for the thesis presentation on the web, there are some filmed scenarios. They show some great ideas. The way of manipulating the groups, in one example, reminded me a great deal of the way that General Magic’s PDA behaved, and a little of the Newton.

From “A Grokster Quid Pro Quo for Copyright “Incumbents”?: Corante > Copyfight >

No less than the Economist itself calls for copyright reform. Corante point to an article on The Economist which states: “A first, useful step would be a drastic reduction of copyright back to its original terms—14 years, renewable once. This should provide media firms plenty of chance to earn profits, and consumers plenty of opportunity to rip, mix, burn their back catalogues without breaking the law. The Supreme Court has somewhat reluctantly clipped the wings of copyright pirates; it is time for Congress to do the same to the copyright incumbents.”

The Economist is such an enigma to me. At times, radical; others, conservative; but, always, sparkling interesting to read, both for content and style. Of course, this sparks my interest specifically because it relates to me through the research paper “Concentration, Consolidation and Culture – the dialectic over extracting value from social resources in a political economy” that I wrote for Political Economics about the public domain and copyright several years ago.

Hacking NetFlix : Postmaster General Features Netflix in Presentation

Here’s some follow-up to the question I asked about how much of the post office traffic is Netflix. It’s not specifically the answer I was asking for, but it’s interesting to note. The calculations in this post suggest that 0.3% of the USPS revenue is Netflix, which is certainly not super-significant. I still wonder about this if one skips commercial, perhaps even counting only plain residential post.

The number given for Netflix is 1 million DVDs mailed each day, across 3 million customers. Let’s just say that the average customer has the 3 DVD deal. That’s 9 million DVDs in homes. With 1 million shipping each day, (Is that just out, or two-way, I wonder?) that’s 1 out of 9 in the mail each day. That’s actually less than I thought.

Of course, my pattern is usually to be sending one DVD out a day on my own, but I’ve usually got a couple that I keep for several days. So, I have some high turn over on a some, but keep others longer.

I do get hit by the gap over the weekend when I’m not paying attention. Like this weekend, I may or may not have one DVD on Saturday, but if not then I won’t see it until Tuesday because of the holiday.

From “BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | African sands ‘set for upheaval’

“The investigation, reported in the journal Nature, warns that large areas of currently productive land could become engulfed by shifting sands.”

So many areas of the planet have become deserts. The middle east was forested. The Gobi desert is spreading. The Saharah has grown in recorded history. Deforestation, and now global warming, is a widespread foundation. The dust bowl in the midwest is another example, but let us not forget that the oceans are becoming wastelands as well, with the death of entire underwater regions.

Potable water is set to be a much fought over resourse. I recall that this was one conclusion of some strategic planning out of the Pentagon not too long ago. Further, water rights are a big part of the battles in Oregon and between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Some time ago, I printed out an article that pointed out something that I recalled seeing before. Many of the civilizations that have failed through history, have failed because of environmental collapse.

The Democratic Party

“There’s a war on terrorism going on in this world, and we are a part of it, and I agree that we need to fight them over there before they get here. The problem is, the place that we need to fight those people are in Afghanistan, hiding over the border in Pakistan. The Iranians, who sponsor state terrorism, these are our enemies. And these are folks that are not being paid the kind of attention to that need to be paid attention to while 138,000 brave American men and women are pinned down in Iraq because of a gross error in judgment by this administration.”

So this boggles me. Now, Dean is saying that the administration isn’t going far enough on the plan that the PNAC outlined? So, the administration isn’t going far enough on the crazy plan they outlined and wish they could trigger, according to Dean.

The thing is that the military-industrial-oil complex wins either way. Whether it’s direct militarization or the militarization build-up around security, or the way that the future is inevitably going to include violence in response to the complex system of pain and anguish that the US has helped along with a great big push – there’s job security for the capitalists.

And now, Dean appears to be pushing for exactly one of the goals of the PNAC, a multi-front war in the middle east. Driven by the need to molify the mythic and coersive archetypal patriot, it’s a cycle of violence and empire that no one seems to be able to change. Actions merely seem to perpetuate the problem, not address the system that enacts the problem itself.

At Scripting News: 6/30/2005, Dave mentions that paying should preclude commercials as part of a general discussion about why movies are in the decline.

It’s not just that. I refuse digital cable because of the ads that are included in the interface itself. There are ads that appear not only in the program guide, but in the channel bar when one chances channels, etc … I refuse to have my UI become a space for ads, especially if I’m paying for the cable service.

The abuse our minds are subjected to is a perfect example of a tragedy of the commons, where every advertiser is trying to maximize their opportunity for eyeballs, as if they were the only one attempting to use the resource. Well, they aren’t. An I am not willing to take that. I’ve significantly toned down my acceptance of advertizing.

I use my Tivo, sure, to skip ads. However, I do watch ads that I enjoy watching. I have even been known to pause the playback in order to show some particular ad to someone.

But I also have almost stopped watching TV at all, supplementing that with Netflix. I prefer to watch a series on DVD than on TV. Which, as an aside, is a conspiracy to destroy independent TV stations that rely on syndicated version of TV shows, all of which are now available on DVD with no commercials.

Scripting News: 6/29/2005

Dave points out that there’s not way to get a subscription list out of iTunes. Well, there’s no real way to get a subscription list out of Safari RSS either. Sure, one can save their bookmarks, but they’re all mixed in with everything else. It’s not the mixing that I think is a problem, but the inability to usefully get them out again.

Isn’t this a job for Applescript? I mean, yeah, there’s no reason not to have this built in, but … frankly, I want a unified store for these things. I don’t want to have to get my subscriptions and import and export them to every freakin’ application. That’s the pain of bookmarks all over again. This is another topic, but Netinfo was a great way to store things like these in a uniform and independent way for users. Something like that would be an idea way to store everything, from addressbooks, bookmarks, RSS subscripts, etc … Of course, some kind of network capable store that included not just links to the data, but the data itself would be even better. This leads to a framework that bootstraps applications like DevonThink across any application. There’s a clear opportunity here, and I realize that the ODB in Frontier had that potential, if it hadn’t been ignored, for whatever reason.

So, there is already some useful scripting for getting an OPML subscription list into iTunes. That’s a start. Check out the instructions at OPML2iTunes : AppleScript to import OPML podcast subscriptions into iTunes.

Then again, Apple seems to have been trying to leave Netinfo behind. That’s not such a bad idea, since it seems like it wasn’t very scalable for large data sets. I have to say, however, that I really felt that Netinfo, as I experienced in a NeXT-based network was quite intuitive, impressive and I longed for it on my Linux boxen. Unfortunately the Linux version was in proprietary production by a company in Australia. As far as I know, it was never released for Linux, and now days I think anyone that cares has OpenLDAP on the brain anyway. If I understand correctly, Netinfo is still used on local machines, and I suspect that it’s still used on the server in Mac OS X networks to handle much.

I’ve lost my train, or rather I’ve derailed my train.

Guruphiliac: Amma: A Two-Faced Mommy?

This blog was linked on “BoingBoing”. Not this article, but another one. Anyhow, I noticed this posting about Amma.

I met Amma once. It was an interesting experience. There was, perhaps still is, a group that did weekly chant session in Olympia. I knew someone that knew someone that invited the someone I knew to go see Amma. So the someone I knew that was invited invited me too.

I got two necklaces to be blessed, and got into line with everyone. We were all kneeling in line, moving slowly forward. As I finally reached the end of the line, I handed my necklaces to be passed to Amma through an intermediary, and leaned in to get my hug. Somehow, I got planted pretty much with my face in her breasts … oops. Amma definitely had a distinctive smell. I took this to be the smell of rose and milk in which she is said to bathe. Her breasts were copious and soft, as far as I could tell.

I found myself crying a bit. There’s a kind of archetypal feeling of being mothered which I chose to think of Amma fulfilling, a representation of a universal mother. I found myself with definite emotional response. Well, it was an experience, to be sure. I was tempted to attempt attending more of the chanting session, but didn’t. I was not tempted to stay connected with Amma.

We are Harry and the Potters

“July 24th, Sunday

Seattle, WA

University Book Store

3:00pm, free!

4326 University Way N.E., Seattle, Washington 98105

July 26th, Tuesday

Portland, OR

Woodstock Library

Two shows, 2:00pm and 3:30pm, free!

6008 S.E. 49th Avenue, Portland, OR

Two afternoon library shows! Should be tight!

July 26th, Tuesday

Portland, OR

In Other Words Bookstore

7:00pm, free!

3734 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR”

Wha? No shows in Olympia?! *sigh*

One of the problems I have with traditional media on the web is that they are informationally dead-ends. Many articles from traditional media, especially newspapers, that are transitioned to the web do not have links to anything else. That makes them a dead-end. The meaning of this metaphor is that the article claims to be the last bit of information I need, but very seldom is that the case. An article is about something, and I would like to be able to get to that something from the article, but cannot directly.

This dove-tails into a conversation I’ve been having with myself, especially after re-acquainting myself with Clay Shirky’s Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags. I ran into Shirky’s essay again because I’ve been thinking about the list extensions to RSS and OPML.

RSS and OPML both enforce a hierarchical relationship between elements, To some extent, I feel this is also a problem with XML also. The structure implies a relationship that is bounded by a single-meaning link. By single-meaning, I mean to describe that the only context for the relationship is “this thing follows this other thing” in the chain of information. Certainly, these relationships can result in recursive links if the next page, or somewhere else along the chain, links back to a previous node. However, there’s no other kind of link.

Some pages, especially blogs, have attempted to qualify links by having sections that collect links backward and referrers, but these have to be explained in the context of the content, not by the link themselves. So, one has to very inefficiently, and lossily, determine the relationship from context.

The extension to Shirky’s observation about ontologies might be that what would be useful, as a next step, would be a thesaurus to describe links. By this I mean that a link could express specific information about the relationship, such as the page is “more specific” than the link, or “more general” than, etc …

An example of these relationships from Introduction to thesauri, ISO-2788, LCSH offers:

“The relationships specified by the standard, and their abbreviations are presented below:

SN Scope note; a note attached to a term to indicate its meaning within an indexing language

USE The term that follows the symbol is the preffered term when a choice between synonyms or quasi-synonyms exists

UF Use for; the term that follows the symbol is a non-preffered synonym or quasi-synonym

TT Top term; the term that follows the symbol is the name of the broadest class to which the specific concept belongs; sometimes used in the alphabetical section of a thesaurus

BT Broader term; the term that follows the symbol represents a concept having a wider meaning

NT Narrower term; the term that follows the symbol refers to a concept with a more specific meaning

RT Related term; the term that follows the symbol is accociated, but is not a synonym, a quasi-synonym, a broader term or a narrower term”

When I was thinking about developing relationship terms to provide a thesaurus for links between community asset records, I thought of similar options but included the notion of creating human understandable, free-text descriptions to co-exist with the specific terms. For example, one might represent a second record having a relationship to the first as “more general” but also provide a free-form description as article two “offers more information about the topic in” article one. Certainly, this would all be optionally added to the link.

There is in fact a way to already express link relationships in the HTML specification, as described in LINK- Document Relationship, but this is not granular to anchor tags and only provides information on the entire HTML document.

And, now I feel pretty silly, because there is the option to place the same information in the actual anchor tag, as described in A – Anchor. However, the options for link types does not include useful entries to describe the relationship between documents outside of a local set. The link types include things such as index, toc, next and previous. This is not useful to describe thesaurus relationships between different sets of documents. The document does point out that authors may use other link types.

Bringing the elocution safari back home, a de facto ontology based on simple links is not nearly as interesting as one that actually expresses the nature of the relationship. However, a de facto ontology of simple, undifferentiated links has the advantage of not forcing a linear heirachy, inherent in RSS lists or OPML.

One of the productivity tips on concept mapping I have heard is to provide text on the link which makes a sentence. For example, if I have two nodes, I might write something along the linking line which creates a useful sentence: [OPML] — is a file format for –> [OUTLINERS]. Being able to provide this kind of description might allow for more robust visualization, such as the way that Omnigroup’s OmniGraffle 4 can now automatically display outlines as graphical maps.

The notion of describing the nature of relationship implied by a link, especially to external documents, seems to be a useful next step in allowing strong user-created ontologies to be constructed. Even if the description is free form, there would be advantages.

Tools like technocrati, flickr, etc … use tags to describe content, but there’s just no robust way to describe the relationships. I feel attracted to the notion of having a controlled thesaurus to describe these, but perhaps the lesson from livejournal and technocrati is that the thesaurus develops on its own as people self-select terms used by others when they wish to do so. However, either way, there should be such a thing.

community, festivals & education (was Re: tesccrier digest: March 27, 2005)

Hirsh Diamant recently posted something to TESCCRIER about which I
found myself thinking a great deal. I have moved my response to
TESCTALK, since that forum is intended for more conversational topics.
I responded privately to Hirsh, but wanted, in part on Hirsh’s
suggestion, to post something to the forums.

On Mar 28, 2005, at 12:00 AM, Tesc Community Announcements digest wrote:

> From: “Diamant, Hirsh”
> Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 16:31:44 -0800
> Dear friends and colleagues,
> Learning about and celebrating seasonal festivals could be a valuable
> part of a liberal arts curriculum. The benefits of that would include
> learning about other cultures, embracing diversity, creating community
> on campus, connecting our programs with the larger off-campus
> community,
> and grounding in nature and changes of the seasons. Some of these ideas
> I have presented at the recent Evening and Weekend Studies faculty
> symposium. One of the suggestions from this symposium was to start
> planning for such events early on, hence the reason for this email.

I am a graduate of TESC, currently working on a masters at Antioch in
Seattle. One component of my program is a real-world change project
which acts in reciprocal conjunction with my thesis – action and
theory. I have an abiding interest in community and dialogue and was
part of Patrick Hill’s last iteration of Power and Limitations of
Dialogue. I have also been involved with groups in the Olympia
community that develop seasonal, public rituals, such as the most
recent spring equinox at the longhouse.

I mention all of this because I have been thinking about Hirsh
Diamant’s posting for the last several days. I have been imagining an
ethnographic, participatory action-based research project that develops
ways for the Olympia community to find out about itself and the world
around it. I was thinking about how so many sub-communities exist on
campus but do not cross-connect. For example, there was a recent
posting to the online forums that suggested that TESC was a secular
campus and any belief system was nonsense, when, I recall, there are 3
active campus christian groups, not to mention others paths or the
individual affiliations of the TESC community with various ritual
systems, and systems of marking the passage of time through metaphor
and mythic structures. There seems to be a complex matrix of ignorance
about what these sub-communities and the community as a whole knows
about itself.

This matrix includes not just the traditions and cultures of the
community, but also disconnects between the activist groups that do not
appear to communicate with each other. Further, while I was a student
at TESC I noticed that so many wonderful programs were building
communities which end up being temporary to themselves and invisible to
the other communities at TESC.

I imagined over the last couple of days a project that was developed to
help the TESC community, and perhaps even the whole Olympia community,
know more about itself and various, diverse beliefs and cultures
through marking the seasons, and developing an asset-based community
development research project to show the complexity of the community in
relation to the groups with which the community was affiliated and the
marks that each of these groups and individuals make on their own
seasonal calendars.

Suffice it to say, that I would love to hear more about the
presentation Hirsh Diamant made, and would be interested in talking
about various ideas for projects around these topics. Is there interest
in being involved in some project like the one I have described, or in
related projects that might have similarities? Would there be interest
in getting together and talking? If so, you might send me an e-mail
with your thoughts and schedule in the next week or two.

Ostara ’05

Welcome North, the colour black, the season of winter and the element of Earth.

I don’t want to start a contest, but I’ve noticed that earth is heavier than air, which is good because if it weren’t we’d all be ants.

I’ve noticed that earth is not flammable, which is good, because if it were we’d be toast.

Earth absorbs water, which is good because if it didn’t we’d all be fish.

As for earth, well, it’s earthy, which is good because if it weren’t where would the green plants grow?

Authors take on Herculean task of retelling the world’s ancient myths – Britain – Times Online

There is a new project to retell myths, a project from many authors, in a series of works. The first will be Margaret Atwood retelling the story of Penelope.

[source] Authors take on Herculean task of retelling the world’s ancient myths – Britain – Times Online

The venture will involve 35 publishers worldwide and some of their best-known authors are rewriting the ancient myths, whether Greek, Aztec, Hindu, Norse, biblical or African, to show how the stories remain as relevant as ever.

The authors have been given no brief, beyond taking a myth of their choice and writing a 30,000-word story based on its gods, superhumans and larger-than-life characters.