Monday, June 28, 2004

Looks like the sun is setting on the Great American Empire.

In a rather clever move, the US handed over sovereignty to a provisional Iraqi government at 10:26 Iraqi time, spoiling plans for anti-democracy violence.

Of course, domestically things won't go easy for Bush. I seem to remember him clearly stating the transition in power will take place on the 30th. Kerry will be able to use this one as yet another case of Bush's lying to the American people.

Personally, I think the US did many things wrong in the occupation. IMHO generals make poor political leaders. During the fifteen months that American soldiers paraded around the country seems to have built up a great deal of animosity. I feel that we had lost an opportunity to really engage the country in a debate about its future and the nature of democracy and freedom.

I think there is merit in the Democracy in a Box concept. But such efforts would include things like a firm election date and a very strong bill of rights. The Coalition Provisional Authority has an interim Constitution, yet the few rights delineated seem such that it would be easy for a new sovereign government to overturn.

Regardless, about the time I wake up tomorrow morning the sun will be setting on the US empire in Iraq for the last time. Lets hope that the anti democratic forces of the world don't shower the poor country in bloodshed.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

For shear genius, Foucault's Pendulum swings ellispse's around The Da Vinci Code. The protagonists of Foucault's Pendulum try to prove a point that the afficiandos of the Knights Templar would believe they make up their own phenomenal history of man--complete with prophesies and death rituals. They soon find themselves pulled into the maddening world of cultists and true believers...and, of course, satanic death rituals.

For genius and plot Foucault's Pendulum stands heads above the Code, yet it suffers one fault: The book is long and tedious. I suspect if I really got into masonic writings and long conspiracy theories, I would find it all long and tedious as well. Three quarters of the way through the book, I was fed up with all the cultist idiocies, and just wanted the book to end. There's a large number of people who would believe anything you stuff under their get to the end....please.

It is interesting the way that people really want to believe in big plots and grand theological conspiracies. Even more interesting is the way that many people really want to play a part in the great fictional dramas. They kidnap young girls, they fly planes into buildings because they feel they have to somehow be a praxis in the grand social movements of time. They read pieces of fiction with their eyes curled up as they ride Trax to the towering granite ediface in the center of town believing that it will give them some secret hidden powers over their enemies. (For those who are wondering. If you ride inbound Trax you will often see people reading a strange book with their eyes curled up as they try to conjure the hidden powers between the words of the book. I was watching one of these creature one day. The creature was literally shaking as he read. He suddenly developed the most sinister grin on his face that I had ever witnessed. The creature closed his eyes and lipped the words he found...ingraining them in his memory. I was obviously witnessing the birth of a great political strike against this creature's enemies. The creature got off at the towering granite ediface stop.

There are times when I really question why I live in the place where I live. I like the mountains and deserts, but I really have a hard time working for people ruled by revelation.

Back to fiction. In many ways, I agree with Orson Scott Card that Science Fiction really is one of the best formats for exploring theological concepts. When accepted as fiction, the format really lets our minds explore different ideas. We can connect absurdities like Umberto Eco. The open acknowledgement of a scifi book as fiction lets us see different ideas without the precept of having to take them for anything more than entertainment. The method works best for people who see all of the wonderously different ideas that can exists.

Fiction can open our eyes to the way the world works because fiction allows the author the ability to really focus in on ideas that nonfiction lacks.

Yet there is also a strange point where cultism, theology, guruism and pure fiction collide. This is what I find troubling. We create a fiction, then people build on that fiction. They destroy that which does not fit in their world, etc..

I guess I should mention, when I was reading Foucault's Pendulum, I had a rather dull witted boss. He could not understand the ending of the book. Caught up in the strange cult history portrayed by the book, he could not understand why Umberto Eco ended the book THAT WAY!!!!

Could there have been any other way? The ending seemed obvious from the first page. There was just the game of connecting dots and seeing just how the predictible ending would come about.

In this regard, the plot of the Da Vinci thriller was better designed. We did not know the true identity of the grand villian until the last chapter. More of a thriller, the ending was quite interesting in that after the villian was unveiled, all of the strange creatures in the book turned out to be normal people...while the ending of Foulcault's Pendulum comes off as a let down. Even worse, some of the "normal people" suddenly seem like monsters.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I finally read the Da Vinci Code. It was a fun fast paced read. It was much better than Digital Fortress.

In the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown put together a nice coherent plot, likeable characters and enough controversy to get people talking. Apparently, people are eating the book up. It has been in print for over a year and there is still a waiting list at the library and used copies of the book have not dropped to the dollar level which generally happens as a best sellers move into the yesterday news category.

Overall, I found the book a fun work of fiction that provided some interesting insights into my favorite characters of history.

I do have to admit. In many ways, I am turned off by the message from many pop books and movies that paganism is somehow a superior (more rational and or more balanced) form of spirituality than christianity.

Yet, overall, I think the primary message of the book was on target. The book gives a strong reminder that the victors tend to rewrite history. Trying to actually base our life on any form of ancient writing is rather foolish as ancient writings have been seriously manipulated throughout the years.

The political forces of the dark ages led to a systematic destruction of the science and culture of the ancient Greeks. The destruction was similar to what we saw the Taliban doing in Afghanistan and we see the Islamic clerics doing in Iran. In order to add more legitimacy to one set of books and icons, there is a concerted effort to destroy other competing systems of thought.

As for people destroying history for religious reasons, here in Utah we actually have an extremely large and powerful University that actively works to falsely interpret the history of the Maya, Aztecs and other native Americans to fit what is, most likely, a fictional account of the Americas.

To add an element of conflict to the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown gives the reader the grand daddy of all conflicts...the conflict between man and women. The primary premise of the book is that the Vatican has conspired to destroy the sacred female. The priory of sion is actively engaged in trying to preserve the ancient religious texts that hold a different role for women.

The idea of a central conflict ruling the entire history of mankind is extremely compelling. This is much like what Hegel was doing with his Philosophy of History. He had the world moving through these thesis/antithesis conflicts. Claiming to be a scientist, and claiming his conflicts were scientific, Hegel gave the world a very compelling history.

Having fictional scholars speak authoratively on a controversial subject is a strong literary device. I can see why the book shelves are now full of refutations of the Da Vinci Code as the different fictional accounts of history battle eachother for supremacy.

As for real history. A few days ago I saw the tale end of an interview by Richard Rubenstein for a work called Aristotle's Children. I placed an order for the book, and am looking forward to its arrival on my doorstep.

If we really want to look at fundamental conflicts at the foundation of society, I think that looking at the ebb and flow of interest in logic is far more telling indicator of the progress of civilization that the conflicts of religion. It seems to me that when there is a due appreciation of logic, the society rises. When the society is dominated by revelation and mumbo declines.

Friday, June 18, 2004

This is cool. Google added a new WebSearch program to adsense. So I spent the morning tossing up little search boxes on web sites. I especially like the ability to search locally. Several of my sites, like, are really in need of a good local search. The google web search greatly enhances the site.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I crashed the Utah PHP User Group. The meeting had an excellent presentation on using the PHP GD-Library from the New York PHP User Group. By showing some rather detailed graphs, the group answered my questions about how well the GD library handles large quantities of data used in graphs. I was most impressed with the demonstration of how to manipulate graphics by changing the color pallette. I've been wanting an interactive map of the US, and here is one I can steal.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

I went to the KRCL Day in the Park and spoke a bit with Pat Cutting. Apparently, she has been having some success selling her new poetry book. I hope she adds more stuff to her site.

Pat was representing the UNAU. The next scheduled meeting will be about Africa.

We spoke a little bit about American foreign policy. IMHO what is wrong with American foreign policy is that we do not define and defend ideals. Instead, the Straussian camp of thought is ruling. This camp says: "There is a multiplicity of ideals. Therefore, the US should define or pursue ideals in foreign relations. Therefore the US should only pursue interests." Note how this is just a recapping of the garbage dialectics of Zenos that made Athens such a poisonous place for Socrates.

The Straussians fail to recognize that the multiplicity of interests is a thousand times worse than the multiplicity of ideals. Basically, the Straussians interpret US interests as the interests of US multi-national corporations and the extreme rich and powerful men who make Washington a slimy place.

These people's interests are counter to the interests of the majority of Americans.

Anyway, I need to write up an article on this idea. The Straussian approach to public policy is simply a convoluted justification for powerful people to grub more power, unfortunately, Strauss is the one who laid the foundations for the New Republican Party.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Yes, I am falling for marketing hype...

But I guess there are times in our lives when we should sit down and studying marketing hype and see exactly how marketing hype works.

If you are wondering I fell for a web advertisement and bought a thing called a This is just a preformatted site that lists a bunch of online stores.

It is addressing the big issue in my mind of finding ways that small web sites can fund their operations. It is interesting because it lets me explore in detail the design methodology of another internet hack who is trying to eke out an honest living on the net.

Anyway, I tossed up a review of the software on crass commercial. It will be interesting to see how well the site works. It cost a $50 set up fee and $25 a month hosting fee. So, I guess the great challenge will be to see if it makes back the cash spent on the fool thang. I like economic challenges like this.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Saturday, June 05, 2004

I added a bed and breakfast page to the Denver directory. There's a lot of nice looking buildings in that burg.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Conservation Cycle

Watching the Newshour yesterday, David Yergin, author of The Prize was in a point counterpoint interview with some lost soul conservationist who was simply out of his league.

The Conservationist, of course, was wanting to get in every possible punch to encourage conservation during the current jump in oil prices. After all, that is how the conservation game works. If you hit people with the conservation message when they are paying unexpectedly high bills, then there is a good chance that they will invest time or adjust their life cycle (i.e., sell the RV) to conserve energy.

Mr. Yergin bantied the conservationist about with the message that, ah, this is just a cycle. His book The Prize shows the history of many different ups and downs in the oil industry. History will continue after the current gulf war and the recent rise in oil prices.

Now, I agree with Mr. Yergin. There is cyclic behavior involved in oil production and consumption. During the oil crisis we learned the full cost of our dependency on oil and cut back. As people learned to conserve we cut the need for new refineries, new wells. The world did such a good job at conserving that, when coupled with new exploration, we ended up with an oil glut for a decade.

During the dot com years, American collectively went insane. No longer attached to reality, the suburban American borrowed and bought new SUVs, RVs and every energy consuming appliance imagineable. The glut is gone. We've structured our lives so we consume more than ever.

The cycle is not simply one of oil production. The world learned how to get more out of a gallon of oil.

Conservationists now have a good track record. It should be clear to all except paid spokesmen of the oil industry (the US president included) that conservation is the key to future wealth. If we get more from the resources we consume, then we get richer.

Mr. Yergin is correct. This is just a cycle. If there is an increase in capacity as grubbing oil companies rush to push production, and if there is a systemic drop in demand as vacationers decide to book a room in a hotel rather than pollute the highways with an RV, then we will see oil prices drop and a little bump in employment as hotel workers receive pay checks.

The fact that oil prices go up and down in cycles does not mean the conservationists' ultimate message is incorrect. Oil is not a sustainable energy source. If I heaved a crank shaft into the air, it would spin in cycles while it was air born. The fact that something spins in "cycles" does not mean that it will not auger into the ground when it comes back down to earth. The dot com stocks all had little cycles going until one day that little dip wasn't just one of those dips.

I have no clue as to what oil prices will be a year from now. Third world nations are increasing consumption. If people jumped on the conservation wagon and started considering conservation...then we could see big drops in consumption.

Production Peaks

I haven't a clue about when oil production will peak. The really scary thing mentioned during the Yergin interview is the fact that oil production will peak in non-OPEC producing companies before it peaks in OPEC countries.

This is the extremely dangerous news.

This is what has me scared.

This is what we need to worry about and can do something about politically.

Don't you see the problem? The western nations peak first. When we are truly spiraling down the far side of the oil age, OPEC will be even stronger than it is today.

Mr. Bush has been using Mideast events to accellerate exploitation of the few remaining oil reserves in North America. We do not need these reserves to counter this current silly cyclical rise in prices. The US needs to do everything possible to resist the temptation of putting more reserves into production.

The US should be taking full advantage of the psychological effects that this oil crisis is having on the public and the president should be calling for systemic conservation measures (that is investment in conservation...encouraging the use of smaller cars, etc.) On the production front, we need to be hoarding our national reserves for the real economic challenges that face us after production peaks.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I spent the day counting the Internet take. It was about five hundred bucks (This was for about 150,000 page views and 5000 click throughs). Business expenses run about $200 a month. Seems to me that if the take was about 8 times larger, I could call the internet a business and skip the rat race of wage labor.

I doubt I will ever get there. Even if I added more garbage internet advertising pages, it is unlikely that I will be able to do so at a rate faster than the rest of the marketing world is cluttering cyberspace. Counting the monthly take will always be a disappointment. Even worse, although I know ad pages do nothing except add clutter to the net, after counting the monthly take, I do a big realignment and add more ad pages.

To make the situation even more more pathetic. I figured, this month, I should misuse the power of the blog to point at the toilet bowl and say "look what I did! goo... goo... look!"

Anyway, among other silly things I added new ad pages to These are: home furnishings, health and pets. The noble idea behind this site was to have a clear separation between content creation and attempts to make cash. Each page centers on shopping themes. The content sites would feed excess traffic into the pit.

The problem is that I've run into a mental block and just haven't been making the content. It is so much easier to do mindless things like building databases of ads and pasting code than trying to thing of something that would actually be worthwhile for people to read.