Thursday, December 30, 2004

Climate Change and Earthquakes

Prior to the current disaster, I was interested in the effects that climate change would have on the earth. The melting of glaciers can have profound effects on a region. The result is a major redistribution of weight. As I recall the shorelines of ancient Lake Missoula rose after the melting of the area glaciers. Conversely, there were localized earthquakes caused by the filling of Lake Powell.

Water is highly is heavy. The climate determines the distribution of this weight.

It seems to me that melting glaciers would have two effects: it would lighten the weight sitting on the areas once covered by the glaciers. It seems to me that a massive melting of glaciers would also increase the over all weight pressed down by the oceans. An unscientific guess would be that global warming would result in a downward force on ocean trenches and and upward force on mountains.

Unscientifically stated: I would not be surprised to see increased seismic activity as we turn this little blue planet of ours brown.

Disasters and Fundraising

First, a positive note: The Amazon/American Cross fundraising effort has collected over 4 million for tsunami relief. This is just one of the many non-government efforts to raise funds for tsunami relief. The press seems to only talk about government contributions to the relief effort. Personally, I think co-erced taxpayer fed are a lesser source of funding than private donations. You will notice socialist organizations rarely mention private contributions in their debates about relief funds...despite the fact that private donations are providing a bulk work of disaster relief funds. The Wikipedia report on the humanitarian response to the crisis makes almost no mention of private donations or of private organizations responding to the crisis. It concentrates almost entirely on how much money is coerced from taxpayers.

The Amazon fundraiser has raised more funds for relief than many of the countries listed on Wikipedia. Faith based organizations like Catholic Relief, LDS Foundation, Islamic Relief (Indonesia is a majority Islamic country), Lutheran World Relief, Menonite Central Committee and many others are raising funds at break neck speeds and are getting needed resources to the region. NGOs like Médecins Sans Frontières are often first on the scene in hot spots around the world. Considering that the biggest challenge of the moment is stemming epidemics after the floods, MSF is providing one of the most important efforts of the moment...medical care.

I agree that countries are often in the best position to make the immediate first response to crisis. However, I think we are better off encouraging private funding to taxpayer fed relief.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Happy Holidays

Oooops, I just realized that I labeled myself and will probably be slapped silly by some conservative nimrod who wants to read an anti-American anti-Christian conspiracy into every uttered word.

Personally, I say "Happy Holidays" when I refer to the entire blob of holidays that occur round about the Winter Solitice.

I say "Merry Christmas" on December 25th.

"Happy Holidays" refers to a season.

"Merry Christmas" refers to a day.

Makes sense to me.

When a political organization such as a state or school refers to a vacation period at the end of December, I think it makes more sense to refer to the break as the "Holiday Break" rather than "Christmas Break." If I were on a school board, I would concur with such a request.

If someone wanted to strike Christmas Day from a Calendar, I would side with the conservatives and protest.

Both the right wing and left wing are detestable when they play the slimy games of trying to control people by limiting vocabulary or by renaming terms.

If Christ were given any say in the debate, I suspect he would like using the inclusive term of "Holidays" to refer to the variety of holidays that occur this time of year. He probably would protest at the idea of excluding all other holidays and naming the entire season "Christmas Season".

Using the phrase "Merry Christmas" to refer specifically to Christmas and "Happy Holidays" to refer to the smattering of holidays that occur in the December holiday season makes a great deal of sense to me.

PS: In Christian Theology, the Easter/Passover period is far more important than Christmas is anyway.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Denver Homestead

For this last week, I've been staying at the Homestead Hotel across the freeway from the Denver Techinical Center.

I am staying here because they have an internet connection. Of course, I did not look close enough at the offer, and did not realize I needed a WiFi card to access the net. anyway, I bought a LinkSys card and am now wireless.

Sadly, I am discovering that my Compaq 1692 Laptop is at the end of its life. The hard disk is suffering bad sectors, the slider mouse thingy is dead and shorted out. It randomly clicks on things. I've worn the letters off many keys (c,n,m,s,d and enter) and the down arrow key is broken. Weirdest of all, when the computer heats up, it freezes. I have to put the computer in the fridge so that I can boot!

My WiFi connection seems slow. It is choppier than a phone line. On the plus side, I had deleted all of my data from this computer; so I am not all that worried about the security of the wifi connection.

Google Groups

If it exists, and is free, I will probably join it.

Anyway, Google has a beta program for a thing called Google Groups. Trying to think of a group, I thought I would stick with the tried and true area of local web development. The group I created is called Utah Webs. The hope is that people from Utah will talk about their web sites, or whatever.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Nancy Pelosi (the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives) said: "[the Iraq war] began 21 months ago and Secretary Rumsfeld has still not done what is necessary, which is his highest duty, to protect our troops to the greatest degree possible. No CEO in America would retain a manager with so clear a record of failure and neither should President Bush."

Uh, Nancy should spend more time with corporate America. When the CEO in modern corporate America underperforms...the politicos in the company usually dole out huge blocks of stock options and increase the gilding on the golden parachute. Yes, an incompetent CEO might have to suffer the trauma of having to cut worker wages or layoff thousands of underlings. Companies rarely seem to punish the CEO. I doubt there has ever been a CEO fired for cutting workers' wages. CEOs are more likely to get axed by the board if they raised salaries.

CEOs only get laid off when they compound incompetence with political blunderings. If the pentagon treated Rumsfeld like a CEO, Rumsfeld would probably be getting a 10 million dollar bonus for bungling the war and having to suffer the emotional hardships of dealing with the growing number of casualties.

Ms. Pelosi might have a point that the fearless leaders of our world should suffer for their actions. Sadly that rarely happens in political positions like CEO or government posts.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Credit Reports

There is a new service that lets people check their credit report online for free (See FTC for details). The site lets people check their credit once a year for free. The program will have a gradual rollout. Folks in the west can start using the service in December...Folks out east have to wait a month or so (ha, ha).

Credit bureaus are scary things. These companies keep a great deal of information on us. For a long time they kept the information a big secret. In recent years, they've been allowing people to check their records. Personally, I think this openess is the best path.

Anyway, I just checked the ole credit report. For some odd reason, the credit reports just showed a big fat clown laughing and stamping papers with a "NO" stamp...Well, my report was accurate. I certainly wouldn't lend myself money.

Several of the reports had minor mistakes.

Now that there is a free service, hopefully equifax and others will start dropping the cost of their premium services. I like the premium credit watch service since it will inform me if anyone ever tries to applie for a credit in my name.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


I finally decided to try my hand at a datafed web site. The project shows the Worldstock Collection.

I chose to experiment with this collection because I agree with the basic premise of worldstock. Worldstock purchases traditional handmade crafts from artisans around the world, then sells the products at reasonable prices on the Internet. By supporting world artisans, Overstock is directly helping support cultural traditions of indigenous people. They provide fair labor employment in disadvantaged areas of the globe. Worldstock is similar to Ten Thousand Villages stores run by the Mennonite Central Committee. Worldstock sells through the web.

Since I like the foundational premises of worldstock, I find I can get over the stigma associated with datafed websites.

Datafeeds are a controversial area of web development. Basically what happens is a merchant makes their product line available to web sites in the form of a datafeed. Using simple database programming, the affiliate creates web sites from the datafeed.

Those familiar with database programming know that displaying data is easy (collecting quality data is hard.)

The process is controversial in that datafeeds quickly create large numbers of essentially identical web sites. Search engines see datafeeds as a nuisance. A large merchant might have 100,000 items in inventory. A thousand webmasters creating datafeed sites from the same data will create 100,000,000 web pages. This is all largely redundant white noise.

Often the people creating datafed web sites have very little concern about data integrity. All they care about is getting a click through to the merchant. Some web sites do really nasty things like join a datafeed with the FIPS database to intentionally create large web sites full of misinformation.

On the plus side. I think datafeeds provide a great tool that allow individuals like myself to hone database skills and work on different ideas for displaying data.

To avoid the white noise problem, I exclude all but the index to the datafeed from the search engines. (You can exclude pages from the webcrawls with the robots.txt file).

As I am interested in learning about different cultures, I've included with the Overstock data quick write ups on different countries represented in the Worldstock collection. So far, I have written up articles on Ghana, The Dominican Republic, Egypt and Afghanistan.

It is my hope to dilute the crass commercialism of the datafeed with links to quality reference sources about the area.

Oddly, the people who get up in arms about datafeeds really don't seem to mind people copying sections from Wikipedia or DMOZ. Blogs, for the most part, are white noise as well. I accept that there is zero educational value to this blog I am keeping. It is simply just expressive white noise.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Ideologies v. Paradigms

I got the glimpse of a TV history show. The little section I saw began with a very interesting comment. It mentioned that the primary reason Hitler thought that Germany would beat the US in war was because the US had a mixed race army. A superior Aryan army would beat a bastardized army. Hitler, of course, was a Hegelian, who believed that the world spirit was in a transition from Judeo/Christian paradigm to a new Aryan/Scientific paradigm.

Hitler's dismissing the US Army is a great example of ways that prejudices lead people astray.

Sadly, this insightful historical observation was followed by a remark that claimed that Hitler was an example of why foreign policies should not be based on ideals (ideology).

The idea that foreign policy should be driven by a nation's interests and not ideals is one of the mantras of modern academia. Leo Strauss would say, there is a multiplicity of ideals; therefore, foreigh policy should be driven by the nation's self interests. Strauss failed to realize that the multiplicity of interests is even more problematic than the multiplicity of ideals.

I didn't see the talking head's name, but this arrogant attitude in the academia that all ideals are inherently flawed is one of the worst follies of modern thinkers. Hitler's problem was that his mushed up mind was full with flawed ideals...not that he had ideals.

Anyway, one thing that I noticed of late is that writers often refer to beliefs of people on the right as "ideologies" and those on the left as "paradigms." This is a subtle trick. For example, you would refer to the beliefs of "right wing kooks" like Milton Friedman as an ideology, and the beliefs of "left wing intellectuals" like Noam Chomsky as paradigms.

This is an interesting trend. So I thought I would take a second and look at the difference between ideologies and paradigms. An ideology is a set system of beliefs. Idividuals can adhere to an ideology. Distinct ideologies are often definable. We can easily see a world with different people holding different ideologies.

Paradigms are shiftier. Paradigms are essentially the entire underlying thought system of a culture. Paradigms include the paradoxes and conflicts that drive the culture.

When right wing nut cases like Milton Friedman speak, they are ideologists. When deep thinkers like much lauded, acclaimed (yet humble) Noam Chomsky utters sentences, he is shifting paradigms.

de Tracy's term "ideology" gives a feeling of raving lunacy, while Kuhn's "paradigm" seems to give a feeling of inclusiveness. It is interesting to see how, when and where the different terms get used.

PS: Hitler's decision to declare war on the US after Pearl Harbor had nothing to do with ideals. Germany was already in a state of total war. The US declaring war against Germany was pretty much given.