Thursday, June 25, 2009

"... the loudmouthed and obnoxious Chris Matthews"

Although many people think the Associated Press is just a mouth piece for liberal government politics, it is in fact independently owned. So I'm not sure how its social networking policies violate the First Amendment:

The AP's social-networking policy comes as the media at large begins adopting Facebook and Twitter guidelines during a time of explosive growth in online social media. The News Media Guild, representing about 1,000 AP journalists, says the AP's policy is perhaps the most restrictive the union has seen.

"I am unaware of anything else like that," Tony Winton, the guild's president, said in a telephone interview. "Parts of the policy seem to be snuffing out peoples' First Amendment rights of expression by a company that wraps itself in the First Amendment."

In case you forgot, here's what the First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It's unclear to me what part of Congress, or any branch of the government, is setting AP free speech policy. After all, if blogging is more important than your job, you should work somewhere else.

The AP's rules are hardly surprising for anyone working in the private sector (note: I work for the public entity). Most of the people I know have to be careful about what they discuss on Facebook and their blogs. I'm fortunate in that I do have some legally guaranteed rights of expression, but I still try to avoid work related topics.

Yes, I'm being pedantic. But it's important to remember what our rights really are.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Your Lying Eyes

I like optical illusions, and I thought I'd seen them all. Then along comes a new one:

Colors

Believe it or not, the green and blue spirals are actually the same color! Bad Astronomy has the break down.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Let's Not Fuck Up a Good Thing

I love the title of this Ars Technica article: EU admits ICANN setup has worked well, wants change anyway.

On Thursday, the European Commission released a strategic document in which it called for some significant changes to the way that the Internet's name assignment system operates. Currently, the system is managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a private, nonprofit corporation. The EU doesn't seem to have a specific beef with how ICANN operates, but it's been consistently unhappy about the fact that ICANN answers only to the US government and is incorporated under California law. With ICANN's current charter coming to an end this September, the EU is starting a campaign to give it a more international flavor.

The document makes it clear that the EU is very much in favor the general structure that was used to set up ICANN: a private-sector entity handling the general operations, with governmental oversight of its decisions. In fact, the document is notable for the absence of any specific criticisms of any actions taken by ICANN during the past decade. A section entitled "How has ICANN performed in its first ten years?" is largely complementary, with the only real complaint being that it has no mechanism for binding oversight by the international community—in essence, the EU is admitting that the setup has worked well without its input.

I find it rather amazing that the US government has managed to stay "hands off" with respect to ICANN. There's a lot of power there to punish countries and organizations that the US considers hostile, but no evidence (I'm aware of) it has pushed to do so. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut before some congressman gets an idea.

So why in the world would we want to give even more countries a chance to screw with things? We -- the Internet community -- have lucked out that ICANN has remained benevolent. Everyone knows what happens when you throw more cooks into a kitchen, and this quote already has me worrying about what the EU visions ICANN should do:

"The EU also believes that future internet governance arrangements should comply with key principles, in particular, the respect for human rights and freedom of expression as well as the need to preserve stability and security of the Internet."

I don't know about the EU, but for a cautious tale we only have to look a little north. What the Canadian Human Rights Commussion thinks is free speech is downright scary. Just remember that the US has a very broad view of what constitutes freedom of expression, that the Internet currently reflects this, and that many countries don't share our view.

I'm all for discussing alternatives to ICANN because we shouldn't assume it will always remain benign. But let's not change anything until problems occur.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Steve Jobs Liver Transplant

The WSJ is breaking this news item tonight. Not much to report:

Steve Jobs, who has been on medical leave from Apple Inc. since January to treat an undisclosed medical condition, received a liver transplant in Tennessee about two months ago. The chief executive has been recovering well and is expected to return to work on schedule later this month, though he may work part-time initially.

Not terribly surprising, considering his appearance in the last year. I'm glad it was just a failing liver, and not a return of cancer.

In other news, I first learned about this because it was tracking in Twitter. Usually I get my breaking news from Drudge, but times change!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

SCUBA Progress, Session 4

It's become SCUBA blog!

Tonight was session 4, pool session 3. Just two more of these to go! Tonight we did:

  • Entering by just falling backwards into the pool. I think I like this way better than the giant step.
  • More alternate breathing with the octopus. This time we did the whole shebang: out of air, sharing, swim to surface, inflate BCD orally.
  • Swim back and forth while only exhaling. Despite my first session performance, I think I swam just as far as anyone else, thank you.
  • Finally, neutral buoyancy exercises, laying at the bottom of the deep portion of the pool (14').

Actually, the neutral buoyancy exercises were kind of fun, even though I'm not sure I got it down 100%. You lay face down and slowly inflate your BCD until you can "pivot" up and down based on your breathing.

The instructor didn't say anything about my form, so I guess I was OK. What was really interesting was that I could see how a small change in depth affected my buoyancy. If I started going up, I'd just keep getting higher and higher unless I released some air. An obvious result, but still cool when you experience it first hand.

We did other crap too, but it wasn't really memorable or challenging.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

SCUBA Progress, Session 3

For those wondering how my SCUBA lessons are going...

Tonight I had class session 3, which is really pool session 2. We spent a lot of time learning two skills (this is the PADI program):

  • Switching from snorkel to regulator, and the rest of what's involved there (clearing the snorkel, etc).
  • Removing your mask, breathing without it, and then replacing/clearing it.

I was actually pretty nervous about this session, for reasons I can't pin down. But it ended up being more fun than the first one! Even though I probably swallowed more pool water than I'd like to admit. Halfway through; 3 more classes to go and then the 4 certification dives.

I've had an insight into why people need to take lessons. Pat Kim jokingly said, "You don't need scuba lessons! How hard is it to just breathe?" Not hard, true. We've spent a lot of time reviewing how to use the equipment, but you could probably do just fine with a 5 minute overview and guessing (if you're an intelligent person). What's really valuable, however, is they also teach you what to do when something goes wrong.

Seems like for every system that fails, there're 2 or 3 ways to compensate. And they make you drill each one. So I would say the PADI program is more about emergency management than anything else.

H. G. Wells

The Biography Channel currently has the story of H. G. Wells on Hulu. Even though I've never read any of his novels, I think every Anglophone is familiar with the stories The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds.

The video shows a much larger picture of Wells than I knew about: brilliant, multi-faceted, prophetic, and more than a bit socialist. Very enlightening.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tread On Me

New York City has a population of 8.3 million people. So, statistically speaking, it is not at all surprising that at least two guys like to pretend they are carpet:

A man walks into a bar. He's carrying a carpet under his arm. He wraps himself in the carpet, lies on the floor, covers his face and waits for people to step on him. A sign taped to the bar reads: "Step on carpet."

People step on the carpet -- dozens, in fact. The more people who step on the carpet, particularly if they are women in heels, the happier the man is. Some are timid, others are audacious. Some dance on the man. Some step on him while ordering their drinks, completely unaware that a live body is underfoot. Some just stand there, frozen, looking totally freaked out.

For the record, I'd totally step on this guy. Might even give it a good jump because that's the kind of bastard I am. Also, I respect this guy more than furries. Just saying that, as far as sexual fetishes go, I can comprehend this one.

Title shamelessly stolen from the MeFi post.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sink or Float?

I learned a valuable lesson Tuesday: I don't know how to swim. Or more exactly, I used to know, a long time ago, but I've since forgotten everything.

Tuesday I had my first SCUBA class, and at the end we had to pass a basic swim test. The basic test is swimming 200 yards, and then a stationary float for 10 minutes. I passed, but only through sheer willpower.

Normally before even attempting something like this I'd spend some time in the pool on my own, figuring out if I can do it (you know, so I don't make a fool of myself). But I had just decided to take the course Monday, and it was either start on Tuesday or wait until mid July. Being the impatient person I am, I rushed to make sure I could get in this month instead of next.

First lap in the pool wasn't bad. Second lap, a little trying. By the third lap it was obvious I was doing something wrong, and the fourth lap was just pure, brute force, nothing-else-matters effort. For the float I didn't even much try to tread water; I just floated with some light kicking and concentrated on getting my very rapid breathing under control. The life guard had an eagle eyed stare on me.

It might not be obvious from my personality, but I loathe sucking at things I think I should be able to do. I should be able to swim. Perfection is not required, but certainly better than my pathetic showing.

So I've done what any self-respecting engineer does when he fails the first time: go back and read the manual! A couple hours on the internet and I can already list half a dozen things I did horribly wrong. My goal is to, on top of everything else I'm doing, spend 5 hours a week in the pool practicing.

I will get better, damnit.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Moi? Abandoned Blogs

Ohh... for about a year now I've been part of the 125.6 million blogs that hadn't been updated in 120 days:

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream -- or at least an ambition -- unfulfilled.

Reading the article, most of these people had pretty lofty dreams for their blogs. I, on the other hand, don't care if anyone reads this site. Sometimes I just want to publish! So why did I take a break?

Mr. Jalichandra of Technorati -- a blogger himself -- also points out that some retired bloggers have merely found new platforms. “Some of that activity has gone to Facebook and MySpace, and obviously Twitter is a new phenomenon,” he said.

That is a nice point. I didn't really stop blogging for long. As Nate pointed out, I started doing "micro-blogging" with my Facebook status updates. And recently I've been experimenting with Twitter.

But the truth is that sometimes blogging is hard. Some days I just have nothing to say, and trying to find something for the day's post became tedious. Especially during the election cycle. I'm not going to blame it for my absence, but I did burn out on discussing Hill-dog, Barry, and the Maverick all the time. Or, at the very least, them being the dominant topic on the internet.

Lately, however, I've found myself wanting to post larger entries again. Things more than 140 characters. I wrote a couple notes on Facebook, but that's unsatisfying. So here I am. And here I'll stay... as long as the muse is with me.

June 2009

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