Freedom is here; accept no substitutes

Of course there needs to be the obligatory post about Amazon deleting the stuff from the kindle that they didn’t like.  The bigger questions, that Amazon has not answered, are:

Do you want to buy something that can be monitored & controlled by some central entity?

Why did Amazon build that feature into the Kindle in the first place?

Do you trust them when they say we won’t do it again?

Who else can use the features in the Kindle to monitor what you are reading?

Just don’t buy a Kindle. My strong recommendation:  Buy a netbook that has GNU/linux (for less than the $299 the Kindle sells for), and download what you want. When you tire of reading you can play some chess* or travel through the solar system (and this is all using free software…)

Oh, and by the way 1984 is in the public domain in Australia and Russia, so take a look at these sites:

Here are some free fonts to use when reading your downloaded books:

And here are some free software packages with which to read your .pdf’s:

And here are 100 of the top book downloads from Project Gutenberg:

Continue reading “Freedom is here; accept no substitutes”

Freedom is here; accept no substitutes

Transparency is all reasonable people need to defeat unreasonable laws

It’s interesting that the RIAA-lackeys who are vigorously prosecuting those who founded the Pirate Bay website don’t understand the concept of blowback.   They should: recall the case of Dmitry Sklyarov, or of Ed Felten, the computer scientist at Princeton who was threatened with jail by the RIAA.  I’ve noted before that the draconian enforcement of IP laws will, inevitably, lead to their repeal.   So I say to the clueless RIAA and their stoges, Go ahead, make my day.  

But the strong IP crowd apparently has some clue about how unpopular their ideas are, because they are carrying out trying to carry out the ACTA negotiations in secret.   But–opps!!–that won’t work, thanks to wikileaks and web 2.0 you can’t keep things like that secret. It is impossible to put a lid on any significant information once it is out in the web 2.0 world. For example, here’s some information re the ACTA treaty, and here’s the discusion showing how you lose certain constitutional rights against search and seizures, and here’s the confidential US-Japanese treaty mark-ups.

So, those who want to lock up deceased great grand-mothers and computer scientists know that their laws won’t be popular, and are trying to carry out their campaign in secret.  The light of day (or a tv camera) will destroy the laws they are trying to pass, now matter how many of their lawyers are placed in positions of power. 

The new mantra for those who oppose the ACTA and other strong IP laws needs to be: transparency, transparency, transparency. Transparency is all reasonable people need to defeat unreasonable laws.

Transparency is all reasonable people need to defeat unreasonable laws

Sites I liked on Feb 15, 2009

I really like this site: what a refreshing break from overly slick sites. Especially like the icons developed for each project:

Here’s an artist projecting future high water on buildings in Bristol, England. The high water mark is based on the melting of the Polar ice sheets:

Meaning encased in a reference object, used to subvert, or amplify:

THE monument to Soviet central planning was supposed to have been a heap of surplus left boots without any right ones to match them. The great bull market of the past quarter century is commemorated by millions of empty houses without anyone to buy them. Gosplan drafted workers into grim factories even if their talents would have been better suited elsewhere. Finance beguiled the bright and ambitious and put them to work in the trading rooms of Wall Street and the City of London. Much of their effort was wasted. You can only guess at what else they might have achieved.(Or maybe the writers at the Economist finally caught up with the artists…Do you think??) The full article over at the Economist:

With Google Earth’s bird’s eye view, you can quickly and easily explore the world’s power sector and compare CO2 emissions from different countries. Visit to learn more.

Sites I liked on Feb 15, 2009

Without chemistry, Life itself would be impossible…(Part II)

I really hated that old commercial, which was being widely played in the early to mid 80’s, so this post is a follow-up to that irritating, then-ubiquitous ad.  SNL did a great spoof of this; its probably on youtube now.  Well the chickens have come home to roost.  But where are the folks at that PR firm that thought up that original ad, taking care of their autistic grandchildren? Probably not–they are hiring that out to their live-in nannies, which they can surely afford:

New Study: Autism Linked to Environment

Research links soaring incidence of the mysterious neurological disorder to fetal and infant exposure to pesticides, viruses, household chemicals
By Marla Cone

California’s sevenfold increase in autism cannot be explained by changes in doctors’ diagnoses and most likely is due to environmental exposures, University of California scientists reported Thursday. The scientists who authored the new study advocate a nationwide shift in autism research to focus on potential factors in the environment that babies and fetuses are exposed to, including pesticides, viruses and chemicals in household products.
“It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiology professor at University of California, Davis who led the study.

Further thoughts on developments such as this, obviously the first of many:

Continue reading “Without chemistry, Life itself would be impossible…(Part II)”

Without chemistry, Life itself would be impossible…(Part II)

Insanity, looting or just plain theft

It’s clear that the Bush administration has an agenda.  Clearly, their actions are motivated by a plan to bankrupt the US government, making any type of government program impossible.  The plan of a war in Iraq, that was senseless and enriched a few corporations such as Exxon, but killed 100,000 or so people wasn’t enough, so now they are asking for a blank check of only $700,000,000 to use to buy nearly worthless assets from rich people who don’t need government money anyway. The word for that is theft.

In any case, several of the blogs I link to feel the same way, so I’m collecting something each blog has to say about this issue. (Note that e_f spotted  that this was the beginning of something big in April of 2007.)

Many have commented on the proposed theft of $700 million dollars by the present administration, but the two best comments have been at Global Guerillas and Against Monopoly. The best graphic describing the magnitude of the current crises comes from Brad deLong’s blog:

Continue reading “Insanity, looting or just plain theft”

Insanity, looting or just plain theft


If you ask the question: Have Computers made us more efficient? you have set the bar rather low. Instead ask: Have computers made us as efficient as they possibly can? When you ask that question, you will start to use computers differently. Brad DeLong, deputy assist to the Treasury in the Clinton administration, notes in this article in Wired that they can be a distraction, and this is so true.

Paul Virilio also talks a lot about the unintended effects of technology, but he has been doing that for a long time now.

And of course, remember the Mennonites!

Here’s the article:

The High Cost of Efficiency
Computers make us more productive. Do they also slow us down?
July 2003 Wired Magazine

By J. Bradford DeLong

In the spring of 1994, I wiped the game Civilization off my office computer. I wiped it off my home PC. I wiped it off my laptop. I threw away the original disks on which it had come. It was clear to me that I had a choice: I could either have Civilization on my computers, or I could be a deputy assistant secretary of the US Treasury. [emph bye_f] I could not do both. It wasn’t that my boss ordered me to – she herself played a mean game of computer solitaire. In this, I was the boss, and I had decided that with Civilization on DeLong’s hard disk, DeLong’s productivity would be unacceptably low.

Computers are tremendous labor-saving devices. They give us power to accomplish extraordinary amounts of work in extraordinarily short intervals of time: financial analysis, data mining, design automation. But they also give us the capability to do things like play solitaire. Or send instant messages. Fiddle with fonts. Futz with PowerPoint. Twiddle with images. Reconfigure link rollovers.

But he really gets going when talking about the needless use of powerpoint (Full Disclosure: I really really dislike Powerpoint)

At the organizational level, however, the uses of high tech that might be valuable for an individual can be pointless or counterproductive. Consider a meeting to decide between two courses of action. Often, the same decision would be made whether weeks were spent preparing overheads or no overheads were prepared at all. It’s easy to see that, from the company’s point of view, all the hours spent on PowerPoint slides are dissipated waste.

But of course the best attack on powerpoint comes from Ed Tufte, who takes his criticism a step further, and notes how powerpoint interferes with thinking, hides information, and leads to wrong decision making. Yes, choice of tools is important!



Here’s an example of the internet making the older (even maybe the pre-industrial) work better. It’s a calculator that determines how walking friendly a neighborhood around any particular address is. The form of neighborhoods originated from basic ergonomic realities, so as we return to a more nature based urban structure (thanks to the sustainability imperative) it makes sense that measuring how human friendly these neighborhoods are, and making that measurement available, will accelerate demand for housing in these areas. Of course, these neighborhoods don’t really need that help-they are attractive for other reasons as well, as you can see on this website from my neighborhood.

Another example of the internet making older forms work better is here.

Oh, the website that measures how walk-able a neighborhood is is right here:

To-do: correlate a location’s walkscore with it’s real estate value. Anybody know G.I.S. out there? It also fits in with the new topology of globalization, where the only necessary flows are expertise and information, with commodities becoming more difficult to move around the world and industrial goods becoming lighter and lighter, due to the cost of transporting them and the consequent ability for smart companies to intelligently re-localize the labor inputs so as to reap a decisive cost advantage vs. their competitors.