Monthly Archives: October 2007

Strange Visitors

I’ve been working 16+ hour days for the last few days. Apologies for the poor postings. But today I’m taking a few hours and trying to relax.

And, mystery of mysteries, I saw the strangest thing this evening! Check it out.


Thank you. Thank you very much.

Good thing I had my camera. Wow! Elvis! Here in my neighborhood! Wonder how he escaped from the UFO he was in?

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Remembering Molecules?

Most all the stuff you learn in school is false.

If that sounds like an extreme generalization — it is. And it’s exactly why what you learn is false: it’s incomplete, it’s generalized, it’s dumbed-down for the masses.

It’s easy to see this when you’re talking about the difference between say, 2nd grade and post graduate work. Little second graders can’t possibly understand relativity, so we show them apples falling from trees and tell them about gravity. Only later do we get into all the exceptions and interesting cases and questions.

What we have a hard time accepting, however, is that no matter how much we know, we’re probably the equivalent of second graders compared to the knowledge we’ll have in a couple hundred years. Sure — we don’t believe in lies, after all, real science is built of experiment and observation. So what happens when we reach one of those moments, like the second grader, when we realize that there’s something bigger going on?

That’s where the story gets interesting.

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A Good Cause

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

You guys know me — I’m not the type to be raising money for the cause-of-the-week. But for the first time in two years, I want to use the blog to request money for a good cause.

What’s the cause? It’s free speech. A few months ago I read a moving article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the web. She told her life story, and how she has stood up against extremism in her country. I was so moved that I wrote Ayann and told her it was important to speak out — that no matter what the death threats were, society can only make progress by people having the courage to talk about things. No, I’m not talking about some fat cushy anti-war protester who is marching in a parade claiming to speak “truth to power” — I’m talking about somebody who other people are trying to kill. That takes a special kind of courage that a lot of people just don’t have. Most people would rather have the “good feeling” of protesting without the moral baggage and uncertainty that comes with truly challenging political speech.

Ayaan wrote me back a day or two later. It was a nice note, and I was impressed that she took some time to write.

I’ll let Wiki tell more — you should pop over and read the entire article, though.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, MA (pronunciation (helpĀ·info); Somali: Ayaan Xirsi Cali; born Ayaan Hirsi Magan 13 November 1969 in Mogadishu, Somalia) is a Dutch feminist and political writer, daughter of the Somali scholar, politician, and revolutionary opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse. When she was eight, her family left Somalia for Saudi Arabia, then Ethiopia, and eventually settled in Kenya. She sought and obtained political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992, under circumstances that later became the centre of a political controversy.

She is a prominent and controversial author, film maker, and critic of Islam. Her writings, especially her screenplay Submission and her autobiography Infidel, led to death threats from numerous Muslim organizations and individuals, which forced her to live under guard and in relative seclusion.

She was a member of the Tweede Kamer (the Lower House of the States-General of the Netherlands) for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) from January 30, 2003 until May 16, 2006. A political crisis surrounding the potential stripping of her Dutch citizenship led to her resignation from the parliament, and indirectly to the fall of the second Balkenende cabinet.

She has received numerous awards for her human rights work, and in 2005, was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She is currently a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

As of October 2007 she has been doing this work from a secret address in the Netherlands. Following the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch government had been financing round the clock security for her. However, they decided to stop paying for protection while she is living abroad. As a result, Hirsi Ali returned to the Netherlands.

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Is F-Sharp Enough?

F-Sharp Logo
Ready for prime time?

I’ve gotten the functional programming bug lately. Most of my career after I learned my third language or so, I could care less what the language is — just let’s solve it already, ok? But lately I’ve been hearing the functional programming wonks go on, quite at length, over how great functional and meta-programming is compare to common, pedestrian programming.

I’m not drinking the cool-aid yet, but what the heck — let’s fire up Microsoft’s new F-Sharp language and take a quick look under the hood.

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Sharing the Point about MOSS

Logo for Microsoft's Office Sharepoint Server

For the past few days I’ve been putting together a presentation about Microsoft’s new portal product, Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server 2007, or MOSS. There’s a local Sharepoint User’s Group starting up, and I got selected to make the first presentation.

Ugh.

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ICANN Addresses the Domain Snatchers

Just like I pointed out over a year ago, somebody is trolling for domain names. Today there is a PDF out from the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC)

that it that ICANN is looking into people sniffing domain search results and then poaching the domain names before the people can come back and purchase them.

The Internet’s key oversight agency is investigating suspicions that insider information is being used to snatch desired domain names before an individual or business can register them.

The Security and Stability Advisory Committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers termed the practice “domain name front running” and likened it to a stock broker buying or selling shares ahead of a client’s trade, in anticipation of a movement in price.

In the case of Internet addresses, many people who see a domain name available the first time they check find it already taken by the time they return to buy it.

That has led to suspicions that someone with access to search requests has been using the information to gauge interest in a domain name.

By buying the domain first, that person can then try to sell it to the interested party for a profit. This is different from traditional domain name speculation because the buyer knows for sure that the address is of interest.

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Interview Checklist

I had an interesting discussion with a potential cofounder last night. We had met online, and were kind of feeling each other out for whether or not a partnership would be a good match.

Today I have an interview with a large company in the Midwest. They are looking to see if I can help them train their software developers.

Both of these interviews were large-stakes kinds of deals. Picking a cofounder isn’t like picking a meat cutter, or a hair stylist. It’s sink-or-swim out there. Likewise, turning the reins of training over for several thousand developers isn’t tiddlywinks.

So what do I look for in an interview?

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Where’s the Line?

The plant Kratom
Got Kratom? If you do, does that make you bad?

Got into an interesting discussion over on news.yc this morning regarding the question: “Just what is okay to sell on a website?”

A user named “rms” has a site called something like GetKratom.com. And it appears that every so often he’s pumping this Kratom stuff on the board to whomever will listen. For those of you who don’t know, and I’m one of them, Kratom is, according to Wikipedia:

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a medicinal leaf harvested from a large tree native to Southeast Asia in the Rubiaceae, first documented by Dutch colonial botanist Korthals. It is botanically related to the Corynanthe, Cinchona and Uncaria genera and shares some similar biochemistry. It is in the same family as coffee, and the psychoactive plant Psychotria viridis. Other species in the Mitragyna genus are used medicinally in Africa, and also used for their wood.

It is used for its psychoactive effects in its native region, with some use elsewhere in the world. In Southeast Asia the fresh leaves are usually chewed, often continuously, by workers or manual laborers seeking a numbing, stimulating effect. Elsewhere, the leaves are often made into a tea or extracted into water and then evaporated into a tar that can be swallowed. Kratom is not often smoked, although this method does provide some effect.

Kratom is legal in the United States, although the DEA lists it as a “substance of concern”.

So RMS asked the question (which I prompted) to the group: Is it wrong to have a business where you sell legal, psychoactive plants? RMS claims Kratom is sort of just like a souped-up coffee. Some in the group accused him of being a drug peddler.

Gosh did THAT kick off a firestorm!

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It’s an O/S, it’s a Browser


Cool! Silverlight will run on linux!

So I’m thinking about my next project, a small app to write over the next few months while I’m filling the piggy bank back up and working on finding cofounders, and it occurs to me that we’re on a merry-go-round when it comes to the browser.

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