Saturday, December 24, 2005

Catch 22

Interesting, (and frustrating) the lack of non-academic literature out there outlining the *failures* in development vs. the literature out there that glosses over failures. Almost all organizations, when they submit writings on how projects went, polish and pretty up the outcomes to the point that the project is almost unrecognizable. No one is going to write, “our project was a total waste of time and money and here are the reasons why” but that is exactly what they need to do, so that others can learn from their mistakes instead of duplicating the mistakes over and over again. Or taking on the same idea with the thought that “hey it worked for them, so it should work for us” when in reality it didn’t work for them it just got polished so much that it looks like it worked. I suppose it all has to do with funding, you aren’t likely to get more funding if you past projects have failed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unchecked power…

It amazes me, again and again, how much power congress gave Bush; and amazes me even more how he continues to abuse (and surpass) the vast powers he was given. The checks and balances (like congress balancing Bush's irrational decisions) seem to have fallen apart, and that is made apparent by the recent revelation by the NY Times (who i am still on the fence about them holding this info for a freak'n year... though releasing it now does help make a case for being careful about the Patriot Act) that Bush has been spying on American citizens without any foresight! Its disgusting, and not just vaguely reminiscent of KGB stories I have heard (when I lived and worked in the CIS) of the Soviet government spying in its own people (yes, that was an emotionally charged statement, if they [the present administration] can use statements like “they are going to attach us” then I can make a comparison to the KGB). Are we at the “KGB level” no, of course not, but we are closer that form of government than we have been in a long time.

Using emotion instead of reason

Everyone using fear and referring to emotional statements like starting *every* answer to whatever question with "after 9/11", "well the enemy slaughtered our people" etc... seems weak. Do they have to use all these emotional words (instead of facts and legitimate reasoning) to state their cases, are their cases that weak?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Agents' visit chills UMass Dartmouth senior: 12/ 17/ 2005

And there you have it folks, you wanted a paranoid government that makes you "safer" (though lets not forget the administration flunked in its addressing American security at home). Like the idea that your own government might be spying on you, and your school work? Bravo Bushies, you got what you voted for, unfortunately have share the burden of your mistake as well.

Friday, December 09, 2005

ACLU: Protesters placed in terror files

This is why i want to laugh when i hear the government say they won't abuse thier increased (though this does not seem to be something they couldn't do before) powers of "law enforcement"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Misquoting Jesus?

I think the title (which is the title of a book, not mine) is interesting by itself but its even more thought provoking to hear this interview (Windows streaming media, sorry) with Bart Ehrman about his new book "Misquoting Jesus" on The Diane Rehm Show. While i think his intentions were more to show the real (and not dressed up) history of the bible and its "evolution" (sorry, couldn't resist) I think many hard core christians really took offence. Many of the callers seemed to be slightly (though mostly polite) disgruntled christians, but there were some other agnostics that called in too. While I loath sitting down and reading books (what can I say, I'm an ADD poster child [NOT a book hater]) I can't wait until this comes out on (if it comes out).

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Perilous Times: Free Speech (or the lack there of) in Wartime

I have not had a chance to read this book but I saw an interview with the author. In the book he reviews/recounts the folly of wartime censorship in past wars and relates it to the present (patriot act etc). I could have told you that many of the measures/laws that have come around recently are the results of hysteria but this book seems to do a good job of showing how we haven't learned from (many) past mistakes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Green McCain?

I just saw John McCain on Letterman, he used it as a soapbox, but hey he is politician. He spent the first part preaching about how global warming is real (a stark contrast to most of what his party has said) and how we need to do something about it by increasing the use of hydrogen, fuel cells, wind, etc. It is down right odd hearing this from a republican, but McCain is pretty much a centrist so I guess it makes sense. I will admit that I trust McCain more than *anyone* in the Bush administration; with all the public appearances he has made I think it’s pretty obvious he will run for president. Depending on who is running on the democratic ticket I would consider voting for McCain, mainly for his fiscal responsibility and Green views.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


So, Sony has irresponsibly installed software that is potentially more intrusive than many malwares but the DOJ has said nothing... about this, they have repeatedly given opinions about filesharers but big business media? Nada as of yet. Is it just me or does that seem a "wee bit" hypocritical?

Yeah! Post button *finally* works correctly with Opera

I had been using another bookmarklet/javascript that required me to login every time I wanted to post a bookmark to, it was a total PITA and I am surprised I stuck with del, but I did and patience paid off! Their new button/bookmarklet make it about as simple as it could possibly be!

Art mimicking life?

Here is an interesting bit about video game violence. It makes a point i hadn't really thought about, games are getting more violent (duh) but many of the figures are police/government/military and they carry out all sorts of carnage the likes of which would never be legal in the real world... yet. Looking at our government now, and all the lobbying they are doing for increased governmental powers, extension (or making permanent) wartime provisions (patriot act), etc, one has to wonder if life isn't getting to be too much like art.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

WiMAX for the developing world?

Yeah yeah, "they don't need computers they need food!" in a perfect world development would take place in logical steps at the same time complementing other development efforts... but thats not the real world. In the real world you have things like (something I learned about that continually miffs me) Oxfam Australia, Great Britain, US, and a few others I think all in Phnom Penh; all doing different projects, vying for money with serious overlap in spending (Com'on guys you could at least share something like administrative costs) and you also (more to the point) have development taking place at different stages in the same area. Computers are a case in point. When I was working with a Dairy Coop in Eastern Europe I initially thought that "bringing computers etc to these areas is not what these people need", I stand by what I said even now but that’s not the whole story. You can't force something on people, and many times they are going to want what is new and cool (to varying degrees), I didn't think my village needed computers when I got there but after a year I tried setting up a project using old computers (cheap), Linux (yeah you can get pirated windows easily but it was the principle of the matter, an NES emulator, and some game pads and start a gamming cafe. Why?! Well I noticed in many developing countries these computer cafes are not really used for the internet much at all, maybe IM and a bit of email but that’s it, the main cash cow is games. In the rural areas kids would love to play even simple NES games and pay a few cents an hour to do so; I can already hear the "gasp, you are going to get them hooked on games?!" but consider the alternative, smoking, drinking, or just being bored (I saw all of the above, yeah even some under 12 year olds) playing games would not only generate income for someone, it would give the kids something to do, and also get them familiar with using computers (even if it is only for games, my brother almost refused to learn about computers until he got into gaming, now he can build his own computer from just parts).

Enter WiMAX (bet you thought this was going nowhere eh?). This has more importance in say some of the pacific islands that are mentioned in the article but still. Wireless internet access! I remember (another small story) hearing about the explosive growth of cell phones in Africa (considering the poverty) and was disgusted but then a friend who had been pointed out that the infrastructure was often so bad that regular land lines could not be reliable maintained, also some people had made a living in some villages of having a cell phone like a phone booth and charging people for use who would otherwise have to travel to the nearest town, nice!

Still, many people, especially in developing countries, don't understand the internet and teaching things like email would be lost, on the older generations in particular but one "killer app" I have seen for the internet in developing countries is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). This is just a fancy way of making phone calls over the internet on the cheap and I have seen many many times even in Europe (though usually the people using the services are working there calling home) people making cheap long distance calls to call home. So. You are in a place like Moldova, in a village a few miles away from the nearest town, which only has one internet cafe, if you get something like WiMAX one savvy individual in each village (within range) could setup a VoIP connection. Something like this could be built upon giving kids lessons on how to use computers and Email/IM etc (essentially getting them hooked but I can think of worse addictions) then charging for use; even setting up simple gamming during non-peek calling times.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The moral Right?

I am constantly frustrated by all the righteousness I hear coming from the right. My frustrations tend to be more with the religious conservatives but many times they are one in the same. I see things like John Stewart vs Bill O'Reilly (who i know says he is not a "conservative" [but he walks the walk and talks the talk as far as i am concerned) and get really annoyed with this righteous "rightness" (though at times I think they spout this stuff just to get a rise out of people, unfortunately it works) but then I see headlines (and there have been a bunch of them lately) like Tom DeLay, Robert Ney, Kenneth Tomlinson and Bill Frist. These are not "small potatoes" or fringe parts of the party... Sigh.

Oh by the way, when O'Reilly called the Daily Show audience something like "uneducated stoners" they actually took offence and did some research, apparently its the other way around, Billy's audience tends to be more the slack-jawed trogladite variety (that is, DS viewers were more likely to be able to answer current political issues)... Surprise.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What will the Ubergeeks do?

I was just watching a TWIT episode and re-noticed (I also noticed at this at DEFCON [no I wasn’t there, on video]) that most of those geeks have ThinkPads.  Among the tech elite IBM’s ThinkPads are pretty much renowned as the super notebooks.  I had an old thinkpad, a tiny one (Can’t remember the model, but one of the ultraportables) that took all sorts of beatings and was at least 4 years old by the time I hocked it and I can attest that it was nice.  But now, ThinkPads are not IBM products, that division was sold to the Chinese manufacturer Lenovo.  So, what is the super tech savvy geeks notebook of choice now? I use a Dell now, not because I love them, or even because I think they have great hardware (its ok) but they have unbeatable warranties/support.  I managed to get a 5 year warranty (stringing together student discounts, special offers, etc) for my Dell and have had to deal with customer service twice, and they did a pretty good job (or a great job if you compare it to average company’s customer support). I would rule out Sony because they have so many proprietary hardware issues (that’s not to say they don’t have some sweet offerings out there), and rule out AlienWare just because their systems are some of the few that *don’t* make the thinkpad prices look outrageous (i.e. very expensive), narrowing it down to… not sure.  Chances are I would go with a Dell again, for the warranty.  I am not the biggest fan of notebooks because if something in them breaks I can’t just replace it like I can in a desktop, so I am extra dependant on the manufacturer; plus, most people carry their notebooks around thus increasing the chances they break. One possibility would be a Mac, not so much for the hardware (and for the record I doubt I would bother with getting one at this point until they switch over to Intel) but for the OS. I notice lots of techies (the ubertechies [yes, I love the word "Uber", thank you Germany!]) use powerbooks now. I doubt it is because of the hardware, yes, the powerbooks shame most intel notebooks in terms of slick looking design but battery, speed, etc are lacking but the OS thats a different story. OSX is essentially a new UN*X flavor and has the power of UN*X, with more mature applications than say Linux (and of course that is debatable, but since many Mac apps are paid they seem to be more polished).

Anywho, I was just curious.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The penalties for copyright infringement vs. shoplifting

This is a straight copy/paste from slashdot:
"awesomeO4001" wrote in to mention a post to Karl Wagenfuehr's blog where he compares and contrasts the penalties for copyright infringement vs. shoplifting. From the post: "...from what I can tell, the penalties laid out for downloading one season of a TV show with BitTorrent are much harsher than if you actually stole a DVD set of the same show from a government store...For stealing the DVD you could face no more than up to 1 year imprisonment and up to a $100,000 fine; for downloading the same material you could face statutory damages of up to $3,300,000, costs and attorney's fees"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Wussy Dems

I am torn, sink to the obnoxiously boisterous level of some of the right (not all of them) and hop up and down and demand the fall of the Bush dynasty or do what they (the Democrats) are doing now... nothing. There is some trouble in the Republican party (or trouble for some rather large players in that party) and it looks like the Democrats are just blankly looking at each other and saying, "hey, I guess its our time now (No one else is in line)" I will admit that I am sickened when I hear politicians standing on their soap boxes making lofty/insulting demands but I wonder if much of the republican party didn't get where it is using Jesse Helms smear type soap boxing (the Bush campaign questioning McCain's sanity after being an POW is an embarrassingly obvious example, against one of their own). it MUST be said that the Democrats are where they are in part due to Clinton's fall from grace, he gave the right just the fodder they needed to push "morality" (while Clinton is an amoral husband i do not think it affected his politics). Oh well. I think all these Republican legal fiascos could so easily be used to the lefts advantage but #1 They are dragging their feet #2 It might not even matter if they didn't drag their feet, the American people's ability to forget (things like Iran contra affairs, chubby intern affairs, and inevitably exposing CIA operatives) is uncanny.

Friday, October 28, 2005

"Too bad" & "I wonder how high up this goes?"

Good G*d! What'da week. Well, now there are even more from the right under scrutiny (thats putting it mildly in the case of Delay and Libby); it amazes me that a person that surrounds himself (bush) with people like that is still trusted so much (at least by the right, though at sub 40% approval ratings he is hurt'n). I wonder if the seeming smear campaign stops at the "libby level" or goes higher up?

Anyway, one thing i was kinda cheering him on for was Harriet Miers; but his "base" ended up chasing her away even before she got to the hearings. Not like i thought that she was the best out there (far from it) but it was more a case of "It could be worse", but with a ~40% approval ratings i am not so sure he should even care about the far right, yes they are incredibly loud (read: Rush Limbaugh/Howard stern loud) and just try to appease all those who are brining his rating down. In truth my one real regret is that these events didn't come out before the election.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Equating dissent with disloyalty

I can think I can truthfully say that today (as opposed to the last 5 years) the title is not as true as it used to be. As I think I have mentioned before I was not in the US when 911 hit so I had the interesting perspective of watching the US from the outside, and I was appalled. The country blindly followed the current administration because for some reason we seemed to think that if you question the administration you were "unpatriotic". I was reading about George Clooney's new movie, in it he talks about how Murrow stood up against Mcarthy and pointed out to the country how crazy it all was. I never really noticed how far journalism has fallen since then (not that know about "then" first hand) until the Reagan years, he was charismatic and the country seemed to love him. At the time I was too young to appreciate charisma but I could understand trees being chopped down and animals homes being destroyed, something Regan did wholesale (Yet, I don't remember seeing that on TV). Then I see Clinton, a pretty lousy husband by all accounts, but the world could not get enough of his sexual faux pas, and it was politicized like I never thought something could be (I saw that all over the TV). Now for Bush Jr. (Sr. was not my fav pres but with his son for comparison he was fine) he has dominated/abused the political scene and done so with impunity. He has hardly had to answer to the fact about the WMDs and maintains this "great guy" character even after getting caught on tape calling a reporter an "A Hole", having a DUI record, smoking week (and later jabbing Gore for admitting to it)frowning like a spoiled brat during the debate, or the birdie he flips on camera (1,2), the press seems to glaze over all of that... amazing.

Fortunately some of this (a tiny bit) *seems* to be coming back to him (or to his advisors). Anyway, about the whole freedom (a word Bush mangles daily) thing, I think this bit from newsweek is something people should really think about.

"Knowing the outcome doesn't diminish the tension a bit, and Clooney and Grant Heslov's fine-chiseled script resonates with contemporary relevance. 'We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home,' Murrow said in his 1954 McCarthy broadcast. The senator used fear to undermine traditional American freedoms and equate dissent with disloyalty. Any resemblance to the current administration's exploitation of 9/11 is no accident."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Uber Clothing

This will be short. I have a bunch of gadgets, too many at times (but then again, can one *really* have too many gadgets?) and it gets to be a pain some times, especially the airport.

I have seen reviews of SeV (SCOTTEVEST) many times but for some reason didn't pay much attention to them, maybe until i was watching TWiT episode 26 and they (briefly) showed the SeV Leather jacket. It had almost all the amenities of the other SeV products but this looked sweet! Its the leather (I blame it on Europe), it looks nice and is functional instead of looking like some extreme sports wannabe (which I am) I gain feign fashion sense. Nice!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

AnandTech News: Suit filed over Nano scratches

This makes me wonder, I mean to sue over scratches is kinda silly (to me) but even more silly is that Apple doesn't make their iPods more scratch resistant. Why not use the stuff that DVDs like TDK's Armor. I had read one article where a reporter was actually using steel wool on one of the disks and barely managed to scuff these disks. Oh well.

The VoIP Backlash

I can't belive this. Telecoms all over the place are starting to block VoIP calls, and its legal (even in the US, ok, the US can't *block* it but they can legally degrade VoIP signals); thats just plain ludicrous! Doing international work i can rack up some pretty insane bills and VoIP has really really helped me but this just makes me feel sick. For some very insightful (for the most part) commentary refer to the slashdot responses (which is where i got wind of this in the first place)

Death Of Palm...

This is (or has been) pretty obvious, and depressing (for me) but Palm is dying. I actually fell for "Palm" when I got a Handspring Visor, I loved the springboard option (though I was most interested in getting the vibrating springboard for when I had my headphone on). I was wowed by all the quality applications out there and the millions of things they could do. But then came M$, they seemed nifty at first but bloated, and expensive as hell. Fast forward about 5 years, Palm has not been keeping up. I think it is a failure on both sides (hardware and software), the software isn't going to support hardware if it doesn't exist and hardware isn't going to come about unless software supports it. Of course thats not true (or only in theory) because the hardware did come about, though it was for the M$ platform. Now the M$ PDAs are close to PDA nirvana, kind of. They are still kinda pricey for me (but have come down alot) but my final two gripes with the M$ solutions are #1 I don't like having M$ dominating another area of the tech market #2 The M$ products are about as good as Windows (maybe worse). I was talking to a friend of mine who has some sort of Toshiba (maybe HP, but I don't think so) PocketPC and he was showing it off. It had bluetooth, wifi, 640x480 screen, etc it was enough to make me start to salivate. While he was showing it it froze up, he didn't blink an eye, he just whipped out a pin and reset it. I asked how often it happened, he said "oh anywhere from daily to weekly"; while that shouldn't surprise me (considering the OS) but it did. I have a (antiquated) Treo90 and I can't remember the last time it froze (at the very least it was 6 months ago) and I use it daily. Now I admit I am seriously wanting at least some wifi but other things too and I am sure each new feature adds more opportunities for glitches but still, weekly?! Will I switch over to the dark side? In a New York second, but not happily. I am sure there are some out there saying "if you hate M$ and instability so much why not spring for one of the Linux based PDAs/Smartphones" I have been temped, very (Sharp has some sweet hardware), but one main thing stops me software. I am no programmer and can't whip up some application when I can't find it on the net. PocketPC's offerings are almost at the point where Palm was 3 years ago. It seems unfair but then again thats life. R.I.P. Palm.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Bush Abandonment Watch, Part 2 - A former State Department bigwig unloads. By Timothy Noah

Former State Department bigwig Lawrence Wilkerson unloads. Its amusing, I didn't think anyone in the whitehouse was anything less than the death-before-disloyalty type, Mr. Wilkerson prooves me wrong, and in a pretty scathing way.

Opera 9.0 Preview 1 is now available for download

Well the Opera (my love) 9.0 preview 1 is out. I tried it out and first two things that come to mind are "Damn thats fast" and "thank god for the opera:config" (you type "opera:config" in the address bar and it gives you a very comprehensive configurations menu). But then I thought about another love/utility, There is a slim chance that this will be added but I really doubt it. I swear by, and have coveted the extension that Firefox has and the pre-built in support for it in Flock; I feel a bit betrayed. This is a feature I have been praying for before "tagging" was ever (to my knowledge) talked about (Back then I preached about it like a database and "crossreferencing"... Sigh.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Flock Browser

I am making this post using the "flock" web browser. So far i am pretty impressed. It is based on Mozilla so has all (most) of the mozilla goodies (like extensions) plus a killer interface/integration with things like and a blogging interface. Its slow as hell and i get the feeling it is going to crash on me at any moment *but* is still in dev phase so that is to be expected.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Incredible! Splogging...

This is just an observation, but i just thought i would give an example of how bad splogging is. I just posted about Cheap computers and clicked to view my post to see the (inevitable) mistakes, and i saw a comment so i take a look at it, spam; damn, it must have been 10 seconds between the time i posted and looked at the post. I have seen many posts about how google/blogger has dropped the ball (or has been victimized) on this splogging so i won't beat a dead horse any more.

Lenovo PCs Bespeak Its Goals (RED HERRING)

Lenovo catering to developing countries, its about time, for manufactures in general. I think i posted before about how I initially (going into the Peace Corps) didn't think people in developing countries needed computers, now I don't think that is the case. The world needs computers but not for the same reasons, in most countries the people progress at different rates (Ironicly the US is a prime example) thus they have varying amounts of access to technology. Many of these developing countreis are falling further and further behind, computers give them a way to at least not fall further behind. Having seen kids with computers, kids that have never used a computer before in their lives, use one for a day and by the next day be able to do mroe than my mother was able to learn in a year... Give a kid a computer and they will learn it and retain those skills... Anyway, computers are insanely expensive for most peopel in developing countries so I am glad to see companies like Lenovo (whose home country of China has plenty of poor people that need exposure to compouters) offering cheaper computers and places like MIT designing super cheap portable computers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Celebrity devotion

I do not really have a celebrity that I am particularly devoted to; I am more or less indifferent. The exceptions (of sorts) are Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Actually, I despised Johnny Depp’s very existence back in the day of "21 Jump Street" (which I got the impression that more women watched than guys). Since then for a reason I don't know I think he has done a really good job, perhaps its just the roles he has taken on like Edward Scissorhands, or Sleepy Hollow, or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And yes, many of the fav roles Depp has played have been in one of Burton's movies. I guess they just make a good pair, what got me to think about this? "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". The original I was not wild about so I had high hopes with this new one but damn; it was a bit disappointing. I suppose my having high hopes was part of the problem, one should never go into a movie expecting to be wholly satisfied, if you go to watch a movie (nothing more) then many times you come out of it more satisfied (and if not then it truly was a bad movie). Anyway, Johnny Depp i suppose did a good job of portraying the character he wanted to portray but i really think that the character was not the right one. Oh well, it could have been worse... but it could have been better too.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Vacationing Bush Poised to Set a Record

Well vacationing Bush is poised to set a record. I will give him this, he never ceases to amaze me; and this was *before* the Katrina fiasco (which people are *finally* starting to realize his ineptitude; the results are which are starting to show up in the latest polls). Up until now it has been a bit of a vacation for him, he has gotten almost everything he has asked for thanks to both houses being republican (and mostly loyal), and an insane amount of vacation time. I suppose the argument could be made that if you have to work that hard you need that much vacation but he has had a relatively easy time of it but still takes huge vacations, I think I would be hard pressed to find an employer willing to let me off that much, I guess it helps when you are your own boss but getting paid out of others pockets (not that he needs the money).

MediaCitizen: Media No Longer Taking Flak?

"Mainstream media don't inform the public based upon the objective merits of a story, but merely tailor their reporting to respond to the flux and flow of popular opinion." That is MediaCitizen's response to the Bush's scripting/propaganda fiasco. Nevermind how biased his little show was (Other presidents have done this too, but I get the impression that it has not been to the extent that this Administration has) but it truely amazes me that people have not seen through this; how easy the press has been on him for whatever reason; only when his approval ratings fall (not even the choke hold of the Bush spin machine has been able to make up for his recent blunders) does the press become critical. God help us.

MTV Overdrive

Ok, I remember the days (yeah, waxing nosgalgic) of the Mtv Astronaut, Adam Curry, and Kurt Loader with Mtv News. Now (i am sure its been out for a bit) they have MTV Overdrive. When I first found it I thought "This Rox!" but after using it bit (in IE, it seems to hate Opera, first problem) I got tired of all the DRM *crap*. Every news report, or video, etc I wanted to see I had to endure a pop-up DRM license thing, select "yes" (or whatever it was to let me see the content) *then* watch the video... what a PITA! Sorry Mtv, you guys have not hooked this viewer, I want it to be as easy as watching TV, not cracking a safe.

Power Companies Enter the High-Speed Internet Market - New York Times

#1 This is a test using the "blogthis" bookmarklet, I have heard about it before but never bothered but with my recent blogging slump I figured I needed incentive (gives me less excuse not to post) and I found it here. Its nice, but the spell check is pathetic, or maybe its quirks are attributable to its not liking Opera, either way, pathetic. How can they have such a crappy spell check for blogger when they have such a phenomenal spellcheck in gmail? (hurry up with the tricked out dhtml/RoR/AJAX bookmarklet!)

#2 The article that I thought was neat enough to blog? BPL, that is Broadband over Power Lines. I read about this years ago (about 4 years ago, literally) and thought "Sweet!, but I won't see it in my lifetime); Glad I was wrong. I had heard that Europe was using it (figures) and that it is being used in areas around Chicago and (somewhere) VA (not to mention Google just poured a ton of dough into one of these companies). It also seems to be fast (faster than the discount DSL that some ISPs are ofering) and is cheaper than most DSL and Cable offers I have seen... its about time guys.

Monday, October 10, 2005

When Gals get curious about what its like to be a guy...

Pretty interesting actually. No, its not some weird cross-dressing/sex change fantasy; its a log of this girl who wanted to see what affects testosterone would have on her. She took testosterone for a few weeks and kinda documented the changes (more mood changes than anything else). Unfortunately she has locked the page so the public can no longer read it (I assume she has stopped since she started this back in February) but thanks to good ole' Cory Doctorow and Boing Boing for having put up a few lines of her online diary (before she locked it up).

This is a test…

This is a test using Blogger’s “Blogger for MS Word”.  Nope, not a MS Word fan but it’s the best that I have found.  I was a die hard WordPerfect fan (since the days of v5.1 for DOS) but alas it been surpassed…  I am hoping that Open Office catches up but until then, I stay chained to MS.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Dear Opera

Dear Opera,

I have been a loyal user for many years now, it is still my favorite
browser but there is a problem... Opera is falling behind. Yes, i must
confess that i have ... browser envy. Actually is more like feature
envy, more specifically "Firefox extensions". *Why* can't you have
extensions too? or maybe (mind you i have no concept of the technical
hurdles involved) make Opera so that it can use Firefox extensions!
yeah! Please, i remain a faithful user but catch up, quickly.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Argh! Cheaper broadband just out of reach!

Crap.  So some broadband providers (SBC & Verizon) are *finally* offering reasonable priced broadband (albeit really slow)but its still not a nationwide thing (yeah, i am back in the US for the time being). I don't know about how it all works but i *think* one could actually have two DSL lines and still have it cheaper than a regular line (the point? not sure, just an interesting thought).

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Yeah for Cafe Americano!

I just got back from a Startbucks style coffee house (not Starbucks, I try pretty hard to support the little guys that deserve it) and am now slurping on a big ole cup of mocha with soy milk and splenda... life is grand.

A few thoughts. In Italy I developed a taste for the uber concentrated Italian espresso but did miss having a slurp-able size mug O' (yuppie) joe. My family came to visit me in Rome and my father (one of the few propping up the US coffee industry with his 2+ pots a day habit), who I think I inherited the taste for the super-size me mentality (actually that mentality only applies to a few things, like yuppie coffee). We would go to swank restaurants and my father would sometimes make sure I ordered a "large coffee" (aka "Cafe Americano", which is really just espresso with extra water and milk, added; and is detested by most Italians). While I can understand the want for a larger-than-a-sip serving of coffee is just oozes the I-Am-American-And-Want-Americana-Everywhere mentality. Anyway I would grimace, order, and deal with the raised eyebrow from the waiter that inevitably followed...

But in Italy I could never order a coffee with soy milk, splenda, vanilla with chocolate, etc etc... I won't try to argue that American coffee is better but we do have choices, lots of 'em! There will always be a soft spot in my heart for a German Beer sized cup of foreign coffee with a choice of 5 different kind of milks, 6 types of sweeteners, 3-5 sizes, cold, cold with ice, hot, with or without whip cream and in whatever combination I can think of... yeah, we aren't the coffee connoisseurs but we have the consumerism give-them-whatever-they-can-think of mentality down pat.

Back in Boston...

Its been more than a month since my last post, excuse? Busy, how busy you ask? I have been on three continents/timezones, and 9 cities in the last month, for me that is busy. Plus I just pulled a NC to MA drive (14 hours [well 10 for me about 4 for the co-pilot]) and now I am in Boston to finish up my Masters and hopefully on to a semi-lucrative job! Right, no job, still hunting. If you are hiring in the areas of agriculture/food security let me know!

Ok, back to working on my presentation for next week.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Would you start taking some medicine without first consulting a doctor?

No this isn't about meds, but the idea still holds. The Bush administration has gotten to the bottom of the barrel (hit bottom quite a while ago) and kept digging. The idea of making policy ideas that are contratary not only to what experts in the rest of the world say but also contrary to what experts in your own country say just amazes me. To add insult to dibilitating injury surveys taken are saying that many in the scientific (almost 50%) say they feel pressure *not* to publish/do/say things that run contrary to the Bush policy machine. So swallow hard people, its going to take a while to reverse this kind of damage.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Amusment with Proxies

I am constantly irritated with the Thai governments’ tendency to censor and meddle with my attempts to surf the web so as a result I have been learning more than I ever wanted to about using proxies. Everything from transparent & anonymous ones, to programs that help you use multiple proxies, to daisy chaining local (proxomitron) and remote proxies, ways to get to blocked proxy lists (Google cache) and am working on figuring out tunneling... sigh.

Anywho, I find myself having to switch remote proxies almost daily and most of the time they are not in the US so sometimes I get errors in the language of the country where the proxy is located, or Google assumes I am from some other country, etc etc etc.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Testimony to its popularity - NPR & Podcasting

I think i said before at some point that NPR should so be doing podcasts (here, and here); the instant i found "All Things Considered" I subscribed only to have it stop a few days later. About 2 months later i come accross the podcastdirectory (one of many sites that list podcasts) and on its list of all time most popular podcasts? yup, "All Things Considered". So going on for (I think) less than a week, and 2 months after it was taken off it still remains the 1 of the 3 most popular podcasts. I heard that "it was too much for them" I don't know if they are refering to bandwidth (I have heard that is what made them cut thier streams short after 9/11) or what, if bandwidth then why not torrents? Anyway, I still look forward to the day I can listen to my fav NPR shows on my MP3 player, on my time, not some fixed time.

Typical corruption...

The king of swaziland has now outlawed the press from taking pictures of his limo fleet. The manic corruption that takes place in some of the worlds poorest nations will never cease to amaze me.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Third world countries need photo/bio degradable plastic bags

I'm not sure which is more unrealistic, getting people not to litter or getting countries to use photo/bio-degradable plastics (especially plastic bags). The perfect example would be Cambodia. In truth I have never seen a place with more litter (outside of a dump) but upon closer inspection you will see that most of it is plastic bags. Khmer are *really* good about recycling stuff they can actually get money for (testimony to the dire poverty), I tested this multiple times by placing plastic and glass bottles out in plain view only to have them swiped in less than 20 minutes, where as plastic bags would never move. In the rivers, streets, yards I would see plastic bags everywhere. The best thing would of course be not to have them, use paper or cloth but that is probably the most unrealistic.

In the US many grocery stores (especially the larger chains) use photo (will breakdown in light) or bio (microorganisms can break it down) degradable plastics; I think this is still a really poor idea in countries of comparable wealth but changing developed countries can sometimes be harder than changing the developing countries.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Clean Squatting Toilet

Squatting Toilets are nothing new to me, tons of them in Moldova. They are all over here as well, they are cleaner than some of the outhouses I found in Moldova and this one was particularly clean. Squat, do your business, then scoop some water into the toilet for a flush.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Google Cheat Sheet

I just came across the "google cheat sheet", pretty cool, it tells me alot of what i already knew about but also some new things i didn't. Here is a short list:

That stuff may or may not be useful to you but I use some of it quite often.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Ok, so the president smoked weed, I can think of worse things, but not only does it add to the list that already has (though unproven one way or another) cocaine, (totally prooven) drunk driving, and shirking military duty on it but it makes him a hypocrite (again), the tapes that everyone is talking about now (not that it matters, he is on office and ain't leaving). "In the tape, Bush mocks former Vice President Al Gore -- who fought him for the presidency in 2000 -- for admitting he smoked marijuana." A friend of mine who has political views that are night and day from my own once said he "just didn't trust him", him being Gore. Gore was boring, lacking charisma, and a goodie goodie... but i really wish he had won, the world would be a better place.

"Because I can"

I had always liked that phrase, until recently. I was reading a bit about John Gilmore and his privacy work. He sounds like a borderline conspiracy theorist at first but I thought about it a bit. Remember the parents saying "because I said so..." when you were little? I remember a neighbor talking about his kid who had just gotten to the "reasoning stage" who asked him simply "why?" the father was stumped. Looking at (and sometimes being the victim of) all the government "security" really makes me wonder sometimes. Most people just scoff and say "I'll do it for the extra protection" but is it really extra protection? 15 years ago if i told you that i could find out where you live, get your phone number, and produce an aerial photo of where you were living in about 10 minutes you would think i was the Gestapo or something but its a reality that has been introduced bit by bit so we really don't "feel" it. Now we have to cough up ID for every freaking thing and for some (me) its making me grow older faster. This is just a rant, being one person who isn't even in the US right now gives me a (false?) sense of security but who knows... sigh.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Panoramics, PanoTools and PT Gui keep getting sweeter

Damn, just found out and figured out the "color balancing" option in PT Gui (Note: there is an open GUI as well, refer to Hugin and Panorama Tools Open GUI). I would have saved a ton of time if I had found out about that alot earlier. Before I had been using photoshop and and "match color", and before that trying to balance them manually! (ugh). Oh well better late than never.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Internet access as a public service

There is continued talk about internet access to be provided as a public service. To me this sounds like a stretch. Why not have offered telephone access as a public service? To possibly answer my own question, perhaps it is that the Internet has more uses than telephony, like VoIP telephony, access to tax info (including submission), phone books (up-to-date and less cost to provide), pay tickets/fines (potentially cheaper than physically doing it) etc. I think there is already a community in Georgia that has this, and Philadelphia (or is it Pennsylvania) is thinking about doing it. But for whatever reason (the pessimist in me?) every time I hear about some place offering internet access as a public service I just start to wonder how realistic it is.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Whiter Lips

Originally uploaded by gaikokujinkyofusho.
This is just an example of the quest-to-be-ligher fanatisism in parts of Asia. Don't laugh too much, remember in the US we have "Coppertone"!

Monday, February 28, 2005

Searching and Search Engine wishlist

Google is my fav, kinda obsessive about it, guess the lack of graphics (a plus), speed, and reasonable accuracy of results are the main reasons but its far from perfect. Clustering is a big thing and sorting is another and neither is something that google seems to have much (if any) of. I did find software that only works with IE that will group google listings together, but is still slower than google and doesn't "feel" convinient (don't ask why)

I have found Clutsy, and a vivisimo (which run clutsy, and again, this only works with IE and is still slower than google), nice in that it groups/clusters sites; that helps save a bunch of time but at the same time both services are slow.

I heard of Snap but it seems they have some "issues" but can't remember what, after having gone to the site I can say its a bit on the slow side but I like the clustering (is everyone *except* google doing this?) and the ability to sort on the fly, very nice.

At the moment the best thing I have found is Copernic Agent Professional which costs mad amounts of money (not worth it, just use a combination of google, snap, and clutsy [or for more results than clutsy use the vivisimo toolbar]) and requires either an Internet2 conneciton or lots of patience. It will search multiple search engines, cluster results, take out multiple enteries, summarize, analyze, etc your results, its the Rolls-Royce of regular web search at a Pinto speed.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Watching fishies

Just a thought. There is a place near where I live that has a small fish pond tucked away in a corner. I take a shortcut by there on my way to work and its kinda relaxing to just stare at them every once in awhile. I never really got it for the fish in a tank (still don't) but somehow this is a bit different. At the moment it has two big (multiple meals per fish) fish and a truckload of tadpoles.

NOTE: Crap! I sent this like yesterday and set it to *not* post but save as draft, apparently that didn't work. Ok will edit.

Computers and distractions

Computers are supposed to increase productivity, and i think they do but there is also the anti-productivity side of computers, the distractions they can pose. Things like weather and email alerts, IM, little games, update popups (fortunately not an issue for me), cool little apps (huge issue for me) and of course email itself. For ADD posterchildren like myself these things are great amusment and a help of sorts (admittedly a help i can live without). There is an area called cognitive technology research, this is defintely something i really need to look into.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Google video Search!!!

Remember (assuming you read this blog on a semi-regular basis) my posting about yahoo having a beta video search tool? Yeah, I said something like "Google's falling behind" I guess they are still behind in the sense that they didn't come out with it first but I heard fromEngadget that they now have video search too. Its pretty cool, you could (haven't tried it yet, bandwidth is crap today) search for a news report on a certain topic, or a bunch of other things! Kudos guys! Next (when the connection gets better) I want to try compare the two and see who comes up with more relevant hits, should be interesting.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Two "Blog Networks" is all that i really need.

Yes folks, the "" and the "Weblogs Inc" networks have it all. Cool travel sites (Gadling & Gridskipper, addictive gizmo sites (Engadget & Gizmodo) amusing (and in the case of the gawker network, polictially incorrect hilarious, writing) auto blogs (not as interesting for me), "life hacks", real everyday hacks, and tons more. I'm now set!

Late thought but still...

Was listening to an archived NPR interview with Andy Rooney. They asked him about bush and his military service and his reply was that "if i thought my dad could have gotten me some slack them i woudl have done the same thing. I guess i can agree with that until that same person starts a war having shirked responsibility himself" well said.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

US becomes former soviet republic!

Ok, its not quite that bad since the dude was actually released but still, what a crock!!! This guy and othere were dismissed *after* all the bush stuff was said and done. It really makes the ole' viens-in-the-neck swell just thinking about this. That monkey talks about freedom constantly when he is constantly reducing our freedoms (with the exception of many larger businesses freedoms).

Flagrant Violations of Accepted Sanitation...

Well, just got back from lunch on the street. Pickings were thin since #1 its Sunday and #2 I didn't feel like walking to the main street. So the food stuff I got wasn't great but filled me up, the drinkable goodies is why I am posting though.

I think I have mentioned before how you can get "Chai Yen" (aka Thai Tea in the US) and iced coffee around here for dirt cheap well there is a hidden cost. Actually maybe this is a cost I pay all the time but only paid attention to this time.

The lady was making the Thai Tea for me, flies everywhere, and a fly made its way into my tea as she was making it. Not an eyelash was raised, she just fished out the offending insect flicked it off the spoon, and kept going... Sigh. I wish I hadn't seen that but oh well.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


This is to test some software called “Blogjet” just wanted to see if it would make posting any eaiser (I hope it works offline)

Friday, February 18, 2005

Khmer Recycling

Khmer Recycling
Originally uploaded by gaikokujinkyofusho.
I had an old pack (which i am now missing a bit) and bought a new pack in Phnom Penh (which i am not liking its whimpy zipper so much). Well i wanted to make sure that my old pack was put to good use, kinda recycled Khmer style so we put it outside by the trash and waited. It wasn't 10 minutes before one of the people that usually dig in trash for recyclables comes by and takes it, here is step by step photos of it.

Kiss off?!

Yes, today has been a pretty crappy day but the thing that caught me at a particularly bad moment was "American Slamming". It doesn't matter if you are Asian, Black, or "stereotypical white", if you say you are American then don't be surprised if someone starts to slam the US. Most of the world, especially Europe, associates Americans with Bush. If you read this at all I think you will notice that I don't particularly like Bush but I get pretty damn tired of hearing people lump all Americans together as "Bush supporters" who support overthrowing regimes, bully politics, and general asinine type practices. He won by like 51% people, so there is about 49% that didn't support him. If you really want to make people do something you don't like then start critisizing them, seems to work. The more the US is criticizing the more defensive Americans (and Bush) are going to get, doesn't matter if they support Bush or not, almost no one likes having their country repeatedly slammed. To rub it in our faces is not going to do anyone any good, Bush is the big bully is town that no one (and in many cases no group) is going to be able to beat up, but if you give the bully sh*t then he is going to deliberately try and piss you off, and probably get away with it. I am sorry Bush is president but get off our (the people that didn't vote for him) asses. Don't slam America, slam Bush.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Idea for Google/Yahoo news

Heres and idea, when doing news searches on google or yahoo news (or any other news site for that matter) how about having the option to give weight to different terms? Something like this:

You want to find articles about how aquaculture has affected the coastline on Indonesia so to *try* and cover all your bases you use a string like this:

aquaculture (coastal OR mangroves OR environment OR coast) (damage OR destruction OR catastrophe OR contamination OR deterioration OR devastation OR marring OR pollution OR ravage OR ruin OR ruining OR wrecking) Indonesia

Its long clunky and still hardly gives me what I am looking for. Now there are probably boolean/database geeks out there that could find this no problem, but I am not one of those geeks and at the moment don't have access to the greatest databases right now. With the above
string I get mostly general stuff that refers mostly to the Tsunami disaster and only mentions Indonesia in passing. What if i could tell the search engine to give more weight to aquaculture and Indonesia? I guess I already have saying the returned article must have Indonesia and aquaculture in it but perhaps the search engine could go a bit further and say measure the number of times the words i wanted weighted are mentioned or if those words are in the titles etc; I kinda thought it already does this but in looking at the results i get back I am kinda doubting that is the case. Google/Yahoo guys, if you are listening know that there is at least one person out there who would like this area improved!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Finally, "fair trade" for developing countries

I just saw a piece about the EU is taking measures (or so they say) towards giving developing countries preferential treatment; that is lowering tariffs etc against the developing countries commodities. I think there are fewer "aid" type things that can help a country along than to encourage its industry, aid is spoon feeding in many cases.

Many government (especially the EU, USA, and Japan) are unforgivably notorious about protecting their own (comparatively expensive) industries from the lower cost products from the developing countries WHILE telling the developing countries that they should reduce their
own tariffs.

Really, its just the big economic powers leveling the playing field, they are just making their own industries compete *fairly* with the industries of the developing countries.

That said other things need to be done as well. Allowing fair entry into these large markets is a *huge* step but they also need to help these countries fight corruption and improve environmental friendly technologies both being things that can get out of control in unchecked capitalism.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The World Getting More Conservative?

I don't think of myself as particularly conservative or liberal, if either i think Jesse Ventura (no I would not vote for him) said it best "Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative" thats as close as i come to either side. Anyway, I look around and think that many parts of the world are becoming more conservative, yeah I could be wrong but look at some examples. The obvious one, Bush; while I am sure he would label himself as "fiscally conservative" i think he is the antithesis of money wise, though few would argue his right wing social stance. What about Russia? Putin just seems to be getting more and more popular (with a very few exceptions [senior benefits and golfing while the sub sank]) and he is pretty heavy handed to say the least. Most recently Thailand's re-elected prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. If "shoot drug suspects first, ask questions later" isn't right wing extremism i am not sure what is (like supporting the death penalty w/o a trial). How about France? Yeah I know I would probably be shot if there was a French national around but their immigration policies seem to be less and less social, and what about Le Penn? There are tons of other examples as well as exceptions, but for many large influential nations i think it is the trend.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Ever doubt your masculinity? or feel a bit cheated? If not and you are a masochist, then come on over to Thailand. That is not to say that I hate Thailand (its got plenty of stuff I enjoy) but this has got to be the "she-man" capital of the world.

To clear things up:

  1. I am a straight guy, what can I say I like women
  2. I have nothing against gays, I know a few gay/bis that I can call friends
Now that my sexual orientation is in know, I will say that when I first got here I was fooled numerous times. From the back they walk like a female, the are shaped like females, and are dressed like a female, but beware! Sometimes even from the front you can't really tell, but quite often as soon as they open their mouths all your manly senses reel and you try hard not to look shocked, "My god! She's a he?!"

You might feel a bit cheated but its ok, you learn to see it a mile away. In truth I have had few encounters and non of them have been with "shemen of the night". The most recent was at a flower shop, caught me off guard, I walk in say "sawadee khrap" (hello) and all the women (shemen) reply back with feminine looking and manly sounding "swatdee Kha" (female hello). Whoa. Thailand is apparently the most gay-tolerant society I have ever seen, I'm not sure why but I really hadn't thought it would be (actually I hadn't thought of it at all). So, if hot looking women that are actually guys does it for ya then come on over!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Adventures in Cambodia

Hello again! I thought I would chronicle another one of my adventures especially after all the ego inflation I received from the last email I wrote (quite a few of you said “you are such a good writer”, it was a first and I’m sure the last, so I am treasuring those few emails [and yes, flattery will get you everywhere]).

So you know, I have posted some pictures on my Yahoo Photos account. Just so you know, not all of those pictures are mine., in fact the better they look the less likely they are to be mine. If you want to get an idea of who took what head over to Mama Mera's "Adventures in Phnom Penh" and see the ones she took. She also added alot of details that i neglected to mention (actually it should be known that without her networking savvy I probably wouldn't have seen many of the places that i mentioned/photographed).

Anywho, for those that don’t know, I recently got back from Cambodia; part of my cross country (literally) jaunt was for fun (when isn’t it at least partly for fun?) and part for work. There is quite a bit to say but the amount I write is entirely dependant upon my will to write, we shall see.

I spent about half of my time around Phnom Penh (PP) and the other half around Siem Reap (SR). While in PP I visited the “Russian Market”, I had heard about it before, apparently it is a more touristy version of the regular market but I saw many locals there as well. I couldn’t find anyone that knew why it was called the Russian Market, and didn’t think it was much like any Eastern European market I had ever been to, it was actually more like a bazaar in Turkey, but it was neat all the same.

We also tagged along with a documentary producer/filmer (is that a word?) who wanted to get some footage of local hand made textiles. We went to a little known (by foreigners) place called “Silk Island” and island in the middle of the Mekong river where most people there made a living weaving. A side note, in Phnom Penh I saw tons of foreigners more in one day than I have seen in a month in my area of Bangkok; I didn’t see one foreigner on silk island and the kids there swarmed around us and didn’t ask for a cent (in the areas with more foreigners kids/people are usually begging for money or business). It was kinda fun, at first they were enamored with the producer’s camera which was really making filming really difficult for her but we soon discovered that “Tic Tac Toe” on my PDA was more than enough to keep them occupied.

The “business” part of my trip was to track down some fish farms or at least places that were raising fish. I originally referred to a gentleman in the Cambodian ministry of Agriculture and fisheries but alas he wanted nothing to do with me and came up with every weak-ass excuse to avoid me, grrr. With some help and a bit of luck I did manage to see some caged fish (fish that are raised in cages floating in lakes or rivers) in a floating village. Yes it was actually a whole village of floating houses on a really large lake, truly unlike anything I have seen before. Next I found out our tour guide (in SR) raised crocodiles and fed them fish, so off to the croc farm. It was a small setup (30 head of crocs) but it was interesting none the less with the pond split into two sections, one section to raise the reptiles and the other to raise the fish (tilapia) to feed to the crocs. The last place was RDIC Cambodia, they had trials involving fertilizing with goat and green manures, feeding with duck weed, and dredging/liming the ponds, all quite interesting (to me at least).

We took a bus to get to Siem Reap, a grand $4 for those that know where to go (some places would over charge you others won’t). On the way there the bus made many stops, too many in my opinion but hey. On one of the stops I saw a vendor vending something and some whole (minus the feathers of course) cooked chicks. Upon closer examination I saw that the “something” was a bowl of fried spiders, big juicy tarantula sized ones. Yep folks finger lick’n arachnids Khmer style. I had heard about this before and have heard that they taste kinda like fried soft shell crab but sorry, I didn’t try one (I ate very little “native” food in Cambodia since everyone said that there are too many health problems there, even compared to Laos).

Ankor Wat, before I came to South East Asia I am not even sure I had heard of Ankor Wat (I am not the most cultured person out there) but now that I have been there I don’t think I will ever forget it. For those that don’t know, it is actually one temple but most people just refer to the whole collection of temples in the area as “Ankor Wat”. The history is amazing and long, the sheer age involved is amazing enough but to see the architecture takes the “amazingness” to a whole new level. Our tour guide, Mr. Ouk, was the brother of a friend and apparently was a Jack-of-many-trades (including raising crocodiles, which I had the privilege of seeing later). His English was not great (but most of the guides I heard weren’t particularly well versed in spoken English either [and I was told that the guides leading the Japanese tours were even worse]) but what he lacked in English he more than made up for in knowledge. Time after time we (the 2 of us) would come in before or after other guides and Mr. Ouk would tell us all the other guides did plus much more, I only managed to stump him a very few times and usually the questions weren’t necessarily directly related to the tour. We rode in his air conditioned car and he took us to places during times that were prime for photographing (I have learned that morning and dusk provide the best lighting for taking pictures) and took us to areas where the crowds weren’t; he took us to a family that made “palm candy” as well. There were many places along side the road that sold the candy but he knew where a family that showed the whole process was. We bought some, not bad; the collection, processing and even the taste was similar to tapping maples, pretty interesting. If you ever think about coming to Cambodia and seeing Ankor Wat please consider using Mr. Ouk (a “grand” $20/day). Anyway, we saw many monks and nuns in and around the temples; it was a bit twisted to me but most of the monks stood around and practiced English with the tourist while all the nuns I saw were either tending shrines or cleaning…

At lunch time he asked us where we wanted to eat and we told him our only requirements was that it was relatively clean and Khmer. He took us to some very tasty places but the first time he and his son (his son drove) headed to another section of the restaurant until we chased them down and asked them to sit with us. We later noticed that all the drivers/guides sat in a dowdy part of the restaurants away from the tourist. I still do not know if this was because they chose to sit somewhere else or to keep them out of sight. Thinking back to a situation in Moldova I would guess that it is probably the later. Really you can’t compare Moldova to Cambodia, Moldovans are rich and doing well by comparison but there was one situation in Moldova where it became clear that foreigners (especially westerners) were treated differently than locals (though not always in a positive way). A Moldovan friend of mine that was trying to start a children’s NGO and needed to meet with another organization, he begged me to come with him but I couldn’t understand why because I had *no* background dealing with children. He said he had tried to see the head of the organization 4 times before with no luck so he had me go with him, make an appointment as myself and viola! the organization official had some time. When we saw the person my friend would ask questions and the official would respond to the questions as if I had asked them, amazing. Anyway some interesting tidbits, Cambodia once encompassed a large part of South East Asia stretching from Thailand to Vietnam. The Cambodian kingdom was invaded by Indians which introduced Hinduism to SE Asia whose influence can be seen in many parts of Cambodia (and might possibly explain why many Khmer are darker than many other SE Asians). I found that many SE Asian alphabets are based on Sanskrit. I *think* the Khmer Rouge control was about 5 years (I had thought it was a lot longer).

I believe I started my last email, or my last comment about Laos was something like “…this was the poorest country I have ever been to…”, but I can now say that Laos is not the poorest country I have ever been to. Cambodia is inexplicably poor, and in some ways makes Laos seem like a “nice place to live”. Here are a few short things I saw/heard/observed that lead me to think this:

  • Revenge is quite common there. One of the more graphic examples I can remember hearing is how wives have been known to throw acid on mistresses to disfigure them.
  • Almost all sewage goes directly into the lakes, rivers, and creeks; the example that really struck me was seeing a person pee in one of the creeks while a few yards down stream another person was bathing.
  • Khmer don’t like to see trash around the table or in the house (so I have been told), and on more than one occasion I saw people throw trash (like chicken bones, cans, paper, etc) on the floor or out the door/window while eating.
  • After having lived in one or two poorer countries in a large city and small village I can truthfully say that I have heard about more violent crimes (mostly against women [foreign and Khmer]) in Cambodia than anywhere else so far.
  • At least 1/4th of the streets I saw in the capital city were dirt, and littered with trash (Vientiane had its fair share of dirt roads but was much cleaner)
  • Almost all non-locals are extra weary of the food (unless people they trust say otherwise). I was in Laos for over a week, eating “native” at least once a day, no problems. I eat “native” almost every meal in Bangkok and at worst have gotten a case of the trots lasting a day. In Cambodia I hardly ate native and but still got sick for over 4 days.
  • Instead of political opposition merely being incarcerated they are routinely threatened with death and assassinated. A (non government owned) newspaper reported that an opposition leader said that the prime minister had threatened to have the Khmer Rouge go after him; when asked the prime minister emphatically denied that he had said such things and said “If he keeps spreading such lies I *will* have the Khmer Rouge go after him..”
  • And a few more things that aren’t coming to mind…

Of course it is not all “bad”…

I have been told and saw that Khmer value customer relationships quite a bit. While people we didn’t know seemed to have no problems with trying to take us for all we were worth (not hard when one is a student), the people we knew seemed to go out of their way to be helpful. The cost of many things is quite cheap there. I think the cost of living (for a foreigner) is still higher than Bangkok (One of the things I love about Bangkok is it is cheaper to live than anywhere else I have been before, yet has more amenities than many other places) but other things such as DVDs ($2.50/DVD but the vendor my friend frequents gave me a discount so $2.10/DVD), cloth, clothing (I had a nice summer sports coat made for $30; and bought some Columbia pants [they have a manufacturing facility here so yeah they are real] for $4.50 a pair), and trinkets.

But then again, the “bad” is what people tend to remember…

I saw the genocide museum in Phnom Penh, which was rather sobering. I overheard one tourist, who apparently was familiar with Holocaust atrocities, say that it was like the Khmer Rouge had taken notes from (and built upon) what the Nazis had done. The Holocaust can not be down played and I do not know the numbers involved but to me the idea of individuals willingly commit unspeakable crimes against their own people just boggles the mind. There were pictures and stories of people being fed to crocodiles, mines being planted that were specifically designed not to kill but to blow off limbs, all to people that were too educated/spoke of love/sang songs, any “acts of inspiration”. An insane but less gruesome example was the Khmer cutting down fruit orchards because the songs of the birds that the fruit attracted would inspire thoughts that were “unpatriotic”.

I met numerous people who had one or multiple family members killed by the Khmer Rouge (our tour guide had lost at least one family member, and a 30 year old guy I met had lost his father. Constantly seeing people that were missing limbs due to land mines ensured that I would not have the luxury of turning a blind eye to the underlying horrors that are still lingering.

In Siem Reap (the town beside where Ankor Wat is located) I visited a “mine museum”, whose maintainer had been repeatedly imprisoned by the government for “various reasons” but it is widely believed that the real reason is because they think it “competes” with the government museum, one of the many many examples of government corruption (worse than just about any other I have seen thus far). Admission was free because the museum was not allowed to charge admission lest it be shut down again, so there was a donations box. They had defused mines, grenades, air drop bombs, that were made in places like China, Russia, Czech Republic, and a few from the USA (though “at least” not a fraction as many as from China and Russia). The maintainer is a Khmer who de-mines un-detonated explosives and simultaneously runs an orphanage for orphans that have lost limbs due to mine blasts. Their houses are made of woven grass walls and roofs, some of the floors were dirt, and no one was particularly well dressed; while I saw *many* privileged orphans in well funded orphanages in Cambodia (“Cambodian orphans” is somewhat of a fad right now, kind of like “AIDS” or “Tsunami” at the moment) this was not one of them. A friend of mine (while in Moldova) once said that “Altruism is a luxury of the rich”, that phrase has stayed with me, and I find that it holds true quite often so the sacrifice like what this guy does should be enough to humble even the most righteous “developed-country-person”.

I heard that many Khmer are tired of the past, especially tired of all the emphasis foreigners put on their past, they seem to want to move on; I guess this could be a good thing. The only problem is that the combination of the museums, pictures, and people that have obviously been affected being at every turn, are about rawest things I have ever experienced, and I am not convinced that the acts committed can truly be forgotten anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Searching RSS feeds

Well I am doing some work for an aquaculture organization here in Bangkok, pretty interesting work at times. On of the things I am to do is find and summarize articles relating to aquaculture and the Tsunami. This is not as boring/arduous for me as it might be for some, in my free time I spend quite a bit of time searching for and reading about topics (usually Ag or Tech related) so this is not much different except I must do it now and I have to find new information every day, I am finding out that this is somewhat of a challenge. The other day (when I was given the assignment) I started off using Yahoo news XML Search results (and Google News Alerts but not nearly as helpful as RSS) using the following string

Tsunami aquaculture OR fishermen OR fishing OR coral OR fish OR shrimp OR export OR "seafood trade" OR prawn

, damn that was nice (Though it would be *much* nicer if I could use some regular expressions). I was flooded with stuff, and used Thunderbird to sift through them. I had a bunch of results tailored to my topic of interest and it gave me quick summaries of each, I could plow through all that info really fast... but two problems have since occurred. One, copyrights; they think there might be copyright problems with posting summaries of news from other news sources. I would think that there wouldn't be a problem so long as we don't post the whole article and do put the source and the URL. The other, and related problem, is they want me to use Lexis Nexis; that really isn't a problem other than I get the impression (I could be wrong) that the processes wouldn't be as streamlined as the RSS method I have come up with, no biggie though (plus I haven't tried it yet so perhaps it will be easier).

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Why not Anon P2P?

I recently heard a NPR broadcast that Kazaa and some other P2P apps have been decreasing in popularity… and things like bittorrent have become really popular. That doesn’t make sense to me, well yes it does in the sense that people are moving away from a popular medium that the RIAA and MPAA are watching to a less popular medium, problem is it is as easy or easier (from what I hear) to identify uploaders and downloaders using bittorrent! Now, I think bitorrent is a killer app, lots and lots of uses having nothing to do with RIAA or MPAA *but* anonymous it is not. Which leads me into my original thought, anonymous P2P apps like (never heard of Mute but apparently it has a bit of a following)and freenet. I guess the use of bittorrent over anon p2p apps is probably due to ease of use and speed, but still.

First, nothing is totally anonymous, like nothing is hackproof, but these applications make it reasonable hard to identify people and given sufficient volume (of users) it could really fusterate the MPAA and RIAA.

Then there is Ants, it seems to be pretty much dead, but then apps like freenet are overlooked as if they were dead, which (while not the vibrant community that bittorrent is, or Kazaa was) is not the case. There is also an in depth comparison of two semi-anonymous p2p programs ant and mute and a File Sharing without Fear article.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Bush going down in history for famous fabricated crises

Well there is a Washington Post article about how Bush manipulated the public (well at least 50% of us) into believing there were crises, here mainly Iraq and Social Security. Now I agree, and think they might have actually gone soft on him about Iraq but I don’t agree with SS.

As a tax payer paying for a benefit I will probably never recive I tend to hate SS and I *do* think it needs to be overhauled, if Bush does it then he has my support (not very often you will here that, I assure you) however two things:

#1 I hope people see the total irony of his sounding off about the perils of SS and our inevitable financial destruction because of it when he is spending us into oblivion with the Iraq war and cutting back taxes (especially for those that can afford it) so we have nothing to pay for the war with. The finical woes he has created are starting to fester in among other forms of a weak dollar (which kicked my school loaned ass all over the place while interning in Europe).

#2 His idea of privatization of SS is, in theory, great (and contrary to the article I cited earlier I do think it is in trouble). For me, a person whose parents and grand parents held off on buying Star Wars and Transformer action figures and instead set me up with bonds, IRAs, and stocks (I am [very] thankful now but trust me, that made for a really frustrating childhood sometimes) it will work nicely; I was happy when he raised (doubled?) the yearly contribution limit on Roth IRAs but again, I think I might be the minority. I am now imbued (brainwashed?) with the mentality of saving, investing, and semi-thrifty spending but I am the minority. I have worked in some pretty blue collar areas (farming, construction, call centers [ok that’s border line]) where educations were lower and MBAs pretty rare, the mindset is different there. There is no way for me to say this without seeming self-righteous and elitist but not everyone handles their money very well. I never got over the irony of working in the call center (of a bank) where I would say over 75% of the people didn’t use their 401k plan; and construction listening to guys say “yeah, I figure right before I retire I’ll put my money in an IRA account and then live off that” (well at least he had heard of an IRA).

Bush needs (and never will) understand that the majority of people will mismanage their money, they do not have daddy to help them along with investments. What he wants to do is privatize SS and give people the choice of how to save their money. Granted, the system we have now is defunct at best, but giving the average Joe the option to handle that little bit of savings (which too many people rely way to heavily upon) isn’t going to help the majority, but of course all the well to do steeped-in-the-arts-of-savings-and-investment will profit handsomely from this I am sure.

Perhaps I am wrong, maybe bush does understand about the little guys, but just doesn’t care.

Guard your Room!

Room Defender is a $33 tripod-mounted, foam disc-shooting weapon that has a motion sensor that you can set to clobber anyone that crosses its path, sweet!

God I was a kid at the totally wrong time… I thought the Star Wars X-wing (which just made little beeping sounds, had a flashing LED, and I could put action figures in it, was the shit but now they have this!

News Maps?

I think I mentioned something about "News Maps" earlier but am too lazy to find it (tried search but apparently I didn't use the words "news maps" [or maybe its just too early in the morning]). Anywho, I have been on a mission to find as much many sites like Yahoo News that offer their search results as RSS feeds (more on that later) but while I was looking I re-came across NewsIsFree. I found them a year or two ago, wasn't thrilled about having to log in etc to get my feeds, I just wanted a simple online news aggregator (which I found at my beloved This time I looked they had some new features, like News Maps. The idea of news maps was pretty neat but while (I think) they are supposed to help you follow the popularity of news, I find them pretty confusing and not as helpful as I would like, my guess is thought that I am using them incorrectly. If you know about them, find them useful by all means please leave a comment or email me, I would love to learn more about them from those that use them.