Semantic Web

September 2nd, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

The W3C‘s Semantic Web initiative proposes to make the Web machine-readable, so that automated tools can make better use of the Web’s resources. I had a hard time getting excited about that idea until I read Paul Ford’s vision of how the Semantic Web might work.

Private and Public

August 23rd, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Private and Public is a collection of candid photographs of London pedestrians, taken over the course of a year and grouped by season. All of the photos were taken on the same 30-meter stretch of sidewalk. Although they were taken in a public place, they are intensely personal, and I’m glad I’m not in any of them.

Wait a minute. I just remembered an afternoon when I was walking across campus at UC Santa Cruz, near McHenry Library, when I suddenly noticed a woman taking a picture of me. She was standing by the side of a well-trafficked path, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only person she photographed. Still, I may already have wound up as part of someone else’s art project. Crud.

Actias luna

August 14th, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Most people don’t pay much attention to moths. A printmaker in New York decided to look at them more closely, and he discovered that moths are beautiful. He digitally scanned the moths, then made 3 foot by 4 foot prints on watercolor paper. I would love to see an exhibit of these.

Everything Shiny and Wonderful, President Says

August 14th, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

The New York Times ran a wonderfully cynical article about this week’s so-called economic forum in Waco, Texas. Here are some of the best parts.

President Bush said today that he was optimistic about the long-term health of the beleaguered American economy as he heard from a selection of 240 carefully chosen guests who praised his policies at an economic forum created to showcase his concerns.

…Even as Mr. Bush expressed confidence in the economy and defended his policies, the Federal Reserve issued a more pessimistic assessment. It said the decline in the stock market’s [sic] and disclosures of corporate wrongdoing had prolonged a sharp slowdown that might require it to cut interest rates further.

…Mr. Bush heard no dissent and no debate at an event where the theme was that the economy was going through difficulty, but that things were headed in the right direction. The forum has been heavily criticized by the Democrats and a number of Republicans as a staged pep rally for the second Bush White House, which is ever mindful of the fate of Mr. Bush’s father.

…Most of the eight participants who spoke at a closing session of the forum echoed support for the president’s agenda, including tax cuts and the proposed energy bill and, in some cases, reflected his phrasing from recent speeches. …Karl Rove, the president’s chief political adviser, said after the forum that he was “not aware” that the White House had supplied the participants talking points, but “that’s not to say there weren’t any.”

Nobody should be surprised that this forum was heavily stage-managed and slanted towards Bush. What’s interesting is the insistence of administration officials that the forum was not rigged; as Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill put it, “As much as you want to say this was cooked up, this had high energy.” If the administration wants to fool the country, it needs to lie more convincingly.

Must…obey…

August 13th, 2002 § One comment § permalink

My friend Christie sent me a recipe for a vegetable stir-fry. I tried making it for dinner on Sunday night, improvising here and there. The stir-fry turned out pretty well, except for the parts where I deviated significantly from her instructions; those parts were horrible.

The moral of the story: Do whatever Christie tells me to do.

Rooftop gardens

August 8th, 2002 § Two comments § permalink

Here’s a great way to make cities more sustainable: Turn rooftops into gardens. Rooftop gardens save energy by insulating buildings and keeping cities cooler; they ease the burden that rainstorms impose on a sewer system; and best of all, they look nice and produce tons of tasty homegrown vegetables.

The Earth Pledge Foundation is working to add more rooftop gardens to buildings in New York City. They also have a Web site promoting New York farms, including some excellent recipes that show how to use all that fresh produce. Best of all, you can view the recipes by season–not too useful if you only shop at supermarkets, but incredibly helpful if you want to buy locally-grown food and eat seasonally.

Sustainable communities

August 7th, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Just so there’s no confusion about yesterday’s entry, I didn’t mean to imply that charrettes, or community meetings, would fix the Bay Area’s housing problems. A real fix will require changes in city, county, and state law, plus a healthy dose of luck. Charrettes should be immensely helpful, though, once the Bay Area starts taking serious measures to resolve its housing problems.

While I’m more or less on the subject, I’ll point you to Sustainable Urban Settlement, from the planning department of New South Wales, Australia (Sydney is in New South Wales). This Web site has some terrific (and very readable) information about how to create a sustainable community. In particular, their introductory guidelines are well worth reading.

Place to be

August 6th, 2002 § Three comments § permalink

The San Jose Mercury News is running a series about the Bay Area’s chronic housing shortage. Part one describes some causes of the shortage; part two considers how people have benefited and suffered as a consequence; and part three examines why cities prefer retail developments to new housing.

However the problem is solved, housing density in the Bay Area will have to increase significantly. People in the Bay Area (and elsewhere) need to understand that a neighborhood with medium- and high-density housing can be more livable than the poorly-planned sprawl of a typical suburb. It would help if local governments held charrettes while planning new development, so communities could make sure that the new, higher-density projects addressed their needs. (Charrettes would also give governments a chance to win support from communities.)

Spam milestone

August 5th, 2002 § One comment § permalink

I received my very first Nigerian scam email today. I’m so proud.

It happen my father starch away $64m USD and
as am telling you this now, please don’t disclose it
to any person and if you know you cannot keep secret
just forget this transaction, this money is in a
security company in EUROPE… if you are ready to assist me you must
come down to EUROPE your family background must be a
family that have name to respect or mentain, and in
your business you must be a successful person, you
must tell me whom you are because I don’t want to fall
into a wrong person and I will give you 20% after the
money enter into your account and collect my own.

With a highly professional sales pitch like that, how could any scam fail?

Thumbs down to privatization

August 3rd, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Reclaiming the Commons is a brilliant explanation of why we should be concerned about the privatization of resources that belong to the public:

As private interests have quietly seized the American commons, we have lost sight of our heritage as a democratic commonwealth. A society in which every human transaction is increasingly mediated by the market, in which everything is privately owned and controlled, may come to resemble a network of medieval fiefdoms, in which every minor property-holder demands tribute for the right to cross his land or ford his streams. This balkanization is bound to impede the flow of commerce and ideas—and the sustainability of innovation and democratic culture.

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