Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good, accessible climate-change video with explanations of feedback loops.

It's propaganda, so sceptics won't like the rhetorical flourishes, of course; but it packs a lot of information about the systemic issues.
Nice to see MySpace in trouble.

I suspect, though, that they aren't stupid enough not to make a deal.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cringely is a genius ... too bad no-one takes this kind of brilliance seriously. :-(

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Applied Materials have another eco-educational card game.

I'm thinking of proposing one as a Superstruct.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I wonder if Ekranoplans have a future in more energy-efficient fast transatlantic travel.

Friday, September 26, 2008

News 3 :

It now looks certain that we're moving back the UK by the end of this year. My wife has been accepted (and got some funding) to study and work on her art full-time. So we're going to be living in London. I haven't lived there since I was a 19 year old student, with a life fairly constrained by college and my own immaturity. It's a little bit daunting, but quite exciting too.

Of course, as I haven't got funding, I have to find a way to work and support us. And I'm starting think about my "career". What do I actually want to *do* in London? How can I get it?

The easiest, most obvious option, is to just look for another programming gig. But, frankly, I'm hitting 40 next year and as you get older and more experienced, straight "programmer" jobs show diminishing returns (either of interest or comfort). It becomes more and more frustrating to work for managers with clueless, political agendas (or worse). Your capacity to instantly memorize technical trivia degrades. Your tolerance for working 15+ hours a day to hit "optimistic" deadlines diminishes. You start to realize how *powerless* you are in the typical organization hierarchy. As a programmer, you get pigeon-holed as someone who's job is to take orders, reacting to other people's agendas, but not to invent or drive things forward strategically.

I can obviously try to go *up* the hierarchy and become some kind of manager. I don't have a lot of experience of this on my CV but with my current employer I spent a year as a kind of project manager. I think I did OK. I tracked things in spreadsheets and Microsoft Project. I got the people working with me to track things too, and so brought our work back "under control". I dissuaded people who were valuable to the company from leaving. And gave space for someone who was explicitly unhappy and *did* want to leave to prepare for something else. I'd be pretty good as a team leader or mentor-manager of programmers.

And yet ...

It's still, more or less the same problem. Maybe with a bit more money and responsibility. But still *reacting* to someone else's agenda. And, what's deadly about the corporate hierarchy : as you go up you become more dependent on the people under you for *doing* the work which you may no longer be able to even understand. You start to issue the same arbitrary demands that meet your political deadlines and please *your* boss but simply pressurize and oppress those below.

Other alternatives. Teaching? Joining (or starting) a startup? Consultancy?

So, as I said, what do I really want to do when I get to the London? How am I going to get it? Is there a "third door"?
Clever Wii Wario advert on YouTube ... see why?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hat-tip Zby : Reviews of an interesting book on Venezuela.
Been reading a lot about biofuels and new chemistry over the last day or so.

And started wondering if there were ways to promote understanding of this kind of thing via games. Quick internet search reveals :


Anything for new, green materials?

Aside : the while trading card, top trumps thing is
Crowdsourcable obviously
Retweeting links from Winer on US bailout : http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/20/no-deal/ , http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larisa-alexandrovna/welcome-to-the-final-stag_b_127990.html

Quotes :
I would guess that this has to be one of the biggest peacetime transfers of power from Congress to the Administration in history. (Anyone know?). Certainly one of the most concise.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interesting biofuels research project.

Update : It's worth highlighting this :

Q. What is your assessment of the current national conversation on biofuels? Is public understanding of the topic more nuanced than, say, a few years ago?

A. Unfortunately the press is not very good at distinguishing between the many different kinds of biofuels. Currently "biofuels," in public discourse, means corn ethanol, sugar-cane ethanol, and rape seed or soybean diesel. We're not actually in favor of three of those four. We think that sugar-cane ethanol is environmentally positive; we don't think the other three are.

It would be real useful to make a change in the lingo. We'd like to find a way to distinguish what we're doing from what's currently considered "biofuels" — because we're actually not in favor of some of those things. We're specifically not in favor of biodiesel, or much of it. If you have some used cooking oil or tallow kicking around, putting it into biodiesel is environmentally attractive. But manufacturing if from rape seed or soybean — that's actually a bad use of land.

For a hectare (2.47 acres) of soybeans, for example, you can get, maximum, about 200 gallons of biodiesel. From a hectare of miscanthus you can get 2,000 gallons of ethanol. And that hectare of soybeans also requires a lot of inputs, and has erosion and runoff. With a hectare of miscanthus, on the other hand, there's no runoffs that we're aware of, no emissions. I think it's irresponsible to use soybean acres to produce tiny amounts of fuel, diverting land away from food production. For the energy crops that we're interested in, we envision they'll be growing on land that doesn't compete with food production.
Is this true? Hell of a statistic if it is.

Every one of us needs to know that the grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV tank with ethanol would feed one person for a year.
Hmm ... not sure about this list of predictions.

Some are plausible(ish) but there's some very bizarre space-opera ones. "Human settlement on the moon" in 7 years? Right. Warp drives?
Brilliant! Stockhausen done with toy helicopters.
News 2 :

More in the series of brief "newsey" items about what's going on late 2008. SdiDesk stirs.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Robert Peston :
But ministers are taking nothing for granted. The Treasury is working on a contingency bail-out plan, just in case.

Because there is a risk that if Paulson succeeds in shoring up confidence in US banks, the doomsayers could turn their poisonous speculative attention on the economy perceived to be the next most vulnerable - in the way that the investment bank Lehman Bros became the target after Bear Stearns had to be rescued from collapse.

In other words, the global mob of financial speculators is running a protection racket against national governments : "Buy our gambling debts or we'll burn down your economy."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This is a pretty good explanation of monads. Let's see if StackOverflow can help me out with Y-combinators

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The number of people living "on the edge of emergency" has nearly doubled to 220m in just two years, one of the world's biggest aid agencies has said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Damn! I want! ... mass-customization meets designer-toy aesthetics : Fabidoo
Woah! BeatBlog 2:16 rocks (as do 2:13 and 2:14 IMHO!)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tim Berners-Lee worries about the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories on the web.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Archers is clearly playing Superstruct. In today's episode their alt.money initiative (the Ambridge TEA) is under attack from "griefers" writing spoof IOUs and endangering the Swap Club and the whole Transition Town initiative.

Synchronicity or what!
Blog from Bolivia on what's really going on in Pando
This worth reading on why McCain campaign has gone negative.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Some quick(ish) news about a few changes that are going on, spread over a number of posts :

News 1 : Superstruct

In the next two months or so, I'm going to be heavily involved in Superstruct as an assistant game-master, "community leader" in the "Outlaw Planet" scenario. What that means is that I'll be writing somewhere (not 100% sure where yet) in the role of myself in the year 2019.

By then we'll have had another 10 years advance in ubicomp (the device swarm gets faster, cheaper, denser.) The swarm will become a focus of conflict between "legitimate" authorities (who would obviously like to use it as an instrument to protect and promote the nation-state) and anti-state, 4GW, criminal and general miscreant groups, who for a variety of different reasons are trying to use the swarm destructively.

This conflict is played out against a backdrop of four other super-threats : a peak-oil related energy-crisis; a virulent new respiratory disease with no known cure; an increase in mass-migration as people flee wars, extreme weather and other natural problems; and a break-down in the current food supply-chain (due to energy and environmental problems).

The task of the players is to tell stories about themselves and their lives, 10 years in the future, while inventing new social institutions (purposeful collaborations between previously non-collaborating groups, that we call "superstructs") to help humanity cope with the catastrophic results of the combination and interactions between these threats.

Having been doing some preparatory collaboration with other members of the Superstruct team, and going through our orientation meetings today, I can see that this is actually going to take up a lot of time and energy. (More than I originally thought.) So, expect to see lighter than usual blogging from me, or engagement in other projects (both here or on Smart Disorganized, Platform Wars, OPTIMAES etc. etc.)

(Apart, that is, from a collaborative project I have in the works with Zby, and a couple of outstanding things that are basically done and I just need to write up.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

w00t! Looks like the suicide of the American Empire will not be postponed, after all.
Wow! The BBC's web-research labs are taking The Archers to a new level.

Total respect, of course. The BBC is a major innovator in "old-media". (Aside. One reason the UK music scene is so good : 1-XTRA, a state-sponsored radio network which tracks and feeds the ever shifting fashions and inventions of London's pirate radio ecology.)

Update : of course there's a hint of SemWebishness about this (made explicit at the end of the blogpost) but nothing that stands out. The live-rolling soap format could be made to work equally well with the SynWeb, and there's no indication which they're actually using.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Jane McGonigal: I just got rabbit-holed by my own game.

People are starting to play Superstruct! Even though we haven't officially launched yet. (I'm writing my first scenarios)
I really have nothing interesting to say about US presidential election but this is worth reading.

(Composing nee Blahsploitation will continue its tradition of endorsing Republican presidential candidates, believing that Obama would be a disaster for anyone who really hopes to see America mismanaged back into the stone-age.)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Propellerheads (Reason) is Swedish, Ableton and Steinberg are German, ImageLine (Fruity Loops) is Belgian ...

I'm wondering (again), why the Scandinavian (and Benelux) peoples seem to own the software synthesizer and virtual studio business. And why the Free Software alternatives (which you'd imagine would attract enthusiastic contributors) have made little headway against this bastion of proprietary software.

Interesting, Steinberg are actually now owned by Yamaha whereas Boston based Cakewalk (the biggest US based music-software name) are owned by Roland. So Japanese hardware companies have moved in to take over their pure-software rivals.

Bonus question : what became of great British hope SSEYO?