Saturday, November 25, 2006

Buying a new camera?

This site shows you what's possible with each model: http://flickr.com/cameras/brands/

Respect

Recently I have happened to have come across writings about respect and religion. Respect is perhaps /the/ necessary pillar of religious dogma.

But respect changes nothing, there has to be a certain amount of disrespect in order to challenge the staus quo and force introspection and renewal. E.g. Jesus and Judaism, Martin Luther and the Catholic church, Malcolm X and the US establishment or even a teenager and her parents.

Respect disrespect.

Luck

It's not uncommon for me to stumble across /educated/ and relatively well off people.

They generally own a slightly understated sense of arrogance and taste, they believe they are knowledgeable and enlightened.

What do these types have to show for their moral hubris?

-- Good dress sense? A pretty wife/husband? The ability to provide good schooling for their kids? The latest MacBook? A connoiseur's taste for coffee? A nice car? A sophisticated job title?

These people aren't better in any way than poor servants, labourers, prostitutes - the desperates of society. They are just wealthier, luckier.

Economics Homework

My sister asked me to help her out with some of her economics homework.

The question she had to discuss went something like: "Karl Marx said that workers are exploited when they generate more wealth than they earn".

Nice.

My sister said that while she worked at Lush (they sell natural cosmetics) during the Summer she generated €100s a day more than she earned, that it was exploitation, that you had to be resigned to.

(I wish they taught kids about production functions in schools).

My answer was: exploitation is a moral issue, and therefore economics can't answer that question but can only explain how various circumstances arise.

On reflection, it is strange that economics and morality should be dichotomous, as economics is as /social/ science concerned with well being.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Keeping Out of Trouble...

Maybe I need this to stay out of trouble.

A make your own MP3 kit - I have a pal who makes his own model helicopter control devices, always thought it fascinating.

Would be sooo cool to build one's own iPod!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dangerous Ideas

The best ideas are dangerous.There's a new book (and website) devoted to them: WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?.

I picked up the prequel (WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?) last Christmas Eve, it was cheap, and looked a good random present -- in the end I jealously kept it for myself.

Two of the most interesting "unprovable" ideas were:

1) Brains are reducible, although very complex, they are in theory completely explainable. Therefore, there is no such thing as free will, we are complex biological robots. I have pondered on this idea quite a bit - it is mind blowing (excuse the pun).

2) Sooner or later we will know objectively the core moral values of all humanity.

If the book sounds interesting, and PC monitors give you too much eye strain I will send you the book if you contact me (no point in it gaining dust, call it a Christmas present :)) -- john.orford@gmail.com. I haven't bought the DANGEROUS IDEAS book, but will. I've been thinking of my dangerous idea, it goes something like this:

It is in the interests of the wealthy of the world, that the poor remain so, because,

1) Developed country's citizens use 32x the resources and produce 32x the waste of developing countries (Collapse, Jared Diamond). (China and India could never attain Western European standards of living without disastrous global environmental consequences.)

2) When developing countries manage to cut down on corruption and other barriers to investment, economics tells us that capital will flow in (capital naturally searches for an abundance of labour and vice versa). The corresponding capital outflows from the West will reduce real wages, Western governments will be loath to allow that to happen (just as they are loath to allow economic migrants in).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

News

President Musharaff looks like he'll fail to reform rape laws in Pakistan.

At the moment in order for a raped woman in Pakistan /not/ to be convicted for adultery she needs at least 4 /male/ witnesses -- they'll be the rest of the gang then...


Speechless...

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"The Vatican has stepped into the debate about Muslim women wearing veils, with a cardinal saying 'guests' must follow the laws of their host countries, including any bans on such face-coverings."

WTF? They're wearing veils! I suppose there are practical difficulties, but hasn't the Vatican got better things to do? - like rallying against condom use!

Europe seems to be becoming as dogmatic as states where Sharia law is practiced. Oh you gotta "respect" us, "respect" our religion, "respect" our culture (at least Sharia is based upon an old book - our politicians are just making fascist political hay).

Muslims (and others): respect the law, but if you want to rock the boat by wearing "disrespectful" headwear I say go right ahead -- these bloody Europeans need a bit of disrespect!

(Is there gonna be Hallowe'en next year???)

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On Channel 4 (UK) news this evening, a senior Labour politician said something which contained a list of 3 words:

"... immigrants, asylum seekers and criminals ..."

I haven't a clue what exactly he was saying, but it tells you something about the UK (and perhaps also Ireland).

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Skinhead finds out he's Jewish

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English al-Jazeera is on the air -- I wonder how long it'll take before it becomes al-Jazeera lite in order to appeal to Western business men in hotel rooms and sell advertising...

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Eviction in Jogja













Their houses were knocked down - they were built illegally on Sultan whatever-you-call-him's land.

(Eviction was a huge issue in Ireland historically... poor kids...)

[From The Jakarta Post earlier in the week]

Me

Weird when you look at yourself - am shure that isn't /really/ me...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Expats, RI, Poverty

"Most expats stay in RI, /because/ of rather than in spite of the poverty."

(One of my comments on thejavajive.com ...)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Apes


(From BBC News' pictures of the day)



This Orang Utan was one of the lucky ones - saved from forest fires in RI.




Interesting article about our hairy cousins...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Pigouvian Taxes - Flavour of the Month - Saviour of Humanity (i.e. The Second Coming)

British news has been full of the Stern Report all week. Stern is an previous chief of the World Bank, and all round respected fellow.

Based on the latest scientific evidence, his report says that if we pump out greenhouse gases at the same high rates over the next few years, by 2050 world income will reduce by 20%.

Tony Blair has said this is the most important report to fall onto his desk since he became Prime Minister (and let's face it, it's a distraction for all of us from Iraq!).

Britain will apparently bring in Green taxes to reduce pollution, but won't be a net increase in the tax burden to the public all in all.

This is actually a neat idea from an economist called Pigou. Pigou noticed that production often causes costs to the environment which the company themselves don't have to pay. Obviously the users of the environment generally have to pay the cost sooner or later in some form.

Pigou's idea was to tax the sale of products depending on how polluting they were, in effect the government would recoup the cost to the environment of the product. Consumer's would directly see the high cost of highly polluting products, which would give them an incentive to seek out less polluting products and firms to pollute less.

What's another big plus point, is the taxes gained from polluters, could be used to lower taxes which economists generally find distorting -- e.g. income tax, which makes employing people expensive to employ and helps cause unemployment.

Pigovian taxes make sense, but as was rightly pointed out in the British press, if Britain didn't produce any pollution any more over night, it'd take China 5 years to fill the pollution gap left by all of Britain.

My idea is how about putting Pigouvian taxes on imports. If the EU started taxing imports based on the projected costs to the EU from green house gases, there would be huge pressure on China, India and the US to knuckle down and deal with pollution more effectively. (Think how expensive palm oil imports from Indonesia would become!).

I don't like barriers to trade, but I reckon consumer power will be the difference. In effect the British public complain about the Chinese for being big polluters but are actually fueling profligate polluting rather than dampening it. If they could see the real price of the goods they buy from China, they'd have to put their money where their mouths are.

The Pact

I've been reading up on the news on Novell and Microsoft's agreement that happened during the week.

Novell has the second largest Linux market share after Redhat (in terms of $s) -- it produces the Suse distro.

Novell and Microsoft struck a deal, which entails both cooperating with each other in terms of interoperability and ensures that neither will sue the other over patent violations.

Obviously the deal will benefit both Novell and Microsoft, because,

1) Novell bases much of it's next gen software (much of it v innovative) on their own version of the Microsoft .Net platform called Mono (C# is a v nice programming language by all accounts). There has always been the possibility of Microsoft blowing Novell away over it's use of .Net - the possibility of being sued over .Net patent violations has been nixed.

2) Both firms will help the other's software cooperate better together. It looks like Novell will gain more from this than Microsoft. As one of Microsoft's key competitive advantages is that competitor's software cannot communicate well with Windows, whereas Novell's software is generally open for all to communicate with (a key principal of Open Source).

Interestingly this agreement also includes Microsoft helping Novell's office software use OfficeXML, Microsoft's next generation Word/Excel/etc. document format.


Enough of the technical, what are the strategic implications?


1) Novell has made Mono a no go area for it's competitors. Even though Mono is open source software it has admitted that there is a possibility that it infringes Microsoft's patents. Novell is safe, but whereas before it would have used it's own patent arsenal in defence of any patent attack against Mono (assured mutual destruction is how the patent system works in the software industry) it now can't.

Novell's competitors are now wide open to attack if they use Mono. Mono is now a large competitive advantage over Redhat and other Linux vendors for Novell.

2) Novell will be given preferential treatment by Microsoft, so that its software will communicate /better/ with Windows etc. than its Open Source competitors. This is a potentially huge advantage over Redhat, Sun's Solaris etc.

On the desktop level -- imagine being able to edit and view Microsoft Office documents with pretty much no bugs or imperfections -- lack of this is still the number 1 reason why Desktop Linux hasn't taken off in business.


No wonder NOVL stock increased by 20% on the news of the agreement.


Obviously there are losers. Linux itself. This is a divide and conquer move by Microsoft.

1) The strength of Open Source is that development is a cooperative effort among all Open Source developers. Mono will split the community. Novell and Redhat (and the rest) two of Open Source's largest contributers, won't be investing in one pool of Open Source software, but two, Mono and non-Mono projects.

2) By giving Novell a peak at Microsoft's secret communication systems and document formats, Novell will have a significant inroads into Desktop Linux and into businesses where Microsoft dominates the server side of things.

3) The push for an open document format was gaining steam - the state of Massachusetts are shifting away from MS Office documents, because it doesn't want its data being dependent on one corporation. Other governments are following. Novell's support of OfficeXML now detracts from that effort.


This picture reminds me of how the Dutch took over Indonesia, or the collections of Sultanates which made up Indonesia at the time. Generally they didn't directly fight against any Sultanates, rather they lent their troops and resources to fight /for/ particular Sultanates fighting against others. Of course the pay back was a monopoly on trade and other things which gradually weakened native Indonesian's control.

Novell looks like it could benefit greatly from Microsoft's help, but in the end Microsoft will still hold on to the keys of the kingdom, they can lock Novell out whenever they wish. So in the short term Novell will out-compete many of its open source competitor's, but in the long run they'll always be subject to a risk of hold-up.

I am not an open source zealot, it's a means to an end -- the destruction of software monopolies (specifically Microsoft's). Choice is good for all (imagine a world with no Firefox! no Apple!). Novell was a pillar of the fight for a competitive software industry, now it is not. That's a step backwards.