Monthly ArchiveAugust 2002

Uncategorized 31 Aug 2002 05:35 pm

ISS Visibility

Space News says that the ISS space station will be visible over North American cities next week. As the sun hits it in the morning, it is supposed to look like a super nova. I’ve never seen one of those either, but it sounds cool.

Uncategorized 30 Aug 2002 08:18 pm

Cool. Ide support

IntelliJ Community . WebHome Awesome. I love IntelliJ for Java programming, and while I have created my own set of tweaks for it, it is nice to be able to access other tweaks as well.

Uncategorized 30 Aug 2002 04:17 pm

oops I did it again

Wigu is silly. Why did I read all three chapters? Hmm.

Uncategorized 29 Aug 2002 12:24 am

Paper on being a scientist

I found this, You and Your Research, on the lemonodor blog and thought it was a great read. I don’t agree with everything he says but it is still inspiring.

Uncategorized 25 Aug 2002 02:01 pm

Where’s the money–Money in politics data

Cool. Look how much money Disney gave each of our California senators.

Uncategorized 22 Aug 2002 10:53 am

Flame Warriors

Flame warriors is hilarious. The similarities to actually observed behavior of group participants in the wild is uncanny. The verbiage used in the descriptions is great as well. I feel my prose is ignominious in comparison.

Uncategorized 18 Aug 2002 11:44 pm

Journalism and Democracy

Journalism and Patriotism is a rather long-winded piece that discusses the role of journalism in our society. Of course, journalism is crucial to a free society like ours. The article raises a few points that make it worth a look. In particular, the role of the ombudsman is much more important than I had imagined. They help the public understand the journalistic organization and the process used to produce investigative journalism.

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting is another organization that seems to be more and more important. I am realizing that a key part of the solution to most of the problems in this world is access to verifiable information. The major media outlets seem mostly compromised by commercial ends, so it is important to have an independent agency tracking their mistakes and omissions.

News organizations not only report the facts of stories, they choose which stories to run and which stories to leave out. This is an especially important point to observe in a society whose proper functioning is dependent on an informed populace. Now that we are starting to hear stories of the media suppressing criticism following the tragedy of September 11th, we have to wonder which stories have been suppressed. Is there information that we are missing that would’ve altered our course of action? Would we have let our representatives approve the appalling USA Patriot act (which allows searches without a warrant) if we had read a story about the Justice Department’s interrogation of students who displayed posters, in their dorm rooms, expressing dissent about Bush? That story might have reminded us why judicial oversight of law enforcement is so important.

If the population has access to an accurate set of stories about all of the activities going on in our government and world, it would make good decisions about how to proceed. The average American knows right from wrong and cares for their neighbors. They will act appropriately given the truth.

Regarding people’s understanding of the media’s operation, I wonder how many citizens realize that a story in a paper or on TV is just the first report and will be countered by letters, op-eds and new articles. Can the American public remember long enough to find out the truth as it unfolds through these further steps? I think they can. I think we must if we are to maintain our freedom.

The sad thing is that many people do not understand that they must actively seek out and engage in their role as citizens by demanding honest news reporting. They don’t seem to understand that many greedy people with power would prefer them to do nothing and that preventing the dissemination of news makes it much easier to keep people from acting. That makes it easier to wield more and more power. Therefore, messages urging citizenship seem to be even more rarely heard in our media than well-investigated and written stories. Most importantly, people aren’t getting the news that there are a lot of nasty things happening to a large percentage of people in the world. If they knew, their compassion would cause them to act for change.

It has always been up to those who have it good to help those who don’t. We can only act effectively with power. We must push to maintain a balance of forces lest the system continue becoming more lopsided and we lose our power. This idea really falls flat in Silicon Valley sometimes. It seems that many people out here forget that they are very fortunate and also play down the fact that human social problems are infinitely more complicated than the “hard” science problems we work at solving professionally. Witness the small amount of money given to non-profit social help organizations. If we were able to grasp the complexity of the problems they are attempting to solve we would give them more money. In a similar vein, if we could envision a totalitarian state or a market without choice, we would stop using Microsoft products, and we would hold our governmental representatives accountable for enacting our will. Unfortunately, it seems our imaginations are too small even though there are plenty of approximations in history and the world today with which we should already be familiar.

It is not enough that it “probably won’t happen”. We need to make sure that it doesn’t happen otherwise it could. A well engineered solution does not rely on “it probably won’t happen”. This is especially important when the system is complicated and not all of it is understood or predictable.

Uncategorized 16 Aug 2002 01:09 am

Ok. How do I justify this?

International Lisp Conference 2002 Professional development! Paul graham and Richard Gabriel will be speaking, among many others.