Swine Flu aka H1N1 : Putting Lipstick on the Pig Swine H1N1

Federal officials were ordered today to refrain from referring to the contagion du jour as "swine flu". The directive explained that you can't catch the flu from pigs, and the government hopes to prevent poor terminology from having a negative impact on the pork industry. Instead, it would be more helpful to refer to H1N1.

What's the rest of the world doing? On April 29, 2009, the World Health Organization raised their alertness level from 4 to 5 (on a scale of 6) worldwide in response to sustained human-to-human transfer of the virus. Level 5 means pandemic imminent.

 What's the US posture?
  • No restrictions on travellers arriving from hotspots.
  • No scanning/screening at domestic airports.
  • Uncle Sam's going to help you choose less harmful words.
  • (VPOTUS Biden did make some sensible comments, but his staff immediately explained he was talking about Mexico.
  • I think this is what they mean by "putting lipstick on the pig".
Oh, Georgie Orwell, where are you when we need you?

The paper of record explains that in some parts of the world (generally, the parts of the world our teenagers are deployed to) there are negative connotations to the cloven-hooved beasts. The WHO will want to review their chart (right) showing how both avian and swine flues jump to humans.

Egypt, meanwhile, slaughtered 300,000 pigs just to be on the safe side. That's what pigs are for, anyway — slaughtering.

Inevitably, in the United States the government is mostly worried about the pork industry.

I came to realize that this nominalism, this naming fetish, is an opportunity. Unfortunately, at my best I am second-level-clever. I can understand the things that first-level-clever people do, it's just that they don't occur to me until a while after they've occurred to the first-levels.

H1N1 Crossover PrototypeH1N1 is a cool name. If it was a car - well, the H1N1 would be a Hybrid (not a Hummer, that was Bush 43, we've moved on), and it would look somewhat like an airplane, because airplanes have N-numbers painted on them. We could sell a lot of H1N1's. I think we'd call them the H1N1 Crossover. It would be an international car that didn't care about borders, and the model would evolve (mutate is so harsh) in unexpected ways during the year. The marketing campaign would be a series of ads showing the H1N1 Crossover in unexpected places. Tagline: "Unexpected".

H1N1 Crossover : Unexpected

Next I thought, hey — is the domain name H1N1.com available? Might be a profitable URL to own. I went to Network Solutions and checked for domain names with the prefixes 'H1N1' and "swineflu" and they're all taken. True, H1N1.bz is available, but I don't think it'll be a player in this space. The first-levels got there first.

Another opportunity missed. My own fault.

Pittsburgher's Google Map of Swine Flu Cases

I've modified this post-- the data source I included doesn't seem to be updated, so I've removed it. No news is better than outdated, inaccurate news.

For the best map I've seen, go to http://healthmap.org/en. On the left margin, there's a list of diseases you'd like to see -- click "select: none", and then select H1N1.

PREVIOUS IMAGE REMOVED, original post continues--

This map is actually a Pittsburgh product of Recombinomics' Dr. Henry Niman.

I am not sure of the information source feeding this, so browser emptor.
You'll need to refresh your browser window for updates.
The most excellent Chris Briem has a recent blog entry at Null Space (highly recommended) about Hamilton Ontario's view of Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh. The article in the Hamilton Spectator features comments from former Mayor Tom Murphy — which prompts Chris to renew his call to name the Hot Metal Bike Bridge for Mayor Murphy.

I like(d) Murphy, then and now. I think he was a policy wonk willing to get his hands dirty, a choir boy who got business done in a traditional Democratic machine city; a mensch. Not perfect. Not canny. Led with his chin. Ended up in an agreement with the Feds to avoid prosecution. He did a better job than I would have.

He was a primary force behind turning waterfront into trails and usable space. He's now a Senior Resident Fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

I love naming the Hot Metal (Bike) Bridge after Tom Murphy, in that it recognizes a trail advocate along the trail. I'm not sure that it's the best use of this opportunity.

Naming rights are a big thing. PNC Park? Heinz Field?

What does the trail need? How can we use the opportunity to name the Hot Metal Bike Bridge to meet the trail's needs? What can we obtain by naming the bike bridge?

The trail (by which I mean the regional trail system, including the Pittsburgh to DC corridor) needs to figure out bicycle access through Sandcastle. It's the only remaining gap in the trail without a solution - the other gaps are agreed-upon works in progress.

Sandcastle is private property. Somebody owns it. Somebody paid for it, invested in it, developed it, gambled on it. I don't believe that eminent domain applies (nor should it). The trail organizations, loathe to route around SC because the options are terrible, need to find a way to induce SC to permit cyclists to cross their property.

The negotiated solution will probably include these factors: (1) a release from liability; (2) public investment in highway access to Sandcastle/Kennywood and drainage improvements; (3) some sort of marketing inducement-in-kind.

I think it might serve best to name the bike bridge the SandcastleWaterPark.com Bike Bridge — which would name, incidentally, the bike bridge that people from Pittsburgh would use to ride their bikes to Sandcastle.

It might get business done, and that's something Tom Murphy would appreciate.

We can name the Mon Wharf trail segment for Tom Murphy.
I just downloaded Ubuntu 9.04 and installed it on an old laptop (Mobile Pentium 4, 2.2 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, 35 GB disk). The first thing that amazed me was the sheer speed of the install - all of 21 minutes! Of course, the machine wasn't connected to the network, so maybe a couple of extra steps got skipped, but still, this was awesome. I've never seen any distribution (not even previous versions of Ubuntu) install so quickly. This could be a huge selling point.

I can't find much to report on, in terms of the differences between this version and previous ones. It's as good as I've come to expect from Ubuntu.

There was just one minor disappointment, though. I found a new tool under System -> Administration called "Computer Janitor", but when I tried to run it, I got an error message to the effect that "dash" (whatever that may be) was not installed, and the application terminated. If I'd been connected to the Internet, I guess I could have done an 'apt-get install dash' or used Synaptic to install the missing component, but in standalone mode, there wasn't much I could do.

[Update: I've done two more installs since then, both while connected to the Internet, and Computer Janitor works fine on both. Maybe there was a required update that only gets installed when the machine is online.]

Other than that little hiccup, everything seemed fine - a fairly standard Ubuntu system. I'm planning to get a new laptop before I go off to attend JavaOne in June, and it's sure to be nippier than this one which is 5 years old, so Ubuntu 9.04 should be even more impressive. I will be relying on its wireless connectivity, and using it as a workstation-cum-server running lots of heavy-duty Java apps, so stay tuned for further reports next month. I wonder if it will install in less than 21 minutes on a faster machine...

Effective Coordination and Twitter Panic

It's hard to describe "effective coordination". It's making sure that everybody who needs to know has the information, it's worrying at the details so effectively that the operation goes off without a hitch, it's ensuring no surprises, it's making success so likely that the event is a non-event.

Effective coordination makes itself appear unnecessary.

Ineffective coordination, on the other hand, is a bit like pornography - you know it when you see it. Ineffective coordination looks a lot like this video taken in New York City on Monday. It was a scheduled Air Force One photo opportunity, taking advantage of the beautiful weather, with a fighter escort carrying the photographer. To the people on the ground, who have personal memory of New York on 9/11, the scene looked like a large 747 passenger jet being intercepted, as it descended and turned toward the city. I can see how they got that impression.

Whenever you've got people in the streets yelling "Run", it can't be a good thing. To an extent, it demonstrated that we're not much more prepared to deal with another 9/11 than we were the first time, except that now we can Twitter the panic.

And that'll be the new emotional take-away. Last time it was the people cell-phoning their loved ones for one last time - "Honey, I love you, I'm gonna try the stairs." Next time it'll be 140-character twitter messages, archived for review.

Here's what the Twitter stream looked like:

  • Just saw an incredibly low-flying commercial jet. Everyone started freaking out… @Dr_Ballon

  • Airplane just went by with a fighter jet on its wing - weird @dnuchereno

  • Large commercial jet with a small fighter jet very close tracking visible NJ southwest of NYC- not sure whats up but scary looking @henryschwartz

  • Fighter jet just chased an aircraft right by my window. Scary shit man. I think I’m going home in a few. @jamal_ogarro

  • RT @checheesie Holy Shit Commercial Jet flying WAY low with a fighter jet on its butt. Like 2000 ft from the ground. @Guyverderosa

  • Building evacuated after being buzzed twice by jumbo jet with fighter escort. @mrnosuch

  • Just saw a fighter jet fly upnhard on a commercial airliner over battery park. Didn’t look pretty. Thought I was about to see fireworks. @duckfive

  • Reports of low flying jet with a fighter plane behind it. NY Financial District @joelovesyou

  • We’re evacuating 1 New York Plaza due to a low flying jet. Heading to evacuation point. Thankful for darker training once deemed useless @AKelso20

  • Just saw a jumbojet fly near lower manhattan and a fighter jet too. Ppl are scared and leaving the building. No official evacuation. @AKelso20

  • WFC being evacuated RT @upsidetrader: large commercial jet seen flying low over Hudson-military jet on its tail-breaking wsj $$ @krishvenkat

  • The sounds I heard were of a 747 was escorted by a fighter jet … Hmm What is happening? @shahpriya

  • BREAKING NEWS!!!!! large commercial jet seen flying low over Hudson-military jet on its tail-breaking wsj @playbigstocks

  • working downtown and seeing bldgs evacuate and fighter jets/planes flying near by, you can’t help but to FREAK OUT. @masarascal

  • CNBC just mentioned a low-flying commercial jet spotted in NYC. Anyone? @giromide

  • JFK on lockdown. 747 seen flying low, it’s being escorted by military jet now. @keishaeremic

  • Airplane flying LOW over New York city - accompanied by a jet fighter. 1 New York Plaza is being evacuated, but all seems to be ok @stephanderksen

  • City buildings evacuating due to low flying jet right now.@unitystoakes

  • being evacuated…see how hysteria sets in when you drill and don’t tell anyone?@antiparticle

  • so…Monday, you bring a 747 and fighter jet 100 feet from my office? building evac @drunkmonkey1906

  • We were just evacuated from our building due to a 747 being escorted by a fighter jet flying low right near by. Military Exercise they say. @EasyPrompter

  • Low flying Jet - I’m told Korea air - just went by very very low with Military escort. Mkts going nuts. 9/11 flashbacks… @JEley

  • Large commercial jet seen flying low over H River, appeared to be accompanied by military jet, all the downtown banks are being evacuated @dferraz

  • All hell broke loose in Downtown Manhattan because a commercial plane was followed by a fighter jet. @UndergroundWire

  • A number of buildings were in the process of evacuation when a large commercial aircraft flew over New York City’s Hudson River - CNBC @BreakingNews

  • I saw it and it looked like the jumbo was going to hit buildings. Police are still on bull horns trying to calm people @shans411

  • yikes, what’s this about people evacuating from NY financial district due to low flying jet? Let me get my stuff together and be outie @mediaempress

Update 4/28 0720:

What is a sport?
Is Fishing a sport? Yes Bowling? Yes
Nascar? No Badminton? Yes
Math: No, although schools have Math Teams.
Coding: No, although we have Extreme Team Coding.

Tennis: Yes, it is a sport.
Layer Tennis, on the other hand... it's an open question.

It used to be called Photoshop Tennis, but then the Corporate Sponsor (Adobe, manufacturer of Creative Suite 4), renamed it to embrace the full power of the <breathe in> integrated suite <breathe out>.

Layer tennis is a competition of revisions. Instead of a ball or a shuttlecock, the players exchange an image file. The first player serves the image to the other, possibly along with some descriptive text. The opposing player has 15 minutes to revise the image by adding a new layer, provide rebuttal text, and return the serve. The game is umpired by the third person, our omniscient narrator who's chosen for his/her geek cred.

The audience (Season Ticket Holders) (get free tickets here) watch the competition online, and then vote for the winner after ten serves.

The next match for this season is this upcoming Friday, May 1, 2009, and they continue throughout the month of May.

Here's a series of images from a Layer Tennis Match between Steven Harrington and Chuck Anderson.

Harrington serves:

Anderson Returns:

Harrington's Last Return:

Anderson's Final Swing:

A Message to Garcia

Elbert Hubbard, Lt. Rowan, & Ida Straus

This is a revision of my Dec 18, 2008 blog post.

I'm not thoughtful by nature, I'm more of a feral child than a Social Compact man, but I enjoy reading good advice in a good story, particularly if it's stood the test of time. A Message to Garcia is such a story.

I have known for some time about A Message to Garcia, a short exhortation written in 1899 by Elbert Hubbard. This isn't just one great story, there are really several great stories bundled together.

The short piece A Message to Garcia (AM2G) praises the virtues of initiative and resourcefulness, and bemoans the absence of these in too many people. It tells the wartime story of a special mission behind enemy lines. (how cool is that?) The President needs a message delivered to General Garcia, adverse conditions call for a special man, discovery means death; the courier finds Garcia and accomplishes the mission (through initiative and resoucefulness). This is Mission Impossible from before we had radio.

Andrew Summers Rowan (center, with the white neckerchief and holding his hat in his hand) and General Calixco y Inigues Garcia (right). Photo taken in Cuba, 1889.

AM2G's Lieutenant Rowan was a Get Things Done (GTD) guy before his time. No dithering, no procrastination, he got right on task, one action item after another.

The second great tale in this package is the story of how this article spread around the world. Elbert Hubbard himself tells the story of how the narrative moved around: a Russian railroad executive travelling in the US read the original letter, and had it translated into Russian. Upon his return to Russia,
"he had the matter translated into Russian, and a copy of the booklet given to every railroad employee in Russia.

Other countries then took it up, and from Russia it passed into Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, Hindustan and China. During the war between Russia and Japan, every Russian soldier who went to the front was given a copy of A Message To Garcia. The Japanese, finding the booklets in possession of Russian prisoners, concluded it must be a good thing and accordingly translated it into Japanese.

And on an order of the Mikado, a copy was given to every man in the employ of the Japanese Government, soldier or civilian."
(This is an excellent demonstration of the epidemeological distribution of memes.)

Elbert Hubbard's Speech on The Remarkable True Tale of Ida Straus

The third remarkable thread in this bundle is about Ida Straus, co-owner of the Macy's department store chain. Ida Strauss was on board the Titanic when it struck the iceberg, and refused to leave her husband Isidor to go into the lifeboats, saying, "We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go." Her words were witnessed by those already in Lifeboat No. 8 as well as many others who were on the boat deck at the time. Isidor and Ida Straus were last seen alive sitting together quietly on deck chairs on Titanic's boat deck.

Hubbard dramatised the story of Ida Strauss in a speech, saying "One thing is sure, there are just two respectable ways to die. One is of old age, and the other is by accident. All disease is indecent. Suicide is atrocious. But to pass out as did Mr. and Mrs. Isador Straus is glorious. Few have such a privilege. Happy lovers, both. In life they were never separated and in death they are not divided."

Elbert Hubbard's Death on the Lusitania

Remarkably, Hubbard was to have a chance to walk his talk; he and his own wife were aboard the Lusitania when she was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in 1915. Hubbard and his wife followed the courageous example of Ida Straus. It's easy to write these things, it's hard to live these things, but Hubbard actually died in the manner he recommended:
Ernest C. Cowper, a survivor of the Lusitania, wrote of their death in a letter to Hubbard's son: "They did not move very far away from where they originally stood. As I moved to the other side of the ship, in preparation for a jump when the right moment came, I called to him, 'What are you going to do?' and he just shook his head, while Mrs. Hubbard smiled and said, 'There does not seem to be anything to do.'

The expression seemed to produce action on the part of your father, for then he did one of the most dramatic things I ever saw done. He simply turned with Mrs. Hubbard and entered a room on the top deck, the door of which was open, and closed it behind him.

It was apparent that his idea was that they should die together, and not risk being parted on going into the water."

Lt. Rowan's Memoir : The Real Story

The fourth great story is the truth, (finally, the truth!), the true story of how Lt. Rowan carried AM2G. In How I Carried The Message To Garcia, Colonel Andrew Summers Rowan provides the report from his memoirs.

The true story surpasses the public legend. It's an interesting read, and what struck me is that Rowan did not blindly follow his orders to the letter, but instead he improvised, used judgement, and did what he thought was best in the face of change and chaos.

I wanted to post the cover of this week's The Economist, I thought it was a thought-provoking depiction.

Is recent M&A news a light at the end of the tunnel? Are there any natural parallels that might suggest otherwise? Click here for the article.

Adventures with Android - 1

Since I'm so convinced that Android is going to take over the world ;-), I decided to walk the talk and try some Android development.

My desktop machine runs Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) and I have OpenJDK 1.6.0_0-b12 installed. Ubuntu 8.10 doesn't give you the latest version of Eclipse (3.4 - Ganymede), so I downloaded and installed it separately.

Then I pointed Eclipse to the Android SDK plugin site and installed both the Android Development Tools and Android Editors. I have no idea what Android Editors are required for, but bandwidth is cheap, so what the hell...

I have no idea why, but I also downloaded the Linux version of the Android SDK separately. (Maybe I downloaded this before the Eclipse plugin, I don't remember.) My standard policy is to install all software under /usr/local with the exploded directory having the full version number, then to create a symbolic link without a version number, which points to the latest directory.

i.e., /usr/local/android -> /usr/local/android-1.1r1

[This way, I can keep multiple versions of software installed simultaneously, while pointing to the latest version through the symbolic link. If required, I'll use the symbolic link in PATH and CLASSPATH variables, so I don't have to change them when I upgrade or downgrade versions. The power of symbolic links...
Unix was pretty cool even twenty years ago :-).]

If I now open a terminal window and go to /usr/local/android/tools, I can execute the Android emulator by typing "./emulator". Be warned that even though the emulator comes up right away, it takes a few minutes for it to fully initialise and display its beautiful mobile screen.

I played around with the emulator for a while. This is pretty cool. The apps actually work. I checked out the browser. I could see my own blog. Then I went to Google Maps and saw my own house. It's pretty eerie, sitting inside my house at a computer running an emulator running a browser that shows a street view of the same house from the outside. MC Escher would have loved that.

Well then, the next step was to follow the tutorial and build my first Hello, World application on Android. The tutorial is designed for Eclipse with the Android plugin. I followed it fairly faithfully and got my first application running.

It was only when I tried to deviate from the script that I ran into trouble. The tutorial advised me to edit the "strings.xml" file in "res/values", but I couldn't see the file in the Java perspective. So I thought I'd create one, but I couldn't because Eclipse told me a file with that name already existed! No problem, I thought naively, let me at least try and create a "strings2.xml". After that, the application simply stopped working. I'm sure it was because of the empty XML file that I had created, but the SDK didn't allow me to even see the file so I could remove it. I don't remember what sequence of steps I followed to finally see the two XML files and remove the offending "strings2.xml". The app started working again, to my relief.

If anyone at Google is reading this, please note that even non-newbie Java developers can find the Android SDK confusing in places.

Anyway, that was my first baby step into the world of Android. I'll continue to blog about this as and when I get time to progress through the tutorials and build more stuff.

Advertising and the Information Age

(#5 in a series of 5 including Lamar, Billboards, Advertising and Supply & Demand, Advertising and Propaganda, and Advertising and the Information Age.)

In the beginning there as the ArpaNet, driven by defense research. Next came the Internet. Next came the Web (which is a subset of the internet). The Web (let's call it Web 0.0) was initially driven by (legitimate) academic researchers and enthusiastic hobbyists, and also by early-adopting pornographers and gamblers.

The Web grew, along with the ubiquity of web access and high-speed connections. Web 1.0 was driven by (legit) retail business and (non-legit) pornographers, gamblers, and IP thieves (hello BitTorrent!).

Now we're beginning to see Web 2.0 - just as the sage said, it's everywhere, it's just not distributed evenly - and Web 2.0 is driven by: (legit) retail business and advertising and the same firmly entrenched non-legit activities.

advertising ageFor the sake of discussion, if you'd accept that the (legit) web is currently driven by retail business and advertising, then advertising has a pretty big role in the Web.

The web was supposed to replace Old Media (newspapers, magazines, television). Let's look at the role of advertising in Old Media: newspapers (check!), magazines (check!), television (check!) Advertising has Old Media all sewn up.

In the Information Age, the web (new media) was supposed to be different but now advertising is what makes the web go 'round. To the extent that the blogosphere drives revenue, it's ad-based. What makes the DrudgeReport possible? Advertising.

And here's the pop quiz: please guess the word that completes this sentence.
Google is a
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Press here to see the answer.
 Information Age

advertisingGoogle sells advertising. Newspapers use stories and pictures to get you to look at the ads; Google uses search results to get you to look at the ads. And Google, being much more clever than William Randolph Hearst, targets the ads that you see to what you're looking for. Google search? Ads. Google Mail? Ads.

Android consumer monitoriPhone consumer monitorGoogle's getting better every day. Why did Google develop the Android phone? For information that lets them sell more effective Advertising. Their competition is the iPhone. Both the Android phone and the iPhone will know where you are, what you search on, where you park, where you eat, and where you shop. They are in their own way devices that monitor, track, and record consumer behavior. It's an advertiser's fantasy come true. In true style, you pay for the device that monitors your consumer behavior and lets them sell to you.

Advertising and the Information AgeThat's what the App Store is all about. The phone gets to see everything you're doing. What a sweet business plan - outside geeks develop Apps, customers interact with them, and Apple/Google gets to watch the message traffic. If you use Google Latitude to track your posse, Google gets to know who your friends are, and where you eat and shop when you get together.

Advertising is driving Web 2.0 and social media. Advertising is bigger than Google, bigger than Microsoft, and they've sewn up the web. I'd almost rather have the gamblers in charge.

Advertising is propaganda.
Advertising drives Web 2.0

If I understood syllogism I could probably do something with those two lines, but I'm not that clever so I'll have to settle for an enthymeme.

Sun in Oracle's Orbit - It Could Have Been Worse

So Oracle has bought Sun.

I read the news with some misgivings. Am I sorrier to hear this news than I was to hear about the earlier rumour of IBM's takeover? It's hard to say.

I would have been happiest if Sun had continued on its own long enough to set Java free (both as a completely defined spec (Java 7) and as a completely free (i.e., GPL-ed) implementation). After that, I really wouldn't have cared what happened to Sun.

Unfortunately, the takeover of Sun before the emancipation of Java doesn't give me a good feeling.

A chill goes through me whenever I think of Microsoft, IBM or Oracle. "Solutions" from these three vendors rarely benefit the customer as much as they benefit Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. Java from IBM? Java from Oracle? Visualise great big dollar signs in your sales rep's eyes. Java is unlikely to be free (as in speech or beer) with either of these rapacious corporations controlling its destiny.

Still, I think the world has escaped with the lesser of two bleak futures. Sun in Oracle's clutches is probably better for all of us than Sun in IBM's.

In software, there are now three powerhouses (Microsoft, IBM and Oracle/Sun) instead of two (Microsoft and IBM/Sun).

In hardware, there are now three powerhouses (IBM, HP and Oracle/Sun) instead of two (IBM/Sun and HP).

As a devotee of a competitive market, I think things could have been worse than what has come to pass, and so I'm relatively grateful.

The takeover of Sun (by either party) is good news for Linux. Oracle was never an OS company, and they have been the corporate world's strongest Linux backers. IBM does support Linux, but only up to the point where it believes AIX should rule. Solaris would have lost out under IBM. I cannot imagine IBM tolerating the threat to AIX. Oracle will probably be opportunistic about both Linux and Solaris, although it will have no particular religion towards Solaris. The market will push Oracle to favour Linux over Solaris in a way that Sun would have been reluctant to do. So I think Solaris is the big loser in the bargain. But it's no real loss. The best parts of Solaris, like ZFS, have already been cannibalised and are used with Linux, so nothing of value has disappeared.

I think the Oracle takeover is paradoxically good for MySQL (the product, not the company). Either Oracle will push MySQL aggressively to block Microsoft SQLServer at the lower end of the market, or Oracle will view MySQL as a competitor to its own flagship product and discourage its use. Either way, MySQL will gain energy. In the latter case, its Open Source version will attract more developers and become more popular. (Thank goodness for the GPL, which prevents Oracle from killing it off!)

In any case, my favourite Open Source databases are Ingres, followed by PostgreSQL. MySQL, to my mind, is a distraction.

Oracle must be suffering J2EE app server indigestion. GlassFish would be their fifth app server, I think. (The previous four being AS, iAS, Orion and WebLogic). Good for all of us that the J2EE/JEE app server market is consolidating (read shrinking) with only a few big players left now (IBM with WebSphere, Oracle with whatever they choose as their flagship from their distended line-up and JBoss, whose market seems to have disappeared at about the same time as Marc Fleury disappeared with his millions). I'm a strong proponent of Spring/Tomcat, so the sooner these dinosaurs die out, the happier I'll be.

I'm not sure what this means for OpenOffice. Both IBM and Oracle would dearly love to poke Microsoft in the eye, though I can't tell who would have been a more effective seller of OpenOffice into the corporate market. With either, I don't believe corporate customers would find OpenOffice any cheaper than MS-Office. Microsoft can actually breathe easier now. Having Oracle push Open Source makes Microsoft sound truthful when it talks about Open Source being more expensive than its own products.

What about Web Services? Will Oracle want to pursue interoperability with Microsoft the way Sun did with Project Tango? One could argue that it really doesn't matter. The increasing popularity of REST is making SOAP-based Web Services less relevant with each passing day. It is only the blindest SOA practitioners, with their heads buried deepest inside corporate caves, who remain ignorant of REST.

Sun has recently developed a strong line of Identity Management products (OpenDS, OpenSSO, etc.) I wonder what Oracle will do with them.

I sometimes wonder about Oracle's strategy. They've bought so many disparate products and forced them into that clumsy box called Oracle Fusion that it's beginning to look like Oracle Confusion.

But the bottomline after all the analysis is, I believe, still Java. Thankfully, most of Java is now GPL-ed, so if Oracle doesn't behave, there should be a strong community push (with IBM's backing, no doubt) to "unencumber" the last few Java libraries and truly set it free.

It's going to be an interesting year.

Geek HTML Humor and Tripartite Gaul

geek humor

I'd like to share some geek humor. I'm afraid it needs a bit of an intro.

Geeks write HTML code using tags that go within <brackets>. For instance, if you wanted to make text appears in bold, you'd turn BOLD ON with a tag like <BOLD> and then later you'd turn BOLD OFF with a tag like </BOLD>.

<BOLD> .... lorem ipso ... </BOLD>
Once again, the first tag turns something "on", and the second tag with the slash turns it off again.

You may see that the coder's habit of using tags to mark transitions to and from different perspectives have spilled over into the realm of web comments and email. Instead of the once-trendy emoticons :) we now see emotitags

There are three essential pairs of tags on a web page: HTML, HEAD, and BODY.

The HTML tag goes at the beginning and end of the document, and tells the browser to begin treating it like an HTML file - and to stop treating it like an HTML file at the end of the document.

The HEAD section contains information visible to computers - metadata, stylesheets, geek stuff.

The BODY section contains information visible to humans - the content of the website.

So, as my web teacher Dr. Skovira taught me, these three tags define the code just like tripartite Gaul, as shown here:
Geek html humor

Given all that geek backstory, here's the pun:

That was a long way to go, but to a code writer that's just hilarious.

Okay, just one more:
html humor

Advertising and Propaganda

Advertising, marketing, public relations : an established industry whose expertise is communicating, framing discussions, and shaping public discourse. They don't make steel, they don't cure disease, but they can and do change the results of an election (which is kind of a big thing for a country with nuclear weapons).

advertising  and propagandaWhile we sometimes talk about the ads-in-themselves (Wow, that Burger King Sponge Bob ad, how could a corporation present women in that light? What audience do they think they're reaching?) we rarely talk about the advertising industry as a thing-in-itself. Perhaps we should.

The advertisers and the advertising industry have developed, and we have condoned, a culture of pervasive advertising that has morphed us from Citizens to Consumers. The average American child watches XX hours of television a day, which means YY hours of "pure" advertising without even considering product placements within the entertainment.

I bought a GPS for my car. Little ads tell me where every Starbucks is along my route. So I've paid for the GPS, and at the same time Starbucks is paying to have their locations and icons shoved at me. I can't turn them off. It's the cable TV model; we pay for it, and there's commercials. That's nuts.

There's really very little in advertising that's good for the economy, democracy, or the population. If you haven't seen it, you might watch Wag the Dog, and then read about Jessica Lynch.

At the top of this phillipic I defined the advertising industry to include marketing, public relations, and social media. I'd like to now add: propagandists.

Advertising is propagandaThe propaganda in the world isn't only in EastBumFistan and Asia; the advertising industry is pumping propaganda at us every day, and we train our children to sit down in front of it. Good little Consumers. Good little Steelers fans.

What is PropagandaFrom Wikipedia: Propaganda is the dissemination of information aimed at influencing the opinions or behaviors of people. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense, often presents information primarily in order to influence its audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or gives loaded messages in order to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda.

The propaganda model is a theory advanced by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky that alleges systemic biases in the mass media and seeks to explain them in terms of structural economic causes. They say,
The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

The epistemic merit model is a method for understanding propaganda conceived by Sheryl Tuttle Ross in 2002. Ross provides a communication model based on a Sender (who is persuading), a Receiver (who is the target), and the Message (means of reaching the target). Her model dovetails nicely with Shannon and Weaver's communication model.

According to Ross, there are four conditions for a message to be considered propaganda.
  • Propaganda involves the intention to persuade
  • Propaganda is sent on behalf of a sociopolitical institution organization or cause
  • The recipient of propaganda is a socially significant group of people
  • Propaganda is epistemically defective

"Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great deal of their time not on the spot, not here and now and in the calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who would manipulate and control it." Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

Look at the results of commercial propaganda. Kids killing each other over sneakers.

As I'm prone to repeating, there's very little new under the sun, and the practice of smart people marshalling their excellent communication skills on behalf of scurrilous clients for money isn't new either. The Sophists were way ahead of the advertisers.

What makes the occasional ad stick out isn't that it's obviously propaganda, it's that we've become sophisticated consumers of propaganda, and we can spot low-quality propaganda.

Advertising is propaganda.

Edited 4/25/09, one article split into two.

(#4 in a series of 5 including Lamar, Billboards, Advertising and Supply & Demand, Advertising and Propaganda, and Advertising and the Information Age.)