Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

moon rings

It's a beautiful night, a bit chilly, a soft breeze across the river, and the clouds are just right for that great effect of moon rings. Moon rings are coronas, or disc of light appear around the moon (or, more commonly, because of its brightness, the sun), and they are created by refraction through middle height clouds.

Unlike some people, I enjoy all kinds of climate. Rainy days in particular... not just because they are beautiful in themselves, but also because they give meaning to sunny days. If there was no rain, how could you appreciate the sun?

Something to watch for on those overcast nights...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 17, 2002 at 11:07 PM

american mujahedin

Interesting pair of Salon articles on Aukai Collins, who converted to Islam and fought in Chechnya, Kashmir, and other places during the 90s.

The first article talks about his book, 'My Jihad' where he describes his experiences, and the < a href="">second article is an interview with him.

For some reason reading about this leaves me with a strange feeling... and from what we can see from the interview, the guy's views seems to be pretty balanced, specially considering his history.

But... wait a minute... I'm confused... this guy is American... which is "good" but a muhajedin... which is "evil"... and fought in Chechnya, and Kashmir... which is "evil"... and then worked for the FBI and the CIA...which is "good"... so what is he? "goovil"? "eood?" "e) none of the above?" George W., help me out here! I need your flair to stomp the "malfeance" out of this world that resists definition!!

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 17, 2002 at 10:48 PM

geekier than microsoft

A couple of articles related to the current MacWorld coverage. Jobs pulls out all the geek stops where the highlight is Jobs' (true, if surprising when you think about it) assertion that Apple is now the biggest supplier of UNIX-based operating systems in the world, and are Mac users smarter? discussing a Nielsen/Netratings poll that shows that Mac users are on average wealthier and better educated than Windows users. Is this an obvious consequence that the Mac is not only more expensive, but also that Windows has a monopoly? With 95% of the market, isn't it to be expected that you'd have a user group more representative of the population at large? Which is the cause, and which the effect?

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 17, 2002 at 8:08 PM

the Internet's resilience

How resilient is the Internet to the collapse of the companies that control its basic services? The article Is this lights out for the Internet? from the Guardian Online analyzes this question in moderate detail. In case you're wondering, the answer is: No. Very enticing name for the article, suggesting that a "shutdown of the internet" is possible in light of the WorldCom collapse. Enticing, but not accurate, which for me reflects badly on the article itself, which actually does a reasonably good job of explaining why it would be very difficult for the Internet to fail. (I mentioned the issue of 'headlines and the web' on a previous post in no comment).

If there was a LOT more consolidation, then the backbone would be left in the hands of maybe 2 companies... a "backbone blackout", at least temporary, could be possible...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 17, 2002 at 7:57 PM

TV drug of a nation

Often I think about both Brave New World and 1984. It's quite amazing how most of what those two books predicted has come to pass, not explicitly, but implicitly.

For example, 1984 shows us a government reinventing history every few hours, but that isn't necessary: the media is bombarding us with so much information at such a high rate that things fade quickly. Doublethink is unnecessary when thinking is a rare commodity, and History is obsolete. Brave New World presented a future in which most of the people are controlled through drugs, without being forced. This is true today even without considering illegal drugs, such as Heroin or Cocaine. I'm not even talking about alcohol. I'm talking about Television.

In 1992, the group Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy released Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury, (possibly the pinnacle of hip-hop as a form of protest). One of the songs in that album was Television, the Drug of the Nation, which I think brilliantly makes my point. These are the lyrics:

Television, the Drug of the nation

One nation
under God
has turned into
one nation under the influence
of one drug

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

T.V., it
satellite links
our United States of Unconsciousness
Apathetic therapeutic and extremely addictive
The methadone metronome pumping out
150 channels 24 hours a day
you can flip through all of them
and still there's nothing worth watching
T.V. is the reason why less than 10 per cent of our
Nation reads books daily
Why most people think Central Amerika
means Kansas
Socialism means unamerican
and Apartheid is a new headache remedy
absorbed in it's world it's so hard to find us
It shapes our mind the most
maybe the mother of our Nation
should remind us
that we're sitting too close to...

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

T.V. is
the stomping ground for political candidates
Where bears in the woods
are chased by Grecian Formula'd
bald eagles
T.V. is mechanized politic's
remote control over the masses
co-sponsored by environmentally safe gases
watch for the PBS special
It's the perpetuation of the two party system
where image takes precedence over wisdom
Where sound bite politics are served to
the fastfood culture
Where straight teeth in your mouth
are more important than the words
that come out of it
Race baiting is the way to get selected
Willie Horton or
Will he not get elected on...

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

T.V., is it the reflector or the director ?
Does it imitate us
or do we imitate it
because a child watches 1500 murders before he's
twelve years old and we wonder why we've created
a Jason generation that learns to laugh
rather than to abhor the horror
T.V. is the place where
armchair generals and quarterbacks can
experience first hand
the excitement of warfare
as the theme song is sung in the background
Sugar sweet sitcoms
that leave us with a bad actor taste while
pop stars metamorphosize into soda pop stars
You saw the video
You heard the soundtrack
Well now go buy the soft drink
Well, the onla cola that I support
would be a union C.O.L.A.(Cost Of Living Allowance)
On television

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

Back again, "New and improved"
We return to our irregularly programmed schedule
hidden cleverly between heavy breasted
beer and car commercials
Where oxymoronic language like
"virtually spotless", "fresh frozen"
"light yet filling" and "military intelligence"
have become standard
T.V. is the place where phrases are redefined
like "recession" to "necessary downturn"
"Crude oil" on a beach to "mousse"
"Civilian death" to "collateral damages"
and being killed by your own Army
is now called "friendly fire"
T.V. is the place where the pursuit
of happiness has become the pursuit of
Where toothpaste and cars have become
sex objects
Where imagination is sucked out of children
by a cathode ray nipple
T.V. is the only wet nurse
that would create a cripple

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

Television, as it exists today, fits both the information overload necessary to replace the history rewriting of 1984, and the trivialization of everything into a form of numbing entertainment, to 'pass the time', similar to Soma in Brave New World. As always, reality is stranger than fiction, and some times even hard to believe. Would Brave New World be as good if the drug was Jerry Springer instead of a chemical?

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 17, 2002 at 7:51 PM

testing and user interfaces

The importance of testing has recently been highlighted by the rise of Extreme Programming, which advocates extensive use of unit testing, and a philosophy of "test before you write," which essentially means that the tests are written before any code exists. I used XP in a project and it was excellent: it helped us create large amounts of C++/Win32 code with very few bugs, and a good design. XP works, and "constant testing" works very well in many circumstances.

Automated Testing in general (and unit testing in particular) is great for algorithms, isolated functions, server/processing code and the like, but it hits a wall when confronted with user interfaces. Sure, some things in UIs can be tested, in particular the data. When using the MVC (Model-View-Controller) programming model, most of the tests therefore can be done at the model-level, and some at the Controller level, but testing the View is much more difficult. There are some UI testing tools, but they are expensive, clumsy, and/or not too flexible, and then, they can't alert you to visual UI problems, such as a button looking stretched or something of the sort. Additionally, part of the UI is the user, so testing of a UI by necessity involves the users themselves. What is appropriate for one person might not be appropriate for another.

Maximizing Windows is an interesting article on UI testing and its perils. The reader comments to the article are quite good too.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 17, 2002 at 3:00 PM

on maps

I enjoy maps immensely. I particularly like studying maps of a given part of the world at different points in history. Europe is possibly the place that has changed the most, but sometimes it's surprising to see the evolution of other countries, such as the United States, which reached its current size over more than a century, and that even by 1825, a full 50 years after its foundation, still had less than one-third of its current size. Compare for example the US territorial maps for 1775, 1820, 1850, 1900 and 1920.

Map sites I frequent include Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the Library of the University of Texas, and the David Rumsey Map Collection.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 17, 2002 at 1:52 PM

more on yahoo filters

What I posted yesterday after receiving it through email is suddenly on several news sites... reports on the problems with Yahoo! Mail filters. Not a lot of new information in the article, but some other links and short comparison to similar systems in Hotmail. ZDNET also has an article on this subject today.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 17, 2002 at 12:48 PM

land, war and civilization

For those of us that thought that fights over meaningless scraps of land are a thing of the past, here's something to bring us down to earth: Tension grows between Spain and Morocco over tiny island.

This is not an isolated incident. Border (or outright land ownership) disputes are at the core of most of current or recent conflicts/disputes, sometimes mixed with religious conflict, including Kashmir (disputed by India and Pakistan), areas of the West Bank (Israelis and Palestinians), Cyprus (Greece and Turkey), areas of the Andes (Ecuador and Peru, and Argentina and Chile), The conflict in the Balkans (with everybody from NATO to Russia to locals involved in its latest incarnation in 1998, and the dubious honor of being the most recognizable "trigger" of World War One), and the list can go on...

One would think we should have reached some level of stability in borders, at least in 'first world' countries... and that the Internet's promise of "dissolving borders" would come to fruition at least in part. We are still very much a bunch of warring primates...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 17, 2002 at 12:30 PM

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