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

the java almanac

Another one: Russ mentioned the Java Almanac yesterday. Tons of code samples, including organization by packages that makes it even more useful. Great resource.

Categories: soft.dev
Posted by diego on August 11, 2003 at 5:46 PM

the danger for the US

[via Karlin]: Ian Clarke, creator of Freenet has said that he will leave the US. His reasons? In his own words:

As an Irish citizen living in the US - I have decided that it is time to leave this country - it is starting to look, smell, and act as Germany did during the 1930s. I wish you Americans luck in regaining civilized justice in your broken country, if not, I hope that the EU will be accepting of political refugees from this brave but failed experiment.
Apparently what triggered this was the recent guilty plea accepted by an ex-Intel employee, Mike Hawash. Russ was expressing similar thoughts a few days ago, talking about his concern for his wife, who is not an American citizen and her diminished rights in the US under this new environment. What Russ didn't realize is that he, even being an American citizen, is really in the same situation as her. The US has already detained an American citizen without trial, without charges, and without access to legal representation, and people have reacted to it, to no avail so far. There are supporters of this system, for example, you can read one view in support of this here.

Hawash, the ex-Intel employee, in his plea agreement, accepted that he was "aiding the enemy" (the enemy being, in this case, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda). Ian's concerns are not unfounded, but in the case of Hawash there's more to it than meets the eye. I've read the plea agreement document (PDF) and apparently Hawahs also travelled to China with the intention of crossing the border into Afghanistan to fight against US forces. I stress: apparently. That's what it says in the document. Is that real? Was Hawash railroaded into accepting things he didn't do? We don't know. And that really, is the main problem the US is facing right now: everything is secret (leaving aside the question of whether the intention of doing something actually warrants ten years or so in prison). Hawash was detained without contact for a long time. The records of his interrogation, the proof, almost everything related to his case is sealed. One of the pillars of democratic societies is free access to information, and free public discourse, which includes free discussion on what the government is doing, and how (which theoretically allows citizens to change it later in the next election). This all-encompassing quest for pure secrecy, this distrust for the public getting a chance to see what's going on in the background, is really what could create a problem, long term, for the US. The secrecy implies that the government knows best, and people should simply take it at its word (and this, coming from a hard-line republican administration! Didn't republicans stand for small government, state independence, individual rights, privacy, gun ownership, etcetera?). Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times, recently gave another good example of this broad trend in the US's administration behavior. Also, Karlin posted today another example (Commenting on this must-read entry by Danny O'Brien) of where this kind of paranoia can take things.

I don't think things are so incredibly bad as Ian says (For starters, I wouldn't compare the US government today with the Third Reich as he does), but certainly there's a worrying trend developing here. The important thing will be, IMO, whether this is relaxed in the future or not. A line was crossed, but returning is still possible, and many people are not happy with the way things are going in the US. That's the nature of things: the swing of the pendulum (Compare what's happening today with what was happening in the Nixon administration...). And if you somehow think that isn't true, you can read the transcript for a speech that Al Gore gave last week. It ain't over yet.

Categories: geopolitics
Posted by diego on August 11, 2003 at 5:40 PM

a robot that walks on water

Speaking of cool: a short article on a robotic water strider:

Water striders are insects that can perform amazing feats of dexterity on water. They perch on the surfaces of ponds and slow streams as if on solid ground. And, as their name suggests, they can skim blithely across the water's surface, just like surfers on a wave.

Not to be outdone by these humble creatures, John Bush and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have [created] a mechanical device that can do the same.

Categories: science
Posted by diego on August 11, 2003 at 5:03 PM

search tips

These past few days I've been doing a lot more internet searching that usual, doing massive searches for references and old (old = 30 years old) research that might relate to mine, and making absolutely sure that I haven't missed anything. One important resource is the citeseer database, for scientific papers, which is truly fantastic, not just because it gives you the papers, but context for the papers, and bibliography references (in BibTeX format!). Aside from that obviously the number one resource is google (what else) but Dylan told me over the weekend a couple of google tips I didn't know. For example, you can use a tilde "~" sign before a keyword or sets of keywords for google to automatically. Furthermore, you can search for, say "~tornado -tornado" to get all the synonyms of "tornado" but not the results for "tornado" itself. How's that for useful? A full list of advanced google tips is here.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on August 11, 2003 at 4:59 PM

bloggercon invite

I got an invitation to BloggerCon (Thanks Dave!), and although I might not be able to go (money... time... etc...) I'll definitely try to make it. What's really interesting about this conference (if I got it right!) is that it's not for techies; rather, there will be technical people but the idea is that we can look at how weblogs are being used in different areas, and talk to users. Or rather, developers can listen to the users :-). Very cool. All too often we end up handing down pronouncements from our ivory tower that have little relation to what users actually want. Specifically, how is blogging affecting different activities? How are people using blogging tools, syndication, etc, in different environments? (And one question that they might probably answer as well, even partially, is: how can we, the developers, make things easier for them?). Lots of open discussion and similarly good stuff.

Blogging has already opened up avenues of communication between developers and users that simply didn't exist before, and I think its given a new (more "real") sense to the idea of "user community" or "developer community". BloggerCon will take that one step further.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on August 11, 2003 at 4:52 PM

US election jokes

I'm about to get back to work but there's a number of things that I've seen over the past couple of days that I wanted to make a note of. To start with, since US politics seems to be one of the topics of the moment (because of its strange freakiness, from a maverick Democratic candidate for president and its "internet insurgency" to a one-line actor who now wants to be governor of a state that is one of the biggest ten economies in the world), here's this list of jokes. Quite funny.

Categories: geopolitics
Posted by diego on August 11, 2003 at 4:41 PM

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