Google Bailing Out of China?

January 13, 2010 at 2:37 am (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Politics) (, , , , , , , , )

Wow. I did not see that one coming.  This is the biggest news since the Internet’s 40th Birthday last year.

Google has had an uneasy relationship with China for several years.  The search engine mega-corp (up until now) has been working with the Chinese government to censor and limit the search results returned to Google users in China.  Apparently, when users in China search for things like “Tiananmen Square” there are no results.  (Not so here in the US, of course.  Today.)

But now, it appears that the gloves are off, and the search company whose motto is “Don’t Be Evil” is prepared to stand up to Beijing.  Why? Reports are that G-Mail web-mail accounts belonging to Chinese dissidents (and others) are being hack-attacked by cyber-forces within China.  And Google doesn’t like that very much.  Sort of the last straw for the boys at Google.

So, will there be no more kow-towing to the Great Firewall of China?  It’s a bit early to tell, but I think we’re looking at a “irresistible force vs. immovable object” situation here.  And it’s a safe bet that the US State Department will get involved at some point in this new cyber-brouhaha.  Trade agreements, loans from China to the US, Chinese imports, most favored nation status… there are so many factors that tie America to China at this point, that any disruptions could cause significant and unforeseen consequences.

Potentially, this is a good opportunity for China’s home-grown search engine industry to get a leg up.  Baidu.com has been mentioned in some reports as a possible beneficiary of the cyber-snottiness.

The Internets - TWO Series of Tubes?One possible result: two Internets.  BusinessWeek is reporting Bloomberg expects some serious tussles between the Western World and China over the shape of the Internet.  The two visions – China’s desire for a controlled, stable, sanitary web, versus the American / European insistence on a democratic, open, accessible Internet – are going to be hard to reconcile.

Personally, I’d rather see China either open, or have their own bloody-minded, locked down Internet.  I sure don’t want to see the rest of the world following the Chinese model.

Feel free to disagree.  There’s space, just below.  Go for it, and enjoy our open Internet, and the freedom of discourse.



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UFOs Over The Kremlin?

December 28, 2009 at 12:28 am (General, Media, Politics, UFO) (, , , , , , , , , )

Boy, oh boy.  For some reason, the 2009 solstice season has really given us some high-profile UFO sightings.  I’m beginning to wish they’d just frickin’ land already, and get it over with…

The Russians seem to be having all the fun these days.  Two separate videos of triangular or pyramidal UFOs, seen over the Kremlin, supposedly on two different dates.  The first video shows what appears to be a large triangular or pyramidal UFO over Moscow’s Red Square.

I need to pay closer attention to the news wires.  This daylight UFO sighting apparently took place on or about December 9th, about the time that  Norway was treated to a massive blue spiral in their sky, which may or may not have been a failed Russian missile test launch.

The next video is a night-time sighting, shot from a moving car.  It’s not very clear, but there does seem to be a triangular shape in the sky above the Kremlin, perhaps on December 18th.  Very cool… My best advice is to click “full-screen” and watch closely.

Some sources are indicating that this second video is just disinformation, but I don’t really understand the reasoning behind that assertion.  Another article on the subject can be found here.

Since the video images are so dark, I decided to grab some screen shots of still frames, and “bump them up” a bit, using Gimp, the open-source alternative to Photoshop.  Here are the results.  Click the images to see larger versions.




Okay. If that isn’t some seriously weird $#!+, then I’m Mary Queen of Scots. I’d be interested in seeing what other people make of this footage, and if anyone has similar results with photo enhancement programs.

(If you want to know what I did in Gimp, to get these results, just e-mail me, or leave a comment below.)

Back soon with more weirdness, or perhaps just something silly. You can never really tell with me, can you?

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UFOs? What UFOs?

December 7, 2009 at 3:23 am (General, Media, Politics, UFO) (, , , , , , , , , )

Greetings, programs! I read today that our dear brothers across the pond have pulled the plug on their UFO research efforts. Yes, some 40 years after the US government did the same thing (officially, anyway) after publishing the Condon Report, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has decided that “in over 50 years, no UFO report has revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom.”

Well, sure.  Right.  No potential threat at all.  Not if you believe that objects flitting through the sky above your country, at speeds you can’t hope to match, and going wherever they please, are no kind of threat.  What kind of fuzzy thinking is that?  Hello, McFly!

Maybe they should talk to the guys over at the Space Research Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.  Their deputy director, Lachezar Filipov, seems to think that the aliens are already here, and are among us now.

Or perhaps have a chat with the folks at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, who saw something quite peculiar, just over three years ago.  Workers on the ground and pilots both reported seeing a huge gray disc hover over the terminal for several minutes, in November 2006.  And when it left, it just shot off, straight up, punching a hole through the clouds that took a few minutes to close back up.  Probably swamp gas.

Here’s the reality – there is something going on in the skies, all over the world, and it remains unexplained after more than 60 years of research.  Anyone you talk to will admit that much.   But turning your back on the issue and pretending it’s not a problem, or doesn’t exist, is completely irresponsible.

And that’s what the MOD has done, and so has the American government.  So have many other agencies world wide.  This has led to a widespread belief that the major governments know something that they refuse to share with the public at large.

So, what shall we do about it, Dave? Petition the government to show us what’s in Area 51?  Throw up our hands and shrug?  Move to a cabin in the wilderness?

Maybe just keep an open mind, and remain skeptical.  Don’t trust everything you read.  Even this.  And especially not the mainstream media.  Do the research for yourself.  Read a few books on the subject.  Maybe even watch the skies some night, instead of the frickin’ boob tube.  Grab your friends, family, maybe a few beverages, and go look at the sky.  Yeah, I know.  Better dress warmly if you’re going to do that tonight.  It’s wicked cold here in Vancouver, WA.  But the viewing is great!  The stars are clear and bright.

I just can’t stay out for long.  My eyeballs start to freeze.

P.S. If you want to have a look at the UFO report data collected by the UK’s Ministry of Defence, since 1997, you can find it all here. There’s not a lot of detail, but what there is may convince a few folks that our sky is a busy place.

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Happy Birthday, Internet!

October 29, 2009 at 4:04 am (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

40th-birthday-cake-internetSo.  The Internet turns 40 years old today! The very first interconnection between two remotely located computer systems took place on October 29th, 1969.

Warning: GEEK ALERT! This post is going to be excessively nerdy.  If you find your eyes beginning to glaze over, you might want to read one of my most popular posts ever, “They Call This A Jeep?

Now, back to the Internet’s Birthday… It was 1969.  The first man had walked on the moon only a few months before, it was the Summer of Love, and Woodstock, the US Army was still in Vietnam, and the military’s research arm – DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – had been working for years towards the goal of a massive computer network.

(Today, it’s become something that we take almost for granted, but even 15 years ago, most people weren’t online, and many people didn’t even have home computers.  That’s a lot of change for such a short time.)

Getting back to 1969, it may have been a remarkable event, but it was little noted at the time.  To quote Leonard Kleinrock, one of the people who invented the hardware and software that make the Internet work:

…on October 29, 1969, at 10:30 in the evening, you will find in a log, a notebook log that I have in my office at U.C.L.A., an entry which says, “Talked to SRI [Stanford Research Institute] host to host.” If you want to be, shall I say, poetic about it, the September event was when the infant Internet took its first breath.

Here’s Leonard Kleinrock himself, in a short talk about the event.

(And for more geeky fun, here’s the story of the first e-mail.)

This infant network went on to become ARPANET, the first wide-area network of computers that could “talk” to one another.  And ARPANET was eventually opened to the public in 1990, when Tim Berners Lee created the “World Wide Web” – a way of “linking” documents (or pages) to one another on the network.  (Click here for a complete timeline of the Internet’s development.)

From there, the changes have been rapid, not to say amazing.  The amount of data that can be carried on the Internet has been radically increased, allowing users to watch videos, chat with other people anywhere in the world, and send messages, pictures, and documents to any computer on the planet.  Or in orbit.  Wow, huh?

There are, of course, a few problems.  First are the unintended consequences such as economic disruption, and the social implications.  The Internet has certainly changed dating and relationships for lots of people.

And there’s the issue of Network Neutrality.  That’s the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, no matter who originated it – little old you or me, or Fox News.  A lot of people want to keep the playing field level, and allow small companies to compete with bigger concerns.  Big companies with deep pockets could buy up all the bandwidth, crowding out the smaller competition.  Not fair.  Alaska Senator Ted Stevens tried to explain it, resulting in one of the favorite Internet quotes of all time:

The Internet is a series of TUBES!

So, now we’re more or less up to date, seeing where the Internet is at 40.

What’s in the future for the Internet?

As the Internet enters its fifth decade, one of the possibilities is something called the Semantic Web, another invention of Tim Berners Lee.  The Semantic Web will rely upon the meaning and weight that visitors give to web pages, to establish their value and relevance.  The social media phenomenon – Twitter, MySpace, Facebook – is the first step in that direction.

The Internet also has the capability of connecting to – and communicating with – virtually anything, anywhere.  You might have an Internet-connected refrigerator that orders more bread and veggies when you run out, or an Internet-connected thermostat and Venetian blinds, allowing you to control the environment of your home from your laptop or iPhone.

Another interesting development: this week, President Obama announced $3.4 billion to be put towards modernizing America’s power grid. That will include making it “smarter” and more resilient to interruptions and attack, using some of these new Internet technologies.

Not to be outdone, DARPA and the military are getting in the act, developing a new, “hardened” military network protocol, intended to keep our fighting men and women connected under the worst of circumstances.

All of these developments in connectivity could usher in a new era of peace and freedom, or a new era of oppression and slavery.  It’s up to us how they get used.  A hammer can be used to build a house, or crack a skull.  Tools are amoral.  Humans can make a choice.

If you’d like to learn more about our options for the future, you can listen to the podcasts from Media Monarchy and The Corbett Report, and then examine the resources they offer.  There is also Adam Greenfield’s Everyware site, for information on Ubiquitous Computing.

That’s the beauty of the Internet.  You can use it to learn about anything, including the Internet itself.

The future of the Internet at 40 is exciting, and possibly scary.  So is the future of humanity.  I wonder where we will find ourselves in the year 2049?

UPDATE: 10/31/09 I can’t believe I forgot to include this.  ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) this week chose to allow non-Latin characters for Internet domain names. According to Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s President and CEO:

“This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and an historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet. The first countries that participate will not only be providing valuable information of the operation of IDNs in the domain name system, they are also going to help to bring the first of billions more people online – people who never use Roman characters in their daily lives.”

This will supposedly save lots of keystrokes for Asian, Russian, and Arabic Internet users.  And the beat goes on.

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China Is World’s #2 In Billionaires

October 17, 2009 at 12:58 am (General, Politics, The Economy, The Environment) (, , , , , , , , , )

Word is out this week that China now has the second biggest concentration of dollar billionaires, with the United States having the most.  The story (from Reuters) reports that:

“China’s rich are getting richer, with the average wealth on the list $571 million, up almost one-third from last year…”

And how has that happened?  Could it be because America has exported millions of our manufacturing jobs to China?  Huh.  Do ya think?

Not to mention every other “developed” country in the western world.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, one thing that’s wrong is that once upon a time America used to have assembly and manufacturing jobs that were good entry-level jobs, with an opportunity for advancement.

That’s how I got my start in high-tech electronics back in the mid-1970s.  I started as an assembler, and eventually – through perseverance and learning on-the-job – I worked my way into engineering support and design positions.

Now, the only entry-level assembly jobs left in America are at McDonald’s, assembling burgers. Where’s the promotion path from there? Manager?  Ugh.  Sign me up – not.

What’s happening in China right now seems to be a recapitulation of what America experienced in the 20th century – urbanization, dramatic growth, massive amounts of construction, a growing middle class, a rise in consumerism as a lifestyle, and all the pollution that goes with it.  China also seems to be going through all the stages of development more quickly than America did.

And what have been the benefits? Loads of cheap Chinese crap for us to by at WalMart, and this:

China’s new wealthy need to spend all that money on something, don’t they?  Might as well be lucky pears in the shape of babies.  Lord knows, we Americans also have a taste for the tasteless.  Check out this USB accessory for your computer:

It can be embarrassing being a geek.  Sometimes.

But the real issue here – in my mind – is the cost. There is a real cost that hasn’t been reckoned, or factored into the headlong rush to “development”.  Right now, America is seeing the downside of growth – when growth is not sustainable, the result is a cycle of booms and busts. Growing and shrinking. This is a normal process in organic systems.  We’re seeing that as autumn begins here in the northern hemisphere, and plants go dormant.

However, when it happens to economies and cities, you get decay and blight, and city managers suggesting that US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive.

Tough times.  Scary times.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we need to be asking questions, and trying to find some answers.

Or, like Arthur Dent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, start lying in front of the bulldozers.

Oh, I almost forgot.  The most disturbing quote from the Reuters article:

“With the greatest wealth destruction in the west of the last 70 years, we’ve seen China buck the trend and the wealth seems to be still growing,” [Rupert] Hoogewerf told Reuters…

No, it’s not our imagination.

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Capitalism – American Dream, or Nightmare?

October 1, 2009 at 12:05 am (Damn funny, Entertainment, Media, Politics, The Economy, The Environment) (, , , , , , , , )

Tomorrow, Michael Moore’s self-described magnum opus, Capitalism: A Love Story, hits theaters all over America. And I’m really looking forward to seeing it.  Perhaps it’ll help make sense out of the last year.  Check out the trailer:

Looks pretty good to me!  Moore’s new film promises entertainment, education, and aggravation in equal parts, rather like Fahrenheit 9/11 did.  And here’s my recommendation for a second film that would make a good companion on a double bill – The Corporation:

I encourage everyone to sit down and watch The Corporation.  You can rent it on DVD, buy it, or even watch it online.  The important thing is – watch it. Some of the things you may think you know about corporations aren’t necessarily so.

As someone who has worked in small to medium-sized corporations throughout my working life, this film came as a real eye-opener.  The premise behind The Corporation is this – if a corporation really were a real person, and underwent psychoanalysis, what kind of person would it turn out to be?

The answer isn’t very pretty.  Corporations are, by and large, the kind of person that gets locked up for sociopathic behavior on an epic scale. That simple diagnosis may go some ways towards explaining the events of the last year.

Enjoy your popcorn, and see you at the movies.

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9/11 Recalled

September 11, 2009 at 12:16 am (General, Mind & Body, Politics) (, , , , , , , , )

Wow. Eight years since the towers fell. And it’s been a rough eight years all around. (It’s been very tough on our men & women in uniform, and I’m sure it’s been even rougher on Afghanis and Iraqis, and not to diminish the suffering of the innocent in those lands, but that’s a subject for another time.)

I’ve decided to tell my 9/11 stories.

Let’s go back to 2001. The morning of September 10th – the day before. When I walked out the door to go to work that day, I literally (not just a figure of speech here) stopped in my tracks, right on my front walk and said – out loud – “Something is really wrong!”

I stood there for a moment or two, mind in a whirl, looking around and listening, but saw and heard nothing untoward.  I shook it off, and went to work, with a feeling of foreboding nevertheless. Next morning, a friend called and woke me up with the awful news.

Next, let’s go back to 1983, when I was visiting New York City. My co-worker and I visited the observation deck of the World Trade Center. As I was looking down at the construction site across from the base of the tower, I saw the beginnings of the secondary buildings that would later be damaged in the 9/11 attack. A wee small voice inside my head said, “Too bad it won’t last.” I thought, “What??” The reply – “That’s right, this won’t last. I chalked it up to my usual cheery fatalism and my acute awareness of  mortality and entropy.

When we got back to ground level, I stood for a few moments on the sidewalk and looked back up at the facade – that bright, modernistic metal cladding that we all saw jutting out of the smoldering ruins on 9/11, and once again that tiny voice popped up, saying “You’ll never see it like this again”. And I thought it meant I would never return to New York City.

The psychic energy of the 9/11 event was so powerful, I apparently felt it not only the day before, but 18 years before, as well. Yipes.

Ever since then, I’ve listened to that little voice.  It tried to warn me about my marriage (failed) but I didn’t heed it.  Other times, it’s helped keep me out of trouble.  Those little voices have a lot to say.

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United States Welcomes Barack Obama

January 20, 2009 at 12:17 am (Alternative Energy, Politics, The Economy, The Environment) (, , , , , , , )

…and bids a long overdue farewell to George W. Bush. Boy, it’s good to say goodbye to that smirking chimpanzee. I was hoping to have done that four years ago.

Anyhow, in the spirit of the Presidential Inauguration, now mere hours away, I’m going to post a little video, for your enjoyment.

(In the interest of disclosure, this video was created by XPLANE, a client of RichContent, for whom I work. But it’s still pretty cool, and that’s why I included it here.)

Now as you may know, I’m cautiously optimistic about the incoming Obama administration, even though he’s facing an uphill battle of epic proportions. A lot of campaign promises got made. Alternative energy, get us out of Iraq, create more jobs, revive the economy – the list is long, and the money is short.

Solar Photovoltaic PanelsChange is going to take some time to achieve, and patience is to be counseled. And I really do hope that America can add new jobs, such as installing solar panels, converting vehicles to electricity or natural gas, or upgrading structures to be more energy-efficient. These are all useful, cool things that could really help our economy.

But will these things get done? Too soon to tell, kids. Too soon to tell. Eight years ago this week, supporters of W were whooping it up like someone had invented a replacement for sliced bread. And we can see what we actually got. Something much less appetizing than a ham sandwich.

The hoopla over Barack Obama is “Reaganesque”, in the words of local radio producer, Kristen Bowie. She got that very, very right. And that’s what scares me, just a little. I remember the Reagan years, all too well.

Charisma is no substitute for real leadership. But it can lead troops into Poland, France, Austria…

And Obama has buckets – nay, boxcars – of charisma. Check this clip from The Daily Show, starting at about 3:45. Jon Stewart asks Obama to “hope up” some common phrases.

Tell me what you think.

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I Kind Of Miss Her Already

November 19, 2008 at 1:40 am (Damn funny, Entertainment, General, Media, Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Damn, y’all. It’s only been 2 weeks since the election, and I already sort of miss Sarah Palin. Smokin’ hot MILF, yes, but dumb as a Doug Fir stump. And plainly, I’m not the only American male who gets all “woodsy” thinking about Alaska’s governor…

Oh, Sarah! Sweet, adorable gubernatorial babe! Great tune, eh? Credit goes to Brian Haner, currently touring with Jeff Dunham and Peanut. (Herr Doktor Haner used to play with some pretty cool people, like Frank Zappa. And he’s father to Synyster Gates of Avenged Sevenfold.)

How about some more GILF Goodness?

GILF as in Governor I’d Like To F***… Love me that Craig Ferguson almost as much as Sarah Palin! And she even offered to take Craig “fishin'”. Mmmm, that sexy Alaskan dialect… makes me go all wibbly.

How about one more look at the lovely Governor Palin before we go?

Sigh… dense as block of solid lead, but oh so very boinkable.

We’ll miss you, Sarah! Stay in touch, eh? You betcha!

UPDATE: November 23, 2008

Hey, sugar! How can we miss you when you won’t go away? Just when I thought we were never going to see the delicious Governor Palin ever again, this fascinating video from KTUU / Anchorage appeared on YouTube:

(Warning: scenes of gruesome, brutal, turkey carnage! I mean it! Seriously! Alaskan dude brazenly killing turkeys! And staring vacantly at the camera!)

All well and good for the turkey that was pardoned, but not the best day ever for the turkeys in the background, while this video was being shot. I will refrain from further comment. Many other pundits (or “pun-dints” as the luscious Sarah would say) have made all the good comments already.

However, the universe decided to toy with my wee brain while I was watchin’ the turkey killin’ video. This song – “Vicarious” – by the band Tool popped up on my MP3 player. Be advised – Tool is not for the faint of heart. The imagery in the following video may be unsettling, as might be the lyrics. But if you’re so inclined, you may see the depths of the synchronicity between the two videos. Enjoy… or perhaps simply contemplate.

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Wave “Bye-Bye”, John. (You too, Sarah.)

November 5, 2008 at 12:44 am (Damn funny, Die Rat Bastard, General, Politics) (, , , , , , )

goodbye_mccain

Boy, it’s good to see the results of this election. Barack Obama is our President Elect, and the cheering of the crowds at his victory speech was deafening. The report above (screen capture from CNN) filled me with glee.

And the projections are that the Democrats have also gained control of the House and the Senate. I haven’t smiled so much since my divorce was final. And that prompted me to wonder what this election really means for the Republicans. And I think it boils down to this:

Dear Republican Party;

We, the American People, want a divorce.

We’re sick to death of your shit. You spent a whole lot of money we don’t have, and got us into hock up to our eyeballs. Your friends are a whole bunch of self-aggrandizing, unsavory, scandalous bastards who helped you rack up all this debt we can’t pay, and you still want to give them more money? Are you on crack? And when we busted your sorry ass on all your lies, you just kept sticking to your lame story. You think we’re stupid? You think we don’t know you’re lying?

You’ve got until January 20th to pack your crap, and get out. You’re lucky we don’t call the cops and have them throw your lying, evil ass in jail.

Trouble is, the Democrats are just the flip side of the two-party coin. We have to stay on top of them, and make sure they don’t pull the same crap that Dubya pulled. And who did I vote for? Ralph Nader. See, if third parties get a minimum percentage of the popular vote, they can qualify for federal matching funds. This way, instead of piling my vote on top of the Obama landslide, I used it to try and help fund an alternative to the two-party system. Don’t know if it’ll ever work, but I figured it was better than being a “me too”.

Anyhow, I’m still smiling. And Inauguration Day can’t come soon enough for me.

(By the way, I’d still totally do Sarah Palin ’til she squeaks. Just don’t let her run anything outside of Alaska. Hey, I can see Mt. Hood from my house.  Does this mean I’m a qualified mountaineer, skier, and vulcanologist?)

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