polemicist: a writer who argues in opposition to others  

20070430.0816 Alcohol Cures Rare Allergies

I have noticed that amongst the people that I make acquaintance there are a growing contingent whom are apparently very sickly.  By this I mean that they manifest all kinds of life-threatening allergies.  You notice this for example when you go out to dinner with them whilst they are ordering their food.  All the allergies come out then, because that's when things could get random I suppose... Not knowing what goes on in the kitchen I mean.  You find out that people can't eat all kinds of things - allergies you've never even heard of before.

Another thing I've noticed alongside this is that when these same people are drunk, the quirky little allergy seems to disappear completely.  An hour and several rounds of drinks into the meal, these same people are reaching over and stealing from your plate whatever it is that they only moments ago savagely harassed the wait-staff about specifically not bringing them.

It seems to me that alcohol then must be some pretty powerful medicine, because I wouldn't want to think that the people I hang around with are, well, full of it.  I'd like to think you could just ask for no walnuts on the sundae rather than hanging a potential liability insurance premium hike over their head, just because you're trying to make sure they don't forget.  Because if that isn't the case then I think I'm suddenly developing an allergy to glitter.


20070425.0846 Instant Message, Instantly PWN3D

I have been trying out a new toy from AOL:   AIM Pro

It's really not all that bad in terms of being actually useful. It is very obviously stripped down - fun things are gone like buddy icons/emoticons, and in their place are integrations with M$-Outlook & WebEx.  

This was immediately useful to me since it displayed a list of my upcoming events for the day - reminding me of an important meeting coming up that I should have been prepping for.

There is also audio & video communications.  I've yet to get those working though & I suspect that it's very much like everyone else in that you'll likely only be able to speak to other people using the same service.

 The WebEx portion is the Sleeping Giant there.  Since I do a lot of training & troubleshooting in my job - this has the potential to become really really useful.  This I would categorize as using it for Good.  OTOH, if used for Evil then this has the potential for becoming very very bad very very quickly.

It becomes a question of whether or not it's a "Good Idea" to let someone else be able to control your computer via Instant Messenger - ever.  If you let one person do it, then theoretically someone else could use that to take control of your system as though they were in the same room as you were, while you were logged in.

Fun stuff!  I will be outrageously amazed if this thing isn't instantly reined in by network security.


20070423.1119 Flogging a Dead Sheepskin

It's not like I'm insecure about the subject, but I do sometimes feel as though I am shoveling against the tide of common misconception...  (And when there's so many common misconceptions, life can be tiring and frustrating)  Not everyone who is formally educated is smart nor well informed.  Conversely, not every autodidact is doomed to failure and perpetual cluelessness.  Everyone's different & deserving to be measured on their own merits, not those of some institution they paid money to and lurked in for some time.  The tendency is to assume that people "rise" or "fall" to find their own levels.  This rests faith in institutional learning in general as the only way to enrich a student's mind, where it is truly the mind itself that must do the learning.  

All I'm saying is that it works for some people, but not for everyone.  Keeping an open mind - all the time - is a challenge that everyone has to rise to face.

That being said, here's a list of Autodidacts of Note.

20070419.0858 Science is hard

I like science as much as the next guy...  (If the next guy is Neil Armstrong) so I've thought long and hard about the idea of  'deflector shields'.  Why it's so hard for writers today to convey simple concepts & make them interesting without cloaking it all in some pop-culture reference I really don't understand.  Is it so much to ask that writers take an interest in the space program?  I mean I can see why they'd miss discussing faraday cages.  But what about the rest of the details?  Where's the beef?

Anyway - on a somber note - everyone who wasn't at Virginia Tech and who doesn't have any ties there still takes away something from what happened there.  It ripples through our society at the speed of our technology, which is not slight.  Myself, I was deeply moved by the story of Dr. Liviu Librescu whom I wish to honor here as a Man of Science.

20070402.1124 Search Engines that Don't...

I think that I've been nice enough to Google for now.  Yes, I appreciate the freebie blog space.  That's nice, but eventually I plan to move off of their service & onto my own web server.

This should really be the objective of anyone who does anything online.  You should be running your own servers.  This is not for the joy of rotating server logs & performing nightly backups.  This is for the CONTROL it provides you.  Owning your own content, getting paid for ads that run next to it, and having the ability to post something that Disney's focus-groups might find offensive are just some of the perks.

 But actually Google has been the perfect host thus far.  I've not tried to push the envelope, for any number of reasons...

But as for being the perfect Search Engine - they're far from that - regardless of the fact that they seem to have their own verb now.  The point was brought up in a conversation with friends recently that we remember the good-old-days when Search Engines actually did what they're supposed to - find the thing you're looking for.

They were rendered obsolete by the flood of people who wanted a Search Engine to be a free-advertising machine.  People who don't care if you end up at their site for the wrong reasons - just so long as they got their "hit counters" to ring up visits - then they could convince their investors that it was all working and ask for more money.  (i.e. the Dot-Bombers) These are the same maggots who flood your mailbox with unsolicited spam, trying to sell you things.  That anyone EVER buys things from them is the only reason they continue to exist.

Google basically cut out the middle-man.  You used to hire someone who would publicize your site for you.  It would be their job to register you with all the leading Search Engines & they'd all have their own little hacks for getting you listed at the top of a search results page based on a few key terms.  Google correctly worked out that they could collect that money themselves, which is how we got the Sponsored Links at the top of the results page.

OK so?  Business as usual - ruin a public service for personal gain...  Nothing new there, it's the natural results of human nature and a free market society combined.

What my gripe with Google is about has to do with Thought Control.  The results that you get back are being tailored in other ways besides by commerce.  There are "questionable topics" that are being filtered for political reasons.  The Chinese Government has laws in place that enforce censorship.  Since Google does business in China, they self-censor.  They hide this practice behind a corporate PR smokescreen of being "law-abiding", which explains the behavior.  (It doesn't JUSTIFY it, but it explains it.)

However, there are other topics that are handled by something more than simply spiderbot-crawling autonomous agents.  If you look up terms like "anorexia", "bulimia", or punch in the code found on the side of a Vicodin tablet - you will find that the results that bubble up to the top of the list are geared around "treatment".  Now, is that the effect of commerce pushing services on people, or is it a result of Google intentionally filtering it's content towards a politically motivated agenda?  I'm not saying that I disagree nor agree with that agenda, merely that it exists & is exerting influence.  This is not something that is mandated by law either, but rather it is a proactive process.  That it exists is unquestionable - some simple experiments will verify what I'm talking about.  The troubling thing about it is the WHY aspect...