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Saturday, February 17, 2007day link 

 Body pleasure and the origins of violence
picture I have long held the view that one can gauge the sanity of a society by looking at its prevalent attitudes towards sex, and towards women and children. That is, the more repressive and controlling it is about anything that relates to sex, the more violent and perverted the society behaves.

I should note that I don't mean it in the way that crusaders for morals and family values do, but pretty much the opposite. Campaigns for 'protecting the children' are usually exactly the opposite of what they claim to be, and are intended both to take away the rights of children, and to thwart nature into a perverse religious ideal of how things are supposed to be. If the prevalent view is that 'children' are anybody under 18, and that they have no right to an opinion, and that they need to be sheltered from sex and nudity and bad words, and that male children should be circumcised, and parents need to guard the chastity of their children, and sex education should be replaced with chastity pledges, etc. - then I say we're talking about a violent and oppressive society that tends to bring people up to be equally neurotic and violent control freaks. And if the prevalent view is that bare breasts are evil, and that women have no right to choose whether they'll have a baby or not, and they have no rights to freely choose who to have sexual relations with or not, such as when prostitution is illegal, for example, or when certain kinds of sex are illegal - we're again talking about a society that tends towards violence.

In general I would expect people to be most happy and sane, individually and collectively, in countries where sex is a normal and healthy activity, and nobody's trying to stop it. Countries where people are free to say the words they like to say, where the age of consent is low, where they're free to watch porn movies, walk around naked, be sex workers, etc. Which is pretty much how it works out, as you'll find countries like Denmark and the Netherlands at the top of most studies of happiness, and towards the bottom in terms of violence.

But I hadn't seen any official studies that linked these things together. I.e. attitude towards sex related to how violent a society is. So I'm happy to run into the paper Body pleasure and the origins of violence, by James W. Prescott. It appeared in 1975 in The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, of all places. Thanks, Erik, for mentioning it. That is a fabulous article, and it is exactly what I'm talking about.
"A neuropsychologist contends that the greatest threat to world peace comes from those nations which have the most depriving environments for their children and which are most repressive of sexual affection and female sexuality."
Yes, indeed. And, as he says:
As a developmental neuropsychologist I have devoted a great deal of study to the peculiar relationship between violence and pleasure. I am now convinced that the deprivation of physical sensory pleasure is the principal root cause of violence. Laboratory experiments with animals show that pleasure and violence have a reciprocal relationship, that is, the presence of one inhibits the other. A raging, violent animal will abruptly calm down when electrodes stimulate the pleasure centers of its brain. Likewise, stimulating the violence centers in the brain can terminate the animal's sensual pleasure and peaceful behavior. When the brain's pleasure circuits are 'on,' the violence circuits are 'off,' and vice versa. Among human beings, a pleasure-prone personality rarely displays violence or aggressive behaviors, and a violent personality has little ability to tolerate, experience, or enjoy sensuously pleasing activities. As either violence or pleasure goes up, the other goes down.
It shouldn't be such a big surprise. Seems kind of obvious. Deprive people of pleasure, and violence increases. Because pleasure is an awfully important thing. It is not everything, but to a large degree our lives is a quest for pleasure, in all its senses. Meaning, we're trying to do good, feel good, arrange things in the best possible way, be happy and fulfilled. And pleasure is nature's way of saying you're doing the right thing. And pain it its way of saying that you aren't. And violence is in principle what one might resort to when one is stopped from pursuing one's path of happiness.

Now, as to children:
The reciprocal relationship of pleasure and violence is highly significant because certain sensory experiences during the formative periods of development will create a neuropsychological predisposition for either violence-seeking or pleasure-seeking behaviors later in life. I am convinced that various abnormal social and emotional behaviors resulting from what psychologists call 'maternal-social' deprivation, that is, a lack of tender, loving care, are caused by a unique type of sensory deprivation, somatosensory deprivation. Derived from the Greek word for 'body,' the term refers to the sensations of touch and body movement which differ from the senses of light, hearing, smell and taste. I believe that the deprivation of body touch, contact, and movement are the basic causes of a number of emotional disturbances which include depressive and autistic behaviors, hyperactivity, sexual aberration, drug abuse, violence, and aggression.
Now think about the many religious people who think that the Bible tells them that they're supposed to beat their children, and it is good for them. I have too many times accidentally turned on the TV in the US on some evangelic channel and seen a mother with tears in her eyes describe how she's doing her Christian duty by spanking her child, even though she thinks it is hard, and the preacher telling her to keep going, as she's doing the right thing. OK, maybe I've only seen that 3 or 4 times, but that was 3 or 4 times too much. There's no excuse for violence against children. And those would be the same parents who now would drag their children to chastity camps, filling their little heads with strange, perverted ideas.
Certain variables which reflect physical affection (such as fondling, caressing, and playing with infants) were related to other variables which measure crime and violence (frequency of theft, killing, etc.). The important relationships are displayed in the tables. The percent figures reflect the relationships among the variables, for example, high affection/low violence plus low affection/high violence. This procedure is followed for all tables.

Societies ranking high or low on the Infant Physical Affection Scale were examined for degree of violence. The results (Table 1) clearly indicated that those societies which give their infants the greatest amount of physical affection were characterized by low theft, low infant physical pain, low religious activity, and negligible or absent killing, mutilating, or torturing of the enemy. These data directly confirm that the deprivation of body pleasure during infancy is significantly linked to a high rate of crime and violence.

Some societies physically punish their infants as a matter of discipline, while others do not. We can determine whether this punishment reflects a general concern for the infant's welfare by matching it against child nurturant care. The results (Table 2) indicate that societies which inflict pain and discomfort upon their infants tend to neglect them as well. These data provide no support for the prescription from Proverbs (23: 13-14): "Withhold not chastisement from a boy; if you beat him with the rod, he will not die. Beat him with the rod, and you will save him from the nether world."
He follows up with some charts categorizing different societies as to how high or low physical affection towards infants relate to high or low degrees of physical violence amongst adults. Which makes a pretty clear case for the correlation. There are other factors, like, the beneficial effects of high infant physical affection can be negated by the repression of physical pleasure (premarital sex) later in life. And vice versa, low infant physical affection would be counteracted by liberal attitudes towards physical pleasure later in life.

And, as to premarital or extramarital sex:
I also examined the influence of extramarital sex taboos upon crime and violence. The data clearly indicates that punitive-repressive attitudes toward extramarital sex are also linked with physical violence, personal crime, and the practice of slavery. Societies which value monogamy emphasize military glory and worship aggressive gods.

These cross-cultural data support the view of psychologists and sociologists who feel that sexual and psychological needs not being fulfilled within a marriage should be met outside of it, without destroying the primacy of the marriage relationship.

Premarital sexual freedom for young people can help reduce violence in a society, and the physical pleasure that youth obtains from sex can offset a lack of physical affection during infancy. Other research also indicates that societies which punish premarital sex are likely to engage in wife purchasing, to worship a high god in human morality, and to practice slavery.
Lots of other aspects in this. Like, rape.
It is my belief that rape has its origins in the deprivation of physical affection in parent-child relationships and adult sexual relationships; and in a religious value system that considers pain and body deprivation moral and physical pleasure immoral. Rape maintains man's dominance over woman and supports the perpetuation of patriarchal values in our society.
And notice the way many young men, in the U.S. particularly, talk about women. You know, "whores" and "bitches". I have certainly done no scientific study, but I find it shocking how many male teenagers have a rape-oriented attitude towards women. That they're just worthless whores who're asking for it. Many men can't talk about attractive women without including a putdown. And this sort of strange dynamic of desiring something that you at the same time are putting down, or that you hate, that's not a healthy thing. That's where, at the ultimately end of the scale, you find serial killers who kill prostitutes, because they're ashamed of themselves, and, almost invariably, because they were mistreated as children by strict, typically religious parents.

So, any positive place this can go?
If we accept the theory that the lack of sufficient somatosensory pleasure is a principal cause of violence, we can work toward promoting pleasure and encouraging affectionate interpersonal relationships as a means of combatting aggression. We should give high priority to body pleasure in the context of meaningful human relationships. Such body pleasure is very different from promiscuity, which reflects a basic inability to experience pleasure. If a sexual relationship is not pleasurable, the individual looks for another partner. A continuing failure to find sexual satisfaction leads to a continuing search for new partners, that is, to promiscuous behavior. Affectionately shared physical pleasure, on the other hand, tends to stabilize a relationship and eliminate the search. However, a variety of sexual experiences seems to be normal in cultures which permit its expression, and this may be important for optimizing pleasure and affection in sexual relationships.

Available data clearly indicate that the rigid values of monogamy, chastity, and virginity help produce physical violence. The denial of female sexuality must give way to an acceptance and respect for it, and men must share with women the responsibility for giving affection and care to infants and children. As the father assumes a more equal role with the mother in child-rearing and becomes more affectionate toward his children, certain changes must follow in our socioeconomic system. A corporate structure which tends to separate either parent from the family by travel, extended meetings, or overtime work weakens the parent-child relationship and harms family stability. To develop a peaceful society, we must put more emphasis on human relationships.
Yep, but there would be a long way to go for certain societies. Like, well, the United States, and most of the Middle East, the most violent and aggressive countries you can find.

But it's a long way, and there isn't necessarily signs of progress. Just today, this news item. The superior court in Alabama has upheld the ban on sex toys. That is, it is illegal to sell vibrators, becaues it is considered obscene to suggest that people might pleasure themselves. But semi-automatic assault riffles, and plenty of ammo, you can of course find that in plenty of local stores.
[ | 2007-02-17 00:30 | 14 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, February 14, 2007day link 

 Prizes for solutions
picture Wall Street Journal: Prizes for Solutions to Problems Play Valuable Role in Innovation.
The outfit that gave $10 million in 2004 to the first team to build and fly a spacecraft capable of carrying three people into space twice within two weeks has morphed into the X-Prize Foundation. With the backing of a Canadian diamond-mining magnate, it's now offering $10 million to the first team that can build and demonstrate a device to sequence 100 human genomes within 10 days or less (visit the contest site). The Rockefeller Foundation also is getting into the act to help solve science and technology problems faced by the poor.

"'Prize philanthropy' is useful for breaking a bottleneck where government bureaucracy and markets are stuck," says Thomas Vander Ark, who recently left conventional philanthropy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to run the X-Prize Foundation. While Gates and similar foundations "push" money on people to solve problems or meet social needs, he says, prizes "pull" people to problems.

Such prizes, newly popular and possible in an age of instant, cheap global communication, have a venerable history. In 1714, Britain offered £20,000 (roughly equivalent to £2.5 million, or $5 million, today) for a way for mariners to determine their longitude. Sir Isaac Newton was convinced the solution lay in astronomy. He was wrong: John Harrison, a working-class joiner with little formal education, built a clock that did the job. In 1919, hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered $25,000 for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris. Eight years later, Charles Lindbergh won.
Interesting that it obviously isn't the actual money that does the trick. It cost more than $10 million to win the X-Price. Rather, it is the game that motivates. Rewards sometimes accomplish much more than investments could.
[ | 2007-02-14 23:48 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, February 5, 2007day link 

 Dabba Wallah
picture Culiblog, Metafilter. In India there's a system where homecooked meals get delivered to your office every day. Apparently that works well.
In Mumbai (pop +16 million) there are reported to be more than 5,000 Dabba Wallahs. A “Dabba” is a ‘tiffin’ or ‘lunch box’, a ‘Wallah’ is a man or the carrier. The Dabba Wallahs deliver home cooked meals, picked up piping hot each morning from suburban households, and distribute them to more than 170,000 office workers spread across the entire city. This system relies on multiple relays of Dabba Wallahs, and a single tiffin box may change hands up to three times during its journey from home to office.

No matter that few Dabba Wallahs can read or write, they interpret a series of colour coded dots, dashes and crosses on the lids of the lunch containers, indicating the area, street, building and floor of the Dabba’s final destination. The Dabba Wallah margin of error has been calculated at an one mistake in eight million deliveries, an accuracy that has earned the Dabba Wallah system a Sigma 6 rating by Forbes magazine. ‘Sigma’ is a term used in quality assurance if the percentage of correctness is 99.9999999 or more. Here comes the math: for every six million tiffins delivered, only one fails to arrive. This error rate means that a Mumbai tiffin goes astray only once every two months.
Of course, that rate of success sounds greatly exaggerated, and I doubt it can be true, even if it maybe is a very efficient system. But Six Sigma is kind of an interesting concept. Actually that just requires 99.9997% accuracy, which would be 3.4 errors in one million, not 99.9999999%, which would be just one error in one billion, which sounds pretty unfeasible. 99.9997% sounds pretty crazy as well, if humans are involved. I suppose an automated banking system ought to certainly have that kind of error rate or better.
[ | 2007-02-05 15:45 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, February 2, 2007day link 

picture Is grassroots video production and sharing mechanisms like YouTube going to change the world of media? Maybe. Probably nobody's going to produce Star Wars in their garage in the near future, although there are fun take-offs. One might do mash-ups. And people might do other things that are more authentic and personal, which might be as interesting as watching TV.

Meet YouTube user MaryAnne aka Ysabella Brave. She discovered that singing was fun, so she started doing little videos of her singing classic songs, using a dinky camera and a desk lamp and no editing software. And they turned out to be popular and she developed a following. Which I can understand. She's really cute, obviously has fun with her videos, and one can't help falling in love with her. And she can sing. Oh, she doesn't hit all the notes all the time, but she puts on a great show. She has 12,000 subscribers. And now she does these little videos where she answers questions from fans and that kind of thing. And she really does seem to be an unusually sweet person.

This is a kind of reality television. There's something to say for real people. But mainstream reality TV has gotten awfully scripted, so maybe real, real people would be more interesting. Oh, I suppose not everybody is interesting. But if you have a talent or a unique angle on things, there are certainly ways you can have an audience now.
[ | 2007-02-02 19:50 | 11 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Monetary Integrity
Leif Smith, Explorers Foundation, glyph #177:
Monetary Integrity — the Saracens of Spain
five hundred years — 7th to 12th centuries, CE

Writing of the history of the debasement of money, Murray N. Rothbard says:

"Rapid and severe debasement was a hallmark of the Middle Ages, in almost every country in Europe. Thus, in 1200 A.D. the French livre tournois was defined at 98 grams of fine silver; by 1600 A.D. it signified only 11 grams. A striking case is the dinar, a coin of the Saracens in Spain. The dinar originally consisted of 65 gold grains, when first coined at the end of the 7th century. The Saracens were notably sound in monetary matters, and by the middle of the 12th century, the dinar was still 60 grains. At that point, the Christian kinds conquered Spain, and by the early 13th century, the dinar (now called maravedi) was reduced to 14 grains. Soon the gold coin was too light to circulate, and it was converted into a silver coin weighing 26 grains of silver. This, too, was debased, and by the mid-15th century, the maravedi was only 1.5 silver grains, and again too small to circulate."

What Has Government Done To Our Money?, by Murry N. Rothbard, a booklet published in 1963 by the now (Dec 2004) expired Pine Tree Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado

The table of contents and full text may be found at:
And eventually they just made money out of paper. Inflation?
[ | 2007-02-02 19:16 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Sunday, January 28, 2007day link 

 The Danish Language
picture The Danish language is in danger says an article (which is in Danish). English is rapidly making inroads in the Danish society. Almost half of all university educations are available in English. An increasing number of Danish companies switch to English as their official internal language. And more and more English terms sneak into the everyday language. I've certainly noticed that. It is hard for Danish people to have a conversation without some English words sneaking in every couple of sentences. Usually because pretty much everybody speaks English, and certain things are just easier to say in English.

Although Danes are fond of their own language, it is not exactly pride, and nothing that particularly translates into wanting to protect it from foreign invasions. Unlike, for example, the French, who have institutions to battle against Englishification of French, complaining loudly every time a new English word slips in. Their suggested French terms often don't catch on, even though many French people on the street might agree with their motivation. Most people say "le web", not "la toile", and they don't say "couriel", they say "e-mail" or "mél". But, still, it is much worse in Denmark, if we assume the viewpoint that it is something that is bad. There isn't particularly any agency that battles against foreign influences, and the general population doesn't care much either way. Well, there is a Danish Language Council (Dansk Sprognævn), which is interested in the issue. The news the article was based on is basically that these guys would like to at least be able to do a yearly study to examine the trends. And at the same time there are political parties who're trying to propose laws that would ensure that Danish remains the main language for certain things, like correspondence with universities.

If I lived in Denmark, I probably wouldn't care much either way. You can can't really stop trends that want to happen. But being an expat Dane, I somehow feel a bit protective of my mother tongue. Even if I myself probably mix in even more English when I speak Danish than the typical Danish person does.
[ | 2007-01-28 18:00 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, January 24, 2007day link 

 Collective Capacities
picture Dave Pollard talks about how we need different types to build functional communities:
If we're going to save the world and stuff, we're going to need to bring some diverse skills and capacities to bear. The two models above, which come from these posts last year, suggest what these needed skills and capacities might be.

The problem is, we tend to gravitate towards like minds, people who think like we do, have the values we have, and to some extent have developed the skills and capacities we have. That doesn't bode well for diversity.

The Jungian model of knowledge identifies four orientations for learning, understanding and seeing the world:

* sensual (through the senses),
* emotional (through the heart),
* intellectual (through the mind) and
* instinctual (through the body/genes)

None of us is purely aligned with any one of these four orientations, but most of us lean towards one or two. Hedonists lean to the sensual, artists to the sensual and emotional, philosophers to the emotional and intellectual, scientists to the sensual and intellectual, primitivists to the instinctual, naturalists to the sensual and instinctual. As a lifelong philosopher, the intellectual and the emotional orientations (in that order) remain my forté, though as I've grown older I've refocused on the sensual and the instinctual, though I remain poor at learning and seeing the world through these orientations.

We need the artists to help us imagine and perceive and create, the scientists to help us understand and realize, the naturalists and the hedonists to keep us joyful and connected, and the philosophers to help make sense of it all.
It is a puzzle. We tend to associate more with people who sort of work the same way as us than with the people who have complementary capacities to us. Like Dave, if I gathered the people I hang out with (not that I hang out very much), it would tend to be intellectual thinkers, philosophers, visionaries, maybe smart and interesting people, but also people who might be rather incapable in doing many very practical things. If I was going to be stranded on a desert island, I'd be dumb to plan to bring my kind of people. Oh, we'd need my kind of people, but we'd certainly also need very different kinds of people, more practical, more direct, with instincts for getting certain things done that are different from mine.

I find different people interesting. I love diversity. I understand that different approaches complement each other, and that's a good thing. But, yet, I don't necessarily create structures like that around me. I don't make sure that I have a community of different types of people around, who might disagree with me, but in good ways. They might see things I don't, naturally do things I'd miss.

But somehow we don't naturally create that. It might emerge because we incidentally live next to some different people, or we're born into the same family, or because we're hired to fulfill different functions in a company. But why don't we do it by ourselves?
[ | 2007-01-24 19:57 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, January 23, 2007day link 

 Danish Happiness
picture I had read about the study before, but a mention at BoingBoing, and a comment by Gunter makes me look at it again.

Studies show that in Europe, the Danes are by far the people most satisfied with life.
The Danish football triumph of 1992 has had a lasting impact. This victory arguably provided the biggest boost to the Danish psyche since the protracted history of Danish setbacks began with defeat in England in 1066, followed by the loss of Sweden, Norway, Northern Germany, the Danish West Indies, and Iceland. The satisfaction of the Danes, however, began well before 1992, albeit at a more moderate level. The key factor that explains this and that differentiates Danes from Swedes and Finns seems to be that Danes have consistently low (and indubitably realistic) expectations for the year to come. Year after year they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark.
Despite being from Denmark, I'd kind of never have guessed it. Danes complain a lot, about the weather, the government, each other. But at the same time, they do really spend a lot of their life having a very cozy time. Danes tend to be a bit emotionally unavailable, but at the same time there's a certain warmth there which is unique. I never thought of it as Danes being happy, but I suppose one can see it that way.

The researchers obviously had a hard time figuring out why the Danes in particular are content. They came up with stuff like:
Food — Meals in Denmark can be politely described as unmemorable. "Danish cuisine" is an oxymoron, except perhaps the open faced "butter breads" that accompany the beer and aquavit Danes consume for lunch. Older Danes satisfy their hunger with potatoes, gravy, and a bit of pork, and younger ones devour hotdogs, hamburgers, and Baltic-style pizzas. Danish cuisine has some similarities with food from Switzerland and Austria, the second and third happiest nations according to the World Map of Happiness; this suggests that the consumption of comfort foods may be important for life satisfaction.

Alcohol and smoking — High levels of smoking and drinking are associated with low wellbeing, but Danes are among those with the highest consumption in Europe. This is reflected in causes of death and low life expectancy. A reviewer of our paper suggested that one reason that Danes seem smug may be that they were drunk when they participated in the Eurobarometer surveys.
Eh, that's entirely possible. How about another glass of snaps? And, hey, I take offense to the remarks about Danish food. Unmemorable!?! The Danes love it, and I sure miss the food.

The part about low expectations might indeed be a key. Danes aren't very patriotic and don't have any ambitious agenda as far as their role in the world. Denmark is a small country and it hasn't been any kind of superpower for a very long time. And being ambitious tends to be socially frowned upon in Denmark. "Don't come here thinking you're anything special", is sort of a hidden Danish attitude. There's even a name for it, the unwritten "Jante Law", which says that if anybody tries to stand out in any way, everybody else will knock them down to size.

So, Danes don't expect much. Which means they don't have much to be disappointed about. Indeed, Danes are rarely disappointed. Which in a roundabout way might add up to contentment or even happiness.

But if I should add a factor which they didn't mention, it is that Denmark is a free country, in the sense that you can say whatever you want, and there's very relaxed standards in terms of morals and vices and freedom of expression. It is not for nothing that it was in Denmark that porn first was legalized. Danes typically have no hangups in that regard. The age of sexual consent is 15. There's no age for when you legally can drink or smoke, or whatever. There are no words you can't say on TV. There's no censorship. Thus, there's an absence of the moral mind control you find in many other countries. In comparison, Sweden is a much more controlled society where the government will regulate what part of the cigarette you're supposed to smoke, and you can only buy alcohol in government owned stores. In this regard Denmark is very comparable to the Netherlands, which indeed is number 2 on that chart there. I'd say that's a big factor. Danes are quite free to be themselves and do what they enjoy doing, which ought to produce some kind of contentment.
[ | 2007-01-23 16:13 | 14 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Sunday, January 21, 2007day link 

And now a little classic art. A nice bunch of nymphs, painted in 1878 by William Adolphe Bouguereau.
[ | 2007-01-21 13:39 | 6 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, January 19, 2007day link 

 American Accents
picture This quiz purports to pinpoint what kind of American accent one has. Which it does, not by listening to you, but by questions about words that sound similar or not. Now, I'm not American, but most Europeans would think that obviously I am, because I speak with an American accent. But while I lived in California, most people could hear that I wasn't from around there. Somebody with just a bit of an ear for accents would guess that maybe I'm from Northern Europe. Others would just guess that maybe I'm from the east coast, or from Northen California. The thing is that there are a few sounds that would give me away. Bizarrely, in words like "English" or "language", I'll say the 'g' too much like a 'k', however hard I try to do otherwise. Must be because they were amongst the first words I learned.

So, now, that test. I'd have expected it to indicate I had somewhat of an imperfect west coast accent. But, not at all. It says there's a 100% match with "The Inland North", which means the area around the Great Lakes, like Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin or Minnesota. The last one being maybe the only thing that makes sense from it, as a lot of scandinavians ended up there. But, like, Chicago, Illinois? I recognize the Chicago accent, and don't think I sound anything like it.

Now that I think of it, I can't recognize any of the questions as distinguishing a west coast accent. What would that be? When you say orrible, rather than whorrible? When you say inneresting, rather than intresting?
[ | 2007-01-19 12:06 | 9 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, January 12, 2007day link 

picture The other day at English Limited, I met Graham Holliday, who's a blogger and journalist. His blog is noodlepie. Which is mostly about food and restaurants. Until recently he was based in Saigon, but now he's a Toulouse local. So, it is cool to read some world-class reviews of local Toulouse hangouts now. I mean, in English. There are very few English blogs here. Like here he stops by a little café at the Victor Hugo market in downtown.
[ | 2007-01-12 16:31 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, January 3, 2007day link 

 Mongolian training camps for programmers
Yakov Fain visited a class for Java programmers in Mongolia, called "Dealing with Overseas Employers 101", and these were his notes:
1. America is rich, we are poor. It’s not fair, they have to share.
2. In the beginning, their manager will try to scare you by promising that he’ll check up on the status of your assignments daily. Do not be afraid – a status report is just a formality, and they’ll take whatever you write.
3. One of your major problems will be "what to write in status reports". Never write “I could not do it ” there. Americans like positive statements. For example, let’s say you’ve got an assignment to create a reusable component that will identify the number of failed database requests. You do not even have a clue what are they asking for.
The first week you spend on Google in hopeless attempts to find such component. The status report for the first week should read “Comparing various approaches of creating reusable db-failures component to find the most efficient and effective way for its development”. During the second week invent something similar. Hopefully, on the third week something more urgent will come up and you’ll get another assignment.
4. Be prepared to spend the first couple of weeks waiting for the logon id and password to your employer’s network. After obtaining these credentials, you’ll find out that you still don’t have access to a dozen of servers, which require Unix logon. Your remote manager will promise you to resolve it as soon as possible, but because of the service level agreements (aka SLA) with the Unix support team , you won’t get access for another week or so. Typically, it’ll take about a month just to get you connected.
5. Never say “I do not know”. Accept all assignments – one of two things will happen – either you’ll figure out how to complete the assignment, or it’ll get cancelled.
6. In conversations with your overseas teammates, always require detailed written specifications for each small program modification. Ignore their statements “I’d fix it myself faster than writing detailed specs for you”. They have no choice and must work with you to show that your team is useful.
7. Use time difference to your advantage. For example, if you want to send an email asking for some clarifications, do not send it in the moring, because you may get an immediate answer. Do it in the evening (your time zone), before leaving the office – you’ll get the answer only next day.
8. If you have a choice, avoid fixed price projects. Hourly-based pay will allow to put a couple of extra hours here and there, and having a couple of extra rupees or rubles never hurts.
9. Experienced offshore programmers never try to obtain US working visa and to work onsite. If you do this, you’ll work a lot harder – not worth the trip.
10. Always be polite – it’ll get you far. Insert “Excuse me”, “Thank you”, “Yes sir” in every other sentence. Always smile - even during phone conversation. The he showed this movie about an offshore tech support.
11. Change your local employer every three months. You are gaining experience daily, and even if the new job offers just one percent of salary increase, go there. It’s a golden IT offshoring era – use it while it lasts! Or as they say, it's time to make a quick buck!
I could understand if he was a bit speechless. This was apparently the standard program delivered by a major guru in the subject. I.e. how to do outsourcing for Americans.

But actually they've figured it out a little too well. These are almost the same rules for being an American employee in a big corporation. Oh, or French, for that matter. Always say yes, but if you do things slowly enough, priorities have probably changed in a few months, and nobody will notice that you didn't actually finish anything.
[ | 2007-01-03 20:23 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, December 22, 2006day link 

 Global Orgasm for Peace
Today is Global Orgasm Day. The idea was conceived by Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell. There's a video and a Flash presentation.
All Men and Women, you and everyone you know.

Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass destruction.

Winter Solstice Day - Friday, December 22nd,
at the time of your choosing, in the place of your choosing and with as much privacy as you choose.

To effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy - a Synchronized Global Orgasm. There are two more fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti-submarine equipment that can only be for use against Iran, so the time to change Earth's energy is NOW!
So, go for it. I trust you'll know what to do.
[ | 2006-12-22 17:45 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Sunday, December 10, 2006day link 

My friend James Newton was asked by one of the hubs in Viaduc, the biggest French social networking site, to write something about himself. He wrote the short rundown of his life story included below. Which I found so entertaining that it might inspire me to write my own life story in a few paragraphs. I don't think I've ever done that, and it is probably a good exercise. Not very easy, actually, as it is hard to boil many years of experience into just a few words, and it is hard to know what really might be interesting to others and what wouldn't. A CV is usually not very interesting, but the story often is. Anyway, here's James:

I was born in October 1971 in Bristol, Great Britain, of very young parents of Anglo-Irish origins. At the age of two, I was taken to Australia to live with my adoptive parents, who already had two sons.

The latter are what we generally call “globetrotters” who would blindfold their eyes, throw a dart at a world map and wherever it stuck, would drop everything and move there.

We spent several years between Melbourne, Sidney and living in a wooden and corrugated iron house in the bush north of Brisbane, Queensland (check Bauple in Google Earth™ and you’ll get an idea of what it was like). A great life for a child, though life with no running water and no electricity, among the cane toads and snakes, was probably not the ideal life for my parents.

My mother, who was a potter, sold her wares and my father set up a fruit and vegetable stall at the side of the main road along the Great Barrier Reef.

We finally hopped back to the United Kingdom via Malaysia and the Arab Emirates and spent another few years in Cornwall where my Father ran the large garden centre (Plymouth).

European culture was new to me. I had to wear shoes (very painful at first) and found that in the summer, you could expect 17°C and rain, what you get in winter Down Under. I also found that there was another national anthem than Waltzing Mathilda.

[ | 2006-12-10 12:39 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, December 6, 2006day link 

 Clone yourself
picture picture picture
Bert Simons is an artist, and being in a bit of a midlife crisis, worried that he wasn't leaving enough of himself behind in the world, he decide to clone himself. By computer-generating a model of his head, and producing it in paper strips that can be assempled into a close likeness of himself. And after that, he started working on the perfect cardboard woman.
[ | 2006-12-06 21:51 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, December 5, 2006day link 

 Barcelona Street Art
Barcelona Street Art. Most places consider graffiti a form of vandalism, but in Barcelona, street art is embraced. The result is a city with public walls like giant canvases of modern art.

[ | 2006-12-05 16:06 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Thursday, November 2, 2006day link 

 Sketch your furniture
Sketch Furniture
Is it possible to let a first sketch become an object, to design directly onto space?

The four FRONT members have developed a method to materialise free hand sketches. They make it possible by using a unique method where two advanced techniques are combined.
Pen strokes made in the air are recorded with Motion Capture and become 3D digital files; these are then materialised through Rapid Prototyping into real pieces of furniture.
Very cool. Yeah, that makes it feel a little like we're actually living in the 21st century. (Via BoingBoing)
[ | 2006-11-02 16:34 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

Sunday, October 22, 2006day link 

 Dance with me

Just a test of video in my blog. But I like this one. It is from YouTube. It is a clip from Bande à Part (Band of Outsiders), 1964 Jean-Luc Godard movie. A typical Nouvelle Vague film. I don't remember if I've seen it. Anyway, the original soundtrack, which was a guy talking, is replaced with the song "Dance with Me" by a group also called "Nouvelle Vague", with Melanie Pain singing. Seems like it belongs with the clip. Btw, the girl in the movie clip is Anna Karina, who happens to be Danish. The dance they're dancing is the Madison.
[ | 2006-10-22 19:38 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, July 26, 2006day link 

 Democracy Player
picture Wow, very cool! The Democracy Player from the Participatory Culture Foundation. It's a desktop application for watching free, open source TV. Kind of like iTunes, but for free stuff only. And better, really. Lots of channels, which essentially are PodCast channels. I.e. often amateurs that produce a weekly, daily, or occasional video show, which is freely available. Or some public broadcasting shows, and various other sources. All free, and all stuff that you wouldn't necessarily see on TV. Quality varies, but there's lots of choice.

The application does most of the work for you to make it really simple. You can subscribe for channels to be automatically downloaded, or you can browse around and pick things to watch. The content gets downloaded by BitTorrent. It gets played by the open source VLC media player, or other media players you might have installed. All of which means you can watch pretty much any format without worrying about it. The video just shows up within the Democracy Player, and you can blow it up to fullscreen if you want.

This is close to being able to change the broadcasting world altogether. I mean, if there were enough content here, I might not feel like watching normal TV at all. There isn't quite, but there's lots, and great stuff there. Diggnation, a regular show for computer nerds, similar to Screen Savers. Democracy Now, great regular PBS show with news. Popular podcast shows like RocketBoom. Etc, etc.

If it is this easy, all we need is enough variety to emerge and enough natural selection to take place in order to no longer need traditional media. Well, some distance to go. No traditional sitcoms, feature length movies worth watching, and real current news reports is still not very easy for a bunch of scattered amateurs to come up with.
[ | 2006-07-26 00:51 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, July 22, 2006day link 

 Imperial Guards
First Post
Not such a long time ago, in a galaxy south-east of Paris, there was a battle between myth and reality. The Empire really had struck back - at least, in the vision of French photographer Cedric Delsaux.
An award-winner in the newcomers' Bourse du Talent competition, he is keen to preserve the illusion behind his Star Wars-inspired images. R2-D2, Darth and his storm troopers may just have been model toys, superimposed on to shots of Parisian architecture, but that illusion works.

[ | 2006-07-22 14:46 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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