This past weekend I spent in Warszawa, Polska. Poland was one of the worst victims of the Second World War and the 20th Century. Blitzkrieged by Deutschland, and "liberated" by the Russians, Poland lost 6 million people, half of them Jews. Today the Jewish Polish population is virtually extinct. Warsaw was over 85% destroyed by the end of the war. Afterwards, oppressed by insanely inefficient Communist rule, Warsaw made some recovery. Today it is a bustling national capital in one of the largest EU member states. The city is clean; the people are very good hearted; there are many modern buildings and the economy is developing rapidly. Polish emigrants are among the hardest working and most productive. Fortunately their EU membership gives them labour mobility.

Poland is intensely Catholic. During my visit, the new German pope Benedict was still on his tour of the country. I stayed on Aleja Jana Pawla II (Pope John Paul II Avenue). I was impressed by the number of churches and cathedrals, statues of 'their pope,' Vatican flags flying all over the city, and posters and tabloids with Pope Benedict's face that probably frightened many small children. Poland will likely join the rest of Western Europe after several more generations with a fading of Catholicism. For now, Poland is a very positive example of the strength and healing that religion can have on traumatised societies.

I was only there for a few days, but I now have a deeper appreciation for this country and its people - reminders of pain, disaster, and the absolute worst of human capability, but a deep source of dignity in the present and hope for the future.

Economist Briefing, CIA Factbook, BBC Profile.

Meanwhile on Planet Earth

40 million people are infected by HIV. 5 million new infections occurred last year. 18 million children have been orphaned. 28 million people have died from a largely treatable and preventable disease. In developing countries, only 1.3 million of those infected are receiving medical treatment.


NASA Software

Many people know about Google Earth. Fewer have heard of Google Moon and Mars. However, not very many people have heard of NASA World Wind. World Wind is not as useful for city data or driving directions. It does provide a more sophisticated 3D engine, more satellite data, and more choice than Google Earth in terms of modding. It is also Open Source. In addition, World Wind comes with Moon, Mars, and Sloan Digital Sky Survey engine with a similarly large selection of satellite data. All of these programmes require a high speed internet connexion. In an unfortunate move, NASA WW is only available for M$ Windows; Google Earth has a Mac beta.

Using the NASA Mars engine, one realises the incredible scientific value that Mars probes have brought us despite the failures. It seems clear to me that funding to Mars and Moon probes should be increased. Robots made of silicon and metal can perform reasonably well in those environments. The logic escapes me of diverting resources from useful science to send human being to Mars probably to die.

Communication Security

With internet privacy threatened by the FBI, NSA, and DoD, communication MUST become something that people can do privately and securely. Already for instant messaging, I highly recommend using GAIM with the RSA encryption plugin.

Today, a new Swiss cellphone has been announced which provides live time voice encryption between 2 units. This is a first generation product and so needs to be polished, but it is a step in the right direction.


The Wealth of Networks

Available for free as a pdf download, The Wealth of Networks has been added to my 'To Read' list.

Free Advertising for Skype

The Internet is a medium for any kind of data at potentially unlimited speed. I hope that companies which seek to make money by charging clients to have telephonic conversations will not exist in the near future. Unless and until the antiquated voice only telephone system is absorbed or canabalised by ISPs and the Voice over IP network has acheived critical mass, we still have to live in both the insular sphere of VoIP and the primitive analogue voice-only network and its 10 digit numbers. Unfortunately, the regulatory powers governments have over the old telephone networks, which have not been usurped over the Internet, have created incentives for politicians and soon to be obsolete bureaucrats to delay the transition process as much as possible contrary to the role of a socially progressive government. What else is new?

Well, today Skype has taken the lead in VoIP by offering a free outgoing calls from their VoIP network to the antiquated telephone network within the US and Canada, originating from IPs in the US and Canada. Of course, if you can arrange a proxy you can call from anywhere, free to the US.

Skype actually sent me an email about thier new offer this morning which I instinctively ignored as spam until a friend of mine pointed out its real advantages. I therefore post this sort of advertisement for their new service to help create awareness and perhaps generate momentum for the VoIP movement.



Singularity is the concept that we are approaching a threshold in which superintelligent machines will emerge, create even more intelligent machines in an accelerating process effectively marking the end of the relevancy of human intelligence. There was recently a Singularity Summit at Stanford. Big names in futurism were present. Unfortunately I have not yet been able to locate a video of the summit. Also, the author of this blog was present at the summit and has some worthwhile material.

The Great Library of Cyberspace

The New York Times has a very good article about the current movement towards the Great Library of Cyberspace. It is no surprise that Google is the leader in this field, but there is yet much work to be done. The Great Library is the availability of all public human produced media (text, audio, video) instantly searchable and downloadable over the internet to anyone anywhere on Earth. The article fails to mention the next phase which will be the inclusion of all genetic data from every species, and some day perhaps every person depending on how personal privacy laws evolve.

Stuck in the Muck

On this page, I would generally like to avoid being mired in US politics. However, this morning two things struck me.

Firstly, Republicans in congress are attacking Freedom of Speech and access to information. The proposed new amendment would also make this site, Blogger, inaccessible to students and library patrons in the United States presumably as a defence against sexual predation of children?!

Secondly, this morning I watched U.C. Berkeley Economics Professor Brad DeLong's latest installments of Morning Coffee. I am pleased to see him defending immigration as well as leaning towards a 'Balanced Budget Amendment.' On the immigration front, the Krugman articles to which he refers sadly require payment to view online.


Syndication - Part 1

For neophytes, the on the right represents a link to a syndicated version of this page. A newsreader programme, which now includes Firefox and Thunderbird, or the Google Personalised Page, can then read this page in a standardised way, presumably along with other pages. Other types of syndication are and . The formats vary, but basic newsreaders treat them all the same way. Part 2 will elucidate the powerful simplification that syndication allows.

Software Recommendation: µTorrent

I am a longtime fan of the BitTorrent client Azureus. It has the advantages that it is written in java and so will run on any OS platform and is extremely flexible with a plethora of plugins available. I had seen µTorrent before and I liked its interface and its simplicity. However despite its claim for using few resources my initiall experience with it did not live up to expectation. In addition I use the SafePeer plugin for Azureus and wanted to stick with a program available under Linux. That all changed last weekend when I gave µTorrent another shot on my new computer. This time it did live up to expectation. µTorrent, available only for M$ Windows, runs off just a single 154 kB executable; no other files exist for the programme. It has a very clean interface and so far after normal use (right now downloading 5 GB of files) has not exceeded 6.4 MB of memory usage on my system (currently 4.6 MB). Azureus, in contrast, typically occupies 80-120 MB of resources on my system. µTorrent is my new favourite BitTorrent client.


Thinking of Buying a New Desktop?

I came across this interesting link to a Tom's Hardware article via Slashdot. The dual core Pentium D 805 currently costs about $130! I am tempted to get one myself.

'The Pentium D 805 is a budget CPU, but it puts lots of processors from AMD and Intel to shame. Although it is not based on the latest 65 nm core, this CPU remains stable even when operating at amazing 4.1 GHz. The Pentium D 805 ascends to the throne as the new King of overclocking, knocking out the AMD Opteron 144.'


Children of the Corn

Ethanol, CH3CH2OH, has served mankind for millennia as the overwhelmingly most popular drug in existance. Now Americans are hyping an idea promoted by special interest corn farmers for decades that the solution to the "energy crisis" is to ferment corn en masse into ethanol to fuel their polluting and pitifully inefficient automobiles. This idea is often justified on the basis that such measures will act as economic sanction against foreign entities the US opposes while closing the carbon cycle. For anyone who finds the ethanol fuel idea compelling, at least read this and this. You may start to suspect along with me that this is media hype which is distracting the populous from addressing the real climactic and economic issues facing them.

Tonight I listened to an NPR Science Friday interview with Michael Pollan, who was promoting "The Omnivore's Dilemma." He primarily discussed the nutritional emptiness and gross energy inefficiencies in the modern Western diet, the overdependence on the corn monoculture, and also addressed the ethanol question.

On a related note, this is a Science Friday interview with George Olah regarding the potential use for methanol, CH2OH, to be used as an effective basis for a renewable-hydrogen-methanol economy. I just know I wouldn't drink the stuff.


True Comedy

People always look at me funny when I say I think Stephen Colbert is even funnier than John Stewart. This video of Colbert's appearance on at the White House Correspondence dinner is some of the boldest and funniest comedy I have ever seen. It originally aired on C-SPAN. The fact that this was allowed to happen by the administration further illustrates their ineptitude and incompetence. However, you do know you live in some measure of civilisation when the court jester does not lose his head for this. This appearance was generally downplayed in the mainstream media since Colbert turns his acerbic wit on them too. As DeLong always says "Why, oh why can't we have a better press corps?"

This is a must see for everyone.

Google Video Link

Language Skills

As a 5th Generation American currently living in the USA among other such people, my language skills are severely limited along with my opportunities to practice languages I have studied.

I would like to share a torrent found on BitMe. This is French in Action, a series funded by the Annenberg CPB project, Yale University, and WGBH Boston. This is an "immersion" course, entirely en français, which effectively utilises the power of video to provide dynamic and varied content in an entertaining and well paced fashiong, making for a highly effective learning tool. En plus, J'ai apprécié bien le rôle de Mireille. You can stream these off the Learner.org, but I recommend torrenting it (laws and licenses permitting). I have a strong aversion to streaming media. Trusted acquaintances can hit me up for access to BitMe.

I have explored several online translation dictionaries. So far for French-English-Spanish, WordReference.com is the best. For Mandarin Chinese, zhongwen.com is a powerful resource.