Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Small pipes part 2

The fact that almost everyone outside of Japan and Korean gets screwed on broadband speeds and prices is one of my favorite topics. I've had reason to think about the situation since the Verizon FiOS TV roll out in the Philly area but not in Philadelphia. Of course part of the reason Verizon hasn't rolled out the service in Philadelphia is because of issues over franchise fees as in Chicago. With the change in the congress we might see movement on NetNeutrality and statewide franchise agreements. Basically, municipalities prefer to negotiate with telecoms for franchise fees to offer programming. This allows a large municipality such as Philadelphia or Chicago make a lot of money in fees and taxes. Telecoms don't like this because it cuts down on profits. Statewide or federal franchise agreements allow telecoms to maximize profits and can speed up the roll out to some areas. The potential problem is that there may not be franchise agreements to carry local stations or to provide community services that municipalities can barter out of tlecoms.

An article that I read on Ars lays out what I've noticed over the years, there is more competition but the prices are increasing instead of getting lower. This makes sense for the reasons pointed out in the article that it is hard to move from one service to another. That is assuming that one even has a choice which a lot of people do not. My brother recently dropped Comcast after getting tired of their crappy service and high prices. For example, his old house was about twenty yards from a regional office where the trucks came from for installations but he had to wait nearly a month for a sometime between 9 and 5 installation. He's going with Verizon's FiOS but I live in the city and am thus screwed. Frankly, FiOS is overpriced in the greater scheme of things when one can get 100 MBPS in Japan and Korea. There are some differences in taxes and culture but the biggest thing is there is no real competition.

The Brand X decision is partly to blame and an inept FCC deserves a lot of blame as well. From an economic standpoint what the telecoms are doing makes perfect sense. If you can deliver the same product for more money why wouldn't you? Even the incremental increases of 1MBPS for the same price in the face of competition is rather insulting since they could go even faster. Of course profits would only remain steady doing that.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Language Thing

There was a bit of a translation controversy in the news. The outsourcing of the translation of Iraqi documents to amateurs on the Internet leading to the publication of nuclear weapon blue prints is kind of predictable, after all Saddam Hussein's nuclear program prior to 1991 is the reason Iraq was under sanctions. Open source intelligence has its uses, but you'd have to be pretty stupid to publish classified information that you haven't translated. That was the whole point of the site but that ground has already been covered.

I've been playing around with some more interesting language resources recently. The British National Corpus is a free corpus that can be analyzed for linguistic information. A free corpus is a rarity, usually they cost a few thousand dollars or you have to create your own. It's a pretty fun site in a language nerd kind of way. The Linguistic Data Consortium has some very interesting articles and a decent collection of corpora. New articles are free and the membership is reasonable if you have an organization paying for it. I've been playing around with the sites a bit checking the frequency of words, POS, reading articles, and anything else I can think up. Even if you don't have any experience with linguistics or natural language processing you should have some amusement from the two sites. At the very least you don't have to worry about revealing classified information.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Adam4Adam and Murder

Michael Sandy the nephew of "Calypso Rose" was lured to his robbery and eventual death by a chat on Adam4Adam. A4A is a gay chat site. This case isn't the first or the last of Internet robbery/beatdown attempts. One of the murderers apologized but the charges should go up to homicide, robbery and hopefully a hate crime. There are larger issues here. The depravity of the perpetrators of these crimes has power because of the larger society that perpetuates the closet. The closet makes the survivors of these hate crimes reluctant to come forward. Sadly in this case Michael did not live to see his attackers be punished. I talked to Michael a few times and he seemed like a wonderful guy. Its a shame something that shouldn't happen to anyone happened to such a nice guy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Meme: Gays Tied GOP Hands on Foley

This is a perspective put forth by Newt Gingrich and the Family Research Council on the Foley affair. Will Bunch has already taken it apart and show how ridiculous it is as have the comments to his article.

The argument goes like this: the GOP knew something was wrong with Foley's relationship with the congressional pages but they were so afraid of offending the gay community that they could not stop him or start an investigation. The problem is that the Republican party won the last election largely on the idea of an amendment to the constitution on the idea of banning gay marriage. When sodomy laws were deemed unconstitutional by the courts Republicans like Rick Santorum made comparisons to bestiality and incest. It's pretty hard to make the case that the GOP is afraid of appearing non-PC by getting tough with a pederast. That is also part of the problem to make the homophobia argument you have to assume that gay men in general are attracted to teenage boys, I myself find most guys under 25 kind of scrawny with boring personalities. Maybe that's just me. But to use the FRC correlation that homosexuals are 3% of the population and 1/3rd of molestations are male-male and therefore endemic of homosexuality then the necessary corollary follows that the 97% of men who are heterosexual are responsible for the majority of child molestation over 66%.

It is a dumb attempt by the FRC to try and protect the GOP by diverting attention from the congressional leadership and put the harassment of teenage pages by a staunch conservative Republican into the hands of the Democrats. The FRC has obviously not thought this argument through because if it was true, which it obviously isn't, then the GOP put getting elected above protecting children. It argues the Democratic point from the other position, its unintentional but with a few weeks before the election the press may pick up on that point. If it was a day before the election it might be a useful, if cynical argument. A few weeks before you have to wonder who their political advisors are and if they really want the GOP to keep the seats.

Foley is trying to argue that alcohol and molestation as a teen is the cause of the problem. He is perhaps thinking that he can resurrect his political career. He might as well forget it his current (former) election battle was heavily in his favor before the revelations, as the former LA governor once said "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy." He wasn't caught in bed but IM is pretty close. Hastert can save himself but he'll probably drag the party down to losing the House. The press loves a story of a politico pimping out kids.

It's not that I'm enamored with the Democrats it's just that they are the more honest liars in this instance. To quote another LA governor Huey P. Long once said, "The only difference I ever found between the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership is that one of them is skinning you from the ankle up and the other, from the neck down."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Queer Response to Gay History in Philadelphia

A lot of people in Philadelphia are up in arms over the school district recognizing gay and lesbian history month. Most of the parents seem to be objecting because "it involves sex." That is a very narrow minded definition of homosexuality, I've always been gay even before I knew what sex was. In a way the reaction of the parents and the 70% of people who voted in the local CBS poll on whether the school district should have the calendars are the reason there is a need for the school to recognize Gay and Lesbian month. Parents flipping out and taking their kids out of class because "Gay and Lesbian History Month" is printed on a calendar they may not even notice. In a city with a climbing murder rate and a school system that is under funded and undermined continually by the state to have parents put their prejudices against a some of the students, potentially their own children, is offensive.

It isn't the first time that the school district has received flak for the calendars. People complain about Black History month and the noting of Ramadan. The district also notes Asian and Pacific Islander Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Jewish and Christian holidays. The school district has to train students to compete and work alongside others in a global marketplace with people of different nationalities, races, genders, and sexual orientations. The school district has to be The only problem I have with the calendar is that there are no lesson plans to go along with it. They have the opportunity to tie in many other communities as well. There areBayard Rustin, Sappho, Socrates, James Baldwin, Bessie Smith, Alan Turing, , Michael Foucault, Virginia Woolf. The list really is endless lesbians and gay men have contributed to the world as much as anyone else to fear talking about their existence is to give into the belief that acknowledging their existence is somehow going to "turn" the kids gay is as idiotic as thinking Rosh Hashanah or Ramadan being marked is going to "turn" the kids Jewish or Muslim. It would be nice if things worked that way then September 21st of every year all violence would stop.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

America's Pipes Don't Measure up for Broadband

I have a bit of an interest in Internet connectivity. Not just because I work in IT, not just because I work with a lot of people who are part of the digital divide but in part I like to download the sweet multimedia content that's available. The problem is that broadband is expensive and in comparison to other developed countries kind of slow. Ars points to a report by the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer's Union, and Free Press.

One thing that gets forgotten in the paying more to get less reality of American broadband is that the policies of the FCC and the companies perpetuate the digital divide. Yes, the gap is shrinking a bit but still 16th in penetration and 15th in terms of growth, is to be frank pretty piss poor performance especially when one considers the price we pay. For example, Verizon offers FiOS at 30 Mbps / 5Mbps for $179.95 per month, yet in Japan or South Korea one can get 100 Mbps /100 Mbps for $35 and $32 per month respectively.

The reason Americans get screwed is that in most metropolitan areas customers have at most two broadband providers. Others have only one and in large swaths of the country there are none. There is no real profit driven reason for cable or DSL providers to provide service in rural areas, just ask Verizon why they don't want to offer FiOs in Swanksville and other areas in westwern PA. The duopoly and the inherent lack of real competition is due in no small part to the Brand X case and the subsequent FCC ruling on DSL. Cable and DSL providers don't have to lease their lines to competitors and can therefore charge highly for rather slow speeds and poor customer service.

Congress is trying to fix some of the problems with broadband. They are trying to overturn bans on municipal broadband which some states have passed. Municipal is one strategy to bring in much needed competition but congress could go further. They could require broadband providers to lease the lines. The broadband companies are given exclusive right of way in many locales. Doing so would not only shrink the divide in large cities but could help in rural areas. There is a lot of dark fiber that companies are putting to use that can be lit for consumers. If competitors can lease lines then the larger companies would have to compete on price and speed, there would be an incentive to get more customers in unserviced areas because of the competition in former monopoly areas.

On a somewhat related note this puts the whole anti-network neutrality of the cable and telephone companies in perspective. It's bad enough they want to throttle down the speeds of companies that don't pay extortion but the speeds of the fastlane are pretty damn slow.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Meme: Surviving the race

As anyone who is interested in such things already knows Survivor will be dividing people into tribes based on race. There isn't an obvious library angle on this but race is an interesting and persistent social construct. A number of people have already pointed to the Herbert Spencer inspired quality to the whole endeavor of "survival of the fittest." There are calls to boycott the show, since it does have the unfortunate potential to degenerate into racist boosterism based on arbitrary criteria taken out of context in the same way as the bestselling but disproved Bell Curve.

Ever since the first Survivor almost everyone tries the same strategy as Richard Hatch. Form alliances and lie and cheat anyone not in your alliance and then lie and cheat those in your alliance until there is only three left. Then it is a simple matter of either winning the last challenge or being such a villain throughout the show they take you to the final two because who would vote to give a million dollars to a guy who faked his grandmother's death. With this the lying and backstabbing can have the accusation of race traitor, racist, and Uncle Tom that race baiting always brings out. Some critics point out that it is a crass attempt to pull up sagging ratings of the show by having people root for their own race, which I think is true. Unfortunately the coarser language that comes with race baiting probably will be edited out for family viewing. The race war would have to be fought over the water cooler instead. Which with the show losing steam isn't going to amount to much fighting.

What would have been more interesting is an examination of the idea of race. Race is not a scientific categorization despite the fact that most people would think it is. In fact the host found out that lumping people under Asian puts together people who see ethnic divisions and may have tensions with other "Asians." If he did more searching he would find some people from the West Indies who do not see themselves as being Black or "Blacks" from Africa who do not see themselves as being in the same race as "Blacks" in America. Race is one of the most arbitrary ways to categorize human beings what constitutes a race is highly influenced by the society one is raised in. In America race is defined largely by visual cues even when the visual cues aren't there. A light skin Black man is Black even if he can pass for White.

Whiteness itself is an interesting concept. It took decades for the Irish and the Italians to be considered White. The Jewish community is considered White by the mainstream sometimes but as a minority that is separate and apart at others. The lines are flexible and exist only to hang myths upon. Those myths that tell people to clutch their purse when a black man approaches, that Asian men are all foreigners, and that Latinas are sex crazed freaks. They aren't remotely true in most cases but they let you shut your brain off for a few minutes, and that is what reality TV is all about.

If someone is looking for good resources that treat the construct of race in a meaningful way there are a few choices. There is the series "Matters of Race" that aired on PBS. It examines the meaning of race from a number of perspectives. Race: the Power of an Illusion provides an interactive site to learn about the realities of race. It's a good site for teens and younger kids. There are a lot of books on the subject of Race but two recent ones to mention are Covering: The Hidden assault on Our Civil Liberties by Kenji Yoshino and What White Looks Like by George Yancy. Covering deals in part with race but also gender and sexual orientation. It is an interesting take on the need to assimilate, when is assimilation necessary and when is it the destruction of the self. What White Looks Like tries to expand the field of White studies which is in its infancy by having professors in Black studies tackle philosophical concepts of Whiteness put forth by Foucault and others.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The evils of video games proven ...

... not quite but close. Ronaldinho the Brazilian phenom who took leisurely strolls through the finest stadiums in Germany in the last World Cup is using marathon sex and PS2 sessions as an excuse for his lackluster performance. He had to give some excuse when the sports rags and blogs point out that he plays harder for Barca than he's ever played for his country. This would have been the end of it had a playboy editor not done any detective work on the model who contacted the tabloids. Which led others to question whether she even exists.

The excuse is interesting because it reinforces the meme of the selfish, testosterone drenched sports stud. The idea that he would put winning the world cup at risk to sneak off to his girlfriends place for sex and to play a simulation of the same world cup is a little odd. Naturally the ultra macho stance makes some suspicious that he is hiding something. Maybe not like MAX but maybe like Esera Tualo. Personally, if he couldn't take off from sleeping with his girlfriend or boyfriend for a month to lead his team to the biggest championship in sports he shouldn't be on the pitch for Brazil 4 years from now. Although, from past experience I could see why he wouldn't come out if he has anything to come out about.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's all about semantics

Peter Norvig, CEO of Google, posed a few tough questions to Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web (WWW) at the recent conference for the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. As any one who is deeply involved in information retrieval or metadata research know Berners-Lee is pushing the Semantic Web as the biggest thing since teh Interweb. The basic idea of the Semantic Web (SW) is that web pages will be written in a way that computers can extract meaning from them in order to perform various operations. For example, your computer could automatically buy tickets for the movie, you’ve been reading about on the Internet, at your favorite theater at a time that will fit in with your schedule. Berners-Lee first described it in his landmark article for Scientific American.

Norvig’s criticism of the Semantic Web is that proponents need to factor into account incompetence, unwillingness to comply and dishonesty. The incompetence that he mentions is a problem on the World Wide Web now with web designers using non-standard markup technique. The unwillingness to comply or competition approach has been seen with HTML and I doubt SW will be any different. If one were the leader in selling widgets web wide why would one rewrite their entire website so that competitors could search their data. The deception aspect is pretty obvious to anyone who has clicked on a link high in their search results and being directed to a porno site when that isn’t what they were searching to find. He had more criticisms in a paper in 2005 but I guess you don’t want to berate the father of the WWW at a conference during the Q & A.

Berners-Lee took on the criticisms one by one, on compliance he suggested that powerful search engine companies can force others to reveal their data to store in Resource Description Frameworks (RDF). RDFs are part of the backbone of the SW and I’ll get to those shortly. On security / deception he pointed out that the Semantic Web requires explicit digital signatures on files. This would allow Semantic Web engines to only index trusted signatures and ignore unsigned Semantic Web pages.

The astute reader will notice that Berners-Lee did not touch incompetence. Some of the people who have commented on this story before and some of the people who I have talked to who are Semantic Web true believers say that advanced authoring tools will solve this. To which I say, B.S. if advanced tools could solve this problem why aren’t all web pages valid? Sure you have some that are still hand coded but most web masters are using DreamWeaver or some other WYSIWYG web editor. The problem of course is that different browsers treat tags differently in some cases the same browser will treat the same page differently depending on the version of the browser.

There are problems dealing with semantics in the semantic web which nyone who has studied natural language processing would expect. I don't think that the W3C has found a magic bullet to solve language translation problems but it still could be useful. Pushing the boundaries of technology in such a way could spur on some real developments in natural language processing and information retrieval. Eventually the SW may be a reality in a few more decades.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Beautiful Game and the Ugly American

The world's greatest sports spectacle is going on but you'd hardly notice from most American sports coverage. The local news does not give a run down of the days results, show highlights or even mention that the quaterly tourney is taking place except when the U.S. team is playing.

While I'm a huge soccer fan and am TiVoing each and every game to watch later I realize I'm of a distinct minority of Americans. Soccer has never been a very popular sport in America whether that exceptionalism is because of the full sports space in America or fears of globalization. While there was a well documented lack of organization of soccer clubs in the early stages of American sports space and some may fear the communist menace of football I think the success of the women's team and the constant prodding to enjoy the world's sport makes it a non-starter.

There is a certain level of misogyny and homophobia surrounding soccer in the U.S. it is seen as being safe,and unmanly. The fact that the U.S. women have been so successful compared to the lackluster performance of the men confirms the stereotypes for many. The fact that so many people have been pushing soccer for so many decades inadvertently turns off many who feel the foreign media is being condescending.

The lackluster performance of the American team this year is not helping to spread interest in the sport. The fifth place world ranking was a joke and this team tried hard to confirm it when they stepped on the pitch in their first match against the Czech Republic. They didn't play like a team at aall, they played like a team of prima donnas. It is the same problem that I saw in England's first match, they couldn't get organized or motivated but England has enough talent to sleepwalk into the round of sixteen. The U.S. isn't Brazil they can't wait for the game to come to them like Ronaldo is doing this World Cup. The team played a decent game 9 against 10 in the Italian game but complaining about a bad referee is pointless. If you are a good enough team calls go your way, if you're not they won't it is the same in every sport everywhere. To be honest the two teams that seem to be lkeaving their hearts out on the field are Ghana and Trinidad and Tobago. When the U.S. goes up against Ghana I'll be pulling for the miracle of America making it to the next round but won't be too sad if Ghana wins.

Soccer probably will never overtake even hockey in popularity in America but I'll keep watching the beautiful game. I try to avoid ABC's and ESPN's coverage, the least they could have done is get announcers who know the games terminology calling play by play.I have the TiVo set for Univision, the announcers know what they are talking about and it helps with my Spanish. I'll need to speak to the most likely football fans in America.

Marking time

I just finished my course on metadata in digital resources. I did a short study on the use of TEI that somebody might find interesting.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Filmis and iTunes

I'm a huge fan of filmi music. I've bought a few filmi songs through iTunes and this post makes it pretty clear why it isn't a good experience. Apple and the music industry as a whole would do well to modify ID3 to be a better metadata scheme for non-western music cataloging.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

GTA San Andreas needs to be saved

The library of Congress is trying to formulate a plan to preserve video games. There is some talk about it on Game Politics. Aside from wondering if they are going to preserve the greatest game of all time. I'm wondering if they are going to store decent ROM copies of games for digital delivery, as well as physical copies of the cartidges and discs.

With all the games for the myriad systems past and present this will be a huge undertaking. I wonder if they are going to stick with MARC or use Dublin Core, either way this is going to be a lot of typing. If they need help with cataloging the games I can lend a hand. I could use the practice.

Friday, April 14, 2006

MARC is dead long live Metadata

OK a little too hopeful perhaps but had a great guest lecturer in class yesterday. Dr. Moen from the University of North Texas gave a lecture on the use of metadata in libraries. He made some interesting points on how MARC 22 will be XML based and how metadata will need to be used more and more for libraries to interact with the larger information community. He also showed off his work from one of the IMLS grants he was awarded. It was shocking, of the 2000 fields in MARC only 900 fields are used at least once. You can look up your favorite fields for usage and such on the project page.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The ALA and the idiocy of Library Corps

The American Library Association is one of the largest professional organizations for librarians. They have pushed for the interests of libraries and librarians. The ALA has done some pinheaded things from time to time, but that is usually when they wander away into the larger political world.

With Library Corps, they have really screwed their newest members. The whole proposal is kind of strange since the ALA boosted the number of library students and ALA members by harping on the looming librarian shortage, which seems to loom further and further in the future.

A smarter idea than keeping retirees around in libraries with need would be using some of the graduates or soon to be graduates as interns. The students gain experience, the libraries get work done and may hire the students full time or part time. Between Library Corps and libraries using library assistants without masters degrees library schools seem like a waste of time. There is still positions in corporate, legal and medical librariesbut public libraries are getting the elderly or the untrained.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Network neutrality nixed: Libraries get ready to open your wallets

The network neutrality amendment didn't go anywhere, which isn't surprising since cable and Telecoms lobby extensively for their interests and service providers like Yahoo and Google do not. For those not following the issue, network neutrality is the idea that when you are surfing the Internet content from a site that is signed with your ISP will be just as fast as content from another ISP. For example, under network neutrality Verizon won't slow down my Google searches because Google is on another companies pipes.

Going beyond the party breakdown of who was for it or against it, partisan discussions are rarely enlightening, you'll see interesting arguments on both sides. The idea of doing away with net neutrality was first proposed by SBC. The idea goes like this why should SBC give Google a free ride on its pipes when SBC customers do a search on Google or view streaming video from them. Google isn't paying SBC for the use of the pipes so why can't SBC slow down the speed of content delivery from non customers. The problem of course is that SBC customers are paying for Internet access and expect it to be at site independent speeds.

Where someone comes out on the issue depends on what model one uses to interpret network neutrality. Net neutrality is what we have now, all content is treated the same by your ISP whether it is streaming video or a call over Skype. Customers pay the same rate regardless of who they connect to or how often. The argument that is used is the "it ain't broke" reasoning of this is the current state of affairs.

What the telcos and cable companies are proposing is that they tier the internet so that you can pay one rate (likely the same rate people pay now) to access sites on the ISP which has their account at the current speed and other sites at a slower rate. There would be another tier where customers could pay more to get all sites at the same speed as they do now but have to pay more for the privilege. The argument for this usually uses the "In" cellular model. I pay less per call to people who have the same cell phone company.

There is more than the shaking out the last quarter from the consumer motive behind this. The other parts of the bill that did pass such as E911 and the nationwide broadcast regulation of telcos are major motivating factors in the tiered Internet idea. With the easing of E911 than cable companies are free to eat the lunch of telcos by providing VoIP service to their internet subscribers who may eventually decide to do away with their tradition phones. Telcos getting licensed nationally for video delivery coupled with the fiber-optic roll out means that cable companies will lose the monopolies they enjoy in many municipalities. Add stripping states of the ability to halt municipal broadband and you have a full on price war looming on the horizon.

Price wars are great for consumers but not so good for companies. That is where the tiered Internet comes in. By allowing Verizon to slow down Comcast customers' data signal VoIP from Comcast won't seem like such a hot deal with constant static and dropped calls. Verizon's IPTV won't be that hot compared to Comcast or a satellite provider when the customer's brand new HDTV is giving a picture not even worthy of 50's era TV. The pronouncements point to the "dead beats" of Yahoo, Google and Microsoft but the proposal is aimed more at the partners for a tiered Internet.

The worst part of the tiered Internet idea is that there is likely to be less of an uptake in these next generation services and higher prices. The consumer gets screwed yet again. Where this is bad for libraries is the obvious point that Internet and phone costs are likely to go up with the tiered proposal.Institutions that are strapped for cash will be forced to provide a worse service to patrons at the same cost.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Meme: The media ignores good news

This is not a new meme per se. When Bush was gearing up for his second bid, the White House downplayed the growing insurgency with claims that the media was only reporting the bad news. This worked great with the base of the Republican party that thinks that the press is too liberal. Besides distrust of the press is not exclusive to conservatives, liberals often claim that the press is in the back pocket of right wing corporate interests.

The beauty of this meme is its simplicity. It relies on assumptions of the major media outlets' political biases that are firmly entrenched in the target audience and thus puts a filter onto their eyes. If there is a bombing reported the response of those infected with the meme will be "why aren't they reporting on the schools that have opened." In essence the worse the news gets the more one's views of the shamelessness of the media and the strides made in the war are strengthened.

It is an interesting approach to spinning the news which some are all too eager to take up. Instead of trying to make lemons out of lemonade when the Golden Dome Mosque's dome was obliterated by saying this will spur on the formation of a coalition government, now every car bombing is diminished into the same old news. The picture that the meme creates of the media is of lazy liberals drinking cocktails in the green zone waiting for the next bomb to go off so they can distort reality.

The problem with this meme and why it probably won't last beyond the November elections is for one, it ignores reality. The fact that Jill Carroll was released from captivity after several months of being threatened with murder belies the idea that reporters are completely safe to report from the streets and should focus on good news. There is an insurgency that is killing civilians, a low level civil war between sectarian militias, an internecine conflict developing among the Shia, a stalled political process and members of al Qaeda training in Iraq and traveling to parts unknown.

amongst all this there are schools and hospitals being opened which is good news. There is also a shortage of good teachers and physicians since many have left the country over security concerns, which is bad news. Very rarely does one consider the nuances involved. As it has been pointed out a reporter can look ridiculous if their positive report is aired at an inopportune time.

Yet that is another threat to this meme. One of the memes intended or unintended consequences (depending on your political leanings) is that reporters are likely to bend over backwards to do positive portrayals. In the next few weeks Fox won't be the only networks still showing pictures of the chocolate and roses era right after the fall of Baghdad media will take up this positive agenda to show they are not beholden to any agenda. It is very likely that any school they show will be targeted as happens now (part of the reason the State Department doesn't allow too many positive stories to be filmed), positive stories are going to turn negative very soon. The next meme may be the media is covering these events to tip off the terrorists.

Finally the main reason this meme isn't long for this world is the Bush administration itself. If they truly want to follow through with the Middle East transformation strategy than it will take decades of sectarian reconciliation and economic assistance for Iraq to even be a stable proto-democracy. There are centuries of old wounds and tribal conflicts to work through and basic problems of demographics and the location of oil reserves. If the meme truly took hold and its corollary that things are going far better that is being reported than there would be pressure to withdraw. Put simply Bush is in a Catch-22 if the American people believe things are going well they will see no reason to stay. If the American people think things are going poorly they may want to cut their loses.

This meme will have outlived its usefulness if the Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate if they lose control it won't matter. This meme resonates best with those who know service people in Iraq, assuming they are in relatively quiet areas. The soldiers and marines I know were in heavy fire areas and are pretty pessimistic. This also resonates with the widows, orphans and armchair hawks. The more people die the more important it is to see a positive outcome. A few people close to the family have died in this war and I am comfortable with them dying in a pointless cause. Wars have been successful in delaying future wars but have rarely prevented war. Diplomacy and communal interaction has done that. On that front there is no good news.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Orphaned works

For those like myself who missed the reminder the hearing on orphaned works is happening now.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The ALA is keeping busy

The president of the ALA has released a statement on the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT act. The library provisions of the bill that was passed haven't changed much. Which is understandable in an election year when the Democrats are trying to look tougher on security than Republicans.

The ALA also has joined with SUN, IBM and others in support of the Open Document Format. I've spouted my efusive praise on it before so I'll spare you the bromides. The announcement has already rekindled the format religious war (along with the usual Apple/MS bashing).

Both of these stories are pretty interesting for long term impact. The PATRIOT act can eventually irradicate the freedoms necessary for libraries to exist. In essence granting de facto limitless powers for library warrants. The format war can have everyone formally recognize the proprietary MS XML format. Part of the liscense states that rights to use the format expire with the release of a new version and that developers have to reapply for liscense rights. This has implications on the goal of accessibility of documents decades from now.

Philly Wi-fi news

I've been really busy with work and classes (cataloging and now library automation) so their has been a drought of posts.

Engadget has some news on the Wi-fi front in Philly. It is looking promising and while I'm not a huge Earthlink fan I can honestly say they are much better than Verizon or Comcast (the two locally based monpolies). This might force Verizon and Comcast to lower their prices, kind of doubt it since the last few months have shown increased prices and the same service or worse.

It will at least get the city wired for wireless and put people up to speed on the technology training portion. The portion of the profits that Earthlink is offering can be used to educate kids and adults in computer literacy, assuming of course that the usual money lost off the top to political corruption is kept to a minimum.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Meme: Xbox 360 failed in Japan due to Xenophobia

This is perhaps one of the more interesting memes in that it spread quickly through the Internet on gaming boards and often revealed stereotypical "Ugly Americanism." The meme goes like this the reason that the Xbox 360 failed in Japan was because the Japanese hate American electronics because of xenphobia, WWII, or nationalism. Other sites have torn this apart piece by piece.

The case against nationalism and xenophobia being the cause of slow Xbox 360 uptake in Japan is pretty obvious and logically sound. Despite the new sleeker design away from the rather hideous industrial shell of the original Xbox it still is pretty noisy with 2 fans in the case and 1 in the power adapter. The fact that it still overheats only hurts sales especially when a lawsuit is launched mere days before the Japanese launch. Hanging the adapter above ground so that it has airflow all around it supposedly solves the problem but I can see why some may wait for a more elegant solution.

The lack of compelling titles for the Japanese market is probably the main reason it hasn't sold well, afterall it is a game console. Gamers follow games onto new platforms very few gamers will just buy a system just because it is new. Some people bought the PS2 mainly because it had a built in DVD player and at the time it came out was about $100 cheaper than the nearest DVD player on the market. The XBox 360 as launched does not have a HD DVD or Blu-Ray drive. At any rate having more action games and RPGs would have helped the launch in Japan. The initial offerings were mostly FPS, racing and football. DOA4 should be coming out shortly so sales may pick up but there isn't a whole lot of action of RPG or fighting games after that on the horizon.

Microsoft has just announced that they will sell external HD DVD players for the XBox 360 but that will be at an additional cost above the ~US$339 that it sells for in the Japanese market and US$399 it retails for everywhere else. The new medium is virtually guranteed to only support HD DVD movies and music since gaming houses could not reasonably assume that there will be enough of penetration early on to justify limiting their potential sales by making games HD DVD only. Despite this future split in the system configuration and the minor split currently over hard drives the HD DVD game meme is already spreading. The fact that there were rumors of Microsoft planning such a move as late as last year may have put the brakes on the sales in Japan, especially when the PS3 having Blu-Ray drives into the equation.

The thing that is so fascinating about the xenophobic meme is that many ignored these real issues especially the crucial issue of games and jumped on the they hate America bandwagon. This despite the fact that iPods are even more ubiquitous in Tokyo than in New York or that Windows has over 90% market penetration in Japan just as they do here. It isn't as if they do not have other options for mp3 players or operating systems. People tend to ignore the jingoistic nature of some of Xbox 360 fandom. In essence people ignore the fact that certain types of games do really well in some countries and rather poorly everywhere else. FPS such as Halo and Half Life are huge in the US but may not get as loyal a following in Japan as such titles as Dead or Alive (DOA) or .

The question of Japan's relevance in the gaming industry is a sub-part of the xenophobic meme raising the natural corallary assuming the Japanese are nationalistic when it comes to product reviews does their opinion matter in a globalized world? Kotaku took this on but by the racist responses from some of the American readers not all are convinced that the original proposition is false and that the corrollary would necessarily be false as well.

The power of the xenophobic meme comes from an old tradition not unique to America at all of being suspicious of the "other's" motives. The "other" can be anyone from another country or culture that raises one's own xenophobia. It is partly classic transferrence of one's own prejudices onto the "other" as an explanation for why one is so xenophobic. The xenophobic argument in relation to the Japanese has a lot to do with the economic power of Japan and an uneasiness about it in the West. Similar arguments were made during the 80's when Japanese cars were starting to gain traction in the US with complaints that the Japanes would not buy American cars because they hate America.

The stated reason for the perceived xenophobia is telling, anger over Hiroshima probably enters the mind of a Japanese gamer as much as memories of Auschwitz invades the mind when thinking of the Beetle. Perhaps a desire to repeat the act if only metaphorically.