Posts for November 2003

2003-11-02: Settlement casserole

I, like most people who have followed international politics at all, have been hearing for years about the issues surrounding the Palestinians and the Israeli settlements. I'd still always made the assumption, though, that there was some sort of distinction between the Palestinian territories and the Israeli settlements such that one could actually draw some sort of vague border.

More fool I.

Mother Jones printed a map of the actual settlement picture and the areas of control in the Palestinian Territories, and then I found similar maps with a quick Google search. This is ridiculous. I agree with some of the sentiments of the person who put up this page -- I wonder why these maps aren't shown every time this situation is covered.

The actual maps of the settlements make it painfully obvious that the Israeli government and some portions of the population of Israel have tried to do everything it could to prevent any sort of easy compromise situation and to complicate the situation of these territories as much as they can. (Note that they're not the only ones; as near as I can tell, many elements among the Palestinians are trying to do exactly the same thing in different ways.) The really depressing part is that it looks like it's rather successful.

2003-11-04: Who's listening?

This is from a Salon article on the current feel of the street in Iraq:

When I ask these men whether they can see today's deprivations as a tradeoff for the new freedoms they have, especially the ability to openly criticize the current situation, I often get the same answer: "Yes, now we can talk," they'll say. "But what does it matter if no one is listening?"

I've never heard a more poignant and cutting condemnation of the theory of democracy. That short statement captures much of what I think is completely missing from the naively optimistic attitudes about "making the world safe for democracy."

So many institutions are simply not listening. Corporations are not listening. Politicians are listening in only a very limited and constrained manner largely driven by money. The rest of the population is not listening when life is fundamentally okay, or if they've gotten fed up with the process.

An open democratic process is meaningless unless someone is listening. Legitimacy is not produced by simply adding a vote. Legitimacy is produced by making life better for people in a tangible way, and not only is that not the exclusive territory of democracies, democracies don't somehow magically do this. Neither does capitalism -- ask the "illegal" aliens currently being rounded up and deported, most likely back to miserable economic conditions, after having been cheated and exploited by Walmart or its subcontractors.

Do you think we're actually building a government in Iraq that will listen, and giving the population of Iraq the means and background to be able to listen to each other?

I'm pretty skeptical. But hey, Haliburton is making a ton of money. Go us.

2003-11-05: This Wiki thing... kind of cool. We've started using MoinMoin to track and record various things at work with a fair degree of success, and I've started playing around with it a little myself.

I now have the beginnings of a wiki only writable by myself (at least for right now) for making notes about system administration. Maybe someday I'll make it writable by others. Right now, I'm just trying to remember to use it to write something down each time I encounter something interesting.

After a while, I'll link it off my regular web pages, but I'll probably wait until I get a bit more content into it first.

2003-11-07: Annotated jacket

I think this is just really cool. Several of us were admiring all the patches on the jacket of a co-worker of mine, and she pointed out that she has a web page explaining all of the patches (at least on the front).

It's nice to see someone using image maps for the sort of thing they were originally intended for. *heh*

(Note the domain name, too. It's one of my favorites.)

2003-11-07: More wiki

There's a variety of additional stuff over in my wiki now, including the beginnings of a collection of information on compiling software and notes on how I (mostly) post journal entries.

So far, it looks like the experiment in using a wiki to enter more information faster and get past the overhead in creating a new web page (and the blank page syndrome) is fairly successful. Tonight it occurred to me that I could probably put together a little Perl or Python script and some elisp linkage that would let me write new pages in a real editor, and I'm now pondering that (although I doubt I'll act on the idea any time particularly soon).

2003-11-11: CVS home directory

Many of you have probably already seen this since it was on Slashdot, but for those of you who haven't, I think this is really cool. Joey Hess, who's one of the Debian developers, keeps his whole home directory in CVS.

I keep lots of things in CVS, but I've never gone that far. I do solve the skeleton file problem that he talks about using a little utility that pushes my configuration files out from a CVS-monitored directory, but my home directories tend to be different on different systems.

I don't think I'd want to go as far as this, but it's worth thinking about a little bit. The backup properties really are nice.

2003-11-11: Best MMORPG ever

Stirge pointed me at this. He described it as the best MMORPG ever. I have to agree. If MMORPGs have turned you off, look at Progress Quest! No need to give yourself carpal tunnel with tedious battling -- let your computer do what it's good at! Death is just a statistical decrease in your experience anyway... so the game takes care of that! No tedious hiking to quest locations! And best of all, you don't have to interact with all of the morons!

It's just my speed. Such a shame that they don't support Linux.

2003-11-13: Less Moore

This is not, in fact, a journal entry to note that by and large judges still respect the law and don't think highly of their colleagues who don't, regardless of the reason. Although that's pretty cool. But lots of people are talking about that, and I don't have anything particularly perspicacious to add.

However, seen in the discussion of the thorough and impressive spanking of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (do read the actual opinion if you have a chance -- yes, that's amusingly a link to FOX News) is the following line:

"Greg Sealy, head of the Sitting at His Feet Fellowship in Montgomery"

Really, I have nothing that I can add to that.

2003-11-17: Computer chess

Yesterday morning, I happened across the third match between Kasparov and X3D Fritz and got to watch some of it live (although they cut away for women's basketball). That ended up being fascinating to watch, so I've since gone through the web site and read through the previous games with commentary.

Apart from making me wish I knew more about chess, I also find it really interesting how computers have developed into excellent chess players, but of a completely different kind than human players. The fundamental chess playing algorithm is still the same as it was back when I studied computer chess programs some ten years ago -- develop an algorithm to rank board positions and then do a search to find the move that stands the best chance of achieving the top-rated board position that you can see. This makes computer players absolute tactical wizards, and masters at playing the endgame, but it means that they can only plan as far as they can analyze. They really play nothing like a human (and chess really isn't that good of a proof of "intelligence" because of its partial susceptibility to pure brute-force search); they're excellent at springing on any mistake and pursuing it relentlessly, but long-term planning escapes them.

The third game of the match is a masterpiece of a human grand master playing against a computer and completely trapping it in its flaws. The computer had no idea the long term plan that Kasparov was developing until far too late, as Kasparov patiently played into a closed, restricted position and then set up for a long-term strategic push. The second game of the match was also an excellent example, as Kasparov was in a good position until he made a human blunder and the computer pounced mercilessly.

I expect that as our sheer processing power becomes stronger, eventually chess computers will outplay the best humans because their planning horizon will slowly get far enough ahead. It may take years, since I think an exponential increase in processing power is required, but I'm sure we'll see that.

It's sort of disappointing in a way, though, that the basic algorithm remains so simple and we keep just throwing more processing power at it. The small computer science researcher in me would be far more interested in trying to understand better what a human player does and teach the computer more about how to do that, rather than just relying on its obvious strengths.

Anyway, I recommend taking a look at the games, and the fourth game is on ESPN2 tomorrow.

2003-11-27: Spam hole in MT

Just in case there are people who use Movable Type and read my journal but don't follow Movable Type development that closely: there's a hole in the mt-send-entry.cgi script that comes with Movable Type that can be exploited to send spam, similar to the formail bugs that have been around for quite a while.

See the Movable Type announcement for more details. The easiest solution for most people is to just delete that script entirely unless you've started using it for something.

2003-11-27: cvs2xhtml 1.8

While doing other things, I noticed that cvs2xhtml produced warning messages with the current version of Python. Turned out that I was including a deprecated module that I wasn't even using, so I made a new small release fixing the problem.

2003-11-27: bundle 2.26

This is the first release of bundle that I've made publicly, but we've been using it extensively at Stanford for many years. It's a bit of a hard program to explain, but its primary use is as an installation tool for a set of files. A bundle, or file containing commands for the bundle script, is like a simplified installation shell script with special commands for all the common actions and enough smarts to know what changes have already been applied and to show what will be done before doing it.

You can get a copy from bundle's web page. I haven't quite finished bringing it up to the coding standards that I use for most scripts, so there may be a few more minor releases coming up shortly.

Last modified and spun 2017-03-25