Miners, Hackers, and Sharing

The Chilean miners are being brought to the surface! This is great news, and a great story, in which different people will see different things. I see it as a story of sharing.

The miners shared food, at first one spoonful of tuna each every 48 hours. The short Guardian article from which I draw that fact emphasizes the leadership of Luis Urzua, the shift foreman. He in turn emphasizes the unity of the 33 different individuals.

I emphasize sharing. In doing so, Do do so, I use WordPress: software released under the GPL, a license built on sharing. Richard Stallman, in his essay on the GNU project, reflects on the origins of the free software movement. Someone refused to give him source code he wanted to hack. “I was very angry when he refused to share with us; I could not turn around and do the same thing to everyone else.” It is very likely that free software, shared under the GPL or a similar license, is involved at multiple points in the path of this post to you.

The same human impulse to share that kept 33 miners alive also powers the web. I do not deny the existence of other human impulses – including greed, and I am very glad that greed didn’t triumph and kill down in the Chilean mine. Neither do I deny that there any many other interpretations of the miners’ story – others will emphasize the leadership of Luis Urzua, or the power or prayer, or another of the many things that may have helped the miners.

But I share this story of sharing.

Safety Advisory

Yaris After CrashThe best thing that can be said about the photo is that nobody died. The worst thing, for me, is that my parents were in the car pictured. To return to the positive side: they were wearing their seatbelts.

This is a Toyota: a Yaris, to be precise. Other posts tagged with Toyota have focused on the recent recall, mainly on the PR aspects. The Toyota in the photo did not malfunction. It functioned rather well, in that it protected its occupants during an impact with a much larger vehicle.

Reader, please wear your seatbelt, and follow other safety rules, such as: no cellphoning while driving. I posted on another blog about spring and safety, using the same photo. Cross-posting is something I usually avoid, so as to save it for important issues – such as safety.

Two Pyramids

I was thinking about the relationship between the pyramid scheme and the pyramid of attention. The pyramid scheme is a non-sustainable business model that involves the exchange of money primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme” (Wikipedia).

And the pyramid of attention? I like the term as something to do with retweeting, blogging about, posting to social bookmarking services, etc. But I never did come up with a definition that would enable me to write an interesting comparison between the two pyramids (i.e. the economic pyramid scheme and the pyramid of attention).

While I was thinking about it, I looked for a suitable image. I found this one, which made available with no known copyright restrictions by the Brooklyn Museum. I liked the image so much I wanted to post it anyway. Perhaps the sphinx has views on economic and attentional pyramids: we will never know.

Middle East: Two Perspectives

I just finished Dreamers of the Day, Mary Doria Russell’s story of a schoolteacher who visits Egypt in 1921. Agnes meets T.E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, and others trying to define the states and borders of the Middle East after the Great War.

This isn’t a review, but it is a recommendation. Maria Doria Russell‘s prose is, as always, a pleasure to read. My main reservation about Dreamers is that I was enjoying her writing, rather than Agnes’, and the book is written in the first person.

So one perspective on the Middle East is that of Agnes/Maria. It might be more accurately called a collection of perspectives, since Lawrence and others offer Agnes their differing perspectives.

The second perspective is an Imperial History of the Middle East, in the form of a map. The map (which I found via reddit) changes over a minute and a half to reflect five thousand years of empires.

You don’t need to tell me that there are more than two perspectives on the Middle East, but most other comments would be welcome.

Toilet Seat Time

One of the worst things about spring for me is spring cleaning. One of the worst things about the apartment is the toilet seat. So, time for a new seat.

Of course, the first step was to do some internet research. I found an article at The Fun Times Guide to Household Tips, in which Lynette muses about size, style, and material, and prompts comments about color and other considerations.

Having decided that the toilet seat task and the article merited a post, I went to Flickr to find a suitable photo. I did not give serious consideration to using a photo of the incumbent seat (or of an incumbent on that seat). My thanks to Mark Blevis and his opthalmologist.

Two Examples of Political Intelligence

globeiqGallup recently surveyed Americans on what the federal government should do about banks. A majority of Americans (54%) favor a temporary government “takeover” of major U.S. banks.

So most Americans would support bank nationalization? Not exactly: when Gallup used the n-word (nationalization) itself, support dropped to 37%.

If, in the search for political intelligence, we turn to our local Boston broadsheet, we find, in today’s Globe, new of Michelle Obama’s sleeves, or lack thereof.

Snow and Other 4-Letter Words

Mount of SnowThis is the mountain of snow formed by clearing the parking lots around the Roche Bros Supermarket (and neighboring stores) in West Roxbury. Since I took this picture 8 days ago, we’ve had another snowstorm, resulting in Boston schools being closed last Wednesday, and it’s snowing again now.

It’s also been snowing in the land of my birth (UK), so here are reports from a couple of the places I lived in when I was there. In Nottingham, the BBC set up a webcam at “Slab Square.” The camera captured a four-letter word, which wasn’t snow.

Meanwhile, London pretty much shut down due to a snowfall that wouldn’t be out of the ordinary here in Boston. I found on Reddit a pretty good account of why London couldn’t cope with a scant few inches.

Two Days in the USA

MLK Day and Inauguration Day, that is. It seems fitting that the inauguration of the first black president of the USA is the day after the celebration of MLK’s legacy.

I wondered about the algorithms for assigning specific dates to these days. I should probably have known, and maybe most citizens do, but I didn’t. An article that popped up on Yahoo News today told me that the 20th amendment moved inauguration day from April 30 to January 20. There were technological reasons for the switch to the colder time of year. A senate committee put it like this.

Under present conditions [of communication and transportation] the result of elections is known all over the country within a few hours after the polls close, and the Capital City is within a few days’ travel of the remotest portions of the country.

That was in 1937. It’s somehow cool to juxtapose that with the thought that Obama is taking a train, rather than jet plane, to DC.

On the other hand, it’s somehow strange to see how white the world is this MLK day. I refer to the snowstorm that went on rather longer than the forecasters thought it would. MLK day is “observed on the third Monday of January each year, around the time of King’s birthday, January 15” (from Wikipedia).

Side Projects in Music, Software, etc.

The Guardian’s music blog describes The curse of the side project. Johnny Dee cites projects such as Robert Plant working with Alison Krauss instead of Led Zep, Alex Turner being a Last Shadow Puppet when he could spend more time being an Arctic Monkey, and so on.

I disagree with the post for three reasons. First, I don’t think that most of Dee’s examples stand up: I’m not a fan of fortune-making reunions, and I don’t think that three quarters of Led Zep, almost three decades after the death of John Bonham, would do anything to change my mind; and I think that The Age Of The Understatement is pretty good.

Second are side projects not mentioned in the post, such as Tom Tom Club and The Postal Service. Third, I think that Plant, Turner, and others should make the music they want to make.

Then it struck me that side projects are important in software. Linux was a side project for a student, del.icio.us made a change from work in equity trading, and so on.

I found the Guardian blog entry via Largehearted Boy, itself a side project of a sort. I find myself firmly on the side of side projects.

There’s No Thought Like Death For the Holidays

graceWe tend to spend time with extended family at holidays, at celebrations (weddings, big anniversaries, etc.) and at funerals. Most of us need to spend some time thinking about the last part of that. So I join blogs such as Universal Hub in posting this one slide.

That said, I wish a happy and death-free Thanksgiving to all my readers, regardless of whether they celebrate Thanksgiving. We have a six-hour drive tomorrow, but there will a feast at the end of it.