Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lost and Found:

The internet, and its associated tools like Google, are now the PTM--public technical means--for the obtention of intelligence.

There are presumably also significant National Technical Means that use the internet. It's like a whole new dimension for intelligence opened up during the nineties. Of course, ELINT predated the internet (or even MILNET, for that matter), but the internet's connectivity, in combination with the tracks users leave, has proved a goldmine for intelligence gathering.

The convergence of personal electronics will bring some interesting developments. Being able to combine telephone, GPS, personal directories, and wireless communications will mean that we will be able to query our PDA to find the whereabouts of someone, and also get a quick brief on an approaching acquaintance. Our PDAs will be able to pre-negotiate any necessary interactions. Just imagine: "Hey Frank, good to see you - it's been 43 months since I saw you last in Kuala Lumpur. Say, you owe me 45,000 yen, don't you? I know you did well on your last Apple stock sale..."

Yes, a bit creepy.

A few days ago I was able to use Google and a directory service to track down a person I had last seen in South America over twenty-five years ago. I was blown away when I got the message that they were in fact the person I was looking for, and it made me think about setting up a list of lost persons. Since one activity we all do (but don't confess to) is Google ourselves, I can only hope for some hits off this method.

If you're not on the list, I either know where you are, can't remember your name, or (horrors) don't want to hear from you.

Here goes (with last known locations):

From Bogotá, mostly from The English School, Bogotá Sports Club, or Camp Catay:
  • Justin and Louise Abel (UK)
  • Judith Bridger FOUND
  • Robert FOUND and Vivian Capurro (UK/Mexico)
  • Mariana Cerna (Colombia)
  • Matthew Coombs (UK)
  • Susan England (UK)
  • Josie Fernández (Costa Rica)
  • Alexandra Getz (Colombia) FOUND
  • Leslie & John-Paul Gouffray FOUND
  • Anja Huikeshoven (UK)
  • Amanda Kohring (USA)
  • Ricky Leizgold (USA)
  • Monica Mannheim (Germany)
  • Anna Marklund (Sweden)
  • Magda Miller (NZ)
  • John & Peter FOUND Orrock (UK)
  • Fiona Paterson (France)
  • Peter Tom Petersen (Norway)
  • Jamie Pigg (UK)
  • George & Patrick Raikes (Colombia)
  • Humberto Rodríguez (Colombia)
  • Julie Rushin (RSA)
  • Daniel Sarmiento (Colombia)
  • Monica Savdie (Colombia)
  • André Smith (Colombia)
  • Bob Stewart (UK)
  • William Swan (Ireland)
  • Janice Tester (Colombia)
  • Derek, David & Nina Tibble (Colombia)
  • Ray Youngblood (USA)
  • David Walker (UK)
  • Jamshid "Jammie" ??

From Toronto, mostly UCC:
  • Martin Abell (Canada)
  • François Beaubien (Canada)
  • Claude Boudriau (Canada)almost found
  • Andrew Briggs (Canada)
  • Gifford Cochran (CO, USA))almost found
  • Lionel Conacher (Canada)
  • Randy Dalton (Canada)
  • Kevin Daw (USA) FOUND, but lost the e-mail...
  • Helena Flygare (Costa Rica) FOUND
  • Jeff Gascho (Bahamas) FOUND
  • Pietro Guglielmietti (Italy))almost found
  • Lawrence Koppe (Canada)
  • Patrick Kwan (USA)
  • Boris Lebedinsky FOUND
  • Roger Leung (Hong Kong)
  • Stuart Lowe (Canada)
  • Andrew Posselt (CA, USA) FOUND
  • Qasra Sadri (Iran)
  • Matt Sime (Jamaica)
  • Greg Steers (USA)
  • Cannon Sum (Hong Kong)
  • Bob Wilson (Canada)
  • John-Paul Yuen (Hong Kong)

From Pasadena, mostly Caltech:
  • Steve Chin (CA, USA)
  • Jim Labrenz (CA, USA)) FOUND
  • Moose Mussenden (PR, USA)
  • Sean Moriarty (CA, USA)
  • Rich Premont (CA, USA)
  • Gerald Zeininger (CA, USA) FOUND
  • Mike Ammon (CA, USA)

From Boston, mostly MIT & Harvard's Lincolns Inn:
  • Fernando Chamberlain (El Salvador) FOUND
  • Greg & Chantale Chamitoff (TX, USA)
  • Dana Desonie (OR, USA)
  • Pietro Dova FOUND, sort of
  • Gerd Fritsch (Germany)
  • Eduardo Horowitz (Venezuela)
  • Darlene Ketten (MA, USA)
  • Harri & Sirkku Kytömaa (MA, USA)) FOUND
  • Alice & Dan Lawton (IL, USA)
  • Mike Machado FOUND
  • Linda Meinke (MA, USA)
  • Jaime & Monica Posada Castillo (MA, USA)

From Washington DC:
  • Victoria Churchville (DC, USA)
  • Chantale Damas (Brazil, Kenya) FOUND
  • Alison Dawn Jones (VA, USA)
  • John Rogers (DC, USA)
  • Anne Tenney (Germany)
  • Erica Wyman (VA, USA)

From all over the place:
  • Carmen Cadena (ID, USA)
  • Chris & Laureen Davis (MI, USA)
  • Karl & Nancy Decker (Igloo & Kayak) (VA, USA)
  • Guy de Teramond (Costa Rica)
  • Philip Enros (Canada)
  • Valeria and Mauro Fuentealba (Chile)
  • Wally Funk (TX, USA)
  • Lisa Marie Gonzales (CA, USA)
  • Rachel Graham (Belize)
  • Janet & Christer Jansson (Sweden)
  • Tatiana Leon (Costa Rica)
  • Aristides Lorlesse (Panama)
  • Ronnie Lovler (FL, USA)
  • Mohammed Masry (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
  • Jackie Mayi (DC, USA)
  • Natasha Netkach (Moscow, Russia/CA, USA)
  • José Daniel Pabón Caicedo (Colombia)
  • Igor Rudyaev (Moscow, Russia)
  • Lorena San Román (Costa Rica)
  • Jane Ellen Stevens (CA, USA) FOUND

How to get hold of me? Use your PTM! There are links on this page that will lead you to valid e-mail addresses for me, but I don't put them out there for all to see. You need to do some work too!

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 Friday, January 27, 2006

We have forgotten them:

There were several pieces on the news today about the Challenger tragedy, which occurred twenty years ago tomorrow.

I kept waiting for some link in the story to today's date, which is the anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire in 1967. But there was no mention of Ed White, Gus Grissom or Roger Chafee.

I guess we'll have to wait until next year, when "40 years ago" is more newsworthy than 21.

 Monday, January 23, 2006

4 words:

This is a draft of a foreword I am writing with a colleague...
Over the last two decades, governments around the world have acknowledged that changes in the environment affect human activities in ways that are increasingly important. Supplies of essentials--shelter, water and food--can be affected by decadal cycles in climate and disasters that are either more intense, more frequent, affecting more people, or often, all of the above. Governments are acknowledging that the environment is no longer a reliable invariant, resources are not inexhaustible, and we can no longer count on "business-as-usual."

Much financial support has been given to the scientific research community by governments to observe and investigate Earth processes, trends, abrupt events, and disasters. Governments are especially interested in what might be "tipping points," or bifurcations in chaotic systems like the climate. Fundamental scientific inquiry--discovery--will always remain one driver of such studies, however relevancy has become increasingly important. Governments need Science (and here Science is the larger enterprise of the natural and social sciences) to actively contribute towards solutions to the problems caused by the complex, non-linear interactions between the changing environment and our social structures.

Other communities also are becoming focused on this need for integration of Scientific research with the policy process. The international development community is concerned with sustainability of agriculture, water management and desertification issues, as well as urban planning--all topics in which global change is a factor, and for which Science should have significant input. In the non-governmental world, conservation efforts are becoming aware that ignoring climate change may make resource allocation decisions about particular locations and species moot.

National and international donors are also becoming focused on global change. The coming decade of global environmental change research will result in increasing pressure to ensure connections with the decision needs of Governments. Member states of the United Nations are striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, which are inextricably linked to closer integration of Scientific information with policy development.

For many scientists and research institutions, this is a new context. It is also a new context for many science funding agencies, which have not previously had to manage the interactions between different areas of science and policy that this approach implies. There are very real needs for scientific input into the policy and research management worlds. There are examples of past successes like the 1987 Montreal Ozone Protocol. However, in retrospect, despite the significant difficulties associated with the science underlying the negotiation of that protocol, the scientific community is well aware that the larger issue of global environmental change is much more complex than the ozone-related subset. Most of the simple Science problems have already been addressed.

The global environmental change science landscape is evolving rapidly. Earth systems science has done well in transitioning to team-based work, within Earth systems science, but it is just starting to tackle team-based work with social scientists, and with non-scientists like policy and media specialists. Other disciplines, like engineering and medicine, have worked in this interactive mode for much longer (centuries in some cases), and will certainly respond to this new challenge effectively. The global environmental change science community and its institutions must adapt to this new mode of collaboration if they are to contribute to a sustainable future.

Future climate-related crises may actually decrease the amount of funding available for global environmental change science. Three factors contribute to this possibility: first, extreme events such as the hurricane-related damages on the Gulf Coast in the United States cause enormous reorganization in government funding structures, and the disciplines able to respond on short (and therefore perceived as relevant) timescales will generally benefit: medical services, social services, reconstruction logistics, et cetera. The ability of Science to provide answers on timescales of hours, days or even weeks is limited--the immediate value of the information currently provided is extremely low. Second, these extreme events are usually geographically restricted compared to many global change issues. Paradoxically, regional and local crises can have greater impact on funding priorities than global ones, even if the local events are exacerbated by global change. A third factor contributing to the possibility that funding will decrease for global environmental change research is that this science is framed within fundamentally different time-scales from those governing political and public interest. Without a concerted effort by the Scientific community at consciousness-raising and education on global environmental change issues, phenomena that occur on decadal timescales (not to mention century, millennial, or beyond) will have little 'traction' in the political and popular world that determines funding.

If Science does not rise to the occasion, it will become irrelevant in the policy decision chain addressing sustainability, and possibly worse, lose ground in funding for basic science.

Ensuring Science's relevance will require increased internal coordination between the natural and social sciences and their governance structures, and ongoing dialogue with important external social actors: the policy sector, business and industry, and labour. These types of stakeholder interactions will require adaptive management, which has fundamental implications for all levels, including the ultimate government funding agencies. Project management (by scientists, by the grantee institutions, as well as by the overseeing granting agencies) will have to allow for flexibility in project objectives, and for changes in the basic metrics used for scientific research and productivity. Budgetary allowances will have to be made to accommodate the increased need for science communications, additional dissemination modes, and interactions specialists.

The historic reluctance of science to engage in this process is, of course, related to the perceived trade-off between Science's long-term credibility and the relatively short half-life of policy interests. A carefully tended dialogue with governments on what is currently "policy relevant," and what the related policy impact indicators are, must be maintained.

This volume explores the interactive frontier between science and policy, and looks at bridges between the two in the context of transformative research carried out in the Americas, primarily under the sponsorship of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research, an international treaty organisation. In spite of the difficulties in organizing new research networks, there are several successes in the included Chapters that demonstrate that the interactions described above between Science and policy can indeed change local and national government policies. Interestingly, one of the Institute's greater achievements has been the formation of a cadre of academic administrators in the region who are now capable of administering multi-institutional, multi-currency, and multi-disciplinary research projects, and who are now pursuing funding from regional development agencies.

The processes of science and policy-making almost always differ from our preconceived notion: rather than being linear processes that lay out a question, analyse it, and propose a solution based on that analysis, they are both complex non-linear iterative processes that deal with multiple, interlinked, and changing questions. Closer cooperation between two such processes cannot be expected to be simple. All actors must learn something about the peculiarities of the other's culture.

We look forward to that conversation.

 Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dave who?:

Some of you may be in my address book. Well, to be honest, my address books, since I have several of them.

If you are in my address book, then you are receiving really annoying requests for updates from a service called AccuCard. This helps me keep about 2,000 addresses straight - if you reply.

The trouble is, those address books are in several different operating systems, and on several different devices.

Here's what I worked out to keep it all synchronized. First, a schematic (click on it to get a larger version):

You use a web interface to reply to an e-mail from the AccuCard service.

I review your updates from my PC with a program called CardScan. CardScan automatically synchronizes those changes with the Contacts file in Outlook.

I then synchronize my BlackBerry with Outlook Contacts using Desktop Manager Intellisync.

The BlackBerry serves as an interface between the PC world and the Mac world. A poor solution, but the one I have at hand. Poor because the mapping between all the fields available in Outlook Contacts and the Mac Address Book is not ideal when constrained by the lesser number of fields on the BlackBerry. I fight home/work label switches constantly, and middle initials appear multiple times. Accents are also unpredictable. (See a later post about these problems)

The transfer to my Mac PowerBook is done via PocketMac for BlackBerry. From there, I propagate the address book via .Mac Sync to my other Macs at work and home, and into my iPod.

...just 'cause I have your info doesn't mean I willl write. You have to catch me in the mood, when I am not tired of running all these stupid programs.

 Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Skaro visitor:

When I posted on Dec. 25 about FAO Schwartz, I also mentioned Hamleys, the famous toy store on Regent's Street in London. Well, when I went to Hamleys' website, I spotted a radio controlled Dalek for sale. Childhood dreams of building a Dalek cascaded about me, and well...

It arrived yesterday:

The cats are in a panic. They do not like this evil thing.

I claim that my wife was spared the annoyance (and embarrasment) of a full size model. Oh, and the expense, too.

 Monday, January 16, 2006

Marvel, DC, Casterman...

Well, the reason for the long hiatus in posting at the end of last year was a ton of travel.

...oh, and this too. More to come.

 Friday, January 13, 2006

Struggles with Saturn:

Appropriately for Friday the 13th, I am finding problems with electronic calendars.

Say someone was born on February 29th (a leap year, of course), and you want to set an electronic reminder for their birthday. You would think a program could automatically figure out that on non-leap years, it should go off on February 28 or March 1, right?

Well, here Mac loses to, ...shudder, Windows.

Whereas Outlook 2003 handles this smoothly, Macintosh iCal can't do it (at this posting, version 2.0.3). The birthday, or any an annual event reminder, will only appear during leap years in iCal. I sent a comment off to Apple's iCal feedback service (which seems to have stopped updating their iCal version drop-down). We shall see.

I always wondered how government systems handled people who were born on leap year days: when are they old enough to drive? When can they vote? When do they receive old age pensions? I am sure there are a whole category of horror stories out there...

 Thursday, January 12, 2006

Keir Dullea, are you there?

Today is HAL-9000's birthday. You remember HAL, don't you? HAL-who-won't-open-the-pod-bay-door-HAL.

"I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Dave."

The last time I posted about HAL in 2003, Thus Spake Zarathustra started playing on iTunes radio. This time, a new program I had just installed popped up this window:

At first I thought it was an Easter Egg related to the date, but no. It's just a feature to let you know that you are being watched... Very creepy coincidences.

This shot was generated by a screen capture from Celestia, a most amazing program for touring the virtual Milky Way, with some extra data files from the Celestia Motherlode:

This image of one of the pods is from a Space Odyssey Icon set for Mac by Mischa McLachlan:

 Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Early mornin' rain...

Except of course, independence air did not use big ol' 707s (Apologies to Gord).

Well, still there on Monday, and today Tuesday.

My wife, ever the practical one, said quickly: "Metro probably has a replacement schedule, and it's cycle isn't over yet."

Well duh. Of course. They replace them all at once. So much for all that fancy schoolin' of mine.

 Monday, January 09, 2006

Foundation, Basis, Basement, whatever...:

It was bound to happen.

Since the National Science Foundation has been required to participate in the Grants.gov portal, our programs have been exposed to a whole new customer base. Usually, only the scientific research community pays any attention to our program announcements, funding opportunities, etc., but through Grants.gov you can search on all sorts of words to find opportinities for government funding.

We recently got an application requesting funding of a foundation for a building in Vermont. As in poured concrete.

...as long as it's scientifically poured, and then peer-reviewed, and finally published in the literature...

Hmm, methinks now, "al-Qaeda" stand for "foundation," so...

Twenty-two Year Old Quiz:

...Not for twenty-two year olds - it was twenty-two years ago that this was handed out at a 1983 Caltech psychology class (PSY 12, Breger), and I rescued it from a "basement box" destined for the trash.

Despite the spelling of "gauge" in the introductory paragraph, this test must be originally American--there are several items that are peculiar to this country. I was flummoxed by three of these because I did not grow up here. For non-Americans, I would give a +6 handicap. For non-native English speakers, I would give a +11 handicap.
This test does not measure your intelligence, your fluency with words, and certainly not your mathematical ability. It will, however, give you some gauge of your mental flexibility and creativity. In the three years since we ("we" is unknown) developed this test, we've found few people who could solve more than half of the 24 questions on the first try. Many, however, reported getting answers long after the test had been set aside--particularly at unexpected moments when their minds were relaxed, and some reported solving all the questions over a period of several days. Take this as your personal challenge.

INSTRUCTIONS: Each question below contains the initials of words that will make it correct. Find the missing words. For example, 26 = L. of the A. = Letters of the Alphabet. GOOD LUCK!!!

  1. 26 = L. of the A.
  2. 7 = W. of the A. W.
  3. 1,001 = A. N.
  4. 12 = S. of the Z.
  5. 54 = C. in a D. (with the J's)
  6. 9 = P. in the S. S.
  7. 88 = P. K.
  8. 13 = S. on the A. F.
  9. 32 = D. F. at which W. F.
  10. 18 = H. on a G. C.
  11. 90 = D. in a R. A.
  12. 200 = D. for P. G. in M.
  13. 8 = S. on a S. S.
  14. 3 = B. M. (S. H. T. R.)
  15. 4 = Q. in a G.
  16. 24 = H. in a D.
  17. 1 = W. on a U.
  18. 5 = D. in a Z. C.
  19. 57 = H. V.
  20. 11 = P. on a F. T.
  21. 1,000 = W. that a P. is W.
  22. 29 = D. in F. in a L. Y.
  23. 64 = S. on a C. B.
  24. 40 = D. and N. of the G. F.

There are no real answers for this, so whatever makes sense and fits is the answer.
Let me know how you do over the next few days and weeks, and which category you fit into. No hints! That's missing the point of this!

Some of these came to me months later, out of the blue. That is the point.
Sent from either my Newton2100 or my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

 Saturday, January 07, 2006

Advertising babble:

Marketing departments must think we are idiots.

It irks me to see things that are plainly there because they "sound good," and which don't stand up to a logical train of thought, produced in a few seconds. Viz.:

This is Glucerna, a drink for diabetics, but it could just as well be any drink, ice cream, or similar product with vanilla.

Why on Earth include the term 'homemade'? Have you ever heard of vanilla that was homemade? This century? Who bothers to go through all the trouble of mashing the seed pods in alcohol any more? Not even the most devoted scratch cook I know makes "homemade vanilla." To top it all off, in small type, right under that, it says "Artificially Flavored."

All because 'homemade' has such happy overtones, and not for any reason that has anything to do with the process of manufacturing itself.

So, homemade artificial vanilla: yum.


 Friday, January 06, 2006

Farewell, still:

Well, Metro is apparently unaware of the demise of independence air... (at least as of 7 AM this morning):

We'll see if this lasts into next week...

Lots of coverage of the last flights from Dulles last night on TV, and I heard tonight that JetBlue is bidding for their Boston traffic with $25 fares. Tempting, but then there are the Boston hotel rates...

 Thursday, January 05, 2006


Overstepping, couldn't get in step, broke a leg.

I ride on the same position in the subway car each day. And each day I saw this poster for independence air in front of the open door at one of the stops:

My question was, would the poster be here on Friday, the day after independence went out of business? How effective is the Metro's advertising revenue section? Would they strip the poster as soon as flyi.com could no longer pay for the space?

More tomorrow.

 Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Recently, I made fun of a friend for using his BlackBerry during a party. The devices are devilishly addictive, and the term "CrackBerry," used by yet someone else, struck me as particularly apt.

I realized however, that I was actually in denial regarding my own addiction when I walked straight into a glass door in the midst of using my blasted device. I have also realized that there are other effects - I had the experience of being able to recall someone's e-mail address, but not their real name, when I knew them quite well.

The social norms that guide use of these devices have changed. Seeing someone yammering away to themselves on the street is no longer a sign of dementia. Apparently, it is acceptable to wear earphones (or even headphones) when out with one's friends or parents. I recently saw a table at a restaurant where all four people were talking on their cell-phones. One of them spoke on the cell for the whole meal.

I have posted before about electronic disruption of family life, and how television was the end of most conversations over the neighbourly fence. These portable devices are yet another layer insulating us from our fellow citizens, and especially from the natural world. There are many SciFi stories about an eventual rejection of these devices, but I am sceptical - those attitudes will always be at the fringes of society, joining the Luddites and the Unabomber in their historical irrelevance. What is important is how our social contract is affected -or not- by these devices, and not how they help or hinder our lives.

(While typing out this message, I got on the wrong subway line. Sigh.)

...Now, if I could only get some help for my aching thumbs...
Sent from either my Newton2100 or my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld