Our pathetic foreign policy

Our pathetic foreign policy

Juan Cole reminds us of some of the things the nations we cut out of the Iraq pie have done for us:

It transpires that the Pentagon order denying Iraq reconstruction contracts to France, Germany, Russia and Canada was issued by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. It created enormous anger in the US allies of NATO. They feel that they have been putting themselves out there for the US, and are now being screwed over. Germany has been spending extra money and military resources on guarding the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa from al-Qaeda incursions. Germany, France and Canada all have troops in Afghanistan risking their lives for the US (al-Qaeda has not blown up any tall buildings in Toronto). Even outside NATO, Russia acquiesced in letting the US move into Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, traditional Russian/Soviet spheres of influence, for its war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

We’re also asking them to forgive Iraq’s foreign debt. So we’ve gotten favors from them in the past, and we’re asking them for big favors down the road, but we’re still acting like petulant children.

Fixing our voting system

Fixing our voting system

Apparently, dropping out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination gives you lots of time to write useful legislation. Bob Graham has introduced a bill that would make our election results more legitimate, requiring disclosure of technology used, a real audit trail, and mandatory recounts in randomly selected jurisdictions to verify that things are working. Now if we could get some of the other Senators that are running way behind to quit and work on writing laws, who knows what we could accomplish? (Link via Medley.)

GPRS

GPRS

For the past year or so, I’ve been reading about the current generation of phones with built in cameras, support for wireless Internet access, and all sorts of other nifty goodies. When it came time to upgrade my wireless service, I went to Cingular and picked up a Sony Ericsson T616 phone. I also signed up for GPRS service so I could check my email using my phone or whatever. Unfortunately, since I signed up, I’ve had nothing but problems. I’m dying to try out the GPRS service, but it took them nearly a week to get my account configured properly, and now that it’s set up, it looks like the GPRS coverage doesn’t include my home. So, while I wanted to write up a cool review of what it’s like to be on the wireless Internet, instead I’m whining about bad service. That’s always how it seems to go. One thing I can say is that the phone itself is very nice, I can only imagine how nice it would be if I could get news, sports, and weather regardless of where I happened to be.

Updating your web page after you die

Updating your web page after you die

Don Box wrote a post mentioning quotes from Richard Stevens’ home page that don’t make sense given that he passed away in 1999. It touches on an off and on obsession of mine, which is, what would happen to my Web site if I die. I’d hate to be killed in a car accident one day and just have this Web site stop being updated until pair.com turns it off for lack of payment. I’ve considered everything from giving a close friend the passwords to update the site if something bad happened to writing a piece of software that will scan the obituaries to make sure that I’m not in them, and will automatically update the site with a link to my obit were it to appear. I know it’s weird and morbid, but it is something I think about.

Update: Greg Knauss emailed with the perfect simple solution — the weblog dead man’s switch. Basically you just set up a cron job that checks to see whether you haven’t posted for a certain amount of time (longer than you would ever go between posts, obviously). If the specified time limit has passed, it emails all the information necessary to update your Web page to a trusted third party who can verify your status and post an update on your whereabouts. Simple and effective! The only drawback is the discomfort of asking a friend to update your Web site if you die.

Worse is better, revisited

Worse is better, revisited

A common pattern involves someone making a statement that’s fairly profound, and then a flood of people adopting it, misinterpreting it (usually through oversimplification), and then misusing it to support arguments that the original person who made the statement never would have agreed with in the first place. That pattern fits for the old “worse is better” essay that is much loved among software developers. Jim Waldo has written a piece for Artima that revisits worse is better and clears up some misconceptions. Here’s the crux of his argument:

My problem with the slogan is that it has become a catch phrase for those who either haven’t read the original article, or have read it and either have forgotten what it really talked about or never understood it in the first place. As a catch phrase, it is often used to justify shoddy design, or following the crowd rather than doing what is right, or as short-hand for the real claim that our customers are too stupid to either appreciate or deserve high quality products. Why spend the time doing things right, this line of reasoning goes, when we all know that worse is better. You are far better off giving the customer something that you know is less than what you could produce, because they (those simple customers) will think that it is better.