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February 29, 2004

Pop Quiz

Who said this?

I particularly condemn the way our political leaders supplied the manpower for [the Vietnam War]. The policies -- determining who would be drafted and who would be deferred, who would serve and who would escape, who would die and who would live -- were an antidemocratic disgrace. I can never forgive a leadership that said, in effect: These young men -- poorer, less educated, less privileged -- are expendable (someone described them as "economic cannon fodder"), but the rest are too good to risk. I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well placed... managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country.
Look here tomorrow for the answer.

February 27, 2004

It's Official

According to Forbes, JK Rowling is a billionaire, the 552nd richest person in the world. From rags to riches in 11 years:

1993

By the time her daughter Jessica is born Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is one-quarter finished. Rowling leaves her husband and moves to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be near her sister. Tight finances force her to go on public assistance, she receives 69 pounds per week (around $100 at that time) and lives in a grimy, mouse-infested apartment.

Orson Scott Card's "Medieval Views"

My friend and former colleague, the wonderfully incisive Juan Benito, wrote to me recently about an essay written by the science fiction author Orson Scott Card (asterisks mine):

I want to go on the record as saying that I've always thought Ender's Game was a great short sci-fi story for children, stretched to novel length, and that everything else Card has written is crap.

I also want to go on record as saying that when I met Card, although it was not politic to say so at the time, I thought him to be an insufferably arrogant f**ktard. This confirms my intuition:

http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2004-02-15-1.html

I wish I had the time for a point-by-point rebuttal of his seriously medieval views, so I had to settle for the pithy summation "f**ktard," which is my current fave epithet of denigration. It should be noted that a person's political views should not necessarily impugn their artistic credibility, but in this happy case Card's views are as stunted as his fiction.

Card's "medieval views" -- medieval being a good one-word summary -- are on same-sex marriage. From his essay:

Humpty Dumpty Logic

[...]

The Massachusetts Supreme Court has not yet declared that "day" shall now be construed to include that which was formerly known as "night," but it might as well.

By declaring that homosexual couples are denied their constitutional rights by being forbidden to "marry," it is treading on the same ground.

Do you want to know whose constitutional rights are being violated? Everybody's. Because no constitution in the United States has ever granted the courts the right to make vast, sweeping changes in the law to reform society...

Pardon me? Did Card actually say that? So is he saying that the Supreme Court didn't have the right to issue its decision in Brown v. Board of Education? Going back further, is Card saying that Marbury v. Madison was an illegal and invalid decision -- that the Supreme Court doesn't have the right to interpret the Constitution and strike down laws it sees as un-Constitutional? If the answer is "yes," then he's out of step with 198 years of jurisprudence. If the answer is "no," then he himself disclaims one of the required bases for his own argument.

Regardless of their opinion of homosexual "marriage," every American who believes in democracy should be outraged that any court should take it upon itself to dictate such a social innovation without recourse to democratic process.

And we all know the course this thing will follow. Anyone who opposes this edict will be branded a bigot; any schoolchild who questions the legitimacy of homosexual marriage will be expelled for "hate speech." The fanatical Left will insist that anyone who upholds the fundamental meaning that marriage has always had, everywhere, until this generation, is a "homophobe" and therefore mentally ill...

This is too easy. Just pretend it's 1955 and substitute "interracial" for "homosexual" and "racist" for "homophobe."

In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man.

Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law. And, in fact, many homosexual men have done precisely that, without any legal prejudice at all.

Ditto with lesbian women. Many have married men and borne children. And while a fair number of such marriages in recent years have ended in divorce, there are many that have not.

So it is a flat lie to say that homosexuals are deprived of any civil right pertaining to marriage. To get those civil rights, all homosexuals have to do is find someone of the opposite sex willing to join them in marriage...

This is so nonsensical, it's amusing. Card to gays: "You can marry! Just not each other! What's the problem?" Does he actually believe this?

[N]ot only are two sexes required in order to conceive children, children also learn their sex-role expectations from the parents in their own family. This is precisely what large segments of the Left would like to see break down. And if it is found to have unpleasant results, they will, as always, insist that the cure is to break down the family even further...
See "herring, red." No one of whom I am aware -- no one -- wants to see "sex-role expectations... break down." Speaking honestly, I hope my children grow up to be heterosexual. For one thing, I'm selfish, and I'd like to have grandchildren to dote upon. For another, it's still difficult to be gay in this country, with Card's troglodytic comments Exhibit #1. But should any of my children grow up to be gay, I will still love them just the same, care for them just the same, and want for them exactly the same rights as their straight peers -- including the right to marry the person they love.
Of course, in our current society we are two generations into the systematic destruction of the institution of marriage. In my childhood, it was rare to know someone whose parents were divorced; now, it seems almost as rare to find someone whose parents have never been divorced.

And a growing number of children grow up in partial families not because of divorce, but because there never was a marriage at all.

The damage caused to children by divorce and illegitimate birth is obvious and devastating...

This is like the old joke about Microsoft technical support: it's technically correct but has nothing to do with the original question. Card is right that the institution of marriage has broken down over the last few generations. Does he blame gays for this? No, that would be too intellectually dishonest, even for this essay. Instead, he seems to be drawing a line in the sand: "It's too late to turn back the clock on the causes of the breakdown of the nuclear family, but by God, we can stop gays from marrying." And that will accomplish what again?

[S]ociety has a vital stake in child-rearing; and children have a vital stake in society.

Monogamous marriage is by far the most effective foundation for a civilization. It provides most males an opportunity to mate (polygamous systems always result in surplus males that have no reproductive stake in society); it provides most females an opportunity to have a mate who is exclusively devoted to her. Those who are successful in mating are the ones who will have the strongest loyalty to the social order; so the system that provides reproductive success to the largest number is the system that will be most likely to keep a civilization alive.

Ah, here we're getting to it. Monogamous heterosexual marriage, "the system that provides reproductive success to the largest number," is "the ystem that will be most likely to keep a civilization alive." So marriage is about procreation. Okay. I can see that.

Wait a minute, though. We let people who can't have children marry. If the core of Card's argument is that same-sex marriage detracts from procreation, then shouldn't we outlaw any marriage in which the participants can't procreate? If, say, a sterile man marries a fertile woman, that man has just removed a potentially child-bearing woman from the pool of women available to be fertilized. Clearly this detracts from procreation. If a still-fertile man marries a post-menopausal woman, that woman has just removed a potentially child-creating man from the pool of men available to fertilize women.

Calling a homosexual contract "marriage" does not make it reproductively relevant and will not make it contribute in any meaningful way to the propagation of civilization.
Card can't be more clear than he is here. Marriages that are not "reproductively relevant," that "don't contribute in any meaningful way to the propagation of civilization," aren't marriages at all. Tell that to every couple who can't have children, Card. Go ahead. If you can't, then your intellectual dishonesty is staggering. If you can, then your heartlessness is beyond measure.
In fact, it will do harm. Nowhere near as much harm as we have already done through divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing. But it's another nail in the coffin. Maybe the last nail, precisely because it is the most obvious and outrageous attack on what is left of marriage in America...
This is actually surprisingly honest. Card says that same-sex marriage won't do as much "harm" as divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing. So if he wants to outlaw same-sex marriage, then clearly he must also want to prohibit divorce and criminalize out-of-wedlock births. Right? Right?

Card goes on to dismiss the genetic basis of homosexuality. I'll leave it to others to dissect that particular argument.

If parents stop transmitting the culture of the American elite to their children, and actively resist letting the schools and media do it in their place, then that culture will disappear.

If America becomes a place where the laws of the nation declare that marriage no longer exists -- which is what the Massachusetts decision actually does -- then our allegiance to America will become zero. We will transfer our allegiance to a society that does protect marriage.

We will teach our children to have no loyalty to the culture of the American elite, and will instead teach them to be loyal to a competing culture that upholds the family. Whether we home school our kids or not, we will withdraw them at an early age from any sense of belonging to contemporary American culture...

The barbarians think that if they grab hold of the trunk of the tree, they've caught the birds in the branches. But the birds can fly to another tree.

And I don't mean that civilized Americans will move. I mean that they'll simply stop regarding the authority of the government as having any legitimacy...

If Card and his like-minded friends go down this path, they'll find themselves in the same place as people who think the government has no right to levy income taxes, or no right to tell them they can't own and use any weapon they want, no matter how destructive: in jail.

It is the most morally conservative portion of society that is most successful in raising children who believe in loyalty and oath-keeping and self-control and self-sacrifice.

And we're tired of being subject to barbarian rules and laws that fight against our civilized values. We're not interested in risking our children's lives to defend a nation that does not defend us.

Who do you think is volunteering for the military to defend America against our enemies? Those who believe in the teachings of politically correct college professors? Or those who believe in the traditional values that the politically correct elite has been so successful in destroying?

This is a great question. Let's see:

  • President George W. Bush: Served in the Texas Air National Guard.
  • Vice-President Richard Cheney: No military service.
  • Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert: No military service.
  • House Majority Leader Tom DeLay: No military service.
  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: No military service.
What about those "politically correct elite"?
  • Former Vice-President and 2000 Democratic Presidential nominee Al Gore: Volunteered and served in Vietnam.
  • Senator and probable 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry: Volunteered and served in Vietnam. Received the Silver Star and Bronze Star for bravery. Received three Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat.
Okay, I'll bite: who do I "think is volunteering for the military to defend America against our enemies?" I'd say it's the "politically correct elite."

By the way, since by Card's standards, I'm "politically correct" (though not "elite"), I suppose I should point out that I served in the US Army from 1980-84. I was fortunate enough not to see combat. As for Card, since by his own standards, he is one of those who "believe in traditional values," as far as I can tell, he never served in the military.

My friend Juan is right. Card's views are "medieval." But that would be okay if they were logically consistent and intellectually honest. They're neither.

[Disclaimer: I, too, once met Card, in 1997, when I was a principal at a game development firm and I went to meet him to discuss the possibility of collaborating on a game based on one of his books.]

Questions? Answers.

Yes, I do cover subjects other than the failures of President Bush and my belief in the right of same-sex couples to wed. It's just that these have been on my mind of late.

No, I'm not a registered Democrat. I'm registered as an Independent. I think of myself as a middle-of-the-road pragmatist, pushed leftward over the last couple of years by the right wing agenda of the current US administration.

No, I'm not entirely happy with the Democratic contenders for the presidency. But I will happily vote for either Kerry or Edwards rather than suffer through another four years of President Bush.

Yes, I'm going to write again about same-sex marriage. Soon, in fact.

February 26, 2004

Well Done

The Economist's cover story this week is on same-sex marriage.

2004-02-26-01.jpg

The accompanying editorial, excerpted here, does a wonderful job of laying out the slipshod thinking and fundamental unfairness of those opposed to same-sex marriages:

The case for allowing gays to marry begins with equality, pure and simple. Why should one set of loving, consenting adults be denied a right that other such adults have and which, if exercised, will do no damage to anyone else? Not just because they have always lacked that right in the past, for sure: until the late 1960s, in some American states it was illegal for black adults to marry white ones, but precious few would defend that ban now on grounds that it was "traditional". Another argument is rooted in semantics: marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and so cannot be extended to same-sex couples. They may live together and love one another, but cannot, on this argument, be "married". But that is to dodge the real question -- why not? -- and to obscure the real nature of marriage, which is a binding commitment, at once legal, social and personal, between two people to take on special obligations to one another. If homosexuals want to make such marital commitments to one another, and to society, then why should they be prevented from doing so while other adults, equivalent in all other ways, are allowed to do so?

The reason, according to Mr Bush, is that this would damage an important social institution. Yet the reverse is surely true. Gays want to marry precisely because they see marriage as important: they want the symbolism that marriage brings, the extra sense of obligation and commitment, as well as the social recognition. Allowing gays to marry would, if anything, add to social stability, for it would increase the number of couples that take on real, rather than simply passing, commitments. The weakening of marriage has been heterosexuals' doing, not gays', for it is their infidelity, divorce rates and single-parent families that have wrought social damage.

But marriage is about children, say some: to which the answer is, it often is, but not always, and permitting gay marriage would not alter that. Or it is a religious act, say others: to which the answer is, yes, you may believe that, but if so it is no business of the state to impose a religious choice. Indeed, in America the constitution expressly bans the involvement of the state in religious matters, so it would be especially outrageous if the constitution were now to be used for religious ends.

February 25, 2004

"Our Long National Nightmare"

How unbelievably prescient is this article from The Onion, dated 18 January 2001?

Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'

WASHINGTON, DC -- Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us." ...

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

"You better believe we're going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration," said Bush... "Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?" ...

The speech was met with overwhelming approval from Republican leaders.

"Finally, the horrific misrule of the Democrats has been brought to a close," House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (R-IL) told reporters. "Under Bush, we can all look forward to military aggression, deregulation of dangerous, greedy industries, and the defunding of vital domestic social-service programs upon which millions depend. Mercifully, we can now say goodbye to the awful nightmare that was Clinton's America."

"For years, I tirelessly preached the message that Clinton must be stopped," conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said. "And yet, in 1996, the American public failed to heed my urgent warnings, re-electing Clinton despite the fact that the nation was prosperous and at peace under his regime. But now, thank God, that's all done with. Once again, we will enjoy mounting debt, jingoism, nuclear paranoia, mass deficit, and a massive military build-up." ...

Bush concluded his speech on a note of healing and redemption.

"We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two," Bush said. "Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

"The insanity is over," Bush said. "After a long, dark night of peace and stability, the sun is finally rising again over America. We look forward to a bright new dawn not seen since the glory days of my dad."

February 24, 2004

Whew!

I was worried that the US had some real problems on its hands: the loss of more jobs during any presidency since Herbert Hoover; American soldiers dying in Iraq; the lawlessness of Afghanistan; ongoing scandals of corporate malfeasance; soured relations with much of the rest of the world; record budget deficits...

But now that the President -- with, it must be said, many Members of Congress from both parties solidly behind him -- has decided to push for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, I think I can rest much easier. Clearly those other issues must be resolved, or the President and Congress wouldn't be spending time on such an issue. Right?

Whew! I feel much better now.

The Rosetta Mission

The New York Times has a good article today on the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission, which sounds like the most complex robotic space mission ever attempted:

The 8,000-pound robotic spacecraft is to be launched on Thursday by the European Space Agency from Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America, by Europe's most powerful rocket, the Ariane 5.

Two hours after the spacecraft enters Earth orbit, an upper stage will send the Rosetta off on a roundabout decade-long journey through the solar system on a mission to find and chase Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The Rosetta will have to travel hundreds of millions of miles on a path that requires four planetary flybys to build momentum and eventually sling it to a point 420 million miles from the Sun for a rendezvous with the small incoming comet, around May 2014.

By August 2014, the spacecraft is to go into an orbit 15 miles from the nucleus of the two-and-a-half-mile-wide comet. Three months later -- after surveying the chunk of ice, dust and other debris for suitable sites -- the Rosetta will move within a couple of miles of the surface and release a 270-pound craft, Philae, that will try to make the first landing on a comet.

Because the comet is so small and its gravity extremely weak, the lander has to drift down and touch the surface at a speed of no more than three feet a second or it could bounce away, researchers said. To hold it down, Philae's three legs have special shock absorbers to cushion its touch. Each is fitted with ice pitons that quickly bore into the surface. The lander will immediately fire a harpoon into the ground to anchor it...

Scientists will use a suite of 21 instruments, some never flown on a deep-space mission. The instruments, 11 on the orbiter and 10 on the lander, will seek to measure the comet's composition, age, temperatures, interaction with solar radiation and other characteristics as it approaches the Sun.

The article mentions the expected $1.25 billion cost of Rosetta. According to New Scientist, a manned mission to Mars is expected to cost $40-80 billion. I, for one, would rather have 32-64 Rosetta-class missions rather than one mission to Mars.

Mark your calendars for May 2014, when Rosetta will first arrive at the comet. (The lander won't be released for another six months.)

Elmore Leonard's Rules for Writers

Via boing boing, Elmore Leonard's 10 rules for writers, condensed here:

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than ''said'' to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ''said'' . . .
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
  6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.''
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

February 23, 2004

Anonymous Flowers

From Wired News, a round-up of news on grassroots efforts to send flowers to gay and lesbian couples wedding in San Francisco:

As just about everyone knows by now, same-sex couples have been streaming into San Francisco by the hundreds from all across the United States to get married. To talk to anyone who's been there is to hear stories of unprecedented joy, astonishment and wonder at being at the center of a movement that could change the politics of sexual orientation forever.

And now, thanks to the Internet, there's also been beauty, in the form of hundreds of bouquets of flowers that have been delivered to couples waiting in line for their marriage licenses. And these flowers have been ordered and paid for by total strangers, people from all over the world wanting to share in the good feeling happening in San Francisco and wanting to show that they believe marriage is a civil right that should be available to any two people, not just to a man and a woman.

Would someone explain to me again the justification for a Constitutional amendment that would preemptively take away the right of same-sex couples to wed? An amendment that would for the first time remove rights from a class of citizens, rather than granting them rights?

These are adults choosing whom they wish to love, and to whom they wish to commit their lives. It's true that a majority of Americans are against gay marraige. As John Stuart Mill wrote, though:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

February 20, 2004

Vancouver Highlights

Via Flickr, a handy resource from Caterina Fake: a list of cool things to do in Vancouver -- dining, drinking, sightseeing, and shopping. This is on my mind because I'm headed out there next month for meetings with Stewart, Caterina, and the rest of the Ludicorp team.

To Caterina's list, I'd add:

  • When I worked in Vancouver, one of my colleagues was a former executive with a major record label's Canadian operation. He confirmed what I suspected: a&b sound is probably the cheapest place to buy legitimate CDs in North America, if not the Western world as a whole. It's a long story involving cutthroat competition and loss leaders. All you need to know is that the deals are fantastic (though perhaps a bit less so now with the plunging US dollar).

  • The Boathouse restaurant on Denman has an outdoor upper deck. In the summer, sitting there with your drink and your fish and chips, looking out over English Bay, the only possible conclusion one can draw is that life is, in fact, good.

  • I have many fond memories of dining at Bridges on Granville Island. It's good anytime, but on a sunny day, sitting outside, False Creek laid out before you, with the Burrard Street bridge off to one side... it's hard to beat.

  • My favorite gallery in Vancouver is the Coastal Peoples Gallery in Yaletown. It's First Nations (the Canadian equivalent of "Native American") art and jewelry, all from the Pacific Northwest, all very high-end -- no tourist junk.

  • Cupcakes on Denman. They bake cupcakes and only cupcakes. They're rather good at it.

  • I was taught a rule of thumb when I was in Vancouver: if it's raining and it's less than 7 degrees Celsius downtown, it's snowing up on the ski areas overlooking the city -- from west to east, Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour. Of the three, pretty much everyone I knew stuck to Cypress. All three have night skiing -- it was a real treat to leave work around 5:30 PM, be on the slopes by 6:00 or so, and ski until 10:00.

  • Ecco il Pane. Cherry chocolate bread. Go. Now. Eat.

  • My Canadian friends are probably going to laugh at me for this, but I miss London Drugs. There's nothing quite like it in the US -- it's like a modern US drugstore, but about twice as large, with reasonable prices, and with decent computer, audio/video, and photo sections.

  • If you like REI in the US, you should make a trip to Mountain Equipment Co-Op. No outdoor store anywhere could hope to match REI's flagship store in Seattle, but MEC is cool in its own right and worth a trip.

  • I haven't run for nearly a year now due to a knee problem, but when I did run, I bought all my gear at the Running Room -- my favorite chain of running stores anywhere. Their house branded line of running and workout clothing is outstanding -- I've abused my microfiber shirts and pants mercilessly for years now and yet they're still in great shape.

  • I've yet to be tattooed, but if and when I get a tattoo, no matter where I live, I'll get it done at Sacred Heart. Its reputation stretches far and wide.

  • No Soup Nazis at Soup Etc. -- just friendly people and really good soup. Bengal Lentil and Lobster Chowder are my favorites, but honestly, it's hard to go wrong. Great on a cold and rainy day (which Vancouver has from time to time).

  • There are two popular dessert chains in Vancouver. Death by Chocolate is more ubiquitous, but to my mind, True Confections is the superior choice. It's all good, but if it's in season, the strawberry shortcake is to die for.

  • The best cheese I've ever had is the maple smoked cheddar from Urban Fare, which also happens to be an extremely hip supermarket with lots of other great stuff to eat.

  • Whistler is only an hour and a half from Vancouver, up the Sea-to-Sky Highway. It's the largest ski resort in North America, and (if memory serves) the third-largest in the world. The village is all newly constructed to look like a pedestrian-friendly town, and though it's artificial, and though it's probably bourgeois to say this, it works for me. Whistler is great fun any time of the year, not just during the winter. If you're in Vancouver over a summer weekend, a day trip to Whistler for a stroll through the village, a meal, some shopping, and a gondola ride up to the Roundhouse would make for a perfect day.

  • If you're driving to Vancouver from Seattle, White Rock is just across the border on the Canadian side. It's a small beachside town with a long boardwalk and a stream of water-facing restaurants and shops. It's not spectacular, but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for it -- I've spent many a weekend afternoon there, browsing through stores, walking along the water, and settling down for a nice meal.

February 19, 2004

Comment Spam

I'm in the midst of my first really serious comment spam attack -- not one or two comments from the same IP address, easily deleted and blocked, but 34 comments with roughly the same text, all from varying IP addresses, all within the last 11 hours. This is not fun.

The URL leads to a page with a fax number in New Jersey as the only contact point. However, the URL resolves to an owner in Russia. What a surprise.

I'm currently trying to install the MT-Blacklist plug-in to stop this, but have run into technical difficulties. I hope I can resolve them soon -- deleting three comments per hour doesn't sound like a good use of my time, but I don't want to disable comments unless I absolutely must.

February 18, 2004

The Berlin Wall of Gay Rights?

My friend and colleague David Smith wonders (via e-mail):

Is San Francisco the Berlin Wall of Gay Rights?

The genie may be out of the bottle. Can the far right put it back in?

I like this analogy -- that the destruction of the wall represents a blow for freedom.

I think that one message this sends is that gay marriage is not the result of "judicial activism" (which seems, of late, to be conservatives' term for any court decision they don't like). Gay marriage is about human beings who have formed long-term, loving relationships, and who wish those relationships to be sanctioned in the same way that marriage sanctions heterosexual relationships.

Another message this sends is that cities and states have varying standards when it comes to such matters. Were this taking place in Alabama, I suspect we'd be seeing near-riots. In San Francisco, it's being celebrated. Conservatives like to talk about "community standards" -- except when community standards are more liberal than average rather than more conservative. Then they believe that the federal government needs to step in and strip away the rights of communities to set such standards. The hypocrisy of this attitude is despicable.

If I still lived in the Bay Area, I would take a trip downtown to mingle with the people waiting in line for their marriage licenses. To see all those loving couples -- all having been denied a basic right for so long, and all about to receive it at last -- would, to me, be touching.

Read This Now

Via Joshua Micah Marshall, a stunning exchange between White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and the White House press corps, led by Helen Thomas.

February 17, 2004

Defending the Home Front

With all the furor about President Bush's Air National Guard service, I just want to say that I, for one, am glad that our future President was on the job in Texas in the early 1970s, defending the US against potential attack by the Mexican Air Force.

Wait a second. Does Mexico have an air force? I honestly don't know. I'm off to look it up.

Yes, they do. They fly one type of fighter, the F-5E / F-5F Tiger II. According to this site, as of 2000, they had 8 F-5Es and 2 F-5Fs, all at a single base in Santa Lucia. Other than that, the Mexican Air Force is "predominantly a transport force with a large presidential and VIP fleet." Okay, so now I know.

Anyway, President Bush, thanks for your valiant service keeping the home front safe during the Vietnam War.

February 16, 2004

Safire on Media Consolidation

In today's New York Times, William Safire makes a plaintive cry to stop the consolidation of mass media:

If one huge corporation controlled both the production and the dissemination of most of our news and entertainment, couldn't it rule the world?

Can't happen here, you say; America is the land of competition that generates new technology to ensure a diversity of voices. But consider how a supine Congress and a feckless majority of the Federal Communications Commission have been failing to protect our access to a variety of news, views and entertainment.

The media giant known as Viacom-CBS-MTV just showed us how it controls both content and communication of the sexiest Super Bowl. The five other big sisters that now bestride the world are (1) Murdoch-FoxTV-HarperCollins-WeeklyStandard-NewYorkPost-LondonTimes-DirecTV; (2) G.E.-NBC-Universal-Vivendi; (3) Time-Warner-CNN-AOL; (4) Disney-ABC-ESPN; and (5) the biggest cable company, Comcast...

Comcast has just bid to take over Disney... If the $50 billion deal is successful, the six giants would shrink to five, with Disney-Comcast becoming the biggest.

Would Rupert Murdoch stand for being merely No. 2? Not on your life. He would take over a competitor, perhaps the Time-Warner-CNN-AOL combine, making him biggest again. Meanwhile, cash-rich Microsoft -- which already owns 7 percent of Comcast and is a partner of G.E.'s MSNBC -- would swallow both Disney-ABC and G.E.-NBC. Then there would be three, on the way to one.

You say the U.S. government would never allow that? The Horatius lollygagging at the bridge is the F.C.C.'s Michael Powell, who never met a merger he didn't like. Cowering next to him is General Roundheels at the Bush Justice Department's Pro-Trust Division, which last year waved through Murdoch's takeover of DirecTV...

But what of the Senate, guardian of free speech? There was Powell last week before Chairman John McCain's Commerce Committee, currying favor with cultural conservatives by pretending to be outraged over Janet Jackson's "costume reveal." The F.C.C. chairman, looking stern, pledged "ruthless and rigorous scrutiny" of any Comcast bid to merge Disney-ABC-ESPN into a huge DisCast. Media giants -- always willing to agree to cosmetic "restrictions" on their way to amalgamation -- chuckled at the notion of a "ruthless Mike." ...

[T]he message in this latest potential merger is not about a clash of media megalomaniacs, nor about a conspiracy driven by "special interests." The issue is this: As technology changes, how do we better protect the competition that keeps us free and different?

You don't have to be a populist to want to stop this rush by ever-fewer entities to dominate both the content and the conduit of what we see and hear and write and say.

While politicians and pundits are falling over themselves to express outrage at Janet Jackson's brief nudity -- which occurred, by the way, during the midst of a halftime show that featured those paragons of virtue Nelly and P. Diddy, and which took place during a game in which we had commercials featuring horse flatulence, erectile dysfunction, and crotch-biting dogs -- this is the real story, the consolidation of American media.

I tend to disbelieve in conspiracies, but it's almost enough to make me wonder: could the Jackson-Timberlake scandal have been bread and circuses for the masses, distracting everyone from the monopolization of media?

February 15, 2004

Dawkins' and Kelly's Laws

Better late than never, I got around to reading The Edge's question for the year, "What's your law?" Of all the submissions, two stood out for me. First, Richard Dawkins:

Dawkins's Law of Divine Invulnerability

God cannot lose.

          Lemma 1

          When comprehension expands, gods contract -- but then redefine themselves to restore the status quo.

          Lemma 2

          When things go right, God will be thanked. When things go wrong, he will be thanked that they are not worse.

          Lemma 3

          Belief in the afterlife can only be proved right, never wrong.

          Lemma 4

          The fury with which untenable beliefs are defended is inversely proportional to their defensibility.

And Kevin Kelly:

Kellys' [sic] First Law

Power, understanding, control. Pick any two.

This is reminiscent of an engineering saying that, over the years, I've found to be consistently true: "Good, soon, cheap: pick any two."

February 14, 2004

Patrick Stewart Anecdote

Having written yesterday's blog entry, I'm reminded of a conversation from around 1994.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was, I believe, just finishing its television run, and Patrick Stewart's stock was high. Personally, I felt that the show had been a great success, and that having such a talented actor as its core had been the key.

Two colleagues of mine and I were in the UK for business meetings. While there, we were invited to dinner at home of acquaintances (who shall remain nameless) of one of my colleagues. The dinner was good and the conversation was absolutely delightful. While talking, it came out that one of our hosts had been a fellow actor of Stewart's in the Royal Shakespeare Company, and so knew him reasonably well. I couldn't resist asking:

Me: In real life, is Patrick Stewart like the character he plays on Star Trek?

Host: I don't know. I'm embarrassed to say I've never watched the show. What is his character like?

Me: Highly intelligent, a strong sense of ethics, quite stoic.

Host: I'd say he's been horribly miscast.

I still laugh over that one. I've never met Stewart, so I have no way to judge my host's opinion... but it was a great line!

(Incidentally, this person also knew Siddig El-Fadil (now Alexander Siddig, played Dr. Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and had nothing but wonderful things to say about him.)

February 13, 2004

Picard on Space Exploration

Frequent (and thoughtful) commentor DK sent me a link to this story recently:

The actor who plays the captain on TV's Star Trek has said he thinks resources spent on sending people into space should be used on "getting this place right first".

Patrick Stewart said Earth should be our focus rather than other planets.

"I'm a bit of a wet blanket when it comes to the whole business of space travel," he said in a BBC interview...

In an interview with BBC World Service radio, Stewart said he backed unmanned missions such as Nasa's Mars rover Opportunity and the UK's Beagle 2 mission.

But he said he did not believe the human race was ready to begin thinking about beaming down on other planets.

"As I get older my unease at the time and the money that has to be spent on projects putting human beings back to the moon, and on to another planet, is so enormous," he said.

"And it would take up so many resources, which I personally feel should be directed at our own planet."

Interviewed by the World Update programme, he added: "Humankind has just not simply become sufficiently evolved to now leave this planet, take itself out to space and began establishing more of us out there.

"I would like to see us get this place right first before we have the arrogance to put significantly flawed civilisations out on to other planets -- even though they may be utterly uninhabited."

When I read this, my first reaction was to think that Stewart was being narrow-minded and perhaps even a little hypocritical. But re-reading his words, I can't say that I materially disagree with his basic premise. It would be inspiring to see humans walking on Mars, but what would we learn about the planet that we couldn't learn through robotic exploration? Not much. And a manned mission to Mars would surely cost at least $100 billion, if not more -- money that would be taken away from unmanned space missions. We would end up knowing somewhat more about Mars and much, much less about the rest of the universe. That, to me, seems a poor trade-off.

In a perfect world, we would set foot on Mars. (Fears about our admittedly "flawed civilisations" could wait for a future day when we're capable of permanently colonizing the planet.) But in this imperfect world, if the choice is between, on one hand, footprints on Mars, and on the other, new space telescopes, a mission to Europa, a follow-on mission to Titan, missions to Neptune and Uranus, and many, many other advances in space science, I choose the science.

February 12, 2004

Heard on Flickr

In the midst of a discussion about the true nature of Peanuts characters -- is Lucy evil? is Schroeder emotionally unavailable? -- I said that Peppermint Patty is gay but doesn't realize it, whereas Marcie is gay and knows it. To this, a Flickr user commented:

Smithers and Marcie have a lot in common.
They do, except that Smithers is in love with someone who's evil (and probably straight), whereas Marcie is in love with someone who's nice (and almost certainly gay). Now, if Marcie was in love with Lucy, then the analogy would be perfect.

Flickr Launches

A little over a week ago, in writing about joining Ludicorp's board of directors, I wrote the following:

Along with their public work on GNE, they've been in stealth mode, working on a new application of their technologies -- the idea for which their advisory board and I all feel strongly to be extremely compelling. Stay tuned for more in the very near future.
This project is now out of stealth mode. Stewart Butterfield launched Flickr during his talk at the Emerging Technologies Conference in San Diego.

From an end-user viewpoint, Flickr is chat + photo sharing + social networking. If you think about it from a photo sharing-centric point of view (which is only one way of looking at it), the social networking determines with whom you want to share your photos, while the chat provides a narrative context for them. But it's subtler than that. Is Flickr a photo sharing application? Yes. Is it a chat service? Yes. Is it a social networking tool? Yes.

In any case, Flickr is very, very cool, and well worth a try.

From a technical standpoint, Flickr is built on Ludicorp's existing engine technology, which means it's a Flash front end communicating with a J2EE back end using an XML-based protocol. The amazing thing is that the current public beta of Flickr represents just two months of work -- that's how long ago Stewart had the idea and decided to focus on it. Honestly, I'm blown away to see how much the team has accomplished in such a short period of time.

Congratulations to Stewart, Caterina, and the whole team at Ludicorp!

(Coverage of Flickr: Marc Canter, Cory Doctorow, Caterina Fake, Myles Grant, Ross Mayfield.)

February 10, 2004

Extremist Pilots

This story appeared the other day...

An American Airlines pilot asked Christians on his flight to identify themselves and suggested the non-Christians discuss the faith with them, the airline said...

American's Flight 34 was headed from Los Angeles to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on Friday when the pilot asked Christians on board to raise their hands...

The pilot, whose name was not released, told the airline that he then suggested the other passengers use the flight time to talk to the Christians about their faith...

Passenger Amanda Nelligan told WCBS-TV of New York that the pilot called non-Christians "crazy" and that his comments "felt like a threat." She said she and several others aboard were so worried they tried to call relatives on their cell phones before flight attendants assured them they were safe and that people on the ground had been notified about the pilot's comments.

I heard about this from my friend and colleague David Smith, who commented:

Last time an American flight was piloted by religious extremists, we lost the World Trade Center.
Well, let's say the last time we knew that an American Airlines flight was piloted by religious extremists...

February 09, 2004

Kristof on Clinton and Bush

Last week, Nicholas Kristof wrote a column for the New York Times that expressed far better than could I how I feel about Presidents Bush and Clinton:

In the 2000 campaign, I covered Mr. Bush a bit, so this week I dug out tapes of his speeches. On those tapes, he claims that he will leave the great bulk of the surplus intact: "My plan is to take a portion of the projected surplus, a little over $1 trillion of the $4 trillion surplus, and give it to the people who pay the bills."

The reality is that under Mr. Bush, surpluses have completely vanished. Granted, he had help from a bad economy. But spending has increased more rapidly than under any president since Lyndon Johnson, and Mr. Bush refuses to pay for it. I've seen that story before -- in Argentina.

Now the I.M.F. has warned that the U.S. budget and trade deficits are a threat to the global economy.

A new study from the Brookings Institution, "Restoring Fiscal Sanity," estimates that by 2014 the average family's income will be $1,800 lower because of slower economic growth caused by these budget deficits. A family with a 30-year $250,000 mortgage will be paying $2,000 more per year in interest costs alone.

All in all, as I look at the economy, I miss President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Clinton had egregious personal failings, and I deplored what I felt was his dishonesty. But as a steward of the economy, he combined fiscal conservatism with a willingness to stand against protectionism. No leader today, Democrat or Republican, is so forthright about the economy, and it's sad to see Democrats retreating from free trade.

Compared with Mr. Bush, John Kerry and most other Democratic presidential candidates are paragons of responsibility -- but only compared with Mr. Bush. The reality is that promises by Democrats like Mr. Kerry to start new health care programs, keep some of the tax cuts and restore black ink are nonsense. But it's less nonsense to say 2 + 2 = 5 (Mr. Kerry) than to say 2 + 2 = 22 (Mr. Bush).

Mr. Clinton lied about sex, and he was sleazy in other respects as well, but he was willing to tell America the unpleasant truth about trade and about budgets. I wish Mr. Bush and his Democratic challengers would be half as honest with the American public as Mr. Clinton was.

When Clinton was president, I was upset with his seemingly spineless foreign policy, as well as with what I perceived as his sleaziness. I failed, though, to appreciate at the time just how great a job he was doing on economic issues. I still think his foreign policy was spineless, but to his credit, he had the Israelis and Palestinians closer to peace than anyone before or since, and "America" wasn't a dirty word in most of the world. And as for sleaziness, Clinton and his retinue were sleazy on a minor scale, like local actors performing dinner theater in, well, Arkansas. The Bush Administration has featured sleaziness on a vast scale, which just goes to show, if you're going to commit a crime, commit a big one.

Like Kristof, I, too, miss President Bill Clinton. And the fact that I say that now shows how incredibly upset I am with President Bush -- a man to whom I gave the benefit of the doubt both after he took office and after 9/11. I will not do so again.

February 08, 2004

"Angalia Nyoka Kubwa!"

I've been meaning to read Roald Dahl's autobiography Going Solo ever since reading an excerpt from it in an in-flight magazine years ago, and finally got around to it this past week.

The excerpt below is the one I read in the magainze, and is one of two stories in the book about encounters with mambas Dahl had in East Africa during the years 1938-39. It's a wonderful piece of writing:

The really bad snake in Tanganyika is the black mamba. It is the only one that has no fear of man and will deliberately attack him on sight. If it bites you, you are a gonner.

One morning I was shaving myself in the bathroom of our Dar es Salaam house, and as I lathered my face I was absent-mindedly gazing into the garden. I was watching Salimu, our shamba-boy [gardener], as he slowly and methodically raked the gravel on the front drive. Then I saw the snake. It was six feet long and thick as my arm and quite black. It was a mamba all right and there was no doubt that it had seen Salimu and was gliding fast over the gravel straight towards him.

I flung myself toward the open winow and yelled in Swahili, 'Salimu! Salimu! Angalia nyoka kubwa! Nyuma wewe! Upesi upesi!', in other words, 'Salimu! Salimu! Beware huge snake! Behind you! Quickly quickly!'

The mamba was moving over the gravel at the speed of a running man and when Salimu turned and saw it, it could not have been more than fifteen paces away from him. There was nothing more I could do. There was not much Salimu could do either. He knew it was useless to run because a mamba at full speed could travel as fast as a galloping horse. And he certainly knew it was a mamba. Every native in Tanganyika knew what a mamba looked like and what to expect from it. It would reach him in another five seconds. I leant out of the window and held my breath. Salimu swung round and faced the snake. I saw him go into a crouch. He crouched very low with one leg behind the other like a runner about to start a hundred yard sprint, and he was holding the long rake out in front of him. He raised it, but no higher than his shoulder, and he stood there for those long four or five seconds absolutely motionless, watching the great black deadly snake as it glided so quickly over the gravel towards him. Its small triangular snake's head was raised up in the air, and I could hear the soft rustling of the gravel as the body slid over the loose stones. I have the whole nightmarish picture of that scene still before my eyes -- the morning sunshine on the garden, the massive baobab tree in the background Salimu in his old khaki shorts and shirt and bare feet standing brave and absolutely still with the upraised rake in his hands, and to one side the long black snake gliding over the gravel straight towards him with its small poisonous head held high and ready to strike.

Salimu waited. He never moved or made a sound during the time it took the snake to reach him. He waited until the very last moment when the mamba was not more than five feet away and then wham! Salimu struck first. He brought the metal prongs of the rake down hard right onto the middle of the mamba's back and he held the rake there with all his weight, leaning forward now and jumping up and down to put more weight on the fork in an effort to pin the snake to the ground. I saw the blood spurt where the prongs had gone right into the snake's body and then I rushed downstairs absolutely naked, grabbing a golf club as I went through the hall, and outside on the drive Salimu was still there pressing with both hands on the rake and the great snake was writhing and twisting and throwing itself about, and I shouted to Salimu in Swahili, 'What shall I do?'

'It is all right now, bwana!' he shouted back. 'I have broken its back and it cannot travel forward any more! Stand away, bwana! Stand well away and leave it to me!'

Salimu lifted the rake and jumped away and the snake went on writhing and twisting but it was quite unable to travel in any direction. The boy went forward and hit it accurately and very hard on the head with the metal end of the rake and suddenly the snake stopped moving. Salimu let out a great sigh and passed a hand over his forehead. Then he looked at me and smiled.

'Asanti, bwana,' he said, 'asanti sana,' which simply means, "Thank you, bwana. Thank you very much.'

It isn't often one gets the chance to save a person's life. It gave me a good feeling for the rest of the day, and from then on, every time I saw Salimu, the good feeling would come back to me.

February 07, 2004

Isn't It Ironic?

Two aspects of my joining Ludicorp's board of directors strike me as ironic.

First, though Ludicorp founder Stewart Butterfield is a rising star in the social networking software community, my introduction to him didn't come through my connections to that community. I count LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and super-blogger Joi Ito as good friends, and know many other people working on social networking software services, yet I met Stewart through my brother Eric, who works in the computer game industry. Eric knew someone at Ludicorp, knew of my interest in Vancouver, and arranged an introduction. In other words, non-software-enabled social networking led to my becoming involved with a social networking software firm.

Second, the reason Eric thought to introduce me to a Vancouver-based company was because of my then-girlfriend, who is from the area. Prior to coming back to North Carolina to co-found 3Dsolve, I had moved up to Seattle -- and later to Vancouver -- to work at QDesign, a Vancouver-based audio software technology firm. Moving back East meant a long-distance relationship, and Eric kindly wanted to help with that. However, the relationship ended last year, and my ex-girlfriend and I have both moved on, negating the original reason for the introduction. Past relationships notwithstanding, though, I love Vancouver and would have been grateful for any reason to get out there more often. Little did I suspect that I would be presented with such a wonderful opportunity to do so.

February 06, 2004

"Providing the Collars and Cuffs Match"

The first James Bond movie I saw was Diamonds Are Forever -- I have a vague memory of my dad taking me to see it when it came out, which would have made me nine years old. I've watched portions of it recently while at the gym -- one of the cable networks has been playing lots of Bond movies and it seemed to repeatedly be on while I was working out. Later, while driving, I suddenly understood this bit of dialogue between Bond (Sean Connery) and Tiffany Case (Jill St. John):

Bond: Weren't you a blonde when I came in?

Tiffany: Could be.

Bond: I tend to notice little things like that, whether a girl is a blonde or a brunette.

Tiffany: And which do you prefer?

Bond: Oh, providing the collars and cuffs match...

It took me 32 years to get that. Now if only someone could explain to me the following exchange between Lili Von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn) and Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) from Blazing Saddles:

Lili: Would you care for another schnitzengruben?

Bart: No, thank you. Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben.

Lili: Well then, uh, how about a little, uh... (whispers in his ear)

Bart: Baby, please. I am not from Havana!

It's never too late for me to learn...

February 04, 2004

Joi Ito on ADD

Joi Ito recently blogged about discussing Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) with David Smith over dinner in Japan:

Today, I had dinner with David Smith who has ADD. I think his ADD is worse than mine. We talked about a mutual friend who has, as David puts it, "terminal ADD". We talked about the hyper-focus that ADD provides and ways that you can use ADD to do things many people can't do. Harnessing ADD, rather than neutralizing it has interesting benefits. We talked about how modern society has allowed many people, who might have been dysfunctional in the past, to make valuable contributions to society. It's interesting how labels and the notion of disease can cause people to blame these things for their problems instead of trying to figure out how to turn these bugs into features. I realize that some people really do have diseases and I'm not trying to belittle their struggle. What I'm saying is that before we label ourselves and start taking therapy and drugs we ought to think about how all of these elements interact to create the human being that we are and place this in the unique context that each of us are in.
What follows is an edited and expanded version of a comment I wrote on the topic in his blog.

When my oldest son (now 16) was in elementary school, his teacher -- a good teacher and a good person -- wanted to have him evaluated for ADD, based on his behavior in the classroom. The school principal -- a good principal and a good person -- concurred with her. My son's mom, my then-wife, did a great deal of research into ADD as a result. We spent a lot of time talking about her research and what she had discovered.

We came to the conclusion that for any given aspect of human behavior you want to look at, you can view individuals' behavior as lying somewhere along a spectrum, as opposed to being in one bucket or another. But spectra are confusing for people. We don't want to know that our child is a little more this or a little less that. We're used to binary medical diagnoses: benign or malignant; infected or cured; broken or healed. We like to think in simple terms, so we make buckets. We've created one called "ADD."

As it happens, there are all sorts of incentives for everyone to place a child into the ADD bucket:

Pharma: Sell more drugs.

Physician: Generate more income.

Principal: (in some cases) Obtain more school funding.

Teacher: (in some cases) Move child into separate class.

Parents: Reduce feeling of responsibility for acts of misbehavior by child.

Child: Reduce feeling of guilt for letting down parents.

Who doesn't have an incentive to label a kid as ADD? No one.

In the end, we decided to decline an evaluation for our son, so that he wouldn't be labeled as ADD, and to home school him for a while so that he could get more one-on-one attention. It's impossible to say whether that helped; after re-entering the public school system a couple of years later, it wasn't as if he was problem-free. But now, in the 10th grade, he's an honor roll student. I can still see signs of behavior in him that some would label ADD, and that doesn't bother me at all -- it's just part of who he is.

Now, as it happens, I count both Joi and David Smith as good friends, and have known them for quite a while now -- Joi for a few years now, and David since the late 1980s. Do they have some behavioral traits that could be considered ADD-like? Sure. But those traits are part of them, part of who they are. Without those traits, they wouldn't be the people I know -- and I like them as they are.

There are plenty of human behaviors that can be frustrating, even exasperating to others at times. But that shouldn't give us license to label those behaviors, declare them undesirable, and try to medicate them away -- especially when we're making decisions for children not yet ready to make them for themselves.

February 03, 2004

"Odd, That"

From a story in this week's Economist on a possible new antitrust case against Microsoft, this time in Europe:

Microsoft's exploitation of its monopoly will continue as long as the monopoly itself does. A likely candidate as its next victim is Google, the company that dominates the internet-search business. Another possibility is Apple, current top-dog in the small but rapidly growing market for legal music downloads with its iTunes software. This week Microsoft launched a Google-like search "toolbar", and has stated its plans to build internet-search features into Windows. Similarly, Microsoft plans to launch its own online-music store later this year, tied to its now-dominant media player. Expect the market share of iTunes, currently at 70%, to plummet.

Isn't this simply a matter of Microsoft competing vigorously? The strange thing is that its products invariably succeed in PC-based markets where the dominance of Windows provides an advantage: office productivity, web-browsing, media playback and servers. Yet in other markets that have nothing to do with PCs, such as mobile phones, set-top boxes and games consoles, the company is far less successful. Odd, that.

February 02, 2004

Joining Ludicorp's Board

I'm delighted to report today's announcement (PDF press release here) by Ludicorp that I've joined their board of directors.

Based in Vancouver, Ludicorp has built an engine to enable the development of real-time social computing applications. The engine includes support for identity, presence, messaging, relationships, and groups -- and does all of this in real time, fast enough for entertainment applications. Ludicorp's engine makes it far easier, faster, and cheaper to develop the next generation of Internet applications -- applications that incorporate social networks not as their raison d'être, but as a part of an integrated and compelling experience. Think of it as Groupware for Play (which conveniently happens to be Ludicorp's slogan).

As a testbed for their engine, and as an interesting application in its own right, Ludicorp has been developing the very cool Game Neverending (GNE), "a surreal, absurd, intelligent and humorous game of political, social and economic interactions." Along with their public work on GNE, they've been in stealth mode, working on a new application of their technologies -- the idea for which their advisory board and I all feel strongly to be extremely compelling. Stay tuned for more in the very near future.

The real reason I agreed to join Ludicorp's board was because of its President and founder, Stewart Butterfield. Stewart has a great reputation in the software and social networking communities, as evidenced by the extremely high quality of the people he's been able to attract as employees and advisors (myself excluded). I've been continually impressed with not only his vision for the future, but also his ability to articulate this vision and then to go build it. Many people have visions, but being able to bring them to life -- and to motivate others to help one do so -- is a rare talent.

Keep your eye on Ludicorp. Stewart and his team are building something special. You heard it here first.

Close, But No Cigar

So much for Prediction #2. When the Panthers went ahead 22-21 with 7:12 to play, I thought, "This is exactly the position we wanted to be in: a close game in the fourth quarter." When the Patriots went ahead 29-22 with 2:58 to play, I thought, "No problem. Tying games late and taking them into overtime is what the Panthers do, and the Panthers always win overtime games." But when the Panthers tied it at 29 with 1:16 to play, I thought, "We scored too quickly," and I could see the Patriots doing to the Panthers what they did to the Rams two years ago: a final drive to put themselves in field goal position. And that's exactly what they did.

Congratulations to the Patriots and to their fans. That's a great team you have there.

It will take somewhat longer -- until 29 July, to be exact -- to find out how I did on Prediction #1.