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To be born child, looking for adoptive Nation
To be born child, looking for adoptive Nation To be born child, looking for adoptive Nation March 15, 2005 1:06 PM
My sister Christina is now 9 months pregnant with the baby due any time. Through an odd set of circumstances the child to be born may not have a nationality.

Here is an extract of a letter Marcel sent to the British ambassador - after having failed to get any decent response from the consular section in Bern:

1)  I, Marcel Philip Anscombe, and my wife Christina Maria Nest Story 
    were both born in Germany to British fathers and registered as
    British citizens immediately after our births in 1974 and 1969
    respectively.  Marcel Anscombe’s family subsequently moved back to
    Great Britain where he lived from 1979 to 2004.  Christina Story moved
    to England in 1992, married Mr Anscombe in May 2004 and moved to
    Switzerland in 2005.  We are expecting a child on 2nd April in Triemli
    Spital in Zurich, Swizerland. Only when contacting the Embassy in Bern
    approximately 2 months ago did we learn of our possible status as 
    ‘British by descent’, and therefore our inability to pass on our 
    nationality individually to our child.
    Given that both of the paternal grandfathers of our child due April 2nd
    are British other than by descent and given that it is clear that the child
    will not be entitled to Swiss nationality (Zurich Immigation Office, 043
    259 88 00, telephone conversation Mrs K. 9/3/2005 14:40), we
    understand that, under the provisions for avoiding statelessness of
    children of British citizens (Form MN1), our child is indeed entitled 
    to
      a)   British citizenship by descent (Case C form MN1).
      b)   British citizenship other than by descent if he lives with us in 
            Britain for three years (Case D, form MN1).

Somehow I think that being born without Nationality seems like a rather good thing. But of course realistically that is without counting the huge number of problems this can cause with all of those paper pushing people who need things to fit in their pigeon holes. For example it may make it very difficult for my sister to leave Switzerland with the baby. On the other hand she can not stay in Switzerland forever, not being Swiss.

(This reminds me of a situation I read in a novel a long time ago. One by Milan Kundera perhaps? I can't remember. Though of course it would seem to be more in the spirit of Kafka.)

Digital Future: David Weinberger on Blogging
Digital Future: David Weinberger on Blogging Digital Future: David Weinberger on Blogging March 14, 2005 1:09 PM
4 months late (but that is the beauty of the web) I today discovered the video of a presentation by David Weinberger on Blogging, available as part of C-Span's digital futures series. This is an excellent presentation for those wanting to understand what blogging is, its relation to knowledge and the history of thought. Ok that's a lot for a half hour presentation, but in any case it is very entertaining. I have heard of David Weinberger mostly from The Cluetrain Manifesto, but the video of him talking captures the energy in his thought better than a text can.
Why REST is Better
Why REST is Better Why REST is Better March 13, 2005 1:22 AM
Why REST is better is an excellent 4 part (2, 3, 4) explanation of the benefits of REST for people with experience thinking in Java or other similar Object Oriented languages. In part 2 Carlos Perez brings in the theory of Speech Acts to buttress his position. Another point of contact then between philosophy and computing in this very rich area.

This is part of a long standing debate on Web Services that has been going on for a while and for which Tim Bray has just provided a very well linked synopsis.

In this thicket of pointers I discovered that Frank McCabe, whome I know from Imperial and his work with Keith Clarke on the April (Agent Process Interaction Language) programming language has been active on the WS architecture front.

A lot of interesting reading here.

The long tail of software. Millions of Markets of Dozens.
The long tail of software. Millions of Markets of Dozens. The long tail of software. Millions of Markets of Dozens. March 12, 2005 12:53 PM
The long tail of software is a very interesting article by Joe Kraus whome I understand to be the co founder of eXcite, which makes points that seem very true from my experience at AltaVista. There was an obsession in everyday office conversation with the top queries which usually were sexually related and a lack of emphasis on the fact that these top queries only represented a very small proportion of the overall queries. As with eXcite most of the queries were one of kind. Joe shows how one can find a similar distribution curve in the businesses of Amazon and Netflix, though I suppose that this would be even more true when one looks at the business of eBay.

Joe Kraus sees this as a fundamentally breaking the 80/20 rule, that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your stock. I think it is exactly that rule that has led to the perception of "the future" as tending always towards serving the least common denominator, of a future in which only empty headed block busters would dominate as these would inevitably get the most market share and so the most advertising dollars, of a future where the market would push people to become more and more clonelike and the human individuality would be extinguished. All in all, a very cynical world.

Blogging in some ways is doing the same to the overly concentrated media industry. Most blogs are only of interest to a few readers. Very few are of interest to many. But the important point is that the majority of blogs are those that individually gather the least attention... by a very long margin. Are the 99.xx% of blogs that gather little attention then less imporant than the rest? This is where simplistic measument scales reveal their simplistic nature. Is the site where a few biologists are discussing some basic principles of DNA research which only a few hundred people in the world understand any less important than anything else?

Well the intersting point of the article is that if your business depends on devaluing the 80% then you are in danger of being eclipsed by those who don't.

My way of thinking of this is that freedom and power are two concepts that are intimately related.

iScroll2: Two finger Scrolling with pre-2005 PowerBooks and iBooks
iScroll2: Two finger Scrolling with pre-2005 PowerBooks and iBooks iScroll2: Two finger Scrolling with pre-2005 PowerBooks and iBooks March 11, 2005 4:07 PM
Having tried out my mother's new PowerBook a few weeks ago I got to really appreciate the two finger scrolling gestures that the new mouse pad comes with. This allows one to get the same effects as a mouse wheel on the PowerBook when using two fingers over the trackpad instead of one. It is as beautiful as it is simple.

Well luckily this is available for my laptop too. I have tried iScroll2 for the last few weeks and it works like a charm. The just released version 0.17 seem to have made the scrolling a lot smoother. I am finding it just as useful as the control to caps lock key board remapping of uControl which I have been using for a year now.

Revenge of the neocons
Revenge of the neocons Revenge of the neocons March 9, 2005 3:35 PM
Things seem to indeed be changing in the Middle East, as this article Revenge of the Neocons points out. Elections have taken place in Afghanstan, Iraq, Palestine, and other countries are feeling the heat of change, moving Egypt's long term dictator even to making moves to allow contested elections.

Does this make Tony Blair a Neocon too?

How dangerous would it have been to express an opinion in favor of that position until recently?

head phones and voice over ip
head phones and voice over ip head phones and voice over ip March 5, 2005 7:34 PM
In brief: Always use headphones when chatting to someone on a PowerBook, and ask your interlocutor to do the same. You will have a much more pleasant conversation.

It took me some time to understand the importance of using head phones when using iChat or Skype (and probably any other internet telephony system) on my PowerBook (or any computer with very sensitive, non directed microphones). Without them an internet telephony conversation is quickly rendered quite painful due to the constant echo which can even go all the way to the dreadful feedback loop.

The mechanism behind this is quite easy to understand. On a PowerBook the voice of your interlocutor comes out of the speakers and if the volume is high enough his voice will be picked up by the very sensitive microphone that is built into the PowerBook, and sent back with a slight time lag in an echo like effect. If both users don't have a headphone on, then this echo will itself be picked up by the original speaker's microphone and sent back in an infinitely painfull loop.

The problem is that the person who puts on the head phone is not the one who benefits directly by his own effort, which is why I think many people have not yet cought onto the problem. The person who puts on a headphone will stop the voice of his interlocutor being echoed back. So the head-phone-less person will have a nice clean crisp dialog, and he will never realise that the person with the head phones is having to go to great effort of seperating the echo of his own voice from the voice of the person he is speaking to.

The only way to solve this is to make people conscious of the problem. Hence this note.

My mother's new PowerBook arrived yesterday
My mother's new PowerBook arrived yesterday My mother's new PowerBook arrived yesterday March 1, 2005 2:47 PM
My mother (Heidi) just received a beautiful new 17" PowerBook which is nearly exactly identical to the model I bought one and a half years ago, except that it is 25% faster and 25% cheaper.

Heidi first used a computer in 1999 when I gave her an iBook on a short holiday I took to Austria from California. At the time I was a little worried that this might go unused, so I made her promise to do something with it. A few months later she had put together a whole little collection of pictures which she had composed with the drawing software that had come pre-installed on the iBook. I was very impressed.

A few years later, in 2001, perhaps overenthusiastically, I had her get a little Apple cube. But this stayed unused in favor of the iBook, until I upgraded it with OSX in September 2003. Since then iPhoto has been having trouble keeping up with the number of pictures my mother has been dropping into it: the wedding of my brother Alex, of my sister Christina, the numerous trips around the world, parties, ... everything has been photographed and now even filmed. With my sister Christina and my brother Alex awaiting a new baby, it was absolutely clear that an upgrade was needed. I fear the 100GB disk is not even close to being enough.

The new iPhoto is a huge improvement on the old version, as it can store films as well as photos, and the calendar functionality for finding an entry really is an excellent idea. All of this combined with this machine being over 4 times faster than the 400Mhz cube, being portable, having an excellent screen, and my mother's enthusiasm for creativity means that I need no guarantee that this machine is going to be very well used.

Perhaps I will even find her a nice paint tool that compares to the ease of use to the AppleWorks that came with the iBook. My mother never seemed to like AppleWorks 6 and certainly not the Corel Paint 8 which I have to admit was in many ways very unitutive, trying too hard to simulate a real paint brush to be of interest to a real painter. Corel 8 feels a bit like the early black and white movies that tried very hard to pretend a film was a theater, without realising that it was a new medium in itself. If there is such a tool for OSX, my mother would, I am sure, love to know.