Open Source Constitution

Friend Adam Greenfield has been doing some thinking about emergent democracy, and has come up with a ‘conversation starter’ called “The minimal compact: An open-source constitution for post-national states“.

In recognition of the apparent inability of nation states to adequately address and provide for human goals and desires in the twenty-first century, and anticipating that if anything this situation will only worsen, it is desirable to begin thinking about alternatives to this obsolescing structure.
Of interest are alternatives that are designed from the beginning to
Ensure the greatest freedom for the greatest number, without simultaneously abridging the freedoms of others.
Permit individuals with common goals and beliefs to act in their own interest at the global level and with all the privileges afforded nation states, even when those individuals are separated by distance.
Provide robust resistance to attempts to concentrate power, and other abuses of same.
This paper is intended to sketch, however schematically, just such an alternative.
The question then becomes, what kinds of constitutional structures are appropriate to furthering the stated aims in an internetworked, interdependent age? What sorts of arrangements of power between humans can account for the deep variation in beliefs and assumptions among the six billion of us who share this planet, while still providing for a common jurisprudence? What measures can be taken that enhance the common security without unduly infringing on the sovereignty of the individual?
I believe that a useful model for the desired structure can be found in the open-source or “free” software movement.

Essential reading, and packed full of ideas that resonate very deeply with this particular wonderchicken.
Edit : I am both honoured and pleased that Adam has told me via email that “a lot of this was catalyzed by reading what you wrote about Rick. As a former NYer, I shall know 09.11 in the bone for the rest of my days, but when I read about Rick on MeFi it was my most immediate experience yet of…of…of everything to which I want to offer future generations an alternative.”
I believe Rick would have loved these ideas, and it’s a beautiful thing if the tragedy of his loss may in any way have helped this kind of dream reach more people.
Go, read, think.

New Digs

As you must have guessed, our apartment move was a success, and all the essential systems are hooked up once again. We’re still trying to figure out how to gracefully shoehorn all our aquired crap (which is really a lot less than most couples I know) into the considerably smaller digs, but we’ll manage. The new house is closer to the university, and brand new (we’re the first people to move in to the building, a low-rise with 10 apartments), and it’s much quieter. The perpetually-busy highway 50 metres from our old place is rapidly-fading bad memory. The new neighbourhood couldn’t be described as upscale, but it’s nicer than the Land Of The Lost we’ve been in for the last 18 months, and has all the amenities steps from our door, including a supermarket that delivers beer (…er, and food, too).
Some observations on moving house in Korea : moving companies do everything. They showed up, packed everything, emptied and cleaned the fridge, cleaned the house, moved everything to the new place, cleaned the new place, unpacked everything, loaded up the fridge and closets, and went away. I don’t know if this is what happens in North America (I’ve never used movers before), but I suspect it’s not quite as easy. All I had to do was stand around, drink coffee, and point. It cost a bomb, but the university footed the bill, as I had to move at their request. Very low stress, indeed.
The DSL connection is the same 4Mb pipe I had before (She Who Must Be Obeyed ignored my wheedling and nixed the monster broadband), but thanks to the new wiring, I guess, feels snappier. I compare the process to Australia, where it took literally months to get someone to come and install the service after I’d ordered it, and approximately 4 hours onsite to get it working : here, it took 4 hours from calling Korea Telecom for a guy to show up, and after 15 minutes in the house, he bowed and bailed, and I had my connection back. Amazing.
Renting an apartment works differently here than it does anywhere else I’ve ever been. The university provides my accommodation, but I was involved in securing a place (they’ve sold the apartment I lived in before), to make sure that they found something acceptable. Most people do not pay monthly rent – what they do is give the landlord a massive deposit, and pay either nothing or very little on a monthly basis. The university had to pay the equivalent of about C$100,000 to secure this small 3-bedroom place, and there is no rent to pay.
Needless to say, it’s difficult indeed for young people in particular to live apart from their parents, and still quite rare. Whether that’s because of the way apartments are rented, or whether apartments are rented that way in part to discourage young people moving out, I don’t know.
Anyway. I’m back to work at the University on Monday, after about 10 weeks of holiday, and looking forward to it. I really do love my job.

Questions of Little Import

Am I what I write? Should I put it all here, the angelic farts and the chuckleheaded non-sequiteurs, or should I keep the best and worst of me apart somehow? Should I hold back, or should I tell the story of the first time I silently and all amazed erupted in watery semen when I was 12 while ‘It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World’ spooled off in all its madcap glory on the console TV on New Year’s Eve, just to pick a semi-random example?
Should I tell all and let the googlecache fall where it may? Should I womb up my Real Stuff in some digital sanctorum somewhere, and just amble and natter and hitch a ride on this familiar hitcount-greased Route 66 down which I’m already walking?
Is it art, or is it socializing? It’s pretty goddamn clear that it’s not journalism, and the proposition that it might be such is just laughable: but what polestar should I steer my ship by, I ask you? Is it real or an illusion? Is it the goddamn tedious old Platonic shadow play on the cave wall, or is it a new way of gripping and tasting the souls of friendlies without the halitosis and clumsy hugs? What do I want to do with this pretty ever-lengthening scroll?
f–ked if I know. I think I’ll have a beer and think about it some more.


We’re moving house, and I’ll be offline for the next few days until I get the new VDSL connection sorted out (I’m begging She Who Must Be Obeyed for a 20Mb connection, which is a mid-range speed in the new xDSL product line offered by Korea Telecom …cross your fingers for me!). In the meantime, why not go have a look at OW™’s new novel?
Keep it between the ditches, amigos. Later.

For Sale

My folks are looking to sell Tchentlo Lake Lodge, a wilderness fishing lodge they own and run up in northern British Columbia, where I visited them over Christmas. I’ve put up some information about it here, and if you or anyone you know might be interested in buying it either as an investor or owner-operator, please feel free to contact them.
That gave me a mild feeling of accomplishment, throwing that together. It’s rare that I actually feel like a good son.

Open Letter

From Kim Dae-shik, a physics professor at Seoul National University to the head of the US Forces Korea :

Dear General Leon J. LaPorte
As a man who has barely entered the current established generation, I would like to open this letter with an apology. Despite the comments aired on a CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ report, the majority of Koreans want the United States Forces Korea to remain in the country. If Kim Jong Il (I wonder if I should call him chairman) starts a war, I will fight against his soldiers regardless of whether the USFK is still here, or the Status of Forces Agreement is revised.
Most of those who demand the withdrawal of the USFK belong to the younger generation. Apparently we have failed to teach these people how to think, to be open minded, and have a sense of humor. Rather than this, we may have encouraged a wrongly perceived pride rising from a sense of inferiority.

Commenter and Commented

Shelley speaks so eloquently on so many other topics, you (well, I) sometimes forget she is also a Geek Goddess without peer. This latest innovation from her is a really cool idea, and one that might help to combat that feeling of impermanence and evancescence of weblog comments. I want one too!
(I find myself remembering the toolset for OLAP analysis of financial data that was a small part of the Swiss Army knife professional practice management product that I (almost, if it hadn’t been for the f–kwits) almost took to market at my last tech job, and wonder when we’ll be able to effortlessly pivot our views of a given weblog against a wide variety of axes, at will. Slice and dice, baby!)

Leaving The Temple

Photographs in pairs by Stuart Isett.

These photographs are the result of 3 years of work in Asia and represent, in many ways, the discovery that I wouldn’t find spiritual fulfillment in Asia. When I arrived in Thailand in 1988, I saw a land of golden light and saffron robed monks–idealistic images of an idealized land. Although an atheist, I briefly thought I’d find God in Asia.
But like all idealized stereotypes, this image told only half the story because underlying this image was a society as deeply flawed and hypocritical as the one I left behind in America. My attempt to replace what I saw as flawed western world views with the spirituality of Thai Buddhism failed and my experiences in Asia have taught me not to use such simple models as an east/west dichotomy. Rather than look for oppositional models, I am attempting to understand the world through a more universal, critical eye.

A Great One

Today, one of the greats exeunted for the last time, took his last curtain call, and left us for that great playhouse in the sky. How could I tell the rollercoaster cinderella story of Skeleton Warrior, the passion and the pain, the sex and the drugs and the necrophiliac nights, better than he could himself :

“It comes and goes in waves. The fame, the luck, the depression. I’ve been letting it push me around for years,” his eyes gazed out to a lone surfer. “I think it’s time I finally got up on that board and rode it, show that f–ker who’s boss.”

Tributes are appearing all over the web to this great and underappreciated artist. Ride on, you bony bastard!

Three Thoughts

Three random thoughts that ambled through the wonderchickensian mind this evening, ideas that to be honest I’m just too damn lazy to flesh out into real posts. Quality is therefore not assured.
1) How much do I hate that everytime someone mentions a goddamn book, they have to link to Amazon?† When did a glorified shopping mall become the primary maypole around which our discussion of books must dance? (I tried to like, but it gives me indigestion.)
2) 8 Mile = Quadrophenia strained through a Rocky Balboa cheesecloth.
3) Before radio and television, we are told, people entertained one another – told stories, sang, did little skits, whatever. Nearly a century of the glass teat and all that, electronic opiate of the masses, yadda yadda, passes. Us bloggy types are just returning to a long-lost tradition of making our own damn entertainment for each other, thank you very much, just amped-up, sped-up and woven from a spectrum of sources so kaleidoscopic as to blow the muttonchopped or maidenly minds of our forebears.
And, for a limited time only, a special bonus thought, free with every purchase : reading a Kerouac biography the last few days – ‘Subterranean Kerouac’ (and no, I’m not going to link to the thrice-cursed Amazon page for it) – I found myself wondering how those Beat types found any time to actually write when they were so busy sucking each other’s dicks all the damn time. Crikey.
† the answer, of course, is ‘one hell of a lot’.

What a surprise

You are being lied to, clumsily.
Pass it on.
Also : Douglas Ord is having his synchronicity fuses blown, and expands on a boggling series of odd coincidences some of which were also noticed by the Bearman recently. The mind can take any set of events, or numbers, or words, and automagically see a serendipitous pattern in them – pattern recognition is what intelligence is, I think, at least in part – but sometimes the random patterns end up looking like the face of the Virgin Mary, and all synaptic hell breaks loose.
[both via wood s lot]
Also, while I’m at it : this is an interesting and quite plausible argument (to me, admittedly undereducated as I am on these matters) that the real reasons behind many of the decisions being made by the Bush administration with regard to throwing their geopolitical weight around is the “goal of preventing further Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) momentum towards the euro as an oil transaction currency standard.”
Not entirely free of spin, by any means, but worth a look. A lot of the dots seem to link up pretty damn well.


I’m not sure why I did this – I don’t even particularly like Jimmy Buffett (other than the pleasant memories he evokes from my days sailing off the Pacific coast of Mexico, when he was required listening amongst the Cortez cruisers.) Sometimes I just get these compulsions, you know?

Blogaritaville – with apologies to Jimmy Buffett
Postin’ a new rant
(Tomorrow I’ll recant)
About politicians that I despise
Drinkin’ some more beer
Blogosphere’s Shakespeare
Watch the hitcount beginnin’ to rise
Wastin’ away again in Blogaritaville
Thinkin’ about my next killer post
Some bloggers claim that they’re not in it for fame
Can’t be bothered with a riposte
I’m not on the A-List
So I guess I’ll just get pissed
Nothin’ to show but these irate comments
But they’re some amusing
Feedback on my boozing
How they got there I haven’t a clue
Wastin’ away again in Blogaritaville
Thinkin’ about my next killer post
Some bloggers claim that it’s a zero-sum game
Now I think
Hell, in that case I’m toast
I blew out my template
Javascript applet
Borked stylesheets now it looks kinda crap
But there’s booze in the blender
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me blog on
Wastin’ away again in Blogaritaville
Drinkin’ my beer with lemon and salt
Some people claim I’ve got no sense of shame
But I know it’s my own damn fault
Yes and some people claim I’ve got a stupid pen-name
And I know it’s my own damn fault

Update : A quick Googling, which in my fever to finish the doggerel above I neglected to do, shows me that there is (pretty darn groovy) prior art here. Not that that should surprise, I guess.

Joe Frank

I’d never heard of this guy before today, but trust me, [this is good].

“The world of Joe Frank is a wildly entertaining surrealistic universe…hilarious, unsettling, zany, powerful, moving and perhaps the most unique, inventive and effective use of radio since Orson Welles convinced much of America that there was a “War of the Worlds.”

[via Boing Boing]

This Evening

This evening I plan to drink approximately 10-12 bottles of cold, excessively fizzy Korean beer, smoke the one cigarette per week that I allow myself these days, and listen to the entire output of the Tragically Hip.

This may result in amusingly cockeyed posts, either ranty or good-natured, or it may mean that I’ll wander off on some little-travelled web byway and forget about the clamorous demands of my sweet readers, for at least one brief glorious moment of boozy freedom.
Wish me luck.

You mean…I'm off the *team*!?

Although until recently I was often actively drawn into discussions about meta stuff, it seems as if that’s no longer the case, and I find myself wondering why. Context in this situation is the new piece by Clay Shirky that seems to have people a-buzz, and around which a sometimes heated conversation is now springing. The aether is a-buzz with talk, but I don’t seem to be invited, which is unusual, and which I can’t quite figure out. No one’s invited me to the prom, mom! I know it’s unspeakably lame to whine about stuff like this, and I don’t mean to, but it’s worrisome, kind of, and on my mind, and has context given the topic of discussion, I think.
I wonder if that f–king Bloggie shortlisting is to blame, actually, and has fostered some sort of ‘well, f–k him, he’s going in some weird famehog direction’ feeling, which is most assuredly not the case. That surprised me as much as it did anyone. I don’t think I’ve gotten any more profane and offensive, lately, that I can see, and I tend to talk in much the same way as I always have, about much the same sort of things. If anything, I get more visitors on a daily basis than I ever have before. But the (smart, good) folks with whom I have felt a sense of neighbourhood in the past seem to have withdrawn. Perhaps I’m just talking more crap than usual, I dunno.
That’s life, I guess. But it leaves me befuddled, a little, and wondering if it really is the case, and if so, why it happened.
Anyway, I posted a few further thoughts over at Jonathon Delacour’s in light of what I’ve been reading about the Shirky piece this morning, which I reproduce here because I’m lazy, even if no one is interested (whine, sniff, pout).

Clay mentions LiveJournal, and I really see no one paying much attention to that particular phenomenon around the traps today. Last I heard, there were more people writing ‘blogs’ with LiveJournal than with any other tool, and last I noticed, the overwhelming majority of those were of the “publishing an account of your Saturday night and having your 3 closest friends read it” variety.
Ignore them (or to use more emotionally charged language, ghettoize them) and you get an incomplete picture of the whole.
It amuses me, and is predictable, that people would respond with ‘Who cares?’ Obviously, we do, or we wouldn’t spend so damn much time talking about it!
If I have a problem with what Clay was saying (well, I have a few, but) it would be his attachment, by implication or explicitly, of qualitative criteria to what he’s describing, and thus create a hierarchy, where none exists in reality. That, I’m guessing, is in part why some people seem to have their backs up over this.

Impeach the Bastards

I asked a couple of days ago, in high dudgeon :
“How much more of this are Americans willing to take? How many more clear signals can there be that the principles for which their nation is claimed to stand are being dismantled and subverted by their almost-elected officials? What will it take to get them to wake the f–k up and throw these weasels out?”
and this was one of the answers left in the comments

Vote to Impeach

Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General during the Johnson Administration has drafted articles of impeachment setting forth high crimes and misdemeanors by President Bush and other civil officers of his administration. Click here to read the Articles of Impeachment.
Mr. Clark has also prepared historical notes on the power of impeachment, for consideration in the impeachment of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Attorney General Ashcroft. Click here to view these notes.
Votes cast in this campaign will be hand delivered to the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and to the ranking Democrat on the Committee.”

Thanks, Sarah. If I were American, I’d be a little scared of being branded an Enemy of the State for adding my name to the list, and being imprisoned without that old-fashioned habeus corpus to get in the way. But if I were American, you can damn well bet I would sign, anyway. At least someone’s trying to do something.

Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality

This somewhat academic and very interesting piece from Clay Shirky [via Phil] on (in part) the eternal A-list debate is heavy with meaty bits just begging for a good gnawing.
Some bones I plan to worry at a little more, when I’m in a gnawing mood :

  • Like Phil, I’m not so sure about “As beloved as [some well-known bloggers] are, they would disappear if they stopped writing, or even cut back significantly. Blogs are not a good place to rest on your laurels.” My recent experience of taking more than a month away from the site seemed to indicate otherwise, at least going by the crudest of measurements, hit counts.
  • “Finally, there is no real A-list, because there is no discontinuity.” I’m not sure this entirely makes sense to me, either, even understanding as I do the math underlying his point. I tend to think there is an A-list – a secret document, signed in blood, locked deep in the vaults under Stately Kottke Manor – mostly because folks deny existence of it! No, I’m not serious; I’ve always taken it as an in-joke of sorts that escaped into the wild and took on a life of its own, because it had a kernel of truth to it. Regardless, I would have thought that the Power Law distribution that Clay discusses, including the constellation of ‘stars’, would argue that there is an A-list of sorts, but not one that is entirely self-selected. Although in many cases those who sit at the extreme left of the graph (amongst the ‘stars’) may show no greater objective merit than some who do not, the other factors he mentions (early adoption, agreement-reinforcement, ‘solidarity’ and so on) combine to keep many who are there there, once they reach that level of recognition.
  • “Are there people who are as talented or deserving as the current stars, but who are not getting anything like the traffic? Doubtless. Will this problem get worse in the future? Yes.” The first answer is most assuredly correct, but I’m not so certain of the second. Although the network model that Clay uses is, I’m sure, unassailable, I’d like to think that the problem of talent going unrecognized will not get worse. Do I have any evidence to back myself up? Naw. Based on my traffic and recognition factor and all of that, I think I’m probably creeping up into the grey area between Conversation and Broadcast with this site (see below), but the truth is that I’ve been at it for almost two years, and although I’ve never actively sought out blog stardom, I do rock, and I’d’ve figured by now that I’d be, like, Master of Time, Space and Dimension or something.
    This, though, was the part that really interested me :

    At the head will be webloggers who join the mainstream media (a phrase which seems to mean “media we’ve gotten used to.”) The transformation here is simple – as a blogger’s audience grows large, more people read her work than she can possibly read, she can’t link to everyone who wants her attention, and she can’t answer all her incoming mail or follow up to the comments on her site. The result of these pressures is that she becomes a broadcast outlet, distributing material without participating in conversations about it.
    Meanwhile, the long tail of weblogs with few readers will become conversational. In a world where most bloggers get below average traffic, audience size can’t be the only metric for success. LiveJournal had this figured out years ago, by assuming that people would be writing for their friends, rather than some impersonal audience. Publishing an essay and having 3 random people read it is a recipe for disappointment, but publishing an account of your Saturday night and having your 3 closest friends read it feels like a conversation, especially if they follow up with their own accounts. LiveJournal has an edge on most other blogging platforms because it can keep far better track of friend and group relationships, but the rise of general blog tools like Trackback may enable this conversational mode for most blogs.
    In between blogs-as-mainstream-media and blogs-as-dinner-conversation will be Blogging Classic, blogs published by one or a few people, for a moderately-sized audience, with whom the authors have a relatively engaged relationship. Because of the continuing growth of the weblog world, more blogs in the future will follow this pattern than today. However, these blogs will be in the minority for both traffic (dwarfed by the mainstream media blogs) and overall number of blogs (outnumbered by the conversational blogs.)

    To a certain degree, although I’m inclined to want to push back against the tendency to put things into two or three simple slots – in Clay’s piece they’d be Broadcast Blogging, Conversational Blogging, and Blogging Classic – I think he’s nailed it to the door pretty well, here, as long as one acknowledges the continuities between the styles, and that some sites in each bucket will break the mold.
    I think that one thing Clay misses in his description of the hockey stick head, the mythical A-list, the region of stardom, and the long, somewhat unsuccessful tail of conversationalists and classic link-and-a-haircut blogs, is the assumption that possessing ‘merit’ or ‘quality’ (Zen and the Art of, anyone?) automatically push a blog into the stardom stratum, through the processes he accurately describes. Many of those who have an online presence have no desire for ‘upward mobility’, I think, and are perfectly happy to continue what they do online with no sense that it is less worthy than anything else. Moreover, for every seeker after fame, there will be at least one who has no interest in assuming the pressures that hundreds (or thousands) of daily readers can bring. Of course, as I’ve rambled on about before, there are those who desire nothing less than fame and recognition, and cultivate it carefully, and measure it in links and hits.

  • “There is no A-list that is qualitatively different from their nearest neighbors, so any line separating more and less trafficked blogs is arbitrary.” Comparing two groups of blogs (ie those who get an average of say 500 hits a day and those who get an average of 50) this is true, certainly. Is it also true, as a generalization, when we compare two individual blogs? Which makes we wonder, too, what we mean when we talk about ‘qualitatively different.’ Dangerous and emotionally charged territory, this, perhaps, in the sense that for many people their personal web sites are an avatar of themselves, and the person they perceive themselves to be and the ways they want the world at large to perceive them are deeply wrapped up in what they say and how they say it.
    This is, one assumes, why (like on this very page) many people (especially those new to the game, before they get jaded and throw up their hands in disgust and disavow ever looking at their traffic figures) add hit counters to their page – they are looking as much for feedback on their own sense of self-worth as anything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. It comes part and parcel with the self-regarding Dark Side of the whole personal publishing world.
  • Anyway, I ramble, as usual. Although it may seem as if I’m arguing against some of Clay’s points, that’s not really the case. There’s a lot to chew on there, and I found it both illuminating and instructive, and thought I’d try and note down some of my reactions before the coffee wears off.
    Me, I like me some conversation, but as moderate fame is thrust upon me, I find it not unpleasant. What do you reckon?