Every so often one comes across a blog entry that makes you say, “Wow! I must try to emulate that myself in my blog… one day… if I have the courage… and if I have the patience… but wait, could I really?… mmmmmmmmmm”. Such an entry is this from my colleague Alec Muffett‘s blog crypticide (or is it dropsafe? – c’mon, Alec, sort this out).
A friend on the Al Stewart mailing list just posted a pointer to a strangely compelling and horrifying website, Kid of Speed. The author, Elena, is a biker (she owns a Kawasaki Ninja) who lives 130 kilometres from Chernobyl. The site is a photo-record of her journeys through the dead zone that is Chernobyl today. It goes on, and on, and on. Make sure you take the time to give it the attention that it deserves.
[Update: July 14, 2004: This may be a hoax. Maybe not.]
No, not “why do I use a Mac”. That should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of good taste. Someone asked me why I included that in my tag line at the top of this page. Looking at the list, I was struck by the fact that several of the roles that I claim represent minority positions, albeit fiercely proud ones. I’m an atheist living in a depressingly superstitious and hagiographic culture, a country where a self-avowed unbeliever couldn’t be elected to public office. A Mac user surrounded by victims of mediocre software from Redmond, WA. A liberal in a society where many treat that as term of opprobrium.
In an increasingly homogenized world, claiming membership in a minority group seems like an obvious way to define oneself as different. We all do it, don’t we? 🙂
Once again I’m in California, this time for a conference of Sun’s software engineering leadership. Despite the constant phone and video conferences, there’s no substitute for getting a bunch of peers together in one place for long enough to meet new people, eavesdrop on interesting conversations, and reinforce long-time relationships. While the trend may be towards highly distributed teams and working from home, management ignores the importance of face-to-face contact and social interactions at their peril….
This evening I went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. I was a bit nervous because of Stephanie Zacharek’s bittersweet review in Salon.com, but I needn’t have worried: I absolutely loved it. This review by Mike McGranaghan captures it perfectly. Highly recommended.
I’ve also been reading Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies. (There are far too many essential political books coming out these days. Perhaps it’s all a conspiracy by the publishers!) Clarke and his book have occasioned much debate this week, including flaming to the ombudsman of the New York Times by many people (including your’s truly). As I’ve read it, I’ve been struck by four things. First, it’s the first book I’ve read that pulls together the terrorist-related events of the last 15 years into a coherent narrative. Second, an awful lot of stuff went on during the Clinton presidency that was almost ignored because of the scandal-mongering of The Vast Right-wing Conspiracy. Third, Clarke comes across as a professional who is frequently annoyed, frustrated, and dismissive of the political amateurs that he had to put up with. And finally, while I’m sure that the book is occasionally self-serving, I’m equally convinced that it is a fundamentally honest account. Also recommended.
The recent hiatus in blogging was in part the result of a business trip to Denver.
While I was in California over the last weekend, I picked up Robin Cook’s Point of Departure, and read it in a couple of sittings. Rather than providing a detailed review, let me refer you to this review in the Guardian by Malcolm Rifkind, the last Conservative foreign secretary (and therefore a political adversary of Robin Cook).
Despite the obvious Iraq angle, this book is about more than just the rush to war. There are really three aspects to it:
- It provides an invaluable account of the debate within the British government during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
- It gives a detailed view of how “the mother of all Parliaments” actually operates at the beginning of the 21st century, from the point of view of someone who is both a committed Parliamentarian and a passionate voice for modernisation.
- In a lengthy coda, it sets out a strong case for the continuing relevance of a Social Democrat alternative to the prevailing market-centric neo-Liberal orthodoxy.