I wonder when all those ex-Sun people will get around to changing their LinkedIn and Facebook affiliations

I just had occasion to search for a bunch of former colleagues on Facebook and LinkedIn. It was strange to see how many of them still show “Sun Microsystems” as their employer. It’s not that they are inactive on either site; they have been adding to their networks, and posting news and comments.


The week's twitterings – 2010-07-25

  • What does @openstack do to #vcloud? Ideally, force split between procedural and declarative layers; the latter should be API-neutral. #
  • Every time I come to Baltimore for a standards meeting, I wind up watching baseball at Camden Yards. (Twice in 10 years, inc. tonight.) #
  • Top of 3rd, Rays up 2-0, nobody out, bases loaded, and of course it's a walk…. Painful to watch. (Now it's 5-0…) #
  • Good grief, how quickly one forgets. East coast, hot summer night, therefore mosquitos. Sigh. #
  • The @openstack edge is the framework, not the individual technologies. E.g. someone will surely contribute a better EBS than one using AoE #
  • RT @markveldhuis, @scobleizer Flipboard "currently over capacity". < They didn't host in an elastic cloud? How 2007 of them! #
  • RT @vambenepe: Anyone can build an IaaS mgmt tool that works across Clouds. <<< At geo scale? With SLAs? With hw lifecycle mgmt? Bullshit… #
  • RT @vambenepe: @geoffarnold I meant a customer-side console. <Yes that's easier, but it still involves a delicate balance, to avoid pure LCD #
  • RT @vambenepe: "I think SOAP died when it became clear that Microsoft & IBM were having private meetings" < Boy, that resonates powerfully! #
  • RT @neilhimself: @amandapalmer Try Kirsty's "You broke my butt in 17 places" #changehearttobuttsongs #
  • RT @wspruijt: "OMG! The 10th of October will be 101010, which is 42 in binary. The answer to life, the universe & EVERYTHING!"< My birthday! #
  • “@ruv: Like fashion, most of the hot concepts in technology today are just recycled from previous fads” < CP-67 to hypervisors, for example #
  • RT @alecmuffett: Yay! There is a LX5! < But a bit pricey at $500 – I'll stick with my DMC-TZ4 pocket-cam (and Nikon P90 for zoom) #
  • RT @GeorgeReese: I miss Krispy Kreme. <Because none near you, or doctor's orders? #
  • That's it for TM Forum's Team Action Week in Baltimore. 170 people from 23 countries, 96+ meetings, 4 days. 1st mtg of the Cloud Services WG #
  • “@krishnan: Really impressed with some of the new features offered by AWS in the recent months.” < +1 to that; velocity is addictive #
  • “@theschnack: Did you know: The @tmforumorg has 2 Rachels on payroll. #3gpp doesn't. #taw” < quantity *AND* quality 🙂 #
  • “@theschnack: @geoffarnold Here you go, as I elbow you” < nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more, squire! #
  • “@ruv: @jasonbrooks The people who complain about 'Open Core' have no money to spend anyway.” < NASA has no money to spend? Who knew? #
  • Back at the Hilton after copious eating/drinking/carousing with the folks from @tmforumorg. I have an 8:35 flight home, so /me shutdown now #
  • Personal peeve: People who arrange for routine events (like subscribing to a YouTube channel) to generate blog entries which show up in RSS #
  • I just earned the Going Out Pin on @gowalla! #
  • “@rgeorge28: Kid A not the greatest #Radiohead album IMO” < Whoever thought it was? OK Computer blows it away… #
  • Interesting – but carefully neutral – David Brooks piece on moral naturalism – I wonder what he really feels… #
  • Hint for new people I follow: if your tweets are >25% of the traffic over a 6 hour period, I'll un-follow you. Think s/n, people! #
  • In response to the question that @danariely posted at my responses are (B) and (D). And now I'll watch the video. #
  • In response to the question that @danariely posted at my responses are (B) and (D). Oops: I missed the country: England #
  • The Limits of the Coded World – – an excellent analysis of free will and the consequences of the "epistemic horizon" #

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Hitchens and skepticism

Back in April I reviewed Christopher Hitchens’ memoir, “Hitch 22”. In my remarks, I focussed on the literary style and the content of the work, without offering any opinions about the positions which Hitchens has endorsed. Regular readers of my blog will know that I generally agree with him on the topic of religion, and strongly disagree with him when it comes to the United States’ disastrous policies of regime change, nation building, and other military adventures. One thing that I did not do, however, was to discuss how Hitchens thinks. In a recent review in the New York Review of Books, Ian Buruma does exactly that. The result is a powerful indictment of the way in which Hitchens abandoned skepticism and irony in favor of simplistic emotion.

Another typical word in Hitchens’s lexicon is “intoxication.” This can literally mean drunk. But that is not what Hitchens means. Writing about his early political awakening, when he shared with his fellow International Socialists a “consciousness of rectitude,” he claims:

If you have never yourself had the experience of feeling that you are yoked to the great steam engine of history, then allow me to inform you that the conviction is a very intoxicating one.

This must be true. When Hitchens became a journalist for the New Statesman, after graduating from Oxford, he adopted a pleasing kind of double life, part reporter, part revolutionary activist, imagining how he might help an IRA terrorist hide from the law. He found this double life “more than just figuratively intoxicating.” One can only assume that intoxication again played a part when he took the view that yoking himself to George W. Bush’s war was to hitch a ride on the great steam engine of history.
The trouble with intoxication, figurative or not, is that it stands in the way of reason. It simplifies things too much, as does seeing the world in terms of heroes and villains. Or, indeed, the dogmatic notion that all religion is bad, and secularism always on the right side of history.

(My emphasis.)
The biggest challenge for a soi-disant skeptic is to hold his or her own thinking – and that of one’s comrades – to the standard applied to others. And in this Hitchens has generally failed:

Again, the narcissism, the narrow scale of characters, and the parochial perspective are startling: “We were the only ones to see 1968 coming.” It is as if the central focus of the Iraq war was about scores to be settled between Hitchens and Noam Chomsky or Edward Said. It is odd that in all his lengthy accounts of the war, the name of Dick Cheney is mentioned only once (because he happened to share the same dentist with Hitchens). What is utterly missing is a sense of perspective, and of the two qualities Hitchens claims to prize above all: skepticism and irony. A skeptic would not answer the question whether he blamed his former leftist friends for criticizing the war with: “Yes, absolutely. I was right, and they were wrong, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.” Asked about his literary influences, Hitchens mentioned Arthur Koestler. He was right on the mark. Koestler, too, lurched from cause to cause, always with the same unshakable conviction.

I love Hitchens’ writing, and his bravura performances of rhetoric. I do not believe that they would be diminished by a modicum of reflection and humility. I would love to read his thoughtful response to this insightful review by Buruma.


The week's twitterings – 2010-07-18

  • Check out @cloudbzz on "The Red Ocean of Cloud Infrastructure Stacks" #
  • RT @trueslant My Dinner (and Drinks) with Christopher (Hitchens that is) – Michael Shermer – <audiobook sounds cool #
  • Kate seems to think I've put too much garlic on the mushrooms I'm sautéing. I don't understand the phrase "too much garlic"… #
  • Electronic boarding pass seems to work well at SFO. TSA agent didn't bat an eyelid. (And didn't scrawl on my iPhone with a highlighter….) #
  • Cloud discussions focus too much on what (features, APIs) and not enough on how (operational stuff, SLAs, QoS). 'Cept for security of course #
  • Since @unitedairlines started automatic free upgrades for elite FFs, I expected 1st to be full. Only about 20% on my SFO-LAX this morning #
  • The real Portland is Portland, ME. (via @GeorgeReese) < No, the real Portland is in England Learn some history! #
  • When the Hilton wants to charge $15/day PER DEVICE for capped Internet access, I reach for my 3G USB modem and share the connection. #
  • RT @Carnage4Life: The Nexus One also dropped signal when held. Difference with the iPhone 4 issue is no one cared… – #

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When I first got my iPhone 4, I tried tethering via BlueTooth, but was unable to get the BT pairing to go through, so I forgot all about it. My 3G modem gives me all the coverage I want, and with my MacBook Air I can share the connection with my (WiFi-only) iPad. Today, however, I was nudged to try the iPhone 4 tethering, and this time everything worked flawlessly. Right now I’m composing this on my tethered MacBook Air.
Of course, all of this “tethering” stuff feels antiquated compared with the mobile hotspot features on the latest Android phones, but it’s good enough for now.


The week's twitterings – 2010-07-11

  • At the Shoreline Amphitheater SF Symphony pops+fireworks show. We've been here a year, but this is our first time at Shoreline. #
  • Oh well; arguably Holland should have been down to 10 men from the very start (that boot in the chest). But 7 goals in 8 games? #
  • Sorry, I meant 8 goals in 7 games. Still a record low, isn't it? #

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To look forward, or to retreat into the past?

Quote for the day: PZ discussing Bronowski’s wonderful TV series “The Ascent of Man”:

A dead civilization is one that has stopped progressing, that ends that dynamism in the stasis of preservation and numbing reverence for the past — when a 2000 year old myth becomes the greatest knowledge worth knowing, we have abandoned the process and begun the contraction into the shells we built while still vital.

This is one of my deepest objections to the religious stance. When one encounters a source of wisdom – an idea, a book, a teacher – the responsible attitude is not to worship it, but to ask, “How can we learn from this and do even better, so that others may learn from us?” This is the human experience, going back over tens of thousands of years. It is also our future: it’s what human beings do. The religious impulse to ascribe supernatural perfection to people and ideas of the past is defeatist. It is, ultimately, inhuman.