Wednesday Sep 22, 2004

Defying Gravity

My daughter, Negin, demonstrates something you and I should also be able to do--defy all kinds of gravity, at least the ones that're not physical.

Cat Stevens, Terror Suspect

My wife (my best source of news) informs me that Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) was denied entry to the U.S. today.

Photo from:

Reports of this incident appear on Reuters, The International Herald Tribune, the BBC, The Malaysia Star, CNN, Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News, Seattle Post Intelligencer, The Australian, Gulf Daily News, NBC, U.S. Newswire, The Independent, Guardian, Culcutta Telegraph, Billboard, Houston Chronicle, Cat-Stevens.DE. . .

You may find more on this incidence on Yusuf Islam's web site:

This should be about "Art," and I'm posting it under that category, but it belongs in its real unfolding to my "Society" category, a mismatch which simply demonstrates the limits of categorization.

When we deal with real-world events, they can only be understood in their totality and fail to fit into artificial digital divisions.

In the aftermath and in a wonderfully written essay for Asia Times Online, Maliha Masood, a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University started with Yusuf Islam's story and moved onto Rumi's popularity in the U.S.

The Taboo against Political Discourse

The taboo against political discourse can presumably lead to a more stable society but it can also lead to a society that keeps making serious (and the same) mistakes because it can afford to do so in the absence of any true democratic deliberation or costs. This risky behavior, which often causes huge losses for others, rarely sees those losses come back to haunt it.

Here's what Lawerence Lessig says about this taboo against politics--a taboo which surrounds us at work, in our neighborhoods and even at our schools:

Democracy means rule by the people, but rule means something more than mere elections. In our tradition, it also means control through reasoned discourse. This was the idea that captured the imagination of Alexis de Tocqueville, the nineteenth-century French lawyer who wrote the most important account of early "Democracy in America."

. . . [Today] for most of us for most of the time, there is no time or place for "democratic deliberation" to occur.

More bizzarely, there is generally not even permission for it to occur. We, the most powerful democracy in the world, have developed a strong norm against talking about politics. It's fine to talk about politics with people you agree with. But it is rude to argue about politics with people you disagree with. Political discourse becomes isolated, and isolated discourse becomes extreme. We say what our friends want to hear, and hear very little beyond what our friends say.

Free Culture (p. 42)

Lessig believes that the architecture of blogs solves one part of this problem by engendring a public form of asynchronous communication, which can "increase the opportunity for communication". Hubert Dreyfus would say that cyber-communication (particularly when asynchronous) will not by itself lead to trust, which is required for joint action and engagement. Face to face, embodied communications (which are usually "synchronous") must complement (and are superior to) cyber-communication. Hence, the many bloggers' meetings that are spontaneously organized in most urban areas on the globe.

In fact, we have had several such meetings ourselves here at Sun Microsystems Inc.

[Note: I don't find the "synchronous" vs. "asynchronous" distinction in communication as a very revealing dichotomy in descriptions of human communications. The "embodied" vs. "cyber" dichotomy is probably more important. More on this later.]


Jan. 31, 2005: Here is a commentary in Japanese.

Spyware Vote in the Congress

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote next week on a measure to crack down on spyware. (The relevant bills originally took shape in the Commmittee on Energy and Commerce.)

Reuters reports the measure has wide support.

I've not been able to find and read any of the two proposed bills (which are supposed to be merged by the powerful Committee on Rules) but I'm wondering about their scope and how severe the punishement will be for the offenders.

Global System for Mobile Communications

Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is the grandfather of most 3G mobile network environments.

GSM's success was not so much dependent on the architectural definnitions that it put together for public land mobile networks (PLMNs). The main reason for its success has been the standard interfaces it defined which made roaming across operators easy. For a description of the interfaces, architecture and system design, I highly recommend Gunnar Heine's excellent book GSM Networks: Protocols, Terminology, and Implementation. This highly readable book (how often can you say that about a telecommunications protocols book?) was originally written in German: GSM--Signalisierung verstehen und praktisch anwenden.

Not only easier roaming was achieved by GSM . . . It also made mergers (such as the recent one between AT&T Wireless and Cingular) easier.

This morning, it looks like Cingular has finally integrated the AT&T Wireless home registries. My carrier was AT&T Wireless. I had spotty reception in certain locations which apparently were owned by Cingular but were not being shared generously before the merger. After the merger, I first noticed an improvement in signals on my phone due to better cell coverage, but a number of new problems with direct dialing of my own landline number when mobile in my own area code. When in the newly available Cingular cells, I had to dial full long-distance number of my home. This had something to do with the slow integration of home and visitor registries. Now, that the integration seems complete, this new problem has also disappread.

More cells, better reception . . . make me a happier user.




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