Thursday, January 31, 2008

How I Became An Atheist

Children are pliable in the extreme, and they without fail emulate those they respect. My father was a Christian, so I became one as well.

Realize what I mean by that: I didn’t decide to become a Christian; it just happened. As a child, if someone you respect tells you that something is true — or even just illustrates that they believe it to be true — it becomes absolute. This is something that people don’t realize. There is no choice in these matters for a human until much later in life.

The place was more segregated than anything I’d ever seen. Everyone disagreed on where Jesus was buried, where this happened or that happened, and overall had their own dogmatic and exclusionary versions of how things “really” transpired.

I remember the moment it happened — the moment I realized I no longer believed.

I was reading a story about Moses going into a town to spread the word of God. The people of the town must have been Pagans or something because they wanted nothing of Moses’s teachings. They became quite terse with Moses, as I remember, and invoked the anger of God.

In a fit of rage, God proceeded to set fire to the town.

As I was reading this, with all of these doubts and questions in my mind already, I was dumbfounded. Setting fire to a town? A town full of humans he created? Was he surprised at their non-belief? How could he be if he created each one of them from scratch as an omnipotent and omniscient being? Wouldn’t he have had to create the very “flaw” within them that gave them the option to choose incorrectly? If not, how did it get there without his knowledge? What part of any of this was outside of God’s control.

Nothing. Nothing is outside the control of an all-powerful and all-knowing God.

Moses ended up negotiating for the people who’s town was being destroyed by God. He begged and pleaded that they didn’t know any better, and that they should be sparred. God finally listened to Moses and stopped his attack (praise God).

That was it for me. I put the book down and have been an atheist ever since.

As an example, the Bible clearly says that if you work on the Sabbath you should be put to death.

Whosoever shall work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.— Numbers 15:32

But millions of Christians and Jews work on the Sabbath and think it’s just fine. Why? Because they’ve justified — using their own morality — that no just God would really condone killing people for such a thing, right? Well, here’s the simple question: what gives regular men the right to deny the parts of the Bible that they see fit? What tells them to pick and choose what to follow and what to discard?

The answer is nothing. Nothing tells them it’s permissible to ignore the exact words of the ten commandments if at some future time the laws don’t permit their enforcement. Let me state this again: God commanded Moses to kill a man for gathering firewood on the Sabbath. The man was killed. There is nothing about this that expired or became obsolete due to later law. If you are a Christian or a Jew, and you work on the Sabbath, you are breaking God’s law in a way that God himself says is punishable by death.

And that’s my point. You, my fellow humans out there who know this is a hideous idea but cling to a Christian identity are fooling yourselves. You are moral because YOU are a good person. You are moral because you don’t kill people who check their work email on Sunday. You decide how your family follows the Bible. You decide the moral way to raise your family.

You think your goodness comes from the Bible, but it doesn’t. It was inspired by the Bible, and you enjoy the idea of the Bible, but that idea is actually your own version of it — not the real thing. If it were the real thing you’d be in jail right now. The same goes for Muslims, as the Koran commands unspeakable evil as well of its followers. In short, if you’re open, thoughtful and moderate then you’ve perverted the original teachings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by being so.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Arun Sarin's keynote

The main impetus of the talk was leadership, especially in the context of IITians. Arun was of the opinion that most IITians are not realizing their full potential as leaders. Leadership is not merely the recognition that you are better than others and lead them to wherever you are supposed to go, but more importantly, it allows you to bring about fundamental change. Leadership allows you to achieve tangible results without fighting with the intricacies of team work which he described as "holding hands and singing songs".

Arun likes to think of three forms of leaderships but there is a catch - all three forms need to be practiced simultaneously. The three forms are:
  • Strategic leadership
  • Operational leadership
  • People's leadership

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CIOs Shun SaaS Unfairly, Says Google Exec

Some 1,500 businesses a day are now signing up for parts of the service, according to the exec. "Obviously, a lot of that is in the small-to-medium business segment, but we’re also doing a lot with large enterprises," he said, explaining that Google is already working with General Electric, Proctor & Gamble, and Cap Gemini around Google Apps.

The Google product guru used his keynote to describe some of the corporate culture within his notoriously secretive company, illustrating ways to encourage employee innovation in much the same spirit that SaaS adoption needs to be encouraged.

Most firms tend to put barriers up when it comes to employee innovation, he stated, though Google does not. "There's no penalty for failure [at Google]," he said. "In fact, we encourage it, because, if you're not failing, then you're probably not trying hard enough."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

India Budget

Attorney-General Soli J. Sorabjee, Nani's friend and colleague for many years, recalls: "His talent in expounding the subject was matched by his genius in explaining the intricacies of the Budget to thousands of his listeners. His famous Annual Budget speeches had humble beginnings in 1958 in a small hall of an old hotel called Green Hotel in Bombay. He spoke without notes and reeled off facts and figures from memory for over an hour keeping his audience in rapt attention."

Describing the Annual Budget meetings, Sorabjee goes on to say: "The audience in these meetings was drawn from industrialists, lawyers, businessmen and the common individual. Nani's speeches were fascinating for their brevity and clarity. His Budget speeches became so popular throughout India and the audience for them grew so large that bigger halls and later the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay had to be booked to keep pace with the demand of an audience of over 20,000. It was aptly said that in those days that there were two Budget speeches, one by the Finance Minister and the other by Nani Palkhivala, and Palkhivala's speech was undoubtedly the more popular and sought after."

We need a budget browser, budget watch or something that makes available India Budget (historic) immensely navigable.

Why Don't People Get It?

Even now, people think nothing of professing their attachment to socialist ideology at cocktail parties, at restaurants serving abundant foods, and lounging in the fanciest apartments and homes that mankind has ever enjoyed. Yes, it is still fashionable to be a socialist, and—in some circles within the arts and academia—socially required. No one will recoil. Someone will openly congratulate you for your idealism. In the same way, you can always count on eliciting agreement by decrying the evils of Wal-Mart and Microsoft.

Yes, for example, there is a growing student movement, on minimum wage.

The students in the Stanford Labor Action Coalition are working with a national union to pressure Stanford to improve the lot of janitors, cooks, maintenance workers and other blue-collar employees who work on campus, some for as little as $8.50 an hour, less than $18,000 a year.

The Harvard Living Wage Campaign

Controlling Crime - police, mafia, politicians, etc

One of the many problems:

If this report from Tehelka about the complicity of the police in the Nithari serial killings does not outrage you, check your pulse–you may be brain dead and therefore be qualified to be an Indian political leader.

A Possible solution:

The number of rebels on the Web site is still tiny compared to Palermo's businesses overall, but their movement has helped to chip away at the Mafia's psychological hold on Sicilians - long conditioned to believe that defiance would bring ruin or a death sentence. And any consistent crumbling of that culture of fear could ultimately lead to Cosa Nostra's undoing.

The businesses are openly defying the Mafia by signing on to a Web site called "Addiopizzo" (Goodbye Pizzo), which brings together businesses in the Sicilian capital that are resisting extortion.

1. Track down every police - maintain an online directory, editable/commentable (anonymous too).

2. Assign local representatives to tag/track every policeman in that area.

3. Make these locally electable positions. Not appointments. Self governance. Why have democracy at the top level, if our people don't know how it is going to work locally? Make school principals/teachers locally electable too. These guys pay lotsa money in bribes to get a job, they might as well spend it on getting elected.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wozniak Backs Captain Crunch in Net Video Startup

Draper, Kotas and a group of developers have spent months coding en2ools, a set of technologies that accelerates access to content, and creates bridges between devices and entertainment like music and films, allowing people to use content meant for a single device on dozens of different gadgets."Portability is what people want," Kotas says. "But with the big companies at war with each other, you'll never see iTunes on Yahoo or movies on Google. En2ools are the bridge that will let you listen to iTunes and iRadio on your Nokia phone. We make our money by inserting ourselves into the deal between the provider and the user."
Wozniak Backs Captain Crunch in Net Video Startup

Study: $90 wine tastes better than the same wine at $10

In a study that could make marketing managers and salespeople rub their hands with glee, scientists have used brain-scanning technology to shed new light on the old adage, "You get what you pay for."

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology and Stanford's business school have directly seen that the sensation of pleasantness that people experience when tasting wine is linked directly to its price. And that's true even when, unbeknownst to the test subjects, it's exactly the same Cabernet Sauvignon with a dramatically different price tag.

States vie for stem-cell scientists

Much of that battle is being waged in state capitals.

At the forefront, seven big states are leading the world in political and financial support for embryonic stem-cell research.

Their goal: Attract the best stem-cell scientists from around the globe and become a hub for a multi-billion-dollar bioscience industry. So far, their plan appears to be working.

The Future of Ideas is now Free

After a productive and valuable conversation with my publisher, Random House, they've agreed to permit The Future of Ideas to be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license. You can download the book for free here, or above.

This means all four of my books are now CC licensed. Code (v1) was licensed under a BY-SA license; so too, Code (v2). And Free Culture and now The Future of Ideas are licensed under BY-NC licenses.

I am particularly glad that The Future of Ideas is now freely licensed. That book hit the stores 2 weeks after September 11. I'm glad it now has a chance to flow a bit more freely.

Top 100 living geniuses

1. Albert Hoffman - LSD

Free Software Movement - Dr. Edgar Villanueva, Peru

There's a letter circulating, purportedly from Peruvian Congressman David Villanueva Nuñez to Microsoft Peru, which cuts the heart out of Redmond's chief 'panic points' to chill those considering open-source migration.

Apparently, the Peruvian government is considering a bill mandating open-source software for all public bureaux. From the congressman's letter, we gather that MS had circulated a FUD communiqué calculated to frighten world + dog with images of collapsing domestic software markets, spiraling costs and systems migration nightmares. Villanueva Nuñez slices and dices with great skill to reveal the internal inconsistencies, unsupportable claims and irrational conclusions which the MS flacks trade in.

The letter provides the most thoughtful and thorough rebuttal we've ever seen to Microsoft's standard open-source terror boilerplate.

IBM - - Collaborative software

Developing software in a team is much like playing an instrument in a band. Both require a balance of collaboration and virtuosity. Jazz defines a vision for the way products can integrate to support this kind of collaborative work, and a technology platform to deliver on this vision.

Jazz is an IBM Rational project to build a scalable, extensible team collaboration platform for integrating work across the phases of the development lifecycle. We believe Jazz will help teams build software more effectively while making the software development activity more productive and enjoyable.

I used IBM’s Jazz to coordinate my introductory software engineering course at the University of British Columbia. The class had approximately 80 students and twenty groups. I have posted a few entries to share my experience.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Tax Implications of LLCs and Corporations

A common misunderstanding by small business owners concerns the relationship between taxation and limited liability. Many owners mistakenly believe that, because their LLC is treated as a sole proprietorship or general partnership for tax purposes, somehow this means that liability in the LLC mirrors liability in these other business forms. The same misunderstanding arises when a corporation elects subchapter S tax status.

Really, there is no relationship. Taxation has nothing to do with liability. All of the owners of the LLC and corporation enjoy limited liability. How the LLC or corporation is taxed is irrelevant to the question of liability.

Why Republicans Don't Support Ron Paul

A brilliant piece ...

When we call someone a "Neo-Con",stupid, or any other derogatory term, we isolate them immediately. These people love America, too. They aren't trying to destroy our country. Imagine a little kid trying to help its mom do dishes. It really wants to help, but keeps breaking dishes. What's more imporant--a broken dish, or yelling at the kid, breaking its spirt, and making it never want to help again. No matter how many dishes our current politicians have broken, they really were trying to help. There isn't a single law they passed that didn't have good intentions--regardless of whether or not it they had the Constitutional authority to actually pass the bill.

Try to understand where they are coming from. People absolutely hate to be wrong or feel stupid. While you may not agree with them, try to empathize first. From a decade and a half of very successful professional sales experience and dealing with tens of thousands of people, I can tell you without a doubt that it is better to start out by saying "I understand your concern" or "help me understand how you feel" (as in, "I understand your concern, help you understand how you feel that bringing the troops home to be with their families means Dr. Paul doesn't support them" or "I understand your concern about whether or not Ron Paul is a Real Republican, but help me understand how someone who has been a Republican for 30 years, and a libertarian for one yeartwo decades ago isn't really a Republican" or "help me understand how you feel that bringing our troops home from all over the world and back to the United States would make us less safe or bringing our National Guard home would hurt our National defense" or "I understand your concern that we need to win the war, but help me understand how we will know when we have actually won? Didn't President Bush declare 'Mission Accomplished' a few years ago? Please help me understand" than it is to start out saying "You are an idiot and your apathy and mindless following are destroying our country."

Corporations Go Public With Eco-Friendly Patents

Leading members of the corporate community have come together in a first-of-its-kind effort to help the environment, unleashing dozens of innovative, environmentally responsible patents to the public domain.

Availability of these patents will encourage researchers, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes in any industry to create, apply, and further develop their consumer or industrial products, processes, and services in a way that will help to protect and respect the environment.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) -- named today by IFI Claims as the leading earner of United States patents for the 15th consecutive year -- are initiating this effort in partnership with Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony. The pledged portfolio, dubbed the "Eco-Patent Commons," is available on a dedicated, public Web site hosted by the WBCSD (

Patents pledged to the Eco-Patent Commons -- originally proposed at IBM's Global Innovation Outlook conference -- feature innovations focused on environmental matters and innovations in manufacturing or business processes where the solution provides an environmental benefit. For example, a company may pledge a patent for a manufacturing process that reduces hazardous waste generation, or energy or water consumption. A pledged patent covering a procurement or logistics solution may reduce fuel consumption.

Examples of the environmental benefits expected for pledged patents include:

--  Energy conservation or improved energy or fuel efficiency
-- Pollution prevention (source reduction, waste reduction)
-- Use of environmentally preferable materials or substances
-- Water or materials use reduction
-- Increased recycling opportunity

US citizenship

Devang from Cupcake Land, KS

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

This is very similar to Islam, all muslims pledge allegiance to Saudi Arabia. Islam is global, US is local.

Data ghettos

The other component of the data ghetto that bothers me is that you can’t find that data outside the ghetto. Please, someone point me to a place where there’s dynamic content being fed to the story level pages. I have yet to see where someone’s crime data is being fed into a story about a crime, i.e. a map of murders from the data ghetto’s crime application dynamically generated on a story page about a murder. Or a list of the largest donors to a politician from a campaign finance app on a story about a politician.

And that seems to be a problem we’re creating for ourselves — we’re only thinking about getting the data online, not about what to do next. Or about what else could we do with our data. Or what could someone else do with it if we let them. We’re content with a couple of search boxes, a button and a results page. And we’re content to leave it right where we put it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In Life’s Web, Aiding Trees Can Kill Them

A few years ago, Todd Palmer, an ecologist at the University of Florida, was walking past a fenced-off research site in Kenya when he noticed something curious: instead of thriving, acacia trees that were protected from leaf-eating elephants and giraffes were withering and dying.

The acacias and a species of ant that colonize them live together in an arrangement called mutualism. The ants nest in the trees’ thorns and sip on their nectar; in return, they swarm out ferociously, ready to bite, when a tree is disturbed by an elephant, a giraffe or other grazing animal.

But somehow, Dr. Palmer said, the trees seem to sense when no one is munching on their leaves and, after a year or so, seemingly decide, “We are going to reduce our investment in ants” by not producing so many roomy thorns or so much tasty nectar. The ants’ responses — lassitude is one — eventually encourage wood-boring beetles to invade the trees. Soon their tunnels leave the trees sickly, dying or dead.

The finding shows that what looks like two-species mutualism may involve other species. And they offer new proof of the fragility of the web of life, a phenomenon observed, for example, when wolves vanish from mountain landscapes or sharks and other top marine predators are fished out of the marine food chain.

Without wolf predation, elk are freer to roam and eat more plants. Result: aspen begin to vanish. Similarly, the overfishing of sharks and similar large fish leave smaller, algae-eating fish free to graze unhindered on algae growing on (and feeding) coral. Result: dead coral.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Alfresco - Open Source Enterprise Content Management

Facebook is using Alfresco.

Uses Liferay or JBoss Portal.

Essential Free Online Video and Animation Tools

Blender is not only one of the best graphics programs from the open source world, it’s one of the best open source applications of any kind. Widely used in the video and animation communities, it’s great for 3D modeling, animation, rendering, and playback. You can also use it on Windows, Mac or Linux systems. Take a look at a character in progress above.

OpenMRS Invades Googleplex

We started the day having breakfast with Allen Gunn. I was struck with his breadth of experience with open source project management. Despite this, he was humble, genuine, and a lot of fun to talk with.

We then met up with the Google Health folks, and saw some really cool technology that I wish I could talk about. While I think there was a little bit of “magical thinking” about how their technology will work, in general there was a number of excellent innovative ideas in what we saw. We also got a personal tour from Leslie, met up with a number of the engineers on the campus, raided the schwag closet, and did some planning for some future surprises for our community.

OpenMRS Data Warehousing:

OpenMRS Pentaho BI:

Linux Magazine’s Top 20 Companies to Watch in 2008

Who knows what the future will hold? Well, heaven knows we don't or we'd have already won the lottery a few times and retired to a private island somewhere. However, we can look at the past to make a few reasonable predictions-- such as the companies in the free and open source software community that are going to have a major impact on the market in 2008.

  • 3Tera - utility computing, virtual data center
  • Applogic
  • Alfresco's Enterprise Content Management
  • Centrify DirectControl integrates non-Microsoft systems with Microsoft's Active Directory
  • EnterpriseDB takes PostgreSQL, modifies it a bit with its own secret sauce to make it" Oracle-compatible"
  • rPath have paved the way to easy virtual appliances with their rBuilder technology and rPath Appliance program. You can even take rBuilder for a spin online to create your own virtual appliance foundation.


I absolutely relish Bloomberg running and winning the Presidency. Imagine the reactions of the special interests, the lobbyists and their corporate machines. All of the millions thus far meant to influence the candidates and maintain corporate welfare going to WASTE!!!! Would the Corporate Democrats and Republicans actually be spurred to reform the system out of self interest?
Corporations don’t put this money into Hillary and Obama’s campaign for FREE folks. The lobbyists aren’t just altruistic patriots. WAKE UP!!! I’m a Kucinich or Edwards partisan, but I’ll take a reactionary Ron Paul or a moderate Bloomberg any day over any corporate prostitute.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ad money begins to trickle in for bloggers

It is no longer unusual for blogs with just a couple thousand daily readers to earn nearly as many dollars a month. Helping fill the pockets of such bloggers are programs like Google's AdSense and many others that let individuals - not just major publications - tap into the rapidly growing pot of advertising dollars with a click of the mouse.

In 2006, advertisers spent $16.9 billion online, up steadily each year from $6 billion in 2002, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau. In the first half of 2007, online advertising reached nearly $10 billion, a nearly 27 percent increase over the first half of 2006.

Ron Paul and Charlie Wilson’s War

In the polarized world of Wilson, there is only Good and Evil. At the time, Communist Russia was the Devil himself and had to be stopped at all costs…even if it meant sending weapons to bin Laden’s friends – the future Taliban. And while there was no explicit mention of bin Laden, there doesn’t need to be. Whether we armed bin Laden is irrelevant. The movie makes it clear that we allied ourselves with religious zealots, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (who is now listed as a terrorist). Even if we didn’t directly fund or train him, did we not support his cause? Were these rebels not labeled "freedom fighters"?

A powerful illustration of this flip-flopping comes when some powerful Congressman goes to the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan to chant, "God is Great" in Arabic. Imagine doing that today! And this is exactly what Ron Paul is decrying. He understands that the world is complex and changing, filled not with monoliths but nuance. He is too humble to profess to mete out perfect justice.

Max Raskin [send him mail] goes to high school in New Jersey. He was a summer fellow at the Mises Institute in 2007.

School kid? writing like this? Terrific!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Judge Rules Against Wal-Mart Over Its Tax-Shelter Dispute

The dispute arose from Wal-Mart's use of a real-estate investment trust. A decade ago, the company transferred ownership of its stores to two REITs, of which Wal-Mart owned 99%, then paid tax-deductible rent to the REITs to use the stores.

REITs pay no corporate income tax as long as they pay at least 90% of their income to shareholders as dividends. However, those REITs were owned by Wal-Mart subsidiaries based in Delaware and therefore owed no tax on the receipt of those dividends. The result: Wal-Mart turned rental payments to itself into state-deductible expenses, even though the money never left the company.

For a four-year period, the setup saved the retailer an estimated $230 million on its tax bill in dozens of states.

ASP based sites - Verizon, godaddy, etc

Verizon is the only web-based site where you can pay your bill faster by shipping out instead of paying online.

In my life, I've encountered a few sites that are unresponsive time and again. Two of them that are consistently excruciatingly slow are verizon and godaddy. Not so surprisingly, verizon works on internet explorer only. T-Mobile sucks some time too.

Verizon, an ISP, has a rather poor infrastructure. It takes several minutes for a page to load. I have to stop and refresh the page many times over to load correctly. It has crappy tabbing too, if I select something, it automatically goes to the next element.

Godaddy consistently gives me a bad header request error.

I use both sites a couple of times every month and they have been consistent in their crappy behavior.

This proves beyond a shadow of doubt that asp is not viable for traffic intensive sites.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The True Cause of the Civil War: Moral Libertarianism

The Yankees hated the spread of slavery because we had this pernicious habit of freeing our slaves and then living next them as neighbors. This was of course, illegal, in Illinois, home of the great emancipator (and war criminal).

I have no love the southern radicals any more than the northern, but in their defense, it was constant yankee carping that brought on those in your face comments about slavery.

As to Fort Sumter? It was a customs house. The war was about taxes. We were paying for the industrial revolution up north and had enough. We said no more. Lincoln decided to reinforce his tax collectors and we said enough. Up to that point, the yankee soldiers had been buying their provisions in the market in Charleston. No body bothered them. But that was too much. So we blasted 'em. They were trespassing in our harbor, and intercepting our commerce. That's brigandage under international law.

While the south was not blameless, the north turned it from a war of words into a ruthless and murderous invasion of private property. They fought like Nazis, we fought, for the most part, like gentlemen. One, exactly one, northern town was burned. Whole states were turned into wasteland down here. So yeah, we view them as monsters. And ourselves as victims. Why wouldn't we?

It must not be forgotten that Sherman and Sheridan were acting under orders when they carried torch and sword to the civilians of the south. They were promoted because other northern generals were Christians and would not fight that way. But Lincoln found his pyromaniacs...

And why do we need provocation to secede? In a voluntary union, we should be able to secede because we wake up in the morning and just plain feel like it! If you can't do that, you are not free. We have gone from chattel slavery to social slavery.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Yugma - free alternative to gotomeeting, webex - also has free phone conferencing.

Also, free telephone conferencing: