News Roundup

The best of the last week:

Sci-fi tearjerkers

My personal #1 would be Buffy’s “The Gift”, which makes the list at #5. Many of the other choices should be recognizable by avid sci-fi fans, and if not, should serve notice for you to start watching those. Revisiting this list at times brings back tragic memories of tears shed.

Reality district

On the same vein, District 9 is not just a successful indie sci-fi flick; it’s an allegory for the violence against immigrants in South Africa. It’s somewhat tragic as South Africa has had opportunities to reinvent itself as the Costa Rica of Africa, becoming a beacon of hope and example of successful governance in a continent of poverty and suffering. Corruption and tribal politics have ended Thabo Mbeki’s vision of an African Renaissance.

Dollhouse becomes reality

Sometimes, I don’t what is more strange, sci-fi or Japan. This post sheds light on what has been happening in Japan for some time, and it is not unexpected for what Wayne has termed a “repressed society”. Still, paying for companionship may soon become more popular throughout the world, starting with the US.

Karlovic outdoes himself

Moving on to sports now, Ivo Karlovic serves 78 aces in a 5 set match against Radek Stepanek in the Davis Cup, and loses. He served 55 against Lleyton Hewitt (my fav. tennis player) and lost. Sometimes, you just don’t get into a rhythm when you aren’t involved in sustained rallies. Regardless, serving 78 aces is an incredible accomplishment, almost ensuring that you never lose serve.

What’s in Intel’s closet?

I feel conflicted about this. On one hand, Intel is a leader in technology and is on the forefront of innovation in many areas (compilers, CPUs, GPUs, chipset, IEEE standards, and many others). The company is a heavy contributor to open-source initiatives and has one of the finest Linux graphics drivers excluding Poulsbo. However, I’ve always had this nagging suspicion in the back of my calvarium that they’ve been artificially excluding competition with AMD by paying off OEMs (Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc.) to not build AMD-based computers. Check out what the EU dug up on Intel and the phrases executives used when discussing their payoff.

RMS vs MDI

In the open-source world, Miguel de Icaza has often been castigated, but none more harshly than this remark by Richard Stallman, calling him a traitor to the movement. Most reactions have been critical of Stallman for his harsh language and attempts to purify the community with an absurd witch-hunt. I’ve met de Icaza in person in 2006 at Microsoft’s .NET conference when I worked as an intern there (the same summer that I met Bill Gates, Anders Heljsberg, and Jim Hugunin). He was amazingly focused, energetic, and passionate about certain technologies, not all of which I found to be technically sound. His actions and words were certainly colourful, and often talked trash about competing technologies (XGL vs AIGLX: “How do you pronounce AIGLX?”, .NET vs Java: “No one uses Java anymore.”). Some of that is certainly due to his involvement in a commercial company (Novell) that is carving out a niche marketplace by collaborating with and being friendly to proprietary companies. Despite those issues, I saw nothing disingenuous about his dedication to the open-source community. His brainchild, Mono, is an amazing technical piece of work that should be embraced by the community as bringing more languages and software to our existing pool.

Deficit doomsday prophet

Previously, I’ve expressed disappointment at Obama’s deficit-happy policies. I’m not alone in that worry. This article describes the activities of David Walker in educating the public about the dangers of high and sustained deficits. He wages a lonely crusade against politicians who kick problems down to future generations and against naive voters who demand more benefits and less taxes at the same time.

Banana republic watch

It’s quite the season for doom-and-gloom prophets to emerge from the woodworks. In terms of wealth, Europe has just surpassed North America in terms of assets under wealth management. Sure, it’s not a precise measurement, but it’s worrisome for some seeing that Europe already leads in other categories, such as leisure time, happiness, and HDI.

Speaking of measurements of development, Joseph Stiglitz takes issue with GDP as the preferred measurement of progress. This comes in the wake of (or maybe inspired) Sarkozy’s determined effort to find a new indicator of growth.

Health care addendum (and here)

Here are some articles following up on my earlier post on health care in the US. Greg Mankiw shares the economic basis behind rationing care with a realistic example of what might happen. He lays out rather clearly why we can’t have equal health care for everyone. The other article is by John Tierney and dispels myths of US health care being behind that of other nations in terms of outcomes.

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