What does it mean?

April 29, 2004

The Evolution of Human Nature – Part 2

This is the second part of a series. It begins with Part 1.

From an evolutionary perspective, depression and ennui are highly disadvantageous. Who is more likely to survive and reproduce – a depressed, listless individual, or a happy, energetic individual? It could be argued that depression and ennui are adaptive responses to negative environmental factors, like pain, which cause us to avoid such factors. But my observation is that depressed, listless people usually have no idea as to the cause of their feelings, or what to do to overcome them. I think that it’s more likely to be a spurious emotional response to an environment for which we are not adapted – the post-tribal world. To use a computer metaphor, it is like a program that is given unexpected input – the output is spurious because it hasn’t been programmed for.

The social habitat that we are “programmed” for – for which we evolved – is tribal. What are the characteristics of a tribal environment? It is an environment in which the needs of the individual are balanced against the needs of the tribe. An individual may be called on to sacrifice himself, but only in extreme cases. When in conflict, deciding between the needs of the individual and the tribe is something like an individual deciding which of his own needs to serve. (Do I need food? Shelter? Sleep? Even a lone individual must decide which need to serve!) In other words, the individual doesn’t make strong boundaries between himself and his tribe – he identifies himself with the tribe.

What is the meaning of identification? It means that the individual has expanded his identity. He includes other individuals in his sense of self. When good things happen to these individuals, he is happy. When bad things happen to them, he is sad. We also have another word for identification – love.

Love, however, as they say, is a dangerous thing. Love that is not requited can easily be taken advantage of. Fortunately, love is not an all or nothing thing – it is a more or less thing (it can also be zero – indifference, or negative – hate). A healthy relationship is one where both individuals feel the same way about the other.

The natural social habit of human beings is a group of people with a high degree of mutual identification – a tribe.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 04:48 PM  Permalink | Comments (1)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/26560

April 28, 2004

Tribal Sex and Food

Don Boudreaux of Café Hayek posts about other evolutionary consequences of our original habitat:

In a recent e-mail he [Boudreaux’s friend – DB] suggested that some government intervention might be appropriate to reduce Americans’ consumption of fatty, non-nutritious foods. He pointed out (correctly) that we are genetically evolved to eat a lot of fatty foods when such foods are available. This genetic disposition served us well in our evolutionary past when food was seldom abundant. But because in the industrialized west today food is always abundant, our genes propel many of us to eat in ways that threaten our long-term health prospects -- that is, to overeat and become obese.

Then went on, tongue in cheek:

After all, the theory of natural selection says that men are evolved to maximize the number of sexual partners each enjoys. Such a preference for multiple partners made sense in our evolutionary past. But in today's bourgeois world, where stable families (the data show!) provide greater economic prospects for their members than do broken families, we must crack down on pre-marital sex, adultery, and divorce.

This is not exactly correct – it is an example of a conflict between evolutionary pressures on the individual, and evolutionary pressures on the tribe. Stable families are clearly to the evolutionary benefit of the tribe – they maximize the number of offspring per woman, however a particular (male) individual may find it advantageous to maximize the number of his offspring without regard to their care – the reproductive strategy used by insects and fish.

It is for this reason that almost all traditional societies have evolved institutions to encourage the stability of families – those tribes that didn’t have them were less successful and didn’t persist.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 11:25 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/26486

April 27, 2004

The Evolution of Human Nature - Part 1

For millions of years, stretching back beyond our earliest hominid ancestors, we have lived as hunter-gatherers, in tribal units. The earliest traces of agriculture date from only about 10,000 years ago, but the ancestors of most living humans have been practicing agriculture for less than 5,000 years. Even then, the social habitat was tribal – the most important social unit, and in most places the largest, was the village.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that significant numbers of people lived in cities, and not until the 20th century that their children grew up, their characters forged in the new urban habitat.

Not by coincidence, it is at this time that a new word appears in our lexicon – ennui: chronic boredom. At the same time people begin to talk about isolation – not circumstantial isolation that is caused by being alone, but existential isolation that persists even in the company of others.

The problem is that the human species is maladapted to its current habitat. We are not at home in the environment that we have created for ourselves. Instead we are plagued by a restless searching for – we don’t know what. To understand what we need we have to look at the social habitat for which we are evolved.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 11:48 PM  Permalink | Comments (1)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/26357

Kerry = Bush without conviction

David Warren says Kerry is "a political weathercock":

Mr. Kerry, though essentially a man of the left, is a political weathercock. Read carefully what he has been saying recently about the U.S. commitment in Iraq, and national interests throughout the region. He is now trying to position himself as hawk to Mr. Bush's dove, in the "war on terrorism". He is less tactful than Mr. Bush in referring to the "Islamic threat", and has been downright rude to Saudi Arabia. In press conferences among international media, he has forgotten that he can speak French.

In other words, Kerry will be the same as Bush, but without the conviction.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 12:36 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/26256

April 26, 2004

Bureaucracy, Democracy, Ideology and Policy

Amritas puts these words in the mouths of Hawaii’s politicians:

Your view is inherently less valid, you mere voter. We votees are superior! If we weren't, why did you vote for us? Because we were the right color?

Anything that is done by a bureaucracy is done less efficiently and with poorer quality than if it had been done by the free market (monopolies don’t count). There are two reasons for this: lack of bandwidth, and lack of external control.

Lack of bandwidth refers to the inability of decision-makers to know everything they need to know in order to make correct decisions. All big organizations suffer from this problem, and management theory is largely the study of ways of coping with it. Nevertheless, the larger the organization, the bigger the problem. This is why there is a continual turnover of companies in the market – big companies fail, and small companies sometimes succeed. It is the single advantage that small companies have over big companies.

Lack of external control refers to the promotion of bureaucrats within the system, and the inability to measure their success. In the private sector, success is clear: success equals profits. Any company that doesn’t make a profit (however small) will not be able to continue. The most profitable companies will be able to expand and grow. In successful companies, people are promoted (tend to be promoted) by how much they contribute to profitability. Companies that base promotion on something else will eventually fail.

Government bureaucracies don’t have this simple measure of success. It would be bad enough if this were the only problem, however, the problem is compounded – promotion of bureaucrats within the system, not being based on measurable success, is inevitably based on the needs of the system itself. All bureaucracies, lacking external control, no matter how noble their initial cause, will end up serving themselves.

As systems of government go, democracies have an advantage – not only because they are morally superior, but because they are structurally superior. In particular, they do have external control, however remote. Instead of the market, they have the voters. Success is not measured by profits, but by popularity. Government bureaucracy is ultimately responsible to something external to the system.

But for democracy to work, the voters have to be able to make the right decisions. My observation is that voters aren’t particularly good at doing this. However, in successful democracies, they at least want to. In places where people don’t base their vote on ideology or policy – but on clan, race, ethnicity, or some other irrelevant factor – democracy won’t work.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 03:05 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/26200

Detail thinkers, Holistic thinkers

I just stumbled across a long multi-party rant against Steven Den Best’s anti-email post. I now feel a bit guilty having done something similar myself. What struck me most, however, was the shallowness of the criticism. I’d like to see one of these guys try to fisk one of SDB’s posts (and you have to pick one of his central themes – I’m sure that he has a few fiskable posts)!

My point earlier was that SDB wanted to have it both ways – that he wanted, but didn’t want, people to email him – and that that’s simply not possible (I hope, though, that that post did cut out some of the chaff). But I totally understand his problem. Anyone in his situation – getting hundreds of emails a day, that are not spam – would have to deal with this issue.

The problem is even worse than most of you can imagine, because SDB is a different kind of person from most of you. The Instapundit, for example, has to deal with the same issue, probably to an even greater degree. But I would wager that it takes much less of a toll on him.

You see, there are two kinds of thinkers – detail thinkers, and holistic thinkers. Or, to be more accurate, you can place a person’s thinking somewhere along a spectrum between very detail-oriented and very holistic. Detail thinkers organize their thoughts as a collection of direct relationships: this fact is related to this other fact. Holistic thinkers construct for themselves complex inner models in which they place their facts. So, while “holistic” may sound like a touchy-feely word, and few people may think of SDB as touchy-feely, SDB is definitely an holistic thinker.

And one of the characteristics of holistic thinkers, especially very strongly holistic thinkers like SDB, is an impatience with details. The reason for this, is that holistic thinkers have trouble with (or may be incapable of) quick processing. The Instapundit probably speeds though his emails, deciding with little effort whether or not they are worthy of his attention. SDB is probably incapable of doing this – and that’s his problem.

About three-quarters of the population are detail thinkers, one-quarter holistic thinkers. Very strongly holistic thinkers like SDB are a tiny minority. Being in this minority has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is that few people understand you.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 09:38 AM  Permalink | Comments (2)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/26188

April 25, 2004

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in Israel – the day begins at sundown. Here, this day is still taken seriously. There are no Memorial Day sales – in fact, the stores and restaurants are closed – nobody goes to the beach, or does anything that might be considered celebratory. At 8:00 PM and 11:00 AM the air-raid sirens, which can be heard in every inhabited place, go off. Not the rising and falling sound that signifies an attack (the memory of this sound from the first Gulf War still makes me start, sometimes, when a motorcycle goes by), but a steady single-pitched sound. At this time, everybody in the country stops what they are doing and stands at attention – for one minute in the evening, and for two the next morning. Those who are driving stop their cars and get out. During this time, the whole country comes to a stop. The traffic lights change silently while traffic stands still. Along the highways, the shoulders are crowded with cars, their occupants standing silently beside them, while the normally crowded lanes are empty. When the sirens stop, everyone gets back to their lives.

Israel is a small country. While all Americans may be linked by five degrees of separation, in Israel it is one. Any two Israelis, if they try, can almost always find someone whom they know in common. If I tried, I could probably find a personal connection to all 21,781 Israelis who have died for their country. Instead, I will limit myself to listing those whom I knew personally, who have died in the current war.

Sarah Duker was the roommate of a friend of mine. She was one of the first casualties of the Oslo War. At the time they called her, “a victim of the peace”.

Matthew Eisenfeld was Sarah’s fiancé.

Kobi Mandell was the son of my wife’s friend. The Mandells moved into my wife’s house after she married me.

Nissan Cohen was an employee of mine at Cleyal Ltd.

Ahuva Amergi was the daughter of my landlord. The contract I signed, which I still have in my desk, was written by her.

Rachel, Avishai, Zvika, and Neria Shabo were the daughter-in-law and grandchildren of my neighbor, two houses down from me.

Benjamin Blutstein was a student of a good friend of mine. I met him a few days before his death, at my friend’s memorial study-session for his father.

The following is a link to those who died in terror attacks in 2002, that I happened to come across.

Tomorrow is Independence Day. It too is a day that Israelis take seriously, while they celebrate. Most of us are not more than one generation removed from a time when six million Jews were murdered, and not one government in the world made it a priority to save them. A few years later, when a million Jews were stripped of their possessions and expelled from Arab countries, Israel was here to take them in.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 08:18 PM  Permalink | Comments (1)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/26122

“These are truths that even God can’t change”

Many years ago I took a course in symbolic logic. My professor was a man named Zoltan Domotor, who I remember with great fondness. In particular, I remember him once saying, “These are truths that even God can’t change,” referring, if I remember correctly, to modus ponens, and modus tollens – axioms which form the foundation of logic. If I understand him correctly, he was saying that it is possible to imagine a world with different laws of nature, but it is impossible to imagine a world without logic. I’m not sure that I quite agree with this – many Jewish authorities say that God made the world logical so that people could understand it – but the real point is that some truths are more basic than others.

Other truths, while not as basic as modus ponens and modus tollens, are so basic that they can be derived without the need of experimentation – they follow inexorably from their postulates. One such truth is the Theory of Relativity.

Einstein begins his original 1905 paper on Relativity with two simple postulates: There is no absolute state of rest, and the speed of light is the same in all frames of reference.

Examples of this sort [asymmetries in Maxwell's electrodynamics when applied to moving bodies - DB], together with the unsuccessful attempts to discover any motion of the earth relatively to the “light medium,” suggest that the phenomena of electrodynamics as well as of mechanics possess no properties corresponding to the idea of absolute rest. They suggest rather that, as has already been shown to the first order of small quantities, the same laws of electrodynamics and optics will be valid for all frames of reference for which the equations of mechanics hold good. We will raise this conjecture (the purport of which will hereafter be called the “Principle of Relativity”) to the status of a postulate, and also introduce another postulate, which is only apparently irreconcilable with the former, namely, that light is always propagated in empty space with a definite velocity c which is independent of the state of motion of the emitting body.

The rest of the paper develops the Theory of Relativity step by step, without references or citations. No further information is needed – if these two postulates are true, then the theory of relativity must also be true.

Another example is evolution. Darwin spent years collecting evidence that evolution indeed accounted for the origin of species. But evolution must be true for any system in which the following two postulates are true: Descendants tend to have characteristics of their progenitor, and some characteristics are more advantageous for survival or propagation than others.

To understand the power of evolution, imagine a population in which 50% of the individuals had a characteristic that gave them a mere 1% greater chance of survival. After the first generation, their percentage of the total population will rise to 50.25% of the total population. After ten generations it will rise 52%. After a hundred generations it will rise to 73%. After a thousand generations it will rise to 92%. If this were a population of humans, and we assume an average generation of 25 years (probably too high), a thousand generations would be 25,000 years. This may seem like a long time when compared to a human lifetime, but in terms of human history it is quite short.

The real beauty of evolution, however, is that it can be applied to any system in which characteristics are inherited. In human terms, evolution acts simultaneously on the gene, the individual, the tribe, and society as a whole. Any of these (in fact, any group that persists over generations – and you can also play with the definition of generation) can be considered a “unit” of evolution.

Evolutionary theory has also been applied to economics – technologies that are more successful survive, while less successful technologies die out, and even ideas themselves – the unit of ideas being called a “meme”.

All this has been a rather lengthy jumping-off point to what I really want to explore in future posts: the nature of human nature.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 12:14 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/26100

Wild Cat

The refrigerator stopped working yesterday. Luckily, our freezer was almost empty. In fact, we didn’t lose anything – the nights here are still cold enough to keep food from spoiling, so we put everything outside. The only problem was the cats. Feral cats are everywhere in Israel – not surprising, since the wild ancestor of the domestic cat is native to these parts – this is the cat’s natural habitat.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 12:06 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/26099

April 23, 2004

Weekend

In Israel, the weekend is Friday and Saturday. In general I won’t be posting on weekends. (If you are in a different time zone you will experience this slightly differently.) See you Sunday!

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 07:55 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/15177

April 22, 2004

Bill de hÓra's name

Bill de hÓra answers my question in his blog, but it takes a long time before I get the answer I was looking for from Jon Hanna:

Irish orthography distinguishes between letters that are always part of a word and letters that are part of a word mutating depending on how it's used. The word is being written as if it were an irish word "Óra" which is mutated when following "de" to "de hÓra" (in all lower-case it would be "de h-óra", and if one were using a Gaelic like those at http://www.evertype.com/celtscript/csmain.html then it would be "de h-Óra" in that case as well). The distinction can be significant, "ár nAthair" means "our Father", "ár Nathair" means "our Snake", the lower-case difference between "ár n-athair" and "ár nathair" making this a bit clearer.

The whole comment trail is really interesting, though. Take a look.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 07:53 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25883

Wednesday was poetry day

Annika says that Wednesday is poetry day:

i'm going to try to make Wednesday poetry day here on annika's journal. A great way to start is with my favorite male poet, William Carlos Williams

Well, it’s Thursday already, but in the spirit of yesterday I’ll post one of my own poems.

If I could dwell within a poem
Timeless beauty my world
Curling path turning inward
Disappearing into the mist

If I could dwell without a poem
Cast about by the winds
Tossed on the byways of life
Striving for the unattainable

But I do not wish to live that which is not life
Indifference, my refuge, is my adversary
So I am left, like a cup without a saucer
With no place to rest

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 01:12 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25847

Objects and Services - Nouns and Verbs

Bill de hÓra talks about the use of Objects and Services in distributed computing. He comes down clearly in favor of services, and against objects:

You see, when it comes to distributed computing, I think all object oriention does is obscure matters. We end up talking about transactions, parameters, references, interfaces, when we should be talking about messages, state, names, protocols. And if that doesn't fit with object thinking, so much the worse for it - distribution and decentralization is becoming the norm.

I was confused by what he says; there was something that I wasn’t getting. Clearly, it was an impedance mismatch caused by different worldviews – mine is inextricably linked to the product I’ve been working on, which nobody else knows about yet.

You see, the world is made of objects and services: nouns and verbs. Being and doing. There’s no getting around it. If you want to write programs that do something in the real world, you have to somehow model this, i.e. represent in your program the concepts that you want to manipulate. The only time that you can ignore objects is when you only care about a single one. For example, a stock ticker doesn’t need to explicitly deal with objects because it only cares about a single stock. Or you can consider the whole stock market to be a single object and support a service (verb) that says for example, “Get me the value of PMTC”.

But in complex systems, it simplifies things tremendously if you can model the world as many objects. This is because not all verbs apply to all objects – you can deposit money to your bank account but not to the stock market. Coincidentally, modeling the world as many objects (nouns), each with its own set of applicable services (verbs) corresponds to the way the world really is – no wonder it makes things easy!

Some of you may be wondering: what about adjectives? The real world has adjectives too! Adjectives are known in computer jargon as state. Adjectives describe objects – objects have state. For example: “The brown-eyed boy” or “The boy has brown eyes”. In a monolithic system is possible to directly access (look at) the state of an object. In a distributed system all you can do is ask for it: “Hey boy! What color are your eyes?”. In other words, it is possible to replace adjectives with verbs. Instead of saying, “The brown-eyed boy” you can say, “The boy whose eyes are brown”. In an object-oriented system that doesn’t allow direct access of state, “to be” is a verb, just link in English. (Not true in all languages.)

Getting back to distributed programming, there are two common paradigms for distributed systems: Web Services and REST. (The terminology is somewhat inappropriate; Web Services is a protocol and REST is an architecture, but so be it.) The REST model is what you are all familiar with as the World Wide Web. In this paradigm, you can conceptualize the system as a set of documents, identified by URL. You can GET the document i.e. view it in your browser. (When you click on a link you are doing GET.) And you can POST to the document e.g. when you fill out a form and press “send”.

It is not often described this way, but the REST architecture is object-oriented. The object is identified by its URL, it has a state (the document that you get with GET), and it supports a verbs through POST that are specified per object. (Yes, I know that technically it supports only one verb, POST, but in effect programmers use some of the data that are sent as verbs, others as nouns. I think that good programmers formalize this to themselves and know clearly which are which. In natural languages the same thing happens: In English you can shower, but usually you take a shower. In Hebrew, you don’t say, “I am skiing” you say, “I am doing ski”. Perhaps it would be clearer if we used IS and DO instead of GET and POST.)

Since Web Services is a protocol, technically you can use it to implement a REST architecture, but usually what is meant by this term is that instead of using many URLs in your system to represent many documents (objects), you instead use a small number of URLs to represent verbs of a “service”. In other words, you have to think of a URL as a single huge object – the service – a document so complex that you never what to GET it.

This has been a very long introduction (I didn’t plan it this way) to my attempt at resolving the my impedance mismatch with Bill. He says:

You see, when it comes to distributed computing, I think all object oriention does is obscure matters. We end up talking about transactions, parameters, references, interfaces, when we should be talking about messages, state, names, protocols. And if that doesn't fit with object thinking, so much the worse for it - distribution and decentralization is becoming the norm.

In REST we talk about messages (GET, POST), state (the document), names (the URL) and protocols (HTTP). So what’s his problem? I think he must be talking about session – and that’s another whole kettle of fish.

A session is like a conversation. Computers, like people, have trouble carrying out more than one conversion at time. However, unlike people, they can be programmed to do so. When you use Google, you don’t have a conversation. You ask one question, and get one answer. Your next question has nothing to do with your previous question (except perhaps in your own mind, but Google doesn’t have to know about that). On the other hand, when you make a purchase from Amazon, you do have a conversation. First you say, “I want to purchase the items in my shopping cart.” Then you say, “This is how I want them sent.” And so on, until finally Amazon gives you the receipt. While Amazon is doing this with you, it is having similar conversations with thousands of other people. It could be a disaster if your session gets mixed up with somebody else’s session (things like this have happened). When you get into multiparty conversations, things can get incredibly complex. I think that what Bill is saying is that instead of trying to keep track of sessions, to send all relevant information with each action, so that all interactions can be like your use of Google.

(Of course, my product solves this problem too!)

Bill: Is that right? (I’m sure it’s not, this is my first try…).

BTW, Bill, your blog has a bug which I assume only appears in my browser (IE 5.00.3700.1000) otherwise you would have fixed it. When I click on a link I loose the right margin, and as a consequence the words jump around. I have the same bug in my blog. I see that you’re also using Moveable Type, so the problem might be with the way they expand one of their tags. If you fix it, can you let me know what the problem is? If I find the fix, I’ll let you know - thanks.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 12:47 PM  Permalink | Comments (3)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25843

The right of self-defense

Amritas quotes JFK (Kennedy, that is):

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides ...

Let both sides ...

Let both sides ...

And responds:

Let our side fight back. I don't care "what problems unite" us with our enemies. I doubt they care. I agree with Hud:

If there's one thing bad people understand, it's force.

Use it!

I say: do you really think that the US should have attacked the USSR?

The problem was that JFK couldn't come right out and say, "The USSR is too strong, therefore we should negotiate with them, even though they are our enemy".

And this is the result of a strange lacuna in Western morality - it doesn't really support the right of self-defense. Rather, self-defense is treated as an "understandable weakness" whereas a truly moral person is pacifist. (Traditional Western morality has the same approach toward sex.)

We can't say, "This person/state/organization is our enemy because they are attacking us".

We have to say, "This person/state/organization is our enemy because they are evil". (Of course, they may also be evil.)

And once we say that they are evil, how can we negotiate with them? If we are negotiating with them then they must be "human beings just like us".

This lack of moral clarity results in all kinds of strange behavior. We can't punish a criminal because he is attacking us, we have to punish him because he deserves it. And if he has an anti-social worldview because of a traumatic upbringing, does he deserve to be punished?

To me, this attitude is itself immoral. It is an attempt by a human being to render Divine justice. Who are we to even attempt to decide what a person really deserves? It's not our job to punish criminals. It's our job to protect ourselves! Ironically, once we get this straight in our minds, we can then let ourselves sympathize with the circumstances of even the worst criminal.

Judaism in non-Western in this regard - self-defense is considered to be an obligation, pacifism is not even a moral option. (Regarding sex, it is considered virtuous - when in the context of marriage.)

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 12:00 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25804

April 21, 2004

Ad hoc integration means the free flow of data

Bill de hÓra brings up another problem that has the same answer:

The free flow of data across applications just isn't happening today. It is essential, and I think inevitable that the way we manage our information changes, given the way we work and live.

Of course, my solution solves this problem too.

Amritas: What kind of name is Bill de hÓra?

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 11:26 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25802

Trackback from Bill de hÓra, What's in a name?:
Asked on David Boxenhorn's blog: Amritas: What kind of name is Bill de hÓra? Not sure. O'Hora is probably the same name....

Email is Application Integration

Jon Udell talks about ending email forgery (which would be a BIG step against spam):

In our July 18 feature, Canning Spam we mentioned an Internet draft proposal from Hadmut Danisch, called RMX (Reverse Mail eXchange). It was an elaboration of an earlier proposal by Paul Vixie, architect of BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain), who in turn attributes the idea to Jim Miller of JCM Consulting. The idea is elegantly simple. In addition to publishing the MX (Mail Exchange) DNS records that identify inbound mail hosts, an organization also publishes reverse MX records that identify outbound hosts. A receiving server queries the DNS to find out if the sending host is so authorized. The name yahoo.com is easy to forge, but the IP addresses of Yahoo's outbound servers are not.

My solution is better. The secret to integrating on-line is to enable ad-hoc integration of diverse sources over the Internet. This by-the-way will also end spam: email is just another application integration problem.

However, this will not solve Steven Den Beste's problem. His problem isn't spam. His problem is that he wants things both ways: He wants to publicize his email so that anyone can write to him - but only if he wants them to. In this life, you have to take the bad with the good.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 10:31 PM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25795

Integrating On Line

Phil Wainewright predicts the end of SAP. He says:

Web services constitute the first threat, or more properly, the ability to assemble applications by linking together separate elements of software functionality using SOA. The article quotes Shai Agassi discussing NetWeaver as SAP's future salvation, but it's just as likely to become its nemesis: "Because NetWeaver is open," points out analyst Joshua Greenbaum, "there is no customer lock-in at all."

Software rental, as practised by the likes of salesforce.com, is billed as the other threat, although the term is a misnomer. If it were simply about changing the way customers pay for their software, SAP would have nothing to worry about at all. The true nature of the threat from online software providers is that what they rent out is not the software itself, but the functionality that it provides: they put business automation on tap. This goes to the heart of SAP's greatest vulnerability, identified in the article: "its customers' longstanding complaint: that SAP's software is difficult to upgrade and modify quickly."

My question is: If a business (or a person) uses multiple on-line services, how can they be integrated? For example, if a business uses CRM-Online and HRM-Online (these are made-up names, my apologies if someone is using them), it might have a business rule that says: When I fire a salesman in HRM-Online, I have to reassign his clients in CRM-Online. How does he do this?

Before you say, "Web Services" think of this: That would mean that the business would have to maintain its own IT department, along with computers, software, etc. Depending on whom you ask, integration is anywhere between 40% to 60% of IT costs. So how much are you gaining in the end? Yes, it is something. But what you really want is to have no in-house IT. You want to be able to integrate all your on-line services as if they were on your own computer, but without the headache of them actually being there.

I have the solution to this problem. I'm working to make it real right now.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 10:57 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25728

Trackback from Waldorf & Wepper, Beware of Mirage Software:
Did no one but me ever experienced something like the following? Your company is looking for some useful tools or whatever kind of software. A collegue starts to search using the Web and, hurray he finds a lot of software vendors that offer exactly th...

Psychopundit

Sarah has linked to me. Sarah says:

I really like how he came up with the name for it.

I like it too! But I came up with an even better name than that: Psychopundit. That's a name that would really catch people's eyes! But it just wasn't me. So, as of this posting, the name's still available.

To any reader who grabs it, all I ask for in return is a hat tip.

By the way, Sarah, do you know that your name in Hebrew means Princess? It's also used for top government officers. Joseph was a sar to Pharoh (sarah is the feminine form of sar). Nowadays, it's used where in English we would use minister, as in Foreign Minister - Sarat Hahus in Hebrew (if the foreign minister is a woman). Final -h becomes -t in this context, when the word stands alone it's sarah.

Update: Sorry Sarah, I didn't mean to associate you with Pychopundit.


Posted by David Boxenhorn at 10:05 AM  Permalink | Comments (2)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25726

Qesher Rishon

Amritas has linked to me. Amritas says:

I think the triconsonantal root of r-'-sh-w-n is r-'-sh as in rosh 'head' (as in r-'-sh h-sh-n-h: rosh ha-shanah, lit. 'head the-year'). Comics fans will recognize this root from the name of the Batman villain Ra's Al Ghul, lit. 'head the ghoul'.

It is! Arabic Ra's is the same as Hebrew Rosh. S in Arabic corresponds consistently to SH in Hebrew and vice versa. How did this happen? How can two letters switch places? The answer is that Hebrew has two S sounds: sin (שׂ) and samekh (ס), as well as an SH sound: shin (שׁ). What happened was this: Proto-Semitic sin, shin, and samekh were retained in Hebrew, but in Arabic shin became samekh (written with sin) and sin became shin (there is no samekh in Arabic). The proof is that Hebrew samekh corresponds to Arabic sin, not shin!

Here is another example of rosh: Rosh Hodesh (Head of the Month) - the first day of the month. Today is Rosh Hodesh Iyar - the first day of the month of Iyar.

Can you guess what Qesher Rishon means?

Continue reading "Qesher Rishon"

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 09:28 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25724

April 20, 2004

Amritas Readers

Amritas has a new readers' page. Am I happy or sad that he started it only once I had my own blog? If he had had it only a few days earlier, it's likely that I wouldn't be blogging now. So I guess I'm happy...

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 10:48 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25579

You are your worldview

Bret Stephens of the Jerusalem post has this to say about the importance of worldview with respect to the 9-11 Commission:

The difference September 11 made was not that it increased the store of knowledge, but that increased the store of experience. Americans knew for themselves what terrorists could do. This is the kind of knowledge no wire dispatch from Jerusalem or Belfast, and no Presidential Daily Briefing, can adequately impart. The only thing that could have moved Americans to be better prepared for September 11 was September 11.

In my words: More than anything else, more than being American, or African-American, or Irish-American, more than being short or tall, more than being educated or uneducated, people are their worldview. People will risk their lives, and the lives of their children rather than give up their worldview - for good or ill. Though a person's worldview naturally evolves over time, a sudden change is a traumatic event; in a very real sense it is like dying. Conversely, it is usually only a traumatic event like 9-11 that can produce a sudden change in worldview.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 09:59 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25577

Chicken Cow Lion Fox

Well, it looks like I'm not the only one in the blogosphere who quotes Amritas and Pirqey Avot.

Monkey! Blog! notices the similarity between this Chinese saying:

Rather be chicken head, not be cow rear

And this quote from Pirqey Avot:

Be the tail of lions and don't be the head of foxes - (havey zanav la'arayot v`al t'hi rosh lashu`alim)

Unfortunately, he misses the point that their meanings are opposite.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 03:22 AM  Permalink | Comments (1)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25545

Rishon Rishon

So what is Rishon Rishon? It comes from the following:


שבעה דברים בגולם ושבעה בחכם
חכם
אינו מדבר לפני מי שגדול ממנו בחכמה ובמניין
ואינו נכנס לתוך דברי חברו
ואינו נבהל להשיב
שואל כעניין ומשיב כהלכה
ואומר על ראשון ראשון ועל אחרון אחרון
ועל מה שלא שמע אומר לא שמעתי
ומודה על האמת
וחילופיהן בגולם

Shiv`a d'varim bagolem v'shiv`a behakham
Hakham
Eyno m'daber lifney mi shegadol mimenu b'hokhma uvminyan
V'eyno nikhnas l'tokh divrey havero
V'eyno nivhal l'hashiv
Sho'el k`inyan umeshiv kahalakha
V'omer `al rishon rishon v`al aharon aharon
V`al ma shelo shama` omer lo shama`ti
Umode `al ha'emet
V'hilufeyhen bagolem

There are seven characteristics of the ignoramus and seven of the wise man
A wise man
Doesn't speak before one who is greater than he in wisdom or in years
And doesn't interrupt the words of his fellow man
And isn't hasty to answer
He asks to the point and he answers accordingly
And says first things first and last things last
And about what he doesn't know he says I don't know
And he admits the truth
And their opposites for the ignoramus


Talmud, Pirqey Avot 5:7

Can you figure out what Rishon Rishon means?

Continue reading "Rishon Rishon"

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 02:44 AM  Permalink | Comments (4)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25537

Trackback from trying to grok, WISE MAN:
A buddy of Amritas' started a new mu.nu blog called Rishon Rishon, and I really like how he came up with the name for it....

The beginning

And that's how it all began.

The truth is, I'd been thinking about blogging for some time. My shy and private nature was at war with my desire to communicate. With a little nudging from Amritas, my desire to communicate won.

Besides, I was having a problem: I kept seeing things that I wanted to comment on, and I wanted a less intrusive way to do it than sending email. (This is a particular problem for Steven Den Beste!) So it was time to bite the bullet and DO IT! Amritas gave me a letter of recommendation to forward to Pixy Misa, and the King of Munuviana was kind enough to let me in.

The rest will be history!

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 01:43 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25528

April 13, 2004

"You should set up your own site"

Amritas writes:

I still think you should set up your own site. You don't just repeat the same tired ideological blather.
Posted by David Boxenhorn at 12:34 AM  Permalink | Comments (0)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25521

April 11, 2004

The most important question

Amritas says:


Languages are universes that we map over the one and only real universe.


This gets to the most important question in your life:

How do we know what to believe?

We have many sources of information, some of them we trust, some of them we don't trust. We trust the ones which provide information which fits our worldview, and discard as false the information which doesn't fit.

But where does the worldview come from?

It comes from our parents. We are born trusting our parents, and they provide the bedrock network of "truth" into which we incorporate all further information.

By the time we reach adulthood, we have a complex system of "truth" through which we view the world. This is called "worldview". Most people are unaware of the fact that they have a worldview, which is why they have problems understanding people whose worldview is different from their own. They are most likely to have one of two reactions, either they'll think, "They're crazy," or they'll think, "This must be tactical behavior whose underlying goal is something which fits my worldview."

And this explains the difference between foreign-policy "liberals" and "conservatives". I think that neither recognize the existence of their worldview, let alone that theirs is different from others. The "liberals" think, "This must be tactical behavior whose underlying goal is something which fits my worldview," while the "conservatives" simply think, "They're crazy." In terms of practical value, the latter is much more useful.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at 12:28 AM  Permalink | Comments (1)
Trackback URL: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/25520