Live Strong

Lance Armstrong is an inspiration to many of us, and that's why I wear one of the Lance Armstrong Foundation's yellow bracelets. While it is a show of support for cancer survivors living strong, it's also a constant reminder of relentless dedication to achieving one's goals against the odds. Not the punditry odds pronounced by critics, mind you, who easily sway those people of faint heart lacking firm center. No, but the real odds presented by life threatening illness, athletic challenges of the grandest scale, and reaching a world-wide audience to "live strong."

A few weeks ago at a Los Altos City Architecture and Site Committee meeting I noticed one of the commissioners wearing a similar yellow bracelet. Of course, it could've been for show, but nonetheless that commissioner was the one to see the big picture in terms of our local codes and evolution of neighborhoods. The behavior fit the bracelet -- doing the right thing at the right time, irrespective of voiciferous critics, competing interests, and myopic expediency.

Thank you Lance. And thanks to everyone who echoes by example integrity and responsibility.


Gmail Is Wonderful

Google's web mail "Gmail" has become my favorite mailer. I really like how Gmail works -- it makes my life easier, and breaks away from the file/folder hegemony we've suffered through since the '80s.

In essence, Gmail messages are categorized via labels, either by rules/filters or by manual action. From then on, messages are aggregated based on your personal labels instead of some physical location such as a folder. Moreover, a message can be denoted by multiple labels so it can be reached via alternate routes -- not just one place for ambiguous things (with traditional mailers, where do you file items related to "computer communications" ... with computers or with networks?). Plus, as you'd expect with Google, the searching is speedy and excellent. Want to find all messages about the "hydrogen economy" or instead about "whippets"? Just search for them. Want do find those people who communicate about "hydrogen economy" AND "basenjis" ... just search for it, and if that's in your messages, it'll become quickly evident.

Yes, I'm aware of the critisms regarding privacy, ad placement, big brother, perpetual text, and so on, but deep thinking reveals that's all myopic nonsense. While those things are mostly true, they're not unique to Google, so why single them out from Y!, $quish, AOL, or your own ISP? Privacy on the web is an oxymoron, save encrypting everything (Get my PGP key if needed from my personal page).

There's much more to Gmail, but that's a start. It took me a while to become accoustomed to working with labels and categories instead of folders and locations, and to find things by searching instead of index listings, but now that it's familiar, there's no way I'd want to give it up. Gmail is an out-of-the-park homerun in my book.


Our Canine Guardian Angels

Dogs are characters, sometimes clowns, and can be great friends. And they're trainable to be more than a one trick pony. Tonight CBS 60 Minutes aired a segment about dogs that can smell bladder cancer -- work in the UK recently published in the BMJ. Dogs were trained to smell the chemical trace of a specific cancer and picked it out from a set of 6 dishes with over a 40% accuracy -- far beyond a chance occurrence. Curiously, the dogs kept going to one sample the hospital believed was not diseased which turned out that it was. Another life potentially saved by a furry friend that the physicians had missed.

This calls to mind a response to the 2005 question on the edge.org that asked notable authors about things they believed that they couldn't prove. Joseph Ledoux, a neuroscientist at NYU, chose to answer this question by saying he believes that animals have feelings and other states of consciousness. He then goes on to say that "we can't even prove that other people are conscious, much less other animals." Recently, my whippet underscored Dr. Ledoux's viewpoint.

My wacky whippet has an unnatural affection for toilet paper, preferably still on the role and mounted in its proper place. She knows this is unacceptable behavior, but like Roger Rabbit, she just can't help herself when the white fluffies are within her visual field. Last week I was at the sink shaving when she trotted into the bathroom, snatched the paper roll from its holder, and wheeled about ready to head out for delirious moments of frenzied shredding. But ... she saw me standing there in the doorway. She stared at me for about 10 seconds -- a long time -- then turned her head, purposefully dropped the roll into the open toilet, snorted, and pranced out of the room. Feelings? Other states of consciousness? That's as clear a "if I can't have it, you can't have it" as I've ever seen.


Life with a Whippet

Wanna Play? Posted by Hello

Thomas Barnett's Globalization "Rule Sets"

The continual accumulation of experience (a polite way of saying "aging"), coupled with a voracious hunger to learn of fresh ideas and perspectives, does have a tendency to leave one a bit jaded as the years tick on. Every once in a while, though, a new view penetrates through the fog and calls all my gray matter to rapt attention. Thomas P. M. Barnett is one such.

During the holidays I was puttering around the house with C-SPAN on in the background, something I often do during the day. Out of the corner of my ear I heard Thomas Barnett talking about globalization, the "core" and the "gap", and his insightful perspective at making sense of the global situation, the stresses on world societies, and what he terms the "rule sets."

In short, don't wage war if you can't win peace. And he has a plan -- a remarkable one at that. Read about his ideas here: http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/media/CFRBriefTranscript.htm

or stream the c-span video from this link: rtsp://video.c-span.org/project/ter/ter122004_barnett.rm?mode=compact. Enjoy -- it a fresh point of view that is remarkable for clarity, cogency, and importance.