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fOtofair2006 Colman

by Colman Sat Oct 28th, 2006 at 06:08:57 PM EST

 Random Pictures

Random ones I like for assorted reasons, which I'm not going to share.

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US housing to crash?

by Colman Wed Sep 27th, 2006 at 08:11:48 AM EST

Bonddad over on dKos thinks so:

I almost always avoid making hard economic predictions; it's almost impossible to be right.  However, below are three charts that indicate there is practically no way in hell housing can have anything but a hard and ugly landing.  So, I am officially going on the record as saying housing will die painfully within the next 18 months.  

Could be exciting if he's right. The graph - based on a paper by Alan Greenspan no less - at the end of the story is fascinating: it shows the current growth in the US as being driven almost entirely by people borrowing against their homes.

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by Colman Thu Sep 21st, 2006 at 01:07:23 PM EST

I hate HTML

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The Dublin Horseshow

by Colman Thu Aug 10th, 2006 at 06:10:00 PM EST

Sam and I spent today at the Dublin Horse show, which was no doubt a great improvement on watching today's news develop.

Our main interest was watching the Irish Draught show classes, though we took a bit of a look at some of the hunter classes and some of the show-jumping. Pictures follow...

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US recession on the way or here already?

by Colman Wed Aug 9th, 2006 at 04:11:50 PM EST

A number of the big names are getting worried about a US recession: Brad de Long, Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini to name a few.

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Damaging US planes not a crime in Ireland

by Colman Tue Jul 25th, 2006 at 08:19:19 AM EST

From, Ireland.com, this is what a Irish jury decided:

The jury of five men and seven women took four and a half hours to reach its unanimous decision on day twelve of the trial which had been continuously attended by supporters of the activists.

It was the third trial for the five protesters, who pleaded not guilty to two counts each of causing damage without lawful excuse to a naval plane, property of the United States government and to glass door panels, property of Aer Rianta at Shannon Airport, Clare on February 3rd, 2003.

Juries in two earlier trials were discharged before evidence had concluded following suggestions from the defence teams that the presiding judges were, or could have been perceived to have been, biased.

The accused at all stages accepted that they had gone into a Shannon Airport hangar with hammers and damaged the aircraft. They argued that they had a lawful excuse for doing so as they honestly believed they were acting to protect lives and property in Iraq.

Judge Miriam Reynolds discharged the group and left the court but returned when supporters burst into a round of applause telling them their behaviour was "understandable" but not acceptable in a court room.

A few years ago that verdict would have been different. I guess that we won't be seeing more military planes in Shannon - they've already started moving to other airports as I recall.

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Free probability textbook

by Colman Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 03:42:31 AM EST

Thanks to the American Mathematical Society, Dartmouth is giving away the much-praised textbook, Introduction to Probability by Charles M. Grinstead and J. Laurie Snell, as free etext. The website also includes computer programs to go along with the book.(via Boing Boing)

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Book notes: Blink, Malcolm Gladwell

by Colman Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 05:22:55 PM EST

Seeing it billed as the "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking", my immediate reaction, ironically, has been to leave this book on the shelves in the book shop until now. It got bought as the third in a "buy three for the price of two" promotion.

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Foxes and hedgehogs make reality roadkill.

by Colman Tue Jun 20th, 2006 at 03:59:25 PM EST

John Kay, who writes on economics for the FT, has a new book out. The promotional article is interesting and might explain why my head hurts so much when I read things that propose a simple grand narrative into which the world fits.

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faireurope.eu PR plan (pre-alpha)

by Colman Tue May 30th, 2006 at 11:24:23 AM EST

Below is a first brain-dump of my thoughts on a PR plan for faireurope.eu. I have absolutely no expertise on this so I'd welcome comments and suggestions.

This is not really a written document at this stage and since it's an internal document rather than intended for public consumption it's something I want to get to a good-enough state rather a polished state.

Either comments below for general comments or at faireurope.eu for detailed nitpicking - which there can't be at this stage because there aren't any details!

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faireurope.eu - a think tank personality for ET

by Colman Sat May 13th, 2006 at 09:49:53 AM EST

Jérôme's recent exploits in the FT have again raised the issue of how we can exploit the excellent discussions here to make some difference to the public discourse in the wider world.

Like many of you, I've thought about this a little and I have a plan.

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Free online economics text.

by Colman Thu May 11th, 2006 at 05:28:12 AM EST

This might be of some interest to people: http://www.introecon.com/. I've scanned through it and it seems ok - I found it through the one of the economists'  blogs  I read - and you can't beat the price.

From the abstract:

This book presents introductory economics ("principles") material using standard mathematical tools, including calculus. It is designed for a relatively sophisticated undergraduate who has not taken a basic university course in economics. It also contains the standard intermediate microeconomics material and some material that ought to be standard but is not. The book can easily serve as an intermediate microeconomics text. The focus of this book is on the conceptual tools and not on fluff. Most microeconomics texts are mostly fluff and the fluff market is exceedingly over-served by $100+ texts. In contrast, this book reflects the approach actually adopted by the majority of economists for understanding economic activity. There are lots of models and equations and no pictures of economists.

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Community network technology ruminations

by Colman Thu May 11th, 2006 at 04:06:07 AM EST

This is a response to a comment of technopoliticals that got out of control since I've been thinking about it for a while. TP says:

What the world desperately needs, I am convinced, is a medium a lot like this one in some respects, but differing in having scalable and flexible dynamics for group entry, exit, and overlap, -- this being combined with an improved set of community-building, discourse-debugging, and integrated Wiki-like collaborative tools. In aggregate, changes at this software-framework level hold promise of substantially improving the quality of community discussion and output -- including rapid responses of the sort under discussion at the moment.

I tend to agree with you, though I'm not sure how it would work. I've been thinking over the last few days about community sizes, clique formation and overlap and ways of organising them.

Communities have a maximum effective size. After that they need to self-organise into overlapping networks of cliques to keep things manageable. I think focus probably increases the maximum effective size, but only so much: a partisan site like dKos can be so big precisely because it is so partisan but dKos is organised into lots of overlapping cliques. It has also spawned numerous off-shoots that are effectively, but not formally or easily findable in it's network. ET is a dKos clique that has grown a lot of extra people that are not in the dKos group.

I suspect that a technological aid would allow/require/strongly encourage people to identify themselves as members of the various groups in order to build a sensible network architecture on top of the blogs that would have some useful semantics. So I'd be on the map as strongly ET, medium dKos, BT and IrishElection.com, somewhat The News Blog, and a little in a dozen other places. Jérôme would be strongly ET and dKos, medium Oil Drum and BT and no doubt weakly on other places. I suppose you could then browse that network to find overlapping/nearby places along various planes after stripping the personal info.  

It also occurs to me that this would be a solution for the ET language problem, though in that case it would be more tightly linked as a community. It would also work for the policy problem - the ET pro-nuke clique and the ET anti-nuke clique have two different sites for those discussions. Damned if I know how I'd present the info. Maybe a side bar for "nearby" places.

Of course, it's a social rather than a technical problem so technology only goes so far. If you could tag all the collaborative sites this way you might have something though.

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Notes on the Iranian government

by Colman Fri May 5th, 2006 at 09:24:06 AM EST

As I fear that we're going to be writing about this for a while, I was looking through Wikipedia trying to work out how Iranian politics work.

The diagram below may be of interest, and the BBC have a nice analysis.

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Book review: Mutants

by Colman Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 04:12:11 PM EST

Armand Marie Leroi
Harper Perennial

I was initially sceptical of Mutants, expecting a prurient enumeration  of the various defects of the human form - a modern freak-show hall of horrors. Luckily the reviews convinced me otherwise.
Armand Marie Leroi, an evolutionary developmental biologist specialising in C. elegans which he describes as "quite an important worm", has written a literate, sensitive examination of how genetic mutations  illuminate the details of our genetic machinery.

Read more... (18 comments, 328 words in story)

Huh, Iran has uranium mines

by Colman Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 02:51:07 PM EST

Since 1988, Iran has reportedly opened as many as 10 uranium mines, including the Saghand uranium mine in Yazd province, as well otherwise unspecified locations in Khorassan, Sistan va Baluchestan, and Hormozgan Provinces, and in Bandar-e-Abbas and Badar-e-Lengeh Provinces along the Gulf. The Director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Reza Amrollahi, announced in 1989 that the expected reserves of these deposts was in excess of 5,000 tons.

Uranium resources of Iran are not considered rich. The results of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) exploration activities have shown proven reserves of about 3,000 tons of Uranium so far. According to the discovered indices (more than 350 anomalies) and the results of the field discoveries, the expected resources of Iran could be at the range of 20,000-30,000 tons of U3O8, throughout the country. Therefore Iran's domestic reserves might be sufficient enough to supply the raw material for needed nuclear power plants in future.
Global Security

Didn't know that. Must add to Gnomemoot.

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Food: Irish Soda Bread

by Colman Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 07:24:49 AM EST

Food is an integral part of culture. It affects how a nation is perceived, maps the connections and influences between nations and helps bind and mark both families and communities. Food features in our festivals, is a mark of wealth or poverty and is produced by an industry that spends billions of euros marketing their product. It seems like a relevant topic of discussion here.

I know a little about food - as you can see - and I've long threatened to write an open-ended series of stories on the topic in the hope of learning a bit more. I was going to write a reasoned sequence of posts discussing various issues - "Why is modern Anglo-Saxon food so bad?", "Why factory farming is stupid", that sort of thing - but slowly realised that this would both require more research time than I had and be intensely boring and academic. Instead I'm going to pick a recipe or group of recipes each week or so and write whatever occurs to me about them.

Today's topic is soda bread.

A good weekend recipe - promoted from the diaries

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Tune your tin hat - ACLU document on NSA.

by Colman Fri Feb 3rd, 2006 at 06:28:56 AM EST

Good overview of what they are up to.

The NSA is not only the world's largest spy agency (far larger than the CIA, for example), but it possesses the most advanced technology for intercepting communications. We know it has long had the ability to focus powerful surveillance capabilities on particular individuals or communications. But the current scandal has indicated two new and significant elements of the agency's eavesdropping:
  • The NSA has gained direct access to the telecommunications infrastructure through some of America's largest companies
  • The agency appears to be not only targeting individuals, but also using broad "data mining" systems that allow them to intercept and evaluate the communications of millions of people within the United States.
The Parliament report is here.

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Gardening: it's that time of year again.

by Colman Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 10:39:40 AM EST

Snowdrops If, like me, you're in the dreary depths of winter it's time to start planning and planting for the upcoming growing season. The first snowdrops popping up is always a sign of that.

We (well my wife) emptied most of our compost heaps into the garden over Christmas leaving just enough left to renew the soil in our container garden and we have some heavy work to do. Our garden has a small (8' diameter) lawn in the centre which, as we feared when we planted it, is too small to survive the slight depredations of even two miniature dachshunds. We're going to take most of it out and replace it with gravel and proper log edging to the borders around it. If we get a decent weekend - it's looking good for tomorrow.

More importantly, I need to start planning what crops to grow: it's still very early, so the best I can do now is plant lettuce, radish, spinach and some dwarf broad beans under cover. If I can figure out where I would transplant them later I'll plant some leeks as well. If our soil wasn't heavy clay I'd throw a few cloves of garlic around the place but anything calling for well drained sandy soil is doomed in our garden.

My aim is to produce as much good, high-value crops from the garden while still leaving enough space for recreation, wildlife and the dogs - not easy when it's three metres wide and not much longer.

Anyone else got plans this year?

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Jail for denying genocide good, jail for affirming genocide bad?

by Colman Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 08:19:29 AM EST

We've seen a lot of condemnation of the Turks for suppressing debate on the Armenian massacres early in the last century, for, among other reasons, the restraint on free speech.

Can someone explain to me why this is different in principle?

A German Holocaust denier who has regularly lavished praise on Adolf Hitler has gone on trial in Germany.
Ernst Zundel, 66, moved to Canada in 1958 but was judged a national security threat and deported earlier this year.

Germany, where denying the Holocaust is a crime, has charged him with a string of offences based on 14 pieces of written work and internet publications.

Mr Zundel, who once described Hitler as "a decent and very peaceful man", faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

In a 20-page charge sheet, Mr Zundel is accused of using "pseudo-scientific" methods to try and rewrite the accepted history of the Nazi Holocaust.

He is charged with incitement offences, as well as libel and disparaging the dead.

He denies the charges, asserting his right to free speech, and questions the constitutionality of the laws being used against him. (BBC)

It looks like the same thing from here: views that go against government approved reality are being punished. In terms of freedom of speech they seem the same. Why is one acceptable and necessary and the other wrong?

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