Earthquakes, Hurricanes and the Math Thing

Doc Searls has a thoughtful and scary post today on earthquakes.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Thankfully, I’ve never experienced an earthquake. But Hurricanes are a constant worry here along the Texas coast and I have stood outside my house more than once in the yellowish glow of a bad storm and listened for the train-like sound of a tornado.

I remember the very first Sim City game. I didn’t like the natural disasters, so I turned them off. Unfortunately, you can’t do that in real life.

I hope we are spared another hurricane and I hope California is spared another earthquake. But as Doc points out, the math is not in either of our favor.

All Aboard the Bubble Train

With every new funding of the latest high school science project turned business, more and more people start talking about Bubble 2.0.

I have been talking about it for a while, as have Steve Rubel and others.

Today, Mark Evans jumps onboard the bubble train:

The signs of doom are increasingly evident – VCs are scrambling to get a stake in start-ups with limited track records; valuations in the M&A market are climbing, and 20-something entrepreneurs are being seen as cool and credible again.

As I have said so many times before, these folks aren’t doing the start-up thing as a hobby any more once serious money gets involved. No, they are trying to make a lot of money.

Money that is sitting in our pocketbooks, mutual funds and brokerage accounts.

Mark cites a San Francisco Chronicle story as a sign that it’s time to head for the hills. More and more use of the term IPO means it’s time to take our money with us.

Web 2.0 Wars: Quarter-Finals Round Two

The Web 2.0 Wars season has come to an end. The list of winners and playoff brackets were posted the other day.

Here’s how the playoffs will work. After taking a look at my prior commentary about each application, I’ll revisit each application and see what, if anything, is new. I’ll add an update for each contestant and pick the winner.

We are now in the quarter-finals and have already had Round 1. It’s time for the second round in the quarter-finals.

Here are the contestants for the second quarter-final round:

Last.fm
iKarma
Memeorandum
AllPeers
Riya

Last.fm is a very impressive social network focused on music. It has streaming music based on what you like and what those who like what you like like. I have used it extensively and, along with Pandora and Vault Radio, it forms the basis of my internet music listening experience.

iKarma is a feedback and self described reputation and feedback system. Think of it as eBay feedback for the whole internet. There still isn’t much feedback content. Neat idea, but it needs more people to input more feedback and I’m just not sure that’s going to happen.

Memeorandum is the king of the memetrackers. I’ve talked about it a ton, and it is one of the first sites I read every day. It is probably the most useful web site on the internet when it comes to finding tech-related news.

AllPeers is is a Firefox extension based on a bittorent application that allows groups of buddies to share files.

Riya is a photo sharing service with a twist. It has face and text recognition capability that help you identify and name your photos. Though I am not as blown away as others by the face recognition features, it is a well designed photo sharing service in its own right.

And the Winner of the second quarter-final round is:

In a battle between Last.fm and Memeorandum, I have to give the edge to Memeorandum based on how often I use it. Unlike last round, when YouTube edged out TailRank due to its penetration into the non-tech population, none of this week’s contestants have that kind of penetration.

Memeorandum moves to the Final Four.

Dave Wallace on Tablet PC's

Dave Wallace (Dave the Lifekludger) takes a detailed look at a Sahara Tablet PC and details how it can be configured for use by people with disabilities. Dave is an IT Coordinator, podcaster and blogger, who happens to be a C4 quadriplegic.

Dave was able to configure his tablet to put a lot of computing power in a small space, as the photos comparing his regular computer and his Tablet PC will attest.

The handwriting (Dave uses a mouthstick) recognition application seems to work well for Dave. Actually, it works better for him that it does for me. He had less success with the voice recognition application- I’ve never had any success with voice recognition software and gave up trying a year or so ago. Voice recognition sounds great in theory. But I’ve never been able to make it work reliably.

All in all, the Tablet PC worked pretty well for Dave. As with anything, there are compromises to make (size vs screen space, etc.), but the Tablet PC was much more configurable disability-wise than I would have predicted.

In a Comment to Dave’s post, mobile guru James Kendrick mentions that there is a Sahara Tablet with a touch screen. That might be an even better solution.

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Dwight's Favorite Tech Blogs

Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle is doing a series on his favorite web sites. He calls it his Fave6, and lists his six favorite web sites in various categories.

This weekend he did tech blogs, and I am honored to be one of the six along with Ed Bott, Steve Rubel, the Sunbelt Blog, Om Malik and Guy Kawasaki.

Obviously, Dwight can’t pick his own blog, but his TechBlog would certainly be on anyone else’s list of favorite tech blogs, including mine.

Thanks for including me Dwight. I really appreciate it.

The Possibility of Miracles

This post is about Easter.

But first, I want to start with a couple of preliminary thoughts, before I write the substantive content.

First, about religion. I am a Christian, though not always a good one. I am a fairly active member of a local Methodist church. Having said that, my religious philosophy can best be described as a “many paths” approach. Unlike much of the religious right, with whom I largely disagree, I do not believe that one religion is better than another. And I do not believe that there is only one path to heaven or a heaven-equivalent. I believe there are many. Many paths. Many maps. But paths and maps that have far more similarities than differences, and paths and maps that lead to substantially the same destination.

Second, about miracles. My personal definition of a miracle is something good and very important that happens in the face of a set of circumstances that make it highly unlikely that a good result will occur.

For those who celebrate it, of course, Easter is about miracles.

I have personally witnessed two miracles that I know of. Neither involved me or my family. Both involved friends and specifically children of friends.

The first occurred 3-4 years ago. A friend of mine’s son was in a horrible automobile accident. He was in a coma for weeks and at one time the prognosis was not good (to put it mildly). During his long stay in the hospital, I stopped by on my way home from work several times a week. I saw his parents in a state of complete anguish. I and many others prayed for this young man. A lot.

My friend’s son woke up. Got better. A weak ankle is about all that remains from that horrible event. It was a miracle. How do I know? Because I believe it to be so, based on my definitions and my meditations.

The second one occurred this week. Easter week 2006. Some other friends of ours have a little girl about Cassidy’s age. They live in different states, but they know each other and are friends. This little girl got sick a month or so ago. Very sick. Initially, the prognosis was very dire. Again, people prayed. Family, friends and strangers. Through a web site the family started to keep friends updated so they could focus on medical care, people all over the world came to know and care about this little girl.

Earlier this week brought a diagnosis of a treatable disease. I was overcome with joy (literally) when I read the good news. Because this little girl is going to be OK. And because I knew, again using my personal definition, that I had witnessed another miracle.

Miracles are complicated, however. There is no recipe for them and they are often withheld, even in the face of sustained and widespread prayer.

For that reason, I cannot and do not attribute prayer as the reason for miracles. It is simply not possible to do so. Otherwise, prayers would have brought upon miracles in other situations where they were needed just as much. Prayers would have protected Dear Elena (for whom I still mourn even though I didn’t know her personally). Sadly, there are many more examples of miracles withheld than there are of miracles occurring.

Thus, when we celebrate a miracle that did happen, we simultaneously mourn the ones that didn’t.

Miracles are not a mathematical equation- which is difficult for someone like me who sees almost everything as math. Miracles are about faith. Faith not that they will happen, because too often they don’t.

Faith only that they can happen. Faith to recognize it when one does happen.

Miracles cannot be predicted. They can only be hoped for. For many, that hope and the recognition that miracles sometimes do occur is the basis of prayer for those in need.

Prayer is the celebration of the possibility of a miracle.

That doesn’t make it any easier for me to think about the miracles that didn’t happen. But it does allow me to reconcile, at least to an extent, the pure joy and gratitude I feel when I think about our friends’ daughter getting well with the sorrow I feel when I think about miracles withheld.

It’s the possibility of miracles that I am grateful for on this Easter.

Scoble’s New Plan

Robert Scoble has a post today that covers so much interesting stuff, I’m not sure where to start.

First and most importantly, he has made some decisions designed to increase his personal happiness and his blogging experience.

He says:

Some things I’ve changed? 1) No more coffee. 2) No more soda. 3) Xercising. 4) No more unhappy people in my life. 5) Get balance back in my own life.

He also decided to start moderating the Comments on his blog:

This is a huge change for me. I wanted a free speech area, but after having a week off I realize that I need to make a change. That, I’m sure, will lead to attacks of “censorship” and all that hooey. Too bad. I’m instituting a “family room” rule here. If I don’t like it, it gets deleted and deleted without warning — just the same as if you said something abusive in my family room I’d kick you out of my house. If you don’t like that new rule, there are plenty of other places on the Internet to write your thoughts. Start a blog and link here. Etc. Etc.

I am totally down with that. Robert is in a bit of a unique situation since he blogs at least somewhat on behalf of his employer, Microsoft. But blogs absolutely should reflect the “family room” values of their owners. I booted Tagworld out of my Web 2.0 Wars for offending my values, and I encourage and applaud Robert for taking a similar approach to his Comments, which often end up either in an anonymous bash-fest or a conga line of mundane comments made in the name of a link.

Whoever decided that squelching static is somehow inconsistent with free speech got it backwards. Too many idiots hijacking a discussion thread will harm free speech a lot faster than moderated comments will.

Another interesting thing I found in Robert’s post is his reference to Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements. I have never heard of them before, but they are both logical and compelling.

Finally, in his now moderated Comments is a good discussion about the sin-tricity of Second Life, which I talked about the other day. In a Comment to my post, Pathfinder Linden, Second Life’s internet ambassador, addressed the issue as follows:

One thing about Second Life is that it is strictly for adults (18+). However, we have a separate “grid” called “Teen Second Life” (http://teen.secondlife.com/) that is exclusively for 13-17 yr olds. All content on the Teen Grid is PG, there is no gambling or casinos, and it is carefully monitored to keep it as teen-safe as possible.

While I wish there were more non-sex, non-gambling activities in Second Life, I generally buy that explanation.

If we wanted to really do something smart, the Memeorandum/tech blog crowd would find some place in Second Life and build our own little community. If anyone wants to kick start something like that, I’m game.