Sunday, July 30, 2006

NWW mooving to Wordpress

I might as well make it official...

North Western Winds is moving to Wordpress fulltime.

You're all invited to visit me at:

Let's get things rolling!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

New posts

I am beginning to think seriously about making Wordpress my new home. If you are looking for new NWW material that will be the place to look - for now.

I still have a few questions to have answered before I commit, but I am leaning that way. In the meantime I'm learning by doing, and that means "doing" over there.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


My move to Mac has been very happy except for two issues - gaming and blogging. For websurfing and multimedia, a Mac is of course a terrific machine.

Games on the Mac platform are often ports of games made for the larger PC market and that means a Mac gamer will have to wait for the port. I'm not a heavy gamer by any means but I am very happy that the Mac port of Civilization 4 is finally here. Well, my copy isn't here quite yet - but it has been ordered and ought to be here soon.

The blogging issue is more complicated. I'm not fond of writing my posts in a browser window. This goes back to when I was first blogging and I lost one or two large posts into the ether. After that I moved to w.bloggar - a great little app that let me compose on my desktop and then click send when all was said and done. I have not been able to recreate that experience on my Mac, and not for a lack of trying! I looked at Marsedit, but that forces you to compse while staring at a bunch of HMTL code. No thanks, sometimes my own philosophical code is about all I can handle. I had high hopes of using the Mail program, which has a very nice interface. However - it generates a slew of formating code that plays havoc with my posts, and as the icing on the cake the links it creates disappear when posting. Performancing, the Firefox extention, is pretty slick, but is a browser window and that raises the save file isssue. I also looked at Nvu, the open source HTML composer that had it's origins in the Mozilla suite. That might be promising in the future but right now it's a bit slow and I don't know what information FTP wants in order to let me use it.

There is also the issue of some frustration that I have had with blogger over the years - lost posts, template corruption and the like. I started to look around at other hosts and while I've made no decision yet, I find Wordpress intriguing. The templates look better to my eyes, and the posting / management interfce is certainly more sophisticated. Here is what I have created so far. I think it looks alright but it needs some images to give it some personality and life but I see no way to edit the template. I know some Wordpress blogs are customized but I suspect that these are running the software themselves. The documentation for Wordpress is extensive and I have not been able to sort this issue out yet and it is something that I need to resolve. If I move I plan to take my blogrolls with me and for that I'll need access to the template. At least, I think that's so.

I haven't yet tried using Mail to write to Wordpress. It would be great if that worked because in my efforts to use Mail I did manage to create an posting app with Automator. I suspect, however, that the browser window is the way of the future given all of the growth in web services we've seen in the last year.

Comments on Wordpress service would be most welcome. Perhaps someone can tell me why the Wordpress composer does not work in Safari or Camino, but does in Firefox. I know that Safari uses KHTML instead of Gecko, but Camino is Geko and it's no better.

Isn't technology grand!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Close the Windows on Eugenics

Here is another reason to stay away from Windows software - as if you needed another. This came out after Warren Buffett anounced he would give Bill Gates' charity a mountain of money:
Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, issued a statement pointing out Buffett's track record of supporting pro-abortion organizations and related projects in the developing world. He reported that Buffett's foundation also gave a grant to the U.S.- based Center for Reproductive Rights, which fought bans on partial- birth abortion, and Catholics for a Free Choice. "The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have also given millions of dollars to organizations pushing abortion around the world," Fr. Euteneuer reported.
I have no idea why Gates and Buffett support the organizations they do, but I suspect it might be something along these lines:
Nature is astonishingly cruel. Science, by contrast, has the power of mercy. One can only be dazzled by the inventiveness and compassion of the scientists involved in this [embryonic] screening breakthrough... Admittedly genetic screening means that embryos carrying disabilities and diseases will be discarded. It is a stretch, however, to use the word destroyed, or even killed, as the test is done on embryos that are only three days old. And what is appealing about this early screening is that it offers the hope that, in the foreseeable future, abortion and late abortion will be less frequently used in dealing with serious defects and disabilities. It will be easier and better in every way to get rid of a tiny collection of cells. This is indeed playing God, as all the usual campaigners were quick to point out last week. But what on earth is wrong with humans playing God? I am all for it, especially as God doesn't seem to be doing it.
This sort of muddle headed bafflegab is such a sickly sweet confection that it seems brains are not an adequate defense against it. Minette Martin, who wrote this in the Times UK, seems to think that an abortion performed on a embryo three days old is somehow - she does not explain how - not an abortion. She neglects to say at what point an abortion is in fact an abortion, or how she arrived at her conclusions. She goes on to disparage disabled people who point out that they are quite happy to be alive, even if the nature of their existence troubles Martin's conscience. Martin, for her part, tries to escape her disabled critics by saying that she thinks no less of them but if they were less than three days old, she'd flush them down the toilet and never think twice about it. So much for intellect uber alles. The bedrock of Martin's argument lies in the claim about the non human nature of the three day old embryo, but this is not a claim built on science. Martin, if she was truly a critical thinker, would know this.

This essay on Critical Thinking today observes that:

... we teach science as a collection of facts and theories about a certain category of phenomena, rather than as a set of principles for understanding the world. A course in "Science, Pseudoscience, and Anti-science" would stimulate broader critical thought than the typical Chemistry 101 class. But the problem is deeper than this. Full-blown critical thinking is not coterminous with good scientific thinking. Critical thought is the principles of scientific thought projected to the far reaches of everyday life, with all the attendant demands and complications. This expansive generalization of the scientific method is hardly spontaneous or self-evident for most people. Just as learning the truth about Santa does not shatter the typical child's credulous worldview, learning the principles of science can easily fail to fully penetrate the larger vision of science students-and indeed, of scientists. By themselves, science classrooms are poor competition for the powerful obstacles to highly developed critical thinking that reside in human social life and in the wiring of the human brain. ... It is naive to expect social-science education, natural-science education, or education in general-at least in their present forms-to elevate critical thinking to something more than a pedagogical fashion that everyone applauds but few conceptualize very deeply. This leaves the skeptical community. We identify ourselves as champions of science and reason. But this is a broad mandate. We should avoid concentrating our skepticism too narrowly on the realms of superstition, pseudoscience, and the supernatural-for the ultimate challenge to a critical thinker is posed not by weird things but by insidiously mundane ones. If we hope to realize the promise of critical thought, it is important that skeptics affirm a multidimensional definition of critical thinking -- reasoning skills, skeptical worldview, values of a principled juror -- that exempts no aspect of social life.
This is all well and good. I endorse a good deal of what Howard Gabennesch has written here, and I'm heartened to see that he's broadened the circle of his criticism to include things that seem obvious, or which the culture has glommed onto. Unlike Gabennesch, however, I do not think there is a neutral ground from which to begin this process. One simply can't be skeptical about everything.To cite an obvious example in his essay, Gabennesch endorses Dawkins' three skeptical points:
1. Skeptics do not believe easily. They have outgrown childlike credulity to a greater extent than most adults ever do. 2. When skeptics take a position, they do so provisionally. They understand that their knowledge on any subject is fallible, incomplete, and subject to change. 3. Skeptics defer to no sacred cows. They regard orthodoxies as the mortal enemy of critical thought-all orthodoxies, including those that lie close to home.
Is there anything provisional in his endorsement of these points?

On the contrary, he is quite dogmatic in this "skeptic's orthodoxy". In number three especially, he's in the position of a doctor who needs to heal himself first. Since there is no obvious way to do this, I think it best to admit that one chooses to believe in capital T Truth and in rationality and all that is bundled up with it.

To bring us back to the beginning, one chooses to value human life. There is no intellectual proof for it. Because we choose to value human life, most of us would not agree to bomb a house if there might be someone inside it. Buffett, Gates and Martin have all avoided this non rational but still reasonable constraint by saying that they know the house is empty. Let's be real critical thinkers and ask how they know this to be true - ask them how it is that this is not a sacred cow or wishful thinking on their part. And if it is a sacred cow - one that competes with placing a high value on human life, why should we choose it when doing so places all of us at risk? A serious brain injury is not hard to come by.The stakes on this question are high. Let's not be hasty or sloppy in answering it; let's affirm that we stand behind one another as human beings. We hear it often enough, but the follow through is questionable. We need to be more critical not less, and really hear the arguments - even the one that gets maligned in most of the public press.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Little Big Town

I've been vocal here about how much I like iTunes. It lead me to my first Mac, after all. And that's all good - I love my Mac, and I'm very fond of the entire iLife suite. I do have a growing gripe with the iTunes country music selection here in Canada, however. I know that Americans have a much better selection that we do here because somehow or other I once found myself logged in as a Yank. That allowed me to view a cornucopia of songs and videos that I had not seen available before (and which I could not download). Example... Little Big Town has been on the airwaves around here for months and for months I've been waiting to downlowd a copy of their second recording. What's worse is that I check for what's new fairly often and too often there's nothing at all, or something old. I love a lot of the oldies (Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys rocks the house) but not everything that's old is golden. A wider selection is a must going forward. Maybe the recent contract settlement with the some of the record labels will spur things along. If you haven't had the chance to check out Little Big Town yet, you can see them performing on this site at AOL. Check them out! Great harmonies and great songs! If you have time for only one song, make it "Boondocks." As of tonight, the record is visible on iTunes, but it has no content. With any luck that will be fixed very soon.

Monday, May 29, 2006

There's still no free lunch

Here, Nicholas Carr explains why Google and Yahoo have an active interest in subsidizing the creation of free internet content:
The enforcers of the new model are the search-based ad-placement services, mainly, at the moment, Google and Yahoo. Their business comes down to scale - in particular, the overall scale of internet use. To expand the scale of use, they want to ensure that there's as much content as possible available on the internet for free. Think about it. Every piece of content - indeed, every service - on the internet is simply a complement to these companies' ad placement business (and the underlying search business). It's thus in their interest to drive the price of those complements down as far as possible, preferably to zero. Subscription pricing, and any other barrier to the free availability of online content and services, is anathema to them because it necessarily constrains the use of the internet. I am not criticizing these companies. I am simply pointing out that they are very powerful presences on the internet and that their core business turns all other web businesses into, in their view, complements that should be free. For Google and Yahoo, the so-called "gift economy" is indeed a gift.
This is, of course, why they fund programs like Performancing and services like Blogger.

Tanstaafl lives on, even in Web 2.0.


This is a test post to see how's new blogging extention for Firefox performs. It's called Performancing and it allows for posting from within Firefox. It works on the Mac just fine, even if it has an interface that is reminiscent of MS Word for Windows. My first impression is that this is a very good idea. It seems to be integrated with Technorati, allowing you to quickly pull up information about the current website - likely the one you're blogging about. There is also a tab for del icio us (which I don't use). If I could change one thing about this program, it would be to make the editor appear as a tab. As it stands now, it's awkward to get the composer window out of the way so that you can refer back to the web page at hand.

powered by performancing firefox