Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Article: How to explain RSS the Oprah way

Nice example of a non-technical explanation of a somewhat technical subjectmatter: How to explain RSS the Oprah way.

Article: Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor

Turning innovative design towards helping the world's poor -- a New York Times article on an exhibition, currently housed in New York, of designs that strive to do this.

one of the simplest and yet most elegant designs tackles a job that millions of women and girls spend many hours doing each year — fetching water. Balancing heavy jerry cans on the head may lead to elegant posture, but it is backbreaking work and sometimes causes crippling injuries. The Q-Drum, a circular jerry can, holds 20 gallons, and it rolls smoothly enough for a child to tow it on a rope.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Article on upcoming malaysian court case

I've got relatives in Malaysia and have been there a couple of times, and from that I knew that Malays are, from birth, automatically considered muslims, and that they aren't allowed to become non-muslims, but I didn't know that they aren't legally allowed to marry non-muslims, as this article on an upcoming court case in Malaysia says:

Ethnic Malays, who make up just over half of Malaysia's 26 million people, are deemed Muslims from birth.

Constitutionally, freedom of religion is guaranteed. But in reality, conversion out of Islam falls within the ambit of sharia or Islamic courts. And sharia law prescribes fines or jail for those who renounce Islam, effectively ruling out the option.

Muslims who leave Islam end up in legal limbo, unable to register their new religious affiliations or legally marry non-Muslims. Many keep quiet about their choice or emigrate.

Lina Joy, now in her early 40s, was born Azlina Jailani and brought up as a Muslim but at the age of 26 decided to become a Christian. [...]

Until the entry [on her identity card] is deleted, she cannot legally marry outside the Muslim faith. The legal wrangling began when she took the department to court over the anomaly.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Woman dies, ignored, in emergency room of US hospital

The LA Times reports (other) on the death of a lady at a public hosptial in the US:

She lay on the linoleum [in the emergengy room of King-Harbor hospital], writhing in pain, for 45 minutes, as staffers worked at their desks and numerous patients looked on.

Aside from one patient who briefly checked on her condition, no one helped her. A janitor cleaned the floor around her as if she were a piece of furniture. A closed-circuit camera captured everyone's apparent indifference.

Arriving to find Rodriguez on the floor, her boyfriend unsuccessfully tried to enlist help from the medical staff and county police — even a 911 dispatcher, who balked at sending rescuers to a hospital.

Alerted to the "disturbance" in the lobby, police stepped in — by running Rodriguez's record. They found an outstanding warrant and prepared to take her to jail. She died before she could be put into a squad car.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Shirky on why a lack of knowledge is useful for entreprenueurs (similar argument to 'knowledge as a creole')

Rough sketching out...

In Knowledge as a Creole, I talked about the largely unconscious process of 'building a worldview' (though i didn't use that terminology in that post). It's a constructive process, that tries to bulit a reasonably coherent worldview from -- roughly -- the current state of our shared knowledge. We have very limited control over this process, and it is difficult to change our worldview once it is constructed. On the flip side, this process leads to conceptual advances -- advances that were implicit in this shared knowledge.

Clay Shirky has recently written a post The (Bayesian) Advantage of Youth that makes a similar point, though from a different perspective. Rather than knowledge, he's talking about technological advances (made by entrepreneurs), and he's focuses primarily how already seeing things one way restricts your ability to see advances. Also, rather than just the 'worldview' he's talking about experience in general.

...The principal asset a young tech entrepreneur has is that they don’t know a lot of things.

In almost every circumstance, this would be a disadvantage, but not here, and not now. The reason this is so, and the reason smart old people can’t fake their way into this asset, has everything to do with our innate ability to cement past experience into knowledge.

...We are wired to learn from experience. This is, in almost all cases, absolutely the right strategy, because most things in life benefit from mental continuity. Again, today, gravity pulls things downwards. Again, today, my wife will be happier if I put my socks in the hamper than on the floor. And so on.

...In 999,999 cases, learning from experience is a good idea, but what entrepreneurs do is look for the one in a million shot. When the world really has changed overnight, when wild new things are possible if you don’t have any sense of how things used to be, then it is the people who got here five minutes ago who understand that new possibility, and they understand it precisely because, to them, it isn’t new.

Note, Acquiring knowledge is acquiring a skill is closely related to the 'Knowledge as a Creole' post.