Chair of Homeland Defense committee favors internment camps

The US Rep. Howard Coble of North Carolina, who chairs a Homeland Security Committee recently said on a radio call-in show that doesn’t see anything wrong with the policy of interning American citizens of Japanese ancestry in World War II.
AP Story here. He refuses to apologize.
Forwarded by my friend Miko, who says, “This guy deserves at least the treatment Trent Lott got.”
Blog this, pass it around, don’t let this thing go un-noticed.

Digital insecurity and group-forming

Kellan, Snowdeal, deus_x, and raster write about digital insecurity — the anxiety you feel about asking a colleague to be your “friend” or “contact” on Ryze and similar systems.
The reason is that there is no context for asking. The question doesn’t correspond to a social form in real life.
In real life, you don’t ask someone if they’ll be your friend (not if you’re older than 5 or 6).
1. You start a conversation, and the conversation continues.
2. You join an established group (work, social, hobby), you participate together in shared activities, and enjoy the company of other participants.
3. You invite someone to something, or you accept an invitation.
Online friend lists, like Ryze and its conceptual ancestor Six-Degrees, really are socially weird. You ask someone to be your friend without any of the social context of a shared activity or conversation.
There are good online analogs to the first two friendship-starters. We’re still working on good online analogs to the third.
On the public internet, you don’t need permission to join a conversation. You send someone e-mail, or reply to an email. You leave a comment on someone’s weblog. If either person isn’t interested in continuing the conversation, they don’t reply.
Discussion groups and mailing lists are are online analogs (and often online add-ons) to joining a real-world group. You join EFF-Austin, and sign up for our mailing list. You can set up a mailing list or discussion group pretty easily — but those are pretty heavy persistent structures.
We still need easier and and more natural ways to create ad hoc groups.
You can send an Evite, but that’s more of a formal invitation to an offline event. Meet-up is ok — hundreds of groups meeting monthly in cities around the world. You sign up to a group, and then get reminders of the meetings. But it’s backwards and kind of totalitarian. Only Meet-up has the contact information — the group members don’t have each other’s contact information. Meet-up chooses the places to meet.
We need a range of easier and more natural ways to create ad hoc groups, invite people to the groups, let people join groups. The digital equivalent to hey, let’s go to a movie, or let’s go out hiking.
TopicExchange is a lovely example of this. Create a topic, and anyone can contribute blog posts to the discussion.

DJ Adams distributed book club looks like a good start at ad hoc book clubs.
I don’t think we need better FOAF metadata descriptions of the nuances of relationship. “I have now moved Bob from the category of FriendlyAquaintance to ModeratelyGoodFriend”. Instead, we need better groupforming mechanisms, so people can become friends naturally.

Weekend in Florida

It was a good bat mitzvah. On Friday night, after dinner, the bat mitzvah girl spoke to mixed-seated-group in the Orthodox synagogue sanctuary, saying something meaningful about the weekly Torah portion, citing several medieval commentaries, and thanking her parents, friends, and teachers. Her mom gave a talk. The Rabbi ended his speech with the blessing that the girl should grow up to become “a leader in Israel.”
They didn’t say and do such things in Orthodox synagogues when I was bat mitvah age!
On Friday, we visited a small, beautiful reconsitituted wetland which holds storm waters and houses local creatures: ducks and herons and anhinga and swallows; turtles, frogs, and lounging alligators; citidwellers strolling on a boardwalk; young couples with children visiting grandma and grandpa; intent people with binoculars and the names of all the birds; intent people with military telescopes on tripods waiting for bobcats (they spotted one while we were there).
Had some travel-related misadventures involving lost rental car keys that ended well. The highlight was watching my parents cope with said misadventures with calmness, aplomb, assertiveness, creativity, and the occasional strategically effective tantrum in dealing with braindead people and processes at Budget Car Rental. My parents have matured tremendously in later adulthood.
Had a good time with various relatives, and returned to Austin without trouble (see airplane reading.)

The Moor’s Last Sigh

On the plane ride to and from Florida, I read “The Moor’s Last Sigh” by Salman Rushdie. It was a hyperlink tendril from some reading I was doing last fall about Andalusia.
The book is full sharp satire, rich description, verbal creativity, high drama. It’s an overstuffed saga of a Portugese-Christian-Jewish-Indian family of traders, artists and mobsters, set in Cochin and Bombay from the late 19th century to the late 20th.
The narrator and main character is nicknamed “The Moor”, after a legend that the family descends from Boabdil, the Moorish king who turned the keys to the last Moorish stronghold over to the Spanish.
Written while Rushdie was in hiding from the Ayatolla’s Fatwah, one of the novel’s themes is the passing away of a vibrant, crazily passionate diverse and mixed society, replaced by a world where the power of fanaticism is superseded only by the depth of corruption.
The darkness of the book’s plot is exceeded by the darkness of its characters.
The Moor was born with a crippled right hand, and suffers from a form of progeria in which he ages twice as quickly as normal people. His temperament is passive; he is almost always the pawn of clever and vicious people around him. His emotional landscape is full of shame and self-hatred.
The most dramatic character is the Moor’s mother, Aurora, an artist whose brilliance and love is often surpassed by her betrayals and cruelty. Over and over in the book, love turns into betrayal. Artistic gifts and true love don’t redeem very much.
Overall, the novel is hard to get through, because of the bleak emotional dynamic and the pacing. For a novel in which so many outrageous things happen, the novel is curiously static, like a nightmare. The pacing makes narrative sense given the denouement, which I won’t give away.
It was worth reading, but I am not sure whether or not to recommend it.