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Month: November 2002

Sibling rivalry

The NY Times ran a great article today about economic disparities between China and India. The gist of it: China and India’s economies were on a par 20 years ago, but China is pulling way ahead. The available resources are more or less similar.

The Times implies that it’s largely due to China’s unfettered capitalism experiments, which is no doubt a big part of it; on the other hand, blaming India’s copious local regulations without examining the consequences of China’s lack of regulation is a bit shaky. They do touch on the cheap labor available in China, but they don’t ask why American companies aren’t as eager to develop the Indian markets. Maybe they’re seen as already developed, not sure.

Happy Thanksgiving, by the by.

When trees go bad

This disaster is why I wouldn’t ever work at a hospital. I get sufficiently stressed worrying about my company losing money. Losing lives — no. I respect hospital sysadmins immensely.

It’s not a very technical article, but still interesting. The point about the importance of the network in disaster recovery planning is essential. slashdot claims the problem was due to a spanning tree fault, although this more technical article seems to indicate a congestion problem. Hard to say.

The time has come

So, about NGOs. Non-governmental organizations, if you’re not down with the acronyms.

I think the events of the last five years have made it patently clear that NGOs of whatever sort can have a huge effect on the world we live in. Example one is 9/11. Al Qaeda is not a government in any sense of the word, but they’ve touched everyone who lives in the United States and most of the rest of the world. Example two is Microsoft. The antitrust trials of the last few years have been simply fascinating from the point of view of a territorial government trying to deal with an economic powerhouse whose interests don’t coincide with the country in which it resides. Further, when Bill Gates gives a hundred million dollars to India to combat HIV — that’s power; that has results.

There are organizations out there who can affect the nations of the world to a greater degree than many nations. An unlikely hypothetical: what if Microsoft decided to embargo Pakistan? What if Windows 2005 contained code that would shut down the computer if it had an IP in Pakistani netblocks? Wouldn’t be a universal barrier to operation, but it would make Pakistan’s life hard. It’d be noticed.

There’s no context in traditional diplomacy for the power that arises from non-territorial ground. It’s assumed that powerful economic interests will share the interests of the country from which they originate. The great trading companies of the colonial age were trusted to the point where they’d function as arms of the government; we see this with the Netherlands, with England, and so forth.

The Sherman Act (and other anti-trust legislation) meant that the value of such a relationship to the corporate sector was diminished. Modern communication technologies and travel times mean that there’s less value to physical location than there once was. It’s unclear how much value there is to cooperation, at this point. Microsoft knows this. If the Japanese government ever becomes less cooperative with the large keiretsu, they’ll know it as well. The rise of shady Russian capitalist endeavours? Yeah, that’s another example of the same dynamic.

Al Qaeda and similar terrorist groups are the flip side of the same coin. You couldn’t organize a large globe-spanning terrorist organization without modern technologies.

It seems to me to be foolhardy to treat influential non-aligned powers as if they were second-class citizens. Ignoring the ability of either economic titans or criminal organizations is risky at best. This doesn’t mean that I think we should treat with Osama bin Laden any more than I think that parleying with Pol Pot would be wise. I think characterizing the hunt for Al Qaeda as a war is in fact appropriate; it’s recognition that we’re dealing with an entity who in nature if not in scale is a peer.

We need to take that recognition and extend it to other such entities.

The difficulty here is that such recognition is fundamentally subversive in nature. An important component of most political theory is that governments have a fundamental right to govern. The lines of thought which lead to such a right do not generally leave room for Microsoft to become a peer of Uganda.

It’ll be interesting to see if practical necessity erodes the foundations of the rule of law over the next few decades. Cyberpunk, ho.


I’m very sad to hear that Hogshead Publishing is going out of business. It’s not that they’re bankrupt or any such; apparently it’s just not fun any more, and I can certainly understand that. Still a shame.

Hogshead and its founder James Wallis have provided high quality gaming for the last decade. They started out as the holders of the Warhammer Fantasy RPG license. WFRPG has been an important alternative to D&D in the fantasy RPG genre in both mechanics and style. I believe the prestige class system in D&D 3E owes a lot to Warhammer’s career system, and the Warhammer world beats 7th Sea all hollow as far as alternate Europes go.

Hogshead also published the tremendously influential New Style line, which deliberately broke expectations of what an RPG was. I wouldn’t count all the New Style games as successes, but the line was bookmarked by Baron Munchausen and De Profundis and those two alone would make the New Style line important to the industry.

As if that wasn’t enough, Hogshead recently rescued Noblis from the abyss, republishing it in a beautiful coffee-table edition which raises the bar for RPG layout and design. Simply lovely stuff. (Fortunately, Guardians of Order will be picking up the Nobilis line with the full cooperation of the author.)

Hogshead, you’ll be missed.

Mmm mmm urk

Sound Bites was a very good breakfast, but the memory is somewhat tainted by the tainted pizza I had for dinner. I liked their mashed potatoes, and I liked the corned beef hash very much, but I will probably not go for the poached eggs again just in case they were at fault.

I have a mini-essay about the necessity to rethink the way governments interact with relevant non-governmental organizations, which I will write when I am feeling somewhat better.

The vaults open

One of the annoying things about being a wrestling fan is the difficulty of watching the classics. Wrestling is meant to be entertainment, right? What kind of entertainment makes it so difficult to see the old stuff? (Well, comics, but that’s another rant.) There are just insane amounts of really good footage locked up in Vince McMahon’s vaults, and most of it never emerges. Here and there a Ric Flair match, here and there some old Hogan stuff, but never any classic wrestling for the sake of classic wrestling.

That makes this really exciting. Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling (later UWF) was very good stuff, and now his ex-wife is making videotapes available online. Not just “best of” or “wrestler we think you should like.” The whole damned thing. 93 Mid-South house show tapes. 101 Mid-South TV tapes. More to come. Wow.