Weekly Wrap 117: Cheese, booze and virtualisation

My week Monday 27 August to Sunday 2 September 2012 was spent in San Francisco, and as I write this on their Labor Day holiday Monday I’m still there. Here. Whatever.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 152, “Geo-engineering: fixing climate for just US$6 billion?” A conversation with Dr Caspar Hewett, visiting researcher at the University of Newcastle in the UK, and Danish author and political scientist Dr Bjørn Lomberg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre in Washington.

Articles

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

VMware’s VMworld was such a large bunch of stuff that it deserves its own section.

  • VMware covered the travel and accommodation, including flights Sydney to Los Angeles to San Francisco, and back again San Jose to Los Angeles to Sydney. A car is being provided for today’s drive from downtown San Francisco to San Jose airport. Four nights accommodation was provided at InterContinental San Francisco.
  • Food ranged from the truly frightening breakfasts in the conference’s media rooms Monday through Wednesday to gorgeous canapés and cheese platters like the one pictured above at the evening cocktail parties. The latter were held at the InterContinental on the Sunday before this week commenced, the St Regis Hotel on Monday, and the Temple Club on Tuesday.
  • On Tuesday night I also went to the Sourcefire cocktail party at the Marriott San Francisco. That’s their cheese platter pictured above.
  • The big VMworld party was Wednesday night and featured Jon Bon Jovi, but I didn’t go because I was exhausted and the last thing I needed was to be in a room with 15,000 drunk nerds. Sorry.
  • The conference backpack contained a VMworld-branded t-shirt, hardcover notebook and ballpoint pen, along with a sheaf of sponsor-related crap on paper. Pretty much all of the latter was thrown out.

I think I gained about 20kg in weight, 75% of which was my liver.

Also this week:

The Week Ahead

I leave San Francisco on Monday evening. That’s tonight. The limousine is scheduled collect me at 1745 PDT to take me to San Jose airport for a 1945 flight to Los Angeles, from where I take the 2250 Qantas flight to Sydney. I arrive in Sydney at 0740 AEST on Wednesday morning and will be heading straight to my hotel to collapse.

Wednesday night is the conference dinner for the ACCAN National Conference. I’m speaking at that event on Thursday afternoon.

Symantec is launching the Norton Cybercrime Report at Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum at 1100 Thursday morning, and I plan to be heading to that.

The rest of the latter part of the week will be full of an awful lot of writing, I imagine.

[Photo: Cheese platter at the Marriott San Francisco, courtesy of Sourcefire.]

ABC chair Newman out of line on climate change

ABC chair Maurice Newman, who is not a climate scientist or even any kind of scientist at all, is pleased to hear more non-scientists talking about climate science. I reckon that apart from being a tool he’s way out of line.

He clearly has no clue about how the ABC, as the national broadcaster, should be helping the public understand this complex issue. And by speaking directly to staff about how they should be covering a specific highly-political issue he’s undermining the role of managing director Mark Scott.

Yesterday Newman (pictured) told ABC staff that the scientific consensus on climate change and anthropogenic global warming was “conventional wisdom” and “group think”.

Judging by the ABC News report, Newman’s speech was riddled with contradictions. He contrasts “wisdom and consensus” with “other points of view”, as if he does understand that there are those with actual knowledge of the field, versus those who just have an opinion.

But later…

“I’m not a scientist and I’m like anybody else in the public, I have to listen to all points of view and then make judgements when we’re asked to vote on particular policies.”

No, Newman, you don’t listen to “all points of view”. You only listen to those who know what they’re talking about.

If I need medical advice, I might seek a second opinion from another doctor, maybe a specialist. But I don’t seek out the views of a kitchenhand, a hairdresser and an architect. For “balance”.

Similarly, if I’m after an understanding of climate science, I ask climate scientists. If I’m the national broadcaster, then I find a good science broadcaster who can turn the complex jargon into a clear narrative. That’s what broadcasters do, and maybe Robyn Williams or one of his colleagues is up for the job.

Climate change is one of the most important issues facing us globally. Even if you still “have an open mind” and are “waiting for proof either way” — and what would that proof have to look like, Mr Newman? — you owe it to Australians to present a clear, reasoned perspective. And that’s not about “balancing” properly-developed scientific knowledge with every swivel-eyed serial fabricator with a media profile.

You owe it to Australians to have the ABC weigh up the validity of these points of view and present the best consensus you can — not just dump an unsorted mess onto the public’s laps and expect them to sort it out.

Yes, the ABC and its staff should be free to say, in their own voices, that some opinions are wrong. They shouldn’t live in fear of being branded “biased” simply for applying rational analysis. That the ABC has become so cowed through endless political attacks is disturbing. As its Chair you should be encouraging greater boldness, not this enfeebled “balance through mindlessness”.

It is outrageous that you’re suggesting we waste more of the public’s time and money on these self-promoting fuckwits. Their little repertoire of cherry-picked factoids has been comprehensively debunked so many times already, and our climate scientists have better things to be doing with their time.

Even if you have doubts, the risk analysis is so simple even a merchant banker and “close personal friend of John Howard” could understand it. If you don’t get it in that 10-minute video, try the follow-up.

The risk of not acting on real climate change vastly outweighs the risk of having spent money on addressing climate change which then turns out to be false — because the worst that’ll happen is we end up with a safer, more efficient society anyway.

Or if an amateur video isn’t your thing, try today’s piece in The Drum, Climate debate: opinion vs evidence, where Stephan Lewandowsky explains why your notion of “balance” is just plain wrong.

And once you’ve done that, Mr Newman, butt out. Directing the ABC’s staff is the Managing Director’s job, not yours. Your job is to somehow move beyond the blatantly political nature of your appointment and ensure the proper corporate governance of the ABC. For all Australians, not just your old mates at the Australian Stock Exchange.

[Update 9.30am: I’ve just discovered that there were more of Maurice Newman’s comments on last night’s edition of PM.]

Links for 16 August 2009 through 26 August 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 16 August 2009 through 26 August 2009:

  • Academic Earth: “Video lectures from the world’s top scholars”, it says. Provided they’re American. The universities included so far are Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA and Yale.
  • [Air-L] Trivial tweeting: Another viewpoint on the “Twitter is pointless babble” rubbish, this time from Cornelius Puschmann, PhD, in the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Düsseldorf.
  • Power of Information | UK Cabinet Office: The February 2009 report from the UK government’s taskforce on Government 2.0.
  • My #blogpostfriday post | Scripting News: Dave Winer is worried about the cloud. “We pour so much passion into dynamic web apps hosted by companies we know very little about. We do it without retaining a copy of our data. We have no idea how much it costs them to keep hosting what we create, so even if they’re public companies, it’s very hard to form an opinion of how likely they are to continue hosting our work.”
  • 8129.0 – Business Use of Information Technology, 2007-08 | Australian Bureau of Statistics: Detailed indicators on the incidence of use of information technology in Australian business, as collected by the 2007-08 Business Characteristics Survey (BCS).
  • The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction | Wikipedia: Someone — I forget who — told me to read this 1935 essay by German cultural critic Walter Benjamin. It’s been influential in the fields of cultural studies and media theory. It was produced, Benjamin wrote, in the effort to describe a theory of art that would be “useful for the formulation of revolutionary demands in the politics of art&”. “In the absence of any traditional, ritualistic value, art in the age of mechanical reproduction would inherently be based on the practice of politics. It is the most frequently cited of Benjamin’s essays”, says Wikipedia. Sounds like I should indeed read it.
  • How Tim O’Reilly Aims to Change Government | ReadWriteWeb: Tim O’Reilly posits “government as platform”, where the government would supply raw digital data and other forms of support for private sector innovators to build on top of. That’s the writer’s version. Does this fit with the Rudd government’s idea of the government as an enabler, as outlined in their Digital Economy Future Directions paper?
  • CHART OF THE DAY: Smartphone Sales To Beat PC Sales By 2011 | Silican Valley Insider: This is based on worldwide sales figures, and it makes sense. The Third World could really use a low-power, rugged smartphone at a sensible price, rather than a laptop or even a netbook to lug around.
  • News Corp pushing to create an online news consortium | latimes.com: By “consortium” they mean “cartel”, right? “Chief Digital Officer Jonathan Miller has positioned News Corp as a logical leader in the effort to start collecting fees from online readers because of its success with the Wall Street Journal Online, which boasts more than 1 million paying subscribers. He is believed to have met with major news publishers including New York Times Co, Washington Post Co, Hearst Corp and Tribune Co, publisher of the Los Angeles Times.”
  • Us Now : watch the film: “In a world in which information is like air, what happens to power?” This entire film can be watched online.
  • Morons with mobiles sour the tweet life | theage.com.au: Jacqui Bunting writes some of the dumbest words about Twitter which have ever been written. Note to editors: Anyone who starts from the premise that Twitter is meant to be a “commentary on life” needs to be taken out the back and slapped around a bit. It’s 2009. Please catch up.
  • The Conversation | Now That I Have Your Attention: The creator of Father Ted and The IT Crowd, Graham Linehan, also has a few words on Pear Analytics’ cod research on Twitter. He makes the point that for the first time we’re truly having a global conversation.
  • Pointless babble | The New Adventures of Stephen Fry: The redoubtable Stephen Fry rips into that Pear Analytics research on Twitter, with more brevity and wit than I did the other day. Well said, Sir!
  • Top 100 Aussie Web Startups – August 09 | TechNation Australia: The latest league table of Australian web businesses, for those who like to have winners and losers in clearly-defined categories.
  • Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule | Flickr: Proof that you don’t need the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology to be boringly anal-retentive about your scheduling.
  • Bruce Schneier: Facebook should compete on privacy, not hide it away | The Guardian: Another thought-provoking essay by Bruce Schneier.
  • Hype Cycle Book | Gartner: Mastering the Hype Cycle is the book explaining Gartner’s regular Hype Cycle reports.
  • How It All Ends | YouTube: A follow-up to the video The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See, which presented a risk analysis showing that we cannot afford to ignore the potential risk of climate change, even if it all turns out to be wrong. This version skips over the main argument and addresses the potential objections.
  • Climate change cage match | Crikey: A delightful comment from a Crikey reader, Stephen Morris, who likens the tactics of climate change denialist Tamas Calderwood to the mating habits of the Satin Bowerbird, which is totally obsessed by the colour blue. “It will actively search through a wide variety of brightly coloured objects that might suitably decorate its bower, but the only colour that interests it and it wants to collect are those coloured blue. Tamas in his scientific objectivity (and unfortunately often his logic) is very Satin bowerbird like. It doesn’t matter what large amounts of available data says about global warming, the only titbits of data of interest to Tamas, are those that can be seen to indicate cooling. Once a data set loses its blueness (or coolness), it seems interest in it is lost and other blue data sets are sought.”
  • Senator Lundy describes her Public Sphere initiative | Net Traveller: A ten minute video in which Senator Kate Lundy describes her Public Sphere initiative, made for students at ANU studying Information Technology in Electronic Commerce COMP3410.
  • AP contradiction: Move forward but restore | Pursuing the Complete Community Connection: Steve Buttry points out the problem with Associated Press’ content protection plan: How can you “move forward” and “restore the past” at the same time?

Episode 52 is online, Senator Steve Fielding!

Screenshot from Stilgherrian Live episode 52

Episode 52 of Stilgherrian Live, the Extended Tentacle Edition, is now online for your viewing pleasure.

We had some great nominations for “Cnut of the Week”, as always. From the selected shortlist, Graeme Hoy came in fourth place (0 votes) for being at the centre of one of Australia’s biggest Ponzi schemes, the $50 million Chartwell Enterprises collapse.

Footballer Greg Inglis, who for some reason I was calling Glen Inglis, was 3rd (14%) for the alleged assault on his girlfriend — though there’s news today that he may have been trying to help.

Who cares? He’s just a goddam footballer!

In second place (41%), all the idiots criticising US plans to actually have a health system. I particularly like, but did not mention on the program, the editorial from Investor’s Business Daily:

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

Except that Hawking was born in and has always lived in the UK. Hat-tip to Daring Fireball, though Investor’s Business Daily has amended their editorial.

Senator Steve Fielding as Cnut of the Week

The winner of “Cnut of the Week” was Senator Steve Fielding (45%) for his continued arsehattery and climate change denialism. Congratulations, Senator.

“Arsehattery” is such an excellent word.

Congratulations also to deanlk, who won another t-shirt from our friends at King Cnut Ethical Clothing he’s won before, you see — via his nomination for me! apparently he didn’t like my recent piece in Crikey about the potential risk of geotagging photos.

Stilgherrian Live will return next Thursday 20 August at 9.30pm Sydney time.