All posts made in Jul. 2005:

A 10th planet has been detected, and at 3,000 km across it's smaller than Neptune but larger than Pluto. Alas, it has a rather dull designation 2003 UB313. For a name, I hearby propose it be known as the Hangul syllable "daes," one of the Han symbols used in Korean (I have no idea how it's pronounced, but when we find out, that's how we should say the planet name), which corresponds to the Unicode character U+B313 [see the glyph; or in a large pdf lookup chart].

Refs: the Unicode book, chapter 10, on East Asian scripts [pdf] and the Unicode Checker application [via the 2lmc spool], which I heartily recommend to planetismal-discovering astronomers as a useful, extensible naming device when UB314, UB315, and so on, need to be called something.

Tonight was Prom 18, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop. Alsop, who is sadly off to bigger and better things in 2007 (Bournemouth is a local city for me), was a tremendous centre to the orchestra. It struck me that the emotion showing on her face was - more than even her energetic movements - what bonded the artists. From Mind Hacks, I remember reading (in the chapters contributed by Alex) about how quickly emotional state is transferred through a group, and, of course, how body posture is imitated, and all of this carries through to your actions, and so on. What better way to carry those subtle inflections to the music than by putting someone empathic and charismatic in the middle, and have them frown, or pull themselves up, or move as if through treacle, or flash a tiny grin.

Now, I'm already a fan of modern classical, and I very much enjoy Glass and Reich, but I only heard my first John Adams two years ago (On the Transmigration of Souls, Proms 2003). That was excellent. But my, tonight, when it opened with The Chairman Dances, from his Nixon in China. Well. It's going to sound incredibly crass and populist to anybody who really knows their music, I imagine (because I don't know my music; I feel lost in it, and that's a lot of what I enjoy about it too), but: blown away. Adams is so much more human than Reich, and less earnest than Glass. His music plays with pattern, and with the nature of synchronisation and the multiple parts of the orchestra itself. It's aware, and humourous, and real at the same time; life bursting through. I sat right at the front, where the sound of the orchestra divides up and you can really pick everything out, where the music is outside your head rather than inside it, and I had that skin-tingly, rollercoaster feeling the whole way. I'm ashamed to say I almost whooped. The dancing chairman being Alsop, really, whose movements wouldn't be out of place at the clubs for the other kind of music I get like this about. Well done her, and well done Bournemouth. I hope to see them both again soon. An all-round powerful, accomplished, brilliant evening. (You can listen online to Prom 18 for the next 7 days. Adams starts a couple of minutes in, and is only a quarter hour long.)

Cisco, ISS file suit against rogue researcher [background at boing boing], the researcher who resigned in order to talk about this unfixed exploit that means you take over Cisco routers and run arbitrary code on them: When you attack a host machine, you gain control of that machine--when you control a router, you gain control of the network.

This line: What politicians are talking about when they talk about the Digital Pearl Harbor is a network worm.

A network worm! A worm spreading in the interstitial spaces of the internet, the transparent stuff between us we never think about. This is what the idea of mustard gas must have been like, the first time. Or - earlier - why people didn't really think of atmospheric pollution before it happened. There's just stuff right?, computers and objects and dirt and physical stuff, and there's distance that keeps them all apart. But when the distance becomes stuff, becomes actives, becomes opaque, when the liminal spaces become spaces, and it all leaks together. Before air warfare, who looked up? You could fight on a map. Before network worms, well, here we are. And after?

Is London Londonistan? Yes. And Londinium, Londra, San Londro, Londai, New London, Troia Nova. My London. London is all Londons, the centre and the edge, the middle of all spectra, partially magical, partially messy, old and gone, emerging, the all-roads-lead-to, the open, the here, the pivot, the large and the small, the mirror, the is-city.

One of my mum's dogs ran away at the weekend. That is: I have one mum; my mum has many dogs; one of them ran away at the weekend. It was traumatic, he was out for 2 nights, and finally - thanks to the jungle drums of the New Forest - he was found and we got him back.

He's run away before because he has bad eyes and is easily lost, and also because he gets out the gate (which closes automatically) or squeezes through a hedge and can't get back in.

My mum's solution is that we need better fences, and to get the people who come round to the house to be aware of the gate situation.

It won't work.

The problem with fences is that you only notice there's a hole when a dog goes through it and gets lost. The problem with getting people to be aware of the gate is that it only takes one person not to know, and the dog gets lost. These are solutions that are fragile--they're not robust to a mildly determined dog or to small error. What's more, the failure states are catastrophic. There's no near-miss: Either the dog is in the garden, or he's lost and you have to walk around in the dark shouting all weekend. there's no sign that something's going slightly wrong and you need to make fixes.

But because fencing and telling people is hard work, it looks grand and you feel like you're doing something.


Terrorism is a systemic response to asymmetric warfare. It is the enemy's stealth bomber [via Yoz].

We're fighting on two fronts - military and media - and we're fighting to express a whole chunk of the world on Western terms, and to feed them into our production lines of consumerism and industry. Some folks resist this vocally but relatively harmlessly (the French; the anti-globalisation crowd). Other folks make the only resistance possible: they change the terms of debate and move off the battlefield [via blackbeltjones].

The terrorist attacks are media and military as one, but break out of both and intrude on real life. They're not just media spectacle, they affect people. We think they're warfare, but they don't take responsibility and disappear for years at a time. They confound us.

There's no reason for these attacks, and they're not something we can fight against. They're systemic; they're responses to an imposed situation. The problem's with the dog, not the fences.


Monitoring email and ramping up security won't help. It'll cause an arms-race that'll make the responses more drastic. At least we're paying attention, as a society now, which means we're not fighting the media front quite so hard. We're at least trying to understand.

Our defence is the same defence that stopped people dumping chemicals into the Commons before Fathers 4 Justice, and has so far stopped people trying to bomb Parliament: The defence is making sure people don't want to do these things.

In this age of machines and computers, we don't like trusting that 50 million people (or more) are all steadily, every day, not wanting to do something. We want to have checks and guarantees. But that's our hubris: The secret is, the world gets on just as well without us. First we have to understand this secret, and second we need to work towards using it.

How? I'll tell you what step 1 should be. It should be to take responsibility for those who claim to speak for our society, and tell them we disagree. I'm thinking of the BNP here. It can't be a coincidence that the recent suicide bombers came from a region where the BNP are strong (although not the neighbourhood, I admit).

And I'm loathe to say "citizenship," but we need to people to know that everyone else cares what they do, and will chastise or help out as appropriate. And here I'm talking park keepers, school teachers, bus conductors. Give them more power, and the police less.


Two final thoughts:

  • This isn't a new problem. think of the wave of assassinations in the US around the time of Vietnam, and when the reshaping of society due to the Cold War was really kicking off. Why did it stop that time?
  • My mum's had previous dogs that didn't run away despite the gate being open continuously. We could spot them sneaking towards the gate and tell them off. Training was slow and continuous, and the failure modes weren't quite so bad. This current dog wasn't so trained.

These attacks will change us in one of two ways. We'll up the security until we live in a militarised police state, and we'll be safe but unfree. Or we'll become multi-headed, heterogeneous, leaderless, fluid, prone to compromise and internal misunderstandings but unlikely to be hated as an attackable block. Hey, like Europe.

6 or 7 explosions in London this morning. Es and I are both okay. Please check-in if you haven't already.