Friday, May 31, 2002

My compliments to N.Z. Bear for his article in Salon. I remember the days of Atari and Apple and C64 owners having contempt for each other well. (I wasn't so much into the BBS scene however. I was in a regional Australian city where there wasn't very much of it, I suspect). Here we have something interesting, however: a non-professional journalist blogger puting something on his blog, getting a good reaction, and then selling it to a professional publication (although a net-connected one). This isn't entirely new: Dave Winer was writing for Wired in about 1994, but we are perhaps seeing the start of blogging as an entry to professional publication. It may not be so much whether people are noticing the bloggers (as Virginia Postrel and Glenn Reynolds have been discussing), as whether people are noticing the people who are noticing the people who are noticing the people who are noticing the people who are noticing the bloggers. The presence of a chain might be enough. When I see someone who started as a blogger writing for the Washington Post or the New Yorker, then I will be impressed, and I think it will happen. (The New York Times has its head in the sand, obviously). More on this after my exam tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Sorry if the broken HTML on this page confused anyone today. It was actually Blogger's fault. (Well, I made an error in my HTML, which somehow interacted with the HTML on Blogger's page so as to disable the 'edit' function. Before I could fix it, I had to "View source", and peer at the HTML for a while). By the way, I will be doing a site redisign in a couple of weeks, in order to add comments, and all the other things you want in a blog, plus to make this blog a little more distinctive.
There are also a few comments I have written on my slashdot homepage , if you really want to read my thoughts.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

The references to this blog have now vanished from Google entirely, as the link to it is no longer on the front page of slashdot. I would have thought that Google would have at least some memory. A search for "Michael Jennings" on Google actually does turn up one or two references to me, although it is difficult to figure out which Michael Jennings is me if you don't know me well. A search on Google groups will find a lot of stuff of mine dating from the days when I posted to Usenet a lot.
Virginia Postrel, in discussing why bloggers aren't actually all that influential, has the following to say.

My challenge to bloggers who think the blogosphere is immensely influential is the same as it has been for months: Oh yeah? Then why isn't anyone outside the blog world talking about Brink Lindsey's book? Why hasn't it been reviewed in the NYT Book Review? Why did The Washington Post kiss it off in one nasty paragraph? Why isn't Brink on NPR all the time? Why haven't Time and Newsweek quoted him? It hasn't even been reviewed in National Review or The Weekly Standard. All these places have plenty of room for far less worthy authors. Check out the full list of reviews here. This is ridiculously scant treatment of a good and thoughtful book, the sort of serious work that public intellectuals are supposed to do.

When I think about it, Virginia is probably right, my reaction to reading this was to be quite surprised. Normally, I start to pay attention to a book when I see it referred to in several different places that I regularly read or see. The less related the several different places are to each other, the more likely I am to pick the book up. Now, I had seen the book reviewed by Samuel Brittan in the Financial Times , a had seen it discussed in a few blogs, I may or may not have seen the review in The Economist and I saw a prominent display of the book in the Islington Borders just as I was entering the men's bathroom (which means that a British publisher was pushing the book or someone on the staff of the bookshop liked it). This was enough to make me think that I should probably read it and that it was being discussed. (It could mean that my reading habits are more insular than I thought, but I rather doubt it). Whether it means that British people are more interested in reading a strongly pro-globalisation book by an American libertarian than are the Americans, I am not sure. What it might mean is simply that the pro-globalisers in Britain (who mostly read the financial press) are a long way from the sorts of "influential" people who write for the New Statesman or produce programming for the BBC. Typically, I think that such people have missed the point so completely that I don't pay them much attention. The difference might be that in the US, NPR and the Weekly Standard and the National Review aren't so far away that the pro-globalisation, pro-trade blogging types do not care what they think.

Monday, May 27, 2002

I see that large numbers of New Yorkers want to rebuilt large towers at least as tall as the buildings destroyed on the WTC site. I sympathise - I think my preferred solution emotionally is a single, 220 storey tower in the shape of an upraised middle finger - but it won't happen. Firstly, although the people of New York might like to see such a skyline, it would be very difficult to find tenants for it, particularly on the higher floors. And, sadly, the Osama bin Ladens of the world would see it as a personal challenge to try and knock it down again, and it isn't worth that. (Osama bin Laden seems to have been driven to knock down the first one for in some ways curiously obsessive and personal reasons as well. In any event, the desire for enormous office buildings seems to have shifted away from the US and to Asia, from Malaysia to Hong Kong to Shanghai to Taipei, a couple of decades ago. New Civil Engineer ran a nice article on these Asian buildings a couple of months ago - another free but irritating registration required). It seems to me that the best approach to rebuilding on the WTC site is to see how to use the site to improve how well New York operates as a city. That largely means infrastructure improvement. There are various proposals to rebuild the 1 and 9 subway lines, as well as the PATH service from New Jersey in order to provide better interchange services and greater capacity in lower Manhatten. Plus there is an interesting proposal to extend the Long Island Railroad to a new terminus downtown - something that would not have been otherwise possible because there was nowhere to build turnaround facilities in Lower Manhattan. (There was an article on these proposals and others in the New Yorker last week - not on the web, sadly). I think these sort of opportunities to improve the infrastructure to something better than existed before is a more subtle, useful way of saying "up yours" to the terrorists. It means that in the long term, development of downtown Manhattan, in general, can grow to something more complex, and something greater than it otherwise could have, because we push the factors that limit development further into the distance.
What precisely is it with Taiwan's China Airlines anyway? It's not a very big airline (a fleet of 56 aircraft) yet it manages fatal crash after fatal crash. Nine fatal accidents since 1970 and four since 1994. Taiwan is a rich country: the airline has a fleet of fairly modern Boeing and Airbus aircraft (22 years is middle aged for a 747: there are plenty of aircraft this age in the fleets of almost any airline you care to mention, including those with perfect safety records) and should have plenty of money to spend on maintenance and crew training. Yet somehow the airline manages to have more fatal crashes than American and European airlines ten times its size or more. Australia's Qantas is more than 80 years old, and is about double the size of CAL today, and has not had a single fatal accident in its history.
When you come out of the Finsbury Park railway station in North London, if you turn in one direction you find a large shop selling memorabilia from the Arsenal football club. (The stadium where Arsenal play is close by). If you turn the other way, you quite quickly come across the Finsbury Park mosque, infamous for the extremism of the Islam preached in it, and for some of the people who have stayed there from time to time - certainly shoe bomber Richard Reid, and likely a number of the September 11 terrorists. A couple of month ago I visited in order to see precisely where the enemies of civilisation hang out, and I was somewhat struck by the juxtaposition of the two things. Non - locals appear to come to this part of London for two reasons - Arsenal and extreme Islam. Perhaps impolitely, I was struck by the peculiar question as to whether the two went together - whether, in their travels, fundamentalist muslims were in fact tempted by western decadent behaviour such as supporting Arsenal. From this article in the New York Times (free but irritating registration required) I now discover that Osama bin Laden himself has purchased Arsenal memorabilia in that shop, and has attended a number of matches at Highbury. I am not sure what to make of this.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Well, I am the number one Michael Jennings on google . Amazing what a good link will do. (A previous website of mine that I had when I was a graduate student was the number 1 Michael Jennings on Altavista in about 1994. In fact I think I was the only Michael Jennings on the web in 1994. But that was a different life). Yes, I need to write something soon. I am busy studying for the Level 2 CFA exam I am sitting next Saturday, so life is hectic. Website content will no doubt look up after that.

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