Comics Friday: God works in mysterious ways edition

Dumb games Friday was too much effort, because we have to play a game for a while to know whether it's worth posting. So instead I'm trying out webcomics. 


A great article on "The Social Graph"

If you are at all interested in social networks, I strongly recommend reading this article over at the Pinboard developer blog. I'm just going to toss out some examples here. If any of these sound interesting, go read the whole thing.

First, there's a lot about the technical failures of Facebook and Google+ to get at the "graph" part of the Social Graph.
There's also the matter of things that XFN doesn't allow you to describe. There's no nemesisor rival, since the standards writers wanted to exclude negativity. The gender-dependent second e on fiancĂ©(e) panicked the spec writers, so they left that relationship out. Neither will they allow you to declare an ex-spouse or an ex-colleague.
And then there's the question of how to describe the more complicated relationships that human beings have. Maybe my friend Bill is a little abrasive if he starts drinking, but wonderful with kids - how do I mark that? Dawn and I go out sometimes to kvetch over coffee, but I can't really tell if she and I would stay friends if we didn't work together. I'd like to be better friends with Pat. Alex is my AA sponsor. Just how many kinds of edges are in this thing?
And speaking of booze, how come there's a field for declaring I'm an alcoholic (opensocial.Enum.Drinker.HEAVILY) but no way to tell people I smoke pot? Why are the only genders male and female? Have the people who designed this protocol really never made the twenty mile drive to San Francisco?
 Then there's some great stuff about how anti-social social networks really are:

You might almost think that the whole scheme had been cooked up by a bunch of hyperintelligent but hopelessly socially naive people, and you would not be wrong. Asking computer nerds to design social software is a little bit like hiring a Mormon bartender. Our industry abounds in people for whom social interaction has always been more of a puzzle to be reverse-engineered than a good time to be had, and the result is these vaguely Martian protocols.
Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.


It's easy to rap about Berlusconi, because his name rhymes with a large percentage of the Italian language

I have a bunch of Italian rap cassettes from the mid 90s in which the (not yet then) Prime Minister's name gets dropped a lot. He's been dominating Italian politics for a very long time.

He's also a criminal and a joke, and Italy will be well rid of him, maybe soon:

Reporting from Rome— Italy's beleaguered prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has survived more than 50 no-confidence votes and multiple accusations of criminal and sexual impropriety, including charges he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl. But the 75-year-old billionaire may have finally met his match in the bond market. 
With dwindling confidence in Berlusconi's ability to manage Italy's affairs — and the Eurozone's debt crisis hanging in the balance — investors Monday pushed up Italian bond yields to a euro-era high of 6.63%. That means higher borrowing costs, and takes the yield ever closer to a point that tipped Greece, Ireland and Portugal over the edge and seeking financial rescue.
… Indeed, the reaction from financial markets adds to "strong pressure for Berlusconi to resign," said Sergio Fabbrini, political science professor at the LUISS Guido Carli university in Rome.

In once sense, this the ultimate referendum on his performance. The bond rates represent the utter failure of the country to right itself.

On the other hand, as much as I would like to see Berlusconi out, there's something unseemly about the bond market* having this much power over a sovereign, democratic country. It reminds me of the rating agencies trying to dictate the size of our own budget cuts during the summer.

Capitalism should be a tool in service of democracy, not the other way around.

* The bond market is people, my friend. 


It's the (plausibility of) equality, stupid

One assumes it's our old Doctor DR, posting at numskulduggery, who highlighted this quote:

"The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high. In other words, in the never-ending tug-of-war between “labor” and “capital,” there has rarely—if ever—been a time when “capital” was so clearly winning."

I have to think we are reaching a tipping point, here, and that we will tip towards progress. And here's why.

During the formative years of the blogosphere, I spent many, many words here and in comments on other sites making the case that the middle class was losing under trickle-down and deregulatory policies. During this time, I could rarely get our conservative interlocutors to agree to the basic facts.

Now, however, these facts are widely reported and discussed. And conservatives have been forced from being "income inequality deniers" into a far less defensible position that this dramatic inequality is somehow OK. We shouldn't demonize success, after all.
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