Graphics tools

I really kick myself now for not including a mention of gnuplot in “Painting the Web”. I had one chapter on graphics and data, and it would have been a nice fit. However, it does need a nice installation environment for the Mac, and that was one of the criteria for including mention of tools.

We’re told that a Mac-specific installation of gnuplot is coming. When it does, I’ll include a link in the graphics tools section of the book’s supplementary site.

Another handy graphical tool is svgfig, which allows you to draw mathematical figures in SVG using Python. This tool should be very simple to install if you have Python installed. Using it, though, does require an understanding of math. Of course.

I would say that 2008 is the year of SVG in addition to the year of semantics. Works for me, though perhaps I should have called my book, “Painting the Semantic Web”.

(Thanks to Michael Bernstein for mention of svgfig)

Events of note

Local chaos

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The shootings in Kirkwood happened about five miles from us. Kirkwood borders our community. My roommate and I were both shocked to hear of the shootings last night, especially since Kirkwood is considered a healthy, somewhat affluent, long-time community. It has great schools, thriving local businesses, good homes. What would make a man like Charles Thornton commit such an act in this quiet little community outside of St. Louis?

What confuses me more is the killer’s brother seeming to justify such killing. “Going to war”, over what? Parking tickets? Construction without permits and in violation of city building codes? Because he couldn’t disrupt community meetings?

In one of the local forums, a couple of people who were familiar with these community meetings mentioned that Thornton thought the community leaders were racist and were targeting him because he was black. That’s a serious charge, and if true, he should have worked with the state Attorney General and others to investigate whether prejudice was a factor, and he was being targeted. Yet he, seemingly, did nothing except show up for the meetings and call the council members and the mayor donkeys and accuse them of “plantation mentality”, bray during the meetings, and refuse to leave the meetings until he was arrested.

St. Louis Today article did get more specific, and stated that he felt he was being targeted for performing work without a permit and parking tickets. His mother states that it was wrong for him to kill, but it was wrong for others to drive him into killing. His brother mentioned that he was frustrated because he didn’t know the law.

Driving him into killing? Doesn’t know the law?

At one of the St. Louis Today talk threads, one person wrote:

Perhaps some of the prayers should be reserved for the cause of this event. The focus is always put on bullying in schools but what happens when those bullies grow up and then take positions on City Councils, Business Mgmt, etc.? They obviously pushed this man too far for someone to take this extreme measure. Kirkwood has a tendency to be uptight whites that have an issue with feeling superior to everyone else and I would say that attitude is common in several sub-communities in the St. Louis area – i.e. Chesterfield, Sunset Hills, Town and Country….. These communities need to look at how they are viewed externally. Sure many native St. Louisan’s have this problem also so they should step back also and realize in the grand scheme of things they are really nobody to push anyone else around.

First, and foremost–no one would take a gun into a city council and shoot people who is not mentally unbalanced. There is no ‘pushing’ into this kind of action. There is no excuse for what Thornton did, and I would be appalled at anyone who would think this action somehow justified.

I wonder, though, at the repercussions from this event. St. Louis and the surrounding communities do have problem. There isn’t enough diversification. The lines between black and white are too sharp. There is a tendency of the white governing bodies to ignore the black community and the problems of poverty that plague much of the community. Worse, there seems to be an underlying belief on the part of some community members, black and white, that nothing can fix the problems we have. That this community-based segregation will never end, never go away.

From what those who knew him have said in forums and elsewhere, Charles “Cookie” Thornton was a successful, well connected community member, with a loving family and friends. To go from that to cold bloodily shooting several people, killing at least five, is a disconnect I just can’t bridge with what we’re reading in today’s news accounts. I have a feeling this is only the start of the story.

Sad and troubling times in the neighborhood.


My candidate has won

Summary:   At the end of my considerations, I couldn’t see the differences between Clinton and Obama. All I can see is the goodness in both. The hope each brings to this election. How desperately we need them, both of them. Whatever each has done in that past that I don’t like is not as important as what I believe they will do for us in the future. I thought to myself last night, “Which of all of the presidential candidates will best represent me in the next four years?” I then got a call from a state representative hawking McCain, and found my answer.

I spent the last week looking at differences between Clinton and Obama. I thought about what they’ve done in the past, what there was about each that I didn’t like. I focused on their weaknesses in an attempt to determine which deserved my vote.

During that same time, I received call after call from the Republican party about Huckabee, McCain, and Romney. In the end, I couldn’t “see” the differences between Obama and Clinton, because of the huge gaps between both of them and the Republican candidates.

The Republican candidates all emphasize their ‘strength’, and determination to fight terrorism. I look around the country today and frankly, terrorism is the least of my long list of concerns. Clinton and Obama, on the other hand, emphasize the issues that do worry me. More importantly, they talk of the people, as a whole, while the Republicans talk about groups: the Christians, the pro-lifers, the terrorists, other governments.

The Republican candidates promise change, but bring the same thing to this election that they brought to the last: keep the people focused on the differences between us, so that we’re blind to what’s happened in this country to all of us. All of the people. We the people.

We the people…words we’ve heard before. Words we don’t hear enough, now. Regardless of religious beliefs, region, country of our birth and our ancestry, sex or sexual preference, even income, we have forgotten in these last eight years that we are a people united by the same concerns and worries. What impacts any one group of us, impacts all of us.

One out of five of us doesn’t have health insurance. Both Clinton and Obama have promised universal health care, and though there are differences in the implementation, in the long run, both have promised to take the steps necessary to make this happen. None of the Republicans have even made this attempt.

Both Obama and Clinton have promised an end to the current state in Iraq, and though their methods are different, at least they have promised to take the first steps necessary to make this happen. None of the Republicans have even made this attempt. The opposite in fact: there isn’t a Republican candidate I trust not to do the same thing in Iran that we’ve done to Iraq. This thought terrifies me.

The Republicans talk of building a 2 billion dollar fence between us and Mexico, and I think what has happened to us that our biggest concern is placing barbed wire between some poor soul and a job picking apples for 8 dollars an hour? This, while we condone torture, indiscriminate wiretapping, and a bloated, useless agency that can’t even handle the natural disasters we do face every year?

Neither Obama nor Clinton have declared open war on corporations in this country, but each has said that the free ride corporations have had in the last eight years is over. On the other hand when the Republican candidates are asked about holding corporations responsible for their actions, they respond with assertions about how they are pro-life and have a belief in God, as well as promise to continue the fight against terrorism. The same fight against terrorism that led to companies like Blackwater thinking themselves above the law, both inside and outside our country. The same fight against terrorism that led us to invade a country, not because it was a threat but because it had oil. The same fight against terrorism that led to laws benefiting corporations at the expense of the environment, our privacy, and our rights under the constitution.

In eight years, the only “trickle down” I’ve seen of the economics practiced by the Republicans are the tears on the faces of those who have lost their jobs, their homes, and their hopes.

The Republican candidates point, with fear, to socialism. What about corporatalism? Why is it so much better to give to the corporations than to the people? How much more of our national soul will we give, so that corporations can reap obscene profits with little oversight?

What an election the Presidential election of 2008 will be. For the first time in history, we go into this presidential election with a candidate who is not a symbol of the ruling elite. Regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination–Obama or Clinton–his or her fight for the presidency will be long and difficult. Too difficult to start it with being disappointed because the candidate we have is not the other.

At the end of my considerations, I couldn’t see the differences between Clinton and Obama. All I can see is the goodness in both. The hope each brings to this election. How desperately we need them, both of them. Whatever each has done in that past that I don’t like is not as important as what I believe they will do for us in the future. I thought to myself last night, “Which of all of the presidential candidates will best represent me in the next four years?” I then got a call from a state representative hawking McCain, and found my answer.

Tomorrow, people will talk about the primary results and what they mean, and ask each other whether their candidate won. I’m lucky, because I don’t have to wait until tomorrow. I already know my candidate has won


A note on comments

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I noticed increased rumblings in Planet Intertwingly against anonymous commenters. I maintain a short lease on anyone commenting who doesn’t provide a real email address or who I don’t know, primarily because I don’t know if the person is putting an innocuous comment in to bypass ‘must have approved comment’ security for later spam. Other than that, though, I’m not adverse to anonymous comments.

I have, however, put all comments into moderation. I’m still attempting to make the comments XHTML-bullet proof, and ‘bad’ characters or markup in a comment breaks the page for everyone. With moderation, I can catch such breakage before it hits the published page. When I feel I have robust filters in place, I’ll turn open comments back on.

In addition, comments about spelling or grammatical errors, as well as those noting problems with the site technology, while appreciated and welcome, won’t be published. I consider comments of that nature more of a private note to me.

Yes, the SVG clock now reflects your time, not mine.

People RDF

Accidental friendships

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I tried out one of the applications for Google’s new Social Graph API. The application looks for XFN or a FOAF file connected to your weblog to see who you connect to, and who connects to you.

I don’t have XFN or a FOAF file. I did have one once, though, under my old URL,, so I tried that URL. No connections outward, of course, since I haven’t had a FOAF file for quite a while. There were, however, a few connections incoming. Just a few–alas, I am so friendless in this friend-saturated environment.

All but one of the incoming connections were from people I know well, though unlike stated in one connection, I’ve not physically met. The only unknown in the list was I have no idea who this is and I don’t necessarily recommend that you click the link, either.

The concept of some global space to pull together friends and colleagues does sound intriguing except that, as we’ve discussed in the past in regards to FOAF files, the linkage is one way. Unless both parties maintain a FOAF file and list each other equally, the one-way connection implies nothing.

However, taking this information out of this context removes the known FOAF caveat and we’re left with applications taking a connection at face value: I have physically met Phil, is a ‘friend’. More importantly, as the years go by our ‘connections’ do change, yet we’ve long known that Google is unwilling to give up any ‘old’ data. I can imagine joining some new social network only to find out the network has sent an invite to be ‘friends’ with the woman who fired you, or the former boyfriend you went through a painful breakup with.

I think the idea of social networks consuming or producing a FOAF file so you can move your ‘social graph’ around from network to network is a good idea. Persisting such information in a centralized store where you have no control over the data does not strike me as …a major step in the development of what I’ve called “the Internet Operating System.” (And what’s with the eblog without the ‘w’ and why is Norm Walsh claiming to be me?)

From what I can see of the associated group forum, I am not the only person raising concerns about the application. (Hey Julian, hey Danny–why aren’t you my friends?) There’s surprisingly few messages in this group considering the fooflah this new application has generated in the buzz sheets. One message mentioned about utilizing this in their medical research, which reminded me that Google now wants to collect health information about all of us in the future, too.

FOAF Papa Dan Brickley and Danny Ayers both say this is the start of interesting times. I agree that there is something interesting about the first web-wide aggregation of semantically annotated data. My concerns are about the focus has been on the data and the functionality, with little consideration of the consequences.

I would also hate to think that the only semantic web possible is one controlled by Google, because it’s the only company with the resources necessary to aggregate all of the separate bits.

On a separate note: Hey! How about that Microsoft/Yahoo thing?