Of all the games that I’ve played over the past twenty five years or so, SimCity, in its various incarnations, has to be the one that I cherish and have spent time playing the most. Ever since I laid my eyes on the first version of SimCity in the early 1990s, I became enamored with it: it possessed this rare and seemingly magical quality you’ll get by reading books — one that you seldom get by playing video games, at least as far as I am concerned: it allows you to engage your imagination, think about aspects of the game that go beyond what the game mechanics, assets and design ever intended. A bit like playing a desktop RPG game, or — even better — Diplomacy, listening to a story or reading a book.
People are annoyed about the demise of Google Reader. Yet more than Google Reader, a service I’ve used and loved for more than 7 years, I am truly annoyed by the fact that Google is canning CalDAV. And not just because CalDAV is an open, free and widely used protocol (all very good things), but because, in the past, Google has been a champion of open protocols, because its support for CalDAV was reaffirmed only two months ago when it dropped Exchange Support from its Google Docs apps. Because it demonstrates that Google has been somewhat cavalier with its use of ‘Openness’.
BBC writes about the loss of Moody’s triple-A rating by the UK. And halfway down the article you’ll find this:
This means it will take longer for the government to reduce the budget deficit – the amount it has to borrow as it is spending more than it gets in through tax revenue.
That is because when an economy is not growing, companies and individuals are paying less tax, and it has to spend more on welfare payments such as unemployment benefit
And this is why modern capitalism, of the sort witnessed by anyone living in the early decades of the 21st century, is a failing system; perpetual growth simply cannot be at this scale for any economy (other things being equal of course) and in this context cherry-picking criteria for ranking people, organisations and countries — let alone forming the basic operational frameworks by which society functions — is flawed (at best) and dangerous (at worst).
The main problem here is that moving away from this model goes against centuries (and trillions of dollars’ worth) of interests and investment. But we need to move away from this model, we need to ‘reform’ (not abolish) capitalism simply because in its current form it has lost any sense it made before.
I don’t know why, it could be the cold weather or just coincidental, but December is fast becoming the month so many good Jazz and Blues musicians of ol’ pass away. Oscar Peterson, for example, in 2007. Or James Brown a year earlier. This time it’s Dave Brubeck. ‘Take Five’ is the piece most identify him with, and ‘popular’ doesn’t even begin to describe its appeal and success — recognizable by so many generations in the fifty one or so years of its existence. Yet his work goes well beyond than this single track that everyone feels so familiar with. After all, who, in their right mind, could possibly forget ‘It’s a Raggy Waltz’, ‘Blue Rondo A La Turk’ or ‘Take The A Train’. Dave was undoubtedly one of the great pioneers of his time.
Νεοφυείς επιχειρήσεις. Καινοτομία. Εξωστρέφεια. Επιχειρείν. Ένα μεγάλο γαϊτανάκι από εραστές του φιλελευθερισμού, πιστούς του καπιταλισμού, των αγορών, κάποιους τολμηρούς και άξιους, κάποιους — απλώς — θιασώτες της όλης υποκουλτούρας, της ‘φάσης’, του χαβαλέ και της (σαφέστατα υποκριτικής) αίσθησης της αυτονομίας, της ελευθερίας κλπ. που επικαλούνται συχνά οι δορυφόροι της επιχειρηματικότητας. Παράλληλα ένα τεράστιο κενό σοβαρών επενδυτών. Μια τεράστια έρημος σοβαρής επιχειρηματικής νοοτροπίας και φιλοδοξίας.
Κι’όμως, εχθές ‘αποκτήσαμε’ τέσσερα χρηματοδοτικά οχήματα σημαντικού μεγέθους. Yippi ki-yay! Οχήματα με αρκετές δεκάδες εκατομμύρια προς διάθεση για την υποστήριξη της ελληνικής επιχειρηματικότητας. Δεν γνωρίζω σε βάθος τα άτομα που απαρτίζουν και τα τέσσερα, όμως γνωρίζω κάποια από αυτά. Γράφω το εξής άρθρο λοιπόν, ως μια φιλική συμβουλή προς τους (νεοελευθέντες) διαχειριστές των funds, από τον Πραγματικό κόσμο του Επιχειρείν, από την Αγορά: οι έλληνες επενδυτές, στον βαθμό που έχω εκτεθεί σε αυτούς, πολύ συχνά δεν έχουν απολύτως καμία συναίσθηση των διαφορών μεταξύ των ιδίων και των θεσμικών, υπερπολλαπλάσιων σε μέγεθος και εντελώς διαφορετικού πλαισίου λειτουργώντων funds της Κοιλάδας του Πυριτίου. Σκέφτονται και φέρονται με τον ίδιο, παράλογο τρόπο, μόνον που, επιπλέον τους λείπει η εξωστρέφεια, το όνειρο και η φιλοδοξία. Τους λείπει η παιδεία και το πραγματικό ενδιαφέρον για τις επενδύσεις τους. Συν τοις άλλοις, στην κοιλάδα το παράλογο γίνεται λογικό: Η υπερβολή είναι ο κανόνας. Η προσφορά και το ταλέντο περισσεύουν. Η αγορά είναι στρεβλή και οι μεγάλοι επενδυτές είναι ο θεσμός και όχι απλώς ένα μέρος του συστήματος. Μην κάνετε τα ίδια λάθη με αυτούς, μην προσπαθήσετε να τους αντιγράψετε. Η Ελλάδα δεν είναι Silicon Valley, και τα funds που στήθηκαν δεν θα την κάνουν SV μέσα σε μια νύχτα. Φερθείτε εξυπνότερα, εκμεταλλευόμενοι αυτά που μπορείτε για να αφήσετε και εσείς το λιθαράκι σας στο να μπορούμε κάποτε, εμείς ή οι επόμενες γενιές, να λέμε πως πήγαμε την Ελλάδα μπροστά. Έστω και λίγο.
“‘A Very British Coup’ is a 1982 novel by British politician Chris Mullin” according to Wikipedia. But this post is not about the book. At least not directly. It is about the ‘original’, 1988 TV mini-series. I love mini-series as I find them to be perhaps the most appealing film-making format of our times, the sole format that has eluded both the demographics-based, profit-maximising paradigm that is the norm at Hollywood and beyond, or the milking-it-until-it’s-dry, fillers-r-us paradigm often found in TV series. But then again we’re talking about 1988, almost twenty-five years ago and things were a bit different back then.
The spoiler-free version of the plot goes as follows: This is about a working class, charismatic and honest British politician, Harry Perkins, who gets elected as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, under a purely socialist manifesto. His pledges, removal of Nuclear Weapons from the British Isles, as well as foreign (viz. US) bases, neutrality and withdrawal from NATO, vast economist reforms focusing on education, health and public welfare seem unacceptable by the country’s long standing allies, the United States and Western Europe; his programme seems radical and his ‘revolution’ scares those that strive to brand him a Marxist, a Soviet instrument, a crazy fool. Inevitably his election, puts him at odds with the ‘The Establishment’ and starts a sequence of schemes and plans to discredit and, eventually, dethrone him.
While somewhat dated by today’s standards, the series is impressive in many ways; the acting, especially by Ray McAnally (the PM) is exceptional, the atmosphere is dark and raw and despite the various flaws the situation seems real and compares favourably to other works involving similar themes. But above all lies the premise: this series presents a situation that rings very true in today’s economically and — increasingly — culturally bankrupt European states. The book, upon which the original series was based, was written at a time when politicians like Tony Benn, the likeable veteran socialist former Labour MP was a potential leader of the Labour party, and by extension potential PM. Labour was split between centrists and leftists and the leftists may have frightened the British Establishment, as communists did in the previous decades in countries like the United States. It was the beginning of Margaret Thatcher’s first term as a leader of the United Kingdom, and a ‘Harry Perkings’ type leader was the most obvious antagonist to Margaret Thatcher’s mono-thematic “free market über alles” premiership.
Even then, mass poverty was a possibility — and for many a reality — public debt is mentioned as a mechanism for foreign powers to affect policy, scheming and the cloak-and-dagger of British Public Service and power failures becoming an everyday phenomenon. Back in today’s southern European states, the similarities are striking. Even formerly powerful European states are not so far away from it either.
A Very British Coup ends differently to the book and much more dramatically at that; it serves as a reminder of the illusion of liberty in our modern democracies, the fragile balance between competing forces and interests that results in peace, relative prosperity and that blissful sense of stability upon which people depend to live their lives.
Despite its merits, I find ‘A Very British Coup’ simplistic at times, especially for a mini-series, a format that is supremely positioned to exposing more detail, having fewer corners cut and overall having more substance than the alternatives. Sadly, the book also recently became the inspiration for yet another TV series. A series that bears no resemblance to the original, but is a reminder of what was great about the original series. Secret State is a modernised loosely-based version starring Gabriel Byrne. Contrary to the original, it seldom rings true; its characters are caricatures and the circumstances unconvincing. Sarah Dempster of the Guardian called it ‘ludicrous’ and ‘Spooks with its head in a bucket of dumb. It’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Sigh’. I tend to agree with her criticism and despair at the lost potential of this amazing medium.
For those using FreePBX (a configuration/administrative interface that manages Asterisk) there is a CallerID Lookup module, published by the FreePBX team. The module allows you to interface with data sources using several methods, one of them being http.
Like many companies, we maintain several systems that can be easily integrated with our VoIP PBX system, but we also receive a number of calls from the public, viz. companies interested in advertising on GEO|ADS, adding their business to AthensBook or ThessBook, or asking for a quote for a project. OTE recently revamped its aging whitepages.gr site and incorporated its content into their ‘umbrella’ 11888 business directory operation. The new site is faster, more beautiful and written in a more professional manner, as far as the markup is concerned, which makes it a perfect source of caller id information for a large number of telephone subscribers in Greece. Around one hour of Ruby scripting using Mechanize, Sinatra and some custom transliteration tables to convert the scraped names to their latinised counterparts (Cisco phones don’t seem to like Greek characters all that much) resulted in the following script:
Mark Mazower has, for some time now, been writing poignant and increasingly strongly worded opinion articles about the effects of the crisis, the social and political repercussions that few politicians and economists bother worrying about while trying, unsuccessfully, if not plain badly, to enforce a flawed economic policy throughout Europe. His articles are grounded, accurate with the facts and highly worrisome, a scarily intense forewarning of how things can go wrong; they demonstrate the kind of foresight you would expect but seldom find in the foolish, greedy and highly myopic politicians currently governing Europe.