cultivate culture

Somali pirates claim foreign dumping of waste. Is this true?
November 7, 2010, 11:16 pm
Filed under: environment, politics, Uncategorized

"Don't hit the white ones."

[N.B. this post was written in April 2009. Things are only more confusing now…]

I had heard 2 or 3 months ago an interview with Somali-turned Canadian rapper, K’Naan, in which he explained that the roots of the piracy in Somalia grew from a reaction to illegal dumping and fishing on the part of foreign commercial interests. The violent end to the recent incident left a sour taste in my mouth. I searched the web and found out the following.

Many reference evidence of the dumping of waste, even nuclear waste, in the two decades since the collapse of the Somali government.In particular,  there are reports of large tanks of waste having washed ashore with the Asian tsunami. One would also think that increased hospitalizations coming from the health implications of such waste would be documented somewhere. Despite such potential, I haven’t been able to find any conclusive evidence for such events, even though the claims seem to come from credible sources.

According to this article, the United Nations Environmental Program has done a few investigations on the issue and a spokesperson for UNEP, Nick Nuttall, has verified that the claims are true. The article even reports that UNEP was contracted by the Italian and French governments to investigate allegations of mafia involvement in the dumping.

However, I also found a UNEP report:

which states that certain investigations into dumping by the UNEP did not turn up evidence (see pg. 33, Box 9). I tried to reach Mr. Nuttal by email so he could clarify the results of the report but have not received a response.

[postscript: Strangely, the url for the UNEP report is now invalid and I can’t find the document on their website anymore. Weird…]

[PostScript 2: a book published on the current Somali pirate culture argues for a collapse of internal security forces as one if not the driving force:]

Do you know George Bush, personally?
August 15, 2008, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Probably not. But chances are a friend of a friend of a friend… does.

Have you ever wondered how long the “…” is?

Social networks are an upcoming field in complex systems research (there was a lot of talk about getting more funding for that area at this years European Conference on Complex Systems)

Mark Newman, who gave the big complex networks lecture at that conference, gave a reference to an article in the New Yorker, which is a wonderful mix of culture and science, investigating the nature of our own social network that is smaller than you think. Enjoy it here.

Some highlights from the article:

-Kevin Bacon is actually only the 688th most connected actor in hollywood (well, the IMDB at least).

-It is very likely that you have one friend through whom you met many more friends than you met through any other friend. Who is this friend? Make the network.

-Social networks tend to be small world networks. That is, there are a few individuals who just know vastly more people than the rest of us do. Why?

-Well, because these wonderful people ‘just love people’, and so aren’t constrained in their relationships by the cliquey barriers that trap the rest of us, of whom Lois Weisberg is the case in point.

The future of computing
January 22, 2008, 9:35 pm
Filed under: society, technology, Uncategorized

This is an oldie but a goodie. Gershenfeld, half visionary, half techno-zealot, puts the do back in dork. Computers will no longer just be for information, but will be used to change the physical world (aka digital fabrication). Two points:
1) Digital fabrication is perfectly suited for personal product production. That is, you biuld what you want.
2) Digital fabrication is a great way to solve local problems, locally.
Yet another TED gem

my name is blog
October 15, 2007, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello to the familiar and the curious. This the first cyberbreath of a blog with two purposes. The first is to document – sometimes as we see it, sometimes in a sort of seven-degrees-of-kevin-bacon way – the experiences had by Carmen and myself on our trip to Europe and South America. However, this is no travelblog. We make no attempt at being chronological or complete-if that`s what you’re after, check out the picture vault. Carmen likes to take pictures, I like to write, and we´ll both be doing both along the way. This trip is inspired by two things that Carmen and I are pretty passionate about: culture and science, so much of what’s here will revolve (loosely) around them. We hope that you´ll stop by every once and a while for a read and, if we´re doing this right, add a comment or two, which is this blog’s second purpose: to cultivate a place that connects us to you through the sharing of experiences and ideas. Take part and enjoy!