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Category Archives: Everything Else

Everything Else

Obama on Free Trade

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The Daily Telegraph:

Free Trade Cartoon - (Barrie Maguire at Boston.comObama voted in the US senate against the Central American Free Trade Agreement, is a critic of the free trade agreement with China, and expresses strong reservations about trade deals in general.

He has even threatened to withdraw the US from the North American Free Trade Agreement – which created the largest trading bloc in the world – if the other members, Canada and Mexico, do not agree to renegotiate its terms.

This statement is reinforced by an article on Obama’s website; an article he wrote for the Chicago Tribune in 2005.

Globalization is not someone’s political agenda. It is a technological revolution that is fundamentally changing the world’s economy, producing winners and losers along the way. The question is not whether we can stop it, but how we respond to it. It’s not whether we should protect our workers from competition, but what we can do to fully enable them to compete against workers all over the world.

At first this stance seems like a case of Obama’s protectionism gone awry. But is it? Is DR-CAFTA really free trade? I’m sure Stiglitz would agree with Obama on this one. Is it more important to fight to provide fair trade agreements, or to just have free trade agreements in place?

Without fairer trade agreements, the benefits from trade will not be realized. NAFTA and CAFTA will increase poverty because they prematurely open markets to US agricultural goods which are subsidized, making local farmers unable to compete with imports, and the nations in question do not have the ability to bear the costs of switching resources with their available capital, nor deal with the consequences of even short-term unemployment. These agreements have been more geo-political than economic, and the essential problem with recent bilateral agreements, including CAFTA, is that they are not free-trade agreements. More generally, bilateral agreements fail to produce all the benefits expected, in part because of the inequality of the negotiating position of the parties involved.

In this case, I believe Obama is fighting for the just cause and not just the cause that is most beneficial for Americans.

(The final quote is adapted from the Opposition section of the DR-CAFTA entry on Wikipedia. It discusses the main points of Joseph Stiglitz’ opposition to the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement. The paragraph is flagged as requiring citation, but if you have read Stiglitz’ Globalization and its Discontents or Fair Trade for All you will know that it follows his views pretty closely.)

(1), 2, 3… and Relax

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All I need to relax after a hectic day:

Bialetti Moka Express - Espresso Diptych

PBJ Toast Triptych

And yes, this is just an excuse for me to post these pictures!

I’ve been experimenting in Photoshop recently (I’m disastrously unskilled at present) and this is my first attempt at a triptych, a diptych, and at selective colouring.

It’s true, though: I find that to relax there’s nothing better than half an hour of doing nothing with only an espresso (or Americana) and PBJ on toast for company.

Managing Information Overload

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I’ve written about information overload before but have never really done anything to combat it my own life. Not for the want of trying, mind you – it’s just I’ve never found a method that works for me.

GTD is the closest I’ve ever come to actually utilising an information management system full-time, but I find it too structured – even when not adhered to as rigidly as some purists demand.

However, my dabbling wasn’t a completely failed attempt at Getting Things Done: one of the core GTD principles is the crux of my new system for managing the information I come across on a daily basis: moving tasks out of the mind by recording them. Simple yet effective.

But how to record? I’ve tried and failed with many methods – with del.icio.us being the closest I’ve come to finding a  permanent solution – but I eventually discovered that ‘bookmarking’ was not the method for me.

I want to save websites or articles on obscure and interesting topics, that contain great quotes, or sometimes I just want to save a video that I want to share with some friends at a later date. I don’t want to write a full-blown post on the item here, but if I don’t I’ll have to spend half an hour tagging each page in order to find it again 12 months down the line. Now it seems I’ve come across a method that works… and it’s been staring right at me for almost 2 years. Blogging!

Taking the structure from two of my more regular reads – kottke and BoingBoing – I’m now ‘bookmarking’ with LoneGunman. All it takes is a quick sentence or two explaining the entry, a quote, and a link. Eureka, you’ve got yourself a searchable, elegant bookmarking facility that you can control. So far I’ve found it to be extremely effective.

Take a look.

Whitespace and Typography – The Saviours of Usability

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…It is not surface, it is not the last thing that needs to be considered, it is the thing itself” – Stephen Fry

Unformatted code is analogous to an essay without paragraphs – or perhaps a paragraph without punctuation: all the data you need to understand the ‘essay’ is there, but without the correct formatting it just appears to be a jumble of words without any real thought or structure behind it. To fully understand the program (essay) we must be able to decipher the constituent parts and understand them as separate entities as well as inter-related parts. In programming, formatting and indentation aid understanding – without them, this task becomes exceedingly difficult. It’s the same as how without punctuation, we cannot fully understand the context of a sentence or paragraph.

It was here that I wanted to write about whitespace and its importance in programming, graphic design and photography. However, browsing the Internet to find some good articles to plagiarise verbatim reference and cite correctly, I came across a great piece on the powerful use of whitespace from A List Apart. Focusing on the design of both web and print media, the theories found there can be translated to many different types of content: advised reading if – like me – you’re a newcomer to design and usability theory.

Clicking through to the author’s website I discover that not only does Mark Boulton work a leisurely 5 minute stroll from my current place of work, but he also creates interesting and beautifully simple presentations – my favourite of which is Better Typography; produced for the Berlin Web 2.0 Expo on the importance of typography in design. With its practical and usable examples and vivid depictions of the impact typography can have, I advise giving it a read. Mark’s kindly allowed me to mirror the presentation locally, and I feel that Paola Antonelli’s TED Talk is a perfect compliment if you’re reading about design and typography for the first time.

Finally, if anyone has a good book recommendation on design, usability, etc. it’ll definitely make a welcome addition to my Intelligence by Osmosis series.

My Top 10 Top 10s of 2007

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I’m afraid I’m lying to you all… this is not a list of my top 10 top 10s of 2007: one of these lists has 19 items on them and one even has 7. I’m sorry. Oh, and some of them don’t even have ’2007′ in the title. I’m a bad person – I know I am – and for that I apologise.

Regardless, below are my top 10 lists of 2007. You know the ones – they proclaim to contain the best 10-or-so of something from the 12 months that have just passed? Come, soak up the nostalgia:

As a bonus, have the following too: