Thursday, September 22, 2005

Northrop Tucana Web Site Up and Running

Northrop Grumman has put up a Northrop-branded Tucana Web site. It is basically Tucana Technologies' old site for the moment with a bit of cleaning, but it is a very positive start for their marketing campaign. now redirects to Northrop.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

SPARQL Protocol Review and Comments

I just reviewed the SPARQL Protocol for RDF working draft, now in Last Call at the W3C. The full review is here, but here's a summary:

"It is my (personal) opinion that this document is not ready for publication until the WSDL 2.0 compliance issue in Section 2.2 is resolved. The phrase 'DAWG acknowledges the risk inherent in describing its protocol in an illegal variant of WSDL 2.0' is not sufficient to relieve the working group of its responsibility for interoperability. Indeed, if this specification were to be published without resolution of this issue, I think it is quite likely that WSDL 2.0 implementations would not change to reflect it. That would materially damage the SPARQL Protocol's likelihood of uptake."

Friday, September 16, 2005

Korean Defense Service Medal

The US Department of Defense announced the creation of the Korean Defense Service Medal (KDSM). The KDSM is a service medal for those who have served in the Republic of Korea. Since I meet the criteria about ten times over, my rack now looks like this:

Of course, I'll never wear it, but I might hang it in my office with the others. It's strange how much that simple recognition of all those damn cold nights on the far side of the world means to me. The Cold War was rarely hot, but it sure was uncomfortable. I think of those days as the most rewarding of my life, when I was closest to history in the making. I sure am glad I waited to have children, though. It was hell on families.

For the record (when my kids read this 30 years from now), the thing on top is a US Navy Surface Warfare Officer (ship driver) qualification. The one on the bottom is a Deep Sea Diving Officer qualification. The ribbons are (from upper left to bottom right): Navy Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Navy Battle Efficiency Ribbon (3 awards), National Defense Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal and Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (4 awards).

Memetic Iteration Via Selective Focus

I've been thinking a lot recently about the way that memes change. If Richard Dawkins is right about ideas following an evolutionary algorithm ("memes") and Sue Blackmore is right about the mind being an imitation machine (thus being the home and replicator of memes), then we have to start wondering about the cause of copying errors. After all, errors in replication are key to the evolutionary algorithm. In genetics, the cause seems to be mutation via statistical failures during replication or induced errors afterwards (e.g. by radiation). What is the cause of memetic errors in imitative replication?

I think I found a clue to that last night. It was my wife's birthday and she was opening her presents and reading cards from family and friends. When she read the card from me out loud, my son keyed on a sentence regarding him and burst out, "Hey, Dad, why did you say that?" That was the clue: Aidan heard the entire content of the card, but reacted strongly to only a small portion of it. When asked, his recollection of the card was restricted to the part about him. He missed the main theme because it simply wasn't important to him.

Is selective focus, driven by our own self interest, the key to memetic iteration? I suspect so. It certainly seems to correspond to political spin doctoring (where spin doctors try to find just the right way to describe a situation, self interest being the driving factor), and perhaps even fads. In the creation of fads, each individual seeks to iterate a (generally simple) idea until it strikes the right cord (as determined by positive feedback from onlookers), then it replicates relatively freely. It may change again, as it is picked by people with different ideas of what the right cord is. Marketers, like politicians, try to engineer such phenomena. Therein lies the real danger of a proper science of memetics; if we really get the point of having a full theory, the potential for abuse is much more dangerous than Paul Davies suggests.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

SPARQL Support Coming for JRDF

Tom has been working on SPARQL support for JRDF and has posted a good status update.

SPARQL could be in JRDF as early as the 0.4 release, which would pave the way for SPARQL in a later release of Kowari. Of course, iTQL still has many more features than SPARQL and there will be some difficulties mapping the two. I still want iTQL to turn into a SPARQL+ (and even - where appropriate, such as UNSAID, unless the DAWG drops it as they are rumored to be considering). I like to think of the future of iTQL's relationship to SPARQL as being analogous to PL/SQL's relationship to the SQL standard. Only time will tell if we can pull that off, but I am hopeful. That approach will require much more than supporting SPARQL in JRDF.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Kowari Memory Leak Found and Fixed

Chris Wilper and his team at The Fedora Project have been embedding Kowari within Fedora for some time. They recently uncovered a memory leak which is caused by a failure to properly clean up unused FreeList$Phase objects in one of the FreeList constructors. The problem shows up when doing many inserts and deletions. Chris quickly tracked down the cause and submitted a patch. Paul G has looked at it, albeit briefly, and will write a test to catch the problem. I expect that Chris' patch will be committed to the Kowari CVS shortly.

All Kowari and Tucana Knowledge Server users should take note of this one! The memory leak exists in both the Kowari 1.0 series and the 1.1 prereleases (including nightly snapshots from CVS), and TKS 2.0 and 2.1 (at least). I suspect (but have not yet verified) that the TKS 1.X series is also affected. The final fix will be in Kowari 1.1 when it comes out in the fourth quarter of this year.

A nice before-and-after plot shows the memory leak and the behavior following Chris' fix.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The State of Iraq

A friend currently serving with the US military in Iraq sums it up this way: "It will continue to be bloody until we kill them all, they kill us, or they discover the flush toilet and strip malls." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Paper Accepted to SSWS 2005

I wrote a (really crappy - need to fix that) paper entitled, "Scaling the Kowari Metastore", which was was accepted to the 2005 International Workshop on Scalable Semantic Web Knowledge Base Systems (SSWS 2005). SSWS 2005 will be held on 20 November 2005 in conjunction with Sixth International Conference on Web Information Engineering (WISE 2005) in New York City.

First Against the Wall

How does one earn the right to be first against the wall when the revolution comes? Easy: read and travel.

It shocked me to discover that I have acquired a reputation as a "liberal". A fellow engineer even recently referred to me as a "liberal wacko", which is apparently worse. This is in spite of my fiscal conservatism, preference for small government, and relatively hawkish views on foreign policy (though not on wars which do not serve the strategic interest of the US). Yet my childhood friends (most of whom seem to be US Marines), my father and several work colleagues have applied the term "liberal" to me in recent times. Why?

The answer would seem to be that I have travelled enough to form grounded opinions and read enough to understand more about the world than they. When asked, one criticizer complained that I had "left the country" (a reference to my living in Australia for seven years; he was apparently unaware of my three years in Japan with the US Navy.). The same person pointed to my writing that "most" aspects of Islam found distasteful in the West appear to originate in Bedouin culture and not in Sharia (an opinion I'd formed partially after reading the fatwas of Ali Gomaa, currently the Grand Mufti of Egypt). My father complained that I had spent too much time listening to the "liberal agenda" and had picked up some of their ideas, particularly in relation to the war in Iraq. In fact, my objections to the war in Iraq stem simply from the fact that I saw (and see) no strategic interest for the US in pursuing it. Hmmm.

It would seem the only way to be labeled a conservative in the US of 2005 is to agree with everything the president says. That is a dangerous and capricious form of nationalism, which worries me more than even this administration's spendthrift fiscal policies. I know, I know, I'll be first against the wall.

Perhaps Kenneth Quinnell was right when he said, "It is not a coincidence that the two fields most commonly accused of being liberal - journalism and academia - are two fields whose central purpose is the pursuit of truth."

Monday, September 05, 2005

httpRange-14: A Use Case for RDF

Ralph Swick, David Booth and I have been working on a response to the W3C Technical Architecture Group's resolution on the httpRange-14 issue ("# vs. /") as it relates to Semantic Web application developers.

Bascially, we are hoping to define how URIs in RDF statements may be grounded in the Web and still be in compliance with the httpRange-14 resolution. My message to the Semantic Web Best Practices and Deployment Working Group mailing list is here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Truth About Dissent

I have a couple of thoughts for my American friends who think that patriotism is best defined by standfast, simpleminded support for a single president's policies:

  • "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority." -- Benjamin Franklin

  • "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." -- Thomas Jefferson

  • "All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree." -- James Madison

  • "If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." -- George Washington

Our founding fathers had it right. They knew that authority should be distrusted, even themselves. They knew that freedom of press and of speech were critical elements of our freedom. And they knew that lone voices, crying out against tyranny in whatever form, were the bastion of liberty.

A Little Help from our Friends?

The United States of America has an admirable record of sending aid overseas. We are now in desperate times ourselves in New Orleans, and lower Mississippi and Alabama. Where is foriegn aid to those areas? I have a suggestion: Let's ask our Arab friends to send us what they can afford. We could really use a whole lot of sandbags...