“Screw Good Practice, How Bad Can It BE?”


Sun Friends On The Move

I see that two friends I worked with at Sun — most notably creating blogs.sun.com — are on the move.

  • Danese Cooper has decided that she can take on one more corporation’s move towards open source and has been appointed Head of Open Source at PayPal. Danese headed up the open source work at Sun before I took it on. The very best of luck to her there – plenty that can be achieved for software freedom with that fulcrum…
  • Tim Bray meanwhile is giving up his fulcrum at Google. Tim was the editor of the XML specification and a driving force of developer-focussed openness at Sun. Seems that despite being the company behind all the distributed team working tools I use, they still insist on centralising all their staff rather than having them work remotely. Looking forward to seeing (or, indeed, collaborating on…) whatever Tim does next.

I also see from LinkedIn that it’s four years since the death of Sun. That’s something of a magic number in career terms so I expect to see more moves in the news soon.

“Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.” — Robert Graves

(this unusual XKCD does not embed, please click to be mesmerised by it)

New Police Powers

Chocolate Martini Redux

Almost ten years ago I posted a recipe for a very different style of chocolate martini. Most of the variants of this drink I have tried have had a chocolate taste but a texture that seems incongruously light and watery. Not this one; it’s dense and rich like melted chocolate.

It was the top hit on my web site for many years, but my recent web site migration means the original URLs have gone dark. So here’s the recipe again, just in time for the holidays!

Chocolate Orange Martini

Chocolate Martini
If you’ve made chocolate sauce, you’ll know that you melt chocolate and then keep it liquid when it cools by adding a solvent – usually fat (in the form of cream). It struck me that one could probably use alcohol instead. Here’s roughly the recipe I use; it makes shots for at least 10 people.

  • 1 bar high cocoa ratio chocolate (150g)
  • Grated chocolate for garnish
  • Chocolate truffle per glass (optional)
  • 200 ml vodka
  • 100 ml curaçao or other triple sec/orange liqueur
  • 50 ml single (pouring) cream
  • 75 ml coconut cream (not coconut milk or coconut water)

Melt the chocolate carefully (I use a double-boiler) and when it’s liquid slowly stir in the vodka 25ml at a time to start with and then 50ml at a time. Then shake with everything else with plenty of ice in a large cocktail shaker. Strain and serve – I recommend straining into a small jug so that the melting ice doesn’t dilute the drink too much as you’re carefully pouring it.

Although I show it here in cocktail glasses, the drink is so rich and dense that I suggest serving it in shot glasses instead.  Garnish with a dusting of grated chocolate from the same bar you used for the drink. Optionally serve with a single rich chocolate truffle in the bottom of the glass as a reward.

Ballmer to leave Microsoft

Honestly it’s about time and exactly what the company needs if it’s to get fixed. Let’s hope they get someone who will truly embrace open source rather than firewalling it and paying lip-service to it while secretly attacking it. That’s the change I have long said is needed to move beyond stage four of the journey.

No matter what the conversation, this is the man my mind’s eye sees:

Virtual Choir 4 from Eric Whitacre

Unexpectedly awesome. When he described it (“synths”, “pop feel”) it sounded like it might be a step down from the previous 3, but it’s actually very good.

And congratulations to Tim for his first VC performance too!

Brazil Protests Peaceful, And Not About Bus Fares

Favela among treesIn preparation for FISL (where I hope to be speaking next week), I have been continuing to try to understand the protests in Brazil, which are now regularly bringing crowds the size of a European town onto the streets. They aren’t really about “bus fares” — and as far as I have been told are free of violence by the protesters apart from a statistically insignificant number of them. With so many people on the streets, there are bound to be a few disorderly encounters; to focus on them is try to distract from the real issues.

The real issues every Brazilian friend I have spoken to cares about relate to a sequence of governments failing to address structural issues and widespread corruption, and even perhaps joining in. The protesters are people just like you and me, who just won’t take it any more and are peacefully but loudly saying so.

So an example, shared with me by a dear friend: In this Guardian article, they mention PEC 37, a proposed constitutional amendment that would stop federal prosecutors being allowed to perform any investigation apart from what the police tell them. Given the police are widely mistrusted, this is seen as an attempt to pull a curtain across the corruption at the heart of state and federal government, rather than to expose it to daylight.

The protests are attracting 6 and 7 figure crowds because everyone knows about this corruption problem. It’s why the health service doesn’t get fixed; it’s why the World Cup stadium in Rio was so expensive; it’s why taxes for ordinary people are so unfair; it’s why justice is slow and beyond the reach of many. All of those issues are symbolic for a section of the protestors, but the protest is not about them; it’s about the failure of Lula, and Dilma after him, to reform the administration of Brazil.

The bus fare rise was a symbolic last straw. After spending an unimaginable amount of money on a stadium Rio (and all the other cities where one has been built) doesn’t need, bus services are so badly funded that the only way to keep the (very bad) buses on the road is to raise fares. Every Brazilian can see the bitter irony that the state can afford the World Cup but not properly-funded bus services so many need to live.

The President has said she’ll stop fare rises and bring in doctors to help in hospitals. But every Brazilian I have spoken with understands that’s treating the symptoms and not the disease. The problem is not the bus fares; it’s the lack of investment in infrastructure. The problem is not a shortage of doctors; Brazil has many excellent and dedicated doctors who are paid too little. It’s that hospitals are under-resourced to the point that the treatment is inadequate. Bringing in more medical staff from Cuba will just mean there are more people struggling to make an inadequately-resourced hospital fail less.

What’s needed is a root-and-branch clean-up of the political system so that the people can get the society they know Brazil — with its oil and other natural resources as well as it’s half-miracle of a newly-vibrant middle class economy — can afford.  I’ve no idea who advised her to make a speech that, to ordinary Brazilians, was as insulting as it was shallow. But she needs to get back to her roots and listen to the people if she doesn’t want to find herself impeached. It’s happened before.

Endangered Downloads

I’ve posted an article in a few places commenting briefly on the implications of Github, Google and others (but notably not SourceForge) deciding not to offer downloads as a service to open source projects. My instinct tells me this is a warning sign; I’d be interested in your views.

Brazil’s Half-Miracle

On all the social media networks, there’s a hashtag that I have kept seeing the last few days: #ChangeBrazil, associated with unrest across Brazil. Since I may be going there soon for the huge FISL open source conference,  I wondered exactly what was going on.  I asked one of my friends in Brazil and she sent me a link to a video to explain it.

That does a pretty good job explaining the current situation; the coverage on the BBC lacked any kind of context. I’ve been to Brazil often, read a few books, even shaken hands with former President Lula, so I’ve a little background to go on.  Certainly visiting Brazil over the last decade I have seen a huge change.

From what I can tell, the bus fares are just the last straw in a problem that has been developing throughout that decade.  The reforms of President Cardoso (the one before Lula) are having the effect he anticipated and Brazil is actually faced with an economic miracle. His basic economic reforms — notably introduction of the Real as Brazil’s currency — led to the building of a middle class that has revived and energised Brazil’s economy. His autobiography is an excellent and readable source on this subject.

But since Cardoso, the Presidents haven’t been able to follow through on Cardoso’s work; it’s only half a miracle. In the two terms of Lula and now of his chosen successor Dilma there is a problem. They failed to fix the systemic corruption inherited from before Cardoso — many say they have participated in it — but they have not realised that more is needed than just creating a middle class. To grasp the depth of the corruption before Cardoso, I recommend Peter Robb’s gripping account of the fall of President Fernando Collor de Mello.

The truth is that a middle class paying high taxes and facing inflation that’s eroding their income expects health care, expects safety, expects fair representation, expects fiscal security, expects all the things the very-rich people expect, in return for their taxes. But instead of delivering those things, Lula and Dilma have focussed on their own popularity and international reputation and neglected the reforms Brazil needs.

Notably, they have spent astonishing amounts of money on the World Cup and the Olympics, while spending little on the hospital system and neglecting taxation reform.   That means that while they show the world the high life, they have left the middle classes who are powering Brazil’s revival to face the life of the poor while paying the taxes of the rich.

The expensive stadium for the World Cup may well be the real last straw, rather than the bus fares that are hitting the headlines; that’s why so many of the protests have the previously unthinkable spectacle of Brazilians booing FIFA and the President at the opening of the new stadium and calling for a boycott of the World Cup. It looks like rank-and-file Brazilians are not going to take it any more.

Their protests have been mostly peaceful, but the heavy-handedness of the police is fanning middle-class disquiet into social angst of a calibre to feed a revolution. Dilma is attempting to spin the situation, but she doesn’t have the almost supernatural charisma of her predecessor that allowed him to tearfully brush-off scandal after scandal and survive association with deeply discredited colleagues who might have expected his loyalty after their “fixing”.

The situation is dire, and the only reason most of us don’t know is the problem is masked by other international issues. Could it be a modern Diretas Já?

%d bloggers like this: