10 years in the European Union

My country, Czech Republic, has joined the European Union 10 years ago. It was great event and it’s clear that the EU has been helping us a lot to return from the Soviet empire to civilized world.

What did we give to the EU? I’m not sure. Our government has made some serious troubles but hopefully there have been also positive things. In any case, I believe it was worth to invest in our participation, it’s better to have good neighbors than bad ones. (Can our prime minister, telling us that we can’t support freedom due to economic reasons, figure out that someday?)

While some people have been dying to enter the EU, as immigrants or as citizens of a maybe future member country, other people inside the EU fight against the Union. Of course, there are many problems and bad things happen. But European unification is not the ground cause of that (think what are the actual problems and how the matters would evolve without the EU). I believe the EU project is primarily a great opportunity of world wide importance, which we can either make the best of or waste.

Schneier on surveillance partnership

I strongly recommend reading the excellent essay on surveillance partnership of government and private sectors by Bruce Schneier.

I’d just add that I don’t believe changes in formal policies are enough to solve the problem (although they are very important). We also need to technically break the inherent surveillance grounds. We users can do it, I suggest looking at the overview of available software (and don’t forget that nothing is perfect from beginning and if you prefer temporary immediate profit over long term profit and over your freedom then you should look elsewhere).

Lent starting

This year’s Lent starts. We may approach it as a period of inconvenient restriction or as a good chance to gain something.

I’ve been thinking about absurdities of our society.

We kill innocent and defenseless people. This has always happened but what I am additionally worried about is that we seriously talk about the “right” to kill the defenseless and present the “right” as “progress”. Our society apparently prefers murdering as a good way of solving problems instead of implementing better solutions.

We try to invent new forms of marriage and family and call it “equal rights”. Not everything works as it should, we all need respect to many of our handicaps, health and personal problems and we should be empathic and helpful when dealing with such things. But trying to make inherently different things “equal” is not the way, it’s simply insane. Our society embraces that insanity, calls it “progress” and those who don’t accept it are labeled as reactionaries.

Western civilization is so rich that we could work much less and get more time and energy for utilizing our creativity and making noble things. Instead, we work more and more and often waste our best in work of dubious purpose at our jobs. Our society embraces that as “economic growth”.

Many people are overloaded while many others can’t find any job. If you think about skills, workaholics and laziness, you’ve got some point. But it’s only part of the problem, look around you and you’ll probably find different examples. Isn’t there something odd in our society?

Rich people are getting richer while other people lose. Nothing surprising considering the power imbalance but where’s the power of democracy? Look at some election results and try to understand it. Still no feeling of living in absurdity?

I’m not talking about grass which used to be greener in the past. The society has been experiencing serious problems all the time. Modern society has its own problems demonstrating that progress produces not only improvements but also severe absurdities. This is going to have consequences similar to the ones in the past. We can’t assume our lives will be easier or happier in the future just because we may apply some sorts of engineering.

The fast time is a good opportunity to think about what each one of us can change, in himself, around him, in the society. To discard the barriers of evil that prevent us from doing good. To ask for help where it can really come from. Let it be a great time and a step forward.

Zuzana Roithová for president

So we have the opportunity to elect our president ourselves for the first time. Let’s not waste it. We shouldn’t get discouraged by the fact that some of the most popular candidates have done a lot of bad things in the past while other ones are so popular just for the fact they have done basically nothing. Although it is likely that we’ll end up choosing the least evil in the second round, it is important to show strong support to credible politics in the first round.

I wouldn’t bother writing this weblog entry if there were a choice among the candidates. But IMO the only good candidate is Zuzana Roithová. AFAIK she respects ethics and she did a lot of good work in the European Parliament although mostly hidden as mainstream media ignore such activities and focus on completely different things.

No matter who you decide to vote or not to vote for, please take the election seriously. As usually we’ll receive what we deserve.

European Union

My country, Czech Republic, has again expressed strong objections against future changes of the European Union. This is for the second time, after our president refused to sign the Treaty of Lisbon.

I’m not going to analyze the reasons and legitimacy of those actions. (By the way, it’s necessary to remark that there is no consensus about them in our country.) I’d like to explain what’s the major problem with undermining the European Union and why I consider it inherently harmful.

Some people think there are wrong things with the European Union and the solution is to weaken or destroy it. Yes, there are wrong things with the European Union. But the “solution” desired by the EU antagonists is completely erroneous, whether intentionally or not. The problem is there is actually no alternative to a strong European Union and I can’t believe things would be any better without it. We must accept this fact, whether we like it or not, and to try to do our best to make the European Union better. Thus when we fight for or against the European Union itself we just waste resources that could be utilized for useful activities, improvements and changing what is wrong. The challenges of cooperation, integration and globalization are demanding. When we have to defend the obvious facts, we are distracted from solving the real problems. This is where the opponents of the European Union score and contribute to their goal, while making harm to all of us.

As a software developer I daily use things and work with things which are wrong, often very wrong. But I have to continue working with them, fixing them and to look for ways how to deal with all the problems. Regardless how much I’d like to get rid of it and throw all the buggy software out of the window together with my computer, I don’t do it. You see, the decision to stop using computers is no real alternative. They are here, we need them and they are, ehm, often useful.

Silence

God should be in the centers of our lives. But is it really so? I can often observe silence. When we communicate with our friends or other people, we usually chat about children, everyday matters, work, weather, politics, sometimes about things like computers or math. And something important is missing. Will our Savior come to us or will we leave the door closed?

Clear sky

Thanks to the Icelandic volcano, I could experience a very special phenomenon yesterday: Clear and quiet sky. One would expect something opposite in relation to volcanic activity, but while there was no visually noticeable dust in the air (sunset was absolutely clear here without any colorful effects), air traffic over most of Europe was closed. So there were no jets flying over my head and I could enjoy completely clean blue sky and calm spring nature without the permanent noise coming from above.

I can’t remember the last time when this happened to me, it’s a very unusual event in the central Europe nowadays. Governments and newspapers count economic losses caused by the interrupted air traffic. But it’s gain for me to experience beauty that has been lost with the so called advance. Good trick, Eyjafjallajökull.

Civilized communication

I thought I should stop writing about stupid behavior on this weblog for a while but I can’t resist. I’ve recently read an interesting article What DNS Is Not by Paul Vixie. It’s about misusing the Domain Name System in ways that may look useful at the first glance but are actually harmful because their consequences were not properly thought of.

Well, we needn’t delve into Internet protocols to observe lack of competence and poor behavior. Our everyday communication demonstrates it more than enough.

Who knows about the 72 character line breaking limit in e-mail messages today? Nobody educates common populace about the limit but even people who should be more knowledgeable don’t respect it, as well as many e-mail clients that send such messages without warning the sender about common policy violation. This is simply arrogant to recipients. Perhaps the most common e-mail bad habit is citing the original e-mail at the bottom of reply to it. I read such replies as telling to me: *”Dude, I didn’t bother to respond to you in time so you probably don’t remember why you’ve written to me and I don’t expect you to archive your messages. As a courtesy from me, you can read your text after reading my words. I respond to various parts of your e-mail but my time is too valuable to bother with citing the corresponding parts, you the loser should find out yourself what I’m talking about, your original text is attached below after all.”*

Maybe this habit is somewhat related to chat conversions where citing the context makes little sense. Chat conversations also often demonstrate stupid behavior and lack of basic communication skills. A Jabber message comes from my colleague. He says: *”Good morning.”*. After a while the next message arrives: *”I need something from you.”*. Then the next surprising message informs me: *”I think you could help me.”*. If I’m lucky, the next round of messages finally describes the issue. Only after I was uselessly disturbed prematurely and for several times, only because the messaging person doesn’t understand the concept of message. And usually he additionally doesn’t understand when to use on-line messaging and when to use e-mail.

People also often don’t understand technical differences between different communication means. You can see it when people don’t put spaces after sentences in e-mails or on the web. They use to save characters in SMS messages and don’t figure out that other media may have different properties regarding readability and message size.

It’s not just about stupidity and rudeness. Even intelligent and polite people may demonstrate some kinds of behavior described above. Why? I can see several reasons:

  • Nobody educates us.
  • We are exposed to uncivilized behavior and simply follow it.
  • We don’t care much as we are usually too busy to actually think and to get more than very shallow understanding of things that we should know better.
  • The supposed experts such as communication client authors either lack the skills themselves (or they even invent new kinds of stupid behavior) or are unable to put guidance means to their software (or even guide users to behave in stupid ways).

Can we still hope for civilized digital communication or the September will never end?