Friday, February 04, 2005

Something good for a change

If there's anyone reading this who doesn't also read Nathan Freeman's blog, I'd like to point you to a project he has begun that sounds like it could be one of the most important things ever done on our pet platform. This isn't about business processes. It isn't about greasing the wheels of the world's economy. It isn't even about entertaining web sites. Our Nathan has taken it upon himself to build a system that should make sense of the AIDS/HIV pandemic in Africa.

I know that there are a few of you who may be quick to raise objections to this plan. You may think that data tracking for epidemiology sounds like something that might be much better suited to a relational database system. You may be right. You may also be thinking that way because you are used to living in a part of the world that has reliable electricity and telecommunications. Welcome to the real world. There are a lot more people living in places where that is not true than most of us can imagine.

Notes and Domino brings things to the table that can get around those problems. Things that we take for granted, like replication and rock-solid security that doesn't depend on a central, connected authority. The ability to collect and review data despite outages or, in many cases, lack of coverage, is at least as big a part of the requirement as are the nature of the data collected and the way those data are arranged. Yep, Notes is the worst platform for an application like this -- except for all of the other ones.

That being said, if you are an actual Notes guru, if you are in Africa or are portable enough to be in Africa when needed, this project may need your help, and it will be important enough to deserve it. Can't be there? You can still have ideas bounced off of you, and may be able to contribute simply by seeing things that others miss. Head over to Nathan's place and let him know who and where you are.

It's been a long, long, long time....

According to the mail I've been getting lately, it seems that having a blog brings with it the responsibility to blog. That's not quite as easy as it seems. I react to the world around me, of course, but I react in ways that aren't always appealing.

Take the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, for instance. I had an entry keyed up that denied the Holocaust. Not, as some may imagine, that I believe for a single second that the murder of millions did not happen, or that there was not a definite and deliberate attempt to remove entire peoples from the face of the earth. I merely meant to point out that a Holocaust is a burnt offering, a sacrifice, and that no God worthy of the name would accept such a sacrifice. Specifically, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob (baruch ha-Shem) has gone on public record telling believers in Him that human sacrifice is repugnant to Him. What happened was no sacrifice. There was nothing holy about it.

We need a new word for what happened at Auschwitz/Birkenau, at Dachau, at Treblinka, at Babi Yar, and at so many nameless places throughout Europe. We need a word that doesn't sugar-coat what happened; a word that includes not only the Jews, but the Roma and the Poles. A word that politicians can't pussyfoot around, as they have done so often with "genocide". Something so clear, so obvious, that no-one ever has to teach their children what it means. Something so immediate that no-one can ever avoid using it when it happens. Something that might have stopped Rwanda. Something that may yet help in Darfur.

It was a clever bit of writing, but I had to suck it back in, especially when I considered that people reading this might not read all the way through. I don't mind people thinking I'm a weirdo. I don't mind them thinking I'm an asshole. I DO mind them thinking I'm some kind of Nazi, and I DO care that others may take a few words out of context and cause pain I can't begin to imagine.