Archive for June, 2012

Electrolux takes a long view

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

I just received an urgent letter from Electrolux Warranty Corporation, an affiliate of Electrolux, warning me that “only a few days are remaining” before its offer of a discount on an extended refrigerator warranty expires on 17 February 2012. That’s about 260 days from now. If everybody thought that way, The Long Now Foundation would be happy.

Anti-immigrant racial profiling nonsense

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Anthony Romero of the ACLU says “Law enforcement in Arizona can now demand “papers” from anyone they suspect of being here unlawfully. The only criteria they could possibly be using for this supposed suspicion is the way a person looks or sounds. ”

That is ridiculous, for at least 3 reasons.

First, as the ACLU says, the law requires not a suspicion, but a “reasonable suspicion”. How could the look or sound of a person create a reasonable suspicion of migrational illegality? Legal residents of the U.S. look and sound many different ways.

Second, “criteria” is plural. Romero presumably meant to say “criterion”. He should get some proofreading help.

Third, if the ACLU is going to battle to stop police officers from verifying whether a person is a legal resident of the U.S., then the ACLU has basically given up the fight for civil liberties. The huge violation of immigrant rights is not checking whether people have violated immigration law–IT IS IMMIGRATION LAW! What makes the ACLU more willing to tolerate a law that prohibits free immigration into the U.S. than it would be to tolerate a law prohibiting free migration from Arizona to Oklahoma? I’ll tell you what. It’s the ACLU’s capitulation to nationalistic, isolationistic, exceptionalistic, anti-human, anti-planetary ideology. The incarceration rate in the U.S. is not the 1% usually claimed: It is 100%. Every human being on Earth is a prisoner: confined to a single nation-state or migration-treaty area, legally permitted to emigrate by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but not able to make use of that right because the counterpart right, the right to immigrate, is not respected by the world’s states. And it’s not respected by the ACLU either. When a tyrannical regime murders millions of its subjects, the ACLU doesn’t demand the right of all that regime’s prospective victims to migrate into the country where the ACLU lobbies for rights. So they get slaughtered, or perhaps flee clandestinely across a border and get warehoused for years in a squalid refugee camp. This, with the complicity of the ACLU, which is so busy protecting illegal immigrants that it never gets around to demanding that the very concept of illegal immigration be relegated to the same pile of anachronisms as illegal thought.

If I have $50 to give for immigrant rights, it won’t go to Romero’s fund to inhibit enforcement of immigration law. It will go to a fund to exterminate immigration law. I claim the right to move to any country of my choice. And I claim that right for everybody in the world.

Announcing PanLinx

Friday, June 1st, 2012

PanLinx is the latest experimental interface for PanLex. You can try it now at

In case you asked “What is PanLex”, here’s a quick answer: It’s a database that aims to include every known translation from every word (or dictionary-type phrase) into any language in the world. We’re talking about potentially hundreds of millions of words and trillions of translations.

The PanLex project is sponsored by The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. The project’s main activity is building the database, but incidentally we have created some interfaces to give people (and machines) access to it. Before PanLinx, the interfaces relied on forms to be completed by users (fill in a text field, click on a button, etc.). This meant that most of the data would be invisible to most search engines, since search engines generally follow links and don’t fill out forms. We decided to create a different, link-only interface that would allow search engines to navigate across the database and reach data about millions of words and their translations. In principle, then, if you entered some obscure word in a search engine, you might be taken to the PanLinx page about that word.

For example, if you entered “bangunan” in a search engine, the hits would include, a page showing all of PanLex’s translations of that (Malay) word, because the search engine would have crawled the links from the main PanLinx page to its millions of subsidiary pages and indexed them all.

Millions of pages? Yes, roughly 18 million at present. But PanLinx isn’t really a collection of 18 million pages sitting on a disk drive. As systems go, it’s a very small system, with a home page containing about 260 links, plus a program (about 100 lines of code) that regenerates that home page periodically to incorporate additions to the database, plus another program (less than 200 lines of code) that creates a new momentary page (also containing about 260 links) whenever anybody clicks on any of those links, and so forth.

Will search engines actually fall for this trick? Well, from our perspective, it isn’t a trick. PanLinx delivers real information about translations among millions of words in thousands of languages. The mission of search engines is to get people to the information that they want. We don’t know which search engines will crawl how far from the root to the leaves of the PanLinx tree, but 3 days after PanLinx went live Google was already showing some hits 2 hops into the tree. Search engines are somewhat secretive about their rules. PanLinx gives us a platform to experiment with methods of making PanLex data findable through search engines. And, even though we built PanLinx primarily with search engines in mind, you are free to explore it yourself. If you have anything to report (such as “I converted PanLinx into a parlor game”), please comment below. Thanks.