April 24, 2001
Just finished Nathaniel's Nutmeg, by Just finished Nathaniel's Nutmeg, by Giles Milton, a sort of history of the Spice Wars and what scumbags the employees of the Dutch East India Company were. An interesting, if rather poorly edited, book. Worth a look. Probably would have made a much better full-length essay. As it was, the story was pretty good, though I was still left with some hesitancy regarding Nathaniel Courthope as the "hero" Milton makes him out to be. Maybe the connections between Courthope's untimely death defending the nutmeg isle of Run for the English and the subsequent surrender of New Amsterdam some decades later by the Dutch weren't made as clear as they could have been, or maybe I just wasn't paying close enough attention. I'm also reading How the Web Was Born, a history of the Web told from a decidedly non-American (and remarkably refreshing) perspective.
Posted by schampeo at 03:01 AM
April 15, 2001
Re-read Here Be Dragons, for Re-read Here Be Dragons, for a dose of fantasy, a few weeks ago. Have been boning up on my computer history lately, with Michael Hiltzik's Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age, which was fascinating (and which inspired parts of this article). Just finished up Howard Rheingold's Tools For Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology, which was very good, if a bit flaky. Probably the most thought-provoking of my recent reads, especially in light of my new-found status as property owner, was Hernando DeSoto's The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. DeSoto's thesis is that capitalism is only possible with a well-founded system of property law; that the West only arrived at such a system as it already has through trial and error and the adoption of the conventions of extra-legal property holders such as miners, homesteaders, and the like, and is subsequently not fully aware of its own systems; and that the Third World can achieve a rapid economic turnaround if it will adopt existing extra-legal property protection schemes as law, turning dead capital into live and reducing corruption, bureaucratic nonsense, and enfranchising billions of entrepreneurs. Got me to thinking about what it means to own our house, our business, my truck, and the like; whether similar schemes to enfranchise America's extra-legals (drug dealers, for example) would work; and other things. Also got me thinking about what it means to "own" a domain name given that there is no real property law in the Internet namespace, or what there is offers little to no protection against disenfranchisement. If some deep-pocket corporation decided it wanted jaundicedeye.com, there is precious little standing in the way of simply taking it from me. I can't imagine the lawyers will stand for that much longer, but it still chills me to think about, especially in light of DeSoto's charge that few in the West actually understand the import property law holds for capitalism.
Posted by schampeo at 05:08 PM