Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Something I´m frequently not sure about re madrileños: when people speak loudly I´m frequently not sure if they are just having a conversation, or whether they might be arguing. It´s not just about raised voices, but also body language that seems hostile. What surprised me recently was that I had adopted this "hostile" stance when speaking to someone recently. If I were back in Cape Town my attitude in this situation would have been interpreted as confrontational, here in Madrid (or is it Spain?) it doesn´t have the same gravity.

Some other news that I tried to blog yesterday, but couldn´t. A story on cities wanting to have their own TLD (top level domains). Specifically, some persons in Berlin want .berlin See the story "Berlin wants its own domain" at,1367,69827,00.html
But note the concluding quote:
"Another lawyer familiar with ICANN's TLD-review process cast doubt on the chances for .berlin. It's not the people with the best ideas, but those with close ties to ICANN staff and board members who get their ideas approved, said Michael Froomkin, professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law and editor of ICANNWatch.
"The insiders always win," said Froomkin."

So, have a look at ICANNWatch (there´s a blog also). See ICANN for Beginners:

Lately I´ve been making voice recordings, but only for people close to me i.e. friends and family. I could venture into podcasting since I have the tools, but I dunno. Maybe after the holidays I will go into casting my voice :) For sure I will feel more relaxed and up to speaking out loud and talking nonsense(?). When I was little (age 4 or so) my dad used to make reel-to-reel voice recordings of the kids, also of parties. What a swell time that was. But I hated having my voice recorded. I do have photographic proof of the event. Then, when I was 11 my parents had a telephone (landline) installed for the first time, and I used to absolutely avoid answering the phone then. But of course, when I turned 13 all of that changed :) since obviously my incentive system for answering the phone changed at about the same time that boys became mildly interesting.

Given the above initial silence, who would ever have imagined that I would end up studying telecomms. Well, not my parents, that´s for sure.

I think by now I have sent all the cards, and Xmas/New Years/Eid/Season´s greetings that I needed to send/dispatch. I´m almost sure I didn´t forget anyone, so here´s a record of names:
Lishan, Jos and Valentina, Daan, Dirk, Johann, Hilda, Anton, Christiaan, Hans, Netta, Alma, Ursula, Sandra, Willem, Martin, Phumzile, Hennie, Henri, Jan, Miema, Ashraf, Benette, Gary, Hussein, Susan, Dale, Herbert V, Imma, Jorge, Colin, Berta, Heidi, Siegfried, Alan, Ben, Melissa, Lilian, Eve, Robert, Philipp, Christophe, Ron, Adele, Emile, Denise, Chanel, Mary, Ashley, Nicole, Sean, Gail, Howard, Doreen, Carol, Lyn, Sarah, Amos, Shirley, Herbert C, Nasima.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

language matters

Sometimes being here is far more difficult than I had ever anticipated. Apart from loneliness which has gotten to me twice, recently it is because I seem to inhabit an English linguistic space, and when I sit down to write anything in Spanish the words just won´t come. These past weeks, in preparing doctoral applications for English-medium universities, it seems almost as if I had switched to a predominant English mode (and an avoidance of Spanish) as some form of self-preservation. After all, my applications needed to be in my best English possible, and having any Spanish influences spill over would not have necessarily made for a very good impression, and would not have made for a convincing argument for my not having to take the TOEFL test :)

But the consequence of the latter unscripted and unforeseen strategy is that completion of my Spanish assignments became all the more difficult. Now that the bulk of the applications have been completed I could now open my mind again, but it will take some days. One other aspect is that, even after having spent so many years formally studying and learning Spanish, I cannot believe how much rust has settled on my abilities. Sometimes rediscovering my Spanish abilities is like some archaeological excavation project. But that´s the frustrating part: I know what I am capable of linguistically vis-a-vis Spanish based on my excellence five years ago; and now, after some rust has settled in, it is amazing how sometimes I feel that literally I am having to start (learning the language) all over again. At other times it´s purely a performance issue; about my feeling suitably relaxed with whomever I am speaking to, and so feeling more able to spontaneously express myself. So, people whom I feel uncomfortable around (for whatever reason) usually get only monosyllabic responses from me. Which, as you know is tricky, since people tend to equate linguistic ability with intelligence. And usually people conclude, almost unthinkingly, that if you lack linguistic fluidity you must be one or two neuronal pathways short.

Monday, December 19, 2005

internet family matters

One of my aunts relocated to Australia about 20 years ago, and they pretty much lost contact with one another. Then, earlier this year my Mom was able to locate her sister, and gave me her postal address, requesting that I write a letter on her behalf. Yes. I don´t know my aunt very well, but I did write the letter anyway, just before I left SA. And eight pages too, and I included my e-mail address just in case she wanted to use it (I didn´t know if she was online) or to pass to other family over there.

The happy event is that last week I received e-mail from cousins (Carol and Lyn) whom I had only ever heard about, and had never met in person. I was really surprised to receive those e-mails, and pleased as punch. And sighed happily when thinking "Isn´t the Internet just great!"


The thing that gets me down, and what got me often enough when teaching back in SA, was the sense of entitlement that some students had. And this unpleasant spoilt-rottenness usually came through at exam time, or more particularly, when the marks were released. There is something particularly ugly about entitlement, and to see it manifested in kids so relatively young is always surprising and off-putting all at once.

Musing on teaching matters: I felt sorry for the lecturer this afternoon. He so obviously felt a certain dis-ease in teaching, which made his lecture stilted, and what did not help was that he was seated throughout. And the students, all equipped with laptops, the majority of whom were distracted in browsing online, probably didn´t help to alleviate his sense of dis-ease. The poor man. When that happens - when you´re lecturing and the kids aren´t paying attention whatsoever - that is when you really start to wonder why you were put on the planet.

disputes and old ways

This past Friday we had a follow-up lecture on domain name disputes. The first lesson we had in this series; ifyou want to view it that way, dealt with behavioural aspects in that we looked at cases where it was obvious that cybersquatting had taken place etc. This time around we looked at more technical reasons for domain disputes, e.g. and i.a. word stuffing (you know, when you hide keywords in the page); abusing metatags to also get hits, etc.

Now, anyone who´s been on the net for longer than 8 years will know that this kind of jippoing is almost a legacy by now. What do I mean? That we know, as web developers, that these kinds of abuses took place then, but really, it´s hard to believe that people are still resorting to this kind of abuse. Must be amateurs.

Well, I´d asked the lecturer after the class whether he was of the opinion that the cases being pursued, where these abuses had taken place, weren´t more historical examples than stuff from the present. He opined that it was more the case that people didn´t pursue these affronts legally anymore (due to the costs incurred), than that these abuses weren´t happening. Yes, point taken. Yet, it is that most search engine technology has advanced to the point where bots/agents are able to ignore this kind of trickery. I guess my underlying gripe is that there was an unacknowledged assumption in the lecture viz. that the technology has been static and has not evolved to circumvent these abuses. ...Okay, enough said.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

.eu domain name etc

IN recent weeks we have had lectures, in the Masters course, on domain name management, and more particularly dispute resolution. For all the examples mentioned in-class, it was never said that upon launching the system for registering a .eu domain name, the most requested domain was apparently
See " is top choice for Europe's own domain names" at
Second most-requested was

What else to tell? I watched a movie this afternoon, at the cinema, titled "Me, you, and everyone else we know" or something like that. The director was Miranda July, and it was an okay+ movie. Like most artsy flims, it had a suspended ending. It was sweet, but not earth-shattering.

Hey, as I sit here typing in my living room, on the tele on channel TVE 2 is a news item about an extreme sports event in Cape Town... It´s nice to see some images of CT. Funny, I don´t (ever) get homesick, and in that sense I am not attached to places. But I do miss people, and of course my dogs.

Community Informatics for Developing Countries - CIRN/CIDC2006 - Call for Papers

A CIRN conference on "Community Informatics for Developing Countries"
PROVISIONAL dates: 31 August - 2 September 2006
Hosted by The Information Society Institute, Cape Town, South African Partnership with the Community Informatics Research Networks (CIRN)

CIDC2006 is now open to receive papers concerning research, policyand praxis around the conference theme of "Community Informatics forDeveloping Countries". Community Informatics concerns the socialappropriation of information and communications technologies.
The practice of Community Informatics has been evident in one formor another for many years, but the delivery of real benefits tocommunities is still elusive. A number of factors mitigate againsteasy success, including the necessary involvement of manystakeholders, the problems of establishing a real understanding ofcommunity needs, and a tendency for interventions to be drivenexclusively by funders.

The conference will be pleased to receive academic papers (for review), work-in-progress papers, panel proposals and posters (notfor review), based on:
- theoretical issues,
- multidisciplinary methods of working,
- case studies,
- research methods that fully involve communities, and
- the negotiation of goals and objectives with communities.

Topics are open within the general area of Community Informatics for Developing Countries, but include
- the emergence of the Information Society and its impact on communities,
- shared Knowledge between and within communities,
- the determination of community needs,
- planning for communities by communities,
- effective community participation in community-based projects
- evaluation of community-based projects,
- community empowerment,
- the impact of ICT on community 'belonging',
- failure of traditional top-down approach to community projects,
- mother language education as a platform for community identity,
- stakeholder interaction in community interventions
- government as a network partner of communities,
- e-service delivery,

The conference is designed for researchers, policymakers, communityleaders, ICT project leaders, government officials and regional community development groups who have interests, skills and experience in Community Informatics for developing countries.
Critical dates for academic papers (for review):
- Initial submission of abstracts: 3 Feb 2006
- Notification of provisional acceptance: 20 Feb 2006
- Papers due for review: 31 Mar 2006
- Notification of final acceptance: 15 May 2006
- Final papers due: 30 Jun 2006
Critical dates for other contributions (not for review):
- Initial submission of abstracts: 3 Feb 2006
- Notification of acceptance: 20 Feb 2006
- Contributions due: 30 Jun 2006

SANGONeT "ICT's for Civil Society" conference - March 2006

The Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT) will host its second annual"ICTs for Civil Society" Conference and Exhibition from 7-9 March 2006 at theIndaba Hotel in Fourways, Johannesburg.

SANGONeT, in conjunction with The Information Society Institute (Tisi) at theCape Peninsula University of Technology, invites academic/scientific andaction-research papers dealing with the theme, "The Information Society asa Response to Poverty and Inequality in Southern Africa", for presentation atthe conference.

The areas of interest include, but are not limited to, research on informationand community informatics in the new and emerging information societies of Southern Africa. Specific topics of interest include the following:
* Technology-based interventions by NGOs and other civil society stakeholdersin communities: Lessons on successes, failures, and difficulties in Southern Africa;
* The localization of information: local content, local language, local issues;
* ICT for development research;
* Innovative and emerging technologies to promote community empowerment andinter-community cooperation;
* ICT legislation, regulation and policy for Southern African information societies;
* e-Government and m-Government;* ICT for communities of practice;
* e-communication for local communities;
* Issues of e-security and e-privacy in Southern African information societies;
* Suitable framework for e-communication services in Southern African communities;
* e-inclusion;
* e-participation;
* Community informatics for poverty alleviation;
* Community informatics and ICT in emergencies and disaster relief operations inSouthern Africa.

We are interested in the following types of papers, panel discussions and presentations:
* Full research papers
* Work-in-progress
* Surveys and reports
* Policy and strategy papers
* Case studies

We also welcome workshops relevant to the theme of the track.

1. 30 January 2006: Papers and presentations due.
2. 15 February 2006: Acceptance/rejection notice after blind review.
3. 28 February 2006: Final version of accepted papers and presentations due.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Lately I´ve been thinking about friends whom I´ve lost contact with, and so lost track of. I will post their names here in the hope that if anyone googles for them (...yes, and you´re thinking that if s/one is googling for s/one then probably they too are looking for that person... Not necessarily. The person doing the googling might just have met this person, and is digging for some background info...C´mon admit that you´ve done that... If you´ve not then you´re not normal. Anyhow, I digress.) The people I am looking for are: Marie-Alice Marcelin originally from Haiti, and who used to work for the FAO in Haiti about four years ago. Marie-Alice was a fellow summer school student with me in Madrid in July 2000.

Then I am also looking for Hugo Fiz Palacios, who used to live in Madrid in July 2000; who was one of my Spanish tutors back in Cape Town in q1 of 2000; who had taught at an institution in Namibia as an AECI bursary candidate in approx. 1999 or 1998; and who I last knew was on his way to meet up with his girlfriend who was doing humanitarian aid work in Bosnia or Serbia (that was in August 2000). If you know where these people are, please send an e-mail to jenniferdebeer at gmail dot com.

World AIDS awareness day

as the entry title indicates, today is world AIDS awareness day, and I was curious to see what kind of coverage the AIDS pandemic would get here in Spain. Of course, the problem is not as rife as in South Africa - far from it, in fact. So, I bought two newspapers, El País, as well as ABC. Now, it should be said that I´m not au fait with whether a newspaper might have left-leaning or right-leaning origins, so it is difficult to gauge the why´s and wherefore´s of a publication, though I enjoy reading both newspapers. And there are others, copies of which I´ve not bought, such as El Mundo, nor La Razon. The point, to get to it, is that the El País has a full-page story about an HIV+ person in Soweto, South Africa, which is a region (suburb) with the highest HIV infection rates in the world.

I don´t see and have not seen anyone wearing red AIDS awareness ribbons. For sure, in South Africa there would be a lot of news coverage about AIDS, and HIV. There is though, and maybe I´ve said this before, a lot of talk on talkshows (in South Africa) in one way or another dealing with this matter. Thing is, it´s usually in a rather strident way that the message is brought across, and veiled as some argument about empowering women. About women being in charge of their destiny, etc. It has all the characteristics of a backlash from women, and I understand this given that it is frequently the case in South Africa that women are infected with the HI virus due to infiel partners. That is, the women think that they are in a monogamous relationship, when in fact their (male) partner is getting-it-off with other persons. My gripe is that there is seldom a notion of respect for the other person in the stridency of the message. The message is : "It´s about me as woman being in control of my destiny, and men are all by default and by nature predatory. "
It´s an immature stance to take, to say the least. And unpleasant to observe, because it´s all these young girls who have adopted this "it´s all about me" message. It´s never about "I respect myself and I respect the other person." That sort of stridency does not necessarily make for a better society.

I´ve not read the El País story yet... ´Till later.