Sunday, 17 February 2008

Independence for Kosovo?

Today Kosovo declares its independence from Serbia. It has of course already been independent from Serbia in practice since 1999, but it remains to be seen whether it will remain independent in the long term, and what other effects this will have.

I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I believe in self-determination for all peoples, including the people of Kosovo, so I wish them luck.

On the other hand, it seems that various other countries will be spending money propping up Kosovo for many years into the future, and this is not good, for at least three reasons.

  1. What have the Kosovans ever done to deserve this generosity? I wish them luck, but I don't feel that I owe them money.
  2. Interference in the affairs of other countries may or not be justified in principle, but in practice it often seems to turn out unhappily.
  3. As Kosovo becomes accustomed to being propped up by other countries, it may become permanently incapable of looking after itself.

The world could do with some kind of international law and some kind of international organization(s) to enforce it. It's neither satisfactory in principle nor successful in practice for powerful countries to send their armies all over the world trying to enforce whatever they happen to think is right at the time.

Various people have already pointed out that, if Kosovo's independence holds, this will encourage separatist movements in other countries. Indeed, I suppose it will, and I wish the best of luck to all such movements that have majority support within their regions.

I'm amused to see that, also today, residents of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the northernmost town in England, have voted in an unofficial poll to leave England and become part of Scotland.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Software obsolescence

Three months ago we got a new computer for our son Marc, and of course it came with Windows Vista, although Ana and I are still using Windows XP on our own computers.

From Marc's point of view, a computer is a games machine, and I was apprehensive about how many of his old games would work under Vista. I reassured myself that Vista seems not very different from XP; and at first I was pleased to find that some old games worked without trouble.

However, by now we realize that a number of his old games don't seem to work under Vista, although they work under XP.

This is a nuisance, and it's just an example of a wider problem with software: that it has a short lifespan. When I buy a book, I expect it to last for decades; it may well outlast me. But software can become unusable after only a few years, generally because of changes to the operating system.

Of course, if you maintain a museum full of computers running old operating systems, then you can go on running your old programs. But that's inconvenient and ultimately not very feasible. After a while, the old computers will break down and the old operating systems may not work with a new computer.

Some programs last longer than others. I'm still using Lotus Magellan, a file browser and search program, which hasn't been updated since 1990. It was an excellent program ahead of its time; it's somewhat less useful now because it's operating in a very different environment from what it was designed for. However, amazingly, it still works, and it's still useful for some purposes. I suppose this is because it was written for DOS, and so most of the changes to Windows in the last 18 years haven't affected it.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Hot wine

A traditional winter drink in many countries is hot wine, sweetened and with various spices or other additives.

Despite these widespread traditions, I've found that hot wine by itself makes a good winter drink without sweetening or spices. Just a minute in the microwave, and it's done. So far I've tried only hot red wine, but I've read that hot white wine works too. Hot sparkling wine doesn't seem like a good idea, but it may be worth trying out of curiosity...

If you want the wine to remain alcoholic, avoid boiling it.