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.: 2002 --> october


:: May I just take a moment to recommend Doomsday Book by Connie Willis? Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, it is a ripping yarn, with vivid characters, vivid settings, and a satisfying and very moving conclusion.
[ 10/02/02 ]

:: On July 7, the New York Times published What if Its All Been a Big Fat Lie? by Gary Taubes, which made the startling claim that the long recommended low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet is causing our current obesity epidemic, and that the fat-friendly, low-carbohydrate Atkins Diet, long dismissed by the medical establishment, is sound. [NY Times: rebeccaspocket, password: pocket] (warning: popup!)

The WSJ Opinion Journal followed fast on its heels with a piece by anthropology professor Lionel Tiger which outlined the controversy and suggested that a meat-based diet might, with moderation, be more attuned to human physiology than one that is grain-based.

In August, the Washington Post published a close examination of the NYT article, seeking to balance Taube's claims against the science his article claims to refute.

It's a terrific article, shedding light both on the research Taube rejected and his reasons for rejecting it, enabling the reader to assess the quality of Taube's journalism. It's also a lucid reminder of just how 'constructed' reportage really is.

With many readers newly confused about the benefits and hazards of low-fat and high-fat eating, we decided to take a hard look at Taubes's arguments and examine the broader record of dietary research that he is accused of ignoring or downplaying. We interviewed more than three dozen experts in the field -- many of them the same people Taubes spoke with -- and reviewed the scientific literature. We also spoke to Taubes himself for several hours and reviewed with him some of the research that he used. [...]
Despite the uproar, even some of Taubes's sharpest critics found merit in the story -- for example, for describing the role that corn sweeteners in soft drinks may play in the obesity epidemic and for forcing scientists to address unanswered questions on fat. 'The good part is that Taubes has stimulated discussion,' said James O. Hill, director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. 'The bad part is that once again the poor public is confused.'

The WP article also notes that Taube received a $700,000 book deal as a result of his provocative piece.

The American Council On Science And Health rebutted the idea that type of diet determines either health or obesity, pointing out that American activity is in a decline, and that even incremental differences add up.

The activity trends in this country seem to have been pointing down for the last several decades. And that's not just because of more TVs and computer games, though certainly these play a role. All sorts of subtle changes in society contribute to our diminishing exertion. Those of us over a certain age can even recall when driving a car took more physical energy than it does today. Remember trying to parallel park a car without power steering? Or having to actually move the seat manually without a power- assist?

Finally, on September 9, the estimable Nutrition News put it all in perspective:

The cavemen argument doesn't mean eating a lot of lean meat. It really means tracking that animal for a day before you kill it and butcher it. Few of us are willing to live that way, so we need to adapt our behaviors to the modern world. Want air conditioning, your own car, and electrical appliances? Then you need to find other ways to burn calories on a regular basis. This may be an ugly proposition to many, but it is the only one that works.

[ 10/02/02 ]

:: This just in from the US government: more exercise and moderation in all things.
[ 10/02/02 ]

:: And finally, researchers believe they have discovered the substance that becomes carcinogenic when deep-fried, and it exists not only in potatoes, but in asparagus and bananas. (thanks, jim!)
[ 10/02/02 ]

:: Actual headline:
High school Satanism club prompts parental outrage
Students say lunchtime meetings do not worship Lord of Underworld

Predictably, some parents and students are outraged. Not so predictably, the school principal and PTO president are taking an even-handed and principled stand, and a local priest is keeping his head while others around him lose theirs:

...Father Harold Snider of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Burlingame said the First Amendment is behind these students.
'Lets face it, teenagers love to shock,' he said. 'The best thing to do about it is to not make a big deal.'

(thanks, Lizard!)
[ 10/02/02 ]

:: Tsui Design does it all, offering Architecture, City & Regional Planning, Industrial Design, and Clothing Design. Though his furniture, science fiction-y architecture, and clothing will appeal to some, (this coat is straight out of Star Wars) it's his city planning that I find most intriguing.

The City on the Sea is designed to harness ocean wave, solar, and windmill power to produce sufficient electrical generation to power an entire city; and the Ultima Tower is a two-mile high, one mile wide building that would house 1,000,000 people.
[ 10/07/02 ]

:: US officials charged with managing 90 million acres of land belonging to individual American Indians and setting up trust funds for them have completely mismanaged the accounts since their creation 115 years ago. Current officials have done such an abysmal job putting the accounts in order that 'a federal judge...has found Interior Secretary Gale Norton in contempt of court for her handling of the affair.'

Note that this isn't specific to the Bush administration: Clinton administration officials were also found in contempt for their handling of the affair.
[ 10/07/02 ]

:: The United Nations has upheld a French law that prohibits dwarf-tossing after Manuel Wackenheim argued that the ban violates his personal freedom and is preventing him from working.
[ 10/07/02 ]

:: After spending $230 billion million in preparation to build a Russian plant that will destroy one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, funding may dry up as a result of Congressional fears that the Russians may not have been completely honest about the size of their arsenal.

'They want a confession, and what we need is a solution,' says former Democratic senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, who now runs the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation that seeks to eliminate excess Soviet weapons. He says the Russians have shown 'good faith' and may not know the full extent of their arsenal.

Slate's excellent Todays Papers had this very informative aside:

One issue with the story: In what's a well-worn habit among the papers, USAT trots out incredibly high casualty estimates for chemical weapons attacks: 'Even the smallest [chemical-weapons] shells, which fit in a briefcase, can kill 100,000 or more if set off in a crowded city.'
Such high casualty rates are theoretically possible but in the real world are incredibly unlikely. As both Slate and the New Republic have pointed out, many factors limit the efficacy of chemical weapons. They need perfect weather. They tend to disperse unevenly. They're hard to deliver—missiles often end up incinerating the chemicals upon impact, etc., etc. Of course, chemical weapons are still dangerous. But they're not superweapons, and for papers to suggest otherwise is needless fear-mongering.

[ 10/07/02 ]

:: Global Dining is revolutionising Japanese work practices. The restaurant chain is setting traditional Japanese work protocol on its ear with its aggressive version of meritocracy.

Most of the 1,400 staff are hired first as part-timers, mostly in their 20s and on minimum pay. To get a raise, they must win the backing of a majority of their co-workers at one of the regular staff meetings. A thick skin is essential, as colleagues tend to be blunt in their discussion of strengths and weaknesses. Applicants take criticism—which has been known to address subjects such as overly-strong body odour—in their stride. So much for the traditional Japanese workplace, full of passive workers strenuously avoiding confrontation and personal accountability.

[ 10/07/02 ]

:: I finally created a new sewing page to house all the sewing and historical costume links I've recently collected.
[ 10/07/02 ]

:: The Senate is debating the Bush administration's resolution to give the president the power to use whatever means he sees necessary to deal with Iraq. I agree with Senator Byrd:

"He shall use all the military forces of this country in whatever ways he determines, wherever he determines, whenever he determines and for as long as he determines -- that's the way it's written, lock, stock and barrel," Byrd, the chamber's senior Democrat, said. "Congress might as well just close the doors, put a sign over the doors and say, 'Going fishing.'"

The President does not need blanket approval for any military action he sees fit, and in fact the Constitution is designed specifically so that the President does not have that power. It's not hard for a President to get Congress to approve a war; at least he should have to go before them and make his case at the time.

Please let your Senator know how you feel about this. (At this point, phoning is probably the most effective option.)
[ 10/08/02 ]

:: NASA has concluded that land use affects climate change.
[ 10/08/02 ]

:: A week ago I linked to two sites designed to help pick out gifts for the opposite sex. At the time, I couldn't remember the all-purpose site that does the same thing for all kinds of people. I just did:
[ 10/08/02 ]

:: After years of kowtowing to corporate interests, it seems that vindictive politicians finally have a reason to care about media consolidation.

...his move reflects a broader unease among lawmakers who fear corporate ownership of news outlets hurts their ability to communicate with constituents. The prospect of new campaign finance rules has only fueled these politicians' anxieties, because they say they fear the media may become even more powerful once parties are no longer able to finance campaign ads. [...]
Scott Armey said he was unsure whether his father's proposal would improve the Morning News' reporting, but said it was fair to say the managing editor and a handful of reporters were 'intentionally trying to determine the outcome of an election' this spring by publishing articles that implied he 'was corrupt.'

Because only politicians should be allowed to smear other politicians. (thanks, lizard!)
[ 10/08/02 ]

:: A History of Japanese Clothing and Accessories is an incredibly detailed look at the uses and construction of Japanese medieval garb [many images, inner pages may be slow to load]. For information on more modern traditions, check out
[ 10/08/02 ]

:: From my Amazon Gold Box: the 3 HP, 4-Gallon Pancake Compressor. I guess this is for serious cooks only.
[ 10/08/02 ]

:: The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Emergence of Recreational Evil: Frank-N-Furter represents the ability of the media both to corrupt us and set us free
(thanks, george!)
[ 10/08/02 ]

:: Delivering us from our enemies: hydrogen cars and the Hy-wire.
[ 10/11/02 ]

:: The Consequences of War: The Economist provides a fascinating glimpse into Saddam's skillful use of Iraq's oil to make friends and influence policy.

The deals now being done with Iraq may prove significant in shaping any post-invasion politics, since its oil is among the industry's most coveted. The country sits atop over 110 billion barrels of proven reserves (and possibly more), the second-largest in the world after Saudi Arabia's. And if reports of a flurry of dealmaking by Mr Hussein turn out to be accurate, says Robert Mabro, the head of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, 'then there's not much left in Iraq for the Americans!'
Mr Hussein has been using oil as a political weapon for years. At unexpected times, he has suddenly cut off exports to rattle the markets, to complicate OPEC's market manipulations or to protest against America's support for Israel. Now, with an invasion looming, he is doing the reverse: in the past few weeks, he has more than doubled exports of oil.
[...] In the past few weeks, leading firms such as TotalFinaElf (of France), Eni (Italy) and Repsol YPF (Spain) have signed bilateral deals to bring Iraq's oil to market. These European countries now have a greater incentive (should they need it) to think twice before supporting any invasion.

[ 10/11/02 ]

:: Michael Kinsley argues that pushing Saddam to the brink may compel him to employ the very weapons the Bush administration claims to be protecting us from.

Saddam surely realizes that evidence will be found linking him to any terrorist act for the foreseeable future, whether such evidence exists or not. Meanwhile, though, if the United States is inexorably committed to 'regime change' - which, in any scenario, Saddam is unlikely to survive in one piece - any reason for him to show restraint disappears.
The CIA makes this obvious point in a document made public this week. The agency's assessment is that Iraq is unlikely to use biological or chemical weapons against the United States unless we attack Iraq and Saddam concludes he has nothing to lose.

Others fear that a US invasion of Iraq would impel Saddam to retaliate by supporting Islamicist terrorists against the United States and its interests. An interesting note: according to retired US General Wayne Downing, 'the Al Qaeda network believes it is entirely responsible for the economic downturn in the US.' Love that. And this interesting note:

A former high-level CIA official with years of experience in the region agrees that any attack on Iraq is likely to motivate a lot of people in the region. One common aim, he says, may be the desire for 'freedom' - a word that has a dramatically different connotation in the Arab world than in the US. Iraqis, for instance, have experienced a century of foreign domination in their country and region. Freedom for them, he says, is about achieving the absence of foreign domination of their country.

Scott Rosenberg recently moderated a panel whose consensus was that Bush is playing an elaborate game of chicken with Saddam. Apparently Thomas Friedman holds the same view, though one wonders if this is yet another attempt to persuade the President to change his tactics by insinuating that he is too smart to take the destructive road charted by his more extreme advisors. [NY Times: rebeccaspocket, password: pocket]

(If this assessment is correct, watch all the pundits who have been screaming for an invasion backpedal and pontificate on the brilliance of Bush's strategy, as if they were in on it all along.)

I hope they're right; but in this matter I tend to take Bush at his word. He's been preparing the country to go to war for months. I was astonished when suddenly the columns were abuzz with talk of attacking Iraq. Since when do we pre-emptively attack other countries? But this administration has been very smart: after months of 'will he or won't he?' and 'should we or shouldn't we?' the public (information weary and prone to accept whatever is presented as the consensus) is used to the idea and tired of the whole thing. I think even people who oppose this action now feel that war is a foregone conclusion, so long has the discussion gone on.

Speaking of which, Does the United States Start Wars? In short, yes, but the affect on our stature depends on our reasons for doing so.

Unlike our great and good wars, the Spanish and Mexican conflicts are little remembered (despite entreaties to remember the Alamo and the Maine). The absence of a moral grounding—the realization over time that in each case the casus belli was fairly bogus—discredited the American enterprise and bolstered those who derided the nation as expansionist, imperialist, or genocidal. Yet alongside these inglorious examples, America also has a tradition of waging war for honorable reasons that it could offer to the world as legitimate grounds for making war. For these wars, we not only congratulate ourselves but also gain the affection of others.

(via myapplemenu reader)
[ 10/11/02 ]

:: Freed the Mouse: The very cleverly designed tip trap non-lethal mousetrap works beautifully.
[ 10/11/02 ]

:: When life gives you lemons.... A forgotten contraceptive method has proven to be effective against pregnancy and HIV - and it's freely available in some of the poorest countries in the world.
[ 10/11/02 ]

:: Kung Fu Grippe has the best schwag. Read the tagline on every single one of them. There's a cute little t-shirt for your baby and a bumpersticker to put on your arch-enemy's van...and so much more. Don't miss his latest, That Muni Sign.
[ 10/11/02 ]

:: Aaronland led me to Petits Propos Culinaires, which excerpts sections online. Issue 67's excerpt includes book reviews. These caught my eye:

Jorwerd: The Death of the Village in Late Twentieth-Century Europe describes the modernization of a small farming community in the Netherlands. I suspect this experience may be as universal to our time as was the way of life described in Braudel's The Structures of Everyday Life.

I don't ever eat them; why do I want to know how to make them? Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber

I might like this one: The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Petits Propos says

The book which arose from the author's series on TV that touches on living in the country, cookery, self-sufficiency, food gathering and smallholding. I recommend it. The recipes are robust and cheerful; the instructions on and contemplations of small-scale agriculture and life in the raw give some form of structure to an urban gourmand's world view; the style is direct and without gush but properly enthusiastic. It would not do as a manual, but presumably his readers and viewers live mainly in the suburbs. Some of the photographs hit the spot, the bulk do not. It is a pity they were not more instructive, less in search of the mood. The book is victim of a designer but benefits from a generous accountant who made it good value.

[ 10/11/02 ]

:: A little weekend reading: The Network Society: A Shift in Cognitive Ecologies? by Mathew Wall-Smith

By examining the psychodynamic effects on human cognition of the adoption of the technology of writing we can logically assess and contextualize the potential effect of the massification of networked information systems on our day-to-day thought processes. The identification of congruent, parallel and differential affect between writing and network technologies demands that their development be considered above and beyond the dictates and imperatives of consumer capitalism, it demands that the Internet be thought of in terms of public infrastructure rather than saleable capital

(via aaronland)
[ 10/11/02 ]

:: The Economist: Free Mickey Mouse is an overview of Lawrence Lessig and Eldred v Ashcroft.
[ 10/14/02 ]

:: Dahlia Lithwick argues very convincingly that Winona Ryder is being railroaded to jail in order to compensate for the LA District Attorney office's seeming inability to win the cases it prosecutes. all cases involving theft exceeding the amount alleged in Ryder's case, the defendants received standard misdemeanor plea deals. The district attorney's office has refused to accept a plea for anything less than a felony in Ryder's case. In fact, the district attorney's office has refused to accept Saks' own multiple requests to drop the charges against Ryder. [...]
Instead of pleading this case out and getting on with the business of prosecuting murderers and rapists, Cooley's office has now diverted at least eight attorneys to work full time on this case, with a deputy district attorney having to reschedule a murder prosecution so she can convict Ryder.

[ 10/14/02 ]

:: 'More frequent and more devastating storms caused by climate change could cost $150 billion a year within the next ten years, possibly bankrupting financial services firms, a United Nations- backed report warned this week.'
[ 10/14/02 ]

:: ITT Industries, which bill itself as the world's premier supplier of pumps, systems and services to move and control water and other fluids, on the privatization of water.

Water is a booming business. Worldwide, annual industry revenues are estimated at $300 billion, with the United States accounting for more than half that amount. And this number is expected to grow as water becomes more scarce and markets begin to mature. Two of the fastest growing market areas are in water rights and municipal water supply systems.
Water has been traditionally viewed as an inexhaustible resource that should be available to everyone at little or no charge. However, this view is changing with demand outstripping supply wherever it is treated as a 'free' good. A recent study by Johns Hopkins University predicts that, under current water management, 35 percent of the world's population will run short of water in the next 25 years.

(via haddock)
[ 10/14/02 ]

:: In Massachussetts, the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is helping disadvantaged Cambodian immigrants become commercial farmers.
[ 10/14/02 ]

:: Via Odub, a fascinating story of Somali immigrants' search for a better life and the conflict which has resulted from their enthusiastic adoption of a new home. [warning: popup and annoying demographic-seeking interstitial] Odub calls it racism; that may be an exacerbating factor, but I'm more inclined to think it's a clash of cultures between easily identifiable newcomers and old-timers.

'The parents were working nights and coming home in neighborhoods with prostitution and drugs,' said Abdiaziz Ali, a father of five who migrated here from Atlanta and now works as an immigration caseworker for the city. 'The black American kids picked on our children on the bus. Eventually, the elders sit down and say: "Why are we fighting to stay here?"'
They sent seven young men out to find a new homeland, spreading south, east, west and north. Known as 'sahan,' this is an ages-old nomadic practice used to find water for the cattle in Somalia's arid hinterlands.
'They found Lewiston," Ali said. "They check the crime statistics, they see the last policeman killed here was in 1882. They see the unemployment rate is low. There is housing and close family values like Somalia. The young men tell us: "This is a dream place."'

[ 10/16/02 ]

:: 'Nowhere in the country could a minimum wage employee afford to pay rent on a two-bedroom home, an advocacy group said Wednesday. And in three-quarters of the country, even two full-time, minimum wage jobs couldn't pay for such housing.' (thanks, jessamyn!)
[ 10/16/02 ]

:: Has the economy induced people to give up conspicuous consumerism? At least one new magazine is betting on it. The Guardian reports that it is becoming hip to be frugal.

What is interesting is that Miller's nose for a bargain is being tapped by the mainstream. The trend for no-brand, no-hype, value-for-money goods that are also well-designed, has been growing in the UK ever since the Japanese company Muji opened in the 90s.... There is a strange kind of inverted snobbery about being in the know about brands that deliver good design at affordable prices. We are still as consumerist as we ever were. We just don't want it to be rammed down our throats so much. We like to think that we are a bit more canny about what we buy.

[ 10/16/02 ]

:: It seems that the 'coveted' target demographic of 18-34 no longer represents the largest proportion of consumers--but the media has yet to notice. [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet]

'Embedded within the 18-to-34 cliche is a lot of social and economic history,' says Stuart Ewen, author of Captains of Consciousness and several other books on the history of advertising. 'The development of that group coincided with the dramatic expansion of the American middle class in the years right after World War II. The notion was that these young people coming out of the war were going to be the engine that drove the American economy.'

Also referenced in this article is The Conquest of Cool, by Thomas Frank.
[ 10/16/02 ]

:: Japanese Cultural Obento

The Japanese Cultural Obento page is made by the group of fifth grade students who have been taking Japanese as a foreign language at the American School in Japan for at least four years. The students wish to share what they have learned through their lives in Japan with students who are interested in Japan and Japanese culture.

[ 10/16/02 ]

:: The Problem with Electronic Voting Machines

Ironically, it is computer scientists, not officials, who are counselling caution. There is no way to verify that ballots are recorded, transmitted and tabulated properly, argues Rebecca Mercuri, a computer-science professor at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, and the most outspoken critic of DRE. For one thing, vendors have yet to discover the virtues of independent peer review. Worse, it is theoretically impossible to determine whether computer systems are free from programming bugs or nefarious code.

[ 10/16/02 ]

:: Want to make more effective use of the Web? Web Searchlores: Advanced Internet searching strategies & advice.
[ 10/16/02 ]

:: Internet pioneer John Perry Barlow on the current power of the citizenry in the United States:

Despite a deluge of calls, letters, and e-mails, which Capital Hill staffers admitted ran overwhelmingly against the ludicrously-named 'Resolution Authorizing the President to Use Force, if Necessary, to End the Threat to World Peace from Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction,' Congress extended to George II the authority to make unlimited and preemptive war against another nation that has neither attacked us nor shown the ability or inclination to do so.

Barlow has discovered something that I noticed a year ago:

The best way to deal with us is to ignore us altogether, as they did last Thursday. Our calls and letters had no effect whatever. [...]
Empires in the past found it expedient to jail, torture, and execute recalcitrant subjects. This one has learned that you can get a lot further with less trouble simply by pretending that the opposition doesn't exist.

He proposes that the loyal opposition become visible by meeting on October 26 at 11:00am, to demonstrate the size and diversity of Americans who are not satisfied with the new system of regime. (via on focus)

[ 10/18/02 ]

:: New URLS for old favorites: and Fragments from Floyd.
[ 10/18/02 ]

:: On Monday, October 21, federal standards for organic food labeling will take effect.

After Monday, shoppers at the supermarket will see one of three USDA-sanctioned labels on all organic products:

Is it good news or bad news? Smelling a new market for their goods, agribusiness is working to grab a piece of the new pie.

Some worry that the big operations will offer more organic food at lower prices, pushing out smaller farmers. Others, who believe organic is as much about culture as it is about chemicals, wonder whether the government will cater to the big boys from corporate agriculture instead of protecting local, sustainable, earth-friendly food as the original organic movement envisioned. [...]
Food giants are hungry for a slice of the fastest growing segment in the food business. Last year, consumers spent $11 billion on organics, compared to $1.5 billion in the late '80s and early '90s. That's still barely 1 percent of the nation's food sales, but it represents several years of near 20 percent growth. In a business where 1 percent growth in any sector is considered good, organic food is the rock star of the food supply.

The best article I've read on the complexities of this situation is still Michael Pollan's Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet] (first two links via saute wednesday)
[ 10/18/02 ]

:: Can french fries be good for the environment? When you run your vehicle with biodiesel they can be.

'If we made it through the ice age, we can make it through our energy crisis,' [Charris Ford] says.
Ford's truck runs on biodiesel, a fuel that can be made out of virgin oils from plants such as soybeans, corn, canola, coconuts, or peanuts, or by filtering and processing used vegetable oils, principally restaurant grease. Biodiesel is not new; indeed, when Rudolph Diesel first described plans for his engine in 1893, he thought he had designed something that farmers could fuel themselves using peanut oil. (Cheap petroleum hijacked his dream of rural self-sufficiency.)

Ford, who calls himself the Granola Ayatollah of Canola sounds like the Halcyon of alternative energy. He's also a bit of a rapper:

When Run DMC released their first rap album, Ford was in high school in St. Petersburg, Fla., and he was taken with the way his African-American classmates would free- rap in the halls. A few years later, working alone in the fields of his Tennessee farm, he found the rap sound still stuck in his head, and he began making up verses about the world around him.
His first rap was about eating bugs; he tried it out on the Amish farm family down the road. 'They liked it,' he says. 'They tend to frown on music, but this didn't have any instruments.'

Visit the National Biodiesel Board for more information.
[ 10/18/02 ]

:: Behold, the power of poo (via boingboing)
[ 10/18/02 ]

:: Economist: With every Palestinian death, Hamas grows stronger

Hamas, say other Palestinians, will remain irrepressible until there is pressure on Israel to lift the blockades and curfews that deny Palestinians any semblance of normal life. Also, until there are elections and a genuine reform process to convince Palestinians that there are other ways to liberate their country than through its destruction. Above all, Hamas will retain its power until there is a peace process which offers a serious international pledge that one day the occupation will end.
Hamas is confident that such international rescue will not come.

[ 10/18/02 ]

:: The Western Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is flying me up to take part in their Thursday, November 7 panel Invasion of the Bloggers. If you're in Seattle the first week of November, please join Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, Clark Humphrey, Glenn Fleishman, and myself at 7pm for this free event.
[ 10/18/02 ]

:: It's out: today Amazon is shipping my husband's first book, The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web! If you are a web designer who needs to understand the principles of user-centered design without all the esoteric mumbo-jumbo, or a division manager who wants to communicate effectively with your web team but hasn't the time to wade through a thick technical manual, The Elements of User Experience is the best book you will buy all year. Congratulations, jjg!
[ 10/21/02 ]

Update: If you pre-ordered the book, please check to see what Amazon is charging you. I have had two reports of people being charged the pre-publication price, which is significantly higher than the actual price of the book. If your book costs more than $20.99, let Amazon know that they overcharged you and request an adjustment.
[ 10/21/02 ]

:: The very interesting Transcript of Eldred v Ashcroft. From the line of questioning, it sounds to me like the Justices get it: in questioning the government, they practically argue Lessig's case.
[ 10/21/02 ]

:: The Psychology of Success: They have trouble imagining failure, and they don't care what you think. (via anil's daily links)
[ 10/21/02 ]

:: A wonderful metatalk thread listing numerous browsers and add-ons that will prevent thoughtless web designers from foisting pop-up windows, pop-under windows, banner ads, and browser resizing in your web-browsing experience: Annoyancefilter. (also via anil)
[ 10/21/02 ]

:: Somehow I've entered the food chain. On Friday I received a signed copy of Howard Rheingold's new book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution with a very nice note from the author. Perhaps the first non-weblog book (though it mentions weblogs) to try to use weblogs to generate word-of-mouth.
[ 10/21/02 ]

:: I have made it a policy here not to comment on the various weblog controversies that arise in the community from time to time. Mostly they are stupid and unpleasant. Usually, outside comments just serve to inflame the situation. Usually these controversies disappear almost as quickly as they arise.

But I believe it is time to say, for the record, that Anil Dash is a stand up guy. I admire (and agree with) the stand that he's taken. I was unaware that he has been falsely accused of anti-Semitism--I stopped reading Little Green Footballs at about the time proprietor Charles Johnson began referring to the Saudis as 'oil ticks.' Is LGF racist? That's not quite the right word. Hateful? In my estimation, yes, which is why I've chosen not to link to it. Is there a smear campaign being waged against the site? What nonsense. In fact, I was very impressed with Weblog Central's evenhandedness in outlining the controversy and its aftermath. (Naturally, I've also been amused to hear this charge from a portion of the weblog community that enjoys nothing so much as a multi-blog outpouring of ridicule toward any viewpoint with which they disagree.)

I know Anil. He's smart, thoughtful, honest, level-headed, kind: in short, a good man, one who is not afraid to say the truth. Much to my surprise, it seems that he has managed to persuade some members of the LGF community to re-evaluate some things they have long overlooked.

Anil is the best kind of American. I'm proud that he's my friend, and I'm grateful that he's part of the weblog community.
[ 10/23/02 ]

:: In Superiority Complex, David Brooks regards America in the new millennium and finds that the technologies which allow us to tightly connect with others in our own subcultures, simultaneously separate us from everyone else.

Communications technology has expanded the cultural space. We now have thousands of specialized magazines, newsletters, and Web sites catering to every social, ethnic, religious, and professional clique. You can construct your own multimedia community, in which every magazine you read, every cable show you watch, every radio station you listen to, reaffirms your values and reinforces the sense of your own rightness. It is possible, maybe even inevitable, that you will slide into a solipsism that allows you precious little contact with people totally unlike yourself. But in your enclosed sphere you will feel very important.

David Shenk writes about this phenomenon in Data Smog, and I briefly discuss the echo chambers created by most weblog clusters in the afterword of my own book. Brooks extends the discussion to the United States at large, and I think he is quite right in his analysis. In fact, one of his conclusions:

Surely it would be a good thing if people were encouraged to climb outside their milieu. It would be nice, for example, if AmeriCorps became a rite of passage for young Americans, so that at least for a year of their lives they would be with people unlike themselves. It would be nice if adults who rail against the religious right would go into megachurches or Christian bookstores and actually learn something about the millions they disdain. It would be nice, in other words, if everybody spent some time playing sociologist, and learned about the strangers who are our fellow citizens.

is similar to my own:

A weblog is a bully pulpit, and the insightful weblogger has an opportunity to elucidate and navigate the unknown for his readers instead of pulling the gate shut behind them. The webloggers have always been Web travelers: let us bring home thoughtful stories of little-understood cultures, especially when that culture belongs to the man next door. (The Weblog Handbook, pp 163-164)

This idea of subculture as the modern substitute for class distinctions is explored at some length in the interesting but problematic NoBrow.
[ 10/25/02 ]

:: Puget Sound Energy offered its customers an alternate plan that offers them different rates for power, depending on the time of day. The plan was supposed to save participating customers money; instead, 'To break even between the new and old rate plans, average residential customers would have to use more than half their electricity late at night and on Sundays.'

'My family did their best, washing dishes after 9 p.m. and doing all laundry on Sunday, etc.,' said Bill Mohn of Mercer Island. 'We enjoyed seeing the bar charts in each month's bill showing the amount of energy consumed in the least-expensive time period far higher than all the other bars.'
So the Mohns thought they were saving money and being good global citizens at the same time. But then a friend tipped them to PSE's Web site, where the company encourages its customers to compare their rates and manage their own energy accounts.
According to the personal energy management calculator on that site, Mohn found he was actually paying a little bit more.

You know, this just makes me mad. Encouraging people to save energy to do the things that will benefit the utilities (and the community) and promising that it will save them money, and then offering a lame excuse when it doesn't work out that way:

PSE acknowledges that many customers are paying slightly more under the new rate even though the utility suggested they could save money. The company said the new rate still provides valuable information to consumers, showing them when they are using electricity.

[ 10/25/02 ]

:: Michael Palin has created an interactive version of his writing at Palin's Travels--and like Janis Ian, he's not afraid of using the Web to create interest in his work.

Launched on Sept. 25 (the anniversary of his 'Around the World in 80 Days'), Palin's 'Travels' features the text of his first three books in their entirety – a common enough practice for material in the public domain, but rare for bestsellers still covered by copyright.

[ 10/25/02 ]

:: Spreading the meme.
[ 10/25/02 ]

:: Bad Baby Names

I was thinking of naming my son Toolio. Does anyone know the origin on that one? ---Jessica DeSac
Toolio DeSac. Boy, can't think of any way that kid'll get picked on. That's one taunt-proof name there!
Beaufort Michael. It's French for 'handsome and strong.'
Especially works if he's an after-dinner port. I'm naming my kid Voiturenez. It 's French for 'Automobile nose.'

(thanks, lizard!) [ 10/25/02 ]

:: One, two, buckle my shoe. (Here's a screenshot for the archives.)
[ 10/25/02 ]

:: Christian Science Monitor: 'Smarter' bombs still hit civilians

In every war since Iraq, the US used more 'smart' bombs. So why do civilian casualty rates keep rising?

[ 10/25/02 ]

:: If you need some good weekend reading, Booknotes has been dishing up some extra-tasty political links lately.
[ 10/25/02 ]

:: New Review: Dailee: 'Now, I rarely (if ever) recommend books or anything for that matter, but I'm going to walk out on this limb just once to say anyone interested in creating a weblog should at least consider reading this book.'
[ 10/25/02 ]

:: The Growing Split between the Rich and the Rest of Us: For Richer is a lengthy, interesting, and enlightening look at the changes taking place in our way of life, and the ways in which income inequality affects the quality of life of ordinary Americans. Paul Krugman makes a compelling case that the United States has entered a new era of wealth inequality. I am convinced by his description of the state of the economy; I am somewhat less convinced by his proposed root cause. Still, it's an interesting and important article. [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet]

I'd like to see Krugman build on this article to examine the affect of credit and savings patterns on Americans' real wealth. Whatever income inequities exist, no one can build personal wealth when they are thousands of dollars in debt and saving little or none of their income.
[ 10/27/02 ]

:: Ray Materson whiled away his time in prison embroidering everything from team logos to remembered scenes from Shakespeare. Today he is out of prison and his miniatures are exhibited at New York City's New Museum of Contemporary Art.
[ 10/27/02 ]

:: The Recording Industry is Trying to Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg. Toward the end of this article Bricklin draws conclusions that aren't strongly supported, but the main points of this essay are well-researched, smart, and right on the money.
[ 10/27/02 ]

:: I'm not a baseball fan, but watching this series with someone who loves the game has taught me a lot about it. So here is an infographic describing just how hard it is to hit a baseball and a great article describing just what makes Barry Bonds so great. Apparently some players believe the balls used in the Series this year are harder and smaller than those used in the regular season. Officials deny it. [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet] (Congratulations to both teams for a well-played Series.) (thanks, jjg!)
[ 10/27/02 ]

:: Starting in November, calls from traditional telephones to cell phones may carry an extra charge to the caller. This article does a great job of clearly explaining a very complicated situtation. I have to say that it looks to me like the phone companies are closing the door to the consumer market with this move. If they are going to charge extra to call cellphones, which are used by a larger and larger portion of the population, how can they compete once cellphones offer number portability (never mind their inherent convenience)?
[ 10/27/02 ]

:: Crop-Lines May Show Iron Age Cattle Ranching (via the always excellent Ancient World Web)
[ 10/27/02 ]

:: Have you been reading Mockerybird lately? You don't want to miss his complicated and wacky group art bet, and his continuing musings on life rules, game rules, and game theory are tremendously interesting.
[ 10/27/02 ]

:: Just a note: I'll be doing a live chat on Infoworld [beware the annoying popup on the top page] this Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 10 am pst. Please join us with your questions!
[ 10/27/02 ]

:: so beautiful (via anil's daily links)
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: The No War Blog is a group of left and right wing bloggers who agree on little except that the US should not invade Iraq.

The members of Stand Down hold a wide variety of different and, indeed, conflicting political positions, but all are in agreement on a single proposition: that the use of military force to effect 'regime change' in Iraq is ill advised and unjustified. We do not deny that the current Iraqi regime is monstrous, but we hold, following John Adams, that the United States need not go 'abroad in search of monsters to destroy' unless they pose a clear and direct threat to American national security.

[ 10/30/02 ]

:: Thomas Friedman looks at the forces that keep theocracy in power and concludes that US energy policy should focus on reduced reliance on petroleum in order to undermine repressive Middle Eastern regimes. [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet] (via doc)
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: Via geegaw, a new food newsletter called Cooking and Eating. The two sample issues now online look fantastic--but if you want more, you'll have to subscribe.

Cooking and Eating exists because I saw a lack in good, practical generalist cooking advice out there. [...] Cooking and Eating focuses on teaching techniques, profiling ingredients and generating ideas so that you can always feel confident in the kitchen.

If you don't get as fancy as all that, you might take a shot at Cookin' with Google (via anil's daily links)
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: Compassionate Capitalism: 'Australian prime minister John Howard has said his country plans to eliminate all trade tariffs on imports from 50 poor nations.' Actually, another term for this would be 'free trade'.
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: Notes from Pureland is the journal of an American living in countryside Japan. If you enjoy Fragments from Floyd and the Viviculture weblog, I think you might enjoy this weblog. (via plep--which you will also enjoy.)
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: Paris by the Water, a site devoted to historical Paris bridges and fountains. (also via plep)
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: Good books.

Quantity is not everything, but the doomsayers' view that the consumer is being denied a wide choice of books (and thus points of view) is hard to sustain. One could argue that non- mainstream thinking is not published by big houses and therefore not widely available, but to do so would be oxymoronic: what is mainstream if not that which is widely available?
With its over-educated, overworked, underpaid legions, publishing is an industry bedevilled by pessimism. This pessimism blinds people to the fact that we are living in a golden age of book publishing in which quantity and quality rival anything in the past, in which books have never been so well published and in which they occupy a more boisterously visible place in the general culture than ever before.

(via Wood S Lot)
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: Dance, dance, it's a Burlesque Revolution [beware: vile popup ahead] .
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: If you enjoy surfing the web, it is probably because you believe people are basically good. [beware the slithy toves and popup monsters!]
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: Something in the Water: Meryl posted a long list of baby-name sites, including the Institute for Naming Children Humanely --before she saw Friday's link.
[ 10/30/02 ]

:: Happy Hallowe'en!
[ 10/31/02 ]

:: Wow! This Rhode Island Jack o'lantern spectacular has me wanting to do something similar one day.

'During the three-week period leading up to the show, our pumpkin carvers work from 9 in the morning until midnight every single day,' Reckner says. 'Among the 5,000 jack-o-lanterns, we have about 200 intricate portraits of famous people and detailed scenes. It can take up to half a day to finish just one of these.'
The time and effort put into each carving is obvious. Not as obvious to the visitor is that, over the course of the event's three-week run, each of the 5,000 jack-o-lanterns will need to be replaced an average of three times due to decay.
The largest pumpkins -- a 600-pound tribute to the Superbowl champion New England Patriots and the 1,100-pound depiction of world peace -- are not gutted, and are expected to last throughout the show. For these, designs are carved on the outside and special exterior lighting is used to illuminate them.

[ 10/31/02 ]

:: Swine sperm plus human DNA equals pigs: pigs with human genes.
[ 10/31/02 ]

:: Ecofriendly Funerals. Unembalmed bodies in biodegradable caskets, buried in a natural setting.
[ 10/31/02 ]

:: The renaissance of anti-intellectualism

A central force boosting anti-intellectualism since Hofstadter published his book has been the bulking up of popular culture and, in particular, the rise of a new form of faux cerebration: punditry. Everyday life, supersaturated with images and jingles, makes intellectual life look hopelessly sluggish, burdensome, difficult. In a video-game world, the play of intellect -- the search for validity, the willingness to entertain many hypotheses, the respect for difficulty, the resistance to hasty conclusions -- has the look of retardation. [...]
There is a seeming paradox that Hofstadter did not anticipate, but would have appreciated. In the torrent of popular culture, there emerges more talk about public affairs than ever before -- virtually nonstop talk about political concerns, debate on burning questions available at all hours of the day and night. But the talk that fills the channels amounts mainly to signals, gestures, and stances -- not reasoning.
Television reporting and punditry are the tributes that entertainment pays to the democratic ideal of discourse. The political talk does not, in the main, evaluate or research: It 'covers.' When CNN's Washington bureau chief can say casually, 'The Texas governor hammered home some of his major themes, including Social Security,' this is shorthand, but not only shorthand -- it is a surrogate for reasoning. Positions are signaled -- candidates 'position themselves' -- rather than defended; no defending is demanded of them. A topic is a 'theme' is a "position" is an 'issue' is news. [...]
Punditry is concerned with reviewing performances, rating 'presidentiality,' itemizing themes, relaying and interpreting spin, not thoughtfully assessing politicians' claims, evaluating their evidence, judging their reasoning.

[ 10/31/02 ]

:: Looking at pictures of supermodels for just 1 to 3 minutes can cause a drop in even healthy women's self esteem. [beware: slithy popup!]
[ 10/31/02 ]

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