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.: 2003 --> march


:: Hey! It's 03-03-03.
[ 03/03/03 ]

:: Mr. Manners.
[ 03/03/03 ]

:: I'm crying again. A Friend in the Neighborhood [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet] (via dangerousmeta)
[ 03/03/03 ]

:: Portland and Vancouver have largely succeeded. Seattle can't quite make it happen. An examination of how three municipalities are addressing the problem of designing human-scale cities. (via waterloo wide web)
[ 03/03/03 ]

:: Westerville, Ohio is installing a 250-kilowatt fuel cell--the first in the nation--that will power 180 homes. The electricity produced still costs more than electricity produced by conventional means, but proponents see great things ahead:

As part of its Third Frontier initiative, Ohio plans to spend $103 million on fuel-cell research during the next three years. 'The estimates are that this will be a $100 billion business by 2020 and we want a big piece of that,' said Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, who visited Westerville yesterday to announce the state grant.

(thanks, big O!) [ 03/03/03 ]

:: From November, 2002: Globalisation and the Nature of Networks

The decision by IBM to move its operations from Hungary to China has raised fears that this is only the beginning of the great move eastward; it also illustrates how globalisation runs very much along the lines of a TCP/IP network.

(thanks, mark!)
[ 03/03/03 ]

:: If you haven't already seen them, the extraordinary article by Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark on American ideals, our current foreign policy, and the exercise of civil liberties; and career diplomat John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation from the Foreign Service. [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet]
[ 03/03/03 ]

:: This is the last update for about a week, but it's a long one. I'll be at SXSW Interactive, and don't plan to update while I'm there. If you're there, please come say hi, I'd love to meet you. Meanwhile, please visit these fine weblogs for your daily fix of interesting links, smart commentary, and fine writing.
[ 03/05/03 ]

:: It's Ash Wednesday. Are you giving up something for Lent? Here is one person's explanation of Lenten sacrifice and ritual; here is another. BeliefNet has an entire section devoted to the season, including this wonderful Faith by Faith Fasting chart. And, of course, what would a Catholic tradition be without the obligatory Irishman joke?
[ 03/05/03 ]

:: The media may legally lie.

On February 14, a Florida Appeals court ruled there is absolutely nothing illegal about lying, concealing or distorting information by a major press organization. The court reversed the $425,000 jury verdict in favor of journalist Jane Akre who charged she was pressured by Fox Television management and lawyers to air what she knew and documented to be false information. The ruling basically declares it is technically not against any law, rule, or regulation to deliberately lie or distort the news on a television broadcast.

As reported by the Associate Press:

Akre and Wilson claimed they were wrongfully fired for refusing to use misleading information in the story and because they had threatened to report the station to the Federal Communications Commission. The station said they were fired because of insubordination.

[ 03/05/03 ]

:: The CBC's Venture recently did a feature called H2 - Powering The Future, all about the prospects for hydrogen to replace our dependence on fossil fuels. Of note: Iceland is working to be the world's first hydrogen powered nation. (thanks, peter!)

Need I mention that the United States should be in the midst of a man-on-the-moon level drive to reduce or eliminate our dependence on oil, ourselves? How much easier foreign policy would be if oil-producing countries didn't always have the upper hand when dealing with us. We literally cannot live, after all, without their product.
[ 03/05/03 ]

:: I am endlessly fascinated with what former politicians have to say, particularly their insight into the nuts and bolts of running the government, and running a campaign. (After they've retired from political life altogether, they're more interesting yet.) Once you've been the President, you cannot escape thinking about current events as a President. An Interview with Bill Clinton is a long, wide-ranging, and very interesting transcript of an interview with the former president. [slithy popup when you leave]

[Q: What about this idea that there will be many more young ex- Presidents? What influence would they have?]
It depends on what we do with it. They'll still be different people with different aspirations for their lives. What I would like to see us try to do is first of all find a few things we could do together. And secondly, if we're still all compos mentis, I'd like to see us organize really constructive debates about our honest disagreements—in a respectful way, so America could hear them. Because I think that so much of the American political life has been poisoned by this intense, destructive nature of public debates. So instead of people having an honest debate about the issues it's which person can you make look unpatriotic, or without a shred of redeeming social value, or whatever.
I think it's wrong. But it's hard if you're in the moment, and you think you're benefiting from it to walk away from it. Once we've got a handful of people who have been President and don't have a vested interest in hurting anybody else publicly and personally, I think we might be able both to do things together and sort of edify the American people about how to handle our differences. How to discuss our honest differences over policy. And I'm rather looking forward to it.

(via oliver willis)
[ 03/05/03 ]

:: Trip sends this link to an episode of This American Life recounting Davy Rothbart's visit with Mr. Rogers. (linked Monday).
[ 03/05/03 ]

:: Visa draws a hard line on child porn.

Over the past year, Visa has set up a system to identify purveyors who use Visa to sell illegal pornography. This means the card issuer is reporting sites with illegal photos and videos to the global police forces responsible for enforcing child-porn laws. [...]
Child porn isn't the only thing Visa is targeting. The company has also decided it does not want its brand to be used to purchase Internet photos and videos involving rape and bestiality. And it has banned the use of Visa on a hate site.
'This is a powerful new tool to assist law enforcement in these crimes, to eliminate a resource for individuals to use, download, and purchase pornography,' says Reuben Rodriguez, director of the exploited-child unit at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Indeed. I applaud Visa's willingness to put morals over profits, but this does raise some interesting questions, doesn't it? On the one hand, it seems reasonable for Visa not to accept clients they feel are immoral or reflect badly on their brand; on the other, once we get beyond activities that are illegal, that could be badly misapplied.

It's not like consumers could rise up and boycott Visa if they thought their actions were discriminatory: The average credit card debt for Americans who carry a balance was $4,073 in 1998, estimated at $8,123 today (watch it grow). Most of us will continue to do business with Visa whether we like it or not.
[ 03/05/03 ]

:: A medical miracle: A badly burned Irish girl will, in the first such procedure, be given a new face, transplanted from a donor. And a new life, I would think. God bless the donors.
[ 03/05/03 ]

:: Global Candlelight Vigil for Peace: Sunday, March 16 -- 7:00 PM
[ 03/14/03 ]

:: Must read: George Soros, The bubble of American supremacy. (via
[ 03/14/03 ]

:: President Bush has signed legislation creating a national 'do-not-call' list intended to help consumers block unwanted telemarketing calls.

Telemarketers say the registry will devastate their business. The Direct Marketing Association, an industry group, filed a lawsuit against the FTC last month on grounds the registry unlawfully restricts free speech.

Unfortunately, politicians are exempt from the regulation. The worst are those recorded announcements. It got so bad last year that I was almost rude to a young woman who came to our door, canvassing to get out the vote. Normally I admire the people who are out doing that work, but I had just had my limit with phone calls and recordings interrupting me half a dozen times a day.
[ 03/14/03 ]

:: If you're interested in learning more about protecting your information and your privacy, the Center for Democracy and Technology has numerous resources online including the Protect Your Privacy Top Ten, Privacy Tools, and extended discussion of the issues, legislation, and possible solutions.
[ 03/14/03 ]

:: Phone Company Sends Bill to Dead Man [slithy popup!]

Cemetery Superintendent Wayne Bloomquist says he was surprised to see the Sprint bill for 12 cents, including 10 cents for a call placed on Feb. 16, five years after Towles died.

It's just like that Twilight Zone. (thanks, Neil!)
[ 03/13/03 ]

:: Happy St. Patrick's Day!
[ 03/17/03 ]

:: Word is made flesh as God reveals himself... as a fish.

According to two fish-cutters at the New Square Fish Market, the carp was about to be slaughtered and made into gefilte fish for Sabbath dinner when it suddenly began shouting apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew. [...]
Nivelo, a Gentile who does not understand Hebrew, was so shocked at the sight of a fish talking in any language that he fell over. He ran into the front of the store screaming: 'It's the Devil! The Devil is here!'

And here's the NY Times account of the event. [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet]

To my view, God reveals himself as a fish every day--and a tree and a cloud and star and a child. Call it what you will, there is no limit to the wonder of the universe: all you have to do is look around.
[ 03/17/03 ]

:: The Tyranny of Email is a beautiful little primer on the effective use of email, and how to get it under control. The three-hour rule is absolutely true whether you're a programmer, a writer, or a mechanic. Read it all. (via carl's excellent new weblog)
[ 03/17/03 ]

:: Kevin Sites is a CNN war correspondent. Now that he's in Iraq, he is keeping a weblog. I judge that media access to this war, if it happens, will be very tightly controlled. Can correspondents use weblogs as sidestream channels to keep the public informed of the constraints placed on them by governments and their editors? Will correspondents use them to present an unsanctioned, less filtered account of events as they unfold, or will they just recount colorful background stories? Will their employers object? Let's just find out. (via life outta context)
[ 03/17/03 ]

:: Leaderless resistance today by Simson L. Garfinkel

Leaderless Resistance is a strategy in which small groups (cells) and individuals fight an entrenched power through independent acts of violence and mayhem. The cells do not have any central coordination — they are leaderless — and they do not have explicit communications with one another. As a result, causes that employ Leaderless Resistance are themselves resistant to informers and traitors. [...]
After introducing the concept and history of Leaderless Resistance, this paper explores the use of the technique by Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), the Earth Liberation Front, and individual Islamic terrorists carrying out acts against U.S. interests. It argues that Leaderless Resistance is resistant to counterterrorism based on network analysis. Finally, this paper makes recommendations of ways that may be used to fight causes that employ Leaderless Resistance.

(also via carls blog)
[ 03/17/03 ]

:: What in the world?
[ 03/17/03 ]

:: When school districts served pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, they received complaints from offended parents. Now that those districts, eager to avoid another debacle, have decided not to serve hot cross buns on Easter, it's comedy gold.

A spokesman [for the Muslim Council of Britain] said: 'This is absolutely amazing. At the moment, British Muslims are very concerned about the upcoming war with Iraq and are hardly going to be taken aback by a hot cross bun.' [...]
'I wish they would leave us alone. We are quite capable of articulating our own concerns and if we find something offensive, we will say so. We do not need to rely on other people to do it for us.'
'British Muslims have been quite happily eating and digesting hot cross buns for many years and I don't think they are suddenly going to be offended.'

Information technology-themed menus? You have to read the whole thing. I'll bet it was the atheists who complained. (thanks, lizard!)

Update: It never happened.
[ 03/19/03 ]

:: How and why I teach with historical fiction. I guess it would be too confusing, at least at the younger ages, to use alternate history as a teaching tool--but I'll bet high school students would totally go for it.
[ 03/19/03 ]

:: How Can My Community Reduce Waste?

In this exhibit, you can find out how to improve next year's environmental record. You'll learn how waste is handled now and how some communities are doing it better. In the activities, you can test your knowledge about hazardous waste we generate in our homes and try to shrink a landfill.
While you are here, you can read the creative recycling ideas submitted by our readers. also has terrific pieces on statistics, literature, and many other subjects.
[ 03/19/03 ]

:: Camcorders and PC's Shape Aesthetics of 'Reality' TV. [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet]

'I swore that half of it was shot with camera sound, not a separate sound mike,' [filmmaker Alan Raymond] said. 'I said to myself, "How cheap this is; how amazing that it's become acceptable that people will watch it." It's almost like the content supersedes everything to do with the artistry of the making of the show.' [...]
'Now anyone can teach themselves to shoot,' [filmmaker Jeffrey Tuchman] said. 'Anyone can teach themselves to edit. Before, people who did those things were trained over a period of many years. The deprofessionalization of this whole business is what has changed the aesthetics. The fact is that anybody can now afford to have all the tools necessary to make broadcast television in their living rooms.'

[ 03/19/03 ]

:: The Myth of Interference

NBC gets to bathe you in 'Friends,' followed by a very special 'Scrubs,' and you get to sit passively on your couch. It's an asymmetric bargain that dominates our cultural, economic and political lives -- only the rich and famous can deliver their messages -- and it's all based on the fact that radio waves in their untamed habitat interfere with one another.
Except they don't.
'Interference is a metaphor that paints an old limitation of technology as a fact of nature.' So says David P. Reed, electrical engineer, computer scientist, and one of the architects of the Internet. If he's right, then spectrum isn't a resource to be divvied up like gold or parceled out like land. It's not even a set of pipes with their capacity limited by how wide they are or an aerial highway with white lines to maintain order.

[ 03/19/03 ]

:: From April 2001: Who killed micro radio? Someone once said that weblogs are like pirate radio for the Web. Maybe it's time to move beyond the computer screen and back into the outside world. Still, isn't it strange that broadcasting so often requires the commenter to sit in a special place by himself? On the other hand, so does reflection.

More micro radio resources.
[ 03/19/03 ]

:: A couple of weeks ago, I pointed to an article about globalization moving to the cheapest sources of labor as they hook up to the TCP/IP network. Ray pointed me to the following sources suggesting the primary consideration wasn't price of labor or available technology, but quality of product.

Bought a Deskstar 75GXP 30Gb in January of 2002. It failed with the 'click of death' in June 2002. RMA'd it to IBM. IBM immediately sent me a 41Gb Deskstar 75GXP (made in Hungary) to replace the defective 30Gb drive. I thought, that was really nice of them. Now, yesterday, the 41Gb drive started emitting the 'click of death' noises. I immediately backed up what files I could to another Western Digital hard disk. After about 5 more hours, the Deskstar 41Gb drive became completely unresponsive. The BIOS won't even recognize it any more. All it does is emit the 'click of death' noises. I'm going to RMA this one back to Hitachi since IBM sold off their hard drive business to them. A friend of mine has had all 3 of his 75GXP drives fail in a period of about 9 months. I'll never buy another IBM product of any kind again.

And this one:

As with any physical device there is always the change of something failing eventually. As for the 75GXP, many have indicated the most of the suspect drives have came out of IBM’s Hungarian plant. If your drive is labeled 'Made in Hungary' you may eventually experience problems. Lesser problems have been experienced by those who's drives were manufactured in IBM’s Philippines facility. In addition, it appears that the 30GB and 45GB version experience more problems than other drives in the 75GXP family. One reason might be that they were very popular due to their price/performance ratio. Users with 30GB and 45GB drives from Hungary should make sure there is a recent backup of all data.

Situations are never quite as pat as they seem, are they?
[ 03/19/03 ]

:: The Heritage Foundation [Media Transparency page] has just launched an experiment to send notices about their studies directly to webloggers (read: inject their viewpoint directly into the blogosphere). I'm amused to find myself on the list (blame instapundit); clearly they haven't read my site very extensively. But I'm actually interested in seeing just what they send out, and comparing it with the points made by pundits in mass media publications.

This marks the end of an age of innocence for weblogs, far more than the Raging Cow [slithy pop-up on first link!] incident ever did. I'm also of the opinion that both the product marketers and the idea marketers are vastly overrating the level of influence weblogs have attained.
[ 03/19/03 ]

:: The silver lining in this storm is that soon the Iraqis will be out from under the house of Saddam. But we have lost incalculable moral authority with this action.
[ 03/19/03 ]

:: Update: Kevin Sites has been asked by CNN to suspend posting to his warblog. No big surprise there, I guess, and if they do allow him to resume, abandon all hope of sidestream media. Only safe subjects, please. I will leave the link in the sidebar until it's certain that he cannot reach an agreement with his employers.

After his experience, though, I doubt he will be satisfied with not having a weblog. How 'ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, once they've seen Paree?
[ 03/21/03 ]

:: In my sidebar is a list of weblogs that are being maintained by reporters and (it seems) an Iraqi citizen. As I am told, both Dan Gillmor's weblog and MSNBC weblogs are subject to an editorial process, just like any news article. (Yes, I know that seems antithetical to the whole notion of having a weblog, but old dogs and new tricks.) In view of that, it's likely that weblogs produced by media sites will present a fairly sanctioned view of events. On the other hand, Kevin Sites, whose weblog is an independent endeavor, has the opportunity to resist being a run-of-the-mill 'war diary' and instead become genuine sidestream media, posting news that his government and news organization have discarded. (Since he has a job to keep, I have little hope of that, but it's worth checking.)

Of course, everyone is very busy just now, and undoubtedly our military will be taking out Iraq's infrastructure as thoroughly as we can, so telephone and ISP connections may be spotty....

I've also posted a links to a few agencies that will be working to alleviate the enormous humanitarian crisis that will result from the war. You who have been loudly proclaiming that this war is largely prompted by a concern for plight of the Iraqi people will have a special interest in donating generously. For most Iraqis, it's going to get worse before it gets better, and our Administration is relying on these agencies to administer aid.
[ 03/21/03 ]

:: Slate has posted a nice list of resources about the war; popdex has created a nice daily reference; and of course, the Christian Science Monitor has been provided an outstanding daily synopsis of all of our war-related activity since September 11. Finally, Lost Remote, a site dedicated to tracking trends in television and new media, has an extensive sidebar of war diaries (via faith).
[ 03/21/03 ]

:: NASA: Space Food and Nutrition, An Educator's Guide With Activities in Science and Mathematics.

From John Glenn's mission to orbit Earth to the International Space Station program, space food research has met the challenge of providing food that tastes good and travels well in space. To better understand this process, we can look back through history. Explorers have always had to face the problem of how to carry enough food for their journeys. Whether those explorers are onboard a sailing ship or on the Space Shuttle, adequate storage space has been a problem. Food needs to remain edible throughout the voyage, and it also needs to provide all the nutrients required to avoid vitamin-deficiency diseases such as scurvy.

[ 03/21/03 ]

:: Weekend Reading: Population: One points to a series of articles by National Press Club Award-winning journalist David Neiwert, 'Rush, Newspeak and facism', on the potential for fascism in the United States. I haven't had a chance to read them closely, but I intend to spend some time with them this weekend.
[ 03/21/03 ]

:: The modern folk art of Isabel Samaras [not worksafe!] (via rileydog)
[ 03/21/03 ]

:: The Center for Democracy and Technology has conducted to determine the source of spam. The result is this report, Why am I getting all this spam?, which includes their findings on strategies for preventing and reducing the amount of spam you receive.
[ 03/21/03 ]

:: Some quick notes on the war:

:: It has certainly been heartening to read about the gratitude with which some Iraqis are greeting incoming troops in the south. As I understand, there may be more resistance to the military in the north, but it's hard to imagine everyday people not being relieved to be rid of Saddam, and to move on to a new chapter in their history. For the last 25 years, these poor people have had to deal with Saddam, a war with Iran, the Gulf War, weekly bombings by the US since then, economic sanctions, and the inability to rebuild their infrastructure. Who wouldn't be relieved to put that behind them?

We may not be getting the whole story (or proportional coverage of citizen anger and opposition); and this is a people well-trained to kowtow to whatever military force is currently in power. But it's not rocket science to figure out that the most corrupt puppet government the United States could install in Baghdad would be a vast improvement over what they've been subjected to for a quarter of a century.

It is just dishonest for the hawks among us to describe scenes of Iraqis happily greeting US troops as 'the "peace" movement's greatest nightmare.' There are a wide variety of well-reasoned, morally grounded objections to this war, among them: opposition to war as anything but a last resort; concern for the civilians which are bound to be killed in any war; the belief that it is unwise and/or immoral for the only super-power in the world to unilaterally undertake a military strike against any other sovereign nation; concern that engaging in such an action will inflame terrorists; that such an action will demonstrate beyond argument the veracity of those who characterize the US as a nation of aggressors to be defended against by any means, thus making our nation less secure; our moral authority; and a variety of complex but very important concerns about international law, international precedent, and the means by which the United States seeks to influence the events of the world.

Many of those in the peace movement are the same people who decried the economic sanctions that devastated, not the monster in power, but the people who suffered under his rule. At that time, those most enthusiastic about the current war dismissed these voices as crybabies and worse.

I don't think there's anyone in the peace movement who believes the Iraqis deserve their leader, or who believe that he is their leader of choice. The peace movement consists of people who believe that war is the wrong solution to this problem, and possibly even some people who believe that, due to international law and/or potential repercussions, Saddam is an unsolvable problem. But no one is unhappy to see Saddam removed from power, and I think most of us are relieved to find that the Iraqis might see us as their saviors instead of an invading force.

We may disagree about the timing and means of disarming Saddam, and even about the ethics of removing him from power, but it is unnecessary to demonize those who hold opposing views. I have nothing but disdain for those whose best argument against dissenting viewpoints is to dismiss them with a lie.
[ 03/22/03 ]

:: Apart from the amazingly low number of reported Iraqi casualties so far (let's hope that trend continues) technology is affecting every aspect of this war. This morning on NPR, Daniel Shorr claimed that the US is negotiating surrenders via email. I wonder if that's true, or if he's mixed up about this report that the US contacted Iraqi expatriates via email to enlist their help in the upcoming war. Actually, everyone seems to be a little confused about it:

He said the United States had heard about the expatriates and had sent them leaflets and spammed their e-mails in recent weeks 'asking them to take positive action ... and telling them we would deeply appreciate it if they did.'

'Spammed their emails'? And US military field computers are sweet.
[ 03/22/03 ]

:: Words matter in this war. The Bush administration clearly recognizes this, and is actively framing our goals and the war itself to try and place us in the best possible light.

I cringe every time I hear a US official refer to 'coalition forces'. The bald truth is that they couldn't cobble together a real coalition, and to just pretend that they did--while characteristic of this administration--is embarrassing to watch (and insulting to the intelligence of anyone in earshot). The unhappy truth is that it's not hard to drum up support for a war. The fact that this administration couldn't do so indicates that they just didn't present a case that was compelling to the international community, or to the American people themselves. Either the facts didn't support them, or they somehow couldn't find a way to convey their meaning to the people they sought to convince. The fact that they kept changing their story didn't enhance their credibility.

The perceived legitimacy of this action now rests on what happens during the war, and what happens after the war is over. The rallying speech given by British Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins beautifully illuminates the conduct allied forces must exemplify if they are to be seen, in the end, as liberators and not aggressors.

We go to liberate, not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people, and the only flag that will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Don’t treat them as refugees, for they are in their own country.
I know men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts. They live with the mark of Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you, then remember they have that right in international law, and ensure that one day they go home to their family. The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please. If there are casualties of war, then remember, when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly, and mark their graves.

Though these words were spoken by a British soldier, they epitomize the way Americans like to think about themselves, and the way I like to think about American soldiers. If this administration can mythologize this attack as elegantly and eloquently as this speech has, and--most importantly--if our actions following the close of the war fully support that narrative, we may come out of this all right, after all.
[ 03/22/03 ]

:: Other words I'm hearing over and over again: an attack 'unlike any other in history', 'shock, surprise, flexibility,' and munitions on a 'scale never before seen.' From this, I gather that the United States hopes this war will serve as a cautionary tale to any other country--or group of terrorists--who might consider attacking the US. This war is intended, among other things, as a demonstration of our power. We are in Iraq to illustrate, in no uncertain terms, that no one can prevail against us. Will this cow the terrorists? Personally, I don't think so. But apparently the Bush administration thinks it's worth a try.

:: I have heard several times that one of our objectives is to 'secure Iraq's oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people'. I keep wondering: which people? I guess, to be fair, we'll have to set up worker-owned co-ops, so that the people who actually labor to bring the oil out of the ground will reap the benefits of their hard work. But maybe that leaves out those who, by an accident of geography, are not close enough to work in the oil fields, or who would prefer to concentrate on the many other activities that will be necessary to feed and clothe and otherwise rebuild the nation. Perhaps the only really equitable way to handle this is to set aside the oil fields as state-owned land, and distribute the profits equally to all Iraqi citizens. It's going to be a complicated problem to solve, no question. I'm looking forward to seeing how the allied forces work it all out.
[ 03/22/03 ]

:: Finally, I have unreserved admiration for the US policy of allowing reporters unprecedented access to the action. [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet] It is in everyone's interest that reporters be kept as safe as possible, and that they be allowed to be as close to the action as is practical. This policy may have a side-benefit for the US government. Reporters who work closely with military and quasi-military forces, come to identify with the soldiers and their goals. Allowing reporters to witness incursions first hand not only provides accountability (the only real insurance against abuse), it pretty much guarantees, in the absence of misconduct, a sympathetic account of the proceedings.
[ 03/22/03 ]

:: About a month ago, Welt am Sonntag asked me for a sidebar to accompany a piece on weblogs, and here it is, albeit a bit truncated: 10 Tipps für erfolgreiches Bloggen, or Ten Tips for a Better Weblog.
[ 03/25/03 ]

:: Thank God for Americans like Oliver Willis, who are not afraid to take on the rabid bigots that 9.11 brought out of the woodwork. Oliver and I disagree on a lot of things, but on this we are in full agreement.
[ 03/23/03 ]

:: Is this what the kids are calling 'objective reporting' these days? I call it purple prose.

The Iraqi turncoat began to sing to the Americans. He told his intelligence handlers that on the night of March 19, Saddam, probably accompanied by his demonic sons Uday and Qusay, was sleeping in a bunker beneath a nondescript house in a residential area of Baghdad.

(thanks, jim!) [ 03/24/03 ]

:: There has been much discussion about CNN's demand that Kevin Sites stop posting to his warblog. Much of it is infused with words like 'censorship' and 'freedom of the press'. Without knowing any of the particulars of the case, I think charges of censorship are pretty weak; and let's look at that second idea. Freedom of the press is a right guaranteed to citizens of the United States by the government Constitution (thanks, egghead). It is freedom from interference and censorship by the government--not a freedom guaranteed to reporters from interference by the news agencies for which they work. CNN's decision to shut down Kevin's warblog cannot, by definition, be an issue of freedom of the press.

Kevin is in Iraq as a member of the press corps at the behest of his employer, CNN. They are paying his expenses, and they are the reason he has been provided with press credentials allowing him access to the people and places he is reporting on. If his warblog is an example of his work as a reporter for CNN, it is certainly subject to their authority. If, as many people have argued, his warblog is a personal endeavor, undertaken in his spare time, we still don't have enough information to make a judgement on CNN's decision.

None of us has seen Kevin's contract, and none of us actually know the reason for CNN's decision. Obviously they aren't worried about the competition--CNN reaches many more people than any one weblog ever has. Does Kevin's contract contain a non-compete clause? If so, his weblog is in direct violation of his contract. Does his contract specify that any and all work pertaining to his field, performed by Kevin while in the employ of CNN, is the intellectual property of CNN? (Don't laugh--I know of two people in two different professions who were asked to sign such a contract as a condition of employment.) If so, Kevin's warblog is in direct violation of his contract. At any time has Kevin been unavailable to CNN because he was working on his weblog? If so, this is a work performance issue, and CNN has every right to insist that he focus on his job instead of his personal site. If Kevin is posting to his site from press headquarters, is CNN paying for the connection? If he's doing it from the field, does that put him in any danger of being targeted?

Of course it's possible that CNN is just being imperious--but without a shred of information from either party, it's simply impossible to know. Dan Gilmor, a columnist who maintains a weblog for the Silicon Valley News, thinks Kevin should have gotten CNN's permission before even starting his site.

I think CNN is making a poor business decision: I see Kevin's site as free advertising, and as a very effective way to build a loyal following, something networks regularly spend substantial amounts of money on. The other day, a CNN reporter referred to Kevin, and I felt a little thrill of recognition, simply because I was familiar with his weblog. It's silly, but that's the way weblogs work. I also believe that everyone has the right to use their free time in whatever way they see fit, provided they aren't breaking any laws. But the situation here is not as clear cut as many are making it out to be.

We'll be addressing this situation again, as more and more people begin personal weblogs to write about things that are related to their professions. Some employers will want to control any shred of information that may, in any way, relate back to them. That's old-fashioned thinking, and it's not going to stand. Individuals are going to continue to have an interest in creating personal and professional presences on the Web, presences that are essentially separate, though obviously related to, the work they do for their current employers. But until new norms are firmly established, lawyers and marketing departments will inevitably try to exert some control.

There are issues here, but from the information available, censorship and freedom of the press are not among them.
[ 03/24/03 ]

:: Support the independent Web! Daypop and the Mirror Project are running up against server limits and hosting costs. It's a strange fact that for independents, success can be a mixed blessing, resulting in slow performance and/or tremendous costs. Both of these sites are labors of love; both have been embraced by the Web community. Now is the time to help keep them running without bankrupting their respective creators.
[ 03/24/03 ]

:: Matt has put together an outstanding rundown of the work that came out of the recent World Water Forum in Japan. They say water is going to be our next global challenge (as if we need another.) Take just a minute to pop on over: and I can almost guarantee you'll find an item or two of particular interest.
[ 03/24/03 ]

:: This is the must-read link of the day: Bush is an idiot, but he was right about Saddam. Paul Berman argues that, in spite of their good intentions, the left underestimates the threat of modern totalitarian movements like Islamism and Baathism. His new book, Terror and Liberalism, argues that it's time for the left to present a third way, a realistic and practical alternative to the dangerous real politik of the right.

Yes, it's the so-called realist policies of the American conservatives that ultimately got us into this situation. We, the United States, have followed the most cynical policies in the Middle East. We've aligned with reactionary feudal monarchies of the worst sort, backing the most horrendous right-wing tyrants and dictators, thinking that liberal values ought to play no role at all in formulating American policy. All this has especially been the doctrine of American conservatism. It's what I call the Nixonian tradition. It was certainly the policy of Bush the elder and it was the original instinct of the present Bush, although now he appears to be confused. [...]
What we need is a third alternative -- a politics of liberal solidarity, of anti-fascism, a politics that's willing to be interventionist when tyrants or political movements really do threaten us and the people in their own countries, a politics that's going to be aggressive in spreading and promoting liberal ideas and values in regions of the world where people who hold those values are persecuted. A politics of active solidarity, not just expressions of solidarity, but actions of solidarity with liberal-minded people in other parts of the world. [...]
...I wish Bush had gone about it differently. But now that the thing is getting under way, I fervently hope it goes well. And I think that the attitude of everyone with the best of motives who have opposed the war, should now shift dramatically. The people who have demanded that Bush refrain from action should now demand that the action be more thorough. The danger now is that we will go in and go out too quickly and leave the job half-done. The position of the antiwar movement and of liberals should be that the United States fulfill entirely its obligations to replace Saddam with a decent or even admirable system. We've done this in Afghanistan but only in most halfhearted way. We should now do more in Afghanistan and do a lot in Iraq. The people who've opposed the war should now demand that Bush do more.

There's much, much more here of interest and worthy of consideration, mixed in with a little hyperbole. (Afghanistan the first feminist war? Please.) He articulates the problem I have with so much of what I read and hear: it's too pat. People set up their premises, and then proceed in an orderly fashion. You can gain great insights this way, but, as I've noted, this approach doesn't leave much room for real life events and motivations.

Click through the little slide show to get the one-day pass in order to read the article. You will have to have cookies enabled in order for it to work. (via follow me here)
[ 03/24/03 ]

:: Last week Meg linked to this interview with a Russian military analyst who believes that a prime objective of Gulf War II is to test our new weapons. He points out that until they've been proved in the field, new weapons are hard to sell to the Pentagon. Cynical? I'd call it pragmatic. The world is filled with all kinds of motivations.

:: A few people objected to the US Budget/Surplus infographic I linked earlier this year. My feeling at the time was that the trend was clear, inflation and other factors notwithstanding. Last week, in a story estimating the cost of Gulf War II, CNN published a similar graphic using those same figures translated into percentages of GDP. Sure enough, the news is the same: we're going back into debt. I understand that there are sometimes good reasons for doing so, but as long as I can remember--until the Clinton era--this country has run at a deficit. I think that's bad policy. If I have to vote Democrat to get a fiscally responsible government--well, then I'll do it.
[ 03/24/03 ]

:: Australia's Bureau of Meteorology is studying aboriginal weather knowledge to gain insights from this ancient method of predicting the weather.

Unlike the conventional European notion of four seasons -- summer, autumn, winter and spring -- Aborigines in different parts of Australia count as little as two or as many as six, each intimately linked to subtle changes in the local environment. [...]
Frances Bodkin, a descendant of Sydney's D'harawal Aborigines, said indigenous weather patterns were signposted by plants, animals and the stars and were as accurate as any modern-day meteorological forecast.
'Present-day scientists do their studies by measurements and experiments. Aboriginal people are just as good scientists, but they use observation and experience,' Bodkin, a botanist at Sydney's Mount Annan Botanical gardens, told Reuters.

[ 03/24/03 ]

:: 'The Justice Department wants the tobacco industry to pay it $289 billion in a case brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.'

The government contends the chief executives of five major cigarette companies met at the Plaza Hotel in New York in late 1953 to launch a 'fraudulent scheme to deceive and defraud the public and consumers of cigarettes,' in which the companies agreed to jointly conduct a long-term public relations campaign to counter the growing evidence that linked smoking to serious diseases.

I'd love to know how much the tobacco companies made during this period and how much of that was profit, just to put that number in context. Is it a little? Is it a lot? How did they arrive at this figure?
[ 03/24/03 ]

:: Believing, as I do, that diversity is crucial for a participatory government, three senators would like the FCC to summon public comment on the of media deregulation.

'A fully functioning democracy depends on media sources with diverse voices and opinions as well as content relevant to local communities," the senators wrote. "It would be inappropriate to make significant changes that could have a sweeping impact on how our society engages in public debate without first having a complete public airing of these changes.'
The rules were designed to preserve a variety of media voices. Media companies argue that purpose has been obviated by recent decades' proliferation of outlets, including those offered by cable, satellite and the Internet.

[ 03/24/03 ]

:: Mike says:

I've mentioned the Perry-Casteñeda Map Collection before, but considering current events, it's worth mentioning again. If you're tired of trying to figure out what's going on from the stupid tiny stylized maps at CNN and other news sites, come here to download serious maps showing things like roads, bridges, towns, and physical features. There are also plenty of other goodies, like maps of the declared WMD sites in Iraq and detailed maps of Baghdad.
The following maps were produced by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, unless otherwise indicated.

This is an amazing list of maps ranging from basic political maps and detailed shaded relief maps showing hard roads, light surface roads, and fair weather tracks; to maps of the oil infrastructure, population density, and distribution of ethno-religious groups.
[ 03/26/03 ]

:: Is this what the kids are calling psy-ops these days?
[ 03/26/03 ]

:: Both Brooke and then Eliot have asked 'Where are the conscientious objectors in this war?' I had to read the question twice before it occurred to me that this term doesn't really apply to an all-volunteer service. A conscientious objector doesn't object to a particular war; neither are they merely interested in keeping themselves out of harms way in time of war. Conscientious objectors are opposed to organized killing, and the US military allows alternate service for those who can demonstrate that this is, in fact, their philosophical stance. The need for such a term and such alternate service is really only necessary in a draft situation. Maybe we need another name for people with no particular objection to war itself, who refuse to take part in military actions they feel to be immoral.

As Eliot points out in response to my email, there are many reasons for people to sign up for the military, among them a desire for a college education or simple economic benefits. I understand that when the only industry in town is a coal mine, you sign up to work in the coal mine and hope that you won't get black lung disease. But I have difficulty seeing military enlistees as unwilling victims in a terribly unfair scheme: a willingness to fight when called is an important--and obvious--part of the deal, not a hidden clause in the contract. Be that as it may, if you are in the military and have suddenly come to the conclusion that killing other people isn't the career you had hoped for, is interested in helping you.

I think it's also worth noting that an objection to war on the simple grounds that war is wrong, far from being the thoughtless knee-jerk response portrayed by many hawks, has been recognized even by the US military as a legitimate moral stance. I guess there are always people who will accuse those who question the moral legitimacy of war of being unpatriotic; but religions have been founded on these tenets, and thoughtful societies have always honored those whose moral clarity and conviction compel them to lead lives of exceptional virtue.
[ 03/26/03 ]

:: When Teaching the Ethics of War Is Not Academic

...In the spring of 1998 I developed a new elective course, 'The Code of the Warrior,' which in turn inspired my book, The Code of the Warrior: Exploring Warrior Values Past and Present. The aim of both the course and the book is to examine the values that are explicit and implicit within the "warrior ethos" and to try to make sense of those values in a modern American context. My students and I study the warrior's codes associated (in fiction or in fact) with the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Vikings, the Celts, medieval knights, Zulus, Native Americans, Chinese monks, and Japanese samurai. We talk about how the purpose of a code is to restrain warriors, for their own good as much as for the good of others. The essential element of a warrior's code is that it must set definite limits on what warriors can and cannot do if they want to continue to be regarded as warriors, not murderers or cowards. For the warrior who has such a code, certain actions remain unthinkable, even in the most dire or extreme circumstances. (emphasis mine)

(via follow me here)
[ 03/26/03 ]

:: Analyzing the flow of internal email can reveal the structure of an organization, uncovering actual working relationships and how knowledge is shared through the organization. (via daypop--donate!)
[ 03/26/03 ]

:: Analyze this: Salam Pax says the US is spamming their emails!

Yesterday many leaflets were dropped on Baghdad, while going around in the streets I got lucky, I have two. After being so unkind to the people at [] I don’t know whether I should post images or not.
And we have had another email attack, this time I was lucky again and have copies of those, the sender is something called []. I have not checked on that yet. Three of them are to army personnel and two to the general public in those they gave us the radio frequencies we are supposed to listen to. They are calling it 'information Radio'.

On smart bombs:

Today before noon I went out with my cousin to take a look at the city. Two things. 1) the attacks are precise. 2) they are attacking targets which are just too close to civilian areas in Baghdad. [...]
Today my father and brother went out to see what happening in the city, they say that it does look that the hits were very precise but when the missiles and bombs explode they wreck havoc in the neighborhood where they fall.

[ 03/26/03 ]

:: Richard Feynman's account of the process by which California chooses their textbooks, from the Textbook League, an organization devoted to improving the quality of textbooks in public schools. It's an interesting site. They seem as incensed with 'stealth evangelism' as they are with 'presentism' and unrealistic multiculturalism. I haven't found a favorable review yet. (via provenance unknown)
[ 03/26/03 ]

:: Is your bottled water pure? According to the National Resources Defense Council's four-year, 1999 study: probably--but not always. (via did you know?)

I guess the accompanying petition has been delivered to the Food and Drug Administration by now. Whether or not, they do have several bottled water-related priority goals for 2003 (ctrl-f for 'Chemical Contaminants, Pesticides and other Hazards'). And here is a 2002 article written by two regulators on the FDA's approach to regulating bottled water.

I know lots of people look on environmental organizations like this one as bothersome troublemakers, but isn't it also true that they can be efficiencies? Most government agencies have very broad mandates; if a private organization is willing to spend their time and money investigating potential problems, this should work in the agency's favor, pointing them to new issues and providing them with data. Do government agencies give studies produced by NGOs the same weight as those produced internally? I have no idea. But an agency peopled with individuals hired specifically to design sound studies should be able to evaluate another organization's studies with some precision. A well-designed study produced anywhere should allow the government to identify problems and move straight to solving them, saving them a time-consuming and costly step.

Bonus link: The FDA Bad Bug Book.
[ 03/26/03 ]

:: Do you use a NAT router or a firewall? Go to jail.

The states of Massachusetts and Texas are preparing to consider bills that apparently are intended to extend the national Digital Millennium Copyright Act.The bills are obviously related to each other somehow, since they are textually similar. [...]
If you have a home DSL router, or if you use the 'Internet Connection Sharing' feature of your favorite operating system product, you're in violation because these connection sharing technologies use NAT. Most operating system products (including every version of Windows introduced in the last five years, and virtually all versions of Linux) would also apparently be banned, because they support connection sharing via NAT.

If these bills are related, who is behind them? (thanks, jim!)
[ 03/28/03 ]

:: The Mirror Project has reached its goal. Daypop still needs help, and All Consuming needs funds to move to a dedicated server. Please help keep the independent Web alive.
[ 03/28/03 ]

:: I'm adding Command Post to my list of links of the right. It's becoming the definitive source for breaking news about the war. Also Kuwaiti blogger Pontifex ex Machina. As with Salam Pax, read with a certain amount of skepticism: you can never be completely certain that anyone online is who they say they are until you, or someone you know, has met them face to face.

I'm also very much enjoying ML Lyke's stories of being an 'embed' on the USS Abraham Lincoln:

Celebrated my birthday onboard last (Monday) night. A care package from an L.A. bud arrived just in time, full of Jordan almonds, tapenade, lemon oil and other goodies. My femme journo pals pulled together a party with a USS Abe Lincoln ballcap embroidered with my name and a 'black market' cheesecake -- the mess director wouldn't let L.A. Times reporter Carol Williams buy one, but a sympathetic petty officer met her in secret on the smoking deck and slipped her one. Carol wrapped up a box of Pop Tarts with a copy of the ground rules for embedded journalists, sealed with a portrait of the admiral, clipped from our press kit. Perfect. We rolled into a Scrabble marathon. A surreal b-day, and it wasn't just getting the 'Q' without the 'U.' It was the horror unfolding on CNN in the corner of the wardroom.

As I said to a reporter this week, this is the human face of history.
[ 03/28/03 ]

:: Check this out: Professor of architecture (and reader) George Elvin is retooling the construction business--with wearable computers.

Consensus estimates suggest that as much as 30 percent of project costs are wasted through poor management of the design-construction process. This waste represents more than $10 billion in the United States every year that could be directed toward improved design, better materials and related improvements to our built environment.'
'Results indicated that tablet and wearable computers may significantly reduce rework, while productivity decreased slightly when tablet and wearable computers were used,' Elvin said. With paper documents, for example, 4.15 percent of total project time was spent re-doing some aspect of the project, compared to 1.38 percent with the wearable computer. Elvin said communications using paper likely proved less efficient because the quality of paper documents faxed to job sites is often poor, whereas the use of tablets or wearable computers allows construction-team members to enlarge parts of documents to view greater detail.

[ 03/28/03 ]

:: In an Ominous Sky, A City Divines its Fate

'Life's not comfortable,' he went on, recalling the 20 missiles that struck near his home the night before, their shockwaves rolling through his house. 'You sit in your house, and there's bombing. It might hit innocent homes by mistake. How do you feel? You can't trust a missile. You can't trust a pilot. This is my country, this is my city, and I'm scared.'
In a moment of reflection, he worried about the war. How long would it last? At what cost would it be waged? What future would it bring? He seemed encouraged by Iraq's sporadic successes in the conflict, but wondered whether the United States would answer with even greater force, raining destruction on Baghdad and lessening the distinction between civilian and military targets.
'It will be very bloody,' he said. 'It won't be easy to take Baghdad, you can imagine.'
Even more pronounced was his sense of pride, a sentiment wrapped up in the deeply held traditions here of honor and dignity. Iraq, he acknowledged, could never defeat the Americans and the British. It is a Third World country, and the United States is a superpower. But a U.S. victory would have to come at a cost -- suicide perhaps, but with a sense of dignity. It was a sentiment, he said, that was wrapped up in his identity as an Iraqi and his faith as a Muslim. Not once did he mention President Saddam Hussein's name.

I guess an invading force is an invading force. (via provenance unknown)
[ 03/28/03 ]

:: The truth about hot cross buns! It seems that the hilarious reports of overblown political correctness were totally fabricated.

They telephoned us, but they didn't ask us outright 'Have you stopped school canteens selling hot-cross buns?' It was never raised. They asked us about dinner menus, about whether we were doing any special meals at Easter. We thought it was a bit strange. The story even contains a quote from someone here, that they didn't say.

(thanks, ian!)[ 03/28/03 ]

:: One Brick is a community volunteer organization for New York and San Francisco that brings a social/networking element to volunteering, providing a fun and rewarding way to give back to the community.
[ 03/28/03 ]

:: Organic farmers dealt setback in 'Got Milk' case

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a program to promote mushrooms was unconstitutional because it touted mushrooms in general, but it upheld a promotional campaign for fruit trees.
David Pelzer, a spokesman for Dairy Management Incorporated, said the promotional programs are valuable and should be continued. He said the 'vast majority' of milk producers support the dairy marketing effort, which he said has boosted demand by 12 percent since the early 1980s.

Frankly, it seems to me that if a vast majority of milk producers support the effort, they should have no trouble soliciting voluntary donations in support. [login: pockeet; password: pockeet] (via dangerousmeta)
[ 03/28/03 ]

:: The Peace Movement's Worst Nightmare: Syria Mufti calls for suicide operations.
[ 03/28/03 ]

:: 'Whatever the explanation it's fair to say that nature, recognising that male foetuses and newborns are more vulnerable than females, treats conception as a handicap race and tries to give boys a head start by favouring them in optimal reproductive conditions.'
[ 03/28/03 ]

:: More in the exploration of soldiers and conscience: There are historical models for soldiers who selectively refuse to serve. Models live not far from the action taking place today in Iraq. They are Israelis who will not patrol the occupied territories. Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher considers the refuseniks.

Today in Israel, some children of Holocaust survivors, though only too willing to defend their country, refuse to be part of a brutalised occupation force. As many as a thousand reservists are refuseniks, with as little support from the rabbinate as Jägerstätter had from his bishop. Reviled by many, they are surely the true patriots and heirs of the uncomfortable prophets of Israel.
The same dilemma now faces the men and women of the US and British armed forces. 'Theirs not to question why, theirs but to do and die,' will no longer wash. Many of them are Christians. The issue is both legal and moral. Christian leaders in the US and in Britain - and worldwide, across all denominational divisions - oppose this war; so do eminent military men. Desmond Tutu stands alongside Jimmy Carter. They say no. There is something like a global consensus that a preemptive war, with no UN backing, is unwise, immoral and illegal.

(thanks, bob!)
[ 03/28/03 ]

:: Interesting: the USA and Israel are presenting the inaugural conference on Cooperation for Energy Independence of Democracies in the 21st Century, to be held in Jerusalem in May.

The Energy Independence Task Force of the American Jewish Congress, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy and a broad coalition of policy, financial, and technical experts, have planned an INTERACTIVE FORUM to define a strategy designed to strengthen the United States and Israel.
Dependency on uncertain and interruptible energy supplies from Middle Eastern states is a crucial strategic issue that must be resolved to assure the long-term security of Israel, the United States and the world's other democracies. The importation of these critical fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) is vulnerable to economic as well as physical attack. The world's democracies spend billions of dollars each year trying to protect access to these resources. In addition, the petrodollars that the suppliers receive often end up being used for purposes inimical to the interests of the world's democracies; these funds are used to purchase weapons, to support the spread of radical Islamicist thought, and to finance the spread of terrorism. For all of these reasons, reducing dependency on fossil fuels is a critical and timely challenge for the world's democracies.

[ 03/31/03 ]

:: No two democracies have ever gone to war. Or have they? Smart, informative, and entertaining. A must-read. (thanks, jjg!)

Franco-American Naval War, 1797-1799
Democracies: United States vs. France
Rebuttal: It was a Quasi War, for God's sake; even historians call it that. It was little more than a trade war with sporadic ritualized broadsides.
Counter-rebuttal: According to official Navy statistics (, the US lost 20 sailors and marines in the Quasi War.

From poking around his site, I can't tell what author Matthew White's background is, but he would appear to be a history buff. He has written an extensive Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century including Links to Historical Maps on Other Sites. The entire site is representative of the Web at its best: amateurs and professionals sharing their passions and expertise with the world.
[ 03/31/03 ]

:: The truth about Godwin's Law.

8. Are there any topics that lead directly to Godwin Invocations?
Well, yeah. Of course. Case's Corollary to the Law states 'if the subject is Heinlein or homosexuality, the probability of a Hitler/Nazi comparison being made becomes equal to one' - but that's just an old list. Abortion and gun control debates always lead to Nazi comparisons; talk with a Libertarian for more than a few hours and he'll almost certainly bring up Nazis; book-burning is pretty much considered a sub-topic of Nazism at this point. Hell, talk about anything politically related and you'll eventually get there.
If you're really bored, a fun game to play is Six Degrees of Godwin. Take a topic - any topic - and see how quickly you can relate it to Nazis using legitimate topic drift methods.

[ 03/31/03 ]

:: Some Iraqis have met allied troops with a thumbs up. But do we know what they are really saying? (thanks, jim!)
[ 03/31/03 ]

:: Hearts and Minds, Nicholas D. Kristof [NY Times: pockeet, password: pockeet]

We doves simply have to let go of the dispute about getting into this war. It's now a historical question, and the relevant issue, for hawks and doves alike, is how we get out of this war (and how we avoid the next pre-emptive war). Americans should be able to find common ground, for all sides dream of an Iraq that is democratic and an America that is again admired around the world. Creating a postwar Iraq that is free and flourishing is also the one way to recoup the damage this war has already done to America's image and interests.

(via follow me here)
[ 03/31/03 ]

:: Scared of the SARS? Wash your hands.

For all of us, here's a little review on how to do it properly. Teach children to sing a short song to time their washing. And here's a brief history of handwashing.

In the late 1840's, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis was an assistant in the maternity wards of a Vienna hospital. There he observed that the mortality rate in a delivery room staffed by medical students was up to three times higher than in a second delivery room staffed by midwives. In fact, women were terrified of the room staffed by the medical students. Semmelweis observed that the students were coming straight from their lessons in the autopsy room to the delivery room. He postulated that the students might be carrying the infection from their dissections to birthing mothers. He ordered doctors and medical students to wash their hands with a chlorinated solution before examining women in labor. The mortality rate in his maternity wards eventually dropped to less than one percent.
Despite the remarkable results, Semmelweis's colleagues greeted his findings with hostility. He eventually resigned his position. Later, he had similar dramatic results with handwashing in another maternity clinic, but to no avail. Ironically Semmelweis died in 1865 of puerperal sepsis, with his views still largely ridiculed.

[ 03/31/03 ]

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