.: 2004 --> march
an enthusiasm of Mac users ... a smug of Mac users ... and of course ... a switch of Mac users.
[ 03/02/04 ]
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) reversed course yesterday and agreed to give the independent commission studying the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks an additional two months to complete its report, removing the last big obstacle to the extension. [...]
It also averted a threatened furlough of about 5,000 Transportation Department workers on Monday, when funding for highway and transit operations was to run out. A bill to continue funding transportation-related projects for another two months had been taken hostage by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), leading backers of the commission, in order to force Hastert's hand. They were refusing to let the highway bill pass without assurances that the commission measure would also be approved.
[ 03/02/04 ]
Researchers of cognitive dissonance in the nineteen- fifties found that consumers would continue to read ads for a new car after they'd bought it but would avoid information about other brands, fearing post-purchase misgivings. And in the early eighties the social thinker Albert O. Hirschman, in "Shifting Involvements", sought to introduce the concept of "disappointment" into mainstream economic theory. "The world I am trying to understand,"he wrote (and the desperate italics are in the original), "is one in which men think they want one thing and then upon getting it, find out to their dismay that they don't want it nearly as much as they thought or don't want it at all and that something else, of which they were hardly aware, is what they really want."
Mischoosing of this kind is what Barry Schwartz, a social scientist at Swarthmore, has in mind in his new book, The Paradox of Choice (Ecco; $23.95). In his view, "unlimited choice" can "produce genuine suffering." Schwartz makes his case mostly through research in psychology and behavioral economics - research that shows how far real people are from the perfectly rational "utility maximizers" posited by classical economists.
In the real world, neither people nor firms maximize utility. Life is complicated, the options of the marketplace are numerous, and the human intellect is frail. As Herbert Simon, the 1978 Nobel laureate in economics, observed, any firm that tried to make decisions that would "maximize" its returns would bankrupt itself in a never-ending search for the best option. What firms do instead is "satisfice," to use Simon's term: they content themselves with results that are "good enough." Schwartz, who is a close reader of Simon, worries that the profusion of choices we face - a hundred varieties of bug spray, breakfast cereal, extra-virgin olive oil - is turning us into maximizers, and maximizers, he thinks, are prone to misery and depression.
Here's an excerpt from The Paradox of Choice if you're interested in reading more.
[ 03/02/04 ]
The location of the Playpumps in villages and near primary schools also cuts down on the amount of time young women previously spent collecting water. Tapping the energy of children at play, the pumps can generate upwards of 1,400 litres of water per hour, saving young women time and energy that they would otherwise have spent walking to and from more remote water sources. The Playpumps also help prevent diseases such as cholera that can stem from open water supplies.
[ 03/05/04 ]
Nieman Marcus: $360, and apparently sold out.
[ 03/05/04 ]
[>] I'd like to take a moment to introduce two new weblogs that are likely to interest you:
- Environment News, by the creator of the excellent Earth-Info Net
- Babirusa.Org, by Matt's buddy Dr. Lynn Clayton, documenting efforts to conserve Babirusa in the Paguyaman Forest of Sulawesi, Indonesia
[ 03/05/04 ]
[>] How to Overthrow Corporate Rule in 5 Not-so-easy Steps (via wood s lot)
[ 03/05/04 ]
[>] I have added your excellent suggestions to my list of mac user collective nouns, and created another category of geek collective nouns beneath it. It's all in the sidebar of my computer page.
[ 03/05/04 ]
[Susan McDougal] says the three federal prisons she spent time in were hard, cold and frightening. "In federal prison, there's not a private place to be," McDougal said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "There's not a soft place to sit. I remember thinking, 'is everything in the world concrete?'"
But she has a bit of advice:
McDougal says the best way to approach prison is to view it as a time to get to know yourself better.
Sure it is.
[ 03/11/04 ]
"Most women are actually very torn about this. Most are convinced that she did violate the law, but on the other hand they're very uncomfortable with the glee with which she's been brought down," says Susan Douglas, a professor of communications at the University of Michigan. "It's a glee about women stepping out of their place and [the public] slapping them down when they do, and that makes women very uncomfortable and angry."
"It's been astounding," [www.SaveMartha.com editor John Small] says. "People have really woken up to the fact that Martha could go to jail while O.J. Simpson and [Enron's] Ken Lay are still walking around free."
[ 03/11/04 ]
I forgot to mention a couple of things. One, the State of California gave me a $3,000 rebate for buying the car. The feds will allow me a $4,500 deduction this year (the difference between a Civic LX and the GX). A Canadian company is developing a product that will allow home fueling from your home gas line. It will fill the tank slower than the pumps at the CNG stations, but it will be more convenient.
Read the comments for more links to alternative energy possibilities.
[ 03/11/04 ]
- Read Strunk & White, The Elements of Style. Read it at least once a year. You can read Strunk's portion online.
- Read the best writers you can find. EB White and James Thurber are two that spring to mind. Rebecca Mead and Malcolm Gladwell, writers for the modern day New Yorker, are two more. There are thousands, from all eras.
- Write in your weblog. Write every day or several times a week. It doesn't matter what you write about, but every time you update your site, include one link to an article or another website, and summarize it in one sentence. You may add one sentence of opinion if you like, but it's not necessary. Don't be surprised if this takes longer than writing longer entries. Writing short is hard. This practice is the one that improved my writing the most, the fastest.
- If you're having trouble updating your weblog every day, think about refocusing your site on something you're more interested in. See if the library has my book for a consideration of some approaches.
- Learn to think critically. The Elements of Reasoning (2nd ed) by Edward PJ Corbett and Rosa A Eberly is an excellent starting point. The essence of critical thinking is the willingness to be wrong. It requires the ability to genuinely consider ideas you know are wrong, and to question ideas you know are right, both very difficult practices. Challenge your assumptions. Question accepted wisdom. Reserve judgement. Examine your motivations. Remember, if you don't much care about the truth, it's easier both to form opinions and be persuasive. Figuring out what's really going on takes more work.
- Make time to pursue the things that genuinely interest you:
- Always be reading something that really interests you. This can be a novel, history, science fiction, cookbooks, comics, anything, just something you look forward to picking up every day. If you get bored, put it down and pick up something else. Live by these rules. Even if you are busy, try to set aside at least half an hour every day or several times a week.
- Always be learning to do something that really interests you. It can be anything: fixing cars, baking bread, perl, swimming, tying knots, how to make the perfect stir-fry, a new language, anything at all. Whatever you want to know. Allow yourself to learn slowly--if an hour a week is all you have, enjoy that hour every week.
- Pay attention. Notice little things. Ask yourself how you feel. Ask yourself how he feels. Note the color. Pay attention to the language, yours and hers. Watch the interaction. Estimate the size. Listen. Listen harder.
[ 03/12/04 ]
The attacks began on Inauguration Day, when President Bush's chief of staff and former General Motors lobbyist Andrew Card quietly initiated a moratorium on all recently adopted regulations. Since then, the White House has enlisted every federal agency that oversees environmental programs in a coordinated effort to relax rules aimed at the oil, coal, logging, mining and chemical industries as well as automakers, real estate developers, corporate agribusiness and other industries.
Bush's Environmental Protection Agency has halted work on sixty-two environmental standards, the Food and Drug Administration has stopped work on fifty-seven standards. The EPA completed just two major rules -- both under court order and both watered down at industry request -- compared to twenty-three completed by the Clinton administration and fourteen by the Bush Sr. administration in their first two years.
This onslaught is being coordinated through the White House Office of Management and Budget -- or, more precisely, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, under the direction of John Graham, the engine-room mechanic of the Bush stealth strategy. Graham's specialty is promoting changes in scientific and economic assumptions that underlie government regulations -- such as recalculating cost-benefit analyses to favor polluters.
[ 03/13/04 ]
- A growing number of news outlets are chasing relatively static or even shrinking audiences for news.
- Much of the new investment in journalism today - much of the information revolution generally - is in disseminating the news, not in collecting it.
- In many parts of the news media, we are increasingly getting the raw elements of news as the end product.
- Journalistic standards now vary even inside a single news organization.
- Without investing in building new audiences, the long-term outlook for many traditional news outlets seems problematic.
- Convergence seems more inevitable and potentially less threatening to journalists than it may have seemed a few years ago.
- The biggest question may not be technological but economic.
- Those who would manipulate the press and public appear to be gaining leverage over the journalists who cover them.
That list is truncated to the bullet points; go to the source for the expanded list. (via dangerousmeta)
I'm no journalist, but these trends suggest to me that news outlets will need to focus on their core competencies if they want to avoid inadvertently entering into competition with personal publishers. Journalists with personal weblogs can post up bits and pieces of information that don't make up a whole story. Everyone and his brother has an opinion, and weblogs have enabled each of us to broadcast them to the world.
As a result it has become even more important for news organizations to codify and strictly adhere to their journalistic standards across their various publications. Readers have the right to expect an online version of a newspaper to be at least as complete as the paper version--not less so. If anything, online news stories should be more complete, more current, than their paper counterparts.
News organizations that want to engage in the 24/7 news cycle will need to clearly designate fully formed stories from rumors and speculation. Most important, they will need to be willing to wait until they have a set of verifiable facts before publishing any news story. CNN often uses a banner that says 'Breaking Story: Headline' to alert their readers that they are on the case while they collect information. News organizations need to be willing to delay unfinished stories and avoid fluff speculation if they want to maintain a reputation for integrity and credibility.
News organizations that want to build new audiences would do well to make their publications as blogger and email-friendly as possible: some form of versioning for changing stories, easy to cut-and-paste URLs, persistent articles and URLs, and simple, unobtrusive registration--or none. I'm unlikely to register with a site in order to read a news article--the same story already exists in many other versions across the Web. As a result, I haven't looked at the LA Times in over a year. I won't fill in registration forms that are very long or require personal information. On the rare occasion that I do fill out a registration form that requires unnecessary personal information, I usually lie.
It's not clear why online news sources want their readers to register in the first place, unless they are selling email (or home) addresses to other businesses. Amazon has demonstrated that people will provide plenty of personal information in return for a value. The trick is to allow anyone to browse the site, and to ask for information only when it is a necessary component of providing a service (in Amazon's case, merchandise, the opportunity to view deeply discounted items, or book recommendations). I'm not sure how newspapers are going to make money online, but intrusive registration forms will only drive readers to other sources.
Corrections and additions should be clearly designated in order to maximize clarity and to avoid rendering online references a hash. As a weblog editor it is immensely frustrating to link to a story only to find that it has significantly and invisibly changed since my commentary was posted. Multiple versions of a story are fine, as are corrections and additions--but clearly mark such changes and link to the most current version.
Online news sources would be smart to enlist bloggers as unpaid stringers by crediting the weblogs that provide them with facts or leads. Everyone wants recognition: bloggers would fall all over themselves searching the Web for pertinent information if they thought a major news source might pick up the story and credit them with the find.
In general, news organizations should be in the business of competing with each other, not with weblogs or ezines. Because weblogs generate so much excellent commentary and, to some extent, analysis, this will become harder as weblogs become more widely read.
But news organizations have some things that weblogs do not: time, resources, and a mandate to report fairly and accurately in the public interest. It is unreasonable to expect weblogs to uphold journalistic standards, and professional news organizations need to understand the advantage this provides. News organizations will gain readers by providing the most complete, reliable news, the most informed commentary, and the most aggressive, incisive reporting.
Professional news organizations would be wise to incorporate new technologies in ways that promote their core mission, but in an age of participatory media, it is good old-fashioned journalism that will provide their greatest competitive advantage.
[ 03/16/04 ]
[>] The Bush administration has produced two television "news spots" (with actor newscasters) praising the new Medicare law, which have been aired at least 53 times on 40 stations as part of the news. Nowhere in the ad does it state that the spot was produced by Bush and Co. And get this:
In the videos and advertisements, the government urges beneficiaries to call a toll-free telephone number, 1-800-MEDICARE. People who call that number can obtain recorded information about prescription drug benefits if they recite the words "Medicare improvement."
Nothing surprises me from this administration anymore, but I am appalled at the laziness of the news organizations involved. I am hugely sympathetic to journalists. It's a hard job. But I am more and more angry and discouraged by the sloppy standards in place in so many news organizations. The Bush administration is as corrupt as it is only with the complicity of the press. (thanks, heather!)
[ 03/18/04 ]
The average collegian in the U.S. isn't graduating into a world of boundless opportunity, but rather is $20,000-plus in the hole thanks to student loans and credit cards. So begins the snowball effect: The most desirable entry-level jobs often pay wages too low for the indebted, who must fork over a large percentage of their salaries to Sallie Mae or Citibank. Other posts are reserved for those who can afford to work unpaid internships, or whose parents can support them through an extra year or two of graduate studies.
Employers are increasingly reluctant to defray the cost of health care, so tack on an extra several hundred bucks a year, even $2,000 or more for the technically self-employed - "permanent temps," as the saying goes. Though housing is supposedly cheaper than ever, due to record-low interest rates, the ambitious young aren't necessarily enjoying the trend. Rents in many metro areas, where a good portion of knowledge-based jobs are located, remain sky-high; cheaper digs exist in the suburbs, though that means enduring sarariman-like commutes.
[ 03/18/04 ]
"Our economy is polarized; our population is polarized," said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, which represents the city's 200 top private-sector chief executives. "The bonuses of a relative handful of very wealthy people are driving our economy."
Analysts of various ideological stripes say the city needs to retool its taxes and fees -- which are among the nation's highest -- restructure labor contracts, raise the minimum wage and address its extreme reliance on Wall Street. But that conversation is rarely heard. [...]
Partnership for New York City president Wylde added that nothing about the city's economic dominance can be taken for granted. "We had done a good job of restoring the middle class, but it's very transient, very fragile," she said. "We have an economy where a lot of job growth is epitomized by restaurant jobs and nannies."
As if to underline this point, Bloomberg News Service reported that there are 15 applications for every $26,000 seat at the most prestigious private kindergartens.
[ 03/18/04 ]
During the "Gilded Age," every man was a potential Andrew Carnegie, and Americans who achieved wealth celebrated it as never before. In New York, the opera, the theatre, and lavish parties consumed the ruling class' leisure hours. Sherry's Restaurant hosted formal horseback dinners for the New York Riding Club. Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish once threw a dinner party to honor her dog who arrived sporting a $15,000 diamond collar.
While the rich wore diamonds, many wore rags. In 1890, 11 million of the nation's 12 million families earned less than $1200 per year; of this group, the average annual income was $380, well below the poverty line. Rural Americans and new immigrants crowded into urban areas. Tenements spread across city landscapes, teeming with crime and filth. Americans had sewing machines, phonographs, skyscrapers, and even electric lights, yet most people labored in the shadow of poverty.
[ 03/18/04 ]
[>] Beans and Rice. To me, a good plate of beans and rice can be a gourmet feast. (For that last link, I highly recommend the vegetarian version. But omit the white pepper in the Creole seasoning blend--to my taste, it obscures the other flavors. )
[ 03/18/04 ]
[>] An update on Karen Ryan: she's offended to be called an actress, since she doesn't belong to the actor's union. She does, however, frequently 'report' in the video press releases she produces for her PR company, Karen Ryan Group Communications. No word yet on Mr Garcia's profession.
[ 03/19/04 ]
[>] Electronic Voting News: In recent elections, 7,000 Orange County Voters Were Given Bad Ballots. One way you can protect yourself from this kind of fiasco is to vote absentee this year, and if your precinct is using voting machines that don't produce any sort of paper (read: verifiable) ballot, I suggest you do so. In order to protect our democracy from these errors, I suggest that you write your state and national representatives.
[ 03/19/04 ]
Today, flat-earthers within the Bush Administration--aided by right-wing allies who have produced assorted hired guns and conservative think tanks to further their goals--are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition. Sometimes, rather than suppress good science, they simply order up their own. Meanwhile, the Bush White House is purging, censoring and blacklisting scientists and engineers whose work threatens the profits of the Administration's corporate paymasters or challenges the ideological underpinnings of their radical anti-environmental agenda. Indeed, so extreme is this campaign that more than sixty scientists, including Nobel laureates and medical experts, released a statement on February 18 that accuses the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific fact "for partisan political ends."
[ 03/19/04 ]
Todd Gitlin once wrote that strategy coverage invited readers and voters to become "cognoscenti of their own bamboozlement." He had a point with that phrase.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson (bio) says that strategy coverage is identified by five features: 1.) winning and losing are the central plot device, 2.) metaphors of war, competitive sports and game theory are prevalent in the account, 3.) politics is assessed as theatre, with performers, critics and audiences, 4.) performance, style, appearance, and "perceptions" of the candidate are commonly examined, 5.) opinion polls and the candidate's standing in them are a baseline reality.
In The Press Effect (Oxford, 2002) Jamieson and Paul Waldman observe that reporters "tend to be much more comfortable making evaluative strategic statements than evaluative statements about policy." This, I believe, is the key to understanding the takeover--and yes, there was a shift--in campaign news to the strategy frame.
I have been bemoaning strategy news for years. Sure, it's sort of fun to play along at home, but it's not useful to the electoral process.
I want in-depth, contextualized coverage of the issues. I want the press to do some digging and to back up all assertions--made by any candidate and either party--with the facts. Is someone lying? Tell me their claim, and then give me the facts. Further, reporters who practice stenography--especially RNC and DNC stenography--should be removed from campaign coverage and replaced with someone who cares about giving the American people the facts they need to make an informed decision.
[ 03/23/04 ]
[>] Have you heard of the air-powered cars? One plan is for a Two-Cylinder Air-Compression Engine (is Zero Pollution Motors still in business?) and the other is a Cryogenic Heat Engine (here are some technical papers for the very hardy).
[ 03/23/04 ]
When pressed for a list of Kerry's 350 votes, the Bush campaign quickly supplied FactCheck.org with one document listing 352 votes and a second listing an additional 27 votes. But a campaign official cautioned: "It is important to note that these are votes for higher taxes, not necessarily tax increases , meaning it includes votes against tax cuts." (Emphasis added by FactCheck.org). In other words, what the campaign's manager and chief spokesman had been saying was wrong. And even the President's phrasing - - saying Kerry voted for "higher taxes" 350 times -- is not only misleading but actually misled several news professionals. It's simply untrue that Kerry voted for tax increases 350 times.
The Bush lists of 379 votes is padded with scores of votes Kerry cast against tax decreases (which would leave taxes unchanged, not higher), votes to reduce the size of proposed tax cuts (which would leave taxes lower, though not as much lower as proposed), and "votes for watered-down, Democrat 'tax cut' substitutes" (which often proposed to distribute the benefits of tax cuts farther down the income scale than Republican proposals). Thus the Bush campaign counts some votes for tax cuts as votes for "higher taxes."
On the other hand, a Democratic Web ad falsely claims that Bush has cut education funding--but it's up 58%.
The Republican party has become the party of the Big Lie, no doubt about it. All the more reason for the Democrats to scrupulously adhere to the truth.
[ 03/25/04 ]
Meanwhile, two recent reviews of the American version:
Lenka found it by accident, and says, 'I don't know how I've blogged for three years without it!'
And in a recent Political Animal thread, Medley says: 'I can probably count on one hand the number of 'big thoughts' about weblogs that have been uttered by 'deep thinkers' since then that weren't touched on in this concise and elegant book.'
[ 03/25/04 ]
In line with growing class polarization, the classic posture of submission is making a stealthy comeback. "We scrub your floors the old-fashioned way," boasts the brochure from Merry Maids, the largest of the residential-cleaning services that have sprung up in the last two decades, "on our hands and knees." This is not a posture that independent "cleaning ladies" willingly assume--preferring, like most people who clean their own homes, the sponge mop wielded from a standing position. [...] But in a society in which 40 percent of the wealth is owned by 1 percent of households while the bottom 20 percent reports negative assets, the degradation of others is readily purchased. Kneepads entered American political discourse as a tool of the sexually subservient, but employees of Merry Maids, The Maids International, and other corporate cleaning services spend hours every day on these kinky devices, wiping up the drippings of the affluent.
(via Apartment 11D)
[ 03/26/04 ]
[>] GWB: HBS MBA. How the President's education may influence his political policy. Very smart analysis, whether or not you agree with its conclusions. The Dems would do well to take some of these lessons to heart immediately. (via the living torah)
[ 03/30/04 ]
[>] Something useful: The CJR Campaign Desk rundown on where Kerry and Bush stand on the issues. I'll also note that I'm glad to see Campaign Desk citing Factcheck.org. These sites do slightly different things, and if they are willing to leverage each other's expertise, we can look forward to some great synergy.
[ 03/30/04 ]
The cheap, dull gardening tools found abundantly in common hardware stores are made using porous metals that bend easily, are difficult to sharpen and wear out quickly. They don't work and don't fit. They discourage the first time gardener. You can tell when you've found a good tool - you'll be hesitant to let go of it at the end of a gardening session.
[ 03/30/04 ]
[>] Calling all poets: 'Seeking poets who might have an extra copy of their chapbook or book they'd be willing to donate to a lucky student. Each week, during my 8-week undergraduate poetry class, there will be a drawing to see who wins the book a poet has been generous enough to donate. The winner will be responsible for reading your book and selecting a favorite poem to read to the class the following week. If you like, contact information and book price should be included so that others in the class can buy your book. Students will be STRONGLY encouraged to buy the books of poets who, after all, were kind enough to contribute a book to their education. If you're willing, please send your book (autographed would be nice) and contact and price details to:'
Upper Iowa University - Milwaukee Center
6610 W. Greenfield Ave.
West Allis, WI 53214
[ 03/30/04 ]