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rebecca's pocket

.: 2004 --> september


@ Puppy Justice (via Odub)
[ 09/09/04 ]

@ California has joined in suing Diebold for allegedly lying to state regulators about the security of some of its equipment. [bugmenot]

The system's key vulnerability is that county election workers or others with access to the machines could type in a two-digit code and create a second set of results that would then be forwarded to the state as the county's official tally, said Bev Harris, one of the activists who filed the case. She said the Diebold vote-tabulating equipment at the center of the lawsuit is used in 19 California counties, including Los Angeles County.

Nice. As Electoral-Vote points out, in an August 2003 fund-raising letter, Diebold Chairman and Chief Executive Walden O'Dell said he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes for the president". Your absentee ballot will ensure that your vote can be verified.
[ 09/09/04 ]

@ Triple talaq by SMS.

A centuries-old custom, the triple talaq -- literally "I divorce you," in Arabic -- is a controversial procedure whereby a Muslim husband can divorce his wife by merely repeating the word talaq three times. [...]
In recent times, the instant marriage has merged with modern technology to pose a major problem for experts in sharia -- or Islamic law -- as well as dumped wives across the Muslim world.
In a high-tech twist to the ancient practice, some husbands have taken to e-mailing and even text messaging their divorce statements to their wives' cell phones. In Malaysia last year for instance, local newspapers carried reports of bothersome wives being dumped by husbands simply texting, "I d4c U, I d4c U, I d4c U."

[ 09/09/04 ]

@ As China's economy grows apace, its consumption of raw materials has pushed up the price of petroleum, nickel, and... cardboard.
[ 09/09/04 ]

@ Homesteading Today.
[ 09/09/04 ]

@ Underground Utility Marking Standards:

[ 09/09/04 ]

@ This week, my sister and my mother, both midwesterners, have mentioned to me the duststorms at Burning Man, which they saw in the (television) news local paper. It would seem that the event has completed its transition to fully mainstreamed 'alternative'.
[ 09/10/04 ]

@ Isn't It Fascinating News: The most interesting part of the Bush memo conspiracy theory is that it seems to have been taken up by both right- and left-wing political bloggers, all of whom seem to believe that the 'forgery' somehow supports their general view of things. As for me, Occam's Razor dictates that the documents--verified by CBS, and not disputed (and in fact distributed) by the White House--are more likely to be authentic than not. Depending on how it turns out, this episode may provide a convenient counter-example to the triumphalist's myth of the superiority of amateur journalism. [update...]

Update: A good friend points out that any memos produced at the time would likely have been typed by an aide, not the commander himself. Killian is no longer with us, but that typist might be--and able to clear things up. (I know, I know....)
[ 09/10/04 ]

@ Pretty women make men irrational. Maybe you knew that already.

Both male and female students at McMaster University were shown pictures of the opposite sex of varying attractiveness taken from the website 'Hot or Not'. The 209 students were then offered the chance to win a reward. They could either accept a cheque for between $15 and $35 tomorrow or one for $50-$75 at a variable point in the future.
Wilson and Daly found that male students shown the pictures of averagely attractive women showed exponential discounting of the future value of the reward. This indicated that they had made a rational decision. When male students were shown pictures of pretty women, they discounted the future value of the reward in an 'irrational' way - they would opt for the smaller amount of money available the next day rather than wait for a much bigger reward.
Women, by contrast, made equally rational decisions whether they had been shown pictures of handsome men or those of average attractiveness.

[ 09/10/04 ]

@ The Common Information Environment is an attempt to 'reveal the "hidden web" - archives held by organisations available only via their own home pages - to non-specialist researchers.'

Librarians and teachers learn to bypass internet searches altogether and start with organisations such as the National Archives or museums which are likely to be of use. Ironically, according to Paul Miller, director of CIE, organisations such as museums and libraries have huge amounts of exciting content on the web. Most of this is paid for with public money. But to most people outside their own communities, it might as well not be there. "There's an awful lot of stuff there that's not being used to its full potential," says Miller. "Too much remains hidden among the low-quality information that clutters the web and behind technical, commercial and administrative barriers."

[ 09/10/04 ]

@ Goodbye Aaron. We will miss you.
[ 09/14/04 ]

@ Electoral-vote is now featuring a cartogram (proportional map) of each day's results.
[ 09/14/04 ]

@ An estimated 40 million women--and perhaps half as many men--of all ages suffer from incontinence. Embarrassed yet? So is everyone else, to the point that no one talks about this condition, even to their doctors. Are you one of them? Understand: it's not normal and it's eminently treatable. Visit a urologist. You don't have to live this way. [bugmenot]

Thom's colleague Jeanette Brown, director of the UCSF Women's Continence Center, says that she and Thom "want to make incontinence 'cocktail conversation,' because it is so common, and we know from prior literature if patients discuss their disease with each other, they will seek care."
Inconvenience and embarrassment aside, incontinence poses an enormous -- and "extraordinarily expensive" -- public-health problem, says Steers. Americans spend an estimated $16 billion to $27 billion a year on incontinence-related medical expenses including doctors' visits, absorbent pads, medications and nursing homes. (Incontinence is the number-one reason for nursing home placements, Steers notes.)

Also, 'pee' may now be published in a respectable, major newspaper.
[ 09/14/04 ]

@ Heart disease in women may be 'a fundamentally different disease.'

"The whole disease is poorly understood in women, from the expression of the symptoms all the way down to some of the basic mechanisms," said Carl J. Pepine, a cardiologist at University of Florida's College of Medicine in Gainesville. "The disease has a very broad spectrum, and more men are at one side and more women are at the other side." [...]
These differences, frequently found in younger women, could help explain why the symptoms are often so different than in men, why women are often misdiagnosed -- or never diagnosed -- why they commonly are not treated until much later, and why women are more likely to die from their heart disease even when they are treated. The standard tests, drugs and procedures simply may not work as well for many women.

[ 09/14/04 ]

@ In order to better understand the medical differences between men and women, Georgetown has launched a new Center for the Study of Sex Differences.

"There aren't enough evidence-based studies out there on why men and women have such different experiences with diseases like AIDS, cancer, diabetes and renal failure," said Sandberg. "We want to help facilitate researchers who think they may be onto some new insights about these diseases but just don't have the resources to study both males and females."
Known health-related sex differences include the following:

[ 09/14/04 ]

@ Direct democracy fans: perhaps you should come live in California for a while.

There are 16 propositions before voters this November, including three sets that compete with each other, one rarely used referendum to overturn current law, four that were included by the Legislature and an orphan proposition cut away from its original measure.
It is a ballot compiled by interest groups and angry corporations, Schwarzenegger consultants and the governor himself, local governments and disgruntled lawmakers - overall, the third-highest number of measures since California instituted initiatives and referendums in 1911, according to statistics from Cal State Los Angeles.

[ 09/14/04 ]

@ When a local grocery chain promised to refund the price of any out-of-date product found on their shelves, two Norwegian teenagers rounded up enough beer to net them $1030.
[ 09/14/04 ]

@ Two kiosk interfaces I would like to get my hands on:

Watching people attempt to use these devices, the confusion is palpable. While I'm at it, why doesn't UPS allow customers to print shipping labels at home instead of making them use the computers at their facility?
[ 09/14/04 ]

@ Forget everything bad I've ever said about academics: the Institute of Physics has worked out a formula that will allow women to calculate the maximum height of heel they can wear without suffering peril or discomfort. (via the physics blog)

...using this formula, if Carrie Bradshaw, who is an experienced high-heel wearer (let's guess at 5 years experience) wears her latest drop-dead gorgeous designer originals when sober, she can cope with a heel height of a staggering 12.5 centimetres (just over 5 inches). However, if she over-indulges in cocktails, the 'safe' heel height (and perhaps also Carrie) plummets. Using the same example as above, if she consumes 6 units of alcohol she would be better advised to stick to shoes with only 2cm heels.
Laura Grant, a physicist from Liverpool University welcomes the Institute's new formula commenting, "many of my physicist colleagues have no trouble understanding quantum mechanics but can't figure out how women can wear high heels. Now I can explain to them how I minimise the probability of tripping up".

[ 09/17/04 ]

@ If you don't know about this, you should. [more...]

Just this week I spent a few hours shuttling between Amazon and their accursed recommendations and my library to see what was available to borrow. I was thinking that I wanted my library software to work more like Amazon, but maybe that's the wrong way to go. Let Amazon refine and master the complexity of recommendation algorithms, and then let everyone else hook their software onto that.

What's in it for Amazon? More sales. People will buy instead of borrow if they really want to own a book, or if the reserve list is longer than they are willing to wait (I did both of those things). More data. Amazon's recommendation algorithm lives and dies on the data they can collect. If they were hooked into your library system, they would know what you looked at, what you were interested in enough to borrow but not buy, and what you were interested in enough to buy (from them) after you'd borrowed it.

Is that enough of a payoff? I don't know. Maybe they can just license it.
[ 09/17/04 ]

@ A little weekend reading: How did Shakespeare become Shakespeare?
[ 09/17/04 ]

@ Jesse James Garrett's most recent essay has been released as a manifesto by Change This: 6 Design Lessons From the Apple Store. Click the red button for the pdf, or enter your email address to have it sent to you.
[ 09/22/04 ]

@ Electoral-vote reminds us that the deadline for registering to vote is near: [more...]

Time is running out. ...even if you are not Dick Cheney, Cheney's first law of voter registration ("Register where it helps most") may apply to you. In particular, college students studying in a swing state may be able to choose between their parents' address and their college address.... If you are from a solid state and are studying in a swing state (or vice versa), or have a child, grandchild, friend, or neighbor in this category, please see Swing State Voter Project for details. Also, if you are a snowbird and live for 6 months in the North and 6 months in Florida where you own or rent a house or condo, register in Florida. But hurry. Being registered in two states is illegal, so if you register in a new state, be sure to cancel the old one. If George Orwell were alive now, he would say "All votes are equal but some votes are more equal."

On Saturday, Electoral-vote had a very interesting and enlightening discussion of polling practices and the problems of normalization. I learned a lot. Highly recommended.
[ 09/22/04 ]

@ Walk off your Alzheimer's. And do a crossword puzzle when you get home.
[ 09/22/04 ]

@ Do artificial sweeteners reduce your body's ability to instinctively count calories?
[ 09/22/04 ]

@ Tacoma bans recess. Whatever happened to the factory model of public education? Today's un-unionized high-tech workers are certainly allowed to get up and get a diet coke every now and again.
[ 09/22/04 ]

@ Bellevue, WA schoolteachers are crazy about their new interactive whiteboards. [more...]

"It's an incredible teaching tool," said Enid Smith Becker, who teaches art and French to the middle and high school students at the International School, which got its interactive whiteboards last year as part of an extensive remodeling. Her art students can draw on the 4-by-5-foot board in a wide range of colors, and even do it with a fingertip.
Notes written on a board image, which can be pulled up from the Internet, a compact disc or other source, can be saved along with the image, for access by a student who may have missed the class, or one who later asks a follow-up question.

I know a few IAs who might like one of these....
[ 09/22/04 ]

@ The most exclusive credit card in the world has a $2,500 yearly service fee--but entitles holders to a monthly magazine. Frankly, anyone this dumb doesn't deserve to be rich. [update...]

Update: Rafe writes to tell me that the Amex Centurion entitles cardholders to several other perks besides the magazine. Most interesting of all, the super-exclusive card came into being as a result of the persistent rumor that it existed.
[ 09/22/04 ]

@ Hey! Does this design look at all familiar? Okay, close. What about this one (compared to this)? Or this one? (compared to that)? The first example treads that fine line between building on others' successes and flat out copying them. The second and third.... [more...]

To provide content for their 'encyclopedia', WordIQ seems to have just republished the Wikipedia (surely not all of it?) on their own site. Since WordIQ provides a link back to the originating source, this perhaps complies with Wikipedia's terms of verbatim copying. But for a commercial site (they're running ads) to reproduce such a substantial portion--down to the design--of a site that has been created by a huge community of people for the greater good? I don't exactly understand the legalities of a case like this----and I wonder if there's even case law that addresses it. But as a layman, it seems to me to violate the spirit of the thing. As a layman, in fact, I'd call it a rip-off.
[ 09/22/04 ]

@ Knitters among us: [more...]

[ 09/22/04 ]

@ Are you looking forward to the Presidential debates? You may be disappointed. [more...]

The 32-page guidelines for the debates -- negotiated by the Bush and Kerry campaigns along with the Commission on Presidential Debates -- limit follow-up questions, restrict audience participation, and prohibit even certain camera shots. Candidates may not move about the stage as they orate, nor may they question each other. Basically, each debate will unwind as a series of 60-second statements and 30-second rejoinders. During the lone "town hall" debate, all questions from the audience will have to be submitted beforehand and reviewed by the moderater, ABC's Charles Gibson. No audience member may ask a follow-up question.

With this kind of control, I guess it will be impossible for either candidate to 'lose'.

And where did this factoid, 'neither candidate has ever lost a debate' come from? Is that a lifetime figure? Is that the score of their college debate-class debates? Or is it just spin from the campaign camps? Personally, I thought GW Bush was terrible in the 2000 debates, but I am frustrated by both candidates whenever these events are staged. There are no real questions. There is no followup. There is no real scoring. After the fact, commenters discuss how the men presented themselves, never bothering to tally up how many of the questions were actually answered (usually few to none), or whether the answers were truthful or persuasive.

It's just a big publicity stunt. This is a presidential election, and if the candidates aren't willing to be grilled on their positions, I say to hell with them.
[ 09/28/04 ]

@ Fascinating: The semiotics of South Asian political dress.

"Here in India, [Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh] usually wears khadi - homespun cotton clothes - he's an honest, simple person," says Ms. Suneja, herself a designer of khadi fashions, and owner of Raj Creations in New Delhi. "He's no nonsense, what you see is what you get."
Clothes and politics have always gone hand in hand in South Asia. Mahatma Gandhi wore a homespun loincloth as a form of protest against British imported goods. Pakistan's founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, wore tailored Savile Row suits to send an opposite message: We are a nation you can do business with.

As it turns out, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is a one-man package of textual goodness.
[ 09/28/04 ]

@ Let the sniping begin.

A private website,, lets guild members air their feelings about the executives and producers who hire them. It's a sort of Zagat guide to power in Hollywood, where WGA members post anonymous evaluations, grading Hollywood suits on qualities including honesty, story sense and clout.

[ 09/28/04 ]

@ Right here: The future of cookbooks [flash required]. Super, super cool. (via randomwalks)
[ 09/28/04 ]

@ Uncle Phaedrus, Consulting Detective and Finder of Lost Recipes has been busy. It sure seems like a good weblog service could make his life easier.
[ 09/28/04 ]

@ I love university extension services. I just do. Also: Miller Family Recipes.
[ 09/28/04 ]

@ Hilarious.
[ 09/30/04 ]

@ Just a couple of comments about the Presidential debates. First, the networks have expressed objections to the onerous terms agreed upon by the campaigns. (NPR has published the terms of agreement for the debates [pdf and slow to load], so you can decide for yourself.) In fact, the AP reports that the networks plan to ignore them. [more...]

The networks object to a provision in the debate agreement between the two candidates that says they cannot show a reaction shot of Democrat John Kerry when President Bush is speaking, or vice versa.
"The campaigns have agreed to this," said Princell Hair, CNN general manager. "We haven't.
"We have access to these cameras and we're going to -- as we would with any news event -- decide which is the best way to broadcast this," he said. "A producer in the booth will make those determinations, not some people in the campaign."

The proscription that the camera be pointed only at the candidate who is speaking is an interesting one, don't you think? According to the fascinating Atlantic article When George Meets John (and I recommend you read it all), the Bush campaign inserted this rule into the agreement for his 1998 debate with opponent Garry Mauro, during Bush's gubernatorial re-election campaign.

The debate was held in a tiny basement room on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso. The candidates' families and a few local officials sat on metal folding chairs in the room; everyone else, including reporters, watched TV monitors elsewhere. Laura Bush sat a few feet away from Mauro's children, whom she knew but (according to Mauro) did not speak to or acknowledge. According to the rules of this debate, insisted on by Bush's team, the screen had to show only whichever candidate was speaking--that is, no cutaway or reaction shots were allowed.
Therefore no one outside the room saw the miniature drama inside. Bush was halfway toward his presidential style, speaking more slowly and less gracefully than four years earlier, and with a more dismissive air toward his opponent. While Mauro was speaking, Bush would sigh, grimace, and send body-language messages of boredom or contempt. "It was incredible," Mauro told me recently. "I almost can't believe it in retelling it. Because the press was upstairs, they didn't realize how aggressive he was on the stage--pulling the sleeve of the moderator, staring or winking at Laura in the crowd." The moderator of the debate, Bob Moore, of the El Paso Times, told me that Bush actually grabbed him just before the debate: "In the hallway, Bush did grab me by the lapels, pull me close to his face, and say, 'Bobby, you clean up real good.' Typical Bush." When Bush was on stage but off camera, Moore said, "there was that Bush smirk, rolling his eyes, all of which Bush is very good at."

The cameras tonight are controlled by FOX News. As Matt Haughey pointed out during the Democratic National Convention, FOX has a record of covering events to Kerry's disadvantage--to the point of dishonesty. However, tonight they control the cameras on behalf of the entire network pool. According to the AP report, 'Fox is expected to provide each network with feeds from several different cameras, giving them each discretion on which shots to air.' So it will come down to the camera-work combined with individual producers splicing the coverage together for their own networks. I wonder what they'll show us?
[ 09/30/04 ]

@ Debate fact checking and real-time debate scoring (register here). Also: live RNC de-debunking. Gracious.
[ 09/30/04 ]

@ Lonely? If the debates get you down, don't despair. Cuddle up with a Japanese man pillow.
[ 09/30/04 ]


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