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rebecca's pocket

.: 2005 --> march


@ I'm home, I'm safe, and I'm a little sick. Jesse has added a few pictures to his Japan set below, if you haven't looked in a few days. Regular updates to resume next week.
[ 03/04/05 ]

@ CNN: Social Security Factcheck.

Claim: "It's your money, and the interest off that money goes to supplement the Social Security check that you're going to get from the federal government. Personal accounts is an add-on to that which the government is going to pay you. It doesn't replace the Social Security system. It is a part of getting a better rate of return to come closer to the promises made."
CNN Fact Check: The statement is misleading. The president says the money from the private account is an "add-on" to the traditional plan, which implies that a retiree under this plan would receive the same check he or she would normally get under the current system, and additional money from a private account. That is incorrect.

(via dangerousmeta)
[ 03/07/05 ]

@ FDR: Presidential Statement Signing The Social Security Act. August 14,1935.

This social security measure gives at least some protection to thirty millions of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old-age pensions and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health.
We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.
This law, too, represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete. It is a structure intended to lessen the force of possible future depressions. It will act as a protection to future Administrations against the necessity of going deeply into debt to furnish relief to the needy. The law will flatten out the peaks and valleys of deflation and of inflation. It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.

[ 03/07/05 ]

@ The cognitive theory behind red and blue.

In the case of this past election, while we witnessed an electorate that seemed irreconcilably divided, using f.M.R.I., we could see that the Republicans and Democrats we tested liked both candidates. The initial reflex toward allegiance is easy to explain: people rise through the ranks to run for higher office because they are able to evoke in others a powerful impulse to join their cause. Voters sense this attraction, and to keep from succumbing, they dredge up emotion-laden negative images as a counterweight.
This suggests that the passions swirling through elections are not driven by a deep commitment to issues. We are not fighting over the future of the country; we are fighting for our team, like Red Sox and Yankee fans arguing over which club has the better catcher. Both in an election and in baseball, all that really matters is who wears the team uniform.

I can say with absolute certainty that I never struggled against my secret attraction for Mr. Bush. But I was surprised to discover that, once the election was over, I immediately liked him better (on a personal level) than I had in the 5 years before. That might be because he was finally elected to the office he holds. But it felt more like a response to him: he seemed instantly more relaxed and sure of himself once his position was legitimized.
[ 03/07/05 ]

@ Nike has just launched a sustainable new product line called Nike Considered, which sets a new standard for athletic shoes. Believe it or not, it's a risky move, since consumers sometimes respond to environmentally or socially sustainable products by focusing on the ways in which the company has yet to improve.
[ 03/08/05 ]

@ Neat! Village Harvest is a nonprofit suburban harvesting cooperative in Santa Clara Valley, California, which organizes backyard fruit harvesting, donating the unwanted fruit to the needy.

A backyard fruit tree usually produces far more fruit than a household can use themselves, and there is more than enough going to waste from our own backyards and farms to provide for our local community's hungry. Village Harvest addresses this food distribution problem by organizing volunteer teams to harvest backyard fruit and donate it to charitable food agencies and organizations, by educating homeowners on fruit tree care and harvesting, and by providing education on food preservation such as making jams and preserves from home-grown fruit.

I'll bet your community could benefit from a similar program. (via worldchanging)
[ 03/08/05 ]

@ NYTimes Obituary: Hans Bethe.

Hans A. Bethe, who discovered the violent reactions behind sunlight, helped devise the atom bomb and eventually cried out against the military excesses of the cold war, died late Sunday. He was 98, among the last of the giants who inaugurated the nuclear age. [...]
Since the war years at Los Alamos, N.M., Dr. Bethe had lived in Ithaca, N.Y., an unpretentious man of uncommon gifts. His students called him Hans and admired his muddy shoes as much as the way he explained how certain kinds of stars shine. For number crunching, in lieu of calculators, he relied on a slide rule, its case battered. "For the things I do," he remarked a few years ago, "it's accurate enough." [...]
Dr. Bethe's long life embodied a deep faith not in the ultimate authority of science but of people and the human spirit - a surprising stance for a man often viewed as one of the field's high priests. He understood its limits. His personal philosophy seemed deceptively simple: Science and technology, while good friends of great importance, cannot save humanity. Instead, he taught that only humane reasoning and the struggle to foster just human relationships would keep civilization from using the accomplishments of science to destroy itself.

[ 03/08/05 ]

@ Schneier: ChoicePoint says "Please Regulate Me".

ChoicePoint actually has no idea if only 145,000 customers were affected by its recent security debacle. But it's not doing any work to determine if more than 145,000 customers were affected -- or if any customers before July 1, 2003 were affected -- because there's no law compelling it to do so.

[ 03/09/05 ]

@ Security News: Experts suggest foiling burglars by providing a midnight snack.

Police say thieves often cannot resist tucking into a snack after breaking into a home, and traces of saliva on the food remains can yield a telltale signature of the criminal's DNA.
A handful of hungry crooks have been caught and jailed this way over the past decade, a phenomenon that has prompted curious scientists to wonder which foods may yield the best saliva sample.

Now, see, I thought they were going to suggest poisoning the food, or lacing it with an agent that would make the burgular sick enough to require medical attention. But I guess that wouldn't be very safe to have around, would it?
[ 03/09/05 ]

@ Here's a great new weblog that may be right up your alley: Four Seasons: Local food & farms, sustainable agriculture & the environment, nutrition & health.
[ 03/09/05 ]

@ Fespaco is Africa's premier film festival: Africa Makes Fine Films. Of Course, Projector May Fail.

"As it says in the Bible, man cannot live on bread alone," said Baba Hama, the festival's secretary general. "Cinema is at the heart of African culture, and one cannot choose between food and culture - you need both to live."

(via myapplemenu reader)
[ 03/10/05 ]

@ Charles Keeler was "known to the bohemians of Berkeley as the author of The Simple Home, a short book promoting rustic homes and a healthy lifestyle. He was dramatic, romantic; it was not unusual for neighbors to spot him cavorting on his lawn wearing Greek robes and a wreath of flowers in his hair. It was his common practice to jog through the neighborhood, then rub himself down with rock salt and corn meal, then rinse himself in an ice cold shower." The full text of his book The Simple Home is available online.

The ideal home is one in which the family may be most completely sheltered to develop in love, graciousness and individuality, and which is at the same time most accessible to friends, toward whom hospitality is as unconscious and spontaneous as it is abundant. Emerson says that the ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it. [...]
A high ceiling, with its wide expanse of unused wall space, commonly gives a room a dreary effect which it is almost impossible to remove, although an extremely high ceiling, relieved by exposed rafters, is sometimes very charming, effectively revealing the roof as in a barn or chapel. In other respects the plan depends largely on the life of the family, in which sanitation, comfort, convenience and adaptability all must be well considered. No home is truly beautiful which is not fitted to the needs of those who dwell within its walls. A stairway upon which a tall man is in danger of bumping his head is an example of bad art. So, too, is a stairway with risers so high or a flight so long that the mother of the family will be over-fatigued in going up and down.

(via hewn and hammered)
[ 03/10/05 ]

@ Understanding Ozone Loss. Real Climate provides a clear, cogent explanation of how ozone loss occurs.
[ 03/10/05 ]

@ You may remember that I pointed to an article that claimed 50% of bankruptcies are caused by medical bills. Rafe has found a well-argued post that questions the methodology of that study.
[ 03/11/05 ]

@ Tech-speak confounds.
[ 03/11/05 ]

@ Huh. Burpee (the seed company) is now offering an RSS feed.
[ 03/11/05 ]

@ Timely reminder: Cornell University's Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners and Dave's Garden's Plantfiles allow you to research and rate home gardening varieties with other gardeners around the country.
[ 03/11/05 ]

@ Canning Tomatoes with Eleanora: pack raw tomatoes into jars and process for one hour. Recommended here.
[ 03/11/05 ]

@ Jesse makes the Wall Street Journal in this article about Ajax!
[ 03/14/05 ]

@ A New Age of Prepackaged TV News.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 different federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production. [...]
The practice, which also occurred in the Clinton administration, is continuing despite President Bush's recent call for a clearer demarcation between journalism and government publicity efforts. "There needs to be a nice independent relationship between the White House and the press," Mr. Bush told reporters in January, explaining why his administration would no longer pay pundits to support his policies.
In interviews, though, press officers for several federal agencies said the president's prohibition did not apply to government-made TV news segments, also known as video news releases. [...]
Ms. Ryan said she was surprised by the number of stations willing to run her government segments without any editing or acknowledgement of origin. As proud as she says she is of her work, she did not hesitate, even for a second, when asked if she would have broadcast one of her government reports if she were a local news director.
"Absolutely not."

Note that there are two culpable parties here: disingenuous government agencies and lazy "news" organizations. And journalists wonder why they are losing credibility?
[ 03/14/05 ]

@ Fliers Find That Mileage Points Go Only So Far.

The big airlines are in a bind. In the past, they simply piled on the miles to calm passengers down. But today, passengers in the United States are sitting on more than nine trillion frequent-flier miles, 50 percent more than just 5 years ago, according to That is enough for 36 million free tickets, at the basic rate of 25,000 miles - or enough to give almost everyone who flew out of Kennedy International Airport last year a free ticket.
To be sure, big airlines could revitalize the programs by making more seats available. But with planes chock-full of paying passengers, they would prefer not to give any more tickets away. And with $8.3 billion in collective losses last year, constant fare wars and rising jet fuel prices, they can't afford to.

[ 03/14/05 ]

@ Lessons from the Drop. How buying an expired domain really works. (via waxy)
[ 03/14/05 ]

@ In his new book, Dr. Peter C. Whybrow argues that globalization has driven us insane. Humans are hardwired for consumption, but abstracting people from the marketplace has us trading social relationships for consumption.

We seek more than we need because consumption activates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which rewards us with pleasure, traveling along the same brain pathways as do drugs like caffeine and cocaine. Historically, he says, built-in social brakes reined in our acquisitive instincts. In the capitalist utopia envisioned by Adam Smith in the 18th century, self-interest was tempered by the competing demands of the marketplace and community. But with globalization, the idea of doing business with neighbors one must face the next day is a quaint memory, and all bets are off. [...]
"Neurobiology teaches us that we're reward-driven creatures on the one side, which is great," he said. "It's a fun part of life. But we also love each other and we want to be tied together in a social context. So if you know that, why aren't we thinking about a civil society that looks at both sides of the balance rather than just fostering individualism? Because fostering individualism will be great for us and it will last a little bit longer, but I believe it's a powerful negative influence upon this country and it's not what was originally intended. Should we be thinking about whether this is the society we had in mind when we started this experiment 200 years ago or are we perhaps moving too fast for our own good?"

His book is American Mania: When More Is Not Enough. (via dangerousmeta)
[ 03/15/05 ]

@ Economics Roundtable is a daily compilation of weblog post relating to economics. (via US Food Policy)
[ 03/15/05 ]

@ No Need to Stew: A Few Tips to Cope With Life's Annoyances.

Life can involve big hardships, like being fired or smashing up your car. There is only so much you can do about them. But far more prevalent - and perhaps in the long run just as insidious - are life's many little annoyances. These, you can do something about.
To examine the little weapons people use for everyday survival is to be given a free guidebook on getting by, created by the millions who feel that they must. It is a case study in human inventiveness, with occasional juvenile and petty passages, and the originators of these tips are happy to share them.
"They're an integral part of how people cope," said Prof. James C. Scott, who teaches anthropology and political science at Yale University, and the author of Weapons of the Weak, about the feigned ignorance, foot-dragging and other techniques Malaysian peasants used to avoid cooperating with the arrival of new technology in the 1970's. "All societies have them, but they're successful only to the extent that they avoid open confrontation."

[ 03/16/05 ]

@ A Century of Candy Bars: An Analysis of Wrapper Design.

The purpose of this analysis was to gain a broad understanding of the design process of packaging in the confections (specifically candy bar) category. The aim was to, first, take an historical look at the development of the product category. Then, through the study of graphic design trends related to the product, understand what sociocultural, technical, and manufacturing events triggered such trends.
The findings present a clear picture of an industry that relies heavily upon packaging as the main sales tool for reaching consumers. Because of the impulse-purchase, which the industry accounts for almost all of its sales, the package must communicate on its own merits – often without supporting media. Therefore, the design of such wrappers can be as important, if not more so, than the actual product.

(via boingboing)
[ 03/16/05 ]

@ Jesse has added the rest of our pictures to his Japan set. The new ones are interspersed, so as to place them in chronological order, so you'll have to just page through.
[ 03/16/05 ]

@ You may recall that I've recommended Computer Associates' EZ Antivirus software in the past. As of today, I will no longer do that. Oh, the software works, but every single day for the past week, upon being turned on, my computer has opened my browser for me, if I haven't done it already, and taken me to a page asking me to register my software. This, a product I have purchased every year for at least the last three years. I don't see any way to make it stop. [more...]

My copy is paid for, and this organization has all the information they need to remind me to renew my subscription when the time comes. I might forgive one such attempt. But commandeering my computer for an entire week in order to hector me into giving them more personal information is unconscionable.
[ 03/17/05 ]

@ Fascinating. Humans are more generous when they are watched, than when they are not watched, even by a photograph of a robot.

Burnham believes that even though the parts of our brain that carry out decision-making know that the robot image is just that, Kismet's eyes trigger something more deep-seated. We can manipulate altruistic behaviour with a pair of fake eyeballs because ancient parts of our brain fail to recognise them as fake, he says.
He believes that strong reciprocity is an illusion because even though volunteers are told they will never meet the other players again, our brains are not geared up for that degree of anonymity because humans evolved in small groups. Altruism expert Daniel Fessler at the University of California, Los Angeles, agrees. "Our mental architecture is just not used to the modern environment."

(via boingboing)
[ 03/17/05 ]

@ Nanobacteria.

At the heart of the debate is the question of whether nanobacteria could actually be a new form of life. To this day, critics argue that a particle just 20 to 200 nanometers in diameter can't possibly harbor the components necessary to sustain life. The particles are also incredibly resistant to heat and other methods that would normally kill bacteria, which makes some scientists wonder if they might be an unusual form of crystal rather than organisms. [...]
[There has been] a steadily increasing number of studies linking nanobacteria to serious health problems, including kidney stones, aneurysms and ovarian cancer. The studies show that nanobacteria can infect humans, a find that has helped push nanobacteria back into the limelight. Now the pressure is on to resolve the controversy and expose how nanobacteria works -- no matter what it is.
"It's all pretty exciting stuff," said David McKay, chief scientist for astrobiology at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "Whether these are bacteria or not -- it doesn't matter at this point. What matters is if we can figure out the association between nanobacteria and kidney stones and develop some kind of countermeasure."

(thanks, lizard!)
[ 03/17/05 ]

@ Did I link this before? The Periodic Table of Dessert.
[ 03/17/05 ]

@ Dear Readers: I have a friend who is going to be visiting San Jose, and he wonders what is fun and interesting in the area. He like to golf (any good courses?) and he likes sports, and he's a bit of a geek. Can you give me some pointers? Send them to rebecca [at] rebeccablood [dot] net
[ 03/17/05 ]

@ Here's an unusual and potentially useful blog: Benefitsblog is a a tax, benefits and erisa law commentary and news filter.
[ 03/17/05 ]

@ Oh, ye weblog vendors and software creators--Blogtalk Downunder is looking for sponsors. This is a great opportunity to get your name and product in front of a new audience composed of practitioners, academics, and motivated businesspeople.
[ 03/17/05 ]

@ According to the US Food Policy Blog, a recent GAO report [pdf] will cure you of any illusion that American Consumers are safe from Mad Cow Disease.
[ 03/18/05 ]

@ Steven Levy wonders why the blogosphere is dominated by men. I confess that I'm frustrated that anyone has taken Levy's column seriously. Men do not dominate the blogosphere. Levy might legitimately have asked "Why does the media point almost exclusively to weblogs created by men", or "Why do the male bloggers most often referenced by media, primarily reference weblogs maintained by other men?" But neither of those situations has anything to do with the composition of the blogosphere. There are whole clusters composed of women linking mainly to other women, and lots of mixed blogrolls, besides. Truth is, whichever weblog you first find will lead you to other, similar, weblogs (all of which link to others like them) and from that you will come to a completely erroneous conclusion about the composition of the weblog universe.

And doesn't anyone do any research? In 2003, Perseus Development Corporation found that 56% of bloggers were female and 44% male. A Jupiter research article at about the same time concluded that weblogs were created in almost equal numbers by men and women. NITLE blog census concurred. A Pew Internet and American Life survey [pdf] shows that in November 2004, 57% of blogs were maintained by men. Even if that's an accurate figure, I still don't count that as "domination".

This part is important, though: the NITLE survey went on to observe that the vast majority of weblogs created by women were "personal diaries" and only 4% of political bloggers were women. I've always been interested in the methodology used to determine that split, and that subject matter. Here's why: In 1999 Cameron Barrett maintained one of the most comprehensive lists of bloggers anywhere. One day, in an attempt to make it more manageable, he divided it into categories. One category was called "Personal" and that's where he placed my weblog.

Now, that was a very interesting thing, because, as you know, my site is almost entirely link-driven. I link to articles and websites that I find interesting, and I comment on them. It's only in the last few years that I've posted any personal information at all, and that is still at a minimum. In 1999 I was very careful of my personal privacy. I revealed that I lived in Seattle, but that was about it--I kept personal information strictly off my site.

And yet, there I was, with a weblog that was never about my life, in the personal category.

The only thing I can figure--and I've thought about this a lot--is that my writing voice led him to that categorization. Style trumped subject matter. As a result, I've always wondered just how NITLE determined what is a personal site, and what is political.

In a recent column, Maureen Dowd discusses sexism in the media, and she makes some pertinent points. In an even better article, linguistics professor Deborah Tannen asserts that women approach the world differently from men and questions the assumption that the agonistic approach is always best. But I still wonder whether the way some women write--whatever their approach--might not create an unconscious perception that they are personal, not political, writers.

There is a lot of justified frustration with posting your heart out day after day and not being heard, and a lot of (largely unjustified) feeling that one is deliberately being kept out of the conversation by people who have the power to get your views out to the world. I feel this frustration--often--myself, and over the years I've heard it at least as much from men as from women. I was one of the first bloggers to post regularly on political issues, but in recent years I have given up trying to take part in the larger political cross-blog discussions--I'm just not included. I'm never sure if a blogger doesn't link to me because of my politics (too extreme? too moderate?), my voice, my eclecticism, my sex, or because I just don't drive enough traffic. Any one of those things could create a conscious or unconscious bias.

So while it's interesting to explore the reasons that some weblogs quickly rise to the top of the list, and others languish in relative obscurity, it's just not as easy as male/female, black/white, journalist/non-journalist. For example--even though I can think of only three women who began blogging before me--I have never been invited to participate in either one of the most prominent collaborative women's blogs, Blog Sisters and [note] Misbehaving. That's certainly not sexism, though it is a form of exclusion.

There is a legitimate argument for attention deficit. I suppose that the alpha political bloggers tend to focus their reading time on other bloggers who write exclusively about politics, either ignoring or unconsciously dismissing the bloggers--male and female--who write about politics among a variety of subjects. When, after all, is the last time you saw Political Animal point to Boing Boing--or vice versa?

One factor that is never considered in these discussions is the nature of the technology itself. The Web has created a surfeit of information. Yet, within this seemingly endless supply of information, anything unlinked is invisible. Those two factors alone inescapably create echo chambers. The equation might look something like this: Unlimited information + limited time + (the illusion of) a complete view = A (Self-selecting) Closed System. This is an interesting subject, but, because we are talking about human behavior within a complex ecosystem, it just can't be reduced to two or three simple factors.

[Note:] Jeneane emails to say that she remembers inviting me to participate in BlogSisters when it first started, and that I declined because I was uncomfortable with the idea of a gender-segregated blog. I don't remember any of this, but that sounds like what my reaction would have been, so I believe her and stand corrected.
[ 03/18/05 ]

@ How computers cause bad writing. [more...]

Computers seem to tempt people to substitute writing for thinking. When they write with a computer, instead of rethinking their drafts for purpose, audience, content, strategy, and effectiveness, most untrained writers just keep editing the words they first wrote down. I have seen reports go through as many as six versions without one important improvement in the thought. [...] Drawn in by the word processor's ability to facilitate small changes, such writers neglect the larger steps in writing. They compose when they need to be planning, edit when they need to be revising.
Writers easily become attached to what they have written, even when it serves the purpose badly. The computer frees many writers from this attachment by making the text fluid and continuously editable; for some writers, though, computers make this attachment harder to break. Typewriters challenge this attachment; in writing with a typewriter, writers typically retype each passage several times, which forces them to reread word for word and presents an excellent occasion to hear the passage and make changes. By contrast, a word processor enables writers to reuse passages from the developing piece so easily that reuse becomes a universal, invisible step in writing.

As you know, I'm fascinated with unintended consequences, and the ways in which technology invisibly changes the way in which people behave. So I'm reserving judgement on this while I think it through for myself. The writer is approaching the subject from a pre-computer perspective, and that's valuable. On the other hand, it's quite easy to make erroneous assumptions when describing a culture of which you are only an observer. Having said that, this 1988 piece is still current, and the recommendations given at the end of the piece are excellent.

My writing career is a post-computer development. I consider myself an untrained writer, albeit a serious one with an exceptional editor. For me, as for many people, writing is a thinking practice--a way to find out what I think. I write and re-write everything, including these weblog posts. All of it is done on the computer, partly because it's so easy to do. It has always seemed to me that the computer invites revision. The question this article raises, of course, is whether my practice of revision is different than the one engendered by pens and typewriters, and--if it is--whether it is less effective, or merely not the same.

FWIW, I first clicked through to this article because I thought it was going to tell me why my handwriting has become illegible since I started typing for hours a day. (via
[ 03/18/05 ]

@ On a tangential note, do you know what word I still hate? Wordsmith. What a pretentious piece of self-aggrandization that is.
[ 03/18/05 ]

@ Godwin's Law, Updated.

When it comes to copyright policy, a related law seems to hold:
As a copyright policy discussion grows longer, the probability of pornography being invoked approaches one.
What's really interesting is the corollary:
When the topic of a copyright policy discussion switches to pornography, each side suddenly adopts the other side's arguments.

[ 03/18/05 ]

@ I'd like to add two new sections to my weblog portal, and you can help. First, I'm looking for links to weblogs that are covering political policy (like Food Policy Blog and Farm Policy Blog)--and yes, they can be about another country's political policy, as long as they are written in English. Second, I'm looking for weblogs that are devoted to doing local restaurant reviews. While I'm at it, I'd be interested in links to any portals of non-English-speaking weblogs. Do you maintain one, or know of one? Please let me know.
[ 03/20/05 ]

@ Happy Birthday, Relton.
[ 03/21/05 ]

@ Washington's Fiscal Meltdown.

In 2005 alone, almost half of the tax savings from dividend and capital gains rate cuts will go to investors who make more than $1 million a year, the top 0.2 percent of the income ladder. Nearly three-quarters of the tax benefits will go to those making more than $200,000, about the top 3 percent. The cost to everyone else in the form of forgone revenue will be $23 billion.
Also remarkable for their largess are two high-end tax breaks that would increase the amount well-heeled taxpayers would be allowed to write off for dependents and other expenses. They were enacted in 2001, but have been delayed. Now the budget proposals let them take effect. Once again, almost all of the tax savings would go to that lucky 3 percent of filers with incomes above $200,000.

[ 03/21/05 ]

@ Take Me Home.

[Photographer Michael] LeBrecht leaned in, the lens a foot or so from Jaillah's face. "Excellent," Mr. LeBrecht said softly, "excellent."
So much was at stake in the search for Jaillah's truest smile. He and 48 other foster children gathered here on Saturday at the William Clark Mansion, also known as the North Ward Center, to have their portraits taken by professional photographers for the state's Heart Gallery, a planned exhibit of more than 300 children available for adoption, some of whom have had about as many foster homes as birthdays.

You can view these portraits online. Remember, these children are legally free to be adopted by people in any state.
[ 03/21/05 ]

@ Tall Tales and the Unlarded Truth About Hogzilla.

In Alapaha, several townspeople said it did not matter if Hogzilla turned out to be a hoax. "The Legend of Hogzilla" had proved more popular, they said, than previous parade themes like "Saluting Our Firemen" and "Good Old Days on the Farm."
Hogzilla is not the first Alapaha legend, and he probably will not be the last. In the 1970's, the town had a peg-legged bigfoot that left mysterious tracks at night. He has been in the parade too.
"First there was the bigfoot, then there was the hog," said a man at City Hall who refused to give his name and said he was sick to death of hearing about Hogzilla. "And you heard a big old snake crawled across Highway 82 the other day."

[ 03/21/05 ]

@ I haven't tried it, but you might want to: Garden Boss garden planner for Windows. There is a 30 day free trial.
[ 03/21/05 ]

@ The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems is a sustainable agriculture research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and they have a weblog.
[ 03/21/05 ]

@ Considering the children of the children of divorce. [more...]

Children like Blake are the newest characters in a national family drama that began with the steep climb in divorce in the 1970's. By 1980, half of all new marriages were projected to end in divorce, a rate that has remained constant, even as concern over its negative effect on children has mounted.
Now, the children of that generation are having children of their own. Many of their parents have remarried. And for the first time, the impact of higher divorce rates is playing out across three generations.
"The upside of all of this is that children can have more grandparents who love them," said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist specializing in divorce at Johns Hopkins University and himself one of eight grandparents. "What message it will give them about marriage, I'm not quite sure."

In a close family that retains its ties, one message will be that marriages may fail, but families are forever. And if their parents stay together, I expect that they'll understand that while marriages sometimes fail, sometimes they last.
[ 03/22/05 ]

@ Wow. In Nagoya, Japan, an installation of colorful panels above the entrance of a shopping mall is made of 775 vertical windmills, installed on four tiers along a 107-meter railing, and is expected to produce 7,551 kilowatt-hours annually. (via worldchanging)
[ 03/22/05 ]

@ Marvin T. Miller dreams of building a sign language town.

While deaf enclaves, like the one that existed in Martha's Vineyard decades ago, have cropped up throughout the nation, this would be the first town expressly created for people who sign, its developers say. Even the location, in sparsely populated South Dakota, was selected with the intent of rapidly building political strength for the nation's millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing people, a group that has won few elected offices around the country. [...]
The difference in Laurent, say some among the 92 families who have reserved spaces in the town from as far as London and Australia, is that every element of it would be designed with them in mind. The homes and businesses, they said, would incorporate glass and open space for easy visibility across wide distances. Fire and police services would be designed with more lights and fewer sirens. High-speed Internet connections would be available all over town, since the Internet and Video Relay Service have become vital modes of communication for deaf people. And any shops, businesses or restaurants would be required to be sign-language friendly.

[ 03/22/05 ]

@ Good to know: A product called Zanfel relieves the itch of poison oak and poison ivy by chemically binding the urishol which causes the itching.
[ 03/22/05 ]

@ Copyscape is will search the Web for instances of your plagiarized work. (via fiftyfoureleven)
[ 03/22/05 ]

@ Snares of Venus is an online custom bra manufacturer that can create a bra for you from size AAA to infinity!
[ 03/22/05 ]

@ Why Logic Often Takes A Backseat. Neuroscience applied economic decision-making.

Laibson and others scanned people inside MRI machines and discovered two parts of the brain operating in radically different ways. For decisions about the far-off future, the prefrontal cortex takes a long-term perspective. But for decisions such as whether to buy another chocolate bar right now, the limbic system takes over and demands immediate gratification. Last year the journal Science published the research by Laibson, Princeton University neuroscientists Samuel M. McClure and Jonathan D. Cohen, and Carnegie-Mellon University economist George Loewenstein. [...]
A key tenet of standard economics is that making people happy is a simple matter of giving them more of what they like. But neuroscience shows that's not true. The brain's striatum quickly gets used to new stimuli and expects them to continue. People are on a treadmill in which only unexpected pleasures can make them happier. That explains why happiness of people in rich countries hasn't increased despite higher living standards.

(via dangerousmeta)
[ 03/23/05 ]

@ Hogzilla update: The National Geographic documentary confirms Hogzilla's existence but finds that he was only 8 feet long, and weighed only about 800 pounds.
[ 03/23/05 ]

@ Because it's hard to remember how much attitudes really have changed. (thanks, lizard!)
[ 03/23/05 ]

@ Solar PC is a a $100 computer that runs on solar power.

SolarPC has founded the Global Education Link (GEL), an initiative to give away one million SolarLites to the world's poorest countries. Moreover, the company has made the license to manufacture SolarLites free to educational and charitable groups participating in the GEL project.

(thanks, Chris!)
[ 03/24/05 ]

@ She's here--the geek Martha Stewart: Geek Etiquette. It's just what it says: sig lines, bandwidth usage for visitors, business casual, and more.
[ 03/24/05 ]

@ In 1956, M. King Hubbert predicted that the US would reach peak oil production in the 1970s--and he was correct. Now, Princeton professor emeritus Kenneth S. Deffeyes--who worked with Hubbert--predicts that the world will reach peak oil production late this year or in 2006. (Remember that such a drop in oil production would coincide with increased demand in India and China.) The upshot? It's time to invest in alternatives. (via dangerousmeta) [more...]

In February, Dr. Robert L. Hirsch completed a report for the US Department of Energy on mitigating the impact of worldwide diminished oil production.
[ 03/25/05 ]

@ Because of the number of links in that last entry, I'm experimenting with using gray to denote links that provide supplemental information. This in addition to blue for primary links and gold/red for internal links.
[ 03/25/05 ]

@ WorldChanging's Jeremy Faludi writes about the Honeybee Network.

It is a network of people designed to find hackers and inventors from the countryside, the sort of people who don't have two pennies to rub together but invent a coconut-tree-climbing machine so they can work better or...a shock absorbing bicycle which has a gear which translates the impact of hitting a bump into turning the wheels, speeding you up instead of just inconveniencing you.

[ 03/25/05 ]

@ Guerrilla architecture updates Mexico City.

At least 100 upstart firms are following this model of "market urbanism" in Mexico City, according to Javier Sánchez, an architect-developer included in the show. When Sánchez graduated from architecture school in 1996, Mexico was in economic crisis and building commissions were scarce.
His firm, Higuera + Sánchez, undertook the initiative to buy a dilapidated warehouse in the Condesa, a neighborhood in transition to a trendy, alternative-lifestyle area. He gutted the interior and created studio lofts - a type of housing that didn't exist in the city - for young professionals, singles, and couples without children. Mr. Sánchez negotiated with banks to convince lenders that these units should be eligible for mortgages. [...]
"By tiny steps, these buildings propose new forms of making urban life better," says Mr. Castillo. "When the state is not able to provide infrastructure and required services, architects must develop strategies to meet the needs of citizens."

[ 03/25/05 ]

@ Hey, Crafters--The Rainforest Site is offering fair trade recycled silk/wool yarn from Tibet and Nepal. Now, if that doesn't hit all your buttons, I don't know what will. [slithy popup!]
[ 03/25/05 ]

@ A Little Weekend Reading: Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home, Emily Post, 1922.

Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one's innate character and attitude toward life. A gentleman, for instance, will never be ostentatious or overbearing any more than he will ever be servile, because these attributes never animate the impulses of a well-bred person. A man whose manners suggest the grotesque is invariably a person of imitation rather than of real position.
Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners. Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears to be. A knowledge of etiquette is of course essential to one's decent behavior, just as clothing is essential to one's decent appearance; and precisely as one wears the latter without being self-conscious of having on shoes and perhaps gloves, one who has good manners is equally unself-conscious in the observance of etiquette, the precepts of which must be so thoroughly absorbed as to make their observance a matter of instinct rather than of conscious obedience.

[ 03/25/05 ]

@ Secrets of the Shy. (via myapplemenureader)

Few things say "forget I'm here" quite so eloquently as the pose of the shy--the averted gaze, the hunched shoulders, the body pivoted away from the crowd. Shyness is a state that can be painful to watch, worse to experience and, in survival terms at least, awfully hard to explain. In a species as hungry for social interaction as ours, a trait that causes some individuals to shrink from the group ought to have been snuffed out pretty early on. Yet shyness is commonplace. "I think of shyness as one end of the normal range of human temperament," says professor of pediatrics William Gardner of Ohio State University. [...]
What determines who's going to be shy and who's not? What can be done to treat the problem? Just as important, is it a problem at all? Are there canny advantages to being socially averse that the extroverts among us never see? With the help of behavioral studies, brain scans and even genetic tests, researchers are at last answering some of those questions, coming to understand what a complex, and in some ways favorable, state shyness can be.

[ 03/28/05 ]

@ Bruce Schneier points to an AP article that "shows that the TSA lied to the public about its use of personal data again and again and again." Be sure to read Schneier's comments on this--he's one of the most informed and credible people writing about security issues today.
[ 03/28/05 ]

@ Shipping Pallets and Other Clean Technologies.

American businesses send hundreds of millions of wooden pallets into landfills every year, spending a billion or so dollars in the process. About 40% of all hardwood harvested in the U.S. is for pallets, about two-thirds of which are used only once before being tossed out. A fourth of all wood in landfills is from used pallets.
EcoDuro makes a pallet out of corrugated cardboard and recycled paper. It's 100% recyclable, lighter to ship, doesn't require fumigation (as wood does, to eliminate wood-boring insects), and can be recycled along with other paper and cardboard. And the company's manufacturing process also allows pallets to become marketing and merchandising tools -- which makes great sense, given the number of shoppers who now patronize "warehouse" stores.

[ 03/28/05 ]

@ Update to yesterday's item about recycled paper pallets: Garrett notes that folks around his town reuse abandoned pallets for use in building adobe homes without the bricks.
[ 03/29/05 ]

@ CJR Daily has an excellent--and very interesting--analysis comparing and contrasting media coverage of two tragedies: the Columbine shootings (which they generally botched) and the recent school shooting at Red Lake, Minnesota. The quoted "Could you please be more considerate?" nearly made me cry.
[ 03/29/05 ]

@ When Kurt Eichenwald set out to write an account of the events leading up to the Enron scandal, he started by conducting meticulous interviews with key players--and then he wrote it all in the style of a Grisham novel. His book is called Conspiracy of Fools.

I kept noticing that the things I was covering were very similar to the things he was writing in his books. I eventually saw an interview Grisham did with a newspaper and he said that he gets all of his ideas from the newspapers. And I figured that this guy is read by everybody, and how many people read me? ...[O]ur job is to deliver information to people -- there is nothing about our job that says that that information delivery has to be a painful or unpleasant experience. So in looking at it, I thought, John Grisham has cracked the code, he's just doing it with fiction.

[ 03/29/05 ]

@ Michael Pollan on the media, science journalism, and the key to the American food chain: corn.

Walter Karp always kept his eyes on the political actor's deeds, not on his words. He understood that journalism, in this country, is largely licensed by politicians, by the leadership of the two political parties. [...]
[M]ainstream journalists simply cannot talk about things that the two parties agree on; this is the black hole of American politics. Genetically modified crops were in the black hole until the Europeans reacted so strongly against them; then we began to have a little bit of politics around the issue, but still not very much. The things journalists should pay attention to are the issues the political leadership agrees on, rather than to their supposed antagonisms.

(via worldchanging)
[ 03/29/05 ]

@ Remember the Cornell scientists who recently discovered a way to make plastic from orange peels? Florida scientists are experimenting with ways to turn orange peels into methanol. Reminds you a bit of George Washington Carver, doesn't it? An advocate of rotating cotton, which depletes the soil, with peanut crops to restore its fertility, Carver devised 300 uses for peanuts in order to make it these new crops profitable. (via the alternative energy blog).
[ 03/29/05 ]

@ Saint Businessman.

We forget that the apostles in the New Testament were fishermen first, who learned about hard work and diligence in a market setting. We forget, too, that for many centuries, and even today, monks have had to market goods like wool and honey to the outside world to support their lives of prayer, reflection and contemplation.
Thus I see nothing strange in hoping for the eventual canonization of a New York hairdresser, a man named Pierre Toussaint. He overcame incredible odds to become one of America's first rich, black professionals. In his life we see capitalistic achievement and personal piety coexisting. Pope John Paul II has already declared Toussaint "venerable," the first step in the process of recognizing a saint.

(via GlobaLocal)
[ 03/30/05 ]

@ Performance Under Pressure: an interview with award-winning sports columnist Sally Jenkins.

It's interesting because we often respect athletes for the wrong things: they're overpraised, and we ascribe all kinds of virtues to them they don't actually possess. But the longer I watch them and write about them, the more I do respect their central ethic and their composure. The laziest pro athlete I know works much harder than the average person, day in and day out, to get better. And the weakest, most losering choker in the pros is more brave when it comes to confronting his unevenness under pressure.
As people, they're as flawed as you or me, of course. But as performers, they know something we don't. A great example is Andre Agassi. Totally remade himself. Throughout his teens and early twenties, he was a lazy choking hedonist who lost all but one final he played in. But when he hit the age of 25, he went to work and became an all-time great, when nobody thought he could turn it around. A total professional transformation. And one of the reasons for that, he told me, was that his first wife Brooke Shields was on Broadway at the time and he watched how disciplined she was about her work, how she treated acting like ditch digging. She wasn't the greatest actress, but she made a success out of herself with sheer work. "It taught me a lot about performance," he said, "I watched how disciplined she was at giving eight performances a week."

[ 03/30/05 ]

@ To follow up a bit tangentially on the use and reuse of pallets, Hewn and Hammered has a list of sources for reclaimed wood flooring. Garret tells me those pallets, planed down, can be used for that, too.
[ 03/30/05 ]

@ Scandinavia's Sustainable Tourist Mecca.

Street corners in Copenhagen are magnets for parked bicycles, and some of them are municipally owned under the innovative City Bike Scheme. There are some 2,500 bicycles stashed on 125 racks around the city, complete with built-in maps. Insert a 20-kroner ($3.40) coin and the bike is released. When you return the bike, you get the full deposit back.
Denmark is so eco-conscious that the arriving traveler doesn't have to seek out green oases: examples of sustainable development are all around. Wind energy supplies 20 percent of the country's energy needs now, and it could be 35 percent by 2015. Slowly turning wind turbines are everywhere you go in Denmark, including the capital city. A row of 20 turbines sits outside Copenhagen harbor.

Ambitious Denmark!
[ 03/31/05 ]

@ Making Green Roofs Simple.

A green roof, while beautiful, provides a building owner with a number of important benefits that can decrease the operating costs and environmental burden created by a building. The cooling and shading properties of a green roof can significantly limit the heat flow into a building, thus lowering the load placed on air conditioning equipment and reducing energy consumption. Similarly, due to cooling and shading, green roofs lower rooftop temperatures from 130 degrees Fahrenheit or greater to approximately 75 F during a summer day. Less heat is radiated to the surrounding environment, helping to reduce the urban heat island effect. Additionally, scientific studies have empirically shown that green roofs are highly effective at managing stormwater discharge from a roof, thereby protecting sensitive watersheds and potentially reducing costs of drainage basins and other stormwater management structures.
On a qualitative level, green roofs can reduce the levels of indoor sound by as much as 40 decibels, making for a healthier work or living environment. Green roofs installed on schools or universities also have the ability to offer students a unique, living laboratory in which various research projects and education can be conducted. Another noteworthy benefit of green roofs is improved air quality. Smog forming chemicals such as oxides of nitrogen and sulfur, as well as carbon dioxide are taken up directly by plants, lowering their concentrations in the air.

This month's House and Garden Magazine has an article on green roofs--sadly, not online--with pictures. And doggone, Amazon is slick. Their subscription page for the magazine shows this month's cover.[ 03/31/05 ]

@ Extensive Green Roofs. This article has some photos.
[ 03/31/05 ]


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