.: January 2006 --> January 2006
» Consumer Reports: Credit cards: They really are out to get you. Links to the rest of the report are in the top right-hand corner of the story. "In 2003 [penalty fees], along with fees for cash advances, exceeded the after-tax profits of the entire credit-card industry just two years earlier. Card issuers have been experiencing record profits since 2000 and saw them top $30 billion in 2004." [ 01.11.06 ]
» When students at Atlanta's Grady High School Vegetarian Club demanded better lunch choices, Grady High responded by creating a vegetarian lunch line, believed to be the first of its kind in the country. "Originally designed for the 30 students in Archibong's Vegetarian Club, meat-eaters also jumped in line and the cafeteria now serves vegetarian entrees to up to 400 of the school's 1,200 students each day." [ 01.11.06 ]
» A more compact design for the New Year and a new (and rather uncomfortable) system for updating. The tipping point? My hosting service started offering the service pre-installed. After 5 1/2 years I feel like I'm starting from scratch. We'll see whether this increases or decreases my workload — so far it has increased it significantly. We'll see whether it gives me more control or less — so far, I feel constrained by several arbitrary limitations of the tool.
I'm most interested in seeing what this does to my posting style. At the moment I'm composing in a text file as I always have, and then transferring entries one by one into the little form box. Ridiculous, no? But my process has always been to write, read, edit, and then arrange my entries against one another before posting them to the site. I'm not sure I want to give that up — and it would be impossible to do using existing tools. Where is the Ajax-powered WYSIWYG blogging editor that would enable me to really edit this page? Oh, wait. [ 01.11.06 ]
» Holophony. "It appears that Holophonic Sound waves stimulate our brains to reproduce very realistic and truly three dimensional sound within us, thereby stimulating other corresponding responses that our brains expect to accompany the sound, (like scents or other sensations). Even more interesting is the fact that researchers report that some hearing impaired people can 'hear' Holophonic Sound" [ 01.12.06 ]
» James Frey's 2005 memoir A Million Little Pieces purports to document his drug-fueled, rage-driven youth. Oprah was so impressed that she chucked her recent policy of featuring only classics and made it her Book of the Month, propelling the author into the literary stratosphere. In the US, his book sold more copies in 2005 than any other book but Harry Potter. As it turns out, Mr. Frey's memoir may be fictional. However, Oprah still backs him — and Mr. Frey appears to have a promising future as a politician. "You know, the book is 432 pages long. The total page count of disputed events is 18, which is less than 5 percent of the total book." (via rc3) [ 01.12.06 ]
» Illegitimate Dad of 'Kong'. The 1930 film "Ingagi", probably the highest grossing film of the Depression, purported to document an African expedition to visit a tribe that sacrificed their women to local gorillas. It was racist, shocking, and, as it turned out, fictional. (via mamr) [ 01.12.06 ]
» Seashore Paspalum Turf Grass for Salt Water Irrigated Golf Courses. [UCDavis: Seashore paspalum — Paspalum vaginatum] (via rw) [ 01.12.06 ]
» The Fixer. "Mr. Stone... is channeling his will-do spirit these days into a profession so new it does not yet have a name. Think of it as equal parts decorator, handyman, fixer and finder, and throw in mediator and fast friend. [...] No job is too small or too strange. At the Seeligson house, Mr. Stone inveigled a carpenter to sink a range vent in a butcherblock countertop. Then he rounded up elegant upholstery nails to replace the tacks in a family-photo gallery." (via at) [ 01.13.06 ]
» CSM: Movie Manners: An Endangered Species. "If you ask someone to keep quiet nowadays, you're likely to get back a look of genuine astonishment. People who are plugged into their own hum don't recognize your right to silence. What they recognize is their right not to be silent." [ 01.13.06 ]
» A Fallen Judge Rethinks Crime and Punishment. "As a judge, Mr. Amundson says he had not thought about sentencing beyond his court; he has come to see its consequences from fellow inmates. 'I knew the era of rehabilitation was over, but I had no idea we had reduced it to just warehousing, and I don't think most judges do,' he said." [ 01.13.06 ]
» A revitalized Prosperity Theology is taking New York City — and much of the country — by storm. "There's no question that almost every Christian leader — reformed, Pentecostal, however you want to call it — sees it as a blight on the face of Christianity. Yet it's so seductive." Timothy C. Morgan, deputy managing editor at Christianity Today. [ 01.16.06 ]
» WP: The States Step In As Medicare Falters."[I]nterviews with two dozen people — state officials, pharmacists, advocates for seniors, and Medicare clients — revealed a host of problems. Many poor seniors were never enrolled or were enrolled in plans that do not cover their medications. Others received multiple insurance cards, creating confusion at the pharmacies. Some were charged the deductible and unaffordable co-payments. And some, such as Laurine League, left empty-handed." We could use some accountability here. (via rw)
Today the Bush administration directed insurers to provide a 30-day supply of any drug that a beneficiary was previously taking. "Despite these problems, Dr. McClellan said, Medicare is now covering one million prescriptions a day. With the latest corrective actions, he said, 'all beneficiaries should be able to get their prescriptions filled.' In the past, such predictions proved to be premature. New problems appeared as old ones were solved, and some insurers were slow to carry out federal instructions." [ 01.16.06 ]
» Bruce Schneier: Anonymity vs Accountablity. "The problem isn't anonymity; it's accountability. If someone isn't accountable, then knowing his name doesn't help. If you have someone who is completely anonymous, yet just as completely accountable, then — heck, just call him Fred." [ 01.16.06 ]
» The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web: A Practical Guide to Web Typography. They have an RSS feed! (via s1a) [ 01.17.06 ]
» Isaac Berzin, a rocket scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is creating algae farms to clean power-plant exhaust and create clean-burning fuels. "The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40 percent less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and... 86 percent less nitrous oxide. [...] Berzin calculates that just one 1,000 megawatt power plant using his system could produce more than 40 million gallons of biodiesel and 50 million gallons of ethanol a year. That would require a 2,000-acre 'farm' of algae-filled tubes near the power plant. There are nearly 1,000 power plants nationwide with enough space nearby for a few hundred to a few thousand acres to grow algae and make a good profit, he says." [ 01.17.06 ]
» Oprah has chosen Elie Wiesel's Night as her next book club selection. "But it is not a novel at all. I know the difference. I make a distinction between what I lived through and what I imagined others to have lived through. [As a memoir] my experiences in the book — A to Z — must be true. All the people I describe were with me there. I object angrily if someone mentions it as a novel." Elie Wiesel. [ 01.17.06 ]
» My friend Alan Nelson has created a Frequent Flyer Wiki for travellers to share tips. "Any traveler tips are welcome, but the audience is people who spend much of their time on airplanes and in airports." [ 01.18.06 ]
» The Manhattan Users Guide has put together a Guide to Recycling and Donating purt-near everything, if you live in NYC. Put together a list like this for your own locale, and I'll link it here. [ 01.18.06 ]
» Norway is planning to create a "doomsday vault", hewn from the inside of a mountain a thousand kilometers from the North Pole, to house seeds representing all known varieties of the world's crops. [ 01.18.06 ]
» "Zookeepers at Tokyo's Mutsugoro Okoku zoo presented the hamster... to [rat snake] Aochan as a tasty morsel in October, after the snake refused to eat frozen mice. But instead of indulging, Aochan decided to make friends with the furry rodent, according to keeper Kazuya Yamamoto. The pair have shared a cage since." You have to admit, she has those cute Japanese animal eyes. (thanks, neil!) [ 01.18.06 ]
» A pair of Bristol University researchers believe they have documented the first proof of teaching in non-human animals — ants. "Teaching isn't merely mimicry. It involves the teacher modifying its behavior in the presence of a naive observer at some initial cost to itself." Nigel Franks, Professor at Bristol University. [ 01.18.06 ]
» I'm really delighted to present the newest installment of Bloggers on Blogging: David Weinberger, blogger, author, speaker, and a Berkman Center for Internet and Society Fellow. "For me, a community is a group of people who care about one another more than they have to. I do feel part of an ever-changing community of bloggers and readers.... There are people I've come to know over the years either through their blog or through their comments on my blog. Some of them mean a lot to me. And this is not a binary club that you're either in or out of. It's far smudgier than that, as it should be. There are blogs I read that I feel emotionally attached to written by bloggers I don't know personally but about whom I've come to care." [ 01.18.06 ]
» Alan Nelson talks about his approach to using Powerpoint in presentations. He includes links to other resources, notably Edward Tufte and Garr Reynolds. I would describe my approach as even leaner than Alan's. Until recently, I refused even to use slides. Now I use them strictly to illustrate concepts that would be muddy without an example. I turn them off when I'm not actively using them.
Of course I'm always looking for ways to improve my presentations. What approaches and resources can you recommend for crafting presentation slides — and for crafting effective presentations in general?
Update: Garret Vreeland points me to his presentation tips, accumulated over years of speaker support. Face it: the guy who has to watch you night after night probably has a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn't. / (2) Comments / [ 01.19.06 ]
» This week on Cool Tools, Kevin Kelly is reviewing 5 Good Books. Kelly has a gift for conveying his enthusiasm when making recommendations. Nearly every book and film he's ever recommended sound tremendously interesting to me, even when I'm not interested in the subject matter at all. But the book he recommends today, 1491 by Charles C. Mann, sounds even more interesting than the rest. So much so, that I ordered it — and Guns, Germs, and Steel — from the library today.
Charles Mann makes the best case yet, in non-technical prose, for the emerging archeological view that native Americans (north and south) had created vast cities and civilizations on a scale that dwarfed Europe at the time. These bustling cities, not just in MesoAmerica, but in the Mississippi and the Amazon, were erased into invisibility ahead of settlers (and textbooks) by disease and environmental factors.
[ 01.19.06 ]
» "A slimy jellyfish weighing as much as a sumo wrestler has Japan's fishing industry in the grip of its poisonous tentacles. Vast numbers of Echizen kurage, or Nomura's jellyfish, have appeared around Japan's coast since July, clogging and ripping fishing nets and forcing fishermen to spend hours hacking them apart before bringing home their reduced catches." (via dm) [ 01.19.06 ]
» The McCord Museum of Canadian History has designed a series of games to help you learn history. These look like fun: a Monty Python-esque series of situations designed to test your knowledge of etiquette from the Victorian Era and the Roaring 20s. [Doesn't work in Firefox] (via ml) [ 01.20.06 ]
» Luddism, Neo-Luddites, and Dystopian Views of Technology, Martin Ryder, University of Colorado. [ 01.20.06 ]
» A Little Weekend Reading: In a 1999 Wired article, Look Who's Talking, Howard Rheingold examines the Amish relationship with technology and the modern world. "The price of good farmland and the number of Amish families are both increasing so rapidly that in recent decades they have adopted nonagricultural enterprises for livelihood — woodworking, construction, light factory work. This, in turn, has forced the Amish to adopt technologies that can enhance their productivity. [...] Far from knee-jerk technophobes, these are very adaptive techno-selectives who devise remarkable technologies that fit within their self-imposed limits." [ 01.20.06 ]
» NYT: Wayward Christian Soldiers is a remarkable piece by an American evangelical who is troubled by the role his movement played in selling the invasion of Iraq to the American people. "Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. [...] Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine." (via dm) [ 01.20.06 ]
» CSM: US celebrates its most misread freedom. "American Muslims often tell me how much they appreciate the freedom to practice Islam the way they want to, which they couldn't do in their native country even though it was a Muslim nation. But then they say, 'What is this nonsense about the separation of church and state — why do we need that?' They don't understand that's why they have their freedom." Charles Haynes, of the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va. [ 01.20.06 ]
» Urban Life through Two Lenses [flash required]. "A century apart, but the same place, and the same time: two photographers, two lenses, but the same goal. 'Urban Life through Two Lenses' invites you into a unique virtual space where two daily realities coexist, raising questions about each other." This online exhibit is a little hard to navigate, but in some ways quite well done. Mouse over the images to hear representative ambient sound of the time. [ 01.24.06 ]
» Making Generous Trouble: Creativity for Your Smart Heart by Anne Herbert is too long (save it for your lunch hour), and will lose you over and over again. But stick with it because you will find your thread again a little further down the page. (via tboapw)
The idea is you have some great ideas. The idea is sometimes you don't notice your great ideas because they are very different than what already exists. That difference, which makes you shy off your ideas, is part of what makes your ideas great, and needed.
The idea is that the rest of us could use your great ideas if you get them out among us. The idea is your different ideas could help make a different world that would be a better place for us all to live. [...]
A guy I used to work for, Stewart Brand, said that once you have an idea you have about five minutes to do something about it. You don't have to do everything the idea calls for within five minutes, but you've got to do something right away to make it real.
I also like this part:
I was at the stuff-from-Tibet show at the De Young Museum, and the standing Tibetan metal Buddha looked me in the eye and said..."Do it directly."
And I agreed, yep, I'll do it directly. I didn't know what "Do" or "directly" meant in this case. [...]
In alternative activist organizing, one of the ways you know you're doing a good thing is that the bad guys notice it and don't like it. So you and the bad guys keep fixated on each other and on what you both understand to be activities. Einstein and others said you can't solve a problem on the level at which it was created — you have to move to another level.
[ 01.24.06 ]
» This recent CSM article on the Alito hearings is notable for one quote: "The abortion issue is one that we can win, and we know it now." Manuel Miranda, Chair of the Third Branch Conference, a coalition of conservative and libertarian groups, referring to the failure of the Alito hearings to rouse public opinion on the issue. (I can get my head around Libertarians, and I can get my head around pro-lifers, but I sure have trouble putting the two together.) [ 01.24.06 ]
» Ooh la la! The French are getting fat. Prepared foods, sedentary lives, the breakdown of the family dinner, and... "With all the awareness of obesity, there is also a countertrend. The French may have begun to embrace the large woman." (via dm) [ 01.25.06 ]
» The 2006 Sundance Festival Short Films are available online. (via cn) [ 01.26.06 ]
» Steven Soderburgh's newest film Bubble was shot without a script, using non-actors who improvised against an outline, and will be simultaneously released theaters, on cable television, and, a few days later, on DVD. "The biggest thing is people having access to the movie who might not have access to it for a while. They might have read about it and they're interested but they don't live near an art cinema, or they don't have a video store that carries this kind of stuff, and this way they can get it and get a hold of it as soon as they've heard about it." Steven Soderburgh.
I thought the Wagner/Cuban production company plus distribution outlet arrangement was outlawed with the breakup of the Studio Monopoly? I guess not. [ 01.26.06 ]
On a segment that also featured the book's publisher, Nan A. Talese of Doubleday, Frey was questioned about various parts of his book, from the three-month jail sentence he now says he never served to undergoing dental surgery without Novocain, a story he no longer clearly recalls.
Winfrey, whose apparent indifference to the memoir's accuracy led to intense criticism, including angry e-mails on her Web site, subjected Frey to a virtual page-by-page interrogation. No longer, as she did last week, was she saying that emotional truth mattered more than the facts. "Mr. Bravado Tough Guy," she mockingly called the author whose book she had enshrined last fall and whose reputation she had saved last week.
[ 01.26.06 ]
» CSM: "Chrislam" combines Christianity, Islam, and sometimes traditional African religious practice to create a hybrid religious practice that is growing in popularity in Africa. "You in the West are satisfied with one hour of church on Sunday. This is about a practical way of life." Kamaldeen Balogun, an Islamic studies professor at Olabisi Onabanjo University in southeastern Nigeria. [ 01.26.06 ]
» Woolgathering is a sketch blog. Someday I want to learn to draw, and maybe paint. Being able to make a few lines on a page or strokes on a canvas and convey in 2 dimensions what exists in 3.... That's like magic to me. [ 01.27.06 ]
» After a year of lending Playstation games to his patrons, librarian John Scalzo reports on the success of the new program and reflects on the complexities of dealing with limited budgets, double standards, and DVD theft rings. (via rw) [ 01.27.06 ]
» A new study shows that in 38 states, during last 20 years the incomes of the top fifth of families grew faster than those of the bottom fifth.
[W]hen wealthier families see their incomes rise at a faster pace than everyone else, their spending can create what [Cornell economist Robert Frank] calls an "expenditure cascade." That is, the demand for bigger and better homes or safer cars can create new standards for those lower down on the economic scale.
But since their incomes aren't growing as fast, they have a hard time keeping up, leading to what Frank calls "welfare loss." For example, as home prices rise, it becomes harder to afford a home in a neighborhood with good public schools.
[ 01.27.06 ]
» Tom Negrino shares his experience using Health Savings Accounts — and it's grim.
Oh, and to get the most out of the policy, you have to be diligent about following all of the famously confusing paperwork and making sure that the insurer has credited all visits towards the deductible. If you want prescription costs to count towards the deductible, you have to keep all the pharmacy receipts, make copies, then submit each receipt as a separate claim. Mind you, you won't get any money back for doing that bookkeeping; it just counts towards the deductible, so if you do get catastrophically sick, it will cost you a bit less out of pocket.
[ 01.27.06 ]
This system is a legacy of the second world war, when firms, hamstrung by wage controls, used health insurance as a way to lure in workers. It means that, according to census figures, around 174m Americans get health coverage from their own, their spouse's or their parents' employer. Another 27m buy health insurance individually, for which they do not get a tax subsidy. The government picks up the tab for 40m elderly and disabled Americans (through Medicare) and about 38m poor (through the state-federal Medicaid scheme). That leaves around 46m uninsured, though many of these, whether students or workers, go without insurance by choice. In practice, they get emergency care at hospitals, which is paid for by higher premiums for everyone else.
(via rw) [ 01.27.06 ]
» I'm starting an experiment today: I've opened up comments on my book log and film log. (The most recent entries are listed in the sidebar on this page.) I know from my email that Pocket readers are far above average, so I encourage those among you who are film and book lovers to get to know one another. [ 01.30.06 ]
» Harper Lee, famously reclusive, and (thanks to Capote) newly famous, has begun making one, quiet appearance a year: an awards ceremony for a high school essay contest on the subject of To Kill a Mockingbird. "They always see new things in it. And the way they relate it to their lives now is really quite incredible." Harper Lee. [ 01.30.06 ]
Long before the Internet was commonly available, Debbie had the idea that it would be useful to have a reference work suggesting which book of an unfamiliar author would be best to read first. Start reading an author with a poor or atypical example of his work, she observed, and you would likely never read that writer again—perhaps losing in the process a world of pleasure and knowledge. On the other hand, since there would seldom be one right book to read first, the resource would have to be a compendium of opinions.
[ 01.31.06 ]
» It looks like the dumbest thing about Ameriprise is no longer their name: Ameriprise customer data has been stolen after a laptop containing unencrypted "sensitive personal information" was stolen from an Ameriprise employee's car. "Officials say one of the files on the computer contained only the names and internal Ameriprise account numbers of 158,000 customers. The second included the names and Social Security numbers of 68,000 Ameriprise advisers." [ 01.31.06 ]