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.: March 2006 --> March 2006

March 2006

» What WarioWare can teach us about game design. "In a sense, WarioWare is an Understanding Comics of video games: a text that uses the representational strategies of a medium to reflect upon that same medium. But where Understanding Comics is discourse on comics, written in the language of comics, Wario Ware is more like Chuck Jones's meta-cartoon Duck Amuck. WarioWare and Duck Amuck violate convention, and in doing so draw attention to how cartoons and games are both constructed and interpreted."  [ 03.01.06 ]

» At a community fundraiser based on the hit television show American Idol, San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds judged the contest dressed as Paula Abdul. (The article includes a picture of Bonds in drag.) "I'll never tell my wife to hurry up any more. Because it took me forever to get ready. I'll never do that again. I couldn't get my hair right." Barry Bonds.  [ 03.01.06 ]

» Buff. Re-Buff. (via c'ist)  [ 03.01.06 ]

» The Smithsonian National Museum of American History has begun an initiative to collect a broad array of artifacts (including oral histories) about Hip Hop Culture and music.  [ 03.01.06 ]

» In the last 15 years, the Art Loss Register has reunited $100 million worth of stolen art with rightful owners by employing a deadly combination: a database and finely-tuned negotiation skills. "The first thing to do is to convince them that they can't sell the stuff for any decent money because of the database. So then they've got to surrender. So then you say 'We'll pay your legal fees.' And so it goes." Julian Radcliffe, director of the Art Loss Register.  [ 03.01.06 ]

» Yahoo!'s Bradley Horowitz starts blogging with a terrific post on why 100% participation in social media services is not only unnecessary, it's undesirable.  [ 03.02.06 ]

» Christians are about to get their own video game, based on the popular Left Behind book series and which — according to this writeup — features a level of violence reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto. "We've thought through how the Christian right and the liberal left will slam us. But megachurches are very likely to embrace this game." Troy Lyndon, CEO, Left Behind Games.  [ 03.02.06 ]

» Wow. First South Dakota, now Mississippi. All at once that rhetorical fear-mongering in the Planned Parenthood and NOW fundraising letters is starting to sound like cool, accurate assessment.  [ 03.02.06 ]

» Filed for future reference: How to make Rice-paper Roller shades.  [ 03.03.06 ]

» In reading the DaVinci Code, I was pleased to see cryptology expert and fellow blogger Bruce Schneier name-checked on page 199 (though some think in an entirely superficial way.)  [ 03.03.06 ]

» Fabulous. Read about the illiterate Indian mechanic who constructed a radio transmitter for $1, and now runs his village's only (illegal) FM radio station. "Since there's no phone-in facility, people send their requests for songs through couriers carrying handwritten messages and phone calls to a neighbouring public telephone office." (via rw)  [ 03.03.06 ]

» Dear Academy Awards Producers:

Please stop trying to "entertain" me. Your bits are not funny. Please stop trying to do impressive musical dance numbers. They are embarrassing. Please stop trying to convince me that the big screen is superior to DVDs. I agree with you, for many films, but sometimes a film doesn't look good enough for me to want to spend theatre prices to see it. However, I'll often be willing to rent it instead. (BTW, I know a few people with home theatre setups that can very nearly recreate the theatre experience, just so you know: the technology is out there.)

Besides, are you crazy? DVDs make the film industry amazingly profitable. Stop shooting yourself in the foot, and start embracing the post-industrial world. Here, we time-shift and re-purpose content according to our individual needs, and there is a huge business opportunity available to you if only you'll open your eyes and see it.

Additionally, please let the winners have 2 or 3 minutes for their acceptance speeches. The speeches are really the only thing we watch for. (Well, and the dresses.) If we were really just interested in the list of winners, we would spend the time during your show doing something pleasant, and scan the list in the paper the next day. We watch your show to see people accept the awards, not to see former Oscar nominees humiliate themselves with your stupid "comedy".

I love the movies, I love trying to predict who will win, and I love watching all of those people win their awards. Please stop spoiling my fun.

Your pal,
Rebecca Blood  [ 03.06.06 ]

» Alternate History Travel Guides. What to expect when you travel the world in alternate timelines. "Visitors to Tenochtitlan may enjoy the city's striking architecture, and the shopping the various marketplaces is unparallelled. Travellers are warned, however, *not* to accept any invitations to participate in Aztec religious ceremonies."  [ 03.06.06 ]

» The NYTimes Book Review is offering up a new column on science fiction, and its author has compiled his personal list of the 10 Best Science Fiction novels. I consider myself a casual science fiction reader, which means I've read more than most people, I guess. Clearly I'm not a very serious reader, though, because I've only read one of these — and my husband had to explain it to me. (And doggone it, I would call it Alternate History or speculative fiction, not science fiction.) What do you think of this list? What extraordinary work of science fiction did the writer fail to mention? Post your suggestions in comments. (thanks, jjg!) / (10) Comments / [ 03.06.06 ]

» If only we could get them interested in human rights at home. "Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law. The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts." Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. (via b&s, who has much more here)  [ 03.06.06 ]

» After Christian groups noticed the success of the Jewish community in helping Soviet Jews, they turned their attention to an effort that is now bearing fruit: the evangelization of US foreign policy. "A 20-year civil war [in Sudan] actually ended in large part due to the activism of evangelicals and their alliance with others, including Jewish groups. It's an unheralded story, but it's also a historical fact." Allen Hertzke, author of Freeing God's Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights.  [ 03.06.06 ]

» It is an Anglo-Sino delicacy, born of the Chinese love of strong black tea and the British love of milk tea. Brewed, strained, rebrewed, and strained again, it is called pantyhose milk tea. "This way, the color is evenly distributed and the tea feels smooth to your throat, like aged wine." Lam Chun-chung, proprietor of the Chinese cafe Lan Fong Yuen, a "shrine for creamy tea fanatics".  [ 03.06.06 ]

» OCLC Fiction Finder (click on Alice to enter) seems to be better for browsing than for searching.  [ 03.07.06 ]

» Japanese magazine Famitsu asked readers to name their favorite video games. The results show that Japanese gamers like Japanese games, especially role-playing games, which comprise nearly half of the Top 100. The highest-ranking Western game? Grand Theft Auto: Vice City at No. 76.  [ 03.07.06 ]

» National Geographic's announcement that it will publish a translation of the stolen Gospel of Judas has brought an ethical question to the forefront: Is it right to pay for and publish stolen documents for the purpose of spreading knowledge? Or will such actions create incentives for thieves? "The present owners can't sell it because they don't have, in international law, a legal title to something that was stolen. They're trying to sell the sensationalism of the Gospel of Judas to get as much back as they can from whatever they paid for it." James Robinson, author of The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Disciple and His Lost Gospel.  [ 03.07.06 ]

» A New York Times analysis of the states that enacted parental notification and parental consent laws from 1995 to 2004 found no evidence that those laws had a significant impact on the number of minors who got pregnant, or, once pregnant, the number who had abortions. "I see far more parents trying to pressure their daughters to have one. As a parent myself, I can understand. But I say to parents, 'You force her to have this abortion, and I can tell you that within the next six months she's going to be pregnant again.'" Jane Bovard, owner of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, N.D.

I guess the interesting thing to me is that if parental consent doesn't significantly affect the rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion (and there is some evidence that abortion rates go up in states that adjoin those that require parental consent), then there's less reason for many pro-lifers to support these laws, and for pro-choicers to oppose them. Of course, these are two "bright-line" groups. There is no room for nuance in this debate. Comments?  [ 03.07.06 ]

» Reports to be published in two scientific journals this week will argue that soda is not just a co-factor to obesity, it is a cause. They've amassed an impressive arsenal of evidence (I particularly like the jelly bean study). "I think that's laughable," said Richard Adamson, a senior science consultant to the American Beverage Association.  [ 03.07.06 ]

» On the Orange Prize long-list. Why is women's literature finally thriving in Great Britain? Superior writers who deliver strong sales, more women editors willing to give them a go, and the the market for literary fiction — which is overwhelmingly female. "The health of fiction is when you get variety and I don't think I've ever seen a more various field for fiction, whether gender neutral or gender specific. The pasture is blooming." John Sutherland, last year's Man Booker Prize chairman. (via rw)  [ 03.08.06 ]

» Sen. Barack Obama has a plan for US energy independence, and boy is it smart. Someday I will vote for him for President. (via rc3oi)  [ 03.08.06 ]

» Wanting to take a truly long-term view of real estate values, a Dutch professor studied the price of real-estate transactions over four centuries on the Herengracht canal, and discovered that, adjusted for inflation, real property values rose only 0.2 percent per year. "It's true that economic and social conditions were different back then. But major crises do happen, and we can't necessarily predict them. Will bird flu be a major disaster? Will there be more hurricanes? I don't know. Nobody knows." Piet Eichholtz, a professor of real-estate finance at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. (thanks, jjg!)  [ 03.08.06 ]

» The discovery of corn and arrowroot in a 3600 year old home in the Andes confirms that ancient cultures in Peru cultivated corn 1000 years earlier than thought, and — perhaps more importantly — that they had contact with lowland cultures.  [ 03.08.06 ]

» What the Web was made for: The Advanced Rutabaga Studies Institute, featuring the live Rutacam. (thanks, Dr. Elvin!) / (2) Comments / [ 03.09.06 ]

» Here's my old blogging buddy Matt Prescott making an impassioned (and sensible) argument for banning the incandescent lightbulb. One of the commenters mentions something I'd never heard before, that the strobe effect of a fluorescent light makes power tools appear stationary, necessitating a need for incandescents in those circumstances, apparently / (5) Comments / [ 03.09.06 ]

» I guess I haven't read too many shareholders reports, but Warren Buffet's 2005 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders is honest, philosophical, and actually entertaining. [pdf] It's easy to see why Buffett has such a cult following. Read it. You'll enjoy it.

(On CEO compensation) "It doesn’t have to be this way: It’s child’s play for a board to design options that give effect to the automatic build-up in value that occurs when earnings are retained. But — surprise, surprise — options of that kind are almost never issued. Indeed, the very thought of options with strike prices that are adjusted for retained earnings seems foreign to compensation "experts," who are nevertheless encyclopedic about every management-friendly plan that exists. ("Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.").
(On the Berkshire Annual Meeting) "Kelly Broz (neé Muchemore), the Flo Ziegfeld of Berkshire, orchestrates both this magnificent shopping extravaganza and the meeting itself. The exhibitors love her, and so do I. Kelly got married in October, and I gave her away. She asked me how I wanted to be listed in the wedding program. I replied "envious of the groom," and that’s the way it went to press."

(via iwtytbr)  [ 03.09.06 ]

» For the first time since the Great Depression, the US savings rate is in negative numbers. "A lot of us are approaching retirement and a lot of us are approaching it with much too little saved up. They're either going to depend on Social Security, which is hardly a good bet given the state of the federal government's finances, or they're going to be taking early retirement at the age of 75." David Wyss, an economist with Standard and Poor's.

I found the 3 questions the Kinder Institute of Life Planning ask their clients to be interesting:

 [ 03.09.06 ]

» What a new 'Gilded Age' may bring. It's interesting that the future imagined here is reactionary and intolerant, whereas the last Gilded Age led to widespread support for unionization and the Progressive Movement. The chart at the end really illustrates the wealth trend. "The richest of the rich, the top 1/1,000th, enjoyed a 497 percent gain in wage and salary income between 1972 and 2001. Those at the 99th percentile, who made an average $1.7 million per year in 2001, enjoyed a mere 181 percent gain."  [ 03.09.06 ]

» Children (hands) and dogs (tongues) are being horrifically injured by paper shredders, even with adult supervision. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that shredders remain unplugged when not in use. I just unplugged mine. Go unplug yours right now. And please pass it on. (via dm)  [ 03.10.06 ]

» Contradicting the NYTimes study, researchers at Baruch College at City University of New York have found that abortion rates declined significantly among Texas girls after the state enacted a parental notification law, though girls 17 1/2 or slightly older were 33% more likely to have an abortion in the second trimester in order to escape the notification requirement. "[Lead researcher Ted Joyce] said [the NYTimes] analysis had a different outcome because it included two states with tiny populations, one state where the law was overturned, and two states near areas where abortion is easily accessible without parental involvement."  [ 03.10.06 ]

» This appears to be real: The Family that Walks on All Fours is a BBC production about a Kurdish family in which the siblings are only capable of walking using both their hands and feet. Researchers believe the group may offer a glimpse into the time before we became bipeds. (thanks, Chris!) Continue reading entry »
/ (1) Comments / [ 03.10.06 ]

» Nepalese Sherpas may be the world's most efficient carriers. Their technique of walk-pause-walk isn't well understood, but it may be more efficient than the gait African women use when carrying loads — which conserves 80 percent of each stride's momentum.  [ 03.10.06 ]

» Craig Newmark says that free online mail services lose 1-2% of their email. (via rc3oi)  [ 03.10.06 ]

» This is an actual PR spam:

Hello Rebecca,
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Were you, dear reader, wondering that?

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Think that tanning salons might be harmful? Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from a tanning bed, such as those at [name redacted] salons, result in the production of vitamin D in our skin. When vitamin D levels are stable, calcium and metabolism is preserved, which in turn reduces the risk of faulty bone development that can lead to osteoporosis.
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Visit [URL redacted] to learn more about the quality of their salons and services.
[Name redacted], CEO of [name redacted] would have time next Tuesday or Wednesday to have a casual 10-minute conversation regarding his company as well as the quality of his products and services.
Which day will work best for you?
I look forward to hearing for you.
[PR Flack]
Media Contact
[URL redacted]
[PR flack email]

I'm guessing this email resulted from a Technorati search for Academy Awards, with (obviously) no further research done at all. I wonder how much poor Redacted is paying for this email campaign?

I wish there were a clearinghouse blog where we could just forward this kind of email. That way, organizations who were considering laying down cold, hard cash on a blog PR campaign could sample the wares, as it were.... / (1) Comments / [ 03.12.06 ]

» The 150 best-selling paperback children's books of all time and 150 best-selling hardback books of all time (through the end of 2000), with author and year of initial publication, compiled by Publishers Weekly. Judy Blume dominates in paperback. Any surprising titles — or omissions — here? [slithy, slithy popups!] (thanks, mab!) / (2) Comments / [ 03.13.06 ]

» A new game from Nintendo promises to keep aging brains agile and even help prevent dementia. There is some controversy around these claims. (via dm)  [ 03.13.06 ]

» Time was, couples couldn't play as bridge partners socially for fear of repercussions for an "unexpectedly" played hand when they got home. These days, the rules are reversed, and gaming couples who want to preserve their relationship often choose to play online games cooperatively.  [ 03.13.06 ]

» Argentine women to government: We want to be with our husbands, not owned by them.  [ 03.13.06 ]

» Osama Bin Laden's niece, an aspiring musician, is about to get her own reality show.  [ 03.13.06 ]

» I guess you've seen Google Mars. [About.]  [ 03.13.06 ]

» Kelly Thul's Electronic communication commandments look like an interesting start. I'm especially enamoured with his Rule of Email. "Whereas — Freedom without accountability results in bad things... Whereas — Markets and scarcity promote thoughtful actions... Whereas — Keystroke distribution is becoming a profound element of communication... The following electronic communication commandments are proposed."  [ 03.14.06 ]

» After the highly anticipated Chinese film The Promise tanked, Hu Ge created a spoof for his friends — who posted it to the Web. Perhaps you can imagine how that has played out in a culture that places high value on respect for authority, correct behavior, and is new to the Web.  [ 03.14.06 ]

» Ideas for Paintings for struggling artists. "The Expulsion of Adam and Eve: Biblical themes sell well. In this one, God hovers over Adam and Eve, kicking them out of the Garden of Eden. As they leave, in an aside to Eve, Adam imitates the expression on God's face." (via rw)  [ 03.14.06 ]

» Inhabitat, by the way, is the best blog I've found in some time, focused on news and products for the green design aficionado.  [ 03.14.06 ]

» Farmadeliphication (fahr'muh'deli'fi'kay'shun), n. 1. The process of turning all of Philadelphia's vacant and abandoned lots into urban farms: The 'Farmadeliphication' of once decrepit buildings into farm structures advances fresh ways of seeing old structures as well as allowing for an organic transformation of history that contributes to the present day fabric. I've been thinking how awesome it would be to turn office building roofs into gardens. (via usfp)  [ 03.14.06 ]

» The How To Save The World Reading List (July 2004) is Dave Pollard's list of 56 books and articles that "forever changed my worldview, and my purpose for living." Update: April 14, 2006. Here's an updated list containing 80 books and articles. / (1) Comments / [ 03.15.06 ]

» Fabulous. A group of British Jesuits is offering a popular new service: free, 12-minute worship sessions in MP3 format, with an automated "Pray as you Go" process to automate downloading to the user's iPod. (via trevor cook)  [ 03.15.06 ]

» The revolutionary matriarch of Hamas. Mariam Farhat, who lost 3 militant sons in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has recently been elected to the Palestinian legislative council. She now hopes to enforce stricter Islamic practices in her state, and to resist the Israeli occupation by any means necessary. Moderate Muslims are not so sure. "People are so willing to die for this, and then these people become untouchable and much like a taboo. I think we can bring her down to earth by having her in parliament." Eyad Serraj, the head of the Gaza Community Mental Health Center.  [ 03.15.06 ]

» A third case of Mad Cow disease has been found in Alabama. Predictably, the USDA and National Cattlemen's Beef Association say this is evidence that the voluntary program is working. Public-interest groups say voluntary programs are not enough, and are urging Congress to make permanent bans on allowing "downer" cows into the human food supply, and to extend it to pigs and other livestock. Frankly, I'm shocked to discover that this was a temporary measure. "There is no reason to play Russian roulette with the food supply, nor is there any reason to torment nonambulatory livestock by dragging or pushing them into slaughterhouses with chains, bulldozers, or forklifts." Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. / (3) Comments / [ 03.15.06 ]

» Appalled at the terrible handwriting that surrounds them, a handwriting expert/former teacher and calligraphy expert have invented a new hybrid of printing and cursive that promises to give practitioners fast, legible handwriting. Their book is Write Now: The Complete Program for Better Handwriting. Listen, I'm all for this. I can't read notes I've written to myself even 5 minutes later. "We have a national affliction, and it's called cacography — that means 'illegible handwriting.' "That's why we're a 'Please print' nation. Nobody says, 'Please write in your lovely cursive handwriting.'" Barbara Getty, handwriting expert, former elementary-school teacher and co-creator of the Italic method of handwriting. (via dm)

Thanks to Shelly for providing the URL for the updated version of the book (corrected above). / (3) Comments / [ 03.15.06 ]

» As you may know, I have a fondness for specialist (aka geek) humor. For your bewilderment and amusement, I offer you: Economist Jokes. (thanks, jjg!)

Three econometricians went out hunting and came across a large deer. The first econometrician fired, but missed, by a meter to the left. The second econometrician fired, but also missed, by a meter to the right. The third econometrician didn't fire, but shouted in triumph, "We got it! We got it!"

Top 10 Economist Valentines

 [ 03.16.06 ]

»  Oil Standard is a web browser plug-in that converts all prices from U.S. Dollars into the equivalent value in barrels of crude oil. When you load a web page, the script seamlessly inserts converted prices into the page. As the cost of oil fluctuates on the commodities exchange, prices rise and fall in real-time. Here's a screenshot. (via rw) / (1) Comments / [ 03.16.06 ]

» NYT: "An examination of regulatory filings by The New York Times shows that companies with electric utilities in at least 26 states have pocketed money intended for income taxes, and that utilities can legally do so in 21 more states." (via dm)  [ 03.16.06 ]

» Amish neighbors take just one day to rebuild home destroyed by twister. (thanks, mab!)  [ 03.16.06 ]

» Northwestern Chinese peoples living in the remote Altay mountains of Xinjiang province practice a unique style of skiing, and use skis whose design dates back 2,000 years. Since I am in the section of Guns, Germs, and Steel that describes the domestication of animals, I was particularly interested in the description of the days-long Altaics elk hunts, which end in them tiring the animals so much the can capture them and keep them captive. It's like a little glimpse of history.  [ 03.16.06 ]

» NYT Book Review: 20 Superb Novels for Teenage Girls. Compiled by Justine Henning of Reading Penpals, a site that will hook children up with a good book and an adult penpal to write to about it.  [ 03.17.06 ]

» Just as I'm settling happily into middle class respectability, along comes this article depicting the joys of being middle-aged in a shared, anarchist household. (via dm)  [ 03.17.06 ]

» How to beat the Midas curse. Why 9 out of 10 affluent families lose their wealth by the end of the third generation. "If you transfer wealth to the next generation without preparing them, it's bad for them, and it gnaws at the fabric of a vibrant and productive society." Stuart Lucas, fourth-generation heir to the Carnation fortune.  [ 03.17.06 ]

» Commenting on former MLK aide Andrew Young's new role as a spokesman for WalMart, the Consumerist has this right: "Can we say commodifying credibility? [...] This is the same tactic as putting a hot chick next to a toaster in an ad, hoping to give the toaster sex appeal. There's a flip-side to that transference equation: the chick comes out looking like, by virtue of association, an appliance." / (2) Comments / [ 03.17.06 ]

» A Little Weekend Reading and Reflecting: It's hard to look at the Abu Ghraib pictures, but I feel that we Americans have a duty to know what has been done and is being done in our name. Even if you can't bear to click through the thumbnails to see the full-sized images, at least read the accompanying articles that explain what happened, and the events surrounding the abuse. Jeanne d'Arc has looked at all of them, and she has some very thoughtful observations on how these soldiers got from who they were to who they became. She's quite honestly much more empathetic and forgiving than I think I can be.

I can't even imagine the kind of rhetoric that would be flying around if the prisoners in these photographs were Americans being held by any other nation at all. So it's important to know what, exactly, happened. I am ashamed and outraged that this was done by our people on our behalf. That each of these abuses was done in proxy for me. And that those responsible are still in office and on the job. (via rc3oi)  [ 03.17.06 ]

» An ethicist on morality, and why it matters. "If we want to reclaim moral language...we need to get comfortable with the idea of making moral judgments. [...] Therefore, I have written a short primer. It's meant for those who are not fully comfortable making moral judgments, or using the language of morality." (via rc3oi)  [ 03.17.06 ]

» What the Web was Made For: Home Hygiene/Home Routines.  [ 03.20.06 ]

» This is a fascinating article about the arrival of the Avian Flu virus in France, the search to determine how it is spreading (the path more closely follows train lines than birds' migratory patterns), and the struggle to prevent it from spreading further. A cat in Germany has been found with the virus. In France even ultralight planes are banned fron flying over suspected disease vectors for fear they will startle infected birds which will disperse over a wider range. Once again, Guns, Germs, and Steel has informed my understanding of these events as a long-standing feature of human evolution. Many of our diseases (mumps, measles, smallpox, AIDs) originated in animals. We may be witnessing the latest one as it emerges. If Avian Flu does jump to humans, I believe it will be the first one we have tracked from the animal stage.  [ 03.20.06 ]

» Is Business Ready for a Flu Pandemic? "A pandemic flu outbreak in any part of the world would potentially cripple supply chains, dramatically reduce available labor pools. In a world where the global supply chain and real-time inventories determine most everything we do, down to the food available for purchase in our grocery stores, one begins to understand the importance of advanced planning."  [ 03.20.06 ]

» In India, lunch is traditionally prepared for workers by a wife, mother, or domestic and then delivered hot to the place of work. In the United States, in places with large East Indian populations, commercial versions of this service — often prepared by homemakers as a small side business — are springing up, allowing Indians to have a healthy taste of home. "Indian restaurants do not compare to what these ladies serve. Today for lunch I ate pao bhaji. If you were to see it on any menu, which I doubt, it would be mass produced. This tastes like my mom's." Vijay Beniwal, a software design engineer for Microsoft. / (2) Comments / [ 03.20.06 ]

» Researchers at MIT have created wireless wine glasses for long-distance lovers. "When either person picks up a glass, red light-emitting diodes glow on their partner's glass. When one puts a glass to their lips, the other glass glows brightly." / (1) Comments / [ 03.20.06 ]

» Salon's Scott Rosenberg recently attended a Berkeley CyberSalon on the topic of elitism in media and blogging and came away with the feeling that it was a rehash of the tired blogging vs. journalism argument that has been going on since 2003. But I think he has it wrong.

The dichotomy in the argument he describes isn't "blogs vs journalism". The unspoken premise underlying this argument is that books and articles are published commercially because they represent the best writing that is available. But that's not the way the publishing business works.

Publishers are interested in printing books and articles they can sell, nothing more, nothing less. When publishers evaluate a book proposal, they don't ask if the work is true or original or insightful or well-written. First and foremost, they ask themselves if they can sell it. If they don't think they can, they pass. If they believe there is a market and that they can effectively market the work, they buy it.

Magazine editors pass on well-written articles that don't fit with the focus of their publication. Editorial boards pass on well-written book manuscripts in genres they believe they cannot sell. Conversely, there are a lot of marginally-to-poorly written books on the shelves (The DaVinci Code, The Left Behind series, some genre fiction all come to mind). The Weekly World News is not noted for its superb journalism, but it apparently sells well enough to maintain a stable of advertisers.

So that's the false dichotomy. Blogs are threatening to a certain type of writer not because they allow mediocre writing to flourish — the commercial market already does that. They are threatening because they unequivocally demonstrate that commercial publishing does not necessarily represent the best writing that is available. / (12) Comments / [ 03.20.06 ]

» Key Ingredients: America by Food is the website companion to the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibition of the same name. It features an American Food Timeline, a collection of recipes and stories from across the USA (contribute your own!), and an exhibition schedule.  [ 03.21.06 ]

» NYT: Rumor, Fear and Fatigue Hinder Final Push to End Polio. "The drive against polio threatens to become a costly display of all that can conspire against even the most ambitious efforts to eliminate a disease: cultural suspicions, logistical nightmares, competition for resources from many other afflictions, and simple exhaustion. [...] As the polio campaign has shown, even the miracle of discovering a vaccine is not enough."  [ 03.21.06 ]

» Placesite is a new service that allows patrons of wifi cafes to connect with one another by reading profiles of the other (online) people there, chatting, and contributing to message forums tied to that particular place. It is an attempt to counteract the zombie effect of having so many people staring at their computers by bringing social networking to geographic places. It's interesting, but two objections spring to mind. First, a certain percentage of people have always used cafes to read and write and study. What's the difference? Second, won't this just create two classes of people, those who are able to interact with others on their computer, and those who are not? (via phblog) / (1) Comments / [ 03.21.06 ]

» When I met Jeremiah Owyang last August, his company didn't have a blog, nor did they want one. Thanks to his efforts, 6 months later they did. He has put together an outstanding and very practical 10 Tips for Becoming a Corporate Blog Evangelist. If you're interested in convincing your organization to start a blog, print this out and pin it to the wall of your cubicle. And then add Jeremiah to your daily rotation. His blog is full of insight and practical advice on the emerging field of corporate blogging. / (1) Comments / [ 03.21.06 ]

» My brother-in-law has a new CD: Take a Trip Thru Time With... The 23rd Century. You can listen to the songs (or download the whole album) before you buy. I was able to listen to this project as it was being made, and I really like it. It seems I'm not alone.  [ 03.21.06 ]

» The Cylinder Preservation Project has created a free digital collection of over 6,000 cylinder recordings from the turn of the 20th century. And Archeophone Records is selling recordings from this era.  [ 03.22.06 ]

» How Pop Sounded Before It Popped describes the resurgence of interest in turn-of-the-20th-century pop music, long shunned by roots enthusiasts for its crass commercialism — and for the uncomfortable questions it raises about the artistic merit of entertainment that is based on racial stereotyping. "Acoustic-era music is the historical underdog. These are scratchy records, with 19th-century aesthetics, with racist material all over the place, with artists you've never heard of. This stuff is completely unknown, and it's a treasure trove." Richard Martin, co-owner of Archeophone Records, a label that specializes in acoustic-era pop.  [ 03.22.06 ]

» Last fall, Productive Strategies compiled a sampling of Academic Lecture Podcasts from several universities. And my pal Jeremy Cherfas is raving about the lectures available from The Teaching Company.  [ 03.22.06 ]

» Georgia College & State University, a small, rural liberal arts college, has initiated a program to devise innovative uses of the iPod across campus. One professor asks students to screen required films on video-enabled iPods before class; another produces a weekly podcast of the most-asked questions from her office hours; and the school has created an "iVillage" to help freshmen adjust to life on campus.  [ 03.22.06 ]

» This is neat: In 60 countries around the world, Reflect circles are providing members of poor communities with a structure to cooperatively tackle development projects and in the process, to advance their education. It's participatory community development! "In the Reflect methodology, a group identifies a community problem — AIDS, sexual violence, poverty, or some other ill — and then decides how to help solve it. The education comes subtly. Maybe the group decides it wants to improve members' writing ability to draft petitions. Or perhaps it aims at better math skills to run the business side of a community garden."  [ 03.22.06 ]

» Scott Rosenberg responds to Monday's post The Real Threat of Blogging. I was not clear in that post about what I thought Rosenberg got wrong (his characterization of the evening's tenor). In fact, I agree with most of his thinking in that post and in today's. I've tried to clarify my own position in comments to his post today.  [ 03.22.06 ]

» A Food Science and Molecular Gastronomy Reading List.  [ 03.23.06 ]

» Madhur Jaffrey on the real benefit of the new US nuclear and trade pact with India: Mangoes. (via jch)  [ 03.23.06 ]

» While bureaucrats struggle to find solutions at the World Water Forum, a parallel Children's Water Forum is bringing together young people from around the world who have addressed local water shortages with their own creative solutions — like the 13-year-old from Nepal who leads a club that helps communities pay for toilets with microfinancing. "There's no diplomacy in their dialogue. It's all very direct and very honest." Vanessa Tobin, chief of UNICEF's water and sanitation section, on the young people's interactions with delegates.  [ 03.23.06 ]

» Go Grrrl News: In response to South Dakota's new law banning abortion, Cecilia Fire Thunder, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has announced that she plans to establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Whump's reaction is right: a move from tribal casinos to tribal medicine can only benefit everyone. / (4) Comments / [ 03.23.06 ]

» Um."Investment bank Bear Stearns has advised investors to start dumping airline and retail stocks in favour of blue-chip utilities as a hedge against bird flu." (via rw)  [ 03.23.06 ]

» SF Site's Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2005: Editors' Choice.  [ 03.24.06 ]

» Most. Indulgent. Album. Ever.  [ 03.24.06 ]

» Will Wright, creator of the innovative and massively successful computer game "The Sims", is at work on a new game, which will modify game-play according to player behavior (think Amazon's recommended reading lists) and make user-created content fundamental to game play. "The sheer amount of user-created content is basically crap, maybe 10 percent is good, and 3 percent is excellent. That still ends up being a lot more than we could ever afford to make." Will Wright, creator of the upcoming computer game Spore.  [ 03.24.06 ]

» I've been getting a lot of hits lately from Beebo's Most linked blogs, September 2000. This list in itself refutes the notion that blog-popularity is just a pyramid scheme in which the longest-standing blogs win. Only 3 of these weblogs are in the Technorati Top 100 today. Likely only 3 of today's Technorati Top 100 will be there 6 years from now.

And I'll dispute Michael's assertion that there were no political blogs at the time. I was one of the first bloggers to post about politics. And I would say that Medley pioneered the long-form political commentary that is the norm for most political blogs today — though I'll wager none of them have heard of that blog. The difference then was that few, if any, of us were focused strictly on one topic: our weblogs were a reflection of all of our interests, not just one obsession. / (1) Comments / [ 03.24.06 ]

» Colgate buys Toms of Maine. (via c'ist) / (1) Comments / [ 03.24.06 ]

» The wrong way to make ethanol: with coal.  [ 03.24.06 ]

» Chris Burke is producing a talk show within the world of the computer game Halo 2. More evidence that, as in the offline world, software is most social as an unintended consequence of other activities, not something in and of itself. "The freewheeling conversations were split between highbrow theory and glitch-driven slapstick, peppered with armed ambushes by other players. More than 12 segments later, TSL has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, and it's easy to see why. When was the last time you saw Letterman come under small-arms fire during his monologue?" (thanks, kelly!)  [ 03.27.06 ]

» Firemen's Favorite Vegan Recipes. "Fight Fire, Fight Cholesterol, Fight Fat." (via rw)  [ 03.27.06 ]

» Beloved children's author Beverley Cleary is about to turn 90. To honor the occasion, her publisher, HarpersCollins, has designated April 12 Drop Everything and Read! Day, complete with a list of suggested books compiled by experts from Reach Out and Read, NEA, and Reading Rockets. (via rw) / (2) Comments / [ 03.28.06 ]

» Eating french fries during early childhood may lead to a 27% increase in the risk of breast cancer later in life.  [ 03.28.06 ]

» Dose of Tenacity Wears Down a Horrific Disease is the second in the excellent NY Times series about diseases on the brink of extinction. This one details the challenges in eradicating Guinea Worm disease.

It ought to be almost ridiculously easy to wipe out, because it has a complex life cycle in which humans, worms, fleas and shallow ponds each must play their parts perfectly. Any missing link disrupts the chain of transmission.
Dr. Ruiz-Tiben has been fighting it for 22 years. And for all the success, he groans, "sometimes it's like dragging a dead elephant through a swamp by its tail."

(thanks, lizard!) / (1) Comments / [ 03.28.06 ]

» BellSouth is on the verge of convincing the Louisiana legislature to shut down a free emergency wi-fi network New Orleans has provided for residents following Hurricane Katrina. "If I have to go to jail, I guess I will.... But we simply cannot turn off these few lifelines we have to our city and businesses." Greg Meffert, CIO of New Orleans. (via c'ist) / (1) Comments / [ 03.28.06 ]

» Alastair Chivers is a fourth year student at Robert Gordon University in Scotland who is looking for respondents for his survey for creators and readers of journalistic weblogs, that is, blogs that primarily link to news articles. If you are reading this site, that is you.  [ 03.29.06 ]

» All right, you English nerds: Geoffrey Chaucer hath a blog. I can almost read this. (via rw) / (3) Comments / [ 03.29.06 ]

» NASA's Charles Jorgensen is working on a technology called subvocal speech recognition, which can "read" the electrical currents sent from your brain to the speech muscles when you think, but do not say, a word. "As long as people have had machines and tools, they've been dependent on the physicality of the body. Separate those control activities from the body and it opens a whole new generation of interface design." Charles Jorgensen. (via c'ist)  [ 03.29.06 ]

» The details: Jeffrey Gettleman returned to Bagdhad after a year, and found a changed Iraq. It's rough to read. It's rougher being there. I opposed the invasion, but I'm not sure I agree with Scott Rosenberg's conclusion that it's time to get the hell out. We moved Iraq from a terrible situation to one that is even worse. Don't we have a responsibility to repair it somehow? (via sr) / (3) Comments / [ 03.29.06 ]

» Must-See TV: When Howard Kurtz accused Lara Logan of being among the journalists who concentrate on negative stories in Iraq at the expense of the positive, she gave him an earful, and you absolutely have to see it to believe it.  [ 03.29.06 ]

» Newsweek has a tremendous article on the challenges facing Africa, and the courageous women who are entering public service, determined to repair decades of corruption. "If I left after the shooting, I'd look like a coward. I told my family, 'Let me strive to complete my five years'." Dora Akunyili head of Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control on why she kept her post after an assassination attempt by the counterfeit drug cartel she was trying to shut down.  [ 03.29.06 ]

» A great way to waste time online: the Bald Eagle Cam. Update: They moved the EagleCam. Here is the new URL. / (5) Comments / [ 03.30.06 ]

» Geekonomics: Why abundance sucks, and other unexpected lessons of the game economy. (via rw)  [ 03.30.06 ]

» Sex in the Syllabus. Academia's new "porn curriculum" casts a critical eye on the aesthetic, societal and philosophical properties of smut — and makes some students squirm in their chairs. / (1) Comments / [ 03.30.06 ]

» What Does it Mean to be 'Political'?

The words "politics" and "political" have been so degraded and defiled that maybe it's just as well Beebo doesn't want to call us "political" but, in my opinion, we are all political writers. Indeed every act of personal reflection (however minute) followed by the public speech act of opining to the universe is a political act. It is why freedom of speech is so fundamental (and so frightening to the fascists).

Amen.  [ 03.30.06 ]

» A Little Weekend Reading: The Writing Problems of Visual Thinkers, Gerald Grow.

Some people write badly as a result of applying visual thinking inappropriately to writing. The resulting mismatch between visual thinking and writing produces characteristic, recurring writing problems. Some who write this way are accomplished visual thinkers and successful professionals, others are visually-talented students struggling to survive "the verbal bias of schooling" (Olson, 1977b). If teachers recognize that certain writing problems result from a strength misapplied, they may be able to help train the visual thinkers who will be so important in the technologies of the near future.

 [ 03.31.06 ]

» Inspired by Dave Pollard's How to Save the World reading list, which I linked here a few weeks ago, Will Hertling had compiled his own The Way the World Really Works Reading List.  [ 03.31.06 ]

» Notes for Converts, Jane Smiley

Bruce Bartlett, The Cato Institute, Andrew Sullivan, George Packer, William F. Buckley, Sandra Day O'Connor, Republican voters in Indiana and all the rest of you newly-minted dissenters from Bush's faith-based reality seem, right now, to be glorying in your outrage, which is always a pleasure and feels, at the time, as if it is having an effect, but those of us who have been anti-Bush from day 1 (defined as the day after the stolen 2000 election) have a few pointers for you that should make your transition more realistic.

/ (1) Comments / [ 03.31.06 ]

» How to make Vegan Twinkies (via rw)  [ 03.31.06 ]



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