.: April 2006 --> April 2006
» Why Afghanistan should not have dismissed the apostasy case. (via dm) [ 04.03.06 ]
» Researchers at the MIT Media Lab are constructing an "emotional social intelligence prosthetic" device to warn autistic individuals — and others — if they are boring or irritating. I think we should attach one of these to every cell phone. (thanks, Chris!) / (2) Comments / [ 04.04.06 ]
» A new study claims that insecure children tend to grow up rigid and traditional, hence politically conservative, while more confident children, eager to explore alternatives, tend to become liberal. I think the naysayer in this article has a point: these insecure people might be gravitating toward authoritarianism or the status quo, which in the US would be the right, but in China would be the (leftist) state party. For what it's worth, I was an insecure child. [ 04.04.06 ]
» Returning favor, Indonesians aid Katrina's victims. "I was nervous about coming because I thought that Americans were mean to everyone. But everybody has been so nice and they want us to feel good here." Triayu Prastiwi Kodrat, a relief worker with Church World Service-Indonesia. [ 04.04.06 ]
» Wal-mart hopes to gain a foothold in urban centers by placing stores in high crime and unemployment areas. They have announced a a plan to support small business near its new urban stores with financial grants, coaching on how to compete with Wal-Mart, and free advertising. Why are they not offering this in rural areas? Because it's the urban areas that are shutting them out. [ 04.05.06 ]
» Were Paleolithic cave paintings created by prehistoric teenage boys? It's a surprisingly compelling case. "Today, boys draw the testosterone subjects of a hot automobile, fighter jet, Jedi armor, sports, direct missile hit, etc. — all of the things they associate with the Adrenalin of success." R. Dale Guthrie, author of The Nature of Paleolithic Art. (via dm) / (1) Comments / [ 04.05.06 ]
» In a turn of the table, ~C4Chaos has just published an email interview with me. We talk about everything from how I got into blogging, the many ways blogging has affected me, and my philosophy of life. It's part of his very interesting B-SCAN series, "a series of interviews with bloggers... are 'consciously' aware of the impact of blogging on self, culture, and nature, "integrally informed" or otherwise." [ 04.06.06 ]
» Oh dear. The 2006 James Beard Awards Nominees have been announced. I'm committed to acquiring only 1 new cookbook a year — it takes about a year of consistent effort to put a well-made cookbook through its paces. I think it's going to come down to a choice between Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen and Washoku: Recipes From The Japanese Home Kitchen. (I've wanted to learn Japanese cooking since I visited there last year.) Thankfully, the third book I really want isn't really a cookbook at all: Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, the new project from the folks who put together the wonderful Material World: A Global Family Portrait. / (3) Comments / [ 04.06.06 ]
» As you know, thanks to the library bookmarklet, I've fallen in love with libraries in the last year (and saved a ton of money on books!). So I was interested to find Superpatron, which calls itself "a weblog for library patrons who love their libraries, who take advantage of everything they have to offer, and are always on the lookout for great ideas from libraries around the world. It's like Friends of the Library for the net." [ 04.06.06 ]
» Read this lovely story about retiring Boxborough town clerk Virginia Richardson, who has held the job — and run for office unopposed — since 1969. How will we ever replace these women when they are gone? "Ginny was a rural housewife, and she has knowledge that is slipping away — the sewing and canning and raising livestock. But she was also town clerk and part of this technical age we have entered into. [...] To me, she is Boxborough's town clerk. I don't ever remember another one." Selectwoman Kristin Hilberg. (thanks, jessamyn!) [ 04.06.06 ]
» Who Reads What? is compiled every year by Glenna Nowell, a retired librarian who queries celebrities for their book recommendations. The 2006 list includes entries from Newt Gingrich, Kitty Kelly, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Gregg Allman. [ 04.07.06 ]
» Former Chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter on designing for success: The Art of War for the Anti-War movement. "It is high time for the anti-war movement to take a collective look in the mirror, and be honest about what they see. A poorly organized, chaotic, and indeed often anarchic conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism that barely constitutes a 'movement,' let alone a winning cause. [...] In order to even have a chance of prevailing with the American people, the anti-war movement is going to need much more than just good ideals and values. It needs to start thinking like a warrior would, in full recognition that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue." (via rc3oi) [ 04.07.06 ]
» Former Palestinian and Israeli fighters have joined together to create a new organization called Combatants for Peace. After being kept secret for a year, the group makes its public debut in Jerusalem April 10, which coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover and Palestinian Prisoners Day. "It's a paradox. You hear a man talking about how he shot, killed, damaged your neighbor's house. But you feel empathy for him. You realize that we are all from the same background, but just from different sides. The soldier wanted to protect his people, and so did we. But we've all discovered we were wrong in how we did it." Bassam Aramin, one of the Palestinian co-creators of Combatants for Peace. / (1) Comments / [ 04.07.06 ]
» Fabulous: Making Tofu at home. Once you've assembled the equipment and ingredients, it looks nearly as straighforward as making yogurt, and only a little more time-consuming. / (1) Comments / [ 04.10.06 ]
» Boycott Sew Fast/Sew Easy claims that the Sew Fast/Sew Easy, Inc is attempting to shut down local Stitch and Bitch groups (which they apparently see as rivals) by asserting that they were the first to coin the term "Stitch and Bitch" in 1997, and thus own the term. However, in her social history of knitting, No Idle Hands, Anne Macdonald writes of World War II knitters, "In Akron Ohio, twelve young women, who moved in with their parents or in-laws when their husbands went overseas, gave their elders a free night once a week to attend 'Stitch and Bitch Club' meetings." That dates the term back to at least the 1940s. Boycott Sew Fast/Sew Easy has a good timeline detailing numerous prior uses of the term. Knitting lawyers: who wants to step up the plate on this one? [ 04.10.06 ]
The study, appearing today in the journal Science, suggests that groups with few rules attract many exploitative people who quickly undermine cooperation. By contrast, communities that allow punishment, and in which power is distributed equally, are more likely to draw people who, even at their own cost, are willing to stand up to miscreants.
» Inventory: Seven Songs With Factual Or Logical Mistakes In The Lyrics. "Young MC, 'Bust A Move': Though Young MC is completely logical throughout most of this song — he's absolutely right, in most situations, you should bust a move — things get a little confusing in the last verse." [ 04.11.06 ]
» Approaching Mount Moore. "So you've seen V for Vendetta, and maybe read the fine graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, and you want to read something else in a similar vein. Then again, you could just be looking for something completely different, something that's a bit unusual, but won't be a waste of your time. And you figure that you'd like to try out this comics thing for yourself, and thought you'd start with one of the best." / (1) Comments / [ 04.11.06 ]
» What is collaborative journalism? I would define it as news reporting, enabled by the Internet, done by a dispersed, unorganized group of people — or a group that spontaneously (and temporarily) organizes around their interest in a particular event. It's a compelling idea, but unfortunately — and in spite of many millions of blogs and wikis and online forums — actual examples are few and far between.
I had believed that was because most people are just not that interested in reporting the news, but I was wrong. Most of us can't wait to "break" a story to our friends, whether we've just witnessed a car accident, a celebrity sighting, or discovered that friends who were dating have broken up.
I'm beginning to suspect that what citizen reporters lack is the proper tool. Because the Flickr slideshow of photos of the French employment riots [Flash required] amply demonstrates that, on Flickr at least, collaborative photojournalism is thriving. That success is at least as much a product of Flickr itself as it is a product of the contributing photographers.
For those who don't know, Flickr allows members to upload photos to a public viewing area, and then "tag" them to denote their subject matter. Flickr then rates each photo according to "interestingness", a quality that is based on the ways in which other users interact with that photo. No one (outside of the Flickr team) knows exactly what that algorithm is based on, but I would guess that it measures things like the number of times each photo is viewed, the number of times another member calls it a favorite, the number of times it's emailed to others — those sorts of things.
The above slideshow consists of all public photos with a certain tag. So the first thing Flickr is doing is aggregating them. Then they are arranged by "interestingness" which means that the best photos (as judged by the community) come first. It also means that as new photos are added to the stream, it will continue to change, and more interesting photos will percolate to the top. If you haven't looked at a Flickr stream before, you'll be astonished by the high quality of these photographs.
Now, with or without Flickr, there would be people out on the streets watching the riots. But I would judge that Flickr members are now more inclined to document what they see, knowing that they can share it with others when they get home. I don't know what tools could make it this easy for other kinds of journalists to assemble a compelling story in pieces, but clearly Flickr has made something possible for photographers that was not possible before. [Updated to more clearly distinguish between written journalism and photojournalism.] (via rw)/ (8) Comments / [ 04.11.06 ]
» Science finally catches up with me: "Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who's studied attention deficit disorder for more than a decade, has identified a related disorder he calls attention deficit trait, and he says it's reaching epidemic proportions in the corporate world." (via 43f) / (1) Comments / [ 04.11.06 ]
» Eye Level is a blog produced by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. "Using the museum’s collection as a touchstone, the conversation at Eye Level will be dedicated to American art and the ways in which the nation’s art reflects its history and culture." [ 04.12.06 ]
» If you want to think like a CEO, but you don't have the time for school, Josh Kaufman recommends a list of 42 books and periodicals he calls The Personal MBA. If you're very motivated (or need motivation) you can join the PMBA Forum and work through the series with others. / (1) Comments / [ 04.12.06 ]
» Good idea: Nutricate is a company that enables restaurants to print meal-specific nutrition information on customer receipts. (via usfp) [ 04.12.06 ]
» 2006 British Book Awards. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling is "Book of the Year", and Labyrinth by Kate Mosse is the "Best Read of the Year". I guess I'd go with the read, wouldn't you? (via book-glutton) [ 04.13.06 ]
» Muzak has turned from creating "Stimulus Progression programming" designed to enhance employee performance to creating audio soundscapes that reinforce branding. "Take Armani Exchange. Shoppers there are looking for clothes that are hip and chic and cool. They’re twenty-five to thirty-five years old, and they want something to wear to a party or a club, and as they shop they want to feel like they’re already there. [...] For Ann Taylor, you do something completely different." Dana McKelvey, Muzak audio architect. [ 04.13.06 ]
» In the United States, slot machines are better monitored than voting machines (via rc3oi) / (1) Comments / [ 04.13.06 ]
» Urville is an imaginary city designed over the last 16 years by a 28-year-old autistic Frenchman who has detailed its history, geography, culture and economy, and created over 200 drawings of the city. A Guidebook to Urville is due to be released this year.
» A Little Weekend Reading: Working Girls, Broken Society is a terrible title for a really smart article . "While the benefits of career equality are axiomatic, its negative repercussions are wilfully ignored. In a contentious essay that is sparking fierce debate in Britain, a King's College professor argues that we must confront the losses to society when women choose work over family."
Politicians, journalists and businessmen often emphasize the negative economic consequences of any barriers to female participation in the workforce, and of losing half the country's best brains to the kitchen sink. Of course they are right, and I am in no hurry to go back there myself.
But it is striking how little anyone mentions, let alone tries to quantify, the offsetting losses when women choose work over family. This is stupid.
» Dave Pollard has updated his How to Change the World list of 80 books and articles that "forever changed my worldview, and my purpose for living." I'm fascinated with the descriptions of some of these books, the tenets of which seem entirely at odds with my own worldview. I must pick a few of them up. (thanks, Amy!) [ 04.17.06 ]
» Merlot fights back is Swanson Vineyards wine seminar for trade and media that is designed to counter, as I would judge, a single movie character's refusal to drink Merlot. "Did you know how important clay in a merlot vineyard’s soil is? Did you realize that the wine Miles (in Sideways) hoarded and opened on his birthday was a '61 Cheval Blanc, a 50/50 cepage of Merlot and Cabernet Franc? These are just a taste of the connoisseurship of Merlot the seminar will provide." [ 04.17.06 ]
» Emily Turrettini notices the difference between the Flickr slideshow of the CPE protests I linked here last week, and other CPE photo compilations on the Web, which depict a much more peaceful event. She wonders whether the slideshow photos depicting vandalism were taken during the French riots in November, and then deliberately mis-tagged "CPE", but I don't think that's the case. The slideshow I linked was organized by "interestingness", which is likely to skew to the sensational. The "most recent" slideshow presents a much less dramatic series of images. Note that neither is a measure of "importance" or "fairness", values that will likely always require human editorial judgement.
Of course it would be easy to deliberately mis-tag photos as they were uploaded. I posted here about the inherent limitations of tagging back in January 2005. At the time, others joined me in commenting on the potential to game the system. But Flickr is still a relatively unknown phenomenon, and I would be surprised if, at this point, anyone is trying to game it for political gain. That will likely change once Flickr becomes more widely known. Perhaps the automatic inclusion of GPS and time/date information when photos are uploaded would provide enough information to allow viewers to make more accurate assessments.
Emily is correct when she says "Caution and good judgment must prevail, not only toward the traditional media, but with regard to collaborative citizen journalism as well" — but that applies equally to the other sites she links. Organizations that participate in an event will document just one version of the event: their own. This version might be carefully constructed to present a particular narrative of the event and of the organization's role (think of the narratives routinely presented by political parties). At its least contrived, organizational records will consist of of "our favorite moments" — the parts participants themselves most want to look back on. This is right and natural and how we all organize our personal memory-markers. It is one reason I've argued that narratives must be written by a third party in order to be classified as "journalism" instead of memoir.
People photograph that which they think is "interesting". Photographers then apply another filter of "worthness" before they upload their photos to the server — or show them to friends. Every photograph has a point of view. Every series of photos creates a narrative. It will never be complete, or unbiased. Even so, barring a large-scale misinformation campaign, Flickr photos of any event should, in aggregate, represent a relatively impartial account of what could be be captured on film.
That lack of editorial control provides some protection against any person or organization seeking to control the narrative of any given event. Everyone's photos are published, regardless of their political standing or intent. Given enough participants, Flickr's inclusive nature will work against anyone deliberately skewing coverage of an event.
We need to be on guard against fraud. We need to create technological systems that will support transparency and reduce distortion. But in the end, one of our best weapons against deliberate manipulation and misinformation may be the simple, non-technical principle of inclusion. In fact, the framers of our Constitution were onto this 200 years ago. It's a little thing they liked to call "a Free Press". / (7) Comments / [ 04.17.06 ]
» Book review: Elizabeth Gilbert's Year of Prayer, a review of Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. "As I read along in Eat Pray Love, I came to understand Elizabeth Gilbert’s year of travel as a year of prayer. And I mean every single moment of that year, not just the part spent in meditation at the ashram in India, or the time soaking up ancient knowledge from a medicine man in Bali, but also the months in Italy when she gained 30 pounds in pursuit of pleasure via pasta and gelato." [ 04.18.06 ]
» Awesome: Pantomime Ministries. It's real, it's largely a phenomenon of the African American church, and it's spreading. Here's one group: The Lights of Zion. Their tagline? "We mime our own business". [ 04.18.06 ]
» Concerned that radical fundamentalism has hijacked Christianity in the public sphere, a group of moderate and progressive Christians have formed a group called Crosswalk, and started a cross-country hike from Phoenix, Arizona to Washington, DC to bring attention to more mainstream Christian values. The Phoenix Affirmations summarize their core beliefs. And of course they have a blog. "We are going on this journey because the Christian values of compassion, a welcoming spirit, acceptance and tolerance are being drowned out in large part by a small but vocal and well-funded minority that are using faith in America to create a divisive and polarizing atmosphere of exclusion." The Rev. Eric Elnes, Ph.D., co-president of CrossWalk America, and senior pastor of Scottsdale Congregational United Church of Christ. / (1) Comments / [ 04.18.06 ]
» A new study suggests that the goth subculture, with its emphasis on acceptance and non-violence, may help to protect young people at risk of harming themselves. "Rather than posing a risk, it's also possible that by belonging to the goth subculture, young people are gaining valuable social and emotional support from their peers." Robert Young, University of Glasgow researcher and study lead. (thanks, chris!) / (1) Comments / [ 04.18.06 ]
» A wealthy Bosnian has raised £100,000 to excavate a triangular hill in the Visoko valley, in the hopes of proving it is manmade. Experts ridicule the idea that there was a high culture in the area 12,000 years ago. "We're talking about a huge construction effort here. The size of this pyramid will shock the archaeological world. It's substantially higher than the Great Pyramid of Egypt." Semir Osmanagic, financier of the Visocica hill excavation. [ 04.18.06 ]
» The Children's Choices for 2005 list is the 31st in a series of reading lists compiled up by children. The list is divided into Beginning Readers, ages 5–7, Young Readers, ages 8–10 (half way down the page), and Advanced Readers, ages 11–13 (2/3 of the way down the page). [ 04.19.06 ]
» Harumi Kurihara, Japan's "karisuma shufu" — a charisma housewife — is one of the most loved Martha Stewarts of Japan. Harumi's Japanese Cooking has just been published in the United States. "A Japanese mother's reputation in school rests on her bentos." Nobuko Suzuki, editor of Harumi Kurihara's Japanese cookbooks. / (1) Comments / [ 04.19.06 ]
» After 63 years of waiting, a real-life Charlotte Gray get her wings. "It was a complete accident that I ended up leading 1,500 Resistance fighters. I was not a military person — I was supposed to be a courier — but I ended up having to use whatever sense I had." Pearl Cornioley, WWII French Resistance leader. (via dm) [ 04.19.06 ]
» A captive audience for salvation The largest private company running prisons and jails in the United States has formed partnerships with eight national Evangelical Christian ministries, but observers are raising questions about its constitutionality — and effectiveness. "Once you get into the program it will grab you. Doing time is hard.... This is the best place to be in the facility because there's more peace." Harold Harris, repeat offender and member of one of his prison's "God Pods". [ 04.19.06 ]
» The Reverend Becca Stevens has created an amazingly successful program to change the lives of women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse by treating them like precious objects. "I wanted to treat people with dignity and respect, to have a lovely place where women could feel the extravagance of being loved, and that they are worth something." The Reverend Becca Stevens, founder of the Magdalene community. [ 04.20.06 ]
» I sure hope this isn't true. Is Covert Military Action in Iran 'Under the CNN Line'?
COL. SAM GARDINER: Well, the evidence is beginning to accumulate that a decision has already been made to use military force in Iran. Now, let me do a historical thing, and then I’ll tell you what the current evidence is. We now know that the decision and the actual actions to bomb Iraq occurred in July of 2002, before we ever had a U.N. resolution or before the Congress ever authorized it. It was an operation called Southern Focus, and the only guidance that the military — or the guidance that the military had from Rumsfeld was keep it below the CNN line. His specific words. The evidence that we’ve already —
AMY GOODMAN: Keep it below what?
COL. SAM GARDINER: The CNN line. In other words, I don’t want this to appear on CNN, okay? That was his guidance to the military, you can begin to bomb Iraq, but don’t let it appear on CNN.
[ 04.20.06 ]
» Dr Who's sidekick K-9 will return to the new series in a cameo, and star in its own animated series. [ 04.24.06 ]
» A new website called Wholly Love [ed. note: top page fine, inside pages tasteful, but possibly not quite safe for work] sells sex toys to help couples celebrate "God's fantastic gift of sex within Christian marriage". And why not? The site offers sex toys, "Dickie warmers", fishnet gloves, and a nurse's outfit. "We are constantly told as Christians what we can’t do, but there is little promotion of what we can." Stella Hagarty, co-founder of Wholly Love. / (1) Comments / [ 04.24.06 ]
» Scientists have discovered an antibacterial compound 100 times more potent than penicillin in wallaby's milk. (via shn) / (1) Comments / [ 04.24.06 ]
» Oh, awesome. Watch this Japanese video of how to fold a t-shirt perfectly in 5 seconds. Now I wish they'd invent a method for folding a fitted sheet that works as advertised. (via s1a) / (1) Comments / [ 04.25.06 ]
» Forget the Science Fair. What young people want is a showcase for their inventions. "Would you be bored if you were stuck having to swim in a bowl all day?" Fourth grader Lexee Hutchens, explaining her invention, the Fishtastic Maze. [ 04.25.06 ]
» Irwin Herman rounds them up and gives them away — 8 million and counting. "To jails alone we give 100,000 paperbacks yearly. Juvie Hall is separate. They find me, God bless 'em. I never say no to anybody. Mental health services. St. Vincent. East Mesa Detention Center. AA group for teenagers. Anybody who calls me and says, 'I need books for such-and-such group,' I say, 'Come on over. And bring empty boxes.'" Irwin Herman, the Bookman of San Diego. (via dm) [ 04.25.06 ]
» Wearing compression stockings significantly reduces the incidence of Deep Vein Thrombosis on long flights. Of 2821 passengers on flights of at least 7 hours, 50 developed symptomless DVT, of whom 47 were not wearing flight socks. [ 04.26.06 ]
» Airbus has devised a way to squeeze even passengers more efficiently into a plane: by strapping them, standing, against a padded backboard. Update: Airbus calls the NYT report "crap". / (1) Comments / [ 04.26.06 ]
» Have you heard of Antweb? It's a project from the California Academy of Sciences that uses Google Earth to create an interactive map of the earth's ant population. [ 04.26.06 ]
» Pass the Book. "We found the idea of releasing books into the wild via bookcrossing.com appealing, but were annoyed when the released books remained wild, perhaps -- who knew? -- packed away in some Great Lost and Found where they would never be looked upon again by the eyes of man. We thought we'd do something less formal, passing books among friends to form a chain of readers that would delight six-degrees-of-separation-obsessed folk." [ 04.27.06 ]
» When Justice Peter Smith's handed down his ruling on the "Da Vinci Code" copyright case, he embedded a secret message in the text, decipherable only by figuring out his own "Smithy Code". (thanks, jjg!) / (1) Comments / [ 04.27.06 ]
» This week's Green Room responds to the objections raised by Matt Prescott's call to ban the inefficient incandescent lightbulb. [ 04.27.06 ]
» A Co-Founder of Greenpeace makes the case for nuclear energy. (thanks, Mark!)
It's thoughtful and plausible, though I'm sure an anti-nuclear activist could make a counter-argument that sounds just as plausible to me, since I know almost nothing real about the subject. I do think there's a bit of technophobia entwined with people's objections (as with their objections to GM crops and cloning). A death by radiation sounds horrible.
I honestly wish the government would spend the equivalent money on super-insulating people's houses and maybe subsidizing alternate energy sources before spending the money on nukes, though. / (4) Comments / [ 04.27.06 ]
"After the age of forty, every man is responsible for his own face." This aphorism, most commonly attributed to Albert Camus, was comforting when I heard it in my twenties.... Now I am 38, two years away from Camus's benchmark.... Alas, unless the next two years bring a sudden Botox-like transformation, the face I will be responsible for in my forties and beyond has quite as many faults as the one I was not responsible for in my twenties. And without a doubt, wet shaving has only made me more conscious of the face I am about to be responsible for. [...]
But if Camus's slogan is no longer comforting, it has become bracing. Just in time, at the age of 38, I have learned how to shave. I have become responsible for my own face.
[ 04.28.06 ]
» After pooling the features from 100 different writing systems, including alphabets, abjads, abugidas, and syllabaries, scientists have concluded that all of them are based on shapes derived from the natural world, chosen because we are hard-wired to recognize them. [ 04.28.06 ]
» I'm pleased to introduce the latest in my series Bloggers on Blogging: Megan Reardon, better known to most people as Not Martha. We talk about crafting, fear of writing, frustrating photography, and the many uses of blogging.
What appealed to me in general was the personal voice of blogs at that time. They were like zines, but they made sense. And they were like being allowed to read someone's diary. At that time in my life I was discovering the post-college lack of meaningful communication with others, and weblogs as they were being written filled in where intimate conversations had been diminishing.
[ 04.28.06 ]