Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What's the Buzz? Rowdy Teenagers Don't Want to Hear It - New York Times:

Now 39, Mr. Stapleton has taken the lesson he learned that day - that children can hear sounds at higher frequencies than adults can - to fashion a novel device that he hopes will provide a solution to the eternal problem of obstreperous teenagers who hang around outside stores and cause trouble.

The device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying," Mr. Stapleton said), emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that, he says, can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they cannot stand it and go away.
Cute idea--a band makes their new video in faux verite sex tape style.
Totally obnoxious new real estate ad:
via Hodgman's lovely mailings:

Jh: “It says here on your book that you were influenced by HP Lovecraft and A. Merritt. Who is A. Merritt?”

Frank: “He is the author of ‘Seven Footprints to Satan’”
Jh: “I see. And it says you yourself studied the occult?”
Frank: “Well, I am actually a fairly sensitive psychic. But I don’t practice that much any more. Because the first thing you pick up on, of course, is the bad parts of people: their failures, their anxieties, their secrets. And this can be very painful.”
Jh: (silence)
COULTON: (silence)
Jh: (anxieties and secrets and silence)
Frank: “Oh, I think I should have made a left turn there.”

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

Alvin Toffler
Whileyouarereading Books | Whatsizface:

As a teenager reading "Death in Venice," I understood the world to be divided between the Aschenbachs and the Tadzios. There are those who gaze, and those who are gazed upon. I am not talking about the natural inequity of attention that the old bestow upon the young -- we are all hardwired to respond to babies, for example, but it would take the rare and deeply odd child to singsong to a grown-up, "Who's got a cute receding hairline? Oh yes it is." I am talking about within one's own cohort: some are destined to promenade the Lido in Venice, blooming like flowers under the heat of appreciative stares, while the rest of us are born to watch, sweating through our grimy collars and eating our musty strawberries while the plague rolls in. | The more noble prize:

I once got on the subway at 96th and Broadway in Manhattan and sat down opposite a handsome young African-American woman who was reading a book of mine. The train rattled along and I waited for her to smile or laugh but she didn't. She did, however, keep reading. I stayed on the train past 72nd and 42nd and 34th and finally it was too much for me -- if she had slapped the book shut and tossed it away, it would've hurt me so awfully bad, so I got off at 14th and I was a more thoughtful man for the rest of the day. A writer craves readers, but what passes between him and them is so intimate that it's unbearable to sit and watch.
New subway cars being tested with digital signage--see here for the scoop.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Homosexuality destabilizes society:

The Vatican newspaper said on Tuesday that homosexuality risked "destabilizing people and society," had no social or moral value and could never match the importance of the relationship between a man and a woman.

The remarks were contained in a long commentary published to accompany the official release of a long-awaited document that restricted the access of homosexual men to the Roman Catholic priesthood.
Pope Acts to Restrain Franciscans of Assisi:

ASSISI, Italy -- Imams, rabbis, Buddhist monks, Hindu holy men and followers of Confucius have strolled the chalky white and pink stone courtyards of the massive basilica here. Anti-globalization activists with fists in the air and Communist atheists carrying Marxist texts have conversed with gentle Catholic monks.

Peace marches and conferences on economic development, bioethics and myriad other topics have unfolded, all under the auspices of the Franciscan monks who control the shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, the much-beloved and storied founder of the Franciscan order.

With a stroke of the pen earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI put the future of such varied -- some would say freewheeling -- events in question, according to Roman Catholic observers, both those who favor Franciscan activism and those who oppose it.
Boing Boing: Sony CD spyware installs and can run permanently, even if you click "Decline":

Previously, Princeton researchers revealed that the MediaMax software installed itself even if you declined the EULA (the pop-up license agreement). However, the researchers concluded that if you declined the EULA, the software was only active until you restarted Windows.

Now Princeton's Alex Halderman reports that if you insert another MediaMax-infected CD (or the same CD again) and decline the EULA a second time, the software can activate itself permanently.

In some ways, this is unsurprising -- we know that non-negotiated "contracts" like DRM EULAs aren't really agreements. No one even expects them to be read, and no one allows you to negotiate the terms if you disagree with them. They contain abusive clauses that no one would ever willingly consent to. They're a comb-over that does little to disguise the glistening, liver-spotted bald pate of bad business-practices that underpin the entertainment industry.
Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | The longlisted passages for the Bad Sex in Fiction award:

Villages by John Updike (Hamish Hamilton)

A flock of crows, six or eight, raucously rasping at one another, thrashed into the top of an oak on the edge of the square of sky. The heavenly invasion made his heart race; he looked down at his prick, silently begging it not to be distracted; his mind fought skidding into crows and woods, babies and Phyllis, and his prick stared back at him with its one eye clouded by a single drop of pure seminal yearning.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Place in the Desert for New Mexico's Most Exclusive Circles:

From the state that gave us Roswell, the epicenter of UFO lore since 1947, comes a report from an Albuquerque TV station about its discovery of strange landscape markings in the remote desert. They're etched in New Mexico's barren northern reaches, resemble crop circles and are recognizable only from a high altitude.

Also, they are directly connected to the Church of Scientology.

(Cue theremin music.)

The church tried to persuade station KRQE not to air its report last week about the aerial signposts marking a Scientology compound that includes a huge vault "built into a mountainside," the station said on its Web site. The tunnel was constructed to protect the works of L. Ron Hubbard, the late science-fiction writer who founded the church in the 1950s.

The archiving project, which the church has acknowledged, includes engraving Hubbard's writings on stainless steel tablets and encasing them in titanium capsules.
Monopsony - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

In economics, a monopsony is a market form with only one buyer, called "monopsonist", facing many sellers. It is an instance of imperfect competition, symmetrical to the case of a monopoly, in which there is only one seller facing many buyers. The term "monopsony" was first introduced by Joan Robinson (1933).
"The Warriors" fights on:

In the 26 years since its release, the film has evolved into a cult phenomenon. DeVorzon's soundtrack has been reissued, and, in addition to the video game, there is a set of action figures. You can even purchase a replica of the Warriors' vest. One of the film's gangs, the Baseball Furies, itself inspired partly by the band Kiss, has spawned a punk band of the same name. In the Diplomats' recent video "Crunk Musik," the group members appear in Furies' face paint.

With the possible exception of "Scarface," no film has been quoted so many times by hip-hop artists, from Ol' Dirty Bastard on "Enter the 36 Chambers" to Craig Mack's "Flava in Your Ear (Remix)," in which Puff Daddy, at the beginning of the clip, reprises the film's best known lines: To the beat of clinking bottles, he imitates the wail of the movie's psychotic Luther: "War-ri-ors, come out to pla-ay. War-ri-ors, come out to plaa-ay!"
Obscure injoke-y but TOTALLY AWESOME, spot-on depiction of a Printer's Devil party:

(Implication: wouldn't you really rather sit around drinking warm Schmitt's from a can while some 18th generation Bright Eyes cassette plays on an answering machine and conversation centers on how everybody (except me) got their printer's devil nicknames?)

Thanks, Mr. Nelson.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Nostalgic for an East Village That Eludes the Big Screen:

There are homeless people, yes, and riots and a tent city - all of which were in the old East Village - but, predictably enough, they are the best-looking riots, homeless people and tent cities you have ever seen. None of which is criminal - "West Side Story" doesn't look exactly like 1950's Hell's Kitchen, after all - and all of which can probably be traced back to the fact that "Rent," a New York story if there ever was one, was largely shot in San Francisco. (The director, Chris Columbus, lives in that foggy burg.) There are, to be sure, a few brief East Village exteriors, and a scene or two set around Tompkins Square, but anyone looking for a glimpse of the old East Village (or even the new East Village) will be sorely disappointed.

As was I. I had kind of hoped, I guess, that when "Rent" came out I would be transported to those fervent years when the musical is set - 1989 and 1990 - when crime was high, morale was low and even getting a quart of milk seemed like an adventure.
Bush's approval ratings today--apparently, we're all Blue States now.
The Darwin exhibition frightening off corporate sponsors:

An exhibition celebrating the life of Charles Darwin has failed to find a corporate sponsor because American companies are anxious not to take sides in the heated debate between scientists and fundamentalist Christians over the theory of evolution.

The entire $3 million (£1.7 million) cost of Darwin, which opened at the American Museum of Natural History in New York yesterday, is instead being borne by wealthy individuals and private charitable donations.

The failure of American companies to back what until recently would have been considered a mainstream educational exhibition reflects the growing influence of fundamentalist Christians, who are among President George W Bush's most vocal supporters, over all walks of life in the United States.

The Phony War Against the Critics:

"One might also argue," Vice President Cheney said in a speech on Monday, "that untruthful charges against the commander in chief have an insidious effect on the war effort." That would certainly be an ugly and demagogic argument, were one to make it. After all, if untruthful charges against the president hurt the war effort (by undermining public support and soldiers' morale), then those charges will hurt the war effort even more if they happen to be true. So one would be saying in effect that any criticism of the president is essentially treason.

Lest one fear that he might be saying that, Cheney immediately added, "I'm unwilling to say that" -- "that" being what he had just said. He generously granted critics the right to criticize (as did the president this week). Then he resumed hurling adjectives like an ape hurling coconuts at unwanted visitors. "Dishonest." "Reprehensible." "Corrupt." "Shameless." President Bush and others joined in, all morally outraged that anyone would accuse the administration of misleading us into war by faking a belief that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear and/or chemical and biological weapons.

New York Hack: Trips:

4. One of my very favorites was the oddly-mannered late-middle-aged lady who told me she only watched shopping channels on TV. She rattled off all the different shopping networks (QVC, ShopNBC, HSN, etc.) and described the merits and drawbacks of each one. When I asked her how much money she spent on home shopping, she said, “Oh no, I don’t buy anything anymore, I just watch. I used to buy from them. Ten years ago I drained a bank account, and a good bank account, too, but I don’t do that anymore. Now I just watch them.” I guess they warded off loneliness or something. Her husband, after all, was a Bush-voting, NRA-card-carrying Republican.
Some Talking in Bed

Talking in bed ought to be easiest,
Lying together there goes back so far,
An emblem of two people being honest.

Yet more and more time passes silently
Outside, the wind's incomplete unrest
Builds and disperses clouds about the sky,

And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why
At this unique distance from isolation

It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind.

Phillip Larkin

Friday, November 25, 2005

Deborah Davis:

One morning in late September 2005, Deb was riding the public bus to work. She was minding her own business, reading a book and planning for work, when a security guard got on this public bus and demanded that every passenger show their ID. Deb, having done nothing wrong, declined. The guard called in federal cops, and she was arrested and charged with federal criminal misdemeanors after refusing to show ID on demand.

On the 9th of December 2005, Deborah Davis will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in a case that will determine whether Deb and the rest of us live in a free society, or in a country where we must show "papers" whenever a cop demands them.
Actor Pat Morita Dies at 73:

Actor Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid" earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 73.
2 Sisters Injured as Parade Balloon Crashes Into Lamppost - New York Times:

A giant balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, swinging out of control in sudden bursts of wind, struck a light pole in the heart of Times Square today, injuring two spectators and scaring scores of others in an eerie replay of a 1997 accident that had prompted pledges of safety reforms.

The M&M balloon, a 515-pound plastic contraption filled with 13,335 cubic feet of helium, began to list erratically as it entered Times Square around 11:40 a.m., witnesses said, before it crashed into a lamppost and was punctured. As the balloon collapsed, it pulled off a light fixture, which crashed to the ground amid a small sea of spectators.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Geek to Live: How to fix Mom and Dad's computer - Lifehacker:

You’re headed home next week to a turkey feast with all the trimmings - and Mom and Dad’s computer. You know what’s going to happen.

I keep getting these pop ups, he’ll say. It’s just been so slow lately, she’ll say. I keep seeing this flashing picture of a roulette wheel that just won’t go away. Can you take a look at it?

Fear not, my friend. The annual Family Computer Fixing event is upon us, and you are the emcee.
Nobody Bikes in L.A. (But they'd be a lot happier if they did.):

It's very easy for an L.A. driver to think that our city is as choked with humanity as Manhattan. From the driver's point of view, that's increasingly true—there are more and more evenings when every major street is stopped dead, and going a few miles can take hours. At work the next day, people grimly shake their heads and lament what's becoming of the city.

Not only has riding my bike enabled me to glide past all this gridlock (in fact, I'm often not even aware it's happening), but it has made me realize that it's an illusion. The city itself is not gridlocked—merely the narrow asphalt ribbons onto which we squeeze all our single-occupant cars. On the back streets I now take, everything is quiet and serene. The main roads may mimic Times Square on New Year's Eve, but the areas between L.A.'s clogged arteries comprise mile after square mile of low-density, low-stress residential bliss (the same is true, I suspect, of most American cities).
What Makes Laptops So Dangerous?:

Almost 22 million people are expected to travel on U.S. airlines during the Thanksgiving holiday period, and wait times at the airport may increase as a result. As usual, airlines are telling passengers they can save time if they remove laptop computers from their carry-on baggage before they get to security checkpoints. Why do computers get so much attention?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Read all about it at National Geographic.
OhGizmo! » Maxell Releases Holographic Storage Medium:

Forget about Blu-Ray, or HD-DVD… I’ll take holographic disks anytime. Maxell, in a joint venture with InPhase Technologies has announced the release of a Holographic optical recording device that will eventually support cartridges of up to 1.6TB (that’s a “t”, as in 1,600 Gb) with transfer rates reaching 120Mbps.

To put things in perspective, this means that one 5 1/4 inch disk will be able to hold as much information as 63 DVDs.

Google Click-to-Call FAQ:

# What's the phone icon on Google search results? How does it work?

We're testing a new product that gives you a free and fast way to speak directly to the advertiser you found on a Google search results page – over the phone.

Here's how it works: When you click the phone icon, you can enter your phone number. Once you click 'Connect For Free,' Google calls the number you provided. When you pick up, you hear ringing on the other end as Google connects you to the other party.

We won't share your telephone number with anyone, including the advertiser. When you're connected with the advertiser, your number is blocked so the advertiser can't see it. In addition, we'll delete the number from our servers after a short period of time.
"CSI: Miami" vs. "Grand Theft Auto":

In conjuction with the venom and disgust that enfuses the word "gamer" when it's spoken by star David Caruso, aka "Horatio Crane," it is made clear, as one poster on the Web noted afterward, that people who play games are but one step removed from pedophiles or suicide bombers in the social hierarchy of evil. Even worse, one gamer actually plays so long without a break -- "70 hours!" -- that he experiences renal failure and dies. Evil, stupid and unlikely to reproduce!

But that's not the real kicker. When Horatio confronts a slick, smarmy executive from the company that makes the game, the suit refuses to divulge any information about the internal narrative of the game that would help the cops figure out the next target of the criminals. And, of course, he disclaims any responsibility for what people do in real life as opposed to what they are encouraged to do in a game.

To those of us who do live in the real world, as opposed to video game land or the tortured plot devisings of bad TV writers, it might seem unrealistic that a gaming company wouldn't cooperate with the police in such a circumstance. Kinda suspicious. Hey, you don't suppose the gaming company might be involved, do you? It turns out that executive isn't just smarmy -- he's Satan. Not only is the company providing bad role models to the youth of today, but, in an effort to boost sales in a competitive industry, it's also actively supplying college students with Tec-9 automatics and encouraging them to murder innocent people.
BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | 'A third of pubs' to open longer:

New licensing laws which allow pubs to apply for 24-hour drinking in some areas come into force at midnight.

Of the 375 licensing authorities surveyed, 301 responded in full. BBC News 24 researchers found 60,326 outlets can sell alcohol for longer.

X-Box 360 crashing. A lot.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bizarre video of a topless Kate Moss thrashing about. Huh.
Mario Unleashed!

PRESIDENT Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals.

But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.

A source said: "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." Al-Jazeera is accused by the US of fuelling the Iraqi insurgency.

A source said last night: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush.
A house with remarkable Christmas lights. (You'll need sound for this.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Country Music Comes to Town:

Here's the thing about country music: Like most categories of popular culture, it resembles a dumpster filled 98 percent with brightly wrapped, completely empty boxes. But if you dive the dumpster, and if you have the right kind of sensibility, you can find touchingly sincere, clever, unpretentious, and readily accessible simple pleasures scattered among the wretched refuse.
My First Time:

From the moment I stepped on the set, I could feel the tension. Despite the high-powered cast, this was a series in trouble, and it seemed like everyone knew that cancellation was looming. To make matters worse, that day's major scene was being shot on location in an Upper East Side mansion, involving multiple rooms on multiple floors, dozens of characters, extras galore (did I mention the live string quartet?) -- an incredibly ambitious undertaking for a struggling one-hour show on a tight schedule -- which the director, channeling his inner Orson Welles, decided would be cool to shoot in one long, unedited five-minute take.

And where did my five lines fall in this mini-epic? On either end, where they could easily be snipped if the new guy screwed up? No, they were smack-dab in the middle. Meaning that if I blew a line, the cast, the crew, the dozens of extras, the Steadicam operator, the string quartet -- everyone would have to go "back to one" and start the whole elaborate process over from the beginning.

My very first television role. No pressure.
Why have Catholics stopped lining up at the confessional?

Today the situation is almost exactly the reverse: Entire congregations receive Communion, while the confessionals remain mostly empty. Between 1965 and 1975, according to the National Opinion Research Council, the proportion of Catholics who confessed monthly fell from 38 percent to 17 percent. A University of Notre Dame study in the 1980s showed the decline continuing. In a 1997 poll by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, only 10 percent of Catholics surveyed said that they confessed at least once a month; another 10 percent said they never went to confession at all.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Manly Men of God:

Who started the Promise Keepers in 1990? Why, the head coach of the University of Colorado football team, of course -- a manly man doing a manly profession. As far as filling arenas goes, the Promise Keepers are the AC/DC of men-only, Jesus-centered events. Touring 20 cities around the country, with ticket prices at $89, filling up larger outdoor stadiums with upward of 40,000 people, the Promise Keepers are holy big business.

What separates me (a man) from most of these men (not women) is I'm in the inner circle for this weekend's arena event. That's right, phoning a few days earlier, I volunteered to be on the Promise Keepers Prayer Team.
PBS | I, Cringely . November 17, 2005 - Google-Mart:

The same follows for the rumor that Google, as a dark fiber buyer, will turn itself into some kind of super ISP. Won't happen. And WHY it won't happen is because ISPs are lousy businesses and building one as anything more than an experiment (as they are doing in San Francisco with wireless) would only hurt Google's earnings.

So why buy-up all that fiber, then?

The probable answer lies in one of Google's underground parking garages in Mountain View. There, in a secret area off-limits even to regular GoogleFolk, is a shipping container. But it isn't just any shipping container. This shipping container is a prototype data center. Google hired a pair of very bright industrial designers to figure out how to cram the greatest number of CPUs, the most storage, memory and power support into a 20- or 40-foot box. We're talking about 5000 Opteron processors and 3.5 petabytes of disk storage that can be dropped-off overnight by a tractor-trailer rig. The idea is to plant one of these puppies anywhere Google owns access to fiber, basically turning the entire Internet into a giant processing and storage grid.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Rules of Distraction - Hey, you—with the laptop! Ignore your professor and read this instead:

The Internet is, of course, a distraction. There are some ground rules: I always try to position myself so my screen isn't in the line of sight of the professor or one of the teaching assistants. And after a bad pop-up ad experience, I always press the mute button. Still, even when a lecture engages me, it can be hard to pay attention when the little AIM man starts bobbing up and down at the bottom of my screen.

But are these distractions worse than the old-fashioned ones—doodling, dozing, reading, playing footsie, passing notes? Those of us mucking around on IMDB today are probably the same kids who in middle school, before the wireless age, either skipped class or wrote painfully bad rap lyrics on the inside of their notebooks. (Avi Zvi in the place to be/ Kick all ya'll again and you'll never pee … .) The students in front assiduously typing are probably the ones who spent eighth grade taking painstaking notes by hand.

A brief, personal announcement: my dog is sick. Baci has a scratched cornea, from one of his famed battles at the dog park. (It's his left eye, the one he is squinting here.) Note the attractive, modern Elizabethan collar, complete with transparency so that he can see what's happening around him, but he's still the saddest dog on planet Earth today. He gets so tired, but can't sleep comfortably between the eye and the collar, so he's been falling asleep standing up, which is both incredibly sad and funny at the same time.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Joel on Software: Price as Signal

Now, the reason the music recording industry wants different prices has nothing to do with making a premium on the best songs. What they really want is a system they can manipulate to send signals about what songs are worth, and thus what songs you should buy. I assure you that when really bad songs come out, as long as they're new and the recording industry wants to promote those songs, they'll charge the full $2.49 or whatever it is to send a fake signal that the songs are better than they really are. It's the same reason we've had to put up with crappy radio for the last few decades: the music industry promotes what they want to promote, whether it's good or bad, and the main reason they want to promote something is because that's a bargaining chip they can use in their negotiations with artists.

Here's the dream world for the EMI Group, Sony/BMG, etc.: there are two prices for songs on iTunes, say, $2.49 and $0.99. All the new releases come out at $2.49. Some classic rock (Sweet Home Alabama) is at $2.49. Unwanted, old, crap, like, say, Brandy (You're A Fine Girl) -- the crap we only know because it was pushed on us in the 70s by paid-off disk jockeys -- would be deliberately priced at $0.99 to send a clear message that $0.99 = crap.

And now when a musician gets uppity, all the recording industry has to do is threaten to release their next single straight into the $0.99 category, which will kill it dead no matter how good it is. And suddenly the music industry has a lot more leverage over their artists in negotiations: the kind of leverage they are used to having. Their favorite kind of leverage. The “we won't promote your music if you don't let us put rootkits on your CDs” kind of leverage.

Bizarre NutiGrain ad: I FEEL GREAT
Not all Muslims want to integrate:

A government report leaked last March depicted an increasingly two-track educational system: More and more Muslim students refuse to sing, dance, participate in sports, sketch a face, or play an instrument. They won't draw a right angle (it looks like part of the Christian cross). They won't read Voltaire and Rousseau (too antireligion), Cyrano de Bergerac (too racy), Madame Bovary (too pro-women), or Chrétien de Troyes (too chrétien). One school has separate toilets for "Muslims" and "Frenchmen"; another obeyed a Muslim leader's call for separate locker rooms because "the circumcised should not have to undress alongside the impure."
"I'm embarrassed the United States has a vice president for torture."
Former CIA director Stansfield Turner

The Skinphony Human Harp
Columbia University's Cash Cow Is Disgruntled by Angela Cardinale:

I looked at Low Library, that imposing building with the dome I had only known from the movie Spiderman before I came to Columbia. President Bollinger’s office was in that building. I looked around at my classmates. We all had stories. Nearly all of us had made huge sacrifices to be at Columbia, and, as artists, we had a bleak financial future to look forward to. Throughout school, both as an undergraduate and at Columbia, I’ve worked anywhere from two to four jobs to support myself. I am getting tired, but when I leave this school in May, I will still have a mountain of debt to face. How could President Bollinger not respond to us? I half-expected the doors of Low to burst open, for Bollinger to rush down the steps, through the crowd, up to the microphone. "I hear you," I wanted him to say, "and I will do something to help you."

President Bollinger, of course, did not rush down the steps to embrace us. And I, a person who generally shies away from the center of things, walked onto the stage and faced my classmates. They cheered for me. I leaned towards the microphone. In a shrill, wobbily voice, I told President Bollinger that I was pregnant, that my Columbia debt would have an impact on my new family, that rich people aren’t the only people who deserve to study the arts. I wasn’t very profound, and Bollinger didn’t burst through any doors. But I’d like to think that he heard me.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Listen to some Edith Piaf, why don't you?
The New Monogamy - Marriage With Benefits:

For much of human history, monogamy (or, at least, presumed monogamy) has been the default setting for long-term love. Hack the system, goes the theory, refuse to forsake all others, open the door even a crack—and the whole relationship will crash. Any dissenters have been pathologized as delusional idealists or worse. But now a new generation of couples is employing a kind of homeopathic hypothesis: that a tiny injection of adventure will ward off the urge to stray further—as long as it’s all on the table and up for discussion. (And just as with homeopathy, a healthy percentage of the population considers this premise bunk.)
Croatia to Mark Tesla's 150th Birthday:

Croatia in 2006 will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, an ethnic Serb who did pioneering work in electricity in the United States in late 19th and early 20th century, the country's parliament decided Thursday.

The government will finance the finishing of restoration of Tesla's home in a village in central Croatia and turn it into a museum. Conferences and lectures on Tesla's work are also planned.
David G. Willey: Physics Behind Four Amazing Demonstrations (Skeptical Inquirer November 1999):

Dipping one's fingers in molten lead is usually cited as being an example of the Leidenfrost effect in action. However, it is not quite the same situation as when a drop of water is lifted up and hence somewhat insulated from a very hot skillet by the steam formed beneath it. Before dipping one's fingers in molten lead, the hand is dipped in a bowl of water. Then the drops are shaken off and the hand dipped quickly in and out of the lead. I usually dip the first seven or eight centimeters of my fingers. Heat from the lead goes into evaporating the water and hence not into burning the hand, and the resulting steam layer insulates the hand.
U.S. has detained 83,000 in war on terror:

The United States has detained more than 83,000 foreigners in the four years of the war on terror, enough to nearly fill the NFL's largest stadium.
Every patent granted throughout history is available for view online at the U.S. Patent Office.
Leeroy On Jeopardy

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Why aspiring writers should be allowed to fail in private:

In the dozen or so hours a day I spend on Jim Romenesko's media news Web site, I have read a lot about college newspapers. Collegiate editors run amok. Editorialists making sloppy pronouncements. ("I want all Arabs to be stripped naked and cavity-searched if they get within 100 yards of an airport," wrote one columnist—an international studies major.) Plagiarists, con artists, and hacks: the kind of journalistic malefactors that Romenesko specializes in smoking out for public inspection. The difference, of course, is that the collegians are usually between 18 and 22 years old. And if they're anything like I was during that interregnum, they don't have a clue about where to place a comma—let alone how to craft their public personae for their future colleagues. College newspapers have gone digital, and with that we've lost something vital about college journalism: the privilege to write wretchedly, irresponsibly, and incoherently in relative privacy. "When you screw up now, it's Google-able," says Christopher Buckley, the editor of Forbes FYI and a veteran of the Yale Daily News. "In the old days, you just had to wait three days and no one would remember."
Ron Moore on Michael Piller:

Once they were in the room, they had passed Michael’s key test: they were a writer and deserved to be treated as such. Michael had no truck with dishonesty in any form. He was utterly incapable of hiding his likes or dislikes in a professional setting regardless of the impact his opinion may have on the neophyte from Cincinnati who had flown in on their own dime for the opportunity to sit in the very heart of science fiction’s Valhalla and offer their ideas for an episode.

“Nope. Sorry. Can’t do it. Next?”

Sometimes they got less than a full sentence out before Michael would strangle their children in their cribs and ask for a sibling. He showed no mercy. If the idea was wrong, if we were doing it already, or if we’d decided not to do it for one of the fifteen thousand reasons we didn’t do things on that show, Michael would stop the unfortunate scribe in their tracks and ask for the next one. It took a while to realize he wasn’t sadistic, he wasn’t dismissive, and he wasn’t caught up in some kind of a power trip. He was that rarest of Hollywood creatures, seldom sighted and less frequently directly encountered:

He was an Honest Man.
Drug spat down throat during kiss:

The Bangladeshi businessman ended up losing more than 300,000 baht ($12,426) worth of cash and valuables earlier this month. His holiday inamorata? A member of a transvestite gang whose mode of operation was to hide strong sedative pills under their tongues and spit them down the throats of their victims during a kiss.
The Globe and Mail: Ingram: Hey Sony - wake up:

Sony's EULA is like having a man appear at your door to sell you natural gas, and having him install a gas meter in your basement that unlocks your front door whenever the right code is entered -- either by the gas company or anyone else who knows how -- and fills your house with foul-smelling blue smoke if you try to remove it.


Parsing Bush's New Mantra:

President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said today that the arguments over how and why the war began are irrelevant. "We need to put this debate behind us," he said. But the truth is, no debate could be more relevant now. As the war in Iraq enters yet another crucial phase—with elections scheduled next month and Congress finally taking up the issue of whether to send more troops or start pulling them out—we need to know whether the people running the executive branch can be trusted, and the sad truth is that they cannot be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Dan Savage:

So it must be time for another speech, Mr. President, one in which you accuse your own party’s leadership—all those rats jumping off your rapidly sinking ship—of betraying our troops. Unlike almost every other aspect of governance, your can actually speak on this subject with some authority. Because when it comes to betraying the troops—no body armor, no plan to win the peace, to few troops on the ground, slashing veterans benefits, tossing a few low-level grunts into jail for carrying out your order to torture and abuse prisoners—you’re something of an expert.

Monday, November 14, 2005


17, excerpt of Fall

A hedgeapple falling, the neighbor's radio,
a rusty squeaking roof vent, someone yelling You boys
stop that, cicadas, cars on the highway, sparrows
rustling in gutters, all these competing noises.
A swingset's rusty voice severed by a chainsaw,
one life nourished by the erotic, one poisoned.
Though latched shut and locked, the truck's draw-down trailer door
each time it takes a bump clatters and tries to rise.
Two screens between us gray the neighbor's white lace curtains,
but the sun makes pumpkin-colored soy fields brighter
now than our maple will be. Though it clings to green,
gold has found at branch's end one eight-leaf cluster.
The horizon approaches, those rising mountains,
and everything else grows narrow and more clear.

H.L. Hix

Sunday, November 13, 2005

121548 M
The Vagina Dialogues - Five Sex Columnists Compare Notes:

Sohn: Have you ever dated a fan?

Cutler: Some guy came to my reading and I went with him. I still see him. He’s a great guy . . .

Sohn: Did you sleep with him?

Cutler: Oh, yeah, of course. I’ve dated a couple of fans. Why not?

Sohn: Aren’t you afraid that someone is going to be totally psycho?

Cutler: I love the psycho ones! What’s he going to do, kill me?

Nersesian: Yeah.

Cutler: What a relief that would be.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The indomitable Annie Wagner does a great interview with Miranda July.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The End: Judy Miller ‘Retires’ - Gawker.

(Our long national nightmare is over.)

((Well, this part of it, anyway.))
Whose Stories Are They?:

"Jarhead" was directed by Sam Mendes and is based on Anthony Swofford's memoir of the first gulf war. The commercial showed marines in the desert hurrying to don their chemical protection gear. One of the characters, Troy, played by Peter Sarsgaard, put on his hood and turned to another, Swoff, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and in his best Darth Vader voice invited him to "come to the dark side."

Mr. Turnipseed said he was shocked. "I turned to my wife and said, 'Honey, there is something funny about that,' " he said in a phone interview. "That scene is in my book, not Tony's," he added, referring to Mr. Swofford.

A little later on in the game there was another commercial for the film, this one depicting a scene in which a marine colonel gives a motivational speech to soldiers under his command. Much of the scene and some of the dialogue, Mr. Turnipseed recalled, seemed to come directly from the opening pages of "Baghdad Express."

The next day, Mr. Turnipseed went to see an advance screening of the movie. He says he saw enough to convince him that his book had been used for at least part of the movie without credit.
Sunflame Soho
Wired News: History's Worst Software Bugs:

Sixty years later, computer bugs are still with us, and show no sign of going extinct. As the line between software and hardware blurs, coding errors are increasingly playing tricks on our daily lives. Bugs don't just inhabit our operating systems and applications -- today they lurk within our cell phones and our pacemakers, our power plants and medical equipment. And now, in our cars.

But which are the worst?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005 Arts & Entertainment | Welcome to no-choice America:

In Mississippi, the antiabortion movement has managed to close down all but one abortion clinic. And by requiring women to go to the clinic twice, once for information and counseling, and a second time for the procedure, which must take place at least 24 hours later, women who drive from other locations in the state have to make two trips or spend the night in town. For women who can't afford the money or time off from work, these obstacles are likely to seal their fates.

"We don't feel bad that people in the delta can't have an abortion," says Terri Herring, president of Pro-Life Mississippi. "To say that we want to be sure that poor women can get their abortions, like we're doing them a favor by helping them kill their baby, is just not OK with me."

But do the sentiments of one antiabortion activist say anything about the position of state officials? Apparently so: Mississippi actually sells license plates that say "Choose Life" on them, with all proceeds going to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. What can women get at these centers, 2,000 of which exist nationwide? Free pregnancy tests, confidential counseling, free ultrasounds so the women can see their unborn children, and free baby clothes. What can't they get? Free birth control or birth control counseling, information on where to get an abortion, or free prenatal care.
Accused 'used head as bowling ball':

A MAN who allegedly decapitated a 17-year-old boy with a tomahawk in a suburban back yard later was said to have played with the teenager's head, rolling it in a paddock as if it were a bowling ball.

A chilling videotape showing police interviewing one of two men charged with the murder of transient teen Morgan Jay Shepherd was played in Brisbane Magistrates Court yesterday.
Sofitel Bathroom
How the MPAA killed the movie theater experience: a first-hand report [Politech]:

Her phone was taken from her and put in a sealed plastic bag with a claim ticket, and she joined me where I was waiting, past the gate, and we walked into the theatre together.

To add further insult to the debacle at the gate, near the exits at stage right and left were two uniformed security guards at each door, all four with video cameras scanning the crowd and making themselves very conspicuous.

This was not just a bit of pre-show MPAA theatre, they stood there for the entirity of the movie, red LED's glowing, scanning the crowd to remind us that we were under close surviellence and our actions were being recorded.
Alyce's Night In Jail:

The woman cop and Mr. E. left to go check the computer to see if my prints had come back from the main office in Albany. That left the quiet guy, the one with the Yankees sweatshirt, to keep an eye on me. I asked him about the water situation, and again I was advised against drinking the tap water, and reassured it wouldn’t be long before I’d be out. I asked him if he’d been doing this job long, and he said 12 years. I told him it felt strange being locked up, but that I felt pretty confident, being in the United States, that nothing too terrible was going to happen to me. I told him that I trusted completely, for example, that if I really needed water that someone would bring me some, and how kind of ironic it was that the reason I had none was because they were trying to find me the bottled kind. He told me that he’d been in the military for 8 years before becoming a cop, and how during that time he developed an appreciation for the things we take for granted in this country, like clean tap water and electricity. We agreed that Americans, as a whole, are pretty spoiled. I told him I’d always wondered what it was like to be in prison, and he said that, though I was the one behind the bars, that he couldn’t exactly leave his post either, and in fact was serving his second 12-hour shift in a row. He said he never expected to be a cop, it just happened because he needed to pay the bills. He said he doesn’t even agree with a lot of the laws he enforces…he’s just doing his job. I suppressed the urge to ask what he would do if he felt he had a choice.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Bush Declares: 'We Do Not Torture':

"There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again," Bush said. "So you bet we will aggressively pursue them but we will do so under the law."

He declared, "We do not torture."

Problem is, this is demonstrably untrue--we do torture, and the Office of the Vice president has both sanctified, endorsed and covered it up. Amazing to watch reality and spin collide in this administration.

Did Michelin lower the bar for New York?

Its integrity and competence under assault as never before in France, Michelin clearly needed to generate some positive headlines in New York, so it did the craven thing and judged New York on an inflated scale. To the extent Michelin's arrival stateside was cause for excitement, it was the expectation that the guide's supposedly universal standards would at last be applied to New York, ending years of dinner-table speculation about how the city's top restaurants stack up. Clearly, though, Michelin had another agenda, and in pursuing it I suspect it may have alienated that small subset of food-obsessed people with enough experience on both sides of the Atlantic to form their own comparative judgments. These gastronomes—the very people who once regarded Michelin's imprimatur as something of a royal seal—are not suddenly looking at Per Se and Le Bernardin in a new, more flattering light; they are looking at Michelin in a new and distinctly unflattering one. In showering undeserved accolades on New York, Michelin has succeeded only in devaluing its most precious asset: the prestige of those coveted three stars.

By popular demand, I present God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, played on the musical saw by the acclaimed Natalia Paruz. Check out her website, where albums are for sale: she can also play 36 pitched australian cowbells, and the more prosaic 25 pitched American cowbells, the glass harp...and, of course, she can tap dance while playing the piano.

Pruned: Dugway Proving Ground: or TerraServer, Part IV:

The mission of Dugway is to test U.S. and Allied biological & chemical defense systems; perform Nuclear Biological Chemical survivable testing of defense material; provide support to chemical and biological weapons conventions; and Operate and maintain an installation to support test mission. Dugway is located approximately 80 miles west-southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah in Tooele County. DPG, covering 798,855 acres, is located in the Great Salt Lake Desert, approximately 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. Surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges, the proving grounds terrain varies from level salt flats to scattered sand dunes and rugged mountains.
Book Hunting in Britain:

The best place to find them is Britain. That's where many of the best modern books were designed and manufactured, without much pretense, in the middle of the century by independent publishing houses like Faber & Faber, The Hogarth Press, Chatto & Windus, Secker & Warburg, Andre Deutsch, Jonathan Cape, Victor Gollancz, and, in paperback, Penguin. As a result, British shelves are where most of those books are to be found. Book shopping is also a pleasure in Britain because it's still a country filled with people who buy, read, and talk incessantly about books. In New York City, where I live, most street-level used- and rare-book shops have fallen victim to high rents, the Internet, and diminished interest. There's still the Strand, where schizophrenic vagrants and masochistic asthmatics can lose themselves in 18 miles of shelf, but not many other stores are left for browsing. London, by contrast, still has specialist and nonspecialist stores and dealers of nearly every description. There are dozens of excellent shops and a few that count as the best bookstores in the world.
Autism Poem: The Grid

A black and yellow spider hangs motionless in its web,
and my son, who is eleven and doesn't talk, sits
on a patch of grass by the perennial border, watching.
What does he see in his world, where geometry
is more beautiful than a human face?
Given chalk, he draws shapes on the driveway:
pentagons, hexagons, rectangles, squares.
The spider's web is a grid,
transecting the garden in equal parts.

Sometimes he stares through the mesh on a screen.
He loves things that are perforated:
toilet paper, graham crackers, coupons
in magazines, loves the order of the tiny holes,
the way the boundaries are defined. And in real life
is messy and vague. He shrinks back to a stare,
switches off his hearing. And my heart,
not cleanly cut like a valentine, but irregular
and many-chambered, expands and contracts,
contracts and expands.

Barbara Crooker
The FBI's Secret Scrutiny:

The FBI came calling in Windsor, Conn., this summer with a document marked for delivery by hand. On Matianuk Avenue, across from the tennis courts, two special agents found their man. They gave George Christian the letter, which warned him to tell no one, ever, what it said.

Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian to surrender "all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person" who used a specific computer at a library branch some distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy. But the vendors of the software he operates said their databases can reveal the Web sites that visitors browse, the e-mail accounts they open and the books they borrow.