Friday, February 27

My contribution

(I wrote this post awhile ago, and lost it, and am just now getting back to rewriting it.)

Belated congratulations to Jaq, who finished his second complete year of weblogging. He's got an excellent site that I really enjoy. In fact, as you've probably noticed, I probably read and interact most closely with his site these days. I'm glad that my weblog inspired his in some small way.

I'm proud to have contributed to a number of weblogs that way:

- I'm pretty sure mine was the first weblog Scott read, and he once listed me as his blogfather. Now he's got his own url!
- One of the reasons I suggested starting Collaboratory to some friends was to get their voices heard when they didn't have weblogs. I enjoyed them on MetaFilter or in real life and wanted to encourage them. John and Jason now have their own weblogs. And Kathleen started one, but hasn't gone public yet.
- Steven den Beste is on the record (1 2) saying that I helped to get his weblog noticed by recommending it to Jorn at Robot Wisdom.

So, maybe this is a self-congratulatory post. I don't have any illusions about this being a great weblog. And it's gotten me in trouble more than once. But I am glad to have encouraged others.

How to Choose a Search Engine or Directory

(via rebecca blood)

What country are you?

You're Canada!

People make fun of you a lot, but they're stupid because you've
got a much better life than they do.  In fact, they're probably just jealous.
 You believe in crazy things like human rights and health care and not
dying in the streets, and you end up securing these rights for yourself and
others.  If it weren't for your weird affection for ice hockey, you'd be
the perfect person.

the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

The only ice hockey I really care about is the Miracle on Ice, but Canada sounds good. Except I think I'd be really succeptible to SAD

Thursday, February 26

All things Brian Greene

An interview (via kottke)

(Featuring Google ads for: Baby Universe (3x), Trademark Universe, and, lastly, his new book.)

Anti-Spam barriers

Why your idea won't work. (Note the fun .txt file!)

Professor IPod

Michael Bull studies how people use their IPods. Interesting.

Wednesday, February 25

Light reading

Some of these stories look good, many by the usual suspects.

Best Spam Ever

(via Gail Armstrong)

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… My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; the will again comfort Zion and again choose The Horns and the Smiths And I looked up and saw four horns. I asked the angel who talked with me “What are These the horns that have scattered” and he answered me:
P. o. B. 1200 b, Oranges tad, Aruba

More on 'The Passion...'

InterVarsity's semi-official review. (I work for/with them.)

The ABC News article on Gibson's interview with Diane Sawyer.

Newsweek interview with James Caviezel. (The assoicated Newsweek article is biased against the Gospels being historically accurate.)

Roger Ebert's even-handed review.

The movie is 126 minutes long, and I would guess that at least 100 of those minutes, maybe more, are concerned specifically and graphically with the details of the torture and death of Jesus. This is the most violent film I have ever seen.

Yesterday I was already rethinking seeing the movie in the theater. This quote only reinforces my reservation. It's not that I object. It's just that I'm pretty squeamish when it comes to graphic (realistic) violence). We'll see...

Monday, February 23

Software you need

Greg's got a nice list of mostly free stuff you should at least know about.

Sunday, February 22

The Passion of the Christ

All the hubub comes down, once again, to world view and presuppositions.

Theologically conservative Christians believe the Bible is good history (for being written between 1500 BC and 100 AD). They also believe that God is personal and cares about the world and acts in it. Therefore, He came as Jesus.

Other people (often labeled 'liberal', but I'm not trying to narrow down labels here, just to paint with broad strokes), don't believe that the Bible is good history. They think it's more myth (or, at best stories that communicate truth, like folklore) than history. Additionally, if they believe in God (this is not a disparagement), they generally do not believe in a personal God who cares about individual people and acts in the world.

I think this is why we talk past one another so often. With these widely divergent views, it's no wonder we don't see eye to eye on issues like Jesus and movies about him. There's almost no sense in arguing such things, given the differing presuppositions. It make make sense, if we wanted to debate, to debate our presuppositions, but most of us are so convinced we're right that it would seem a waste of time.

Historically speaking, we theologically conservative Christians (I make the distinction because you know I'm not politically or economically conservative) believe the Bible is good history when it says that leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem called for Jesus' crucifixion and told Pilate to let it be on their heads. We also believe that everyone is guilty, to some degree, for Christ's death, because He died for our sins. In fact, we believe He took our sins upon Himself on the cross. And, further, we believe that He was responsible for His death because that's a big part of why He chose to come. By extensions, Trinity-wise, we believe the Father sent the Son for this reason.

Now a big part of the problem here is that the church has been anti-Semitic in the past, a black eye for Jesus. We in the church need to take responsibility for that. And too many so-called 'Christians' have been complicit in anti-semitism, even in the last century, including the horror of the Holocaust. Ironically, largely because of dispensational teaching in the last hundred years, now many conservative Christians are very pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, to the point of supporting the nation of Israel no matter what they do. It's a mixed bag.

The other big question in the media: is 'The Passion...' too violent? Reading about it has increasingly made me think of not seeing it. I don't do well with graphic violence (like in war movies). I'm still planning on going, maybe on Wednesday, but I've got serious reservations. You can argue that it's too violent and you can argue that it's true to the text. The question is moot. (We do want to be careful about children seeing this movie.) However, it seems out of place to have people playing the violence card on this movie when so many movies are violent to no purpose. Maybe those people don't go see them or roundly decry them. Furthermore, plenty of movies are violent and considered worthwhile. 'Saving Private Ryan' stands out in this category. I've heard it's great and I'm never going to see it.

I still think this issue comes down to world view/presuppostions.

(Brad's post and Steve's article prompted me on this topic.)

Saturday, February 21

Viagra, et al

Though it was inappropriate, we laughed and laughed when the Cialis commercial during the Super Bowl said words to the effect of

Though uncommon, use of Cialias could result in an erection that lasts more than 4 hours. If this happens to you, seek medical treatment immediately.

Reading The Viagra Prank made me think of the Cialis thing. 'The Viagra Prank' is laugh-out-loud funny, though some of it is a little over the edge. (via kottke)

Wednesday, February 18

The answer: value education more.

The USA Today cover story, Athletic spending grows as academic funds dry up, is about what you'd think.

Average athletic budgets rose at a pace more than double the increases in average university spending at Division I schools between 1995 and 2001, according to an analysis by USA TODAY and The Des Moines Register of the most recently available NCAA and U.S. Department of Education data.

Spending on Division I intercollegiate athletics has increased on average about 25%, while university spending has increased on average 10%, after inflation.

(Go Des Moines Register. Go Iowa!)

Only about 40 schools claim their athletic departments are self-sufficient.

The numbers don't include expenditures on capital improvements -- athletic or non-athletic -- or compensation paid to coaches beyond their base salaries.

As much as I like athletics, college athletic programs are out of control.

''Education and athletics are linked in this country. That's the way our society is organized,'' says David Larimore, an education professor and former athletics director at Tennessee Tech. ''It projects an image, and people come to expect that if a school has a major sports franchise, they also have a major institution attached. So if you want to become invisible, downgrade (athletics) or get out of it.''

I disagree with Larimore. It depends on what your goals are. Some pretty good schools (the Ivy League, MIT, Swarthmore, etc.) aren't know for their athletics.

It seems the driving interest in education these days is money. And a lot of times we go looking to athletics to help with the money. But we shouldn't lose sight of the educational aspects, which so often happens.

For example, in my short time working at the U of S Carolina, I'd say our two highest priorities are athletics and becoming a major research university. I think both of those goals have major financial implications (though that's not all). Those goals are alright, provided educating students doesn't get lost along the way. The university should exist to educate students.

''On one hand, we're telling athletic directors we don't want them to cost (the academic side) so much money, but at the same time we're telling them not to accept too much commercial money,'' says Joel Cohen, a University of Maryland math professor and a coalition member. ''I admit it's a mixed message.''

What about, 'C - none of the above'? ie, smaller athletic programs.

There's a smaller article on the U of N Iowa (where Jason went) that sounds about right to me.

Resisting cancer

interact correspondent Macon Stokes has a well-done post about the evil of cancer (it'll be a little too 'spiritual' for some of you, but it's right up my alley :-)

Shake it?

Don't shake the Polaroid. Just shake 'it' like we used to shake Polaroids.

Is Outkast everywhere or what? I can't be around a radio without them being on. I heard both of their singles yesterday on the same station in the span on 90 minutes (at the gym).

Friday, February 13


A bunch of short sports thoughts, without links:

- looks like UMiami has another perpetrator on its hands (that one's especially for you, Macon and Paul :-). You're in 'good' company, since that's the rule in sports anymore.)
- on one hand, it's too bad that ESPN caved to the NFL (including a call from Tagliabue to Eisner) and cancelled 'Playmakers'. It was an entertaining and interesting show. On the other hand, a lot of what made it entertaining and interesting was sex and abuse and drug-use, which don't need any more air time.
- Bob Knight's at it again.
- I can't believe we'll have neither US soccer or baseball teams at the Olympics. I know why, but it seems crazy.
- the way players fly around teams in the NFL is jacked up. They're keeping score with money. If star QB would take a pay cut, he could keep his OL together, which would really help them win.
- Should I watch the NBA All-Star game or not?
- SI has an article this week about the new relationship between Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow. It's impossible for me to be happy for them, knowing that Lance just divorced the mother of his three children under the age of 5. I'm not trying to be judgmental here, but this is not cool. Is is hard for elite athletes to stay married, not to mention be fathers?

Easier Google?

Soople puts a lot of Google functions in an easy-to-find place. I wonder if I'll use it. I bookmarked it, at any rate.

Thursday, February 12

Why DRM and traditional copyright are doomed

Remember that post I said I liked that basically came across as pure stealing (see the comments) and I had to retract my support?

It turns out that Aaron was on to something, but just didn't communicate it well. Here's a guy named Jim Griffin who has a pretty good proposal for a flat-fee music distribution system. One quote"

Now if you fast forward to modern times you can find a situation far more adversarial than copyright. Automobiles kill a million people every year worldwide, but we allow them to proceed with a safety system that's five feet wide and just a white line.

So we create risk, but that actuarial system will tolerate death. Now if that model works for transportation, it can work for copyright. The risks are quite small - no one is dying because of copyright infringement. We have models that let us get over the hump of technological change.

We can make cars faster than we can stop them. But we do not require that cars be controlled, we only require we monetize [and insure] them.

Other thoughts:

- artists would get payed on how much their song is played/downloaded.
- you know I believe, along with Griffin, that this horse is out of the barn: that the war is over and we're just waiting for the markets and laws to sort themselves out.

Wednesday, February 11

Super Bowl Blow-up

I've been thinking about this for awhile. A lot of people think the uproar over the appearance of one breast at the Super Bowl is really overblown.

But to me, the issue is our over-sexed culture. As someone noted somewhere (sorry I don't remember or have the link) sex is used to sell everything that was pitched during the Super Bowl commercials. True. And there's the whole cheerleader issue.

That doesn't diminish the fact that the Halftime Show was sex-driven and the exposure of JJ's breast was the final straw.

Yes, Viacom might have gotten by with it had JJ's breast not appeared. But it did appear and now there are some questions being asked. I doubt they'll result in anything major, but at least they're being asked, if only for the sake of us fly-over people.

I don't disagree that the appearance of a breast shouldn't be a big deal, given the right context. But an over-sexed context is not the right one.

And don't get me wrong. I'm not being prudish here. I like to see a breast as much as the next guy (and more than some). The sexification of USAmerican/global culture is very disturbing. The objectification of women in this way is a really bad thing, even if many women are willing participants.

I'm going to have to get TiVo before my son can watch football with me. Heck, I might should get it for myself.

I know this is kind of rambling, but hopefully you get the gist of what I'm saying.

Hey, do ya see that!?!

Matthew stopped by and commented below. Woo hoo. I'm famous!

Tuesday, February 10

More Matthew

You know you're supposed to be reading everything at Defective Yeti, right?

Matthew had two other funny posts recently: the D and D stats of the Democratic candidates (with some amazingly geeky comments) and debriefing childbirth classes.

Pizza Party USA

Sign Matthew's petition to turn every 2.29 into federally mandated holiday goodness. My signature was 1664.

David Salo: famouser and famouser

Now he's got his own entry in Wikipedia (via CavLec)

Monday, February 9


There used to be a tshirt, I think when I was in high school (ca. 1986-9). I think it was called 'Multitudes'. And it had a list of creative names for the plural of certain animals. The ones I remember were 'a murder of crows' and 'a deceit of lapwings'.

Well, language hat links to a pretty extensive list of such names.

I like it. However, the hat also writes 'I add the necessary caveat that many alleged collective nouns for animals are more fanciful than real.' That takes a little of the wind out of my sails.

There's also a list of (totally Latin?) adjectives (with some snake jokes at the bottom).

Weblog proliferation

'interact' correspondent Macon Stokes has been invited by his father to participate in The Stokes Kith and Kin Community Blog. The Stokes dinner table is famous for stimulating conversation, so hopefully some of that dynamic will be captured in 'Kith and Kin'.

One cool thing about this weblog is that somehow Paul stumbled onto the concept himself and configured it up and added comments all on his own. Weblogs are mostly the province of those under 40 and other extreme computer geeks, neither of which describe Mr Stokes, who is a lawyer. So, more power to ya!

Back again

Sorry, I forgot to mention I was going to be gone this weekend working at the Greensboro Urban Project. We had a good weekend, but I slept a lot today.

Wednesday, February 4

One of the craziest things I've ever seen

32 (self-devised) tablatures on how to win Super Mario Brothers. Look at the first one. Imagine the amount of work and work and obsessive work it must have taken to produce 32 of these.

Then, to ease the strain, go back to surfing :-)

More on file 'sharing'

Cory Doctorow has a fascinating post on digital media. He has just released his second book in both print and free on the Web. His first book was successful in this format. Then, there are some very good comments exploring this issue. Thoughts:

- first, his take seems pretty optimistic, but this method has worked for him so far.
- not all file sharers are looters.
- copyright law has not kept pace with technology or how honest people want to interact with the media they own. DRM sucks.
- 'distributing ebooks for free boosts sales'
- 'technologies that enable broader distribution end up paying more artists more money for making more art that is enjoyed by more people'. This is my true, starry-eyed hope for digital distribution. I'm idealistic about it, which is why I bring it up so often. I also want to understand that cons.
- I think Cory is right with his examples of how increased distribution has only improved sales in the affected industries. There are many good reasons why this has not been the case in the stinky music industry. Maybe their sales would have been even worse without Napster!
- calling all 'file sharers', or even most or half, 'by nature free loaders and thieves' is unfair and innaccurate.
- technically, copying files without consent in theft. But it also shows the leading edge of an industry, that there is money to be made in changing what we consent to.
- 'People who don't buy are people who likely wouldn't have bought in the first place.'
- Yes, Barnes and Noble and Borders and libraries encourage the sale of more books, even thought people can read them without buying them.
- if there's a good way to download texts into books someday (eg, digital paper), one of the advantages will be cheaper distribution (a la music today). We'll be able to get the expensive analog production and distribution costs out of the way. The consumer will pay less for 'books', and the author will make as much, or more.
- I find Cory's four numbered examples about the movie industry (towards the bottom) absolutley compelling. 'The role of technologists has traditionally been to drag the entertainment industry kicking and screaming to the money tree.' This is one of those cases of following the market.

This post led me to the Baen Free Library where Eric Flint has a good rationale for what they're doing over there.

Monday, February 2

Dressing Elizabeth

dad-fit (n.) the ensemble a father comes up with for his daughter to wear when her mother is gone.

More on Tom Brady

Brady never, ever loses in the postseason - hardly any other time, too. He's 6-0 in the playoffs, and has two Super Bowl MVP trophies in as many tries. This was New England's 15th straight victory, second only to Miami's 17 in a row in the 1972 season.

Overall, Brady's record is 40-12. He's 26-4 in games played after Nov. 1.

And like Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw, he's a two-time Super Bowl MVP. Only Joe Montana, with three, has more. source cf also, Super Bowl MVPs

Sunday, February 1

Dave Barry, again

This is probably going to become 'just read him every Sunday', but he had another funny column today on cruise lines.

Did you see...

that there were a lot of comments on my two brief thoughts (on gay marriage and outsourcing of jobs) below?

Patriots win!

I've been telling people I wanted the Patriots to win, but I'd also be happy if the Panthers won. It sure was a great game. You'd a thought it would be a defensive battle, but once the offenses settled down, they were pretty impressive. Carolina spotted NE a lead and that plus the two missed two-point attempts added up to the difference.

Jaq, of course, is decrying this victory as on a level with Frodo handing the ring over to the enemy. I think that's an exaggeration, don't you :-)