No baseball strike. Good. But let's not forget why it came to pass, and whose ineptitude got it to this point in the first place. The owners apparently survived with their greed intact: "However, there is no requirement that the teams spend their shared revenue on payroll." That is a recipe for contraction, and I'm astonished that the players agreed to it.
It means that owners of franchises like the Twins (whose owner has already proven his stupidity many times) are free to fund their other ventures with no incentive to put their windfall into improving their product on the field. I hope the details of this agreement are made public (unlike the teams' books, which the owners have forever held are private and can't be disclosed, particularly to the employees). That way there can be some accountability if the "Lords of Baseball," as they were once called in a memorable book of the same title, simply pocket the extra cash.
If you're creating documents (or downloading them) that you or your grandchildren may want to read in 30 years, here's an idea for a universal computer language which might allow it. The issue is huge for librarians and archivists, but also for those of us who've been around for a while (tried to open a WordStar document recently?).
Here's a fun bunch of time sinks; an Elvis directory, a compendium of NASA images, deleted domain names, and other stuff. The most interesting might be a PowerPoint version of the Gettysburg Address(!)
Today the Nigerian scam got a little original. First sentences: "Pardon me for contacting you through this medium and in this manner without any prior introduction. This is due to circumstances beyond my control. I had to bribe the prison attendants to secretly allow me open an email address from the computer in their office." Why the attendants have a computer in their office is left unexplained.
Wasn't there a song about Horn and Hardart's Automat? Well, a successor has made an appearance in Washington, which I would hardly call a hotbed of retail experimentation, but maybe I'm wrong.
I find this hard to believe; pumas and panthers running wild in the UK? In fact, when I read the story in the Times of London, I thought they were having me on. But the same story shows up in the BBC, so now I don't know what to think. Fossilized dinosaur footprints, now that I can get a handle on, but big cats on Dartmoor?
"The Bush administration has sought, the panel said, to place its actions "beyond public scrutiny." That's yesterday's 6th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion on the Bush Administration's attempts to close deportation hearings. The Administration gets credit for perseverance, however: now it's asserting executive privilege for "officials in any part of the government who are asked for input about pardon requests."
Lest you think domestic policy is the only area where the Administration is trying to bully institutions, here's a quote: "the administration is wielding a new law that permits cuts in military aid to governments that do not comply [with demands that no American ever be brought before the International Criminal Court]."
Ok, enough grousing. Here's a nifty idea: send a robot into the Great Pyramids!
I gotta say, anyone worried about blogging overtaking journalism can rest easy; everyone attending BlogCon was obviously way too busy enjoying the experience to bother writing contemporaneous feature articles about it. The rest of us will just have to wait and hope memory doesn't get selective on the part of the participants.
Here's an interesting juxtaposition of stories: on the one hand, the FBI raids a firm for "unauthorized intrusion" into military computers; on the other hand, the court which authorizes surveillance and wiretaps chastises that same FBI for misusing its power and misleading the court.
I want the Fed to raise interest rates. A lot. If it does, perhaps I'll stop getting 10-15 pieces of spam a day about refinancing my home. I think I'm more fed up with those than with the offers for feelthy pictures.
For those of you keeping score at home, you can sorta get play-by-play through blogrolling if you add http://surreally.com/bc2002/ to your blogroll. kd assures me that that copy of MT pings weblogs, so it will appear as newly updated.
Once more into the breach, dear Congress: John Ashcroft and the Temple of Confidentiality, playing now at a Capitol near you.
And Happy Birthday, PC (that box you type on, not the phrase); it was 21 years ago this month that IBM introduced the machine which first carried that name. Remember those? I saw one of the original color monitors just 3 or 4 months ago at a repair shop; took me back. I spent 36 straight hours doing six months of accounting on one of these Compaq machines, borrowed from the LA office of our auditors, Ernst & Whinney (the forerunners of Ernst & Young...this was summer 1984, folks). Then I got on a plane to Europe for six weeks vacation.
Why stop at banning books? Just de-fund the libraries altogether. Jarvis-Gann anti-tax revolutionaries run amok, this time in Washington state. The county system cited "makes do in metal-roofed sheds, converted cabins and abandoned buildings." The selfishness of library opponents amazes me; apparently the per capita tax cost for running the system is about $38/month; got cable?
I usually vote Democratic (note full adjectival form: I think it was Bob Dole who started using the noun as an adjective--see "Democrat wars"), but I swear the national party is behaving like France in 1940. Quoting Bill Shirer, "France did not fight." Witness the deliberate attempts to reduce the number of veterans applying for health care cited here. This would be a great issue to talk about amidst all the patriotic flag-waving, but where are the Dems? I'm certainly no political strategist, but. . .
Go beach! New ideas from inventors to improve the beachgoing experience include a maternity chair, updated pasties, ear shades, and more! Here's a new laptops story, this one with reviews in the sidebar.
I don't know if these stories reflect all the facts, but even as indicators they point to a continued disdain for dissent on the part of this Administration: one reports that some Congresspeople want HHS to "probe" federal funding for AIDS groups; the other seems to show that the Bureau of Land Management overruled its own appraisers in valuing a land deal at very favorable terms for Utah.
Two of the blogosphere's good guys need some help; I don't know if any of y'all have acquaintances in London, but if so, point them towards the folks behind the clickable image below.
Yesterday there was a particularly nasty flamewar about an issue so silly it boggles the mind. Someone (not the victim) decided to equate a household burglary with the Holocaust. Had the person whose home had been burgled done the equating, I suspect there would have been a fair bit of head-shaking even by her friends; but a third party decided to do so, which strikes me as more than a little odd. It's not even apples and oranges being compared; it's a damn grape versus every orchard on a continent. It seems silly and unnecessarily hurtful to do that, and for what reason? kd has a better summary than I can add; be sure to follow her links if you have an interest. This all led me to thinking about an old phrase we learned in childhood: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
That phrase sometimes works with kids, although less often than parents would like to believe, I'll bet; but in a community like the blogosphere, where words are all there are, I'm not sure it is effective. Words do hurt. Words that come out of the blue for no apparent reason hurt even more, I think. Suppose a sheep is being killed by a wolf; if the sheep were capable of thinking, it might figure out that it is part of a natural order of things, and while the personal resentment towards its fate wouldn't change, at least empirically the sheep could say to itself, "Well, my descendants will know they have to run faster and hide better from these wolves." But when a gratuitous attack is made upon the individual for reasons quite unclear, I think that the words are more painful. We've all had setbacks where we said "Why me?" An unprovoked assault falls into that category.
What was really odd about this was the subsequent behavior of the person doing the equating; all dissenting comments were summarily deleted. This is beyond silly; this is delusional. Was this done in the belief that those who disagreed would all forget their comments? Or in the hope that future readers would read the initial post and undeleted comments and nod sagely, saying, "Yup, what a right-thinking person this is. Look at all those other people who agree?"
It doesn't work like that.
"Somehow we have become the core of an Axis of Medieval." That's one view of the Administration's defunding of various multilateral and UN initiatives to help women and children; anyone else see Karl Rove's heavy hand in this?
Take a trip to the Bronx Zoo; last time I did that was either in the late 1950s or in 1965 on a break from the NY World's Fair.
Damn! No wonder I broke a tooth yesterday! I am both single and a smoker, so my health is doubly jeopardized.
Also from the BBC: if you've ever wondered why Dave Garroway could talk and J. Fred Muggs could not, wonder no more.
Even before the tooth episode, the day got off to a rousing start when a filter on the water heater broke, sending figurative dollar bills down the hill on a steady jet of water. I shoulda stood in bed.
I've read articles by this man; now comes an account of an interview with Bernard Lewis (author of What Went Wrong, an analysis of the Arab world's fall from enlightenment after its heights during the Middle Ages).
Also from the region, Friedman writes about India and democracy. On PBS' News Hour the other night, he proposed what he calls his "motor scooter" theory: a country's economy is growing when bicycles are abandoned for bikes. Sure it's simplistic, but there's a kernel of logic behind it.
"I have no desire to have an enemy combatant get out of any status," Doumar said. "However, I do think that due process requires something other than a basic assertion by someone named Mobbs that they have looked at some papers and therefore they have determined he should be held incommunicado. Just think of the impact of that. Is that what we're fighting for?" So spoke the judge in yesterday's hearing about Hamdi, the man the Feds call an "unlawful enemy combatant," currently in Federal custody.
Jon pointed me (and others missing his witty repartee) towards this article, which ponders the ability of the Administration to maintain a rep for competence despite, in the author's view, numerous demonstrations of its lack of same.
How about a space elevator to replace expensive shuttle flights?
I am emphatically not anti-business, but Fortune's cover stories do give one pause. The magazine is famous for its lists, and it doesn't fail now; it's compiled a Top 25 of greedheads, along with several other analytical articles.
As someone who has spent about 10% of his life in the LA metropolitan area (not all of it in traffic), I've been watching the San Fernando Valley secession story with interest. Here's a feature article from the LA Times.
Henceforth the current month will be named Linkmeister; what's good enough for the leader of Turkmenistan is good enough for me.
Baseball fans, read this and laugh (or weep, as suits you).
Jeffrey Rosen of GWU wrote about the current travails of federal court nominees; he thinks the process has been hijacked by single-issue interest groups on each side of the culture wars, and he may have a point.
Maybe, just maybe, a portable keyboard that's practical: a new patent has been issued for a one-handed version, details of which can be seen here. More techie stuff, but not real tricky: "How Al-Qaida Site Was Hijacked".
This sounds silly, but what if wireless transmitter towers could be replaced by hot air balloons? If that doesn't "float your boat," as it were, how about cyber-examining an 800-year old book? Lots of attractive links to other medieval sites/stories can be found there, too.
Let's gut environmental policy for oceans, shall we? And while we're at it, let's keep producing acid rain; there appears to be evidence that bird breeding patterns might be affected by it, and after all, all they do is produce noise, so who needs birds?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Widely attributed to Voltaire, although so far unsubstantiated.
From the ALA, again:
Rosenberg v. Board of Education of City of New York, 92 N.Y.S.2d 344 (Sup. Ct. Kings County 1949)
After considering the charge that Oliver Twist and the Merchant of Venice are "objectionable because they tend to engender hatred of the Jew as a person and as a race," the Supreme Court, Kings County, New York, decided that these two works cannot be banned from the New York City schools, libraries, or classrooms, declaring that the Board of Education "acted in good faith without malice or prejudice and in the best interests of the school system entrusted to their care and control, and, therefore, that no substantial reason exists which compels the suppression of the two books under consideration."
United States et. al. v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc.
"The Constitution exists precisely so that opinions and judgments, including esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature, can be formed, tested, and expressed. What the Constitution says is that these judgments are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority. Technology expands the capacity to choose; and it denies the potential of this revolution if we assume the Government is best positioned to make these choices for us."-Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy
On the face of it, one would think that the two Supreme Court opinions cited above would be sufficiently cautionary to inhibit people from attempting to ban books as a form of expression. One would unfortunately be wrong. Over the years there have been repeated efforts to limit the reading of works as divergent as Huckleberry Finn and the Harry Potter books. Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned in Boston in the early part of the last century, as were Tropic of Cancer and Lolita. (For a nice satiric view of those episodes, see this article). This censorship was not confined to books alone; the Hays Commission censored film all the way into the 1960s.
Many of the individuals and groups that advocate curtailing access to these books undoubtedly feel they are acting in the best interest of those (usually children) who shouldn't be exposed to the content. I disagree. I much prefer allowing the individual to make his or her own choice about what he or she wants to read. It's been my experience that readers of any age will stop reading a book very quickly if the content is of no interest to them; why not let them do so with no outside interference? Conversely, if content is of interest, no amount of suppression short of burning the physical object will forever keep the book away from a determined reader. How many copies of Playboy magazine have been discovered in teenage boys' bedrooms by horrified mothers?
Many of these attempts are subject to public ridicule; some are not. When the banners form a majority on textbook buying committees, the society as a whole is endangered. Earlier this year, the Christian Science Monitor published an article which outlines the battles in Texas between the political right and the school board. Here's a quote from the article: "…school-board members rejected the text after a [sic] the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) report criticized it for statements about global warming and destruction of the environment - especially those that pointed [to] the US role in these problems." If all sides are not presented to students, how are they to judge for themselves whether choices presented to them are backed by accurate facts or by preconceived fallacies later in life?
Books have been written about book-banning (Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451) and thought control (Orwell's 1984). Both of those make far better cases than can I for an enlightened citizenship. Without that, we are destined for a uniform, dull, and conforming populace, slow to dissent and protest. This may be desirable for governments (we've already been told by the current Attorney General that objections to government activities aid terrorists, and told by the White House press secretary to "watch what is said"); is that desirable? I think not.
Sekimori pointed readers to what Slate believes is a copy of that Powerpoint presentation from Rand that identified Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the US. That was Page One of the WashPost on Wednesday, you may recall. It's interesting to see the background of the purported author.
"What if I'd..." We all play that game, right? If I'd stayed in the Navy, I'd have retired as a Master Chief or something two months ago, after thirty years of service (assuming, of course, I hadn't fallen victim to a Reduction in Force). Well, if you play Alter Ego, (which I scarfed from Mercy), you can make different life choices and see what might have happened.
There will be an essay of sorts about Banned Books Week later; meanwhile, if you can't wait, click the button below to see what the ALA intends. If you want a head-start, go here.
In the pharma business there's a phrase, "off-label"; it means uses other than the one for which the drug was intended. Well, y'all may have heard of Gleevec, Novartis' leukemia drug? A French researcher has discovered that in some cases, it restores gray hair to its original color. Don't block the exits, folks, I'm on my way!
I'm pretty broke, but if I behaved like our illustrious Congresspeople...here's an overview of where the surplus has gone, and why there's no end in sight.
When Kurtz takes a good-natured poke at you, you've either arrived or you're a topic of derision. In this case, ruminating on the lack of activity in Washington during the summer, he says "Some of the bloggers have stopped blogging, leaving more bandwidth for the rest of us."
"The Bush administration seems to be using the Hamdi case to establish the principle that it has the exclusive power to decide who is an enemy combatant. If the administration's position prevails, we can expect to see many more cases like it. The government will be free to seize ANYONE it wants simply by saying the magic words "enemy combatant," and the courts will be powerless to release such people from prison, or even provide them with lawyers." (Emphasis added.)
Think about that.
Well, duh! See what happens when you call countries members of an "Axis of Evil?" "Pakistan and Yemen have been very cooperative with U.S. efforts to hunt al-Qaida down, Rumsfeld said, but Iran and Iraq have not."
This doesn't seem possible: there's a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Michigan named Posthumus. Now, that would seem to be a drawback, unless you're running in Chicago or old Tammany districts, but...
This is a moving post-attack essay about the "what-if" games our minds play on us; it's written by a doctor, and appears in the current issue of JAMA.
"...the only face of America we see now is the one of military power, and it really frightens the world" That's the voice of an American-educated Sri Lankan lawyer, quoted by Tom Friedman in his op/ed yesterday. Cheerful view, isn't it?
In case you wondered where the current state of civil liberties v. DOJ stands within the legal system, here's a recap. Are Minnesota primary politics a metaphor for the nation? Here's a quote about party caucuses and their attendees: "...they believe that people who disagree with them -- on anything -- must be the enemy."
Poor Chris Columbus: dissed again. The "Vinland Map," which first surfaced in the 1950s, has now been scientifically dated at approximately 1434. If you want further samples of such disrespect, try this one: The Diffusionists Have Landed. It argues that the folks who think there was civilization on this continent long before the Clovis-point users are right.
"A Date which will live in infamy." Well, ok, maybe not. Nonetheless, the Dylan performance at Newport in 1965 when he played an electric set to a less-than-appreciative crowd has passed into history; I've heard conflicting stories about the actual crowd reaction. For example, in a radio interview Al Kooper said that the audience was shocked and surprised, but he heard no booing. Today's NYT has a column from the founder of the Festival which says there was indeed a hostile reaction. The reason this comes up is that, for the first time in 37 years, Dylan will appear again at the Newport Folk Festival today.
More music: "We live surrounded by music, from torch songs at Starbucks to the Beatles in the elevator, and the barrage may be turning our minds to mush." That's from this article, which appeared in the March 2000 issue of The Atlantic (yeah, yeah...I'm still digging through back issues). It makes the argument that we never learn anything from music except "the emotional power of music," and that it is not quite the highest expression of art some like to think. It's a provocative article, one well worth reading.
Oh, my goodness; aluminum beanies! Don't tell Ashcroft, 'kay? Don't accuse our illustrious A-G of grandstanding, and don't you dare mention Enron while he's perp-walking the WorldCom guys. He, Cheney and Bush don't like leaks, we know; Congress doesn't like polygraph exams demanded of them. Cheney and the Energy crowd lost one today, but even that pales besides the big story; detainee's names must be released by DOJ.
If anyone is curious about our ongoing volcano eruption (since 1982), the USGS has put up a website showing its path. Thanks to Pacific Business News for the link. To create a smaller eruption, hire a hacker. Sensible, but nonetheless disturbing to the folks upstairs, I expect.
And finally, it's all about meme:
Finally, a couple of recording majors are getting smart. Pressplay, a new service from Sony and Universal, lets you burn downloaded music to CD's and copy it to portable devices. It's subscription-based, of course, but still... Speaking of institutions, the US Postal Service seriously considered offering E-mail in the past, all the way up to owning the service. Here's the history. In other 'Net news of note, this interactive atlas will no doubt show up in global warming arguments for some time to come. Hopefully, the athletes at the Commonwealth Games won't need to look at that atlas to find their venues, but they sure are finding other uses for their access to the Web.
I know there are some asthma sufferers among you. There's some new research regarding inhaler usage.
Finally, why am I getting 2003 calendars already? It's August 1, for crying out loud!