Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Scientists have developed technology to direct lasers onto your retina to create images which are overlaid over your usual field of view. These images could offer a more detailed view of what you're looking at, including schematics, instructions, diagnostics, etc. The technology requires the use of a high-tech monocle, is already being used in Honda dealerships, and 100 units have just been shipped to Iraq for use by U.S. special forces.

Future versions of the technology might create totally realistic images.

(Via LVX23)

American Terrorists

During my lunch today, I heard FOX News talking about terrorists near Fallujah using rocket propelled grenades, and I wondered if they were really terrorists. Why? Well, seems like some at the FNC are in the habit of referring to everyone fighting against the coalition forces in Iraq as terrorists. Now, certainly, in what amounts to a self-fulfilling prophecy, many terrorists may have flooded into Iraq to fight against the United States. But FOX News seemed to draw no distinction between insurgents (as most of the reputable news services are referring to Iraqi nationals still fighting against the coalition forces) and terrorists. They're not the same thing. They might be fighters or insurgents or guerillas or militiamen or rebels or gunmen or even bad guys, if you like, but they're not terrorists. Nonetheless, Fox News seems happy to blur reality. (On NPR the other day, I also heard a young soldier in Iraq saying he wanted to go out and fight "terrorists." So, the military has its troops well coached into believing they're fighting the War on Terror in Iraq, too.)

Additionally, that's why whenever FOX News goes to a story on Iraq, they super a "War on Terrorism" graphic over their anchor's shoulder while other news orgs are more likely to use "War in Iraq" or something similar. FOX News may as well be under the direct employ of the Bush administration.

Definitions of words like "terrorism" and "terrorist" are controversial for political reasons. Chomsky is famously fond of pointing out that the United States is always careful to define "terrorism" in its favor. (I'm sure many countries do.) For what it's worth, here's one definition of a terrorist from Princeton University's WordNet: "a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells; often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities."

By that definition isn't the white supremicist, Matthew Hale, a terrorist? I'd say so. He's said he wants to start a "racial holy war." Tried to have a federal judge killed. Sounds like a terrorist to me. And I think Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh were terrorists, too. American terrorists. Radical Christian terrorists, you might say.

But I doubt you'll hear FOX News refer to any of them as terrorists any time soon.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Historic American Sheet Music

Stumbled across this archive for historic American sheet music hosted by Duke University's scriptorium. What I particulary enjoyed, however, was the wonderful artwork it includes from the mid 1900s through to the early 20th century. You can even print it out from what appear to be actual-size J-PEGs.

It's also interesting to note that, despite its ebullience, some of the art is now far from politically correct.

Coming Soon: More Memory

Specifically: Nanowires containing more memory than you'll know what to do with. And taking up far less space, too. How about 40 Gigabits per square centimeter? This is gonna make those Sony memory sticks look positively clunky.

(Via LVX23)

Privacy or Propaganda?

Since these flag-draped coffins all look the same, how on earth White House spokeman Trent Duffy claim the following about the ban on photos of the returning dead?
"We must pay attention to the privacy of the families. That's what the policy is based on."
Rubbish. It's an issue of controlling propaganda, not privacy. The government knows that when the American public sees the bodies of American youths coming home from a war, they get queasy about continuing.

Visit The Memory Hole to see the moving photos the Pentagon would prefer you didn't see. War is hell, people, and we shouldn't send our young men and women to hell without good reason. Respect to Russ Kick who filed the Freedom of Information Act request to have these photos released--361 of them in all. They soon appeared in papers across the country, even here on the front page of our own Charlotte Observer. Here's the complete gallery. The site's running very slow, likely due to continued heavy traffic.

And just in case you haven't heard, Tami Silicio, the photographer who took this stunning Seattle Times photo (also posted below) was fired by Maytag Aircraft, the company she contracted with. She and her husband were both fired by Maytag for violating U.S. government and company regulations. The Seattle Times reprinted the photo on the hompage of their web site, when they reported that Silicio was fired. The paper says public reaction to their publishing the photo has been mostly favorable.

The Pentagon first instituted the ban in 1991.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

First there was the Sloganator . . .

Remember the ill-fated Sloganator--best and brightest of the Bush campaign's ideas? Well, now, have fun creating your own McDonald's banners--before McDonalds spoils the fun.

You can't actually order the banner (the kind you hang outside a restaurant, not a web banner ad) without owning a franchise--but that's what screenshots are for!


Via Saheli: if you hate Hummers, you're gonna love this site!

Sample some--honestly--typical hate mail:
yeah, i just wanted to say that i immeadiatly hated this site when i saw the name of it, who ever made this is a total dumbass! you either are too much of a cheap ass to afford an H2 or your one of those weirdo tree huggers. i really wish someone would give you the driections to the nut house, cause you certainly are one to say the least. now that i've thought over it i was right, your too damn cheap to buy a nice ride and and have some class. (which clearly you have none of). i dont have much else to say cause your not much worth the time, but just a last word of advice, if you ever are in front of an H2 and we know its you, move your ass out of the way! cause by God we're gonna flatten you and the peice of shit we can imagine someone like you would be driving, thanks, have a nice day, but watch your ass! Sincerely, any H2 driver. your can find!
Insert "[sic]" where appropriate.

Can I Tell You a About a Great Business Opportunity?

There's truly a blog about everything: check out this fascinating blog by "the husband of a former Quixtar IBO" ((Independent Business Owner). Quixtar is affiliated with Amway, and "Qblog" details some of the behind the scenes stuff and features hate mail he's received from current IBOs.

You have to scrounge around a while before you can find out exactly how Quixtar and Amway are related, but at the bottom of this page on the Quixtar site we learn that "Quixtar is part of the Alticor family of companies, as are Amway Corp. and Access Business Group LLC."

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Chernobyl Girl

This is Elena. She rides through the Chernobyl's largely deserted "dead zone" on her Kawasaki Ninja and takes photos and writes about it. Is that cool or what? Fascinating, too. May take a while, but click through her whole essay. It gets sadder and spookier as you move through it.

(Via Phenomene.)

Gmail Update

I've got Gmail! And I'm currently using 0 MB (0%) of my 1000 MB.

How'd I get it? Well, let's just say that if you use Blogger, you may just wanna keep an eye on their homepage after you log in. Guess this is the next phase in a soft rollout.

Pointing the Bone

An aboriginal woman placed a curse on Australian Prime Minster John Howard for plans to dismantle the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

The government has promised to replace the advisory board with another group of indigenous experts. However, these board members would be appointed rather than elected as the ATSIC members were.

Australian aborigines believe they can place a curse on someone by pointing at them with a bone. The power of suggestion or self-fulfilling prophecy is so strong that people have apparently been known to die after receiving such a curse.

Aboriginal leader Geoff Clark said he hoped the curse would either "enlighten" Howard or "curse him."

Taking Care

Any Regrets, Hitch?

Is Christopher Hitchens having second thoughts about switching teams? Not really; he's just trying to have his cake and eat it, too:
The thing that I most underestimated is the thing that least undermines the case. And it's not something that I overlooked, either. But the extent of lumpen Islamization in Iraq, on both the Khomeinist and Wahhabi ends (call them Shiite and Sunni if you want a euphemism that insults the majority), was worse than I had guessed.
He does conclude that "The United States had already made itself co-responsible for Iraqi life, first by imposing the sanctions, second by imposing the no-fly zones, and third by co-existing with the regime." I'm guessing that's not likely a line you'll hear coming from Paul Wolfowitz any time soon. So Hitchens at least suggests that the U.S. is somewhat culpable for the current siuation in Iraq since "in the wasted decade of sanctions-plus-Saddam, a whole paranoid and wretched fundamentalist underclass was created and exploited by the increasingly Islamist propaganda of the Baath Party." Therefore:
There was no way around our adoption of Iraq, as there still is not. It's only a pity that the decision to intervene was left until so many years had been consumed by the locust.
Well, if what you're trying to saying, Hitch, is that we really should've taken care of things in Iraq over a decade ago instead of abandoning the Iraqi people, well, yes. We should have.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Measure: Mono

Cheers to the fine folks over at Measure who reprinted my review of Mono's One Step More and You Die in their inaugural issue. Wish 'em continued good luck with their project.

Huge props are due also to the Bottomley brothers over at Skyscraper where that review first appeared: their mag has a huge showing in Measure's first issue, which features reviews of last year's best music from many different magazines.

Both mags are available now at a newsstand near you!

Monday, April 19, 2004

Bush's Saudi Buddies

Man, if they can lift oil production to ensure Bush's re-election, maybe they can help snag Osama, too? Wouldn't be too much to ask would it?

(Somebody give our boy Bob Woodward another journalism award, willya?)

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Most Embarrassing President Ever?

From a Washington Post article about Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:
Asked by Woodward how history would judge the war, Bush replied: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."
(Via Wonkette)

Republican Don King

Bob Novak writes recently with an air of satisfaction that Don King is a Republican. Er, Bob, you can have him. Not sure that I'd be any more proud of that fact than that, say Jeffrey Skilling is a Republican. Novak's excitement over King's political affilation is just another indicator of his questionable judgment. The same judgment that guided him to out Valerie Plame.

Or maybe King's presence is just an indicator that there's room under the Republican tent for everyone. Except gays. Or human rights advocates. Or scientists. Or dissenters. Or women. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

Praying Crime Away

Dang, I actually find myself agreeing with the Harvard Republicans: Prayer ain't an effective crimesolver.

Josh Barro writes that there were 102 murders in Detroit in just the first three months of 2004, and the city's police department came up with a brilliant idea: let's pray. So taxpayers' money was paying these cops to pray for an hour when they should've been out rounding up perps--or at least "brainstorming new strategies to stop crime in the city," as the Barro points out. The cops could've gone home and prayed instead of watching The Apprentice if they really think it's gonna help.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

NC Caucuses

The North Carolina Democratic caucuses are being held today, and I thought, being a freshly minted U.S. citizen, I'd go see if I could vote. Now, I'm a registered independent (who can prove it, unlike Bill O'Reilly), so I wasn't sure I could vote there.

Turns out I couldn't. I thought maybe I could because independents can vote in the Democratic primaries here in NC (Republicans may be able to as well - I know they can in Georgia - a situation I'll continue to find deplorable until someone can explain to me why it should work that way). Today's caucuses, however, are for dems only. Fair enough.

But why are we having caucuses instead of primaries anyway? Well, basically because battles over redistricting NC dragged on for so long, we couldn't complete the process in time to have the primaries in May--they've been bumped to June, which won't allow time to pick delegates for the national convention which occurs a week later in June. The June primaries will no longer include the presidential candidates, just the congressional, statewide and legislative offices.

Now, turnouts for caucuses are notoriously lousy. 5-7 percent I heard yesterday on NPR. The Charlotte Observer reports an expected 5 percent turnout here. The party only printed 220,000 ballots. It's a historic day nonetheless, since it's the first time NC's ever had to resort to caucuses. History aside, I'm disappointed. I haven't followed the redistricting battles, but I am familiar with what's been going on in Texas and Florida and I find it reprehensible.

Anyway, I'd hoped to go and give Dennis Kucinich a vote to protest the fact that Kerry voted for the war in Iraq. So I went, I asked questions, I learned a little. I told the ladies behind the tables I was a first-time voter (in the U.S. anyway: I voted once in Australia as a teen before moving here) and recently became a citizen. They helpfully pointed out another station where I could go and change my party affiliation.

"No thanks," I said, "I think I'll stay independent for a while. But I definitely won't be voting for Bush in November."

The small group of women spontaneously hooted and broke into applause.

Batman Begins: the Cast

Check out this listing of the cast for Batman Begins (2005):
  • Ken Watanabe - Ra's Al Ghul
  • Michael Caine - Alfred Pennyworth
  • Katie Holmes - Rachel Caspien
  • Cillian Murphy - Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow
  • Christian Bale - Bruce Wayne/Batman
  • Morgan Freeman - Lucius Fox
  • Rutger Hauer - Earle
  • Liam Neeson - Henri Ducard
  • Gary Oldman - Lt. James Gordon
  • Tom Wilkinson - Falcone
Definitely something to look forward to.

Mistakes He's Made

The Dems have turned Bush's response to the question of what mistakes he's made into an ad that overlays his stammering and evasive non-answer with the answers he should've given.

As many have pointed out, he completely failed to answer what is really one of the most common job interview questions. Let's not hire him again, eh? Oh, wait, we didn't hire him the first time.

The Path to War

The May issue of Vanity Fair includes a 25,000 word article "The Path to War," which, from what I hear, should be required reading for anyone who plans on voting in November. I haven't read it yet, but I'm sitting with it here in my lap at Port City Java.

Select quote:
On September 20, 2001 Bush told Blair, "After Afghanistan we must come back to Iraq."
The Guardian has a good write up.

Gmail Update

Tim O'Reilly (yes, that O'Reilly) gives nine reasons why concerns about privacy on Google's new Gmail are "bogus." (Via John Battelle.)

Still amazed by that 1 gig of storage Gmail's offering? Rich Skrenta explains how it's possible:
It's straightforward to spreadsheet out the economics of the service, taking into account average storage per user, cost of the servers, and monetization per user per year. Google apparently puts the operational cost of storage at $2 per gigabyte. My napkin math comes up with numbers in the same ballpark. I would assume the yearly monetized value of a webmail user to be in the $1-10 range.
And if you've been reading about memory and storage lately, you already know it's getting cheaper and cheaper. As O'Reilly points out, before long someone who wants to "could film every moment of his life, and carry the record around in a pocket."

Still, Jeremy Zawodny wonders what all the fuss over Gmail is about.

Regardless, California Senator Liz Figueroa's proposed legislature seems like an overreaction to any privacy issues.

Friday, April 16, 2004

All Creatures Great & Small

Our Lord God made them all: Meet Solifugae a.k.a. the Camel Spider:
There is a large number of arachnid species in UAE but perhaps none has more respect in the popular imagination as the solifugae, or camel spider. ...

These creatures are nocturnal, spending days in a tiny burrow or hole which it has dug itself. They are unlikely to be encountered in the colder months, but during the warmer period of the year they can infest some areas. Members report being "overrun" by camel spiders while camping in gravelly desert south of AI Wagan, on the Al Ain - Al Liwa road. The spiders were apparently attracted by firelight and moved extremely fast, running over soft sand, hard-packed gravel, or bodies, with equal ease. . ...

Mating habits are different from those of other arachnids. The male courts the female by stroking her with his pedipalpi and forelegs. This reduces her to a passive state, as if anaesthetized, whereupon the male lays her on her side. Raising his body he ejects a mass of spermatozoa onto the ground, picks it up with his chelicerae and forces it into the vagina. He closes the opening and waits a few moments and then hurriedly departs before the female has a chance to grab and eat him.
Snopes.com has yet to determine whether this purported photo of two huge Camel Spiders is real. It's certainly convincing, but I suspect Snopes is right:
Although whatever is depicted in the photograph above appears to be far too large for camel spiders, the creatures might just look unusually large because they were held close to the camera, creating an illusion of exaggerated size.
Looks like in the photo that the sleeve of the guy holding them (dangling them from a pair of pliers, I think) is very large, too, and therefore much closer to the camera than the guys in the background. Still, check out this legit video of a camel spider attacking a scorpion. I say, avoid at all costs.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

More Accolades for Tim Berners-Lee

How good to see Tim Berners-Lee win another award. This time the Finnish Technology Award Foundation's first-ever Millennium Technology Prize.

This man ought to get some sort of Nobel Prize, folks. He invented the World Wide Web and he gave it away to humanity. He DONATED it!

If you're buying comic books on Amazon, it's because of Tim Berners-Lee. If you're selling an old guitar on eBay, it's because of Tim Berners-Lee. If you're blogging your disdain for the Bush administration, pause, and thank God for Tim Berners-Lee. If you're surfing for free porn, pause now and genuflect before the genius of Tim Berners-Lee.

He was knighted last year by the Brits, and here's what Time had to say about him after naming him one of the top 20 scientists and thinkers of the 20th Century by Time magazine:
Unlike so many of the inventions that have moved the world, this one truly was the work of one man. Thomas Edison got credit for the light bulb, but he had dozens of people in his lab working on it. William Shockley may have fathered the transistor, but two of his research scientists actually built it. And if there ever was a thing that was made by committee, the Internet — with its protocols and packet switching — is it. But the World Wide Web is Berners-Lee's alone. He designed it. He loosed it on the world. And he more than anyone else has fought to keep it open, nonproprietary and free.
You hear about the Gates family's admittedly generous donations all the time, but, well, did I mention, Tim Berners-Lee DONATED the World Wide Web to us?!

Most people of my generation--the Gen Xers--likely don't even know his name. Our grandchildren will all know his name. Even as they know Gutenberg, Einstein and Edison. He's done much to remind us that we really are hitched to everything.

Belief & Doubt

This New Republic article* includes a quote from Jennifer Michael Hecht, who eloquently sums up how I've come to feel about religion:
The religions are all beautiful and horrible, filled with feasts, sacrifices, miracles, wars, songs, lamentations, stained glass, onion matzos, and intense communal joy: everyone kneeling, everyone rocking, everyone silent, everyone nose to the floor. The religions have also been the energy behind much generosity, compassion, and bravery. The story of doubt, however, has all this, too.
*membership required

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

President Bush's Personal Copy of the August 6th PDB

Recently, someone found handwritten talking points for Donald Rumsfeld in a Dupont Circle Starbucks. Since it's recently been declassified, we can now make public the following: President Bush's personal copy of the infamous August 6th PDB was also among those papers.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

In this World

Just saw Michael Winterbottom's compelling new movie In this World. In it, two young Afghani men Enayat and Jamal attempt to make it from Peshawar, Pakistan to London, England via a human smuggling operation. It's a rigously realistic portrayal, essentially a fictional documentary, cinema verite shot in digital video. Winterbottom packs a lot in as Enayat and Jamal pass through a dizzying array of cities and cultures on their way towards . . . tragedy. The little help they receive along the way, they receive warily, wisely unsure whether to trust any who offer it.

The films opens with some facts:
  • The United States spent almost 8 billion bombing the Taliban in Afghanistan
  • Many Afghanis moved to Peshawar to avoid the bombing--and, I'm sure, because many were made homeless
  • There are 14 million refugees in the world
  • 1 million of them are in Peshawar
Providing this already stunning movie with even more impact: the character of Jamal is portrayed by a young Afghani named Jamal who really made the journey himself. Winterbottom and his crew took him back to Peshawar where they recreated the story, a story anyway of a similar journey, simply by asking people to relive their experiences.

In this World deserves notice, and Winterbottom deserves, not an Academy award--those come too cheaply--but some sort of humanitarian award for drawing attention to the subject. (It did win the Golden Bear, the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the Peace Film Prize at the 2003 Berlin Film Festival.) I wish everyone who arranged and executed the bombing of Afghanistan could see it. We may be able to justify the freeing of the Afghani people from the treacherous Taliban, but can we really justify the lack of attention we're giving the innocents affected by that campaign?

If you've never seen any of Winterbottom's films, I recommend you see, well, all of these as well: Welcome to Sarajevo, Wonderland, The Claim, and 24 Hour Party People. I've also heard that Jude is excellent--both Jude and The Claim are based on Thomas Hardy novels (Jude, the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge respectively).

Also, for an excellent, yet ultimately sobering movie set in Afghanistan before the fall of the Taliban, see Osama, a tragedy which depicts a 12-year-old girl who poses as a boy in order to earn money from her widowed mother and grandmother. I saw both movies within the past week, and together they provide an extraordinary glimpse at the harrowing existence our fellow humans endure in Afghanistan.

Update: The Village Voice has a great article discussing the making of In this World. And this interview in The Guardian which details what seems to have been the ultimate in guerilla film-making.

Want to help? Visit the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (thanks Saheli!) and the International Rescue Committee.

Happy Easter!

Surprised to see this posted with other competition results on the TwinCities.com, a site for the essentially mainstream Pioneer Press. All part of their "Marshmallow Peeps Diorama Contest." Although the contest didn't specify that the dioramas had to include religious themes, apparently many included scene of the crucifixion, as well as other martyred saints--the beheading of John the Baptist, for example.

I thinks the creativity's terrific, but I wonder if some wil be appalled when they see their savior portayed by a pink marshmellow Peep. I was tempted to think some edgy twenty-something created the one posted above (my favorite)--"Peeps Re-enact the Passion of Christ"--but the artist is 75-year-old E. Joyce Barton of Roseville, MN. "I know it's not a whimsical subject," she say, "but Peeps are whimsical."

Non-religious themes included "South Peeps," "Little Peeps on the Prairie," and "Queer Eye for the Straight Peeps."

(Via Boing Boing)

Bush's WMD Joke

Wonkette points to this disturbing but pointed video, which highlights the callous inanity of Bush's WMD joke.

It's one thing for critics to use humor to satirize the Bush adminsitration's failure to find WMD in Iraq. It's quite another for that administration to make light of this fruitless search when its the primary reason they sent young Americans to Iraq to die.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The August 6th PDB

If you have seen it already, here's the August 6th Presidential Daily Bulletin, which warns "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."

No wonder the Bush administration didn't want us to see it.

Here also is the "Fact Sheet" released by the White House today about the PDB.

(Via Daily Kos)

Here's a PDF version on CNN.

Tennessee Acting Out Again

Recently, some folks in Rhea County Tennessee tried banning gays from their town.

Now a garden center in Hartsville has covered up statues with two-piece sarongs after receiving complaints about their nudity.

Earlier this month, a bar in Nashville blacked out all of the Victorian-era nudes which had graced its menu for years after the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission decided one of the pictures was too racy.

You may also remember the story about the Tennesee court telling a gay father to stay in the closet around his own son.

I tell yah: I've lived in North Carolina and South Carolina, and I'm starting to find 'em more and more tolerant compared to Tennessee all the time.

August 6th Memo Reported Almost Two Years Ago

Of all people, Matt Drudge, is linking to a May 19th 2002 Washington Post article by Bob Woodward and Dan Eggen which refers to the August 6th memo and even refers to its title: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."

Makes me wonder (with Atrios), why the hell has the so-called liberal media been sitting on this?

Frum & Perle: DEAD Wrong

Just over a year ago, David Frum, half of the genius team behind An End to Evil, wrote the following in a February 24, 2003 National Review article:
But there is good news: If the preparations for the Iraq round of the war on terror have gone very, very slowly, the Iraq fight itself is probably going to go very, very fast. The shooting should be over within just a very few days from when it starts. The sooner the fighting begins in Iraq, the nearer we are to its imminent end. Which means, in other words, that this "rush to war" should really be seen as the ultimate "rush to peace."
You were wrong Frum. Dead wrong.

Oh and Richard Perle, the other half of that same genius team? As reported by Warren Strobel, a year ago he had this to say:
Richard Perle, an influential former Pentagon official who is close to Rumsfeld, reportedly gave a briefing to Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs 10 days ago in which he predicted that the war would last no longer than three weeks. "And there is a good chance that it will be less than that," he said.
Also wrong, Mr. Perle. Dead wrong.

(Via Daily Kos)

Friday, April 09, 2004

The Unbearable Meaninglessness of Polls

The results for this really lame CNN poll were split exactly 50/50 when I first checked.

No wonder, there are just too many ways to intepret it:
  • Yes, it's what I expected - we're doing fine (head in the sand approach quite popular with Instapundit and the folks at NRO)
  • Yes, we're in a quagmire as predicted (me and a few billion other people around the world)
  • No, we're doing better than expected (hah! see same NRO folks?)
  • No, we're doing worse than I expected (any honest people over there on the right? Senators Lieberman and Kerry? Other misguided lefties?)
Whether the percentages change or not is irrelevent. The question is so vaguely worded it makes the results essentially meaningless.

The poll on the CNN International site is a little more straight forward:

And the results? 34% Yes, 66% No last I checked.

Insert usual boilerplate blather about the inaccuracy of such polls here.

I'm always fascinated by how these polls differ on CNN's U.S. versus International sites. Sometimes, they have the same poll. And the results can be radically different on the U.S. site versus the European site. Sometimes, they have the same poll, only slightly reworded, but effectively spinning the poll in a different direction for the audience. And often the polls are entirely unrelated.

Karen Hughes: Bush Liability?

TNR's Reihan Salam explains why Karen Hughes is bad for Bush. The idea is that Hughes's modus operandi is to portray Bush as a bumbling but admirable everyman or "lovable underdog," while Karl Rove has re-engineered Bush as a powerful war-time president. "Uniter" versus "War President" then.

The truth may be that it doesn't hurt Bush to have both views out their, but as Salam points out:
Step into John Kerry's shoes for a moment: Which Bush would you rather run against?

IntelliTXT: AnnoyING?

As AdAge reports, a new online advertising model called IntelliTXT has already earned the ire of some . The ad would appear as links within the text of articles and message boards and would expand if you hovered over them. In other words, they'd perform a lot like a pop-up. And we all know how users love those.

Importantly for writers and journalists, though, there's the matter of their relevancy. For example, one poster to Off-Road.com complained about "not being able to write 'Jeep' without generating a pop-up ad." Even worse, might the ads be served up which oppose the tenor of your content? Let's suppose you're writing a piece about gun control. You might find text in your essay linking to pro-gun sites. If you're writing a piece decrying the legalization of pot, your text could be linked to Legalize! If you're writing about abortion rights, your text could include a link to the far right Abortion No site. Note how I didn't link to the site just then? Well, I mightn't have any choice in another venue.

Nothing wrong with presenting opposing views, of course, but shouldn't a writer's very words be left to stand for themselves?

IntelliTXT is a product of Vibrant Media. There's another link I elected to serve.

BetaNews already uses the technology, though it looks like the IntelliTXT links are restricted from the homepage. Hover over the words "portable" and "HP" in this story, however, for a demo.

(Via Slashdot) (More on new approaches to web advertising on News.com.)

P.S. Remember Microsoft's similarly bright idea with Smart Tags and how popular they were?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Claria IPO

Hey, what's this? Another web IPO? Must be a good sign, right? Well, you should know that Claria used to be Gator. And, in case you didn't know, Gator's the company which has been installing spyway on millions of computers through peer-to-peer apps like Kazaa. Then you have hundreds of thousands of people suddenly wondering why pop-ups are appearing on every site they visit. And you have pop-ups for, say, Bank of America appearing on a Wachovia site. It's been called a "parasitic advertising scheme." And pretty much no one's happy with it except for the truly slimy CEO of Gator, I mean, Claria, Jeff McFadden and his cronies.

I like the ZDNet headline: "Gator mutation Claria files for IPO." Avoid like the plague.

(Via John Battelle.)

More on Gmail

The Germans have privacy concerns with Gmail, too.

On the other hand, Kevin Fox shows how Google will ask far less personal info of you upfront than either Hotmail or Yahoo. Should also note that Kevin is "is currently a user interface designer at Google Inc." Also, I signed up with Hotmail before the big M bought 'em, so I'm pretty sure I didn't part with so much info at the time. Though I wouldn't be surprised if I've gotten sucked into adding more later.

Now, you can be sure that all three of these are still gonna glean as much info about you passively as they possibly can.

The Verdict Is In . . .

And I am a Grammar God. Boy, these time wasters sure are a boost to the ol' ego.

Subservient Chicken?

Will this wacky Subservient Chicken campaign backfire on Burger King? I mean you can get him to do some awfully naughty things. I guess that's it though, he doesn't do 'em unless you ask him to. Does Burger King still use that tagline, "Breaking the Rules"? Dunno. Haven't been there in ages. And a masochistic chicken ain't about to draw me in neither!

Flower Power

If the Bushies really have nothing better to criticize Kerry for than the flower power zipper pull he apparently wore snowboarding, then W really is in trouble come November.

This probably says more about their collective homophobia, than any perceived lack on manliness on Kerry's part.

Besides, I should think that one's actually serving in the military would rate higher on the manliness scale than many things, if you must rate anything. And, if you really want to descend into homophobia, then, yes, there's that whole "fabulous" thing with Bush, not to mention the "beautiful face" thing.

That's all silly though. There are plenty of great All-American reasons to give Bush the boot.

Washington Post - On a Roll

The WP has really been on a roll. In his op-ed piece "In Iraq, Without Options," Harold Meyerson concludes that though we shouldn't have invaded Iraq, we have a moral obligation to stay now. He ends with this:
The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone.

Jon Stewart on W

Heard Jon Stewart on Al Franken's radio show today. He said Bush treats us all like children and should end every press
conference with "Now run along." This condescending manner, he says, explains the often simplistic answers Bush gives to reporters' questions. Huh, I just thought he was inarticulate.

Stewart also read Karen Hughes' memoir Ten Minutes From Normal and tells of a letter she received from Bush, which he signed "fight fiercely, yours in victory." Written like a true radical.

As you've likely noticed, the relentless Hughes is back on the scene, just in time for the election season. As the WP's Tina Brown points out, he's still referring to Bush as "a conservative with a heart." Despite the imperialism and the gay bashing and all.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Gangland, Australia

As this fascinating multimedia report in The Age reveals, organized crime is as alive and deadly in my home country of Australia as here in the United States.

"Bin Laden's Vision 'Spread by Iraq Invasion'"

Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus writes that the Bin Laden's vision has been enabled by the war in Iraq. Yeah, fuckin' duh. Some of us were saying this before the U.S. invaded Iraq.
The US-led invasion of Iraq has accelerated the spread of Osama bin Laden's anti-Americanism among once-local Islamic militant movements, increasing danger to the US, according to senior intelligence officials at the CIA and State Department.

At the same time, the Sunni Triangle has become a training ground for foreign Islamic mujahideen who are slipping into Iraq to join former Saddam Hussein loyalists to test themselves against US and coalition forces, these officials say.
Pincus quotes U.S. intelligence officials throughout the article.

Suspend Gmail?

Twenty eight privacy and civil liberties organizations have written an open letter to Google asking the seearch company to suspend Gmail "until the privacy issues are adequately addressed." They list three specific concerns:
First, Google has proposed scanning the text of all incoming emails for ad placement. The scanning of confidential email violates the implicit trust of an email service provider. Further, the unlimited period for data retention poses unnecessary risks of misuse.

Second, Google's overall data retention and correlation policies are problematic in their lack of clarity and broad scope. Google has not set specific, finite limits on how long it will retain user account, email, and transactional data. And Google has not set clear written policies about its data sharing between business units.

Third, the Gmail system sets potentially dangerous precedents and establishes reduced expectations of privacy in email communications. These precedents may be adopted by other companies and governments and may persist long after Google is gone.
I believe the second point alludes to the fact that Google has admitted that they may keep users' emails in their system, even after users' have deleted them. The letter elaborates, giving some worst case scenarios.

These points definitely seem worth considering, but many folks will probably ignore the privacy concerns if it'll get 'em a gig of email storage.

Also, I wondered about this and sure enough: Google's run into a trademark problem with the name Gmail. Seems a Californina company has been using the same name since 1999. I stumbled across this second one myself.

Which raises the question, didn't Google, er, google "Gmail"?

(Via John Battelle)

Monday, April 05, 2004

Bush & the Vietnam Meme*

Ol' Teddy Kennedy calls a spade a spade don't he? Here's what he had to say about Bush's efforts in Iraq today at the Brookings Institute:
Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam. ...

President Bush gave al Qaeda two years ... to regroup and recover in the border regions of Afghanistan. As the terrorist bombings in Madrid and other reports now indicate, al Qaeda has used that time to plant terrorist cells in countries throughout the world, and establish ties with terrorist groups in many different lands.
The GOP wasn't pleased.

*Sorry for the gratuitous bloggerspeak.

Some Beauty

Stockholm, Sweden

Lovely photos by Declan McCullagh, chief political correspondent for CNET's News.com. His photos have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Scientific American, Gear magazine, and Premiere magazine.

UPDATED: Top 10 Odd Passion of Christ Related Ephemera

  1. Passion of Christ: Movie tickets bearing the Mark of the Beast. Some patrons at a Georgia (stop giggling) theater complained that their tickets bore the number 666. Apparently, the machine that prints the tickets randomly assigned the number as a prefix on all the tickets for the movie.
  2. Passion of Christ: Producer Credit for the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit was working through me” – Mel Gibson on the making of his movie, The Passion of the Christ.
  3. Passion of Christ: Reviewed by God? Actor Jim Caviezel was struck by lightning while portraying Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount.
  4. Passion of Christ: Critics of the Passion aid/are Satan. Gibson refers to critics of The Passion as “the force of Satan” or “dupes of Satan.”
  5. Passion of Christ: BAD because Jesus’ hair is too long. Amongst other wackier and often more frightening criticisms of the flick.
  6. Passion of Christ: Nail pendant. “Take a reminder of His sacrifice with you everywhere you go.”
  7. Passion of Christ: T-shirt. But of course.
  8. Passion of Christ: NASCAR hood advert. Seriously. Guess, like Bush, Mel wants to nab the NASCAR dads.
  9. Passion of Christ: Couple arrested after "Passion" fight. Seriously. They were "debating whether God the Father in the Holy Trinity was human or symbolic."
  10. Passion of Christ: Inspiring Tattoos? Denis Haack of Ransom Fellowship offers some talking points for the movie, including this one:
    Consider a cross as a piece of jewelry and as a tattoo. Could the argument be made that if a Christian is going to wear a cross, it should be a tattoo (instead of jewelry) because the tattoo involved pain, is far more permanent, and serves less to “prettify” than to identify? Why or why not?
I reserve the right to edit this litany as even wackier stuff surfaces.[Update: Just knew I'd have more to add to this one: as they roll out of the top 10, I'll post the ones that drop off below.]

Former contenders:

Right Wing Eye

Yes, from Planned Parenhood, it's Right Wing Eye, starring Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh.

Includes, actual quotes from these illustrious fellows.

From there, you might wanna head over to Whitehouse.org to see what else the Bush administration is up to.

Paul Anka Freak-Out

This lengthy rant by Paul Anka might lose him a few fans.

Most memorable line: "When I fucking move, I slice like a fucking hammer."

He tells the band that no one else is more important than he on stage, including Jesus Christ and exhorts them, "Don't make a fucking maniac out of me!"

Don't know when it was recorded, but it sounds so Rat Pack. Uncensored Rat Pack, that is.

(Via Ace-O-Spades)

Kerry on the Fallujah Attacks

Solid quote from Kerry for those who think he'll yank the U.S. troops out of Iraq if elected:
These horrific attacks remind us of the viciousness of the enemies of Iraq's future. United in sadness, we are also united in our resolve that these enemies will not prevail.
A naive and arrogant administration may have gotten us into this mess, but now we're there, the United States has got to do the right thing and help clean up the mess. You broke it, you bought it.

We can only hope that some sort of order can be arranged quickly as the death toll grows: 617 American military, 59 UK, 43 other, 719 total.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Chomsky Online

Yes, now even Noam Chomsky has a blog: Turning the Tide.

On Iraq:
Arthur Schlesinger, perhaps the most respected mainstream American historian, had ample reason to recall the attack on Pearl Harbor as the bombing of Iraq began. FDR was right to condemn the Japanese attack as a date that will live in infamy, Schlesinger wrote, but now it is Americans who live in infamy as their government adopts the policies of imperial Japan, he added, as the first bombs fell on Baghdad.

The invasion of Iraq brought two murderous regimes to an end: the sanctions regime, and the rule of Saddam Hussein. Orders from on high are that we are to ignore the first, on the usual grounds: we are responsible for those crimes, and therefore they must be dispatched deep down the memory hole. But we are not obliged to subject ourselves to the commands of state authority and doctrinal managers.

Every decent person should welcome these two outcomes, and all serious opponents of the war have always done so, though advocates of state violence labor to suppress this fact. The sanctions regime killed hundreds of thousands of people, by conservative estimates. It devastated the civilian society, strengthened the tyrant, and compelled the population to rely on him for mere survival. It's because of these hideous consequences that the highly respected international diplomats who administered the programs, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, resigned in protest at what Halliday called the "genocidal" sanctions regime. Recall that they are the Westerners who knew Iraq best, having access to regular information from a great many investigators in all parts of the country. The sanctions regime was administered by the UN, but everyone understood that its cruel and savage character was dictated by the US and its British subordinate. Ending this regime is certainly a very positive aspect of the invasion, and a cause for gratification. But of course that could have been done, and sanctions could have been directed to weapons programs instead, without an invasion. So this beneficial consequence, doubtless greatly welcomed by Iraqis, provides no justification for the invasion.
Regardless of whether you believe the U.S. and Britain or Hussein were ultimately responsible for those sanctions, the results were the same. How many innocent people around the world are we condemning because of our desire to punish their wicked leaders? Perhaps things aren't as black and white as Chomsky paints them, but his thoughts demand our careful and honest consideration.

Zmag and Me

BTW, Chomsky's blog is published on the far-lefty Z Magazine site. Those guys are such commies that they republished my Cult of Jared piece on their site without telling me or offering me any dough. Oh well, I was flattered. Sort of.

When I ran across it, I emailed the mag to ask for a copy of the issue my piece appeared. The editor replied to tell me the piece hadn't been published in their print mag, only online. He really seemed pissed that I'd even asked, as if it's common accepted practice for a nationally-known magazine to republish a writer's work online or in print without first requesting their permission.

This is why I'll never be a communist.

Music: The Catbirdseat

The Catbirdseat is another great site for learning about new music, gigs and finding mp3s. And if you scroll down, there's an mp3 mix in the right-hand column that's updated monthly.

MSN Newsbot

MSN is trying to get into the news portal game a la Google News. The interface looks suspiciously familiar, too. If you're a news junkie like me, you'll wanna check this out.

You'll also wanna check Memeorandum from time to time, which list the day's major stories along with with blog entries about each from some of the more popular blogs: Agonist, Kevin Drum, Andrew Sullivan, Daily Kos, Atrios, Matthew Yglesias, Glenn Reynolds and heaps more.

Top 500 Search Engine Keywords Of The Week

This list often proves fascinating. Google must love that they're the first web site in the list (number 6). "Milf" has a place of honor at number 10. Guess those May/December relationships are more popular than I thought. OK, maybe not. And it's hard to believe that "pelajar uitm bogel" comes in at number 9. Not sure what it means, but I wouldn't google it at work! Predictably, "Paris Hilton" and "Britney Spears" appear in the top 20.

Other websitein the top 20: Switchboard.com, Ebay, and Yahoo. I wouldn't have guessed Switchboard.com would come in higher than both Ebay and Yahoo. And where's Amazon? Way down at number 87. I'd never guess it'd come in that low based upon my own heavy use of the site. Guess that's why we do usability studies.

More on Gmail

Kevin Fox has some screenshots. He says the ads Google serves are often "eerily relevant."

Paycheck Feeling a Little Light?

Might be a reason for that. According to NYT stores like Pep Boys, Toys "R" Us, Taco Bell, Kinko's, Family Dollar, and, yes Wal-Mart (surprise!) have been altering employee timecards to cut out their over time to increase profits. Of course, these folks are probably earning about minimum wage to begin with. Nice.

One guy in the article, a father of five, experienced this at three places of employment in a row. The last place he worked was Rentway where he often missed lunch because of the demanding schedule, but this manager inserted half an hour for lunch every day anyway.

Then there's the Walmart one minute lunch hour:
Wal-Mart executives acknowledged that one common practice, the "one-minute clock-out," had cheated employees for years. It involved workers who clocked out for lunch and forgot to clock back in before finishing the day. In such situations, many managers altered records to show such workers clocking out for the day one minute after their lunch breaks began — at 12:01 p.m., for example. That way a worker's day was often three hours and one minute, instead of seven hours.
Walmart has since tried to remedy the situation. But, hey, when are they gonna start throwing some of these managers in jail?

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Dullest Blog in the World

Yes, it's the self-proclaimed dullest blog in the world. With entries like "Turning off a light" and "Taking a sip of coffee from a mug sitting on my desk."

Amen Nancy!

Nancy Pelosi speaking for many of us on W's tag-teaming with Cheney will only talk to the 9/11 commission:
It's embarrassing to the president of the United States that they won't let him go in without holding the hand of the vice president of the United States. I think it reinforces the idea that the president cannot go it alone. The president should stand tall, walk in the room himself and answer the questions.
(Via Kevin Drum)

The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman!

Seinfeld finally hooks up with his favorite superhero in these fun cartoon/movie combos. Oddly enough, Superman turns out to be a bit of a brawny metrosexual. Each episode also eventually turns out to be a lengthy American Express ad, but they're engaging enough that I can forgive 'em for that.

(Via Saheli!)

Joe Queenan Reviews The Passion

Mel's movie hit crossed the pond recently, and Joe Queenan offered this withering review for the Guardian.

Unlike the movie's defenders, he finds a lot of anti-Semitism on display:
Though a few Jews in the film seem to object to Christ's martyrdom, the high priests and most of the spectators lining the road to Calvary seem to thoroughly enjoy the spectacle, and a good time is had by all. And while the Roman executioners are presented as sadistic cretins, the film's unmistakable message is that Pontius Pilate and the boys were merely tools of the Jews, that without the manipulation of the high priests and the enthusiastic mob, they would have merely dished out a good thrashing and sent the Messiah on his way. But the Jews were out for blood. . . .

It is well-known that Gibson's father Hutton is a Holocaust denier who recently wisecracked that most of the Jews allegedly murdered by the Germans had merely relocated to the Bronx. Gibson fils has said that nothing will ever drive a wedge between him and Pops; judging from The Passion Of The Christ, he needn't worry on that score. As Dad might put it: This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Any Jew-hater would be.
Really seems that many of those saying the flick isn't anti-Semitic may just be a little too close to the subject matter. Not that these staunch defendants are necessarily anti-Semitic themselves; they're just so caught up emotionally in the gory glory, they can't see the malignant details of the big picture.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Passion of the Park

Passion of South Park

Is it just me or did they insert the "Dean Scream" into the Passion of Christ SFX on South Park? Coulda sworn it!

Yes, in the latest espisode, the Passion of Christ has come to South Park. Stan calls it a snuff film and he and Kenny track Mel down to demand their money back. Mel practically begs to be tortured in exchange for the $18 they paid for their tix. Cartman becomes a neo-fascist, though most of those who view the flick aren't initially affected that way--they simply become annoyingly evangelical and frighteningly sheeplike. South Park's movie theater becomes a church. Kyle goes to synagogue and asks the congregation to apologize for killing Christ. And Mel goes on a rampage, chasing the boys in a truck, crashing it, and smearing his blood over a doorpost.

Great satire. No one emerges unscathed.

Only Enzyte Rises to the Occasion

You gotta respect the Enzyte people for actually joking about their product in their TV ads and, yes, even alluding to the specific part of the body their product affects. Viagra and Cialis really do beat around the bush with their invariably coy advertising. Well, beyond coy. If you had the sound turned down, you'd think they were advertising laxatives or arthritis medicine or something.

What a missed opportunity. Have some fun people!

"The Pentagon's Papers"

Whoops! A Republican aide apparently left talking points for Donald Rumsfeld in a DC Starbucks. The points focus on charges leveled at the administration by Richard Clarke. This PDF version of "The Pentagon's Papers" even includes a hand-drawn map to Rummy's house, which the Center for American Progress has thoughtfully censored.


CNN reports Google will offer one gig of free e-mail. Google's been saying they'd come out with email for a while, but this may really kick Yahoo and Hotmail's butt. The company just continues to surprise.

I've been using Hotmail for donkey's years . . . but one gig! That's like 50 times (Hotmail offers 2MB) more than Hotmail offers. Apparently, you'll also be able to type in key words to find old emails.

Drawbacks? As rumored, Gmail, as the service is called, will display ads related to the content of your emails.

That may be a small price to pay for free services like this from one of the world's most consistently innovative companies.

CNET reports that Google invited 1000 people to try the service Wednesday.