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My New Picture

So, back in 1999, while I was editor of, I had a professional head shot taken, as I did every few years during my 20 years as a computer journalist. I loved the picture, taken while I was busy covering a convention at the Javitts Center in NYC. I liked it so much I used it for seven years.

But I don't look like that anymore, so I was going to post my school picture from J middle school, where I teach. Vicki didn't like it, so took a series of shots, and we settled on the new one here on my column and on my home page at

Chalk one up for truth in column pictures.

Google Bombing

I got this from Dan Grobstein:

  • | October 26, 2006

  • A New Campaign Tactic: Manipulating Google Data
    Several Republican candidates have also been targeted in a sophisticated "Google bombing" campaign intended to game the search engine’s ranking algorithms.

It seemed like a good idea, so I immediately placed it in the right-hand column of my blog, and also repeated it as the lead item under politics this week. It's a list of mainstream media articles about GOP candidates in close races that places them in the proper context.

Google Bombing, Stealing Another Election, Electoral Math

Here are some articles of interest about GOP candidates from Why not post them on your blog?

-AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl --AZ-01: Rick Renzi --AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth --CA-04: John Doolittle --CA-11: Richard Pombo --CA-50: Brian Bilbray --CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave --CO-05: Doug Lamborn --CO-07: Rick O'Donnell --CT-04: Christopher Shays --FL-13: Vernon Buchanan --FL-16: Joe Negron --FL-22: Clay Shaw --ID-01: Bill Sali --IL-06: Peter Roskam --IL-10: Mark Kirk --IL-14: Dennis Hastert --IN-02: Chris Chocola --IN-08: John Hostettler --IA-01: Mike Whalen --KS-02: Jim Ryun --KY-03: Anne Northup --KY-04: Geoff Davis --MD-Sen: Michael Steele --MN-01: Gil Gutknecht --MN-06: Michele Bachmann --MO-Sen: Jim Talent --MT-Sen: Conrad Burns --NV-03: Jon Porter --NH-02: Charlie Bass --NJ-07: Mike Ferguson --NM-01: Heather Wilson --NY-03: Peter King --NY-20: John Sweeney --NY-26: Tom Reynolds --NY-29: Randy Kuhl --NC-08: Robin Hayes --NC-11: Charles Taylor --OH-01: Steve Chabot --OH-02: Jean Schmidt --OH-15: Deborah Pryce --OH-18: Joy Padgett --PA-04: Melissa Hart --PA-07: Curt Weldon --PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick --PA-10: Don Sherwood --RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee --TN-Sen: Bob Corker --VA-Sen: George Allen --VA-10: Frank Wolf --WA-Sen: Mike McGavick --WA-08: Dave Reichert 


Sara Taylor is the Political Director for George W. Bush. Karl Rove also works with Mr. Bush. They both plan on stealing another election.

  • As G.O.P. Mopes, Bush Adds The Title of Optimist in Chief
    …"Mr. Rove and Ms. Taylor are said by associates to have spent hours going through data on volunteer efforts, voter registration tallies and financial matchups between candidates throughout the states, and they see a path to victory."

Wonder what voter registration tallies Ms. Taylor and Mr. Rove are reading?

While data is still being gathered, in certain of the key counties for Democrats in Ohio, registration appears to be lower than that in November 2004 by about 140,000 (or more) votes. The expected vote (40% turnout) is about 3.2 million which means 140,000 de-registered voters represent about 8% of the vote (1.6 million) needed to win a statewide race. In Cuyahoga County (Ohio) where the biggest Democratic vote in the state is expected (and the registration is up a few percent), an outside expert retained by the county board of elections reported a few months ago that there was no basis for relying (either in 2006 or 2008) upon the new electronic voting machines which malfunctioned and caused frustrated voters to leave the polls in the spring primary.


  • There are several report cards going around that suggest voting GOP. Here's my report card:
  • Lied us into a pointless and expensive war that has made us less safe, and then did a crappy job handling the aftermath: GOP
  • In the process of losing the intelligent war, the one against the people who attacked us: GOP
  • Undid a budget surplus and doubled the national debt and spent like drunken sailors: GOP
  • Made this country the international poster boy for torture, in contravention of every principle this country was founded on: GOP
  • Wasted time and taxpayer money on flag-burning and gay marriage when this country faced real threats to its present and future (talk about Nero fiddling while Rome burned): GOP
  • Failed to conduct a single serious oversight hearing on any executive department blunder, from Iraq to Katrina to Plamegate: GOP

I know which party I'm voting for. How about you?




by Craig Reynolds

Pathetic PatchGuard: remember Microsoft's plan to lock third-party security firms out of the Vista kernel?  Once again Microsoft intends to illegally abuse its monopoly to gain a competitive advantage. (What they called "cutting off their oxygen supply" back when they did it to Netscape.) Despite their dismal history of insecure software, they thought they could do a better job than the third parties. Yet before Vista is even launched, PatchGuard, the Vista Kernel Patch Protection feature that was supposed to keep the security firms (and the bad guys) out, has already been circumvented: Microsoft Decries Vista PatchGuard Hack, Competitors continue bickering over Vista’s security features and Security firm punctures Vista's Patchguard. The moral is that putting Microsoft in charge of your computer's security is profoundly dangerous.

iPod and DVD Jon: noted reverse engineering maven Jon Johansen circumvented Apple's FairPlay DRM several years ago and it has been a series of tit-for-tat patches since then. Now his new company DoubleTwist plans to sell tools to allow interoperability between music stores and music players, including but definitely not limited to iPod and the iTunes store. Opinions differ on the legality of various parts of this plan, since the draconian DMCA what had traditionally been considered legal and legitimate reverse engineering: What DVD Jon's iPod crack means for you, Could FairPlay Hack Lead to iTunes Demise? and iTunes copy protection 'cracked'. Other iPod news: Analysis: How the iPod changed Apple's fortunes and Apple's iPod-like patent, a bigger screen for better video?

RIAA cut and runners: one wonders how much revenue is generated by the self-defeating RIAA "sue your customers" policy. Or is is both a money loser and a stupid idea? Can they hope to pay for expensive teams of lawyers by suing grandmas and teenagers? Worse for them, one defendant's lawyer has been able to collect fees from the the RIAA after they dropped their frivolous case.  Now the same attorney is back and the RIAA is backpedaling as fast as they can: Another Way To Get The RIAA To Drop Case And Run and Defendant doesn't want RIAA let off the hook.

From the Googleplex: integrated election coverage: Google Earth rocks the vote. Customizable Google search, allows limiting searches to certain sites, or ranking those results higher: Google readies custom search engine service, see the service's home page for examples. The deeper your pockets are, the larger the litigation bull's eye painted on your back: We’re Google. So Sue Us.

Earth, Mars and beyond: sometimes it is hard to understand how tiny increases in global temperature can be a serious problem. Here is a for instance: Warming link to amphibian disease. Australia goes into solar power in a big way: Aussies Eye Sun to Beat Blackouts and Australia plans world's biggest space-age solar power station. On the longevity of space probes: NASA to decide Hubble's fate and NASA’s Spirit Rover Hits 1,000th Martian Day.

Technobits: get Firefox 2 --- a cookie is not an alibi and an IP address is not a person --- I.B.M. Sues Amazon Over Technology Patents --- He sent 38 billion emails and called himself the Spam King. "Then Bill Gates went after him... It is not often that computer users cheer a victory for Microsoft... But many will... after the computer giant claimed a [$7 million] victory..." (via) --- Hackers disrupt on-line brokers --- 60 megapixel display --- distributed approach to ubiquitous wi-fi --- industrial biomimicry: Industrial design takes cues from bugs, leaves, crabs (biomimicry gallery) --- RuBot II a Rubik's cube solving robot (via, and while you are at YouTube, see this amazing blindfold solve).

Neal Vitale Reviews: Marie Antoinette, The Prestige

Marie Antoinette
1.5 stars

This hollow evocation of the brief life of the Austrian-born Queen of France is all style and no substance - shiny surfaces, opulent surroundings, extravagant dalliances, signifying nothing. Perhaps that is director Sofia Coppola's goal - summoning the vacuity of the reign of Louis XVI and his teen bride by mirroring it with an equally empty film - but I doubt it. For me, Marie Antoinette underscores the fine line that Coppola walks with her films. She provides little actual content or plot, instead hoping that the convergence of nuanced acting, minimalist dialogue, and clever use of obscure popular music will produce an engaging end product. With Lost in Translation, this careful balancing act was a success. But Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman are not Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, and Marie Antoinette is insipid.

--Neal Vitale

The Prestige
4 stars

Director/writer Christopher Nolan (Memento) is back with one of the year's best films, a dark and electric story of rival magicians in turn-of-the-century London. The film's title refers to the third and final stage of a well-formed magic trick, and this theme of successful misdirection runs throughout The Prestige. The storyline is captivating, twisting and turning through friendship, deceit, and betrayal galore. But the film is driven by its excellent cast, crisply directed. Christian Bale (American Psycho, Batman Begins) and Hugh Jackman (X Men) are in the forefront as the battling illusionists; perfectly-constructed accents of color are offered by Michael Caine, David Bowie (at his alien best), and Andy Serkis (King Kong). Like Memento, The Prestige will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

--Neal Vitale

About The Magic Movies

A friend writes

I found an interesting article about The Prestige and was going to send it to you because you gave it a good review a while back. But I could not find your review. I remembered you said something about how, given CGI, stage magic done in films loses its ability to surprise. Eventually I figured out that you had reviewed The Illusionist instead. I've seen neither so its hard to keep them straight!

He sings the cinema electric
The director of "Memento" discusses the mind-bending trickery in his latest film, "The Prestige," what he thinks of being called the new Hitchcock, and how movies restore mystery to our lives.

My review of The Illusionist

Lasusa Links, American Daddy, Blogrolling, Dan Grobstein File

Special holiday version of Tom Lasusa links: Halloween Defined @ Wikipedia30 Second Bunny Theatre Presents Texas ChainsawMassacre"Is Willard Library Haunted?"The ShadowLands...true ghost stories… Looking for a good scare? Find a haunted house attraction in your stateVintage Halloween PoemsAnd a few more I found a couple of years ago... The life and death of a pumpkin….the worst Halloween costumes everVictorian post-mortem photographs…(Not for faint of heart -- photos of the Victorian era deceased including children)… Clearly the kind of Halloween costume you get if your parents enjoy seeing you beaten in the school yard

Harrison Klein writes:

I rarely forward anything to anybody, but Steve Lawson is a very close friend of mine and I agree with the sentiments so I'm making an exception. Steve and I worked together at KING. He built and operated the largest audio production company in Seattle, then worked for Paul Allen, then "retired" to do interesting stuff on his own.

Here is the note from Steve Lawson that Harrison forwarded:

A few weeks ago, my friend Greg Mollner and I were having coffee, discussing the current world situation and affairs here at home. Greg's passion was overwhelming. So overwhelming in fact that this seasoned, successful businessman started singing to me.

It was a song he'd been writing to address his love for the USA and to alleviate his frustration with our current government. It's a song called America my Daddy Taught to Me.

I hooked Greg up with another friend, Terry Lauber, of Gabriel and Brother's Four fame. Together they added a new melody to Greg's strong words, and created an engaging song that so succinctly addresses what so many of us have been feeling. I've attached the lyrics and a link to their heartfelt collaboration.

Feel free to download the song by right-clicking on the download link on the My Space page. Or just click the Play button to listen.

If you agree with the message of this song we ask that you forward it on to your friends and acquaintances. If you work in radio or TV, we hope you'll get this song into the hands of those who can give it exposure.

It's our hope to expose the sentiments of this song to people all across America. So that in early November, we can begin to change the course of our great nation to the America my Daddy Taught to Me!

Blogrolling: my friend Chuck Carroll from band writes:

Voters among you may enjoy some election thoughts. The first piece is "How to Vote in California." Of course, YOU know how to vote but you might pick up some ideas to help educate a confused acquaintance or relative. Voters nationwide might like the second piece, "What is Important?"

I disagree with almost every word in this blog except for the prepositions, but, like Tom Jefferson, I'll defend to the death Chuck's right to be wrong.

Dan Grobstein File

  • About the New Yorker Festival: "Afterward, at lunch, I chewed over what he'd said, and came to see that this relatively new feature, the New Yorker Festival, has taken the venerable magazine one step closer to an institute of higher learning. Students of The New Yorker University scuttled across the campus of Manhattan in pursuit not so much of edification as of the kind of solidarity that the best universities' students feel."

  • | October 25, 2006
    Hospitals Try Free Basic Care for Uninsured
    For many patients with chronic diseases, it would be cheaper to provide free preventive care than to absorb the high cost of repeated emergencies.

Doing My Part

If you're the kind of person who glances at the box on the left side of the page, and the kind who scrolls to the bottom, you'll find a section of links about endangered Republican candidates. All links go to legitimate sites of legitimate media sources that the blogosphere feels should be brought to the attention of voters. By adding that list, and then adding this item to the top of my column, I am doing my part to propgate useful voter information. Think of me as a one-man league of male voters.

Writing Classroom Jeopardy! Questions

The downside of the format I have chosen for my blog--a simulacrum of a weekly column--is that it requires… well… that I come up with something to say every week. This was relatively easy when I first started, since I fumed about the Clinton impeachment. Then I wrote about my life on the Internet, then the end of my life on the Internet, then my progress towards becoming a teacher, and then my utter panic at actually teaching (including concomitant health problems). It has gotten harder to blog on any week when all I do is my job--teach. As I enter my fourth year, I am living proof that teaching gets easier every year. This year is complicated by the presence of a new principal and a new textbook, but all that's working out pretty well.

Last spring, we bought two sets of Classroom Jeopardy! Games, and discovered that students love them. I knew this. In 1966, at Beaumont Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, during the era of the Art Fleming version of Jeopardy, I organized an 8th grade Jeopardy! Tournament. I had students write the questions. I served as host--which irritated the rest of Mrs. Ward's class, as I would also have been our best player.

Larry Wheeler--Larry, if you object to the use of your full last name, write and tell me; I've been trying to find you and get in touch for five years. Maybe someday you'll be googling yourself and find this.

Larry Wheeler was the top player from Mrs. Blood's room. He was also, head and shoulders, the brightest student in my grade. He wrote most of the Jeopardy! Questions turned in by all the students, which made it rather easy for him to dominate the game. Also, the participants had to ring little bells when they knew an answer, and like most right handers, I favored the team on my right. From this experience, I learned that you should be sure that, if students are writing their own questions, they aren't answering them.

In 1987, I fulfilled my 20-year dream and became a contestant on Jeopardy! I lost to David Traini, who won five times and then placed second in the Tournament of Champions that year.

Sometime after the Internet caught on--probably during the late 90s--I fulfilled another life-long dream, and purchased a lock-out buzzer set. It cost me about $750. It was College Bowl style--two teams of five. I hoped to use it with my girls in their classrooms, but the opportunity never arose. Then I tried it while student teaching at Miramonte. Smash success. Tried it again as I started teaching at J Middle School. Also a smash success. At first, I just read the questions, then I projected them using PowerPoint. Then F, my fellow teacher, noticed the Jeopardy! Game on the Internet. It uses wireless buzzers, and if you have video projectors, as we do, you can project the game board nice and big. It also keeps score automatically, and clocks out the time allowed for an answer (I was always too generous with the seven seconds). We bought one set for her room, one for mine. Smash hit! We play six players at a time (widens participation) and change players after every question--so one player each from six teams plays every question.

Of course, you have to write your own questions if the game is actually going to review the material you covered. Here's the funny thing; that turns out to be a third and final (for this week's column) dream of mine: to write Jeopardy! Questions. It has been very difficult for me to watch the show since I lost, so I'm a bit out of touch with recent question trends. Do they still do Potent Potables? I actually considered trying out for a writing position, but decided I could do society more good as a teacher. I am still proud of the category I would have offered as a sample: "Hap"py People, where the word Hap or Happy would appear in the each question. Happy Rockefeller, Hap Arnold, and three other clues that slip my mind.

Anyway, to make the game more fun for yourself and the students, you have to try hard to write Jeopardy! Style questions. I don't make my students respond to the clue in the form of a question--in the classroom it's about answers, not style--but I am tickled when a handful of them do. I have a little Art Fleming/Alex Trebek in my head when I write, and try to make it sound like something I've heard, or would hear, them say. Also, I don't know if you've ever noticed, but they often slip in an extra clue to the correct question. That; I think, is the best of Jeopardy writing. In the last chapter, the clue was "This man, whose name was not his title, wrote the final draft of the Constitution." That would be Goueverner Morris. "He was Washington's seceretary of the Treasury, and appears on the $10 bill." "This "m" word means to free a single slave."

I spent several hours this week writing (and proofreading--very important, proofreading) the questions for Chapters 5 and 7 (F., also a former Jeopardy! Contestant, writes the even chapters). And I loved every minute of it, as I did the half hour it took me to compose this column entry. I just love to write, that's all there is to it. It was nice when I got paid to write, but as my experience of recent years has proven, I must be a blockhead--for as Dr. Jerry Pournelle loves to quote Samuel Johnson: " No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money."

I am writing for no money and loving it. I hope you are too. And if you're teaching out of The American Journey, I've got some Classroom Jeopardy! Questions for you.