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February 2007
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April 2007

Spring Break


Well, I made no plans for spring break, because I was expecting my younger daughter Rae to come home, but she decided not to, so now I have no plans. I can't do much because I don't have a drivers license, but I am expecting to ride my bike hither and yon, catch up on my reading, and relax and recharge for the nine-week push to the end of the school year.

One event of note this week, a real thrill for me and the students both. For the first time, we had a "History Jeopardy Tournament of Champions." To make sure the audience was really interested, we held the finals in the auditorium and charged 50 cents (proceeds to a charity of the winner's choice). The semifinals were held by me and my friends Mrs. S across the hall. Generally, boys are more enthusiastic about Jeopardy, and frequently better at it; the six finalists included four boys and two girls. But in the end, a boy won 14,200 to a girl's 14,000. Another young man boldly bet 7,000 on a Daily Double--and lost it on a question so obscure that I went home and made sure I'd never ask it again (that was the 6th time I asked that question, and I've never gotten a correct answer).

Why was I thrilled? Well, first and foremost, I am happy when my students are happy. But secondarily, ever since I was 13 years old (watching Art Fleming and Don Pardo), I wanted to host Jeopardy! After being a contestant in 1985 and watching what Alex Trebek does close up, I am sure I could do it. Now that I teach and have a Jeopardy! game console (sound effects and graphics--the students love it), I can host a dozen games a year in my room. And now, I believe we have established a tradition of an annual tournament of champions just before spring break.

Shocking Macintosh News

OK, for those of you haven't kept track over the years, I am a confirmed Windows users, ever since I served as Northern California Editor of Windows Magazine, and editor Fred Langa told all of us to ditch our DOS applications and run all-Windows by the end of the week. That was 15 years ago, way longer than I spent in Z80 assembler, or CP/M or DOS. Meanwhile, over the last 22 years my wife has been a Macintosh person, ever since my college friend Neal M. loaned us one of the first Macs. My daughters started out with my hand-me-down PCs, and both of them got Sony Vaios to take to college. They've both switched to Mac, which means I'm surrounded by women with Macs.

I have nothing against the Macintosh. Well, actually, I do. I hate the fact that its file structure prevents you from "really" knowing what is going on. To me, a Mac feels like computing with gloves on. And, I use a lot of aps that simply are not available, in any form, on a Macintosh. Plus, there's a lot of web stuff that doesn't work on Macs, especially since Microsoft dropped IE for Mac. In fact, there are several web sites I have to visit in my role as office manager for my wife's psychotherapy practice that won't let you in if you are not using IE--which you can only do from a PC.

Still, if you've ever tried to move your files and applications from one PC to another, you know what a pain that can be. It took me nearly an eight-hour day a couple of years ago (the last time I did it), and, of course, I missed a few things.

Well, imagine my surprise when it came time to move my wife off her four-year-old, gradually failing Emac, to a new Imac. OS X booted up, and asked me to use a firewire to attach the new machine to the old. Then it transferred everything--every application, every data file and every setting, from the old machine to the new one, without messing up the operating system.

That is one of the single most impressive moments in my entire history of watching operating systems at work. I was blown away. Everything… just… worked. If Windows Vista is the turkey I've heard it is, I may be too old to learn another "new" OS from the ground up, tweaking out all the layers of garbage Microsoft has added (and I am not too hot for their verification/security "features" which sound like bugs to me). If I could replace, say, 80% of my applications with Mac equivalents, I'd consider going over to the dark side.

Oh yes, and the old machine was based on a Power PC chip, while the new machine was dual Intel chips. I expected that to cause trouble. It didn't. I was impressed. Maybe Mac people do know something I don't. Because when it comes down to it, I don't care about performance, and while I'd miss being able to double click on the title bar to maximize a window, and I am creepd out by the fact that applications are all up on the screen a the same time, I'll bet I'd get over it.


by Craig Reynolds

DMCA point/counterpoint: first Michael Fricklas, Viacom's general counsel wrote Our Case Against YouTube vainly trying to spin the clear language of the DMCA to Viacom's advantage. Then Michael Kwun, Google's Managing Counsel for Litigation, replied with An End Run on Copyright Law. Old Media barons like Viacom pumped money into Congress to pass the DMCA back in 1998 over the howls of forward looking high tech entrepreneurs and what is now called the free culture movement. Nine years later the whiners at Viacom decide they can't live up to their own responsibilities under the Safe Harbor provisions of their own DMCA.  And the media companies are not the only ones who have finally noticed what a colossally bad idea the DMCA was: DMCA Architect Acknowledges Need For A New Approach and Architect Of The DMCA Admits It Hasn't Worked Out; Suggests New Approach Needed. That Techdirt post highlights how Bruce Lehman finds lots of blame to spread around, but none for himself.  My favorite bit: As economist David Levine notes, 'You give the big guys more monopoly power and they innovate less. Who'd have thunk it?'

McCain's MySpace Pranked: when a story has been covered on the Daily Show and mainstream news its probably too late to include it here, but just in case you missed it there was a very funny incident where Republican Presidential candidate John McCain's campaign violated the license on some online assets and got hit with vigilante "net justice". Lesson 1: hire smarter people to manage your online presence: Hacking John McCain (via John McCain's MySpace Page "Pranked") Summary, it was made to appear that McCain now supports gay marriage "...particularly between passionate females..."

Album upgrade: a customer-friendly feature from iTunes, an example of a service that can be provided in e-commerce but not in traditional world of bricks, mortar and plastic discs: Apple introduces 'Complete My Album' on iTunes and iTunes completes me.

Technobits: Can We Get Rid Of The Disclosure Myth For Patents? --- iPods Help Medical Students Improve Auscultation Skills --- Dipstick 'finds food poison bugs' --- 'Matrix Of Harm' For Drugs --- Bizarre Hexagon Spotted on Saturn --- Sunglasses changing color in a second --- Smart fabric mimicking knights' armors (I wonder why rings and links instead of the interlocking rings of traditional chainmail).


3 stars out of 5

This Sandra Bullock film took a beating in the reviews, but I can't see what the fuss is about. It's a perfectly valid and mildly entertaining time loop movie. You know the genre--it is said to resemble Groundhog Day, my favorite movie, although science fiction fans will recognize the form as being much older than that. GHD merely brought the trope to the attention of the general public. This is not a spoiler (or maybe it is--but it is in the trailer shown on television); Sandra Bullock wakes up one day and her husband has died in an auto accident; the next day, he is alive again. Eventually, you come to understand she is living the last week of her husband's life out of order. There are loose ends, sloppy plotting, and some internal inconsistencies--which is why the film is mildly entertaining but not great. Hey, Sandra Bullock for two hours; you could do worse.

The Last Mimzy

3.5 stars out of 5

Better than I would have expected. Like Premonition, a time travel film, only this one (lacking the sex and violence) is pitched at children and families. It is true what the local reviews said: adults can sit through it without being bored or stupified. I wish I were a better reviewer, so I could explain what it is about the tone of the entire film that left me baffled. It didn't seem intentionally or unintentionally funny, but it wasn't fully serious either. The entire time I watched it, I kept expecting to understand what kind of film it was during the next scene, but that never happened. Not to say that the ending isn't telegraphed; if you can't figure out what happens about 20 minutes before the end of the film, you're not paying attention. Sometimes, however, it is the journey, not the destination, which provides the entertainment portion of life.

What about Walmart? Malchman's Headline Find, Rove in 72, Dern on Star Wars Stamps, Planet Proctor, Lasusa Links, Dan Grobstein File

Wal-Mart leaving America vulnerable to protect their profits. Yikes! Also, here and here.

Robert Malchman thinks you'll enjoy this cricket headline.

Don't miss Karl Rove in this 1972 CBS campaign story.

Daniel Dern reminded me that every media outlet on the planet must plug the forthcoming Star Wars stamps; (more detail); otherwise the terrorists win.

If you're not subscribing to Planet Proctor, you should be; Phil's newsletter tipped me to this amusing post of Hillary at Hadassah.

Tom Lasusa surfs the web so you don't have to: Kermit the Frog covers NIN's "Hurt"(Warning: images of drugs, sex and violence -guaranteed to destroy childhood memories)… Charlie the Unicorn Goes to Candy MountainHistory of the Light Bulb photo exhibit …Scientists Make Amazing Discovery -- disprove old saying "Beer before liquor, never sicker"… 'Cheesy' Webcam's a Traffic Driver Cheese lovers have been logging onto a British Webcam in droves to watch a hunk of cheddar ripen. … A Totally Sweet Cell Phone iPods, cell phones and other small, mobile devices could soon be powered by sugar-fueled batteriesNow THAT's What I call Fish and Chips!… Check out Google's driving directions from New York to Dublin, Ireland (particularly part 23)… Hexagon on Saturn

Dan Grobstein File

  • From Talking Points Memo: Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) makes a very good point. The prosecutor firings and replacements just happen to be in all the key 2008 swing states, and not in any states that are safe for either party -- with the exception of California, where the Lam -Cunningham investigation is. Why do you think that would be?
  • LA Times: Circuit City Stores Inc. has a message for some of its best-paid employees: Work for less or work somewhere else. [ed note: That'll be good for morale, not to mention sales staff competence]
    Amritsar Journal: Young Sikh Men Get Haircuts, Annoying Their Elders
    Spiritual leaders expressed dismay at the rapidity with which a new generation of young men in India are trimming their hair and abandoning the turban. [ed. note: annoying your elders; the universal goal of youth]
  • NEW YORK REGION | March 24, 2007
    A Museum-Quality Car for a Subway Yet Unbuilt
    In 1949, 10 prototype subway cars for the Second Avenue line were delivered to the New York Board of Transportation, but the line was never completed.

What's With Schindler?

Spent the weekend in Oregon, where I saw my wife and my parents and Dr. S, my mentor from high school. That was it. Saw two movies: Premonition and The Last Mimzy. Will review them next week. All else is status quo, which means not very interesting to write about. The muse has not stopped here lately.


by Craig Reynolds

DRM/DMCA: its been a busy week on the digital rights management and copyright front. After Viacom's billion dollar suit against YouTube, a transparent ploy to strengthen their hand in licensing negotiations, there was this little embarrassment: Infringing videos on iFilm could cause problems for Viacom. Some fallout over a parody of a parody: files suit against Viacom over online video ("Activist group says parody media giant asked YouTube to remove is protected") Then this twist: NFL violates copyright law, YouTube collaborates with them and NFL Continues To Help Professor Demonstrate How Copyright Owners Abuse The DMCA ("As Seltzer points out, this clearly violates the DMCA, which states that the copyright holder filing a takedown cannot claim the material is infringing when they know it is not.") The television industry was having a hard time deciding if distribution of programs over the web was evil incarnate, or maybe the best thing since sliced bread: Media industry unveils YouTube challenge and NBC/News Corp. Video Site to Be 'Mostly Free'. While this new TV industry site provides a flexible new distribution channel for TV, few think this will cut deeply into YouTube's popularity which is based on its Web 2.0 nature: user-created content, and collective filtering of user-selected TV clips. In the end, it may be the bottom line that kills DRM technology, it could be just too expensive to use: DRM causes 75 percent of tech support calls, which cites: Musicload to get rid of DRM. RIAA making friends everywhere: their new target of choice is the hapless college student: A Heart-Warming Message from the RIAA, RIAA University Campaign Sputters: Group Asked To Pay Up For Wasting School's Time and RIAA Bosses Try To Explain Why Suing College Kids Is Good For Business. Ideas about how to oppose the madness: Poll: Are We Doing this RIAA Thing All Wrong? The RIAA will be pleased to hear that their "friends" in the music sharing business have managed to do what the RIAA's ham-handedness never could: P2P is killing CD piracy.

AppleTV: a lot of analysts have been getting excited about the potential of AppleTV which has recently gone on sale, for example: Will Apple TV be bigger than iPhone? ("Some believe Apple TV, due out this month, is a more important product") and Apple TV: Will it open up Hollywood and create a $11.4 billion market? Back in September 2006 I made similar predictions ("The new device, called iTV for now, provides an end-to-end solution for delivery of video content from the online store to your digital TV. To me this seems huge. Both Blockbuster and Netflix ought to be worried about this: forget schlepping around plastic disks, just download your DVD quality movies over your broadband connection. But wait, since you can buy TV shows at iTunes too, do you really need that TiVo? Heck, do you really need that cable TV feed? There may be a time soon when all the movies and TV shows you want to watch can be bought or rented at iTunes. The money that you now pay to Netflix, TiVo and the cable company could be used to buy individual shows at iTunes.")

Space: remember the cool images of a lunar transit of the Sun last week? The new probe Hinode is sending back incredibly detailed images of the solar surface: International Spacecraft Reveals Detailed Processes on the Sun. More planetary news: Mars Has Cave Networks, New Photos Suggest could Martian life retreated to the protected environments of these deep caverns?

Technobits: Florida officials warned of e-voting glitch prior to election Losing candidate says slow response times may have caused undervote in Sarasota County --- MIT to put its entire curriculum online free of charge OpenCourseWare expands --- PS3 Triples Folding At Home's Computing Power --- The Thinking Machine on Jeff Hawkins and the Numenta AI system --- Brain Injury Said to Affect Moral Choices is compassion built into our brain? --- 10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World --- Pelagic sea slug looks like Jim Woodring creature a cool blue creature.

Malchman finds Do-Dah headline, Dalton on New Vs. Old, Lasusa Links, Dan Grobstein File

Finally, someone else is asking the question, Why aren't the Bush daughters in Iraq?

Tom Lasusa surfs the web so you don't have to: Chinese Food Bad for you?… The Devil you say!!!… Sti-i-i-nky sneakers! Girl enjoys foul smell of successI just had a heart attack looking at thisThe skywalk over the Grand Canyon (I'm dizzy just from the pictures)… 9God-fearing villagers snub "satanic" bar codesHooters heading for Holy LandFly First Class?? Over Your Dead Body!Meet socialites Muffie Potter Aston, Topsy Taylor and Bunny Mellon'An Inconvenient Asteroid' -- Meet Al Gore's space rock Watching counterpartI Was An Online Mother (or how to get pregnant in Second Life)

A Doo-Dah headline is one you can sing to Camptown Ladies, such as this one from Information Week found by Robert Malchman:

Online Porn Act Dead For Now

I never knew before if such heads were good or bad, but here's some great writing about headlines pointed to from the Poynter Institute website.

Richard Dalton checks in with some thoughts on new media versus old

My friend Louis and I have been talking back and forth, first about the Hillary/Obama/Apple stupidity and how "reality" is slipping via the Web. I think this is a very serious emerging trend that may eventually reduce the value of search engines because so much of the content is planted in blogs, discussion groups, etc.

What happens when PSACOT gets quoted in the Chron as part of a movie ad? I know and respect (though don't always agree with) your reviews but if the ad features "Dynamite action by a master of the craft" as a reviewer's comment, followed by a barely visible psacot attribution, does a reader equate this with David Ansen of Newsweek or just a voice outof the miasma?

Dan Grobstein File

  • POWER COUPLES....Did you know that lots of high-profile political journalists are married to high-profile political operatives? Sure you did. But if you want a few more details about DC's power couples, the LA Times runs 'em down for you.
  • Why aren't we admitting Iraqi refugess? …President Gerald Ford once said regarding his decision to admit a hundred and thirty thousand Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon: "To do less would have added moral shame to humiliation."