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July 2007

Sandler Memorial

This from Raeanne Hytone, Norman Sandler's ex wife:

Thank you all for your warm words, thoughts and prayers. I can't even begin to tell you how much you've helped me, and norm's family, during this time. I promise to answer each of you individually, but in the meantime, I find myself relying on email to get this information to you quickly. Please share it with others who may want to come or send a contribution.

Norman D. Sandler Memorial Service

Please join Norm's family and friends for a memorial service on Sunday, July 8, 2007 from 2-4pm in the Holeman Lounge at The National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW (at F Street), Washington DC.

A reception will follow the service in the First Amendment Lounge.

Please RSVP to me at [email protected]

Gifts in Memory of Norman D. Sandler

should be sent, payable to MIT with a notation that they are intended for the Norman Sandler Memorial Scholarship Fund, to:

Office of Memorial Gifts at MIT
Room E19-411
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139


Once again, thank you for everything.

Always, Raeanne


by Craig Reynolds

Copyright cartel: sometimes the record industry appears to be composed of evil geniuses, orchestrating worldwide schemes to fleece musicians and their fans. Other times it becomes clear just how utterly clueless they are, as in this email exchange (posted by mutual consent) between Paul Birch of Revolver Records and Prof. Andrew Dubber of the University of Central England. In his blog, Dubber linked to an article at Download Squad about the recent filing of a counter-suit against the RIAA related to its self-defeating "sue the customer" strategy. (Similarly I linked to RIAA Accused of Extortion, Conspiracy, Being Jerks on June 11.) Then Birch threatened that Dubber could be sued into bankruptcy or fired from his faculty position for passing on this sort of "false" information about the bulling tactics of the music industry. Read all about it: An IFPI & BPI Board Member Writes… (note: BPI is the British version of RIAA, IFPI is the worldwide parent organization, via: Record exec to academic: stop criticizing us or I'll tell your university). This episode drew an angry rebuke from Download Squad: An open response to an IFPI board member. Other copyright news: Judge Tells RIAA: Irreparable Harm Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means and Judge deals blow to RIAA, says students can respond to John Doe lawsuit. Founding fathers on these issues: Add Madison's Fears Of Intellectual Property To Jefferson's.

Because his lips are moving: how long does it take the Microsoft legal team to determine that the boss is just blowing smoke? About four days. Friday, June 15: Microsoft CEO says Google complaint is "baseless", Tuesday, June 19: Antitrust gripes prompt Vista changes: source. More detail: Microsoft to change Vista after Google complaint. Other Microsoft news: virtual flip-flopping: Microsoft reverses decision to allow Vista virtualization. Based on questionable statistics, Microsoft claims Vista More Secure than Linux, Mac OS X on the other hand: More Than Half of Known Vista Bugs are Unpatched.

Manhunt 2: from the same folks (developer Rockstar Games, publisher Take Two Interactive) that brought you Grand Theft Auto and Bully now its an opportunity to role-play a psychotic killer. The UK would have none of it: British censor bans first video game in 10 years and Irish censor bans "Manhunt 2" video game. The producer's first response was that they, like great artists of the past, were merely unappreciated in their own time: Banned video game is 'fine art' and Maker of banned video game calls "Manhunt 2" art. Then the "starving artists" put on their business hats and decide to rethink the whole thing: Take-Two delays plans to distribute "Manhunt 2".

Creepy cell phone snoopware stalking, or creepy hoax?: A horror movie come to life ("Three Fircrest families receive death threats via cell phone. Even when the phones are off. Even when they get new phones") and Stalkers besiege Washington state families. Controlling electronic devices by reloadable software provides many technical advantages, flaws can be patched after the product is in the hands of consumers, the device can be customized by the user with third party software . The downside is that these same properties enable all kinds of malware. In fact this is the issue Apple has been wrestling with regarding iPhone, how to allow extension and customization while maintaining reliability. As one example, a software-controlled phone has no physical cutoff switch on the microphone circuit. The microphone is always connected to the computer. It is a property of the software that microphone input is ignored except during calls, so a software change can reverse that. More on the general problem: Beware of cellphone snoops ("New malware version can activate microphones on mobile devices, posing a threat that experts say will increase significantly in coming months"), New mobile security threats emerge and Protect your cell phone from hackers and 'phreaks'.

Stem cells were much in the news this week: Bush vetoes stem cell funds bill, Reality Check: Embryonic Stem Cell Alternatives, Survey sees support for embryos in stem cell work, Scientists call for right to use animal/human embryos and U.S. company says grows embryo-safe stem cells. Other bio news: Ancient viral battle left people vulnerable to HIV and How Enzymes Work: Central Mechanism Discovered. As if evolution of resistance was not bad enough: Fear of Replacement ("What if a vaccine kills off one strain of a disease—but makes room for another?")

The wisdom of swarms: Peter Miller wrote an excellent introduction to swarm intelligence and the nature of collective behavior which appears in the July 2007 National Geographic Magazine: Swarm Behavior. It mentions my work simulating flocks. I was surprised at the lead time for an article like this, I think they first contacted me 18 months ago! Somewhat related news: Evacuation Software Finds Best Way to Route Millions of Vehicles and Swarmcast offers faster way to download iTunes (Swarmcast applies the BitTorrent approach to iTunes).

Technobits: ugly online attacks on (and by?) law students: Testing the limits of forum bashing: two law students sue over personal attacks and U.S. Internet defamation suit tests online anonymity --- Mapping the Internet --- network coding: Breaking Network Logjams --- Online Sales Lose Steam as Buyers Grow Web-Weary --- gold then and now: Archaeologists Discover Gold Processing Center On The Nile and The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer --- Focus of Video Games Shifts to Lure More Casual Players --- Google and Utility to Test Hybrids That Sell Back Power --- New Rules Expected on Safety of Nanotechnology Products --- astro news: Dwarf Planet Outweighs Pluto and Progress made toward lunar liquid mirror telescope --- phonographs in the news: Record company EULAs were abusive before 1909! and Video games hidden in the grooves of LPs.

Paris Art Theft Pun

From Kent Peterman:

A thief in Paris planned to steal some paintings from the Louvre. After carefully planning, he got past security, stole the paintings and made it safely to his van. However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied: "Monsieur, that's the reason I stole the paintings. I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh."

(And you thought I didn't have De Gaulle to send this to you!)

Private Fears in Public Places

2.5 stars out of 5

The standard for bad movies in our family is Truly, Madly, Deeply, a sweet comedy from 1991. Marlow as 10, and we had already seen three movies that day, so she wasn't in the best of moods at 8pm as we settled in for our last film. I loved it, she loathed it. She saw it again in college, and tells me she still loathes it, so it wasn't just her age and the time of day.

This comes up because we went to see Coeurs, directed by Alain Resnais (American title: Private Fears in Public Places) a lovely two-hour, subtitled French film. It was Father's Day, so I saw it with Vicki and both daughters. Rae said if we hadn't all been there, she'd have walked out. Then she delivered the ultimate insult: "worst movie since Truly, Badly, Deeply." [We have another standard for animated films, Little Nemo in Slumberland, but that's a different story.]

She began by stating the fact that she's fine with character studies, with subtitled French films, and with films that don't move very fast or go very far. This one, she said, was like swimming in molasses, went nowhere, and did so very slowly. The only redeeming feature, she thought, was the fact that people spoke so slowly that she could work on her French.

Well. Alan Ayckbourn adapted his play for the screen with the help of Jean-Michel Ribes. The plot, according to IMDB:

In Paris, six people all look for love, despite typically having their romantic aspirations dashed at every turn.

This sounded a lot like the recent 4.5 star movie, Paris, je t'aime, which was also a series of anecdotes about Paris, in French with subtitles. Conceptually, yes. But while Paris was a masterpiece, this is merely an almost good film. Not as bad as Rae says, but not very good either. It is slow, and sometimes confusing. However, the cinematography is terrific. I could spend two hours looking at Paris and French apartments and be happy--wait, I did spend two hours looking at Paris and French apartments.

Finally, I must compliment the incredible special effects with snow, both inside and out. It gave the whole film a gloss of magic that suited its elegiac mode. Not worth a special trip, but you don't have to run away from it. Unless you really hated Truly, Madly, Deeply.

Whitney Kate Sullivan, 9/11 research, Dan Grobstein File

Whitney Kate Sullivan, daughter of my friend Kevin, is living in New York City this summer while working a summer job. Her blog My First Foray Into A Semi-Independent Life makes me feel young again just by reading it.

Purdue did a new simulation of the 9/11 crashes. Raw Story didn't like the Purdue Simulation. also did not like the simulation. Prison Planet disputes the Purdue findings as well.

Dan Grobstein File

  • Took my son to the driving range with me. While we whacked golf balls, we discussed our lack of family values and my little boy stunned me with this question: "Dad, why haven't you been divorced a bunch of times like Fred Thompson and the other Republican presidential candidates?" "Now son," I said. "Senator Thompson's only been divorced once. You're thinking of Rudy Giuliani or Newt Gingrich."


I don't care how old or young you are, how many or how few assets you have, nor what your marital status is. If you are more than 18 years old, or even under 18 with a lot of money in a trust fund, you need a will. Otherwise, when you die you are "intestate," which means the state decides who gets what and your surviving relatives have to spend a lot of time and lawyer money making decisions you could have made yourself, at less cost, and in a more leisurely way. And in fact, while you're at it, when anything important (age, assets, children, marital status) changes, or if one of your beneficiaries dies, or one is now dead to you, update your will. (In fact, revisiting your will every five or 10 years is a good idea; tax laws change). None of us knows when we are going to die, and to be unprepared is just irresponsible. Even if you don't particularly care how things turn out after you're gone, take pity on your friends and family, sit down with an attorney and step up to the plate--contemplate your mortality and do something about it.

Sandler Obit, Sopranos Analysi

  • My friend Norman Sandler finally got a paper obit, which differs from mine mainly in that it contains precise dates for his jobs and his term as president of the White House Correspondents.
  • [see also my Norman Sandler Tribute Site at]
  • Regular contributor Dan Grobstein found a dynamite analysis of the last episode of The Sopranos, which led to these three finds:


by Craig Reynolds

Noncoding DNA is so not junk: like the old chestnut that "according to aerodynamics" bees can't fly (see the Straight Dope on this) even smart scientists say stupidly unscientific things, often due to that dangerous thing: a little knowledge. There was a time, after Watson and Crick analyzed DNA's shape, after DNA coding for amino acids was understood, after RNA transcription and protein synthesis was worked out, when DNA "punctuation marks" were discovered that indicated the beginning and end of DNA sequences to be transcribed into proteins. That was all good but lead to the observation that between one "end" and the next "start" there was a lot of noncoding DNA. It was glibly called junk DNA and assumed to be evolutionary left-overs that served no purpose. The junk DNA meme was a strong one that persisted despite many who found it implausible, and steadily building evidence that it was far from random junk (such as hyperconservation of introns). Well, all that is behind us now: Landmark Study Prompts DNA Rethink (" by the ENCODE (ENCyclopaedia of DNA Elements) consortium implies that this nuggets-and-dross concept of DNA should be, well, junked. The genome turns out to a highly complex, interwoven machine with very few inactive stretches...") Here a summary with links: Your Genome is Really, Really, REALLY Complicated and Findings Challenge Basic Views on Human Genome. This episode reminds us how bad science, concepts like junk DNA, leaves good science open to attack: One Scientist's Junk Is a Creationist's Treasure.

iPhonics: Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference was held just a few weeks before the release of iPhone and months after its announcement, so Steve Jobs' keynote was short on news and full of odds and ends. A big question since iPhone's announcement was the extent to which third party developers could create applications to run on the new platform. On the one hand iPhone was said to run OS X ("so developing for it would be just like developing for a Mac, right?") on the other hand Jobs implied that 3rd party apps would be banned to ensure the reliability of iPhone. At WDC he said developers would be given access, but it turns out to be more like web pages than apps: Developers split on usefulness of iPhone access. The underlying browser upgrades were rolled out along with a version for Windows: Analysis: Safari move driven by iPhone, market share to which the Firefox folks retorted Browser wars: Mozilla exec calls Steve Jobs 'out-of-date'. He spoke well of 3rd party alternatives to Apple's Boot Camp: Why Jobs praised virtualization apps. John Markoff critiques iPhone: That iPhone Has a Keyboard, but It’s Not Mechanical.

Technobits: Implausible Deniability the Internet foils fudging by three "voter fraud" warriors --- Google to Reduce History of Personal Searches --- Linux leaders plot counterattack on Microsoft --- new sensor with better low light response: Kodak Makes New Plans to 'Redevelop' Consumer Photo Market and Filter means better photos in poor light (images) --- Stringer Promises To “Refine” PS3 Price Before Christmas --- Augmented Reality Gaming (AR Facade) --- ala Jules Verne: Gun to launch objects into orbit --- genetics research may lead to biomimetic material: A Recipe for Spider Silk, but Who Will Spin it? --- River Glow project detects pollution with style --- Evidence seen backing ancient Mars ocean shoreline --- Sudan’s migrating wildlife wows scientists --- yikes! whales from the time of Moby Dick could still be swimming the oceans today: 19th-century weapon found in whale --- Genius and Misfit Aren’t Synonyms, or Are They? --- Computerworld's '80 Mbytes of storage for under $12k!' and other ad favorites through the years.

Oceans 13

3.5 stars out of 5

If you like caper films, you'll love Oceans 13. I didn't see the first two installments, in part because of the mixed to bad reviews. But reviewers seemed less antagonistic about this edition, yet another of this summer's Version 3.0 offerings. Besides, I enjoy watching George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon perform in the service of mindless summer entertainment. Not to mention Al Pacino as the bad guy. As caper movies go, this one is both more and less linear that the "standard." Less linear because the exposition is episodic and bounces back and forth in time. More linear because the usual obstacles thrown in the path of the plotters are here few and far between. There are nice cameos by Andy Garcia (one of whose handful of scenes is in the trailer--immediately proceeding a classic Clooney eye roll), Eddie Izzard and the-always delightful David Paymer, who were cool enough to perform in trivial roles that lasted more than one scene. This is not art, nor does it push the limits of the movie-making craft (although the CGI image of the Casino is cool). Product placement is fairly crude and obvious (how much did the Bellagio pay per shot of its logo?), but hey, what do you want? Sit back and let it roll over you, implausabilities and all.