aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, November 16, 2006
TiVo looks to be sending out its latest update for Series2 recorders on a first-come-first-service basis, taking requests for the update on a priority list on its website, and promising to get it out to you in three business days. According to TiVo, bumping your unit up to 8.1 will give you enhanced support for recording live events (like adding extra time), improved system performance (including a fix for those Kidzone-related slowdowns), WPA network security and, well, that’s about it.
I just signed up. I’ve been getting a Gateway Not Found error every week or so. It’s resolved by going through the wireless network setup. I’m hoping the update might fix that.
Punch little buttons
In 1994 I turned the TBBS BBS I was running into a FirstClass Community Online Service. Timing is everything and mine has never been good; Netscape launched later that year and the Web took off. The brilliant young man I worked with then is now at Google.
Back then you not only had to distribute disks, you’d have people who read about the Internet signing up for the service who had never even used a computer. Talk about customer support challenges!
I’m reminded of those days by Larry King’s comments to Roseanne Barr revealing that he’s never used the Internet:
KING: I’ve never done it, never gone searching.
BARR: Oh, my God! It just opens up the whole universe. It’s so awesome. You would love it.
KING: No, I wouldn’t.
BARR: Anything you want to know.
KING: The wife loves it. I wouldn’t love it. What do you punch little buttons and things?
BARR: You just click on this thing. The thing is you got to be able to read, so you have to have strong glasses when you’ve over 50 and then you just scroll down and click. It’s not that hard. I can show you how to do it.
KING: No, thanks.
But King’s comments reveal something more: my experience remains that TV people just don’t get the internet. My online service morphed into an ISP before it was shut down by a board of directors peppered with television professionals who favored our TV operations.
Here I advise both the student TV group and the Mac User’s Group. I have to say that the Mac students get TV a whole lot better that the TV students get the Mac. I can’t say that we’re an accurate sampling, but it’s true to my experience from NY and through all the years of my career.
I left cable in 1999. King’s “no thanks” disinterest suggests to me that the biggest challenge then is is their biggest challenge still.
It’s official, they won
Democratic Rep. John Barrow, according to Georgia’s secretary of state, has won a second term in the state’s 12th District, defeating former one-term Republican Rep. Max Burns by just 864 votes in the rematch of their close 2004 race.
But it is not yet clear if the state’s certification of the outcome is the last word on the race: Barrow’s winning percentage is less than the 1 percentage-point threshold below which the trailing candidate can request a recount. [...]
The election board also officially certified the win by another embattled Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jim Marshall, who won a third House term with a slim 1,752-vote edge over former six-term Republican Rep. Mac Collins in the 8th District.[...]
But Barrow and Marshall faced a big new obstacle in their 2006 races, in the form of a mid-decade redistricting map - implemented by the Republican-controlled state legislature - that took away key portions of their previous constituencies and boosted the number of GOP voters.
In addition, Burns and Collins were among the Republicans’ strongest challenger recruits in this cycle, as they were well known from their previous congressional service.
How does a Georgia Republican concede defeat?
In an unusual statement issued to Macon television station WMGT, Collins spokesman Bill Hagan said a recount remains a “legal possibility” but that Collins had decided not to request it despite “clear concerns” of voting irregularities in certain counties.
The statement said Collins would reserve the right to challenge the outcome should evidence of widespread voter fraud be uncovered.
However, the statement said, “we are issuing a statement of de facto recognition that the race in 8th Congressional District has been concluded.”
The statement did not specify where the campaign has concerns about voting irregularities, and Collins’ campaign did not return phone calls or an e-mail Wednesday from The Associated Press.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
A hidden life
I owe some conservative friends a post on outing; I’ve been reflecting on my position as current events keep it more alive in public discussion than ever before. A good thing.
It was in that context that I viewed Frontline’s A Hidden Life an investigation of the Spokane Mayor Jim West scandal. I don’t know what I expected, probably affirmation of my posted opinion that West was a hypocrite who deserved his outing. And that critics of the Spokane-Review were just plain wrong.
I came away with more questions than answers. The documentary (in its day after news meeting discussion of the program this morning The Spokesman-Review’s Steven Smith called it a docudrama; not by my definition) cast serious doubt on whether West was even misusing his office. It certainly was a gripping portrayal.
Smith posted a Spokesman-Review response in two parts that point out some factual errors, none so serious as to substantially alter my opinion of the program. The comments should be read as well. And the program’s producer Rachel Dretzin was in a Washington Post chat this morning. The transcript is here.
Once all that settles in, it might just color that outing post I promised my friends.
Campus bias is rare in PA
The Chronicle (subscription) reports that the Republican lead committee to document the liberal-professor-means-liberal-proselytizing trope did not:
A special committee of the Pennsylvania legislature that investigated complaints that liberal professors had treated conservative students unfairly has issued a draft report that stops short of calling for a statewide policy guaranteeing students’ rights to academic freedom. But the report recommends that Pennsylvania’s public colleges and universities review their own policies and ensure that students’ rights to free speech are protected.
The report was drafted by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education, which plans to vote on it by the end of this month.
The panel was established in July 2005 to investigate claims that professors’ ideological views were influencing what they taught and how they treated students whose views clashed with their own (The Chronicle, July 7, 2005). The committee held four public hearings over eight months. While the draft report says the panel was urged to endorse a statewide policy guaranteeing students’ rights, it says the committee felt such a step was “unnecessary” because violations of students’ academic freedom “are rare.”
I’m waiting to see if Michael will comment. In the meantime, check out the text of his talk on academic freedom presented at Penn State last January.
Let them see us
Alas, it was Connecticut:
Lamar Outdoor Advertising has turned down posters for an exhibit of Polish art in Hartford, Connecticut because they feature same-sex couples holding hands.
Real Art Ways is featuring an exhibit of young avant garde Polish artists including 24-year old Karolina Bregula. Lamar’s Hartford office has originally agreed to the billboard campaign, but turned down the images of Bregula’s when it saw it.
Lamar’s regional vice president Steve Hebert said the company had offered the gallery five free 12-foot by 25-foot billboards at no cost. The billboards usually would rent for $1350 each.
Hebert told 365Gay.com that he was concerned the images could invite vandalism. He said that three other billboard designs featuring works by other artists had been approved.
Real Art Ways says that if the company rejected a billboard because it featured same-sex couples it did not want to take any ad space with the company.
“Let them see us” is the campaign’s slogan. Lamar, out of Baton Rouge, LA, is the same company that rejected the billboards in Georgia.
Whistling Past Dixie
In a Salon article analyzing the gay marriage win in Arizona, Glenn Greenwald summarizes Schaller’s book:
All of these trends give Democrats more ammunition with which to turn the GOP into a regional party, the party of the South. University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Thomas F. Schaller argues in his new book, “Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Do Without the South” that “Democrats should forget about recapturing the South in the near term and begin building a national majority that ends, not begins, with restoring their lost southern glory.”
As Schaller pointed out in Salon Tuesday, “the South is the most religious and evangelized region of the country, making it the most fertile ground for a socially conservative message.” Schaller contends in “Whistling Past Dixie” that the majority political and cultural views in the South are so distinct from the rest of the country that “the Democrats’ near-term goal should be to isolate the Republicans as a regional party that owns most of the South, but little else.”
In his Salon piece, Schaller explains the rise of Republicans in the South as a function of race, religion, gender, and that we are the least unionized and the most rural region of the nation.
It’s become clear that I have no choice but to read Schaller’s book. I have no objection to its formulation as summarized by Greenwald, but I’ve seen it used for simplistic southern bashing.
For now I’ll say that my continuing call for Democrats to show up in the South is not that they should pander or cave; rather it’s that they should have the courage of their convictions and show up to give support and sustenance (as Dean has done) to the many liberals that are here.
LATER: Kos chimes in. After quoting “Tom Schaller, former dKos contributing editor” he concludes:
Now, this doesn’t mean we need to abandon the South, belittle the South, mock the South, piss on the South, or ignore the South. A national party with a real mandate needs to be competitive in every corner of our great nation. [...]
The difference is between need and want. We don’t need the South to win congress and the White House. The short-term Democratic path to victory clearly runs outside Dixie.
But we want to win those states because no truly national party can anyone behind. And we won’t.
I’m down with that!
I’m as critical of the Catholic bishops’ document adopted yesterday that struggles to come to terms with gay people as Pam is. But I’m sitting here thinking that the fact that they’re grappling with it the way they are means we’re winning this battle.
I was surprised and pleased to find that one of those quoted questioning the approach was from here in Georgia:
A few bishops voiced concern Monday that the guidelines, on which a final vote is expected Tuesday, would not help them reach out. Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Ga., said the distinction between calling homosexuality a disordered inclination and insisting that gay people are not disordered would be lost on gay men and lesbians.
“I think that is quite reasonable for the heterosexual, but for the person with the inclination it will be very hard to accept,” Bishop Boland told the conference. “To apply it pastorally can be quite difficult.”
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The real iPod killer
Given my doubts about Zune, I thought it an opportune time to remember Alexander Dryer’s Apple Chomper piece in last month’s Slate:
For months, tech pundits have anticipated the Nov. 14 launch of the Zune, Microsoft’s answer to the iPod. While everyone loves an old-fashioned Microsoft-Apple battle, the me-too Zune is too little, too late. The coming digital-music battle won’t be for control of the current market, which is defined and dominated by Apple. No, the real war will happen over the cellular networks. That’s why Apple’s greatest threat isn’t Microsoft. It’s Nokia.
He likes the n91:
[T]he N91 looks like any other candy-bar-style handset, albeit with a bit of extra heft around the middle. The most visible difference is the group of playback controls-pause, rewind, etc.-that takes up the area beneath the screen. To make a phone call, you slide down these controls to reveal a standard keypad. The other big difference between the N91 and standard phones is on the inside, where Nokia has installed a 4-gigabyte hard drive in place of the typical low-capacity flash chip. [...]
I was surprised, then, to discover how much I enjoyed the N91. All the traditional phone functions work flawlessly, and calls sound as clear as they do on my landline. There’s even a bare-bones e-mail application and a surprisingly powerful browser. Most significantly, the music player integrates with all of this seamlessly. If you’re listening to a song when the phone rings, it will pause until you finish your conversation, then resume automatically. The playback controls work no matter what else you’re doing, so you can rewind in the middle of writing a text message. A dedicated key next to the play button also lets you flip back and forth between “phone mode” and “music-player mode.”
Because service providers subsidize phone prices, he expects the N91 to drop from its sky-high $599 down to the Nano’s $200. And in Nokia’s acquisition of Loudeye he sees the next generation mobile music ecosystem:
Nokia’s plan is to build such branded stores-accessible directly from its phones-for mobile providers. And when it comes to the accessories market, Nokia is copying Apple’s strategy exactly: The company just opened sleek new retail stores in Chicago and New York, with more on the way. Nokia even hired one of the architects responsible for the SoHo Apple Store to design its own New York offering.
Microsoft just can’t seem to get its mojo back. And I’m thinking Apple’s too intoxicated by its current success to see clearly forward. Maybe Nokia’s offering could knock off the iPod and become the next phenom.
This is the opening act?
Microsoft doesn’t expect the Zune to knock the iPod off the stage, but it is counting on the new music player to at least get the company on the playbill.
Microsoft’s $250 music player, which goes on sale Tuesday, is the first music player to come directly from the software maker, but it’s the latest in Redmond’s years-long effort to counter Apple’s dominance. After years of battling Apple Computer through an array of partners, Redmond is now taking on Cupertino directly.
“The whole goal behind launch was to build a foundation,” said Scott Erickson, a senior director of product management for Microsoft’s Zune effort. Erickson would not say how many devices the company expects to sell this holiday season, but said it has planned to produce enough models that those who want a Zune should be able to get their hands on one.
IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said Microsoft has created a nice-looking music player, but the first effort doesn’t take full advantage of the device’s built-in wireless connection or its large color screen.
“In the first generation, Zune is all dressed up with no place to go,” Kevorkian said. Among the key missing ingredients, she said, are the ability to buy songs on the go and to buy videos at all.
IE7: a gift to Firefox
Is Microsoft over or what? I’ve heard hardly anything about IE7, and ignored everything I’ve seen about Vista. Yawn. Their paradigm is way past, eclipsed by Google’s.
Philipp Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped points to Tony Ruscoe’s review of IE7. Tony’s disappointed - “I’ve only tried using it for a couple of hours now and there are some...things that are already annoying me.” His conclusion is noteworthy:
Ever since around 1999, my default browser has always been Internet Explorer. And before that, I think it was Netscape 4. I guess I just never got around to switching to Firefox. I didn’t really have a good reason to do so either. However, with IE7 being so different to IE6, I’m now being forced to make a change.
Did all good Microsoft developers leave to Google, or why does MS abandon product usability in so many instances (their Windows Media Player is another case)… and risk becoming their own worst enemy in the browser wars?
Monday, November 13, 2006
Sherman’s freedom is just another word for so much less to choose
We’ve noted for some time that one problem in the ongoing battle between Hollywood, technology companies and consumers over intellectual property issues is that consumers don’t have a group as visible and as noisy as the RIAA or MPAA standing up for them. But for some time, Gary Shapiro and the Consumer Electronics Association have been the closest thing to it, and CEA head Shapiro has proven himself an eloquent and intelligent point man on these issues. While his ability to talk sense and stand up to Hollywood is pretty self-evident, perhaps the biggest sign that he’s on the right track is how badly he manages to get under the skin of its shill groups like the RIAA. Four years ago, his speech on how the recording industry was shooting itself in the foot by using a scorched-earth legal policy elicited an angry and typically illogical response from the RIAA’s head, Cary Sherman. Shapiro and the CEA—and a host of other groups—a few weeks ago announced The Digital Freedom Campaign, which “is dedicated to defending the rights of students, artists, innovators, and consumers to create and make lawful use of new technologies free of unreasonable government restrictions and without fear of costly and abusive lawsuits” (apparently that’s something with which he’s familiar). Hardly surprising that something like that would bother the RIAA, and once again, Sherman’s gone all apoplectic at how the campaign is making “an extremist interpretation of fair use to frighten and mislead consumers and policymakers”. READ ON
RELATED: A much more honest collection of fair use resources (scroll down):
Three of the most comprehensive resources dealing with the topic of Fair Use are the Stanford University Copyright & Fair Use Center, the Fair Use Network (sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU Law School), and Electronic Frontier Foundation with its EFF Legal Guide for Bloggers. You can find less comprehensive information at the U.S. Copyright Office site. The Stanford website offers information on all aspects of fair use — from basics to specialized issues, to legislative activity, to caselaw, to lists of relevant website and articles.
Altered contours spark copyfight hopes
If you remember, in Eldred, we raised a First Amendment challenge to Congress’ extension of existing copyright terms. Our argument was: “this is a regulation of speech; apply ordinary First Amendment review to the statute.”
The government argued the other extreme - no First Amendment review of a copyright statute. It argued the Court should affirm the DC Circuit’s rule that copyrights were “categorically immune from challenges under the First Amendment.”
The Court adopted neither position. It refused to apply ordinary First Amendment review to a copyright statute. But it also refused to exempt copyright statutes from First Amendment review.
[Instead, the Court wrote] a kind of tradition-triggered standard: So long as Congress stays within the “traditional contours of copyright protection,” then further First Amendment review is unnecessary. But if Congress changes a “traditional contour of copyright protection,” then the “built-in free speech safeguards” may not be sufficient.
We alleged a change in perhaps the most fundamental “traditional contour” of copyright protection - the shift from the opt-in system that copyright was from 1790=1976 to the opt-out system that copyright has become in the period since.
Emphasis (and the hopes in the headline) mine.
Google Maps time
Google skipped right past the third dimension and landed directly in the fourth (time) by offering historical maps on Google Earth. Now you can travel back in time — for example, I am looking at the globe of 1790. Don't expect detailed high resolution photography from days gone by, but it's still interesting to see old maps overlaid on the satellite imagery of today.
Playing with layer transparency on the overlaid maps gives you a good sense of how things have changed over the years - especially when looking at more detailed maps like New York 1836 or London 1843.
To use the new feature, expand the Featured Content -> Rumsey Historical Maps in the Layers panel.
Cannaries still struggling
MACON, Ga., Nov. 10 - Politically speaking, Georgia proved to be a mirror image of the rest of the country in the midterm elections. Republicans swept nearly every statewide office, and turnout among Democrats was low, thanks to a lackluster candidate for governor.
But two Democratic congressmen in highly competitive races in the state seem to have successfully fought those odds, though they are hanging on by the slenderest of margins and are still waiting for their opponents to concede.
The two Democrats, Jim Marshall of Macon, in the Eighth Congressional District, and John Barrow of Savannah, in the 12th District, were on the Republican Party’s short list of beatable incumbents. Their adjoining districts, which encompass large rural areas, were redrawn by a Republican legislature, their opponents were former congressmen, and the National Republican Congressional Committee poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the races. President Bush campaigned in each district twice.
“It is a year that if you look at Georgia compared to the rest of the nation, there’s a real counterprevailing trend,” said J. Christopher Grant, a political science professor at Mercer University in Macon, “and it is actually amazing that these folks were able to hang on.” Mr. Marshall squeaked by with a lead of 2,040 votes in a district on the home turf of two of Georgia’s most prominent Republicans, Gov. Sonny Perdue and Senator Saxby Chambliss.
Mr. Barrow, whose race was so close it is one of eight in the House that have not been called by The Associated Press, led by 963 votes. (The other seven races involve Republican incumbents.) The results have not been certified, and a spokesman for Mr. Barrow’s opponent, Max Burns, said enough ballots remained uncounted that he could pull ahead. If Mr. Barrow should lose, he would be the only Congressional Democrat ousted by a Republican this year.
Macon is home to Redstate’s Erick Erickson (quoted in the article); I still don’t get that we got no attention from bloggers. The article reports Marshall’s contention that “he was the target of more negative advertisements than any other candidate in the country.” I was here, I believe it. And this too:
In both districts, Republicans tried to link the incumbents with controversial figures like Representative Cynthia A. McKinney, a Democrat who lost in the August primary, and paint them as likely to raise taxes and grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. At the same time, the incumbents were hamstrung, unable to bring in Democrats with national name recognition because of their unpopularity in a part of the country where President Bush is well liked.
LATER: No attention, I guess we’re just not interesting here in Middle Georgia. Here’s a summary of the 10 House races still undecided.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Typography & ugly websites
95% of the information on the web is written language. It is only logical to say that a web designer should get good training in the main discipline of shaping written information, in other words: Typography.
Ugliness has never looked better. I have spent the last few days examining a surprising trend in web design that has made ugly websites look absolutely irresistible. No, its not the bolded, 18 point Times New Roman font shouting at me as I access the page that has me excited, nor is it the harsh colors that have actually managed to make my eyes hurt and distort my vision. In fact, its not even that logo which is so pixelated from being processed, resized, saved, and edited so many times that it appears to be blurred to protect the identity of the company who owns the website that has me singing the praises of ugly websites. What is it?
That’s right - ugly websites are surprisingly effective in making money. As a person who puts business before technology, a profitable website is a website is an unbelievably attractive website to me.
I don’t know how true that is but I do know that he goes on to say this; and this I believe will always be true:
Many of the websites that I referenced above have one underlying trait that can be attributed to their success: they are extremely easy to use.
Google is probably the best example of how functionality over form can lead to success. When Google initially launched, every other major search engine was in the process of transforming themselves into a portal that would offer users all the information they could possibly want, and probably more than they really would want. Google, on the other hand, made their website ridiculously simple. There is one purpose to Google - to search the web. Nothing else was there to distract you from this one goal. It certainly did not hurt that Google was able to serve up relevant results, but the simplicity of the system was key to winning over users. [...]
[F]unctionality is more important than the design of your website. This does not mean, however, that a beautiful website cannot be easy to use. What this does mean is that you should never sacrifice the usability of your website for a fancy design effect or a more visually appealing website.
RIAA, 70Ã‚Â¢ v $750, and a judge
A US COURT is forcing the Recording Industry of America to explain why it charges people it catches pirating $750 a single rather than the 70 cents they flog them to retailers for.
In the case UMG v. Lindor, Judge Trager has allowed Ms Lindor, who the RIAA claim is a pirate, to challenge the $750 a track it wants in damages.
The RIAA fought to prevent the amendment to Ms Lindor’s case, claiming it was not up to her to decide damages. They said that her complaint about the level of damages was without merit and if the amendment went ahead it would prejudice them.
Of course it would. If the RIAA was forced to claim back the real market value of the music that was nicked by pirates it probably would not be worth the effort. It also looks better on a press release if they can claim that a pirate stole $7,000 worth of music when they actually only stole $7.
Details at Recording Industry vs The People.
Spitzer & marriage in NY
Clinton blew it with gays in the military at least in part by moving too fast. I have no idea if that has any relevance to Eliot Spitzer and gay marriage in NY:
Gay rights groups across the state will push Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer to propose legalizing same-sex marriages, citing his win this week as a “tremendous victory in the battle for gay rights.”
“The question with New York has never been if we’ll have equality, it’s always been a matter of when,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a statewide gay rights advocacy group. “With the election of Eliot Spitzer, the question now is how soon.”
Spitzer, the current state attorney general, voiced support for same-sex marriage throughout his campaign. At a Pride Agenda dinner in October, he pledged to write marriage-equality legislation and present it to the Legislature. According to Van Capelle, gay rights groups believe Spitzer will act early in his administration.
“Eliot (Spitzer) has said that on Day 1, everything changes, and among the changes Albany will be experiencing is marriage equality,” Van Capelle said. “Our job is to make sure that he delivers on his promises.”
“A mother’s complaint that her son’s rubbing ‘Magic Eraser’ on himself caused a rash and that more warnings are needed on the package” is given the Metafilter treatment:
“Also, don’t let your kids drink Round Up. Or put Tide in their eyes.”
“It seems to me that if a product is known for scouring markings off of nearly any surface, some degree of it not being like Oil of Olay moisture rich foaming face wash should be assumed.”
“I just checked my box of SOS steel wool soap pads and they don’t have any warning either! Won’t somebody think of the children?”
“The kid didn’t rub his face with the eraser, Mom did. She cleaned his face with sandpaper that didn’t look like sandpaper to her, and his face got all red, and she freaked out that he was “burned”, because she still doesn’t believe the erasers are sandpaper. Not a chemical burn. A friction burn. Caused by Mom.”
“Things I have learned today on Metafilter: 1. Do not rub your kid’s face with a cleaning pad that can take permanent marker off a hard surface with only a couple of mild scrubs.”
Saturday, November 11, 2006
I’ve got to watch more TV! Busy blogging and out and about in my small town life, all I see is Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and South Park. This is nothing new, living in New York I missed pretty much the entire Seinfeld run.
Sure, Lost drew massive audiences in its first two years, but in its third season, itÃ‚’s losing both viewers (down a third from last year) and narrative steam (whoÃ‚’s in the hatch with the Others and the numbers and theÃ‚-oh, forget it). And for anyone who didnÃ‚’t sign on from the beginning, thereÃ‚’s little incentive to catch up now. Why invest hours wading through past DVDs when your co-workers are grousing that the mysteries still havenÃ‚’t paid off?
There is, however, a simple solution: Change the format, or at least reimagine it. When it so-called arc shows, we need something between a mini-series and an open-ended run. We need the TV equivalent of a novella: the limited-run show. Series driven by a central mystery (Twin Peaks, The X-Files) peter out precisely because they have indefinite life spans. The writers are forced to serve up red herrings until the shows choke on their own plot twists. (Whereas 24 works because itÃ‚’s more cliff-hanger than puzzleÃ‚-though Jack Bauer is surely the unluckiest man alive.)
Now letÃ‚’s imagine an alternate reality in which, say, Lost was designed to run for only two seasons. Rather than getting an increasingly tedious shaggy-dog story, weÃ‚’d get 48 episodes of tightly plotted, expertly interwoven suspense. Viewers would be both more willing to sign on at the beginning (knowing their investment will pay off) and more inclined to buy DVDs later (either as catch-up for newbies or as a satisfying boxed set). Sure, the show wonÃ‚’t syndicate well, but shows like Lost donÃ‚’t syndicate well anyway. And the series finale would be hugeÃ‚-the kind of event TV network executives drool over.
Via Boing Boing.
The smart web
From the billions of documents that form the World Wide Web and the links that weave them together, computer scientists and a growing collection of start-up companies are finding new ways to mine human intelligence.
Their goal is to add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide - and even provide the foundation for systems that can reason in a human fashion. That level of artificial intelligence, with machines doing the thinking instead of simply following commands, has eluded researchers for more than half a century.
Referred to as Web 3.0, the effort is in its infancy, and the very idea has given rise to skeptics who have called it an unobtainable vision. But the underlying technologies are rapidly gaining adherents…
My new car
The styling is fresh and modern, with more than a passing resemblance to the new and more expensive Lexus IS sport sedan. It is more fun to drive than the Camry, nearly as nice inside as the Accord and loaded with features at a highly competitive price.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released safety ratings for 14 vehicles. Hyundai’s Sonata and Tucson joined the Mercedes-Benz ML Class, Subaru B9 Tribeca, and Honda Odyssey as the only vehicles getting 5 stars in all of the crash tests.
It still has America’s best warranty. So today we bought one. Said one of Doug’s students, “Oh. My mom wants one of those.” Ah, middle age.
If I weren’t working for a state school I might rather suffer my mid-life crisis in an Infiniti G35. As it is I’m a big fan of Hyundai and happy to settle in to my sensibly comfy and safe new car.
Ted Haggard’s going into spiritual restoration. This is what those who claim to cure homosexuality brag about:
“I see success approximately 50 percent of the time,” said H.B. London, vice president for church and clergy at Focus on the Family, the conservative Christian ministry in Colorado Springs. “Guys just wear out and they can no longer subject themselves to the process.”
Those who fail “end up selling cars or shoes or something, and being miserable and angry the rest of their lives,” London said.
Some success, eh? And don’t you just love the loving way they embrace those who try but fail?
Yesterday I listened to Monday’s Open Source on Homosexuality and the American church. This comment is from Jeff Sharlet, who wrote the May 2005 Harper’s piece on Haggard’s church:
This whole idea of purity as a way in which you can become a real activist in the cause. You might not be out there protesting outside an abortion clinic, or going out on a mission trip, but you are sort of conducting a mission trip in your own genitals. Driving lust out from your body the way Christ drives the demons out. And it makes everyone feel like, wow, I’m a part of something bigÃ¢â‚¬Â¦And the reason that the gay man looms so large is because, in their imagination, he’s the one who gives into his temptations entirelyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦The gay man, he’s not even procreating, it’s just about him, it’s just about pleasure, it’s just selfishness.
And here’s Mel White saying what we all know to be true about gays in the church:
It’s the old Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We are in every level of the church, and in every position. There are so many gay pastors and priests, gay congregants, gay deacons, gay elders. You know, we are everywhere in the church serving Christ well, and I think, wisely. But the only way we can do that is to build our service on a lie. And that’s really sad.
Friday, November 10, 2006
A diamond in the rough
A close friend, a chorus boy in the first Hello Dolly revival, was Carol Channing‘s personal assistant in the late eighties and early nineties.
He said she was nuts.
Apparently; now more than ever:
KK: You seem to have a very large gay following. Have you ever thought about why?
CC: I don’t think about them. I’m grateful that they seem to like me. They’re terribly loyal to me. But I’m knee-deep in the Bible and you know what it says about that.
CC: Oh, dear. Is this for a gay publication? Have I offended you?
KK: Yes. For the Gay People’s Chronicle. Right now, it’s really not my job to be offended or not be offended. I am just asking questions and reporting answers. I read that you have fought for gay rights. Do you think that the things gay people are fighting for are important?
CC: I don’t think about it. If they can’t take care of their own problems, why should I bother. It’s not my problem.
KK: I see.
CC: At one time there were seven men doing me in Las Vegas. I began to wonder if I had a glandular problem. But you know that the Bible says that that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
I never much liked Hello Dolly, Carol Channing or her rendition of Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
Tolerance as intolerance
Stanley Fish in the Chronicle today takes an illuminating look at Wendy Brown’s new book, Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. I’m going to have to let this sink in:
Her critique of tolerance challenges the common assumption that the differences the sharp edges of which tolerance is supposed to blunt “took their shape prior to the discourse called on to broker them.” No, she insists, those differences are produced by a regime of tolerance that at the same time produces a status quo politics built on the assumption that difference cannot be negotiated but can only be managed. When difference is naturalized, she explains, it becomes the mark not of an ideological or political divide (in relation to which one might have an argument), but of a cultural divide (in relation to which each party says of the other, “See, that’s just the way they are"). If people do the things they do not because of what they believe, but because they are Jews, Muslims, blacks, or gays, it is no use asking them to see the error of their ways, because it is through those same ways - naturally theirs - that they see at all…
And, she adds, it does more than that: It legitimizes, and even demands, the exercise of intolerance, when the objects of intolerance are persons who, because of their overattachment to culture, are deemed incapable of being tolerant. Live and let live won’t work, we are often told, if the other guy is determined to kill you because he believes that his religion or his ethnic history commands him to. Liberal citizens, Brown explains, will be tolerant of any group so long as its members subordinate their cultural commitments to the universal dictates of reason, as defined by liberalism...Tolerance, then, is a virtue that liberal citizens or those who are willing to act as liberal citizens are capable of exercising; and those who refuse to exercise it cannot, by this logic, be its beneficiary.
Nor, according to Brown, are the regulating and stigmatizing effects of tolerance limited to a nation’s relations with foreign states and actors; the liberal state does the same thing to its own citizens, at least to those citizens who, by being identified as the appropriate beneficiaries of tolerance, are at the same time marked as deviant and potentially dangerous. If it is “a basic premise of liberal secularism that neither culture nor religion is permitted to govern publicly,” Brown says, then those Americans who refuse to leave their sectarian beliefs and convictions of core identity at home when they venture into the public sphere - fundamentalist Christians, Orthodox Jews, strongly observant Muslims, gays and lesbians, etc. - must be made to understand that only by relaxing the hold of those personal commitments and promising to act as liberal citizens (rather than as Southern Baptists, Hasidic Jews, or citizens of the Queer Nation) in public spaces will they be welcomed into the fold. Should they resist the requirement to live a double life - apostles of individualism, progress, profit, and secularism in the courthouse and the ballot box, devout upholders of religious and cultural imperatives at home - they will either be tolerated and marked as “other” (the Amish) or made the objects of surveillance and profiling (anyone wearing a turban or a burkha) or detained and perhaps deported.
The state preaches tolerance, but because it has identified tolerance with those who have a certain set of (liberal, secular) beliefs, those who do not display such beliefs and the practices they subtend will be regarded with suspicion and become the “natural” subjects of intolerant actions: From roundups, detention, and deportation of illegal aliens to racial profiling in airport security searches, the state “engages in extralegal and prosecutorial actions toward the very group it calls upon the citizenry to be tolerant toward,” Brown says. Moreover, as she sees it, that is not a contradiction of the tolerance the state proclaims, but an inevitable result of a tolerance that cannot itself tolerate persons or practices that do not respect the boundaries and distinctions - between secular/religious, public/private, mind/body - it presupposes. [...]
[T]olerance is the technology or governmentality (a word Brown borrows from Foucault) of an ideology that privileges some values - individual will, autonomy, choice, procedural (not substantive) justice, rationality, freedom of expression, freedom of markets - and stigmatizes or marginalizes others - group loyalty, religious obedience, the law of God, tribal traditions, the national ethos, blood, culture.