aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Liberalism’s sad loss
Molly Ivins, the liberal newspaper columnist who delighted in skewering politicians and interpreting, and mocking, her Texas culture, died [Wednesday] in Austin. She was 62. [...]
Ms. Ivins died at her home surrounded by family and friends.
In her syndicated column, which appeared in about 350 newspapers, Ms. Ivins cultivated the voice of a folksy populist who derided those who she thought acted too big for their britches. She was rowdy and profane, but she could filet her ideological opponents with droll precision.
Via her friend and admirer Siva Vaidhyanathan, “I have never met a more romantic patriot. She truly and deeply believed in the goodness and greatness of Texas and the United States. Her entire life was devoted to exposing the gaps between what we were and what we could be. She specialized in illuminating the ways our cynical leaders manipulated our weaknesses and kept us short of our full potential.”
Google Book Search concerns
There is this concern:
A federal court in New York is considering two challenges to the project, one brought by several writers and the Authors Guild, the other by a group of publishers, who are also, curiously, partners in Google Book Search. Both sets of plaintiffs claim that the library component of the project violates copyright law. Like most federal lawsuits, these cases appear likely to be settled before they go to trial, and the terms of any such deal will shape the future of digital books. Google, in an effort to put the lawsuits behind it, may agree to pay the plaintiffs more than a court would require; but, by doing so, the company would discourage potential competitors. To put it another way, being taken to court and charged with copyright infringement on a large scale might be the best thing that ever happens to Google’s foray into the printed word.
Emphasis mine. The Google VP heading the project said, “The suits that have been filed are a business negotiation that happens to be going on in the courts… We think of it as a business negotiation that has a large legal-system component to it.”
Not very comforting:
Google’s advantage may well be cemented if the company settles its lawsuits with the publishers and authors. “If Google says to the publishers, ‘We’ll pay,’ that means that everyone else who wants to get into this business will have to say, ‘We’ll pay,’ “ Lessig said. “The publishers will get more than the law entitles them to, because Google needs to get this case behind it. And the settlement will create a huge barrier for any new entrants in this field.”
In other words, a settlement could insulate Google from competitors, which would be especially troubling, because the company has already proved that when it comes to searches it is not infallible. “Google didn’t get video search right-YouTube did,” Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, said. (Google solved that problem by buying YouTube last year for $1.6 billion.) “Google didn’t get blog search right-technorati.com did,” Wu went on. “So maybe Google won’t get book search right. But if they settle the case with the publishers and create huge barriers to newcomers in the market there won’t be any competition. That’s the greatest danger here.”
When was the Times here?
Coming in the
Book Review NYTimes Travel Section this weekend:
I had no fixed destination, just a plan to follow a back road to some weedy field in time to watch the sun go down on Flannery O’Connor’s Georgia.
Somewhere outside Toomsboro is where, in O’Connor’s best-known short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” a family has a car accident and a tiresome old grandmother has an epiphany. The fog of petty selfishness that has shrouded her life clears when she feels a sudden spasm of kindness for a stranger, a brooding prison escapee who calls himself the Misfit.
Of course, that’s also the moment that he shoots her in the chest, but in O’Connor’s world, where good and evil are as real as a spreading puddle of blood, it amounts to a happy ending. The grandmother is touched by grace at the last possible moment, and she dies smiling.
“She would of been a good woman,” the Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
O’Connor’s short stories and novels are set in a rural South where people know their places, mind their manners and do horrible things to one another. It’s a place that somehow hovers outside of time, where both the New Deal and the New Testament feel like recent history. It’s soaked in violence and humor, in sin and in God. He may have fled the modern world, but in O’Connor’s he sticks around, in the sun hanging over the tree line, in the trees and farm beasts, and in the characters who roost in the memory like gargoyles. It’s a land haunted by Christ - not your friendly hug-me Jesus, but a ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of the mind, pursuing the unwilling.
Many people - me for instance - are in turn haunted by O’Connor. Her doctrinally strict, mordantly funny stories and novels are as close to perfect as writing gets. Her language is so spare and efficient, her images and character’s speech so vivid, they burn into the mind. Her strange Southern landscape was one I knew viscerally but, until this trip, had never set foot in…
As small as our town is, you’d think I would have heard that he was here.
Fun Google flyover photos thwarted by air traffic control
Scores of Sydneysiders who took up Google’s challenge to make a spectacle of themselves in an aerial photo shoot staged over the city on Australia Day are likely to be disappointed.
A plane chartered by Google to take the images never made it over some of the designated areas or arrived hours later than expected by which time, many of those who had been waiting below had moved on.
The high-resolution images were to be added in about four to six weeks’ time to the popular online mapping service Google Maps
But the flight plan was hastily changed on Friday morning after Sydney air traffic control denied the twin-engine Aero Commander permission to fly over parks and beaches in inner Sydney and the east due to air safety concerns [...]
Among those missing out on the photo opportunity of a lifetime was a company that had spent $10,000-plus on a sign, an environmental group which organised 200 supporters to form themselves into a slogan on Bondi Beach and a man who drove from Wollongong to Sydney with a message that he hoped would help win back his estranged wife.
“The positive public response to this initiative has been overwhelming and we are very grateful to everyone who took part,” said Lars Rasmussen, the head of engineering at Google Australia. “While we made every effort to capture as much as we could on the day, unfortunately some people may be disappointed.
He said Google would shortly update a web page to show where and when the plane had been able to take high resolution imagery.
The Sydney flyover was to be the first time the internet giant had attempted such an exercise on this scale. Usually photos are taken without people being aware that it’s happening.
Meanwhile, Microsoft got in. They used a helicopter.
God didn’t make little green apples
And neither does Steve Jobs.
Jobs and the PR wizards at Apple have done a fantastic job of positioning the company as the technological haven for the hip, the progressive and the revolutionary. But when it comes to the environment, Apple is out of touch.
In December of 2006, Greenpeace released a report ranking the overall environmental policy of major technology companies. Dell was at the top but Apple found itself at the bottom. While top companies like Dell and Nokia have made great strides to eliminate the most toxic chemicals from their products and offer strong recycling programs, Apple has not.
NOTE: I promise to stop with the old song references.
This post’s title is from Roger Miller’s Little Green Apples.
A farewell to the floppy
When you can get a 2GB USB flash drive for $18.95, who’s going to buy a floppy?
Computing superstore PC World said it will no longer sell the storage devices, affectionately known as floppies, once existing stock runs out. [...]
It is not the first time the death-knell for the floppy has been sounded. The first nail in the coffin came in 1998, when the iMac was revealed without a floppy disk drive.
Then in 2003, Dell banished disk drives from its higher spec machines.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Did you catch the parents of those accused in the Duke case last week on 60 Minutes?
“My son said, ‘Mom, when is it going to stop? When is this insanity going to stop?’ Knowing that he was still being charged with crimes that he didn’t do,” Kathy Seligmann recalls. [...]
“You have to remember that this has never been about the evidence. Never. If it were about the evidence, nine months ago, this case would’ve been totally dropped. This is about a man who chose to use a troubled young woman’s story of fantastic lies to advance his own political career, which was crumbling. He needed something big. He needed that magic bullet, and he shot it. He shot it at our sons,” says David Evans’ mother Rae. [...]
“We’d be hard-pressed to send Collin back to an environment where Mike Nifong is the newly-elected D.A., where the Durham police department is at his beck and call, where the leadership, the administration of Duke, when given the chance to stand up for our boys does not. It would be very hard as parents to send our sons back into that environment,” says one of Collin Finnerty’s parents.
Lesley Stahl, oozing empathy, didn’t ask tough questions. The media narrative had shifted. Kathleen A. Bergin of Feminist Law Professors, reacting to CNN’s Duke retelling special, “A Question of Race,” points out:
The disconnect between legal culpability and social responsibility simmers just below the surface of reporting on the Duke sex scandal… conspicuously left out of CNN’s [AJ: and CBS’s!] broadcast: (1) that team members called the two women “niggers” and “bitches”; (2) one threatened to rape them with a broomstick; (3) another spoke of hiring strippers in an e-mail sent the same night that threatened to kill “the bitches” and cut off their skin while he ejaculated in his “Duke-issued spandex;” and (4) one shouted to the victim as she left the team’s big house, “Hey bitch, thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt.” These facts are undisputed and highlight the sick and wretched depravity of this racialized episode.
Back on 60 Minutes, said David’s dad:
“It was a mistake, that was poor judgment. But then what you need to do is separate that from felony charges, talking about moral questions. These are felony charges. And if they did make a mistake, even though they did what many other students have done, they have paid for it dearly,” says David Evans, Sr.
Ok, fine. First, let’s do something serious to stop so “many other students” from doing it. And second, let’s not lose track of the fact that it was wrong and bad and deserving of some serious punishment.
Sex Crime vs Crime
These are state registries, and depending on the state you’re in, you’re a “sex offender” under Megan’s Law if you get caught urinating in public, mooning, skinny dipping, or if you get busted having consensual sex in public. Think of how lopsided these charges must be in homophobic states. Also, it’s a lesson in what sites like MySpace can and will do with personal information.
I have at times wondered whether we need to specify when a crime is a “sexual” offense. Are laws around assault, harassment, exploitation, violence not enough? Do we have to add a whole ‘nother category if genitals are involved?
By separating it out as a different category of crime—and I know we do it with the best of intentions—do we create the additional overhead of shame on the survivor’s part?
If we treated violence as violence, regardless of whether or how genitalia is involved, would we be able to take some of the humiliation out of it for the assaulted? Or would we “encourage” sexual aspects to violent crime, because the consequences would be the same?
Georgia’s millionaire senator votes to block minimum wage
- Them that’s got shall get,
Them thats not shall lose,
So the Bible said, and it still is news...
Ten that’s got stuck together and voted to further delay raising the minimum wage today. Two from Georgia:
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)
Via Think Progress, noting that the richest of the lot was our own:
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
TOTAL HOLDINGS: Between $7,631,000 and $25,515,000
HIGHLIGHTS: Isakson owns between $1,000,000 and $5,000,000 in both Wachovia and Riverside Bank stock. He also holds 12 acres of Georgia real estate valued between $1,000,000 and $5,000,000.
KEY QUOTE: “Robert Reich, once observed ‘most minimum wage workers aren’t poor.’ He is right.” [Isakson, 6/20/06]
Fox tried to hire Anderson Cooper
So says an ex-Fox News producer. Romenesko:
Former Fox News producer Charlie Reina says he witnessed the network’s attempt to hire CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who Fox now calls “the Paris Hilton of television news.” Reina writes: “This particular call went nowhere. The producer led with, ‘So when are you comin’ over?” Anderson laughed politely and changed the subject. I doubt he ever gave the absurd idea a moment’s serious thought. ...For Cooper, whose talents and instincts were in actual news, coming to Fox would be a huge step down professionally.”
Google the new http://
I’ve noticed lately that many users have all but stopped typing domain names directly in the web browser, and started using Google instead. Instead of writing “myspace.com” as the address, they write “myspace” into Google.
I’ve seen this behavior from my coworkers and friends, but it really becomes apparent when you see the top 1000 results of Google searches. Many of the top searches, like “bebo”, “ebay”, “yahoo”, “amazon”, “myspace”, “facebook”, aren’t really searches at all - these terms are mostly written by users who know exactly which page they want, but they’ve gotten used to using Google instead of the address bar. If you’re still not convinced, I give you the crown evidence: Google. One of the top search results in Google (number 6 at the time of this writing), is “Google“. Hundreds of millions of users are trying to get to Google through Google. Does this make any sense? No. But it shows that users don’t think about Google as a specific web page, they think of it as the service, an essential part of the internet experience. They’re using this service to get to the page they want: in this case, Google.
And you know what? They’re right.
The writer & the (great?) unwashed masses
Terrific thoughtful piece on the impact of massive online feedback on journalists and writers by Gary Kamiya, the executive editor of Salon.
Ideas and perspectives that never found an outlet before are now shouted from every corner that has a phone line and a computer. This has rocked the journalistic world. The violent uprising of the previously voiceless plebeians has disturbed the perfumed slumber of media gatekeepers, forcing journalists to immediately correct glaring mistakes or abandon insupportable positions....
And, of course, there has been an explosion of expertise. The information revolution has set off a million car bombs of random knowledge at once, spraying info fragments through the marketplace of ideas. Sometimes it feels as if the Internet has turned the whole country, indeed the whole world, into a virtual New York City, a dense, antimatter-like place where within any four-block grid there are hundreds of people who know more about Miles Davis or Linux or Giorgio de Chirico or the Ruy Lopez opening or Peyton Manning’s attack on the two-deep zone than you do. (As a starry-eyed provincial, I like to think of New York this way, even though it’s probably an illusion.) [...]
For a writer, this huge, suddenly vocal audience has some significant advantages. For one thing, it serves as an enormous fact-checker. If you make a mistake in a piece, some eagle-eyed reader will let you know, often within minutes. But a far more important effect of the reader revolution is that it has forced writers to immediately deal with substantive arguments and critique. Like most writers who publish a lot online, I’ve written pieces that a letter writer has sliced up so surgically, with such superior logic and style, that I began searching furtively for a “do over” button on my computer. And the sheer quantity of even less sophisticated arguments, like water poured onto a leaky roof, reveal a piece’s weak points. Many writers have told me about extraordinary e-mail exchanges with readers that sometimes develop into ongoing relationships.
First, and most obviously, is the reality that the newly vocal masses contain not only thoughtful and respectful readers but also large numbers of fools, knaves, blowhards and nuts. Moreover—and this is a crucial point—the percentage of letter writers who are fools, knaves, blowhards and nuts has exponentially increased. In the old stamped-letter days, the difficulty of writing in weeded out more of these types; letters tended to be somewhat more thoughtful, and letter writers usually adhered to certain conventions of etiquette and decorum governing communications between reader and writer. Not forelock-tugging subservience to their betters, but simple courtesy. There was a tacit acknowledgment of the implicit contract between writer and reader, one characterized by at least a modicum of idealization and respect on both sides. I don’t want to exaggerate this—certainly there were plenty of ad hominem and intemperate letters back then. But having edited several magazines in the print-only era, I can say that there were far, far fewer. Perhaps the unseen presence of an editor, the slightly formal nature of writing a “letter to the editor,” led readers to be on their better behavior. [...]
The problem is, it’s very hard for writers, who want to be read and want to know what readers are saying about them, to ignore letters or blogs about themselves. “Practically every writer I know has gone through the mill with this,” says Salon senior writer Laura Miller. “Blogs, often written by idiots, are bad-mouthing you. You go through this cycle where you get interested, then you get angry, then you just stop reading them.” But as Miller points out, even nasty comments are addictive. “There’s a great Trollope quote from ‘Phineas Finn’: ‘But who is there that abstains from reading that which is printed in abuse of himself?’”
Miller, who says the tendency of discussion threads to degenerate is an example of ”the tragedy of the commons,” believes that the worst online abuse is directed at writers who make themselves vulnerable by revealing intimate things about their lives. “I don’t think people who write stuff like that should read their letters,” Miller says. “If you write something revealing, people mob up and become predatory.” Miller attributes this to a rampant cultural self-righteousness: “It’s like a virus in society—the policing of norms.” As every online editor knows, pieces about child-rearing, sexual mores and the like provoke remarkably virulent outbursts of reader self-righteousness.
I see that behavior as a crowd dynamic. It’s the flip side of The Wisdom of Crowds; much of the chatter around which has tended to overlook that there are significant warnings about the deleterious impacts of crowd behavior - neatly summed up by Surowieki’s observation that human beings are not ants.
We tend to believe that our individual action is independent of the crowd; we’ll learn. And grow.
[Edited for clarity and spelling.]
Monday, January 29, 2007
Amero gets the Fox News treatment
Julie Amero, the CT substitute teacher facing a possible 40 years in prison because her malware-infected PC generated porn pop-ups during class, gets the fair and balanced Fox News treatment here.
Contrast Fox with this far more sane discussion with someone who actually knows something about the case listen to W. Herbert Horner, a computer consultant who examined her computer and testified on her behalf, interviewed on Public Radio’s Future Tense.
See also, State v. Amero, a blog from Austin, TX computer consultant Mike Conwell who’s angered at the injustice of the conviction.
LATER: Rick Green of the Hartford Courant weighs in, “To believe that Julie Amero deserves to go to jail for exposing her students to pornography takes some work.”
LATER STILL - A plea appended to all of my Amero posts:
WE NEED A COMPUTER FORENSICS INNOCENCE PROJECT; a Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld of the computer forensics world. We need experts who believe in the presumption of innocence and are willing to spend the time it takes to dig through logs, registry entries and hard drives to find exculpatory material when present. This is hardly the first case of its kind and, unfortunately, it’s not likely be the last. Prosecutors who look for - and presume - guilt do selective searches for data supporting guilt; those accused rarely have the resources to pay computer forensics experts to counter that selective evidence.
The Real McCain
Married____ Single____ Widowed____ Divorced____ (Reprise)
Regular readers will remember that I had quite a number of dealings with the rural Georgia medical establishment recently. Their profligate use of the Social Security number aside, a distinguishing characteristic of their paperwork is the limited number of relationship options offered.
They are: married, single, widowed, divorced.
The very order of these options seems laden with meaning. It honestly doesn’t occur to them that there could be any other. Then, under “who to notify in case of emergency,” they propose options: “mother, father, sister, brother...” Even “friend” doesn’t put in an appearance!
Two quick anecdotes…
In the first the nurse asks me, “Does your wife teach at the college?” She had my insurance card and I work at the college, so I was baffled that she had asked this question. Why would she think I am on my wife’s insurance? (Oh, now I get it, duh! Kind, friendly small talk.)
Given that I had just had a disconcerting experience with the surgeon, I wasn’t in tip top intellectual shape. So I blurt out, and again I have no idea why beyond awkward innocence, “No, my husband does.” Fumbling to fix that took us from bad to worse.
In my second anecdote, Doug and I show up for my surgery in the dark of morning after a long drive with no eating (or coffee) in prep for surgery and the nurse asks Doug, “Would you like to accompany your father to the room.” Father???
Doug, properly feeling as awkward as I, answers, “he’s not my father he’s my lover.” Now, I prefer the term “life-partner” (I’m not simply some hottie on the side) and I’m sure Doug does too but he was so nonplussed that the word lover was the one put out there. The nurse replied, “Hey that’s even better.”
These people may or may not have trouble dealing with the fact that I’m a gay man, but they give no indication that they do and so it just seems to me that it would be easier all around if the form could give them that little heads up that, hey, this guy’s not married, not single, not widowed and not divorced!
The lady of the house
I just got a call. This is exactly how I remember it:
THE CALLER: “My name is [something-or-other] and I’m calling from [someaudiencesurveycompany]. May I speak with the lady of the house?”
I ANSWER: “There is no lady of the house. You called a gay household and you just blew it!”
I hung up.
I’m really typically fairly sympathetic to the plight of the person who must earn a living making telemarketing calls, but whoever wrote that script deserve to be drawn and quartered. Somehow it just sent me over the edge.
Barbaro, who rocketed to a six-and-a-half-length victory in the Kentucky Derby last May but sustained a catastrophic injury two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes, was euthanized early this morning in Pennsylvania. [...]
More than 118,000 people at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and a national television audience watched on May 20, 2006, as Barbaro pulled up in mid-race, his fractured right hind leg dangling awkwardly, while his jockey, Edgar Prado, tried to soothe him.
The eight-month effort to nurse the horse back to health riveted enthusiasts around the world, and reminded casual fans about the beauty, mystery and heartbreak that is part of thoroughbred racing. [...]
Horses are often euthanized on the racetrack after sustaining severe injuries. But Barbaro was no ordinary horse; he was the Derby winner, with a value as a commercial stallion estimated at $30 million.
The Jacksons were also not ordinary owners. Roy Jackson’s grandfather was William Rockefeller, once the president of Standard Oil. For decades Mr. Jackson and his family had been substantial donors to Penn’s veterinary school. The Jacksons vowed to spare no expense in the hope that Barbaro could someday return to a normal, pain-free life.
I’m sorry for Barbaro’s passing. I harbor a secret hope that all those people who mourn his passing might also want a better life for all animals, particularly farm animals. If you wonder why it is that a broken leg can kill a horse - I did - the Slate Explainer has the answer.
Bugged by “photolurking”
Since the popularity of photo-sharing sites exploded, the lives of snap-happy citizen journalists have been there for the lurking. And like the experience of Robin Williams’ tragic photo developer in One Hour Photo, happy family photos offer the perfect escapism from an unpleasant reality. [...]
Researchers at Lancaster University uncovered this strange breed of web addicts while analysing the habits of photo sharing site users.
Their report said: “People do this for emotional kicks. Curiosity, loneliness, even jealousy are just some of the reasons people look at these images.” Wedding photos are extremely popular, and at the time of writing, on sites like Flickr there were 3,868,832 images tagged ‘wedding’.
Clickthrough the strange breed accusation for (little) more:
“Not only are people interested in looking at the photographs of people they know, but also the photographs of complete strangers....” said Haliyana Khalid, a Phd student in Lancaster University’s Computing Department. “...They also like to talk about them with their friends. It can become quite obsession for some people. It isn’t uncommon to find people who go onto one of these sites every day.”
This is a diagnosis in search of a disorder; there is no there there. Just exactly what did they find that justifies these conclusions of loneliness, jealousy and emotional kicks? And how is it that visits to an online photo gallery earned the ominous “lurker” label?
Label me suspicious. I see a newspaper industry threatened by new media realities taking advantage of old media dynamics by associating an obscure PhD thesis topic with a bad scary movie through a sensationalist headline to, voilÃƒÂ , achieve a circulation boost. I’ve even been known to try such tactics from time to time myself.
Somebody show me the qualitative difference between 1950s browsing of Life Magazine, or 1990s flipping through People or Us or picking up any Fleet Street rag - or its American cousin, the supermarket tabloid - today, and our innocent Flickr browsing for wedding photos. Then maybe I’ll find something unpleasant about the new reality.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
From Google Webmaster Central:
We wanted to give a quick update about “Googlebombs.” By improving our analysis of the link structure of the web, Google has begun minimizing the impact of many Googlebombs. Now we will typically return commentary, discussions, and articles about the Googlebombs instead. The actual scale of this change is pretty small (there are under a hundred well-known Googlebombs), but if you’d like to get more details about this topic, read on.
First off, let’s back up and give some background. Unless you read all about search engines all day, you might wonder “What is a Googlebomb?” Technically, a “Googlebomb” (sometimes called a “linkbomb” since they’re not specific to Google) refers to a prank where people attempt to cause someone else’s site to rank for an obscure or meaningless query. Googlebombs very rarely happen for common queries, because the lack of any relevant results for that phrase is part of why a Googlebomb can work. One of the earliest Googlebombs was for the phrase “talentless hack,” for example.
People have asked about how we feel about Googlebombs, and we have talked about them in the past. Because these pranks are normally for phrases that are well off the beaten path, they haven’t been a very high priority for us. But over time, we’ve seen more people assume that they are Google’s opinion, or that Google has hand-coded the results for these Googlebombed queries. That’s not true, and it seemed like it was worth trying to correct that misperception. So a few of us who work here got together and came up with an algorithm that minimizes the impact of many Googlebombs.
A philosophically interesting question
We are always ready to find dignity in human beings, including those whose mental age will never exceed that of an infant, but we don’t attribute dignity to dogs or cats, though they clearly operate at a more advanced mental level than human infants. Just making that comparison provokes outrage in some quarters. But why should dignity always go together with species membership, no matter what the characteristics of the individual may be?
Ok, in a crass attempt to rebuild traffic after a blog host and software switch killed my Google ranking (and with it, my traffic!) I am reduced to posting a story that’s been around the
block web a time or two, even if it only made it to Gary, Indiana today:
ANTWERP, Belgium—Mozart, an iguana with an erection that has lasted for over a week, will have his penis amputated this weekend,
Veterinarians at Antwerp’s Aquatopia had sought to treat the animal’s problem, but decided removal was the only solution because of the risk of infection. The good news for Mozart and his mates is that male iguanas have two penises.
Mozart, sitting on the shoulders of his keeper as camera crews focused on his red, swollen erection, seemed unperturbed by the news.
“It doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t know what amputation means,” said vet Luc Lambrecht, adding that Mozart’s sexual activity should be undimmed by the operation.
“I don’t think so. That’s all in his head.”
No word yet on whether or not the procedure was successful.
What to eat?
This will (probably ) be my last excerpt from Michael Pollan’s important Times Magazine piece out today, Unhappy Meals. In it he discusses how we’ve moved from a “food culture” to a “food science.” Once we received our guidance on what to eat from national, ethnic or regional cultures ("culture is really just a fancy word for Mom"). Today:
The sheer novelty and glamour of the Western diet, with its 17,000 new food products introduced every year, and the marketing muscle used to sell these products, has overwhelmed the force of tradition and left us where we now find ourselves: relying on science and journalism and marketing to help us decide questions about what to eat. Nutritionism, which arose to help us better deal with the problems of the Western diet, has largely been co-opted by it, used by the industry to sell more food and to undermine the authority of traditional ways of eating. You would not have read this far into this article if your food culture were intact and healthy; you would simply eat the way your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents taught you to eat. The question is, Are we better off with these new authorities than we were with the traditional authorities they supplanted? The answer by now should be clear.
It might be argued that, at this point in history, we should simply accept that fast food is our food culture. Over time, people will get used to eating this way and our health will improve. But for natural selection to help populations adapt to the Western diet, we’d have to be prepared to let those whom it sickens die. That’s not what we’re doing. Rather, we’re turning to the health-care industry to help us “adapt.” Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. It’s gotten good at extending the lives of people with heart disease, and now it’s working on obesity and diabetes. Capitalism is itself marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into lucrative business opportunities: diet pills, heart-bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery. But while fast food may be good business for the health-care industry, surely the cost to society - estimated at more than $200 billion a year in diet-related health-care costs - is unsustainable.
What to do? He opened his essay with a simple rule, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He closes with an elaboration:
...Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food… Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims… (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.)… Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number… Get out of the supermarket whenever possible… Pay more, eat less… Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation… Eat mostly plants, especially leaves… eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture… Cook. And if you can, plant a garden… Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet.
I can’t say that there will be radical change in the way I eat. But there has been and will continue to be slow steady progress at moving in that direction. And to help keep me tuned in and aware, I’ve added a Food category to my blog!
BONUS VIDEO: Michael Pollan on Fishbowl with Bill Maher talking corn.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
3 second YouTube ads
The news is that YouTube will share ad revenue with those who provide video. Good. But what interested me more was the notion of a three second ad:
The audience of the YouTube website will not have to put up with overly long “pre-roll” adverts. Mr Hurley said a clip of three seconds length was one of the options, although the details had not been worked out yet.
I’ve been ardently opposed to pre-roll ads. But three seconds may be fair and reasonable.
Via Fred Wilson:
To date, they’ve showed a good feel for what will work in this emerging medium. We will soon see if they have a similar feel for how to monetize and compensate everyone in the ecosystem. As always, I am rooting for them.
Mark Cuban on Georgia & Genarlow Wilson
Mark Cuban has been an important and vocal advocate for Genarlow Wilson. Today he writes:
I wanted to thank and commend ESPN , The NY Times and our owh HDNet and others for great coverage leading to the introduction of a new bill aiming to right this gross injustice.
Personally, there is no chance I do business in the state of Georgia beyond the committment the Mavs have to play the Hawks until Genarlow is out of jail.
RouteSlip.com calls for developer assistance
Doug’s creating a bike route in DÃƒÂ¼sseldorf right now.
He’s sitting on the couch using RouteSlip.com. It lets you build a ride log, map out your bike routes in Google maps, calculate distances and - for those of you who, like me, grow concerned at the thought of steep hills - it will automatically create an elevation profile for each route.
Doug says, “This is such a great application. I just love it. I’m putting in the route that I used to ride all the time...to my swimming hole. It’s so easy.”
As much as it pains me to say it, RouteSlip’s gone beyond what I can support right now, and I feel I owe it to the community that has been so supportive and encouraging during the initial development of the site to not abandon it.
I’m only one person, and am stretched way too thin right now without even considering RouteSlip development.
Neither Doug nor I knows Java or PHP. If you do, please help!