:: Saturday, December 31 2005 ::
We're off to party like it's 1999, so, since it's already the new year in most of the places I have lived, Happy New Year!!!
Now go listen to that ABBA song of the same name!
:: David (19:01 in Michigan, 1:01 in Paris) - Comment
It looks as though there may be a temporary truce in the spat between Ukraine and Russia over natural gas. Russia had been threatening to cut Ukraine off from its natural gas supply starting Sunday unless a price hike of some 350 percent was agreed to. Now, I've never been, but I'll bet it's awful cold in Ukraine in winter, and raising the rates mid-winter could be quite expensive.
Many analysts are suggesting Russia is using gas pricing as a way of punishing those who leave the Russian fold and make ties with the EU. It's a powerful tool. The interesting thing is that a major pipeline runs from Russia to Germany via Ukraine, and Ukraine can charge transit fees for the gas piped through, so why there hasn't been a retaliatory increase in transit fees is a bit confusing (unless those fees would all be passed on to the Germans).
And speaking of the Germans, if you want to see some nervous people, check out the Germans involved in this spat - they really have no say in the matter whatsoever, but that hasn't stopped them from coming out with statements like "The supply of gas without disruption is a key part of the relations between Germany and both countries".
Russia has been a surly beast on a number of fronts, lately, and I think our esteemed secretary of state may be called upon to put her education to good use before all is said and done (Ms. Rice has a strong background in the region). Hopefully she'll prove more adept (and/or her keepers less intrusive) than she/they have been in the Middle East. The BBC has done a retrospective of Russia, 2005 which points out some of the major developments in Russia (as the outside world sees it), including continued accumulation of power in the hands of the leader, often using the war on terror as a tool for further power consolidation and oil as a major policy driver (sound familiar?) Certainly, with the situation in Ukraine, 2006 is already shaping up as an interesting year.
:: David (11:30 in Michigan, 17:30 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, December 30 2005 ::
Did everyone read about the U.S. teen who visited Iraq alone, to do research for his high school paper?
On some level, it makes you smile.
Armed with only an Arabic phrase book and some cash, Farris Hassan can count himself lucky to be alive after a series of adventures involving desert taxis and frantic phone calls.
Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, hopped on a flight without his parent's permission and then attempted an incredibly dangerous border crossing into Iraq by taking a taxi through the desert from Kuwait City.
:: David (12:32 in Michigan, 18:32 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, December 29 2005 ::
Big ol' work day today - spent mostly in bed with my laptop working my way through country after country, checking the code and comparing it to the text - ask me about family benefits - anywhere in Europe! It's good to be getting it done though.
For those of you who I talked to yesterday, the interview is not in the evening - the contact person got their AMs and PMs confused. So I'll be headed in bright and early, not really, really, late.
I've got nothing at all going until Saturday night, at this point, so I'm hoping to make some serious headway on some of the work I should have been doing since September. With any luck I'll have it all polished up in time for the New Year, and then I shall start working on the next batch! Woo hoo!
:: David (15:21 in Michigan, 21:21 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Wednesday, December 28 2005 ::
Sasha is safely back, although ill, and today there is a card game happening at Bubble Island, which I will be attending while she sleeps.
She brought back several fun presents for me, and one present for someone else, which I need to fix - it's a DVD, but on the European DVD format. So I am converting it to NTSC, which is a long, slow process. I think it might finish by the time I get back from card playing. I hope....
:: David (13:24 in Michigan, 19:24 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, December 27 2005 ::
I rolled in to Ann Arbor about five this morning, after a night of drinking and carousing with Tammy and George. I decided since I was already packed in to the car I might just as well drive the rest of the way. In fact, I had been sleepier than I thought, and the drive was less fun than it could have been. But I managed to sleep in my own bed, which was pleasant. In about an hour Sasha will arrive from Virginia and we can start our Christmas/NewYear's festivities.
:: David (11:48 in Michigan, 17:48 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, December 26 2005 ::
If it's after Christmas, and everyone got gift certificates, it must be time for Amazon to raise their prices:
Just a little post-holiday cheer...
Please note that the price of HP LaserJet 1320 Monochrome Laser Printer has increased from $385.98 to $399.99 since you placed it in your Shopping Cart. Items in your cart will always reflect the most recent price displayed on their product detail pages.
Please note that the price of Oh No has increased from $13.99 to $14.99 since you placed it in your Shopping Cart. Items in your cart will always reflect the most recent price displayed on their product detail pages.
Please note that the price of Canon PIXMA iP4200 Photo Printer has increased from $95.00 to $119.99 since you placed it in your Shopping Cart. Items in your cart will always reflect the most recent price displayed on their product detail pages.
:: David (2:10 in Michigan, 8:10 in Paris) - Comment
A merry Christmas to those of you that do that sort of thing, somewhat late due to the fact I've been too busy celebrating to blog. A happy first night of Channukkah for those of you that do that sort of thing, and remember - Ariel Sharon says 'easy on the latkes'.
We had family over early on in the day, and I visited some friends later on, along with a tasty Christmas dinner and pause for goofy holiday movies (Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus, and the sequel Meet the Santas). Overall, exactly as it should be!
:: David (1:06 in Michigan, 7:06 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, December 25 2005 ::
An interesting passage in a recent report by the New York Times, which indicates the spying by the NSA has been much broader than first reported, caught my attention:
I think this is very important for a number of reasons. The fact that calls between, say, France and Germany, might be routed via the United States is interesting, to say the least. This implies that other countries might start thinking that, for security reasons, regulating exactly where traffic goes might be a good idea. It's also interesting that, in effect, private corporations have been bulding a spy network for the US government. If the routing of calls into the US is what allows the US to listen in, this implies that in effect American companies have been building wiretaps into their infrastructure - sort of like the American embassy in Russia some years ago, which was built (by the Russians) with bugs directly integrated into the walls. This is no different, and if it hasn't caught the attention of other governments already, it will soon.
Several officials said that after President Bush's order authorizing the N.S.A. program, senior government officials arranged with officials of some of the nation's largest telecommunications companies to gain access to switches that act as gateways at the borders between the United States' communications networks and international networks. The identities of the corporations involved could not be determined.
The switches are some of the main arteries for moving voice and some Internet traffic into and out of the United States, and, with the globalization of the telecommunications industry in recent years, many international-to-international calls are also routed through such American switches.
One outside expert on communications privacy who previously worked at the N.S.A. said that to exploit its technological capabilities, the American government had in the last few years been quietly encouraging the telecommunications industry to increase the amount of international traffic that is routed through American-based switches.
:: David (3:13 in Michigan, 9:13 in Paris) - Comment
If you need any evidence that the US is primarily a Christian country, the fact that just about every channel is doing a bio on Jesus (including the History Channel (which makes sense) and CNN (which doesn't)) provides it.
:: David (2:25 in Michigan, 8:25 in Paris) - Comment
Random tech post - France may legalize the downloading of copyrighted material, in exchange for a tax being levied on broadband subscribers. I understand there will be an opt-out, presumably if you don't intend to download stuff. It seems that uploading will still be illegal, which confuses me a little, but it certainly seems like a better solution than lawsuits.
:: David (2:06 in Michigan, 8:06 in Paris) - Comment
We opened presents this evening, as the kids will be at their home tomorrow for Christmas day, and I couldn't really be bothered to load all the presents into the car (again), and my folks couldn't, either. So they all rolled in about seven and we opened them all up. I would say it was very successful, at least as far as my gift choosing skills went. I was pleased. Of course, history says the toys will be forgotten or broken in mere weeks. Hopefully the books will be a more lasting gift.
Earlier in the day, Rob and I went out to pick up a new computer for my folks, and also to spend our Christmas money (yup - I got Christmas money). I have been planning on buying a new printer for a while, and I recently saw a package deal which came with the printer I have been looking at, and a nice digital camera, which my nephew had indicated he wanted. I told him we could go in on it together, and in that way he could get the camera (which he could not afford otherwise). Sadly, we went to the computer store first, and by the time we left he had spent the majority of his money on video game equipment, which had not really been my intention. My parents made it quite clear when we got back that it had not been their intention, either. Ah well.
:: David (1:32 in Michigan, 7:32 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, December 23 2005 ::
Nothing but cookies today - I picked up the ingredients for a major bake-a-thon and took them over to my sister's, and the kids went crazy with the cookie making. Lots of good times, and I even got to meet some of my nephew Rob's friends, which was cool, as I have heard him talk about them often enough, so now I can put a face to the names. I also seem to be doing a Wonka-a-thon (not to be confusd with any possible homynyms), as I will see two versions of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory before the night is out. Holiday fun all around!
:: David (21:28 in Michigan, 3:28 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, December 22 2005 ::
I read this afternoon one of the more disturbing stories I have run across in the daily papers. It tells of a young boy (thirteen when the whole thing begins) who finds the internet a very lucrative place if one is willing to trade in images of onesself.
:: David (2:52 in Michigan, 8:52 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Games and food with friends - what else is the holiday about? I headed over to Tammy and George's place for dinner, and then taught them how to play Fluxx. Tomorrow is intended to be more of the same, and then we'll be heading in to holiday central. I still need to get a lot of work done before the new year, but I'm feeling pretty good about it (ask me again January first...).
:: David (2:29 in Michigan, 8:29 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, December 21 2005 ::
I think I must read this book
Now, I know it's easy to draw parallels to the past, especially with the current administration, which seems to be representing every 'doomed to repeat it' we've ever earned for 'not learning from history', but this book sounds almost creepily prescient. It's available at Amazon, although the version I found had barbed wire instead of spattered blood. I guess the idea is the same (and I certainly hope the text is!) (via A&L daily)
PICTURE THIS: A folksy, self-consciously plainspoken Southern politician rises to power during a period of profound unrest in America. The nation is facing one of the half-dozen or so of its worst existential crises to date, and the people, once sunny, confident, and striving, are now scared, angry, and disillusioned.
This politician, a ''Professional Common Man,'' executes his rise by relentlessly attacking the liberal media, fancy-talking intellectuals, shiftless progressives, pinkos, promiscuity, and welfare hangers-on, all the while clamoring for a return to traditional values, to love of country, to the pie-scented days of old when things made sense and Americans were indisputably American. He speaks almost entirely in ''noble but slippery abstractions''-Liberty, Freedom, Equality-and people love him, even if they can't fully articulate why without resorting to abstractions themselves.
While more paranoid readers might be tempted to draw parallels between this scenario and sundry predicaments we may or may not be in right now, the story line is actually that of Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here, a hastily written cautionary note about America's potential descent into fascism, recently reissued by New American Library in a handsome trade edition with a blood-spattered cover design.
:: David (2:11 in Michigan, 8:11 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Yes, penguins are cute. But you shouldn't take them home with you!
:: David (1:50 in Michigan, 7:50 in Paris) - Comment
That tow truck took a long time to get here! I wondered why the cop was still sitting outside!
:: David (1:44 in Michigan, 7:44 in Paris) - Comment
I decided that since I had an interview coming up in the new year I would do something about my hippie looks. Sasha told me I had to put a photo up so she would know who I was when I went to pick her up at the airport. I figured since I was taking one anyway I might as well post it so you all know who I am the next time you see me. The woman who cut my hair was really cool - she took the tail off and wrapped it up so I could send it to Locks of Love, although it seems I might not meet the ten inch requirement (yes, you can insert joke here if you like). There were also lots of random hair-cutting accoutrements to make it extra swanky. Very cool. About half way through I started to think 'oh, god - what have I done?!' but by the time it was over I was pretty OK with the whole thing. I'm probably not even going to be pissy if I don't get the job this haircut was ostensibly for. Probably.
:: David (1:26 in Michigan, 7:26 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Outside the window there is a police car with its lights on, a volunteer fire department truck, and a completely totalled vehicle which wrapped itself around a tree a few moments ago. Rob and I ran down to check, but 'Paul' was OK. Evidently going to meet the neighbours, he missed in spectacular fashion. Rob saw the tail end of the crash, and we went to investigate. The neighbour took our shellshocked friend in to his house to wait for the cops, and we wandered back to the house. A little adrenaline for the evening, spent otherwise watching 'Family Guy' on DVD.
:: David (0:47 in Michigan, 6:47 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, December 19 2005 ::
Just to review, the US is holding incommunicado people it has stolen off the streets of Europe, torturing them only to find out they know nothing and had nothing to do with terrorism, but are releasing chemical weapons makers from the former Iraqi regime?!?
:: David (13:40 in Michigan, 19:40 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
There was a really funny report on BBC World yesterday about 'Canadaville' (something the American press seems not to be mentioning, but you can read about it on the CBC, obviously). They did the report straight up - rich man builds town for survivors of New Orleans, people are moving in, etc. But they closed the story with a comment that the Canadian press omitted (probably hoping to avoid pissing off the US ambassador to Canada the way the prime ministerial candidates have) - why has the most efficient and thorough response to the disaster come from someone who isn't even a US citizen?
:: David (9:47 in Michigan, 15:47 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, December 18 2005 ::
The New York Times is reporting that literacy has fallen for college graduates over the last ten years. According to the article,
How... embarrassing. I thought the whole point of a college degree was to be able to "read lengthy, complex English texts and draw complicated inferences". And this report suggests that only one in three college grads can do that.
When the test was last administered, in 1992, 40 percent of the nation's college graduates scored at the proficient level, meaning that they were able to read lengthy, complex English texts and draw complicated inferences. But on the 2003 test, only 31 percent of the graduates demonstrated those high-level skills. There were 26.4 million college graduates.
The college graduates who in 2003 failed to demonstrate proficiency included 53 percent who scored at the intermediate level and 14 percent who scored at the basic level, meaning they could read and understand short, commonplace prose texts.
Of course, I think these results are not surprising, based on anecdotal evidence, but to have a number put on it is troubling. I am of the opinion that this is what happens when you make higher education a for-profit operation, though clearly there are those who would dispute that claim. Ah well - all this means is that soon the Master's degree will be the basic education level required to get a job. But that certainly seems like a waste of an awful lot of time before students can enter the workforce!
:: David (14:44 in Michigan, 20:44 in Paris) - Comment
Mmmm. Tasty music. I don't know why, but I needed a Martin Sexton fix this morning. 'Candy' was what started it all, but I may need to listen to 'The Way I Am' before the morning is out. If you pop over to Amazon and look at the album Black Sheep, you can listen to a sample of 'Candy'. You can also hear a sample of 'The Way I Am' on The American. Good stuff.
:: David (14:17 in Michigan, 20:17 in Paris) - Comment
|Is there a secret class I wasn't invited to that teaches you how to wrap presents? I have mostly finished mine, now, and it took me forever, and they aren't the prettiest things on the planet. More than once I did the 'jam all the paper under a fold and press it until it's mostly flat' trick. I thought it would get better after ten packages or so, but really what happened was variations on an ugly theme. Oh well - it's done, at least.|
:: David (13:36 in Michigan, 19:36 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Saturday, December 17 2005 ::
In one of those ironic confluences of time, according to Wikipedia (and we all know how accurate they are, don't we (?)), today in 1843 Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' was published, and today in 1989 the Simpsons first appeared on TV. Who knew?
:: David (19:14 in Michigan, 1:14 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, December 16 2005 ::
According to the BBC, the EU has agreed on a budget. This was tricky, as there were two tough questions - farm aid, and the 'rebate' the UK gets. The UK gave up a chunk of that money to get the budget through, and I think the photo in the article shows Tony Blair just as he gave up the money. That or he was passing a watermelon.
:: David (22:35 in Michigan, 4:35 in Paris) - Comment
So I'm sure you've all heard that the New York Times reported today that president Bush authorized the NSA to spy on Americans without a warrant, which was cited by several senators today as one reason they would not renew the patriot act.
Well and good - some checks and balances for an administration that hasn't recognized any. But what confused and frightened me was this statement by the New York Times defending their decision to print the report. Not because of what it says, but because of its very existence. The fact that they felt, in any small way, that they might need to defend the fact that they reported a president breaking the law....
:: David (22:08 in Michigan, 4:08 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
There is a wonderful (long) article on the economics of online gaming in Walrus magazine. It starts out with the economist who broke the news to the world that online gaming was real:
The article goes on to examing the growth of these games, as well as following the tale of Dr. Castronova, whose first paper on the subject has become something of a seminal work, despite the fact that mainstream journals wouldn't touch it. They also examine the intersections between these games and the 'real world', touching on auctions, currency exchange, and the like.
Edward Castronova had hit bottom. Three years ago, the thirty-eight-year-old economist was, by his own account, an academic failure. He had chosen an unpopular field â€” welfare research â€” and published only a handful of papers that, as far as he could tell, "had never influenced anybody."
To fill his evenings, Castronova did what he'd always done: he played video games. In April, 2001, he paid a $10 monthly fee to a multiplayer on-line game called EverQuest. More than 450,000 players worldwide log into EverQuest's "virtual world."
Then he noticed something curious: EverQuest had its own economy, a bustling trade in virtual goods. Players generate goods as they play, often by killing creatures for their treasure and trading it.
:: David (10:16 in Michigan, 16:16 in Paris) - Comment
There is nothing quite like waking up to a phone interview. I hadn't even finished my first cup of coffee when the phone rang. I assumed it was Paris, but in fact it was a company I had contacted recently about a job, calling to talk a little bit before inviting me in. Woke me right up! I fear my first responses were a little groggy, but I warmed up quickly with the fear factor pushing me along. Fun. Now all I need to do is figure out how to finish my projects for the folks in Paris if I get this job as well....
:: David (9:44 in Michigan, 15:44 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Thursday, December 15 2005 ::
There's a live blog going at the CBC covering the first of the Canadian presidential debates. The first debate is in French, and although the CBC commentator said the three English speaking candidates' French 'wasn't bad', we couldn't take it for more than a few minutes. I don't know if it was really bad (in which case pity the poor Quebecois who have to make their decision based on the French language debate), or if it was just that Canadian French sounds really weird to us after living in France for so long. Either way, the commentary is pretty entertaining.
:: David (21:06 in Michigan, 3:06 in Paris) - Comment
What is it with the holidays? A friend called today to let me know they'd been 'let go' with only one day's notice. The crazy thing is that this seems to be the norm - my last employer had a bad habit of making big staffing cuts on short notice just before the holidays. Now, it does mean more time with the family over the holiday, but it still seems to me there is a more appropriate time to do it. And as for this whole 'one day's notice' business, don't even get me started. If you can't trust your employee not to trash the place before leaving, I'm not clear why you hired them in the first place.
Besides - it should be clear that the only workers you have to worry about are the ones wearing wooden shoes (since they are the only ones capable of sabotage
:: David (14:36 in Michigan, 20:36 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
It seems like a major invitation for culture clash to me, but the BBC is reporting that Wal-Mart has taken over Japanese retailer Seiyu as part of a global expansion push. This is interesting in part because I tend to think of Seiyu as being a little up-market. I think it will be very interesting to see what happens to Wal-Mart over the next few years, as it moves away from its core (cheap goods). Will we see another K-Mart, where they move too far away from cheap goods and another store takes their place?
That's the scary thing about the whole Wal-Mart debate - I'm not sure it would do any good to deal with them per se, because I think someone else would just take their place. The question is, how can we change the paradigm?
:: David (14:14 in Michigan, 20:14 in Paris) - Comment
From the CBC, international news which is also local news: an agreement has been signed which would prevent the Great Lakes from being drained.
Of course, this is in some respects already a huge issue. I remember reading a report about a tourist town in Michigan where all the beachfront property was now half a kilometer from the water. Obviously this made it quite difficult to attract tourists.
Political leaders from Ontario, Quebec and eight U.S. states have signed a deal aimed at banning large-scale water diversion projects from the Great Lakes.
The agreement, signed at the Great Lakes Governors Leadership Summit in Milwaukee on Tuesday, will block parched southern states from siphoning off huge amounts of Great Lakes water.
In related water news, apparently Maine is considering imposing a water tax on bottled water producers. Not a bad idea, really....
:: David (10:20 in Michigan, 16:20 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, December 14 2005 ::
It's 2 in the afternoon. The phone rings. Little do you realize that your German lessons are about to be tested by a wrong number. Ack! Entshuldigung, aber... ich denke... diese nummer... at which point she responds in perfect English "Oh. I have the wrong number?" Life is funny - throws you curve balls from time to time, just to see if you're awake.
:: David (14:08 in Michigan, 20:08 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
The Economist has an article on the Firefox project, with special attention paid to Mitchell Baker, the chief lizard wrangler of the project.
:: David (13:23 in Michigan, 19:23 in Paris) - Comment
I don't know how many of you heard this, so I thought I would make sure you did:
The quote is from the columbia tribune. The interview in which he said this (and a number of other things, including "You can call me anything you want, but do not call me a racist" ('or late for dinner' he did not add) was with NBC Nightly News.
Bush defended Vice President Dick Cheneyâ€™s prewar assertion that the United States would be welcomed in Iraq as liberators.
"I think we are welcomed," he said. "But it was not a peaceful welcome."
:: David (11:58 in Michigan, 17:58 in Paris) - Comment
Black Ink Monday:
Black Ink Monday, a non-violent protest by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC), is a response to the Tribune Company's recent elimination of editorial cartooning positions at several of its newspapers, as well as a commentary on newspapers everywhere who have lost sight of the value of having a staff editorial cartoonist.You can see all the commentary at the black ink monday page. They also invite you to write the tribune company and tell them what you think of the elimination of local editorial cartoonists.
One of the things Sasha and I used to look forward to, both in Le Monde and L'Express, were the comics of Plantu. They probably helped us in our decision to subscribe. So how much does a paper really save when they cut a cartoonist like Michael Ramirez?
:: David (11:22 in Michigan, 17:22 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, December 13 2005 ::
There's an interesting article in the times of London titled Here's my apology on the 'disaster' of the Iraq war. Now, where's yours? It says basically the same thing I said several days ago, but from a different angle. It also misses some key points. Nevertheless, it's an interesting read.
:: David (9:53 in Michigan, 15:53 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, December 12 2005 ::
Well this is fun:
A damning new report from the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has painted a grim picture of the cost and accessibility of childcare in Ireland.I was informed today that the final version of the paper was out, and that The Sunday Business Post (in Ireland) had published an article on the paper, which in the end took over two years to finalize. Apparently there has been a move in Ireland to help parents of young children (the article gives more details), and the paper came out while this debate was occurring.
:: David (13:07 in Michigan, 19:07 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Sunday, December 11 2005 ::
The New York Times would remind us that it is either time to act on the New Orleans situation, or to admit we're not going to. In the editorial today, the paper points out that the city is dying by inches, while congress gives the money to other causes (tax cuts and foreign wars, for example). But regardless of what will happen, it's time to tell everyone The Plan:
Maybe America does not want to rebuild New Orleans. Maybe we have decided that the deficits are too large and the money too scarce, and that it is better just to look the other way until the city withers and disappears. If that is truly the case, then it is incumbent on President Bush and Congress to admit it, and organize a real plan to help the dislocated residents resettle into new homes. The communities that opened their hearts to the Katrina refugees need to know that their short-term act of charity has turned into a permanent commitment.There's a very interesting point made midway through the piece when they point out what the worst-case scenario was if weapons of mass destruction got loose - "Losing a major American city". Well we have, and there seems to be little interest in getting it back.
:: David (11:29 in Michigan, 17:29 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, December 10 2005 ::
Well now that's sad. The BBC is reporting that Richard Pryor has died. I listened to his stand up and watched his films when I was young - in those days he was huge. His illness took him out of the limelight, but I have very fond memories of his work.
:: David (18:50 in Michigan, 0:50 in Paris) - Comment
We had a nice little dinner party last night, with several of Sasha's colleagues in the History department. Very entertaining, with great food prepared by Sasha, and entertainment provided by the guests. We have a birthday gathering this evening, and that about covers the weekend plans - we'll make the rest up as we go.
:: David (12:41 in Michigan, 18:41 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, December 9 2005 ::
There is a marvellous op-ed piece by a visiting professor to NYU, whose work is in labour relations, which takes the University to task for its union-busting activities, noting that several of the proposed actions would appear to be patently illegal.
He manages to combine two things I had not considered previously - academic freedom and the use of adjuncts. I had always considered the only reason a university might want to get rid of all tenured positions in favour of adjuncts would be money - adjuncts are much cheaper, and easy to get rid of. But it is also quite correct to note that only tenured profs can criticize the administration without fear of reprisal.
It was also noted that the board which decided that NYU grad students were not employees is a Republican bastion, and the vote was along party lines. I found the ruling by the National Labor Relations Board which reverses their earlier decision that grad students are paid employees.
:: David (11:41 in Michigan, 17:41 in Paris) - Comment
|We headed over to the carpet place yesterday, and though it wasn't much like what I think we had both planned, we ended up leaving with a carpet. We had planned on deep red, we bought green. I had decided I didn't like the Turkoman (or a carpet with a repeating pattern), we ended up buying one with a repeating pattern that we thought was Turkoman (it was in fact Bokara, from Pakistan). We had decided on six foot by nine foot, we bought four foot by six foot. But in the end it looks lovely, and we're happy. So there you go (peanut butter jelly time!)
:: David (10:06 in Michigan, 16:06 in Paris) - Comment
Because we all don't dislike the music companies quite enough, they have decided to slap us all in the face some more. The BBC is reporting that websites that host music lyrics and tablature are to be sued in a concerted effort by the music industry to suck every last penny out of their now ridiculously long monopoly over anything which might even come close to in some way relating to their music.
Compare this attitude with the attitude of the lead singer of OK Go, who wrote a lovely little opinion piece for the New York Times extolling how useful it was to give the fans some wiggle room when it came to their online antics. He gets it. The record companies and their ilk do not. And that is why they shall in the end fall (or be dragged into the real world).
:: David (9:32 in Michigan, 15:32 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, December 8 2005 ::
If you didn't already hear it, NPR had an interview with Stephen Colbert, who has started a fun new television show in the US which mocks the pundits who have seemingly become Americans' only news source. You can visit the NPR website to listen.
:: David (18:19 in Michigan, 0:19 in Paris) - Comment
Last night we went out for Thai food with Misty, and then grabbed a movie from the video rental place. We hadn't really decided what we wanted to watch going in, so we decided more or less at random on a film called Saving Face, which was a wonderful film about choosing between what you want to do and what your family wants you to do. The actresses playing the two main characters were absolutely perfect, and it was overall a very nice film. Recommended. Now I'm trying to get around to getting the house in order for the party we're having tomorrow, and also getting some work done.
:: David (12:21 in Michigan, 18:21 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, December 7 2005 ::
It isn't every day you see an advertisement with the phrase what is Saudi Arabia doing to fight terrorism across it. So when I saw it at the New York Times website, I had to click. And now I know - not only what they're doing to fight terrorism, but also what they're doing to fight high gas prices. And more! Thank goodness for marketing and diplomacy, or I might never have known!
:: David (1:41 in Michigan, 7:41 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, December 6 2005 ::
In more election news, this time from the UK, David Cameron has been chosen to lead the Tories. This is huge, as he appears to be a fresh face for a party that has been out of power for more than a decade, and seemingly lost in the woods for much of that time. Perhaps we'll see some new ideas coming from the right.
Worth noting is the easy comparison between the Tories in the UK and the Democrats in the US. Although their politics are not the same (although closer than you might expect), both have been running around headless, merely reacting to their opponents. David Cameron may change that. Now if only the Democrats could do something similar!
:: David (11:51 in Michigan, 17:51 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
An entertaining article in the New York Times discusses the history of Christmas in the United States, in the context of a recent offensive by neo-conservatives to promote the
holiday in favour of more neutral terms. It seems the whole 'over commercialized' refrain is not new: "In 1827, an Episcopal bishop lamented that the Devil had stolen Christmas 'and converted it into a day of worldly festivity, shooting and swearing.'" Also according to the article, just prior to the Civil War, only 18 states recognized Christmas.
Myself, I am
quite fond of the promotion Virgin has been doing in this country -
:: David (10:49 in Michigan, 16:49 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Monday, December 5 2005 ::
An interesting event going on at New York University: it seems the graduate students are on strike, and the University has decided to go with the 'union-breaking' approach. The University has gone on the offensive, with a Q & A page which includes such niceties as "Since there is no union, and graduate students are not workers, there cannot be a formal 'strike' under the national labor laws." They may teach our classes, and we may pay them, but they are not workers. We prefer 'slaves' or 'indentured servants'.
My favourite part of the page is the question "NYU says it’s treating its GAs well now; why didn’t the University do it before it signed the contract with the UAW in 2001?" to which the University responds "NYU was evolving as a research university when the unionization effort came about in 1999 and 2000, and the effort helped to accelerate the process of getting all our graduate students the levels of financial aid support that they deserved." It then begins the next paragraph with "Unfortunately..." and goes on to list why it thinks that the union has overstepped its mandate. The answer concludes "In the union’s absence, NYU will sustain and build upon the economic gains for GAs we were able to create over the past four years -- expanding the benefits granted to graduate assistants, increasing the university’s financial support for graduate students, and developing strong mechanisms for graduate student voice." We learned our lesson, and we'll never do it again!
The story came to my attention because apparently the president of the University, John Sexton, sent an email threatening to pull a Reagan on the strikers, i.e. firing them all. According to Inside Higher Ed, the letter states "Graduate assistants who do not resume their duties by December 5 or the first scheduled teaching assignment thereafter... will for the spring semester lose their stipend and their eligibility to teach". According to the article, the threat actually involves the loss of two semesters of teaching. Now, for those of you that don't know, taking away a student's money in this country is basically the same as throwing them out, as most students don't actually pay the approximately 50,000 US dollars required to attend classes, but are rather subsidized in exchange for teaching the undergrads (or something like that, depending on who you believe).
An additional facet of the dispute can be found on Faculty Democracy, a website set up by concerned faculty at NYU. In a letter to the president they protest the fact that administration may have been monitoring communication between faculty and students by adding administrators to the list of people who could access the bulletin board system. In the letter, signed by approximately 200 (!) faculty, the faculty members ask the usual questions - who knew what, when? They also note that "Nothing so confirms that academic workers at this
university need protection and representation of their own choosing
(such as the protection afforded to graduate students by a union) as
this single egregious act, which goes against the foundational
principles of higher education as well as those of a democratic and
open society." Whups.
:: David (11:00 in Michigan, 17:00 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Beware the killer Russian squirrels!
:: David (9:34 in Michigan, 15:34 in Paris) - Comment
The New York Times has a second installment on the automobile and India. Following on the piece I cited yesterday, today's piece talks about pride of auto ownership in India. The most interesting detail (for me): "India's middle class has grown to an estimated 250 million in the past decade". As a rule of thumb, I like to think of the US as having 250 million consumers (I think that may actually overshoot the mark by quite a lot, but it's a nice round number). I have read elsewhere that China's middle class is also over a quarter of a billion. This means, if you were looking for a place to sell your goods, India, China, and the US are all roughly the same market size - even if you only count the wealthy Indians and Chinese.
:: David (9:15 in Michigan, 15:15 in Paris) - Comment
In a serious bit of non-news, the BBC is reporting that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that the US does ship suspected terrorists (and anyone else they feel like (no, she didn't really say that, but we all know it's true)) abroad, but denied it was for purposes of torture. Right.
The secretary of state refused to confirm or deny the existence of secret prisons abroad, giving the generic response that revealing their existence might "compromise the success of intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations". She also indicated that the US 'expects those damned Europeans to come to heel'. Actually, her exact words were "We expect other nations share this view".
For those who haven't been following, the EU is having a little crisis of confidence over this issue, as many Europeans seem to think that secret prisons and torture violate European values. Fortunately, just like in the US some of their leaders don't seem to share these values, so it seems to me likely the whole issue will be swept under the rug. It is slowly being revealed that many European countries have had a hand in the movement of prisoners, and there have been allegations that some of the new EU member countries are hosting the not-so-secret-anymore prisons (which may or may not exist. Right).
:: David (9:09 in Michigan, 15:09 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, December 4 2005 ::
Forget throwing the goat - in Sweden you can burn it!
:: David (14:54 in Michigan, 20:54 in Paris) - Comment
The New York Times has a story today on a major highway being built across India. It's an interesting story not only because of some of the things the builders had to contend with (like documenting each tree cut down over several thousand miles), but because of what people are saying it means to India. The author certainly seems to think it will change India beyond recognition, and maybe not for the better.
:: David (10:39 in Michigan, 16:39 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, December 2 2005 ::
Arts and Letters Daily reminded me that Phillip Pullman is not happy to see the Narnia films made. In this article he is quoted as calling the books "one of the most ugly and poisonous things I've ever read" as well as "blatantly racist" and "monumentally disparaging of girls and women". Which may or may not be true. It's a tough call whether or not the books are simply classics, or propaganda (they were certainly intended as the latter). And, like everything else, that still leaves the question of whether we should read them - the Huck Finn question, if you will.
:: David (11:34 in Michigan, 17:34 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Weird, but cool. Google SMS lets you send a text message from your mobile phone to Google, which will then text you back a response. Examples include driving directions and price finding, as well as random tidbits like the population of different countries.
:: David (11:11 in Michigan, 17:11 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
How about another parallel between the Iraq war and Vietnam? It seems the war in Vietnam was also based on faulty evidence. According to the BBC, one of the attacks on the US in the Gulf of Tonkin, which led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which allowed an escalation of US involvement in Vietnam, never took place. Instead it was an intelligence error, possibly a mistranslated intercept.
The New York Times also has an article on the topic, which discusses the 2001 report which first indicated things might have been screwy in Vietnam (and which was subsequently classified):
In his 2001 article, an elaborate piece of detective work, Mr. Hanyok wrote that 90 percent of the intercepts of North Vietnamese communications relevant to the supposed Aug. 4, 1964, attack were omitted from the major agency documents going to policy makers.
"The overwhelming body of reports, if used, would have told the story that no attack had happened," he wrote. "So a conscious effort ensued to demonstrate that an attack occurred."
But don't assume this parallel was not noticed - according to several sources the US government fought the declassification of the report over fears of comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq.
:: David (10:47 in Michigan, 16:47 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, December 1 2005 ::
I first read about it on the BBC, but I think the LA Times broke the story that the US has been planting propaganda in Iraqi newspapers, paying for placement of stories written by the US which paint the war in a positive light. Sample headlines include "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism" and "More Money Goes to Iraq's Development". Interestingly, the LA Times article goes on to say that not only might the stories be painting the US in a good light, they might also be completely false. The BBC points out that "the allegations are an embarrassment to the American military at a time when it is trying to promote transparency in Iraq". No kidding.
:: David (17:23 in Michigan, 23:23 in Paris) - Comment
The New York Times is reporting (and the Sunday Times of South Africa confirmed) that South Africa has joined (or rather will join) the short list of countries which give full marriage rights to gay couples. According to the Sunday Times, the ruling states
The common law and Section 30 (1) of the Marriage Act are accordingly inconsistent with sections 9(1) [equality] and 9(3) [dignity] of the Constitution to the extent that they make no provision for same-sex couple to enjoy the status, entitlements and responsibilities they accord to heterosexual couplesThe New York Times notes that, although Africa as a continent is fairly conservative, gay marriage is not a major issue in South Africa. They quote Steven E. Friedman, a South African political analyst, as saying "The major issue in this society is race. That's why people join political parties." He goes on to note that the only political party interested in amending the constitution to block this ruling is generally considered out of the mainstream.
The court did, however, give the legislature one year to respond, stating that the changes to the law must be done in the next twelve months, or the court's interpretation will automatically come into effect. Based on people's reactions, however, it seems unlikely the change in the law will not happen.
:: David (15:48 in Michigan, 21:48 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
So close, yet so far. Last month my advertising revenue from the website was 9.84. I was hoping someone would have clicked at the last moment so I could have an even ten dollars. So the website is clearly paying for itself, which is exciting. Now if I can only be patient enough to wait for the check, which will come when my income passes one hundred dollars. That said, I think it will be before I have to pay for the site again. Which is nice, because honestly, I felt a little goofy paying good money to have a website that did nothing but hosted my blog and a whole lot of my photos.
:: David (10:31 in Michigan, 16:31 in Paris) - Comment