:: Wednesday, January 31 2007 ::
I always find the people who are becoming celebrities online fascinating. Take for example this story in the New York Times about a history teacher in New York who now represents, for a lot of people, the foremost authority on the byzantine empire.
In barely 18 months, Mr. Brownworth’s podcast, "12 Byzantine Rulers", has become one of the phenomena of the podcasting world. A survey of 1,200 years of rather abstruse history, starting with Diocletian in 284 and finishing with Constantine XI Palaeologus in 1453, “12 Byzantine Rulers” routinely ranks in the top five educational podcasts on iTunes, and in the top 50 of all podcasts.
Now, as it happens we know some Byzantinists (one of them even blogs), but I don't know that they are attracting this kind of attention.
I have had the discussion before with people studying for their PhD as to why these sorts of things aren't done more by the 'experts', and the response often seems to me to be along the lines of 'it might not be good for our career'. Which is a shame.
:: David (8:11 in Michigan, 9:11 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
I love going to the dentist. It's a gift that keeps on giving! First you get the fun when you're actually in the chair, enjoying that lovely drill sound, and then the next day you get to have a sore mouth. It's wonderful!
It was funny, because for the first two or three hours after I got my fillings yesterday, I couldn't wait for the Novocaine to wear off, so I could stop lisping and drooling. Then when it did, I decided that maybe lisping and drooling hadn't been so bad....
There were some lighter moments, though. This is, without a doubt, the first time a dentist has ever asked me if I'd seen 'Little Shop of Horrors'.
:: David (7:28 in Michigan, 8:28 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Tuesday, January 30 2007 ::
I finally went through all the photos we took when we headed out to San Diego just before Christmas. This was the first trip we took with my swanky new digital camera, and although most of the time you can't really see the difference, some of the shots are really quite nice, and I don't know that the old camera could have taken them. It was also really good to see Holly when we weren't busy getting married! You can see the pics here.
:: David (19:22 in Michigan, 20:22 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Monday, January 29 2007 ::
The New York Times had an amusing (long) article in yesterday's paper title 'Unhappy Meals' which started with this rather pithy summation of healthy eating: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants", and then carries on to offer a corollary:
if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.The author apparently wrote a book on the subject, or a related one, but given the length of the article I would suggest you can read this, and skip the book.
:: David (8:18 in Michigan, 9:18 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Only in Japan:
[Japanese health minister] Yanagisawa had told a local political meeting "Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head."If you missed that, we sometimes call 'birth-giving machines' 'women'. The Prime Minister, quite naturally, called the remarks 'inappropriate'.
:: David (7:59 in Michigan, 8:59 in Paris) - Comment
The BBC is reporting that, due to drought, one of Australia's states is being forced to recycle waste water. The article also surprised me with this tidbit: "Water is already recycled in places like Singapore and the UK, but the idea is still unpopular in Australia." I had no idea this was already happening.
Of course, for what seems like forever, people have talked about the fact that water would be the next commodity to spark wars and the like, but I'd not really noticed as myth was creeping up on reality.
:: David (7:52 in Michigan, 8:52 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Saturday, January 27 2007 ::
Walking to work yesterday I found a mobile phone, lying in the snow. I stood around holding it for several second, trying to decide if the owner was going to come back to the spot where it had been dropped, and I should therefore leave it in an obvious spot, or whether I should take it with me and try to contact the owner. I decided it more likely the phone would be stolen than found by its owner if I left it, so I took it with me to work, holding it out in the open in case the owner was taking the same route I was. When I got close enough to the office to decide that the owner wasn't going to see me, I opened the phone, which had a cute picture of mother and child, and went through the phone book until I found an entry marked 'home', and left a message on the machine.
I then called Verizon, the phone's company, and tried to get them to contact the owner, but I was disconnected from them, and it seemed they had already gotten the idea, and frankly I didn't want to waste any more time on their phone system.A little while later the phone rang, and I, thinking the owner was calling her phone, answered it. The person on the other end was confused at first, but then told me she was meeting the owner for lunch, so could tell her I had her phone. A little while later the phone rang again - this time it was the owner's sister, who pouted (I kid you not) that she guessed she wasn't going to be able to talk to her sister. It was at that point I resolved to stop answering the phone. Around 12:30 the owner called my work phone to say she had gotten the message, and would be by by 3:30. Great! So when 4:00 rolled around, I started to get concerned. By 5:00, I was really in a bind, trying to decide whether to take it with me and try to set up another meeting, or what. Around 5:15 there was a knock on the office door (it had been locked) and the woman whose picture was on the phone was standing outside. She thanked me profusely, commented that it was good I hadn't answered the phone when her mom had called, as I would have never got off the phone, and headed out. Good deed done.
:: David (12:29 in Michigan, 13:29 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Friday, January 26 2007 ::
I think the day before yesterday, I read an interview on a file-sharing website I read with a guy who had cracked the protection (or rather, made an end-run around the protection) of the new high definition video disks (HD-DVD and BluRay). When I saw the site, slyck, had scored an interview with him I was quite impressed. When it was picked up on slashdot I realized I wasn't the only one. And when the BBC covered it, I was just amused.
:: David (8:16 in Michigan, 9:16 in Paris) - Comment
I totally figured out the blog comments problem - I uploaded the wrong file. Silly me.
On an unrelated note, people often ask me about digital cameras, so I thought I would nip this in the bud by linking to this article in the New York Times, and this article over at Digital Camera Review. Were I buying a pocket camera, this is the one I would go for.
Actually, looking closer, I'm not sure I would, as it has no optical viewfinder (you have to look at the LCD screen to take a picture). So maybe I'd get something bigger instead.
:: David (8:04 in Michigan, 9:04 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Thursday, January 25 2007 ::
I broke comments. Sorry!
:: David (18:56 in Michigan, 19:56 in Paris) - Comment
Did a little work on the blog - I wanted to see more than one recent comment. Hopefully, it won't crash and burn terribly, as I wrote it much quicker than I usually do.
:: David (18:54 in Michigan, 19:54 in Paris) - Comment
The New York Times has an article today reminding us that vegetarian food shouldn't suck. A featured chef in the article notes:
vegans should stop whining about what they can and can’t eat, and start cooking. "When someone invites you to dinner, bring something delicious, and share it"This has been a refrain in our house for some time, and it's nice to see it get some press, even if the author takes some strange turns in the article.
:: David (14:23 in Michigan, 15:23 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, January 24 2007 ::
Hey - I was just thinking - are you all using Firefox to browse the web? I ask because it has this wonderful spell checker built right into the browser, so whenever you type (like I am right now) into a web form, it checks your spelling as you type (and even gives you the red underlines and right-click corrections). Sorry if I'm preaching to the choir, but I did want to point that out!
While I'm on the subject of random internet things, if I haven't already mentioned Geni I probably ought to - it's an online family tree program, that lets your entire family participate in the building of the tree. It's in beta right now, and they occasionally have site problems, but even so it's a lot of fun to use.
:: David (21:30 in Michigan, 22:30 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Tuesday, January 23 2007 ::
Well, I think I learned an important lesson about clicking the 'go' button before I had typed anything, there! I hope I haven't broken anything.
Before I so rudely interrupted myself with thoughts of broken blogs, I was thinking about the state of the union address, given this evening. I watched approximately 34 seconds of it. I read the summaries. I stand unimpressed, but then, I hadn't expected to be anything but. I saw there was stuff on oil, as the New York Times anticipated with their article on ethanol today. Of course, there's nothing to say about Iraq that we haven't already said. And the health care thing, well, I fear so long as people advocate a market-based approach without dealing with the information asymmetry, we can only expect our dollars to go less and less far, especially as compared to other countries. I do find the concept of taxing health care benefits interesting, not because I don't agree with taxing those who are more well off (in general), but because it's such a stupid plan from a party that claims to want to make government smaller. Government gets smaller when you don't have incredibly complex tax rules that only a team of lawyers can figure out - and that's what this idea sounds suspiciously like.
:: David (22:07 in Michigan, 23:07 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
(THIS SPACE UNINTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK)
:: David (21:54 in Michigan, 22:54 in Paris) - Comment
I turned the bottles in the wine cooler today, which was something of a walk down memory lane, as I hadn't seen some of these wines in far too long. We have something of an embarrassment of riches when it comes to our wine, and I tend to forget this is the case. I think this weekend we shall make our way through some of the nicer ones, and now that I have seen the state of our Muscat stores I shall feel no compunctions about opening a bottle or three.
:: David (21:49 in Michigan, 22:49 in Paris) - Comment
I heard on RFI this morning that French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal had made some remarks that seemed to indicate her support for an independent Quebec. The BBC report of the incident indicates that the Canadian Prime Minister was not impressed:
Reacting to Mr Royals' comments, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: "Experience teaches that it is highly inappropriate for a foreign leader to interfere in the democratic affairs of another country." The BBC is reporting that Royal is now behind in the polls, but I will still be surprised if, in the end, Sarkozy wins.
:: David (10:14 in Michigan, 11:14 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, January 22 2007 ::
I can't imagine why, but the consumerist would like to remind you that Milton Friedman day is coming. I wouldn't point this out, except for their description:
Mark your calendar for January 29, Milton Friedman Day, a day when the invisible hand of the marketplace takes a break and gives ol' Miltie a reacharound.I got nothin' that can top that!
:: David (15:51 in Michigan, 16:51 in Paris) - Comment
I wonder if there will ever come a day when I will do my Japanese homework well in advance, understand all the points raised, know the vocabulary, and in general arrive feeling well prepared and not at all like a lazy bum who can't be bothered to work? Probably not. Maybe I should start a Japanese language learning blog. I've often thought about blogging in French as well as English, but maybe I should split them off. Of course, then I would have to rewrite the blog software some more....
:: David (14:24 in Michigan, 15:24 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, January 21 2007 ::
I am always amazed at the amount of strange language that goes into jobs - amusingly, used most often when describing them (amusingly, because you generally only describe a job to someone who doesn't know it. So why use strange language?). For example, I have experience in ERP systems, which stands for something like 'Enterprise Resource Planning', and which is a confusing way to say 'computer systems that keep track of things businesses keep track of', like money and employees. And to beat that, the jargon changes by day - I think ERP is now 'BI' - 'Business Intelligence'. Or you could call them giant databases (or perhaps even 'big brother', at the rate things are going). Either way, it often seems like things are often made needlessly complex in order to make it seem like getting an MBA is anything other than a waste of time and money intended to impart good sense. But that may just be me.
:: David (19:48 in Michigan, 20:48 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Friday, January 19 2007 ::
Arts and Letters Daily has a link to a series of articles discussing the idea that "too many Americans go to college". Quoting part one of the series:
To say that even a perfect education system is not going to make much difference in the performance of children in the lower half of the distribution understandably grates. But the easy retorts do not work. It's no use coming up with the example of a child who was getting Ds in school, met an inspiring teacher, and went on to become an astrophysicist. That is an underachievement story, not the story of someone at the 49th percentile of intelligence. It's no use to cite the differences in test scores between public schools and private ones--for students in the bottom half of the distribution, the differences are real but modest. It's no use to say that IQ scores can be wrong. I am not talking about scores on specific tests, but about a student's underlying intellectual abilityThe articles are in the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal site, which to me makes them suspect. However, I think they ask some good question, such as What's Wrong With Vocational School? and what do we do with 'gifted' students?
:: David (11:25 in Michigan, 12:25 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Thursday, January 18 2007 ::
In one of those odd things that sometimes happen, the UK has been seemingly gripped by a row raised over the TV show 'Big Brother', which is one of those reality TV shows, probably involving lots of people living in a small space (wikipedia probably knows more). It seems one of the people in the house is Indian (I have the impression she is a minor Bollywood star), and one of the other people made some comments that were fairly racist. I know you're all shocked. Slightly more interesting is the fact that India has gotten into the mix as well, with news of the comments making the lead story of several newspapers, and apparently in a recent meeting between Gordon Brown (Prime Minister to be of the UK) and Manmohan Singh (Indian Prime Minister), the issue was discussed. I kid you not.
If you really feel the urge, the BBC has a brief history of the conflict.
:: David (9:39 in Michigan, 10:39 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, January 17 2007 ::
I posted a few pictures from the ice storm to my flickr account - you can see them here. It's kind of fun seeing what people post after an event like this - the tag ice storm, for example, has all sorts of fun shots. You can even narrow it down geographically, as in ice storm, ann arbor.
:: David (15:52 in Michigan, 16:52 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Tuesday, January 16 2007 ::
So the CIA was advertising jobs (apparently using the phrase 'Japanese Language Classes' triggers a search phrase the CIA has purchased), and I thought I would amuse myself seeing what was available. But honestly, could anyone work for an organisation that includes the disclaimer:
Important Notice: Friends, family, individuals, or organizations may be interested to learn that you are an applicant for or an employee of the CIA. Their interest, however, may not be benign or in your best interest. You cannot control whom they would tell. We therefore ask you to exercise discretion and good judgment in disclosing your interest in a position with the Agency. You will receive further guidance on this topic as you proceed through your CIA employment processing.
Trust noone! The CIA is your only friend! Enemies are everywhere - even your family may be working for
the KGB Al-Quaeda!
:: David (17:55 in Michigan, 18:55 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
I discovered there's a group here in Ann Arbor dedicated to speaking French, and as it's quite nearly on the way home for me I'm going to go this evening and see what it's all about. It's at a wacky little bookstore (and, of course, cafe) downtown called Crazy Wisdom, which is so prototypically Ann Arbor it hurts (the webpage notes you can " Browse 200 book categories, from Acupuncture to Zen, Affirmations to Yoga." If you weren't aware 'affirmations' was a book category, join the club).
:: David (16:30 in Michigan, 17:30 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Monday, January 15 2007 ::
Randomly - we bought a new chair for the living room. It cost only slightly more than the ikea chair we had before, but it's so much better. I like IKEA, but you have to be careful.
On a totally unrelated note, I thought it might interest you to know how to say the name. I scrounged up an article which interviewed Rob Robinson, professor of Linguistics at Stanford University. He said "the most natural way for Americans to say IKEA is 'eye-key-uh.' For the Swedes, however, it's more like 'ee-kay-uh.'" So there you go.
:: David (18:02 in Michigan, 19:02 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Sunday, January 14 2007 ::
Nicolas Sarkozy has been chosen by his party to be their candidate for French president. Other than a lower than expected turnout, this comes as no surprise. The BBC has all the details of the evening, as well as a second piece discussing the challenges that lie ahead for the would-be reformer. Or demagogue. Or whatever.
(photo by edublogger)
:: David (23:45 in Michigan, 0:45 in Paris) - Comment
I put a squirrel feeder out in front of the house, but after reading about the Russian killer squirrel pack, I'm having second thoughts....
:: David (10:34 in Michigan, 11:34 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Friday, January 12 2007 ::
I saw this story yesterday, but assumed I was misunderstanding - I thought perhaps LA was the word 'the', perhaps in Spanish or something. But no - LA stands for Los Angeles, as in the Los Angeles Galaxy, where David Beckham will be playing as of next season. Beckham has denied that the huge paycheck (some 50 million dollars per year) is the reason.
:: David (9:41 in Michigan, 10:41 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Thursday, January 11 2007 ::
You may have noticed my total lack of comment on the whole Iraq thing. I had a look at FP's live blog of it, and then I read the text of the speech. I read the New York Times editorial, which basically says we should get out now. And in the end, I knew nothing more than I did when I started.
So what do I know? I know that a country with a weak government and no security force is likely to destroy itself. I know that American troops don't speak the language, don't know the politics, and therefore cannot be effective peacekeepers. I know, in short, that there is no clean way out of this.
Probably the only effective solution would have been to invite Iraq's neighbours to take over. They have their own agenda, without doubt, but most certainly could have handled the day-to-day security more effectively. But we didn't go that route. It will, in the end, come to that - either overtly or covertly.
So, in short, I didn't post on the speech (or I wasn't going to) because there is nothing to say. Tomorrow, next year, or in 2008 we will withdraw, and the country will find its own way, most likely violently. In the end Iraqis will feel about us much as they did before, some with more goodwill than others. I would say any expansion simply prolongs the inevitable, but given how unpleasant the inevitable appears, I understand why some would want to prolong it.
:: David (17:39 in Michigan, 18:39 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Wednesday, January 10 2007 ::
One of the things many of the people watching the One Laptop Per Child project have said is 'I'd like to be able to buy a one hundred dollar laptop, too!' According to the BBC, they're going to get their wish.
:: David (14:50 in Michigan, 15:50 in Paris) - Comment
If you wondered whether US auto companies were down with global warming, look no further than Chrysler. The BBC is reporting that their chief economist, Van Jolissaint, recently "launched a fierce attack on 'quasi-hysterical Europeans' and their 'Chicken Little' attitudes to global warming." He also had some special words for the recent UK government report urging action on global warming, saying it was based on "dubious economics".
:: David (7:38 in Michigan, 8:38 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Tuesday, January 9 2007 ::
While I'm waxing all tech geek on you, I should point out that today is the day Apple announces all their new products for the coming six months or so. The odds seem to be leaning towards a new ipod/phone, a box for your TV so you can buy TV shows from iTunes, and lots of other stuff. I'm quite looking forward to seeing what they do. If you're a glutton for punishment, Gizmodo is live blogging the event, so you can read all the latest here.
:: David (7:33 in Michigan, 8:33 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Well, for those of you who were avoiding using MyBlogLog (the website that puts recent readers' pictures in that box on the left, down about halfway) because you didn't want another annoying login, you may now (or soon) rejoice - it seems Yahoo purchased the company. Now maybe there will actually be swanky new features!
:: David (7:26 in Michigan, 8:26 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Monday, January 8 2007 ::
You may have heard that New York City is having some kind of weird air quality problem - basically the whole city smells (unusually) bad. I was checking CNN to see if they had a more recent update, and noted that their story had linked to a video update of the story with the phrase Watch how officials are baffled by the odor, which struck me as having the potential to be one of the funniest videos all year.
:: David (15:19 in Michigan, 16:19 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
I brought the car to work today, so I could go to my Japanese class (which I have every Monday), and while driving heard an interesting interview with the lead singer of Franz Ferdinand - a "Glasgow-based indie rock quartet". He has apparently been writing, of all things, a food column (of sorts) for the Guardian, and has just published a book (called 'Sound Bites') based on the columns. The interview should be available to listen here.
:: David (12:51 in Michigan, 13:51 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, January 7 2007 ::
The French presidential elections are in full swing, with Segolene Royal making a visit to China to fortify her foreign policy credentials. She's got to walk a fine line, as on the one hand, France has been working hard to establish good relations with China, but on the other many French feel that China's record on human rights isn't that great. And then there's outsourcing. The Guardian has an article discussing Europe's relationship to outsourcing, in light of Ms. Royal's visit. It notes:
Socialist contender Segolene Royal, who is visiting China this weekend to explore the issue, and her main rival on the French right, Nicolas Sarkozy, have both suggested that Europe must respond to the pressures of globalization - epitomized by competition from low-wage economies like China's - by better protecting its markets and jobs.
It's often difficult to separate the human rights issue from the trade issue, as those who would like to close borders to trade often seize on the human rights issue to bolster their claims that trading with China is immoral. In a comment made while walking through the forbidden city, Royal noted
Precisely on the issue of the imprisoned lawyers and journalists, I think that this kind of professions that help protect human rights need to be protected and this is part of the international obligation of countries that sign international treaties
or more precisely, according to 20 minutes: "Ces professions qui participent à la défense des droits doivent être protégées. Cela fait partie des engagements internationaux".
At this point, it seems fairly important to know what Ms. Royal is thinking, as she seems to hold the lead in the polls (by three or four points, according to the Belfast Telegraph) and thus seems likely to be the next French president (unless the Telegraph's article suggesting Chirac may rise from the ashes to run again is correct).
:: David (11:13 in Michigan, 12:13 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, January 5 2007 ::
A while back, I read an article about how the US could
increase the number of troops we have by offering citizenship to people who served in the military.
The Washington Post recently had an
arguing for the idea.
Arts and Letters Daily
has pointed me to an article that succinctly sums up the concept for me -
America was once able to promise young men pensions, access to higher education and lifelong health care in exchange for military service. But today, every American enjoys Social Security and Medicare as a matter of right, and college is no longer an upper-class game preserve. Military service has become an evaporating social duty unsupported by economic incentives. And with family sizes decreasing, parents are becoming more sentimental toward children and less likely to urge them toward the profession of arms. To put it bluntly, military recruitment is easiest where human life is held less dear.
The article calls this strategy "one of the defining policies of late empire", and draws comparisons to both the Romans and the French. It's a very thought-provoking read.
:: David (10:01 in Michigan, 11:01 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Thursday, January 4 2007 ::
Y'all should totally read this post over at anchored nomad. She discusses just how expensive a perfectly normal birth in the United States can be, by listing all the bills she racked up in her recent pregnancy.
:: David (10:51 in Michigan, 11:51 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
For a while now I've been trying to get all my bookmarks in one easy-to-edit place, so I could sort them out (as they've gotten quite messy due to being moved from machine to machine). I've finally managed to get this process started, and you can see the results here. This is a work in progress, so it will continue to evolve, but it's probably a good place to find some interesting web pages you might not have seen before.
:: David (8:52 in Michigan, 9:52 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, January 2 2007 ::
So now it's 2007. I went to bed last night with a new sense of purpose - a desire to get done myriad things I think should get done this year, as well as a desire to change things I think should be changed. One of the things I thought about adjusting was the time I spend online, which amused me when I first thought of it - at the point when you decide to spend less time surfing the web, the internet really has replaced the television. I'm sort of easing into my resolutions this year, trying to figure out which ones are realistic and which ones are pipe dreams. If I only aim for realism, hopefully I will not find myself in a week wondering what I had been thinking in the first place!
:: David (7:32 in Michigan, 8:32 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Monday, January 1 2007 ::
OK - this one hurt my head, so it seems good to start the new year with it (happy new year, by the way)! First off, the hook:
"I love sex," she explained, biting into a Burger King special before embarking on her scene for the day at a rented house in the San Fernando Valley. She was wearing a bright pink satin and black chiffon nightie with a matching thong and heavy makeup.'She' is a porn star, and an article in the New York Times discusses her career choice. Why does the Times care? Because she's at the vanguard of a new trend:
De’Bella — or Debbie, as everybody calls her — decided late in life to become a porn star. This year she turned 50, time, she knew, to chase her dream.The article attributes the new taste for older actors in adult films to a number of factors, including healthier living and little blue pills.
:: David (11:19 in Michigan, 12:19 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments