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:: Wednesday, February 28 2007 ::

A few years ago, I decided that rather than pay the fee to some company to print me checks, I would print them myself. This is a perfectly valid thing to do - you simply put your name and address, and the routing and account number on a piece of paper, sign it, and viola! it's a valid check. I did this for a few months, but had so many problems I had to stop. The reason? I had written the routing number incorrectly, and thus the banks couldn't figure out where to send the check. Awe-inspiringly stupid, when you think about it - if there are only two numbers you need to get right, you should be extra sure you get them right, right?

Flash forward to last week. I had written, you may remember, the last check to pay off my student loans. But, you may ask in light of the above paragraph, did I write the correct account number? That answer, of course, is NO. So someone who was not me got over one thousand dollars applied to their student loans. As there was no name or address on my checks (they are starters), and the account number was written wrong, I can't really blame anyone but me for this little incident. It has been cleared up, thanks to the magic of the fax machine, but it caused me a few unhappy moments.
:: David (10:22 in Michigan, 11:22 in Paris) - Comment

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In the immortal words of Lloyd Bridges, "looks like I picked a bad week to quit sniffing glue!"

Last week I put a bunch of cash into stocks, so of course this week we have to start a correction in the markets.

That said, the news people seem to be just a touch on the shrill side, given how small a correction this is: according to the BBC, the footsie, CAC and Dax are all down one percent for the day. Not exactly earth shattering. Total losses seem to be around three or four percent, which is also not a huge amount. But the headline to the story is "World stock slump hits second day". At best you might be able to call it a slouch.
:: David (7:34 in Michigan, 8:34 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[4]

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:: Sunday, February 25 2007 ::

There's a quite creepy story in the New York Times today about a sorority at DePauw University:

Worried that a negative stereotype of the sorority was contributing to a decline in membership that had left its Greek-columned house here half empty, Delta Zetaís national officers interviewed 35 DePauw members in November, quizzing them about their dedication to recruitment. They judged 23 of the women insufficiently committed and later told them to vacate the sorority house.

The 23 members included every woman who was overweight. They also included the only black, Korean and Vietnamese members. The dozen students allowed to stay were slender and popular with fraternity men ó conventionally pretty women the sorority hoped could attract new recruits. Six of the 12 were so infuriated they quit.

The people I felt most sorry for, besides the girls themselves, were the administrators, who were obviously being held responsible for something they (a) couldn't understand because it makes no sense, and (b) certainly couldn't control. I do want to give them kudos for their homepage, which crows "DePauw in Today's New York Times". If someone gives you lemons....
:: David (12:16 in Michigan, 13:16 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

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:: Friday, February 23 2007 ::

Arts and Letters Daily has a link to a fun article in New York magazine which talks about 'the internet generation'. On one level, I mock, as I do all of those 'this generation is all about X' articles. On the other hand, it does seem to address some valid points: it asserts that one's online persona involves speaking to an audience, and that this is a native form of communication for kids now. (Obviously, I would assert it's a native form of communication for netizens, but I see why they would differentiate someone who grows up with this paradigm). The article also says that this new generation is keeping a better record of their youth. I disagree, but I thought one paragraph interesting:

Oppermann is not the only one squirreling away an archive of her adolescence, accidentally or on purpose. "I have a logger program that can show me drafts of a paper I wrote three years ago," explains Melissa Mooneyham, a graduate of Hunter College. "And if someone says something in instant message, then later on, if you have an argument, you can say, 'No, wait: You said this on this day at this time.'"
It reminds me of a wonderful book I read called The Light Of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, in which time travel is not possible, but viewing other points in time is. The book then explores this idea of the total loss of privacy, and the total accurate recall of anything that has ever happened.

The article has a little bit of that 'deer-in-headlights' look about it, and a little bit of 'well, duh!', but its heart seems to be in the right place:

The benefits are obvious: The public life is fun. Itís creative. Itís where their friends are. Itís theater, but itís also community: In this linked, logged world, you have a place to think out loud and be listened to, to meet strangers and go deeper with friends. And, yes, there are all sorts of crappy side effects: the passive-aggressive drama ("you know who you are!"), the shaming outbursts, the chill a person can feel in cyberspace on a particularly bad day. There are lousy side effects of most social changes (see feminism, democracy, the creation of the interstate highway system). But the real question is, as with any revolution, which side are you on?
I'm pretty sure I know where I live, even as I revel in my inner Luddite.
:: David (10:14 in Michigan, 11:14 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

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:: Thursday, February 22 2007 ::

Slashdot pointed me to a fun story: I now have a reason to be a fan of Ohio University:

The Recording Industry Association of America has notified [Ohio University] that since the beginning of the year, 1,287 students have illegally accessed music. The second-highest number was at Purdue University, which has been sent 1,068 complaints.
"Go... whatever your mascot is!"
:: David (17:40 in Michigan, 18:40 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

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:: Wednesday, February 21 2007 ::

Everybody gets an election except for us! The brits are bringing troops home in anticipation of theirs, and the French are having all kinds of fun. And let's not forget Italy, which will get a new government, even if they don't get elections. Oh well, at least we're getting the run-up to the run-up to the election....
:: David (22:38 in Michigan, 23:38 in Paris) - Comment

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It's been a busy week full of not much. I've mostly got our new mac put together. Mara came over for dinner on Monday, as she does each Monday we have class. Yesterday we headed downstairs to partake of the neighbours' TV while they are away (and to keep their cats company). Today I'll probably go to the French language group I visit each week. It's all rather quotidian.

Less so is the fact that we bought tickets to Paris, so next month we'll see some old friends, do some work, spend some money, etc.

And I finally got around to investing in something that doesn't require me to be 65 when I want to access it. It's a little weird to still have access to my money after it's invested, as I usually put it into IRAs or the like
:: David (11:29 in Michigan, 12:29 in Paris) - Comment

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:: Monday, February 19 2007 ::

You have got to respect a woman who can make this much weirdness from beyond the grave:

The immigration minister of the Bahamas has resigned over a row about his involvement with the late Playboy model and actress Anna Nicole Smith.

Newspaper pictures of Shane Gibson and Anna Nicole Smith embracing each other had sparked calls for him to leave.

It was claimed that Mr Gibson had fast-tracked Smith's application for residency on the island.

And just in case you are thinking a photo of a hug shows nothing, the BBC story also reveals that "According to local newspaper The Bahama Journal, Mr Gibson's mother was looking after Smith's five-month-old daughter, Dannielynn, when she died." Weird, wacky stuff.
:: David (7:22 in Michigan, 8:22 in Paris) - Comment

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:: Sunday, February 18 2007 ::

Thanks to Jason for pointing out a local story with lots of comic potential:

A federal judge has sentenced a suburban Detroit man to six months probation after he placed a 6-foot boa constrictor inside his mailbox to scare his letter carrier.
I'll leave the "Snakes in a Mailbox: starring Samuel L. Jackson" jokes to all of you.
:: David (11:02 in Michigan, 12:02 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

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:: Saturday, February 17 2007 ::

Success! Back when I worked for Albion College, I met an incoming freshman who shared my mom's family name, and who also had roots in Kentucky. We joked that we were probably related. This person, whose name faithful readers of the blog will recognize, was Misty. She and I became good friends, and kept in touch ever since.

More recently, I started playing with geni.com, a cute genealogical site, and I decided I would figure out how we were related. Today I did just that. She forwarded me her (massive) family tree, and I was able to find our common ancestor, one

HENRY "HARRY" HENSLEY (ibn BENJAMIN JR, ibn BENJAMIN, ibn JAMES JR, ibn JAMES SR, ibn WILLIAM), born 1754 in ALBERMARLE CO. VA., and died 1819 in BUNCOMBE CO, NC. He married BARBARA ANGEL, daughter of CHARLES ANGEL and ELIZABETH WASHINGTON, in 1770. Ms. Angel was born 1755 in ROWAN CO. NC., and died 1855 in WASHINGTON CO. TN
Amusingly, my family tree now stretches some five generations before this ancestor, thanks to the hard work of lots of random people. I've been amazed as I looked around at how many people were posting these sorts of details on the web. It's really very fun.
:: David (12:59 in Michigan, 13:59 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[5]

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:: Thursday, February 15 2007 ::

Just in case you were in doubt, the BBC has a story detailing the assumptions made before the Iraq war. Apparently a group called the National Security Archive secured the plans via a Freedom of Information Act filing. According to their press release, "The U.S. Central Command's war plan for invading Iraq postulated in August 2002 that the U.S. would have only 5,000 troops left in Iraq as of December 2006".
:: David (8:42 in Michigan, 9:42 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

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:: Wednesday, February 14 2007 ::

A little reciprocal link love, for the sideways love balloon. She had to know we'd find her out!
:: David (22:01 in Michigan, 23:01 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

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:: Tuesday, February 13 2007 ::

Hooray! The new Mac arrived today, and I'm blogging from it! It needed just a few updates from apple to bring it up to snuff (like, some 200MB or more of them), so it's happily updating away. Soon it will take up permanent residence in our armoire ("it's not an entertainment center!), and the old G3 will be retired.
:: David (18:27 in Michigan, 19:27 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

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A while back, I was posting my CV on monster.com, and (I assume because I had entered an MA on my education history) I was directed to a special 'don't you want to apply to the University of Phoenix' advertisement, in which it seemed fairly clear they would be very happy if I did. Ecstatic, even.

I work in the periphery of higher education, and I have heard the snarky comments about the U of P. So the article in the New York Times which called the University 'troubled' came as no surprise. But I did find the article somewhat one-sided, which was why I was so pleased when I ran across a blog post, purportedly by a Dean at a community college, which did an excellent job of analysing both the Times article, and the University of Phoenix. I highly recommend reading both the article, and the post, in that order.
:: David (15:57 in Michigan, 16:57 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

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:: Sunday, February 11 2007 ::

By the way - will someone please muzzle the Australian Prime Minister? He's been shooting his mouth off again, and I'm feeling kind of bad for his compatriots. I quote: "If I were running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory not only for Obama but also for the Democrats."
:: David (23:08 in Michigan, 0:08 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

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Sasha and I had a fascinating conversation on the drive back from Kalamazoo this evening, after a long day spent with my family and a short time spent with my friend/former neighbour/tax man (the pain was much less than anticipated, by a factor of ten!)

So anyway, we were driving back, and the discussion came round to classical music, and why it was nowhere. I offered up the theory that it was too hidebound, Sasha asserted that modern classical was too much of an elite form, priding itself on the fact that the 'uneducated' can't appreciate it, and this had a negative effect on the genre as a whole. I added that the fact that radio consolidation had led to a lot less classical stations. Sasha asserted that classical music, like Latin several decades ago, was already dead, but hadn't stopped twitching yet, and that if they didn't do something it would disappear altogether.

So, anybody out there have any thoughts on this?
:: David (23:03 in Michigan, 0:03 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[11]

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:: Saturday, February 10 2007 ::

Vladimir Putin has taken a rather solid swipe at US foreign policy, in a speech at the Munich Conference on Security Policy. The BBC reports the leader of Russia said "One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way". Even when he wasn't directly going after the US, he was catching them en passant, as in his comments that "Militarizing outer space will have unpredictable consequences for the world community" - which was aimed not only at China, which raised such ire by shooting down a satellite, but also at Bush's space doctrine, which, according to Political Affairs, asserted that "Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power". It's very interesting to watch this all happening the second time 'round. The first time I was too young to understand how thoroughly indoctrinated I had been to think that the US was good, and the USSR was bad. Now my views are much more nuanced - just because Putin might be a little power mad, it doesn't mean what he says is wrong.
:: David (13:27 in Michigan, 14:27 in Paris) - Comment

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:: Friday, February 9 2007 ::

Oh dear. Nikki asked in her comment what it is I've been doing on ebay, and I realized that although I've been setting myself up for ridicule on a seemingly daily basis with those I see in person, I had not yet made a clean breast of it here.

I, gentle reader, am going to Wrestlemania.

I do have an excuse (several, in fact!) - you may remember some weeks ago my nieces went with us to Chicago. At that time we were not able to take my nephew (the car only holds five), so we told him we'd do something else with him. He requested, you guessed it, wrestling.

So why ebay? Well, as I don't follow wrestling all that closely (or indeed at all), I had not realized there was a major event being held in my backyard. So I missed the official ticket sales. So I went to ebay, and bought the first tickets I could find. But then I realized they weren't very good. So I bought a better set. And now I have to turn around and sell the first set on.

So now, dear reader, you know my ignominy. You have seen full on the scarlet 'WWE' blazoned on my chest. I can only throw myself on your gentle graces, and beg you not despise me! Remember, I would ask, all the good times we have had, before this dark day when my secret was revealed to the world!

Oh, yeah. I bought a computer too.
:: David (8:07 in Michigan, 9:07 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]

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:: Wednesday, February 7 2007 ::

Well, after several years, I wrote this evening the check which will free me from the burdens of a student loan. To be fair, this is the second time I've paid off my loans - the first was after undergrad. But it's still nice to have one less thing eating away at the paycheck. Especially given the way I've been hitting the ebay lately!
:: David (22:14 in Michigan, 23:14 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[5]

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:: Tuesday, February 6 2007 ::

I just watched the video of the American soldiers who shot up a convoy, killing a British soldier. They had the recorder running in their cockpit when the incident went down. It's really rough to watch, but I think it does a good job of showing how confusing the whole situation is. You can read about it, and see the video, here.
:: David (17:48 in Michigan, 18:48 in Paris) - Comment

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Last night Nicolas Sarkozy did a TV presentation to tell everyone why he should be president. Titled "I have a question for you", it was one of those 'bring the candidate in front of real people' type shows. You can read the english analysis here, but you should really watch the opening part of the video, because it is a laugh riot to see how 'rock-star' they made him.

The overall analysis seems to be positive, with the Financial Times calling him 'cool under pressure'. He had some good sound bytes, responding to accusations of echoing the far right candidate with "If Le Pen says the sun is yellow, Iím not obliged to say it is blue." He also claimed that he was "the interior minister who has done the most for Muslims. I have nothing to be ashamed about on my record."
:: David (11:46 in Michigan, 12:46 in Paris) - Comment

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A story on the BBC website made me think something had been slipped into my coffee this morning. The title was Astronaut in 'love kidnap plot' and the description was "A US woman astronaut is charged with trying to kidnap a rival for the affection of a space shuttle pilot." And then I read the story, and things really got weird. I looked around a bit to see if others had covered this (I assumed they had), and I think the New York Times got the best single paragraph of the stories I saw:

During a check of the parking lot, an officer followed Nowak and watched her throw away a bag containing the wig and BB gun. They also found a steel mallet, a 4-inch folding knife, rubber tubing, $600 and garbage bags inside a bag Nowak was carrying when she was arrested, authorities said.
The woman came equipped for cartoon levels of violence. Rubber tubing!?
:: David (7:54 in Michigan, 8:54 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[3]

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:: Monday, February 5 2007 ::

I stayed home from work today, as I had all kinds of crazy appointments, and I'm so far behind on the reading for my new class (I'm taking "Web-Based Learning and Teaching and The Virtual University" at the University of Maryland University College) that I decided I better do some work before the prof just throws me out.

There's something terribly reflexive about taking a web-based class on, well, web-based classes, but I'm enjoying the process so far. I've never really been certain of the value of education classes - they've always seemed too 'soft' to me, unless they were actually hands-on, go into a classroom and teach what you just learned type classes. As with all disciplines, the theorists seem to get carried away a bit. So far, I haven't seen much of that. Hopefully I won't.
:: David (16:02 in Michigan, 17:02 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]

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:: Sunday, February 4 2007 ::

Forget the superbowl! We got pirates versus ninjas! A new site called convince me lets the good arguments rise to the top. (via TechCrunch.
:: David (11:50 in Michigan, 12:50 in Paris) - Comment

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Here's a random tidbit I read this morning: according to the consumerist, MSNBC did a report on a consumer reports test of brewed coffee. The results were only surprising if you are a big Starbucks fan. Echoing what Sasha and I have been saying for years, the report called Starbucks' coffee "strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open."

And the big winner of the contest? Believe it or not, the new "Premium Roast" offering from McDonald's.
:: David (11:43 in Michigan, 12:43 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[5]

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:: Saturday, February 3 2007 ::

Made it to the airport - we took, of all things, a limo, which managed to hit another limo about ten feet after takeoff. He kept going. There wasn't any alcohol that I could see, but my co-worker (currently sitting next to me, recovering from her stomach flu last night) did ask if we wanted to hang out the sunroof a la Sex in the City
:: David (14:06 in Michigan, 15:06 in Paris) - Comment

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Almost ready to come home. I'm informed that the person I had arranged to fly with is quite ill, which could make for a less pleasant flight than I had originally anticipated. But so long as I get home today, all is well - I have enjoyed the city (I went walking last night, down to the Chrysler building and around a bit), but home is definitely nicer.
:: David (9:07 in Michigan, 10:07 in Paris) - Comment

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:: Thursday, February 1 2007 ::

On the plane to new york this morning, I read a wonderful article that sort of sums up the bizarreness of wine consumption in the U.S. It's all about a theft in a wealthy enclave in California, where the thieves skipped the jewelry, and went for the wine.
:: David (12:51 in Michigan, 13:51 in Paris) - Comment

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