March 30, 2003

The Way We Was

There's been a flurry of emailing among a dozen or so of my fraternity brothers in the last few weeks, and it's been great to hear from some that I haven't seen since the Nixon Era. One of them, Jack Kaferle, dug into his archives and came up with this picture taken in Washington Square. God... I don't remember this trip and I barely remember being this guy. Note the spiffy Sigma Pi jacket.

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March 28, 2003

Reason #32085 for Having Kids

Jackie Chan movies. If I didn't have a 15 year old in the house, I wouldn't have watched a Jackie Chan movie if I were shipwrecked thirty years and it was the only DVD on the island. I don't know where Alex got to see his first Chan movie without me, but he's got me hooked and now our Tivo is set to grab them all. We're watching Accidental Spy right now, my 7th or 8th JC film. What a likeable, modest, funny, highly skilled guy!

Jackie Chan, I mean. Alex, too, in time.

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March 24, 2003

Live from Albuquerque

Here's the view from my hotel room as I get ready for my symposium on WebQuests tomorrow at the SITE Conference. I love New Mexico and wish I had some time to get out and explore it more.

Tonight I'm teaching my EDTEC 570 class from the hotel using Tapped In. It will be interesting to see how it turns out given that this will be the first time for this group. We're talking about blogging in education, recursively enough.

March 22, 2003

Self-Diversion

After keeping CNN on all night for the last two nights, I've got to move my mind elsewhere. This weekend, in fact, my mind was scheduled to be out of this world. The whole family was slated to go to the UFO symposium in Aztec, New Mexico. Why?... you may well ask. It's because I like flipping my head back and forth between wonder and skepticism. There's a 1% chance that something strange is going on in the skies and that's enough to keep me interested. For the other 99%, I thought the conference would provide a terrific case study in illogic, gullibility and lies, and it seemed to me that dissecting all that would be a hoot for Alex and me. He seems, though, to have a fine-tuned crap detector already without needing a field trip.

But then Pumpkin, the family feline, started to need more attention for her chronic renal failure, and June volunteered to stay behind for that. And then both Alex and June got whomped with nasty colds. So the trip is off and I'm left to imagine what we're missing. Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, I found a few interesting sites to divert myself.


AncientScripts.com is designed to give an introduction to writing systems. There are lots of antique scribbles to look at and it's interesting to try to figure out how they might have evolved. The site is maintained by a computer guy who just has this amateur (loving) obsession with the topic. I could imagine Alex doing something like this, too.

Photo Friday is a site that posts a challenge once a week to photographers. This week's challenge is "blue", so I contributed one of the pictures I took in San Juan last month. That should be blue enough. I signed up to receive a new challenge every Friday. Seems like a good way to encourage a little creativity each weekend. Finding this site reminded me that I hadn't visited Photographica in awhile. That's another online community of photobugs and well worth a look.

And finally, may I modestly point out Cool Tools: GPS, a new exercise I just ginned up for my EDTEC 570 class. We did it last week and it was fun getting outdoors away from the lab for once. Cool Tool #2 next week will be blogging.

March 18, 2003

Eve of Destruction

Scott Rosenberg's column captures the moment perfectly. These are grim times.
"When you go in assuming easy victory, even the slightest setback feels enormous. President Bush has not prepared the ground for setbacks; he has not assumed the necessary burden of wartime leadership, whether through marshalling support for his plans overseas or through justifying his policies at home. Heaven help him -- and us, the electorate that did not really elect him -- if the road is longer or rougher than he and his team promise.

"He has offered us a handful of weak words in place of a persuasive case; he has shuffled from one justification to another, shifting goals as the diplomatic climate altered; he has resorted to half-truths and outright lies and insulted the nations of the world by providing evidence that crumbled upon close inspection; and he has utterly failed to play a strategic game that looks beyond the next move. In the name of protecting the U.S. from terror attacks, he is launching us on a campaign of imperialism; in smashing open Saddam Hussein's dormant nest of horrors, he will spread the seeds of destruction to a thousand new plots."

March 16, 2003

Future Fetish

Wired has a sampling of gadgets they hope we'll have by 2013. This one's my favorite:

Apple redefined the desktop, laptop, and MP3 player. The next insanely great thing: an LCD arm cuff that includes a PDA, wireless Internet, a mini iPod, and, of course, a phone. The iPhone bracelet's motion sensor allows you to scroll through apps and files with the flick of a wrist; its clasp holds a digicam for use during video calls; and its wireless ear clip lets you listen and speak to callers. And everything can be done via voice recognition or touchscreen.


Actually, I think we'll have something like this long before 2013. Think of where we were ten years ago: 50Mhz CPUs; 9600 baud modems, and 100 Mb hard drives filling a desktop. Moore's Law rules for at least the next decade.

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March 14, 2003

Happy Birthday, Albert

If you were to do a Google search today, this is the logo you'd see.

Nice to see such a smart company still being playful.

George W. Queeg

One of my fraternity brothers from the distant past pointed me to this op-ed from The New York Times. Thanks, Dennis!

"Mr. Bush's inner circle seems amazed that the tactics that work so well on journalists and Democrats don't work on the rest of the world. They've made promises, oblivious to the fact that most countries don't trust their word. They've made threats. They've done the aura-of-inevitability thing ? how many times now have administration officials claimed to have lined up the necessary votes in the Security Council? They've warned other countries that if they oppose America's will they are objectively pro-terrorist. Yet still the world balks.

"...And to what end has Mr. Bush alienated all our most valuable allies? (And I mean all: Tony Blair may be with us, but British public opinion is now virulently anti-Bush.) The original reasons given for making Iraq an immediate priority have collapsed. No evidence has ever surfaced of the supposed link with Al Qaeda, or of an active nuclear program. And the administration's eagerness to believe that an Iraqi nuclear program does exist has led to a series of embarrassing debacles, capped by the case of the forged Niger papers, which supposedly supported that claim. At this point it is clear that deposing Saddam has become an obsession, detached from any real rationale."

March 13, 2003

Someone's Lonesome Tonight in Tyler

I periodically look in my referrer logs to see how people are blundering into this blog (never to return again!). Tonight I found that someone found me by searching on AOL for "tyler texas prostitutes". Who knows why.


The more interesting question is to wonder what light my blog could possibly shed on the subject? It turns out that I mentioned all of those three words on the same page in my archives, back in those innocent days last May when I wasn't blogging constantly about politics. It's what librarians call a false drop.

I'm guessing that the searcher didn't take advantage of AOL's offer to help him find Best Prices on "tyler texas prostitutes" or Kids Only sites about "tyler texas prostitutes".

Spock-like, We're Not

Ever get the sense that some of what you hear people say doesn't quite hang together? Is it possible that there are some gaps in their logic? The Nizkor Project Fallacies Page provides a list and definitions of rhetorical tricks and leaps of unreason like Ad Hominem, False Dilemma, and Middle Ground.

This is a great resource. I'm trying to figure out a way to combine this page with Inspiration to make a toolkit for BS detection. That could come in handy at next week's UFO conference.

Regrettable Decade

Humankind would be better off if New Year's Eve, 1969 had been followed immediately by New Year's Day, 1980. Think of all the bad music, bad news and bad food we would have skipped. These Weight Watchers recipe cards are all the proof you need. [via MetaFilter]

Looking Ahead to 2004

This is handy. A scorecard summarizing where the announced Democratic candidates stand on Iraq. This would make a good example of well designed visual information for Edward Tufte's next book, whatever that turns out to be.

March 06, 2003

Dangerous Certitude

Like most of the world, I watched our President try to explain himself before the press tonight, and like more than half the world, I found it to be disheartening. Never have we fallen so far so fast. Never in modern times has there been someone so ill-equipped to be President, so completely in over his head. He is an embarassment.

More and more I'm beginning to believe that the important chasm in the world isn't between the rich and the poor, or Islam and the West, or liberals and conservatives. What matters is how people think. This President thinks in terms of black and white, and he and his supporters are proud of his ability to make a decision and stick to it. It's related to his religious beliefs, but it's hard to know which came first: the predisposition to gravitate towards simple responses to complexity or his identification with a church that does the same.

The first concept I studied in grad school that really resonated with me was something called warranted uncertainty: the ability to recognize when the most appropriate response to a situation is to say "I don't know". People have this ability in varying degrees and it seems to be subject to change through training. My own bias is to value warranted uncertainty, because the first step in learning is to recognize what you don't know.

It goes beyond epistemology, though... it isn't just what we think we know, but how sure we are of our own actions. Unwarranted certainty, the mirror image of warranted uncertainty, discourages learning and self-reflection. It stifles curiosity and flexibility. We are led by those with this mindset, for the moment, and it dominates the discourse on talk radio. The air has been poisoned by this for at least the last decade, and I only hope that like everything else, this will pass.

Shades of grade. Useful self-doubt. This is what they could all use a dose of: Al Sharpton, Rush Limbaugh, Ralph Nader, Madonna, George W. Bush, the Taliban, the 700 Club... all of them.

I'm almost certain of it.

March 01, 2003

Problem Solving on the Road

I woke up in Austin this morning with my usual Young Frankenstein hair and realized that I hadn't packed a comb or brush. What to do? With the theme music from MacGyver running through my head, I fished the plastic fork from last night's take out dinner from the trash and combed myself into presentability.

No one in my workshop, as far as I know, laughed specifically at my hair.

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