Archive for December, 2007

How To Tell When You’re The Baddie

YouTube Preview Image

Yes, that’s right, Blackwater is too evil for the rather Orwellianly-named international mercenaries association:

The International Peace Operations Association, which is the trade association for mercenaries inspired by the efforts of mercenary group Executive Outcomes to end the Sierra Leone Civil War, has parted ways with Blackwater.  Apparently Blackwater doesn’t want to follow the group’s conduct code, the “set of ethical and professional guidelines for companies in the peace and stability operations industry.”  Initially Blackwater, a member in good standing since 2004, agreed to be reviewed by the group after the accusations that the company killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad last month.  Now they don’t want to be reviewed.

Even mercs have standards.

4 comments December 31st, 2007 at 08:18pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Iraq,Wankers,War

Random B&W Christmas Photoblogging

Just some more random photos from Christmas at my dad’s:

Arch Door Window 1

Liquid Ornament 1

House Candle

1 comment December 31st, 2007 at 11:14am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging

Monday Media Blogging

YouTube Preview Image

Crispin Glover explains What It Is And How It Is Done.

What a strange, strange man…

December 31st, 2007 at 07:14am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

Random I-Got-Nothin’ Photoblogging

I think I used up all my substantive posts for the weekend yesterday, so here are some random photos from New Jersey:

Newark Skylight 1

Skylight in the Newark airport.

Eskimo Masks

Eskimo masks at my dad’s.

Sad King

The Burger King is not so chipper when he’s off the clock.

December 30th, 2007 at 04:49pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging

Eli’s Obsession With The Google – While My Guitar Muppet Gently Weeps

YouTube Preview Image

(I had no idea this even existed. Thanks, Cujo!)

My blog is the #1 search result for guitar muppet media.

Woohoo!!! Surely there must be a way to monetize this…

4 comments December 29th, 2007 at 10:28pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Eli's Obsession With The Google

Mashable Hardware

YouTube Preview Image

Well, now you can!

Early next year, Bug Labs, a startup based in New York City, will begin selling the Bug, a powerful but highly malleable base unit and a series of add-on modules that allow buyers to create their own consumer electronics device.

Think of them as Legos for adults who are tired of having limited gadget choices and want to make their own hardware as easily as they now mash up Web sites and write their own software.

“The idea for the company sprang out of my own frustrations with the consumer electronics business,” said Bug Labs founder and chief executive Peter Semmelhack, who describes himself as an inveterate tinkerer who yearns to pull back the screens and experiment with the innards of today’s gadgets.

(…)

The device builder begins with the BUGbase unit, a highly modular computer with room for four attachments. Four such attachments will hit the market at first: a full color LCD touch screen, a GPS unit, a digital camera and a motion detector/ accelerometer.

The company says that over 80 BUGmodules are in development and every three months it will release four new ones, like a credit card reader, hard drive, compass, RFID scanner, TV tuner and solar panel. The company will also publish the devices’ open source specs and allow anyone else to build and sell their own module.

Bug customers are expected to do the rest. For example, Mr. Semmelhack said, someone could combine a radar detector, GPS and wireless modem modules together and put the device in their car. Every time it detects a police radar trap, the unit could post that information to an online map and share it with the world.

Users could also turn their Bugs into open-source digital video recorders, game controllers, biometric security scanners or any thousands of devices that the big electronics companies haven’t thought of or won’t address because the market for such a gadget is perceived as being too small.

Mr. Semmelhack expects the first generation of users to be hard core hackers who post their designs online. Ensuing users will then have a universe of plans to mimic, or can forge their own.

The point, he said, is to harness the do-it-yourself mentality of today’s engineers who can no longer get their hands dirty with today’s high-tech products or complex automobile engines. “I firmly believe inside every software engineer is a frustrated hardware engineer,” Mr. Semmelhack said. “When you put the power in the hands of individuals and hackers, innovations happen. We want to put decision making on features into the hands of the end user.”

I really don’t have the coding skills to take advantage of this, but I love the idea of being able to mix and match components to create just the device you want.

December 29th, 2007 at 09:15pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology

Perspective On Courage

Brent Budowsky reminds us just how low the bar for political “courage” is set in this country:

Benazir Bhutto was no angel, but she was a believer in democracy who gave her life for her country, retuning to Pakistan knowing she would probably give her life for her country.

By contrast, Democrats in Washington have a life crisis, consult an army of pollsters, and have trouble taking clear leadership stands on war and peace because members of a Congress with record unpopularity might lose another point or two in the polls.

Our discredited politics in America has become a sad Kabuki dance of insiders congratulating and protecting each other, of pollsters and pundits uttering sweet nothings into the ears of politicians too fearful and self-indulgent to take even minimal risks for the higher values of our country.

Benazir Bhutto gives her life. Democrats in Washington cannot risk a point in the polls. Republicans in Washington cannot summon the courage to speak out against a president and war that many of them privately, silently, believe is a disaster for our country.

(…)

Give Al Gore credit for elevating the debate about climate change, but at a moment that our country, under George Bush, sabotaged the Bali summit, why isn’t Al Gore running for president?

Never have the man and the moment come together so perfectly as Al Gore for President in 2008. Never has any potential candidate been so clearly the heir to Roosevelt and Kennedy, never has any potential candidate so clearly embodied change when change is needed, and experience when experience is needed, as Al Gore for President in 2008.

Having supported Gore through campaigns and governance over a generation, words cannot express my disappointment, my sadness and to some degree my outrage that Al Gore had better things to do than be leader of the free world.

(…)

Does Al Gore, or anyone, seriously believe that any presidential candidate, in either party, is even remotely as committed to the battle to save the Earth from the planetary emergency as Gore? If the world is truly in danger of extinction unless major changes are made within the term of the next president, isn’t there some higher obligation to hold the one office that can lead the nation and the world toward those changes?

My hope is that Gore at least makes a major endorsement for change in the coming hours, but the real shame is that our strongest leader does not lead where it matters the most, and the voice of both experience and change is silenced on the most important debate about the future of our nation and the world.

Benazir Bhutto gave her life for her country; Democrats so often lack the courage of their convictions to risk even a few points in the polls; and Al Gore racks up the prizes and awards, no doubt deserved, but sadly silenced when the man who should have been leader of the free world had higher priorities.

Benazir Bhutto’s murder is a moment of outrage and sadness, of crisis and shock, but it is also a reminder of the power of hope, of the higher purpose of patriotism and of the higher truth that one woman can make a difference, if she gives enough of a damn to try and puts everything on the line for the cause she believes in and the country she loves.

Good-bye, Benazir. You may be gone, but you will be remembered and honored. Perhaps some day in the land that gave us Washington and Lincoln, some heroic leader will emerge once again, inspired by your courage and your example, and rise above the mediocrity and timidity of our times, as you did in yours.

Sigh. Much as I love Al Gore (and because I love Al Gore), Budowsky is right: We needed Al Gore to run for president. He was the only Democrat with the stature to win, and the intelligence and passion to start cleaning up the mess the Republicans and defensive-crouch Democrats have made over the last seven years. Who knows, perhaps he would have even inspired the Democratic party to start standing up to Republicans instead of progressives.

Sure, another campaign would have been a miserable hardship for Al, but it couldn’t have been any worse than Benazir Bhutto’s.

1 comment December 29th, 2007 at 08:09pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Gore,Politics,Republicans

I Am Officially Behind The Curve

old-phone.gif

Yes, that’s right, I am one of those Luddite techno-primitives who does not yet own a digital television:

The Consumer Electronics Association announced today that half of American homes have a digital TV.

(…)

…Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the CEA, sees good things ahead:

With 50 percent of U.S. homes able to experience the reality of digital television, we have crossed a critical threshold. 2008 will continue to demonstrate the growth and success of DTV, with nearly 32 million units forecasted to ship. Consumers are particularly keen to add HDTV to their homes, with high definition expected to account for 79 percent of total DTV shipments in the U.S in 2008.

While revenue from TV sales next year will be up 13 percent, unit shipment growth will be 17 percent, he predicted – which means, of course, the half without digital TVs will be paying less for their sets than the half who already have them.

I weep with shame.

On the plus side, at least I’m saving money…

(Image from Married To The Sea)

4 comments December 29th, 2007 at 07:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Technology

Liquids And Clippers And Gels, Oh My!

NYT’s Patrick Smith is fed up with airport security:

Six years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, airport security remains a theater of the absurd. The changes put in place following the September 11th catastrophe have been drastic, and largely of two kinds: those practical and effective, and those irrational, wasteful and pointless.

The first variety have taken place almost entirely behind the scenes. Explosives scanning for checked luggage, for instance, was long overdue and is perhaps the most welcome addition. Unfortunately, at concourse checkpoints all across America, the madness of passenger screening continues in plain view. It began with pat-downs and the senseless confiscation of pointy objects. Then came the mandatory shoe removal, followed in the summer of 2006 by the prohibition of liquids and gels. We can only imagine what is next.

(…)

In years past, a takeover meant hostage negotiations and standoffs; crews were trained in the concept of “passive resistance.” All of that changed forever the instant American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the north tower. What weapons the 19 men possessed mattered little; the success of their plan relied fundamentally on the element of surprise. And in this respect, their scheme was all but guaranteed not to fail.

For several reasons — particularly the awareness of passengers and crew — just the opposite is true today. Any hijacker would face a planeload of angry and frightened people ready to fight back. Say what you want of terrorists, they cannot afford to waste time and resources on schemes with a high probability of failure. And thus the September 11th template is all but useless to potential hijackers.

(…)

The folly is much the same with respect to the liquids and gels restrictions, introduced two summers ago following the breakup of a London-based cabal that was planning to blow up jetliners using liquid explosives. Allegations surrounding the conspiracy were revealed to substantially embellished. In an August, 2006 article in the New York Times, British officials admitted that public statements made following the arrests were overcooked, inaccurate and “unfortunate.” The plot’s leaders were still in the process of recruiting and radicalizing would-be bombers. They lacked passports, airline tickets and, most critical of all, they had been unsuccessful in actually producing liquid explosives. Investigators later described the widely parroted report that up to ten U.S airliners had been targeted as “speculative” and “exaggerated.”

Among first to express serious skepticism about the bombers’ readiness was Thomas C. Greene, whose essay in The Register explored the extreme difficulty of mixing and deploying the types of binary explosives purportedly to be used….“The notion that deadly explosives can be cooked up in an airplane lavatory is pure fiction,” Greene told me during an interview. “A handy gimmick for action movies and shows like ‘24.’ The reality proves disappointing: it’s rather awkward to do chemistry in an airplane toilet. Nevertheless, our official protectors and deciders respond to such notions instinctively, because they’re familiar to us: we’ve all seen scenarios on television and in the cinema. This, incredibly, is why you can no longer carry a bottle of water onto a plane.”

(…)

“I would not hesitate to allow that liquid explosives can pose a danger,” Greene added, recalling Ramzi Yousef’s 1994 detonation of a small nitroglycerine bomb aboard Philippine Airlines Flight 434…. “But the idea that confiscating someone’s toothpaste is going to keep us safe is too ridiculous to entertain.”

…At every concourse checkpoint you’ll see a bin or barrel brimming with contraband containers taken from passengers for having exceeded the volume limit. Now, the assumption has to be that the materials in those containers are potentially hazardous. If not, why were they seized in the first place? But if so, why are they dumped unceremoniously into the trash? They are not quarantined or handed over to the bomb squad; they are simply thrown away. The agency seems to be saying that it knows these things are harmless. But it’s going to steal them anyway, and either you accept it or you don’t fly.

(…)

In the end, I’m not sure which is more troubling, the inanity of the existing regulations, or the average American’s acceptance of them and willingness to be humiliated. These wasteful and tedious protocols have solidified into what appears to be indefinite policy, with little or no opposition. There ought to be a tide of protest rising up against this mania. Where is it? At its loudest, the voice of the traveling public is one of grumbled resignation. The op-ed pages are silent, the pundits have nothing meaningful to say.

(…)

How we got to this point is an interesting study in reactionary politics, fear-mongering and a disconcerting willingness of the American public to accept almost anything in the name of “security.” Conned and frightened, our nation demands not actual security, but security spectacle. And although a reasonable percentage of passengers, along with most security experts, would concur such theater serves no useful purpose, there has been surprisingly little outrage. In that regard, maybe we’ve gotten exactly the system we deserve.

As I have said before, all bin Laden needs to do to complete the demoralization and humiliation of the American people is unleash a very inept Underwear Bomber.

4 comments December 29th, 2007 at 05:52pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Terrorism

We’re Number 9!

Yet another feather in Pittsburgh’s cap:

Residents of Minneapolis and Seattle are the most bookish and well-read, according to results from a new survey released today of the most literate American cities.

The survey focused on 69 U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or above. Jack Miller of Central Connecticut State University chose six key indicators to rank literacy. These included newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources.

Overall, the top 10 most literate (and wired) cities included:

1—Minneapolis, Minn.
2—Seattle, Wash.
3—St. Paul, Minn.
4—Denver, Colo.
5—Washington, D.C.
6—St. Louis, Mo.
7—San Francisco, Calif.
8—Atlanta, Ga.
9—Pittsburgh, Pa.
10—Boston, Mass.

Minneapolis, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Denver and Washington, D.C., have made the top 10 every year since 2003, when the survey first launched.

Woohoo!!! We are totally a city of nerds.

Pittsburgh is also the 9th-most walkable city in America.

And, of course, Pittsburgh is the most livable city in America. You heard me.

(h/t Caro Kay)

1 comment December 29th, 2007 at 04:14pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Pittsburgh/PA

Because David Brooks Isn’t Wrong Often Enough

I’ll never understand why Republicans hate the media so much. It’s not like they’re not on the same side:

The Huffington Post has learned that, in a move bound to create controversy, the New York Times is set to announce that Bill Kristol will become a weekly columnist in 2008. Kristol, a prominent neo-conservative who recently departed Time magazine in what was reported as a “mutual” decision, has close ties to the White House and is a well-known proponent of the war in Iraq. Kristol also is a regular contributor to Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume.

I have to think that Republican hatred of the “liberal media” is nothing more than an act, like pro wrestling. After all, their continual insistence that the media have a liberal bias is probably the only reason that most Americans have not figured out that the media are owned by people and corporations who have a mutually beneficial, almost symbiotic relationship with the Republican party.

December 29th, 2007 at 03:06pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

Republicans REALLY Hate The Media

First Dubya tries to run the press over with a tractor, and now this:

John posted a story from The Huckster’s hunting trip earlier this week, and now details of a disturbing incident that occurred that day are starting to come out. Apparently, Huckabee was asked by one of the reporters following him that day why he didn’t invite Dick Cheney along for the hunting trip and he joked, because he wanted to “survive all the way through this.” But, near the end of the hunt, as a pheasant got up and flew toward the onlooking reporters, Huckabee and his fellow hunters turned toward them, aimed and fired their guns right over their heads — a cardinal sin of hunting.

Photo and more via The Washington Post:

Around 9:30 a.m., before the rest of the candidates were set to spend the day crisscrossing the Hawkeye State, Huckabee took an hour and a half to hunt pheasant in Osceola, about an hour’s drive from Des Moines.

…Flanked by about a dozen reporters, he wore a microphone from CNN as he went shooting, with Dude, his 3-year-old bird dog, and Chip Saltzman, his campaign manager, at his side.

In the first 30 minutes, Huckabee, Saltzman and a friend shot three birds. Their last shot flew over the heads of reporters, one of whom cried out: “Oh my God! Oh my God! Don’t shoot. This is traumatizing.” Read on…

As someone who almost lost a close family member in a hunting accident, this kind of mindless and ignorant behavior enrages me. In what can only be considered a huge gaffe by Huckabee, abandoning proper safety procedures and putting the lives of others at risk — just to show off in front of reporters — shows a profound lack of judgment on his part. This man wants to be our president and have control over our nuclear weapons. Don’t we get enough of this kind of behavior from our current president?

I mean, how can you not think that there’s some kind of barely concealed undercurrent of hostility there? Maybe that’s why the press is so in the tank for the Republicans – they literally fear for their lives.

(h/t LS)

1 comment December 28th, 2007 at 10:50pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Huckabee,Media,Wankers

Photo Of The Day

From the Daily Mail:

After weeks of freezing temperatures, a thick coating of icicles has completely transformed the landmark South Haven [MI] lighthouse.

The structure, which was built in 1903, and its access gantry have become a dramatic ice sculpture – which has been growing as decidedly chilly temperatures hover below zero.

Standing on a promontary, the lighthouse attracts visitors from across the world but is frequently subjected to extreme weather conditions.

The high level gantry was built in a desperate bid to keep access to the site open even when the lower deck was frosted over.

But even that plan failed to work this year as thick frost coated the whole structure.

Beautiful.

(h/t the shadowy and mysterious Codename V.)

December 28th, 2007 at 10:14pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness

Sperm In Engineering

Who knew sperm were so useful? I mean for… other things:

Scientists have taken the first steps in reproducing the biological engine that powers a sperm’s tail and modified it for use in nano-sized devices.

The tiny biological machine is something like a car engine that uses fuel to generate motion.

Only this machine — composed of 10 carefully arranged enzymes — runs on natural sugars, using them to produce an high-energy molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short.

In the case of sperm, ATP energizes the tail. But it could also be used in nanorobots that do everything from activate drug-delivery pumps to manufacture missing enzymes necessary for healthy bodily functions.

“We’re taking what sperm have already figured out how to do and using it for a nanotechnology application,” said Alex Travis, assistant professor of reproductive biology at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, NY.

(…)

So far, they have attached three of the 10 enzymes — two that are next to each other and one from the middle of the sequence. When attached, the enzymes activate and perform their normal function. If the scientists can get all 10 enzymes to work in sequence, they’ll have their biological engine. Blood glucose naturally present in the body would be used as fuel.

Of course, the nightmare scenario would be if a whole bunch of these little machines were combined into an unstoppable futuristic killer robot, sent back in time by the machines to destroy the leader of the human rebellion. It would be called… well, I think you know what it’d be called.

2 comments December 28th, 2007 at 09:16pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science,Technology,Weirdness

Comment(s) Of The Year

Alas, not on my own blog, or even on any political blog at all. No, the best comments of the year are on today’s Blue Screen (NY Daily News Giants football blog). Ralph wrote a post arguing that the Giants should rest their starters at halftime to reduce the risk of injuries heading into the playoffs, even though it would give the Patriots a free shot at capping off their undefeated season.

A commenter named Craig Lynn took offense… at length. Repeatedly. Check it out, it’s quite remarkable.

December 28th, 2007 at 05:45pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Quotes,Sports

Quote Of The Year

Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden on pitcher Jesus Colome’s abcess:

It was a pretty serious situation. I pray for his buttocks and his family.

I only just saw it today, but it’s my new favorite.

More great 2007 sports quotes here as well, plus bonus snarky commentary!

December 28th, 2007 at 11:26am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Quotes,Sports

Friday Quote & Panda Blogging

This week’s quote is from Payback, the underrated Mel Gibson remake of Lee Marvin’s Point Blank.

I’m told that you’re the man to see for expensive horizontal refreshment.

And, of course, there’ll be other people’s pandas…

YouTube Preview Image

Aww.

December 28th, 2007 at 07:05am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Friday Quote & Cat Blogging,Monday Media Blogging

Eli’s Obsession With The Google

Oh dear. #3 search result for laura bush not wearing underwear.

Someone must be very disappointed. Or relieved.

3 comments December 27th, 2007 at 08:46pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Eli's Obsession With The Google

Krugman Says Democrats Need To Be More Like Bush!

And I agree with him!

Here’s a thought for progressives: Bush isn’t the problem. And the next president should not try to be the anti-Bush.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. I’m not saying that we should look kindly on the Worst President Ever…. Nor am I suggesting that we should forgive and forget; I very much hope that the next president will open the records and let the full story of the Bush era’s outrages be told.

But Bush will soon be gone. What progressives should be focused on now is taking on the political movement that brought Bush to power. In short, what we need right now isn’t Bush bashing – what we need is partisanship.

(…)

[I]f you look at peoples’ views on actual issues, as opposed to labels, the electorate’s growing liberalism is unmistakable. Don’t take my word for it; look at the massive report Pew released earlier this year on trends in “political attitudes and core values.” Pew found “increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies.” Meanwhile, nothing’s the matter with Kansas: People are ever less inclined to support conservative views on moral values – and have become dramatically more liberal on racial issues.

And it’s not just opinion polls: Last year, the newly liberal mindset of the electorate was reflected in actual votes, too. Yes, some of the Democrats newly elected last year were relatively conservative. But others, including James Webb of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, have staked out strikingly progressive positions on economic issues.

The question, however, is whether Democrats will take advantage of America’s new liberalism. To do that, they have to be ready to forcefully make the case that progressive goals are right and conservatives are wrong. They also need to be ready to fight some very nasty political battles.

And that’s where the continuing focus of many people on Bush, rather than the movement he represents, has become a problem.

A year ago, Michael Tomasky wrote a perceptive piece titled “Obama the anti-Bush,” in which he described Barack Obama’s appeal: After the bitter partisanship of the Bush years, Tomasky argued, voters are attracted to “someone who speaks of his frustration with our polarized politics and his fervent desire to transcend the red-blue divide.” People in the news media, in particular, long for an end to the polarization and partisanship of the Bush years – a fact that probably explains the highly favorable coverage Obama has received.

But any attempt to change America’s direction, to implement a real progressive agenda, will necessarily be highly polarizing. Proposals for universal health care, in particular, are sure to face a firestorm of partisan opposition. And fundamental change can’t be accomplished by a politician who shuns partisanship.

(…)

So, here’s my worry: Democrats, with the encouragement of people in the news media who seek bipartisanship for its own sake, may fall into the trap of trying to be anti-Bushes – of trying to transcend partisanship, seeking some middle ground between the parties.

That middle ground doesn’t exist – and if Democrats try to find it, they’ll squander a huge opportunity. Right now, the stars are aligned for a major change in America’s direction. If the Democrats play nice, that opportunity may soon be gone.

Amen to that. I’m worried that if Obama is elected president, there will come a day when the Republicans demand that all liberals be imprisoned – and the next day, President Obama will proudly announce that he has brokered a Grand Compromise, in which only half of all liberals will be imprisoned.

The Democrats must remember that the halfway mark between sane and insane is still pretty crazy. Otherwise, the Republicans will get everything they want, simply by always demanding twice as much. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much evidence that the Democratic leadership realizes that compromising with lunatics is not a winning strategy.

(h/t Caro Kay)

2 comments December 27th, 2007 at 07:19pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Democrats,Politics

In Happier News…

This story is actually from Christmas Day, which seems appropriate:

ARAHUAY, Peru (AP) — Doubts about whether poor, rural children really can benefit from quirky little computers evaporate as quickly as the morning dew in this hilltop Andean village, where 50 primary school children got machines from the One Laptop Per Child project six months ago.

These offspring of peasant families whose monthly earnings rarely exceed the cost of one of the $188 laptops — people who can ill afford pencil and paper much less books — can’t get enough of their “XO” laptops.

At breakfast, they’re already powering up the combination library/videocam/audio recorder/music maker/drawing kits.

At night, they’re dozing off in front of them — if they’ve managed to keep older siblings from waylaying the coveted machines.

(…)

[The XO] is hard drive-free, runs on the Linux operating system and stretches wireless networks with “mesh” technology that lets each computer in a village relay data to the others.

(…)

Peru made the single biggest order to date — more than 272,000 machines — in its quest to turn around a primary education system that the World Economic Forum recently ranked last among 131 countries surveyed. Uruguay was the No. 2 buyers of the laptops, inking a contract for 100,000.

[One Laptop program founder Nicholas] Negroponte said 150,000 more laptops will get shipped to countries including Rwanda, Mongolia, Haiti, and Afghanistan in early 2008 through “Give One, Get One,” a U.S.-based promotion ending December 31 in which you buy a pair of laptops for $399 and donate one or both.

The children of Arahuay prove One Laptop’s transformative conceit: that you can revolutionize education and democratize the Internet by giving a simple, durable, power-stingy but feature-packed laptop to the worlds’ poorest kids.

(…)

Antony, 12, wants to become an accountant.

Alex, 7, aspires to be a lawyer.

Kevin, 9, wants to play trumpet.

Saida, 10, is already a promising videographer, judging from her artful recording of the town’s recent Fiesta de la Virgen.

“What they work with most is the (built-in) camera. They love to record,” says Maria Antonieta Mendoza, an Education Ministry psychologist studying the Arahuay pilot to devise strategies for the big rollout when the new school year begins in March.

(…)

Teachers will get 2 days of training on the laptops, Becerra said. Each machine will initially be loaded with about 100 copyright-free books. Where applicable, texts in native languages will be included, he added. The machines will also have a chat function that will let kids make faraway friends over the Internet.

(…)

The XO machines are water resistant, rugged and designed to last five years. They have no fan so they won’t suck up dust, are built to withstand drops from a meter and a half and can absorb power spikes typical of places with irregular electricity.

Mendoza, the psychologist, is overjoyed that the program stipulates that kids get ownership of the laptops.

Take Kevin, the aspiring trumpet player.

Sitting in his dirt-floor kitchen as his mother cooks lunch, he draws a soccer field on his XO, then erases it. Kevin plays a song by “Caliente,” his favorite combo, that he recorded off Arahuay’s single TV channel. He shows a reporter photos he took of him with his 3-year-old brother.

A bare light bulb hangs by a wire from the ceiling. A hen bobs around the floor. There are no books in this two-room house. Kevin’s parents didn’t get past the sixth grade.

Indeed, the laptop project also has adults in its sights.

Parents in Arahuay are asking Mendoza… what the Internet can do for them.

Among them is Charito Arrendondo, 39, who sheds brief tears of joy when a reporter asks what the laptop belonging to ruddy-cheeked Miluska — the youngest of her six children — has meant to her. Miluska’s father, it turns out, abandoned the family when she was 1.

“We never imagined having a computer,” said Arrendondo, a cook.

Is she afraid to use the laptop, as is typical of many Arahuay parents, about half of whom are illiterate?

“No, I like it. Sometimes when I’m alone and the kids are not around I turn it on and poke around.”

Arrendondo likes to play checkers on the laptop.

“It’s also got chess, which I sort of know,” she said, pausing briefly.

“I’m going to learn.”

I absolutely love this, including the mom taking an interest (no parent left behind). I’ve been dimly aware of this laptop even before the NYT reviewed it (video here), but I wasn’t so sure how it would pan out in the real world, where things have a tendency to, well, not pan out. I’m thrilled to see that the early returns are positive, that third-world governments are buying the XOs, and that the kids (and some parents) are stimulated, engaged, and enriched by them.

1 comment December 27th, 2007 at 06:46pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology

Benazir Bhutto Killed

Call me cynical, but I kinda thought this was the only reason Musharraf let her back into the country in the first place.

Hell, maybe he called in a favor from al Qaeda – they kinda owe him.

In any case, I’m sure Musharraf has full deniability, and will declaim about what a terrible tragedy this is, but the democratic process will not be intimidated, and the elections will carry on as scheduled.

Nawaz Sharif, watch your back.

2 comments December 27th, 2007 at 09:13am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Terrorism

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging

Since I am currently away from my Weekly World News resources, I figured I would recycle this heartwarming Christmas tale from last year:

The Amberson family lived in a trailer park, which was all they could afford after George was laid off from the Hohman Steel Mill.

“Heck, with gas and oil prices being so darn high it was a struggle just to keep warm,” George told Weekly World News. “I didn’t know how we were going to afford food, let alone Christmas presents.”

(…)

“Timmy took it like a real trooper, and after brushing away his tears he asked if he could have a dollar to get a present for his pet cat, Robie. It hurt like hell to tell him that Robie would have to go without this year just like the rest of us… not that Robie was suffering, mind you. You catch the size of that cat? But I even thought I saw sadness in the eyes of that big old stray who was curled next to my son to keep him warm. It was as if he actually understood what I was saying.”

A few days after that melancholy father-son chat, the cat began exhibiting unusual behavior.

“He would claw at the door to be let out,” said Agnes. “That fat cat hardly ever moved much less tried to go outside. Robie would be gone all night before returning exhausted at dawn.

“Then, on Christmas Eve, George and I put up a tree we had made from cardboard and decorated it with tin foil balls and chicken bones painted to look like candy canes.

“The next morning we were awakened by Timmy squealing with joyous laughter. I dragged myself into the eating area and, lo and behold, there was a real Christmas tree, festooned with silver glitter and topped with a decorative angel, its cool evergreen scent filling the air. Three presents lay wrapped at the base of the tree.

“Sitting in the middle of all this Yuletide joy was Robie, all decked out in a Santa Claus beard and hat, as fat and sassy as ol’ St. Nick himself!

“As we opened the presents one by one, we realized what Santa Cat had been doing every night… All the gifts had been discards which he had repaired. There was a Super GI Action Man, still stained with cooking grease from the dump but sporting fresh clothes from an abandoned Kenneth doll and a fresh green head from a Captain Alien figure. There was a fishing rod and reel made of tree branches and held together with twine, plus lures that were real dead flies. And there was a juicer for my wife, cobbled together from auto engine parts that had been gathered from a junkyard.

(…)

“Not only had the cat scrounged in dumpsters and landfill to find gifts, he had repaired and wrapped them!” Agnes said with amazement. “I guess it was Robie’s way of showing his love for us. He was grateful that we had made him part of the family and wanted to do his part.”

[The cat's efforts] lifted George Amberson from his depression. He went out and got a temporary job working the “returns” counter at a local department store. Now, a year later, George is the assistant manager of Mr. Potter’s General Store and the family has moved into a new home.

“What’s more, my prospects for the future have never looked better, since Mr. Potter is talking about retiring,” George said. “I owe it all to that cat – a cat in a red felt hat.”

It still gets to me, it does.

*wipes away wee tear*

3 comments December 26th, 2007 at 11:07am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weekly World News

Happy Winterday!

This might be my only post today – I’m at my dad’s, destroying Christmas from within. Any further posts will probably just be more subversive Christmas videos.

A year later, this is still my all-time favorite:

YouTube Preview Image

Twisted Sister and a Katharine Harris lookalike. It just doesn’t get much better than this.

1 comment December 25th, 2007 at 01:00pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

Hey, Here’s A Thought…

So the Democrats are looking at (finally!) paying their campaign media consultants flat or capped fees instead of a percentage of media buys, so that their consultants are no longer incented to focus on quantity over quality or strategy.

This is all well and good, but I wonder if it goes far enough. How about paying their consultants based on whether or not they actually win?

If nothing else, it should convince Bob Shrum to stay retired.

5 comments December 25th, 2007 at 11:04am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Politics

Farewell NYC Party Photoblogging

Taken in the foyer as people were saying their goodbyes.

Party Sculpture 10

Party Light 1

Party Light 2

1 comment December 24th, 2007 at 05:28pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: NJ/NYC,Photoblogging

Airport Announcement Of The Day

I just heard this over the PA:

Paging the person who left four bags of candy in the ladies’ restroom, please report to the airside information desk.

I am not making this up.

4 comments December 24th, 2007 at 01:55pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weirdness

Double Dubya!

If you liked Bush & Cheney, you’ll love Rudy!

And Mitt!

(h/t Julia)

December 24th, 2007 at 11:18am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Politics,Republicans,Romney,Rudy

Monday Media Blogging – Christmas Edition

YouTube Preview Image

A touching Christmas gift-giving scene, courtesy of That Mitchell & Webb Look.

December 24th, 2007 at 09:18am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

No. Wrong. Bad.

Awesome:

davidcoleman.jpg

Unacceptable:

newkitt.jpg

Any questions?

1 comment December 23rd, 2007 at 09:22pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: TV

Nuggets From My Spam Filter

I was just checking my spam filter to see if any legitimate comments were stuck there, and I found these gems floating right up near the top:

Kenton arrestingly balmy blundered leggings!willow Chile bout

dispensed.knocks malaria?

moistness.ape,marten Corsica?override

I especially like that last one.

December 23rd, 2007 at 08:42pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Spamoptikon

Previous Posts


Contact Eli

Riverside Driving Range 3




Choose a color scheme:

Feeds

Linkedelia!

Most Recent Posts

Archives

Categories

Calendar

December 2007
M T W T F S S
« Nov   Jan »
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  


Thinking Blogger

Pittsburgh Webloggers

Site Meter


View My Stats *