Archive for July, 2003

 

Virtual Mastication

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

Ummm, there’s something suggestive and creepy about this, I’m just not sure what it is:

Food companies cooking up a novel product will soon be able to check how elderly people will fare when they try to chew on it, thanks to a device that mimics the taste and “mouthfeel” of food.

The article goes on to explain how chemicals are squirted into the mouth to simulate flavors, while the device itself simulates texture and chewiness in the food itself. Weird.

 
 

Happy Birthday Margaret!

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

It’s my sister’s birthday today. Below is a picture of me and her taken at the end of May.

 
 

Cuba

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

I forget who mentioned it, a few weeks ago I think, the story about the 10 Cuban refugees who were intercepted by the Coast Guard and sent back to Cuba. Apparently, our diplomats negotiated ten year prison sentences for them back in Cuba, so that they wouldn’t get their heads cut off.

How generous.

Bob Novak writes today about the incident, and the inside details of how it happened. Not surprisingly, the State Department had a hand in the mess:

Eleven men and one woman, seeking freedom in America, stole the Cuban boat Gaviota 16 on July 15 but were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard the next day. They were denied automatic entry into the U.S. granted under law, citing an agreement with Castro made by President Bill Clinton. The issue went to a U.S. interagency committee, where Justice and State Department career bureaucrats insisted the refugees be returned to Castro.

According to Novak, the matter never rose up to the WHite House for consideration, but Cuban-Americans are still upset, rightfully so if you ask me. Novak writes that Bush could face backlash form Cuban-American voters in 2004, possibly costing him the state, because of the incident.

If you ask me, it serves Bush right. That fact that he hasn’t been willing to clean the State Department out is just unacceptable. Bush has been fighting Clinton’s underlings at State since he took office, and if he’s unwilling to fire him, well then voters, especially those who supported him in 2000, have a right to be upset come 2004.

 
 

Velociman Bikini

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

Velociman, is that you???

< via cruel >

 
 

THAT’S IT!!!!

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

I’m blogging RIGHT NOW and there’s NOTHING you can do to stop me!

So there!!!

 
 

9-11

Wednesday, July 30th, 2003

Serenity’s Journal presents us with a memorial to 9-11. I haven’t spoken specifically about 9-11 before, and I hadn’t been aware of Serenity’s Journal until now, but this puts her on the blogroll.

I lived in NYC from march of 2000 to June of 2001. I hadn’t been back long when Sept. 11 occurred. I was staying at my parents house at the time, and I’d just gotten out of the shower when my father told me that my friend Erik Moon called. I asked what it was about, and he told me to turn on the news, that I’d see what he was calling about. I turned on Fox News and was glued for the rest of the day.

I had just made the first presentation of my company, Closer Communications, to a potential angel investor, someone in the trade show business, just 6 days earlier. We had done so well we figured we’d have the deal closed. 9-11 ended that quickly, as the entire trade show business took a major hit after 9-11. I can’t tell you how many trade show related businesses were hit hard after 9-11, being travel based and all. Many went out of business altogether. Our angel didn’t, but he couldn’t make the investement we’d hoped for either.

I immediately called my business partner, Chris, knowing that both his twin sisters worked in NYC. I’d woken him up to tell him the news. He took the news well and immediately got off the phone, and later informed me that while one of his sisters was working in midtown, well away from the WTC, his other sister was working in the World Financial Center, that series of buildings with the geometric shapes on top of them, that surrounded the WTC. She was pregneant, and when the buildings were struck, she ran all the way from the WTC site to 29th street non stop, which is quite a long run for those of you familiar with NYC, and an especially long run for a woman who was pregnant.

I then called my friend Ross, whose best friend growing up also worked in the World Financial Center. I woke him up too. Thankfully, his friend had been transferred to London in the weeks before 9-11, so he wasn’t there when the attacks occured.

While the towers went down, I spent my time online with my friend Dave, who still lived in New York, in the Village. He ran out to 6th street and watched the towers go down from there, with his own eyes. He and I ranted furiously together over AIM, he saying that he was considering joining the Israeli army (he’s Jewish), and me just ranting generally. That night I went to a local bar to commiserate with random people. This is Boston, not San Francisco, and the locals were patriotic, angry, and reay for war. Don’t believe what you hear about Boston. South Boston in particular contributes more marines per capita than anyplace else in the country, and there’s no lack of patriotism in these parts. The crowd at the bar cheered wildly when Bush came on the TV, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he carries this state in 2004, contrary to popular widsom. The next day, flags lined the streets.

At the time, my cellphone still had a NYC area code, and didn’t work right for weeks after. But When it did turn back on and start accepting calls again, I got quite a few calls from quite a few people, people who I’d known from New York and the dot com I’d worked at, wanting to make sure I was ok, especially since I worked in finance. Luckily I lost no-one in the attacks. But my old intern from my dot com days lost a classmate from Columbia. First day on the job in one of the investment banks with offices in the towers. The CFO of Akamai was killed on board one of the flights that crashed into the towers, and though I had no personal connection to him, he was from a Boston area tech start-up, and that hit a little too close to home for me.

The tribute that Serenity highlited had its own soundtrack to it, but when 9-11 was acually occurring, the piece of music that actually came to mind was Charles Ives 4th symphony, 1st movement. I’ve included a version of it here, in case you haven’t heard it. It’s not my favorite version, that being the Leopold Stokowski version, which is much darker and more ominous than what you hear here, but this is what I have.

Serenity, in her entry, reminds us that THIS is what we’re responding to. And the tribute itself reminds us of why we’re at war. And while I think that the particulars of what we’re doing at war, and how we’re waging the war and against which targets are perfectly legitimate things to debate, the war itself is something that we cannot debate. We are at war, and we need to fight it.

That, is not open to debate.

 
 

Blogging to Vote.com

Wednesday, July 30th, 2003

Lessig Blog points us to this article by Dvorak that asks the question, why haven’t netizens had any impact on legislation? He asks the question specifically of bloggers, wondering why so many bloggers (in the millions, if the statistics are to be believed) on both the left and right can agree on technology issues, be an anormous force on the Internet, and still have no impact on some of the ridiculous legislation that is being considered and passed.

I have my own ideas on how to have bloggers make a greater impact on the political scene, but first allow me to recount the story of Vote.com. Vote.com is the brainchild of former Clinton advisor and current pundit, Dick Morris. In 1999, Dick Morris collaborated with Dick Scruggs to build a new website, and approached a friend of mine’s company, a company I would eventually work for, to help him build it. The new site, as Morris and Scruggs put it, would be specifically designed to “fuck with congress” (their words, not mine). It would do this by relaying the instantly logged opinions of netizens on controversial issues from a district, directly to the congressman or senators from that district. In this way, swing congressmen would be immediately reminded of what the voters in their district really thought about an issue, and the voter in turn could be reminded of how often their own rep or senator voted against them on issues that really mattered. In brief, Morris would short circuit the process normally dominated by lobbyists and special interests, by bringing voters closer to their constituents. The result was Vote.com.

Of course, while it may be a successful dot com, it seems to have failed in its purpose of being an online lobby for ordinary people. There are many reasons for that, not the least of which is that when you sign up for Vote.com they perisstently spam you to remind you to keep coming back and vote again and again. This is an irritant, and does not encourage me to use the service. But what’s more, it’s almost too easy to vote. My opinion on an issue doesn’t matter because I’m just an email address who claimed a certain zip code. There’s no way to know if I’m an influencer, or an idiot, or a non-voting recluse. In short, it’s not a real lobby.

Bloggers, on the other hand, are almost by definition, influencers. And the people they influence are the readers of their blogs. The problem there, of course, is that it’s very difficult to aggregate all the opinions of all the bloggers (and blog readers) in a manner that’s comprehensible to an individual congressman or senator. And while there are services out there like daypop that try to aggregate what the blogosphere is talking about on a particular day, it is unable to discern which way the wind is blowing on a particular issue. For that, you need some sort of manual polling service.

So if you were to combine the two, a Vote.com html thingy that you could insert specifically into your own blog, and then have those opinions rolled up into a report, perhaps along with the most cogent blog entries on the subject, the senator or congressman will have something that could truly influence them in the same manner that a lobbyist or a poll plus analysis could. I doubt that Vote.com would ever build such a thing, because they didn’t show themselves to be too technically adept during the process of launching Vote.com. But I could try contacting Morris about such a concept anyway. Or maybe someone else would like to try and build such a thing.

But I still think that even that project, worthy as it would be, will still not give netizens and bloggers the influence that they truly want (and deserve). The problem is the traditional media. Most in the traditional media scorn the Internet, as evidenced by the Bill O’Reilly rant that got everyone up in arms. Furthermore, I really believe that most broadcasters in particular, and even people in print media to a degree, don’t really look at the Internet all that much. While they understood that the Internet was a place for them to disseminate their own media, they never understood it as a place to see talent nurture and grow.

Witness the popularity of James Lileks on the net. There is, perhaps, no better writer on all the Internet. Now maybe it’s that he’s camera shy, or has a whiney voice or a snorting laugh, but it strikes me as absurd that that guy hasn’t been invited to be on a Sunday talk show panel as a guest even once. And while he does have a syndicated column, does anybody pick it up besides the Jewish World Review? Now I don’t think it’s an intentinal effort to snub an enormously talented man just because he earned his stripes on the Internet. I would be willing to bet, however, that most broadcasters have absolutely no idea who he is. Or even what a blog is (many, I would venture, don’t know what a bleat is, either).

So where am I going with this? I posit that bloggers will never have an influence on congressional legislation until they are recognized as a legitimate and influential medium. And to achieve that, they need the recognition of the mainstream media.

So how to get that. To get that recognition, bloggers have to invade at least one of the traditional media, and by media I mean news media (not c|net or TechTV). Only if major media types find themselves suddenly faced with a real competitor would they sit up and take notice. My proposal is to create blogging radio because it should be possible to grow it organically. Start with an Internet radio station, with maybe 8 3-hour long programs during the week, and maybe improvised on the weekend. Because bloggers are from all over the world, finding people to handle timeslots shouldn’t be a problem. Once the Internet stream is established, the fun part can begin.

Glenn Reynolds has written about the fact that the FCC has effectively stopped giving out LPFM (low power FM) radio licenses. And real radio licenses are way too expensive. But the act of broadcasting is relatively easy. All it takes is a PC card that accepts the stream, and perhaps an amplifier (hopefully one more powerful than 5 watts), both of which are easily available on the Internet. If someone especially enterprising were up to the task, a shortwave station could even be established for overseas broadcasts.

Yes, I’m talking about massive pirate radio, on a scale never before attempted. thousands of small broadcasters from around the country rebroadcasting the blog radio station. Of course, it is illegal, so fans of the station would have to not only shell out some cash for the broadcasting equipment (and coordinate with other locals online as to what the local frequency would be), but they risk significant fines by the FCC. On the other hand, it does encompass the rogue element that blog culture seems to have. And better yet, it could even evolve into a real business.

There’s no reason why such a radio station couldn’t sell advertising. And what’s more, should such a radio station gain enough publicity (or notoriety as a pirate network), we could sell the stream to legitimate but struggling radio stations nationwide, creating a syndicate of sorts, like Limbaugh or Stern. By staying close to our blogging roots, we can act as the voice of netizens (both left and right, via different shows on the network), and perhaps have a real influence on the media at large and thus, on congress.

Any thoughts?

 
 

Even Saddam Knows…

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

Even Saddam is apparently acknowledging the deaths of his sons. Now if only he’d acknowledge the end of the war…

“Even if Saddam Hussein has 100 children other than Uday and Qusay, Saddam Hussein would offer them the same way,” the voice on the tape said.

“Thank God for what he destined for us, and honored us with their martyrdom for his sake,” the speaker said in the broadcast, which was monitored in Cairo.

Why doesn’t he offer up himself?

 
 

Brain Freeze

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

A man was stabbed in the brain, and had the knife left in there for 6 hours while doctors debated how to remove it (it was serrated), and finally perform the surgery. Doctors say he will recover fully. Bizarre.

 
 

2192 Years

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

It will take about 2,192 years for the RIAA to sue every file sharer in the United States. Good luck.