Thursday, May 31, 2001
A radio reporter said yesterday, 'I don't see why these kids don't just open the doors. It's not like the police are gonna kill em or anything.' But what he failed to understand is that to grasp that the police might help requires more worldly sophistication than these children have. They've been raised to think of strangers as threatening, and frankly, I don't blame them one bit for refusing to talk with negotiators. They must be absolutely terrified.

Wednesday, May 30, 2001
I have a pet theory about early-stage celebrity. I've been thinking quite a bit recently about the notion of private/public knowledge, especially what Vygotsky had to say about 'sense' versus 'meaning'. Vygotsky and Dewey both discuss knowledge with respect to understanding ('savoir' in French or 'wissen' in German), but I believe it applies to familiarity as well ('connaître' in French or 'kennen' in German), which explains how fame or reknown moves its object from atomised sense to public meaning.

My hunch here is that this transitional period is something that we as 21st century people-- mostly similarly acculturated-- find particularly fascinating and are sensitised to, as well. Why else would we find ourselves gawking at people/objects (but in our sociocentric world, especially people) on the cusp of acquiring some measure of public meaning? Incipient notoriety signals this change in status, and it triggers something very culturally primal in us; hence our wide-eyed attention to Survivor, Big Brother, and even PeopleCards.

Oh, and don't forget weblogs.

Monday, May 28, 2001
It is pretty amazing that we've managed to create such strong associations between gender and colours, so strong that children will balk at being given toys that are the wrong shade, no matter how fun they appear. What is so natural about linking girls and pink, anyway? Of course, it's all just socialisation, but this explores the connection a bit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2001
The latest reports on this suggest that the company that was unwittingly giving away free calls to Pakistan is now going belly-up. Apparently, several hundred thousands of dollars of calls were made using the 10-10-620 code.

Tuesday, May 22, 2001
At a party in a tony part of Washington, DC a few years ago, someone asked me why I enjoyed my (then) job teaching biology at a 2-year college so much. I thought about my answer and responded that I had more of a chance to transform someone's life than I would, were I stuck teaching students who knew nothing but privilege. (Plus my students were better than my students at the ostensible intellectual hothouse, The University of Chicago). Today, I saw this and remembered my job fondly.

Monday, May 21, 2001
The moral of the story: don't be a Debbie.

Saturday, May 19, 2001
This week, on a very slow news day here in England, Member of Parliament John Prescott (Tony Blair's Charlie McCarthy) was hit with an egg thrown by a mullet-sporting Welshman. His response was to turn and punch the guy right in the kisser. (So much for turning the other cheek, but frankly, it's what I would have done.)

Three days later, there's a Flash game of the whole event, with an added bonus of a vine-swinging Anne Widdecombe (Conservative MP with a serious image problem).

Thursday, May 17, 2001
I'm doing the Oxford University Language Race and I have to admit, it's not going as well as I had hoped. I drew a linguistic short-straw with Finnish, a language with only 15 cases and enough suffixes to choke a yeti.

I've discovered that finding language learning resources for Finnish is nearly impossible-- very few exist in the first place, and even fewer are of any use. We were given the 'Teach Yourself' materials, which for Finnish include...count them... one cassette and one useless textbook. I've since been loaned a good grammar text, so that now I can confidently say, 'Kuva numero kaksitoista on nuori poika'.

Pray for me.

Monday, May 14, 2001
200 dead bodies, a plastic injection-embalming technique called 'plastination', and you've got a museum exhibit. Are you shocked that it's German?

Sunday, May 13, 2001
Blogger issues...

Saturday, May 12, 2001
One way of thinking about Aaron is as creativity-by-proxy; it's much the same as computer programs that generate music based on rules and the programmer/designer's aesthetic. Only now, it's visual.

Thursday, May 10, 2001
If you thought the key to great brainpower was fish or gingko biloba, here's a new study that implies that it might really be foods that eliminate homocysteine instead. Think folate-rich foods like green, leafy vegetables and black-eyed peas instead...

Wednesday, May 09, 2001
This may seem a strange excuse for commenting on the intrinsic value of pure (versus applied) research, but seeing these colour photographs has made me think again about how sometimes, the most stunning accomplishments are those that can only be seen in hindsight. Almost 100 years on, with the help of unimaginable (to a person from 1911) technology, Produkin-Gorskii's three-filter photographs have been resurrected into jarringly gorgeous and life-like images. His own attempts at producing colour slides were, most likely, not nearly as successful; but he tried and made it most of the way there.

So before we strip molecular biologists of their funding because they're fiddling with mutating fruit flies to grow two heads or legs out of their antennae, we should try to imagine what future scientists will do with their results. What seems like a flight of laboratory fancy in 2001 might very well be what will allow you to regenerate your failing liver in 2021. Or better yet, what will bring you back from the dead in 2101... [philosophical mind/body issues not withstanding]

Friday, May 04, 2001
And then there are the times that you get so hungry that you actually crawl inside your food... It's a meat, it's a fort!

Thursday, May 03, 2001
Aha! Now here's some evidence to back up what I've been telling people for months! Perhaps people will stop giving me those astonished looks when I ask for tap water in restaurants.

Wednesday, May 02, 2001
Food in Disposable Cylinders Part II: The Dairy Invasion.

Now that I've seen these lawn toys, I want to have kids, just so that I'll have an excuse to play!

Tuesday, May 01, 2001
What does is give you money up front, in exchange for a portion of your future earnings. It's sort of like promising off your first-born in order to learn how to spin flax into gold... Here's an example (using figures from their website):

*Borrow $40,000 for a 2-year MBA (not an outrageous amount, I think)
*Repay at 0.40% per $1,000 for 10 years (which amounts to 16% of your income for 10 years)
*Assume that post-MBA, you make $60,000/year (also not outrageous)- so you'll end up paying $9,600 of that
*After 10 years, you will have paid out $96,000 to pay back that $40,000 loan.
Usury, anyone?

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