Archive for March, 2004

The Electronic Village has Power Laws


The Electronic Village has it’s rules and regulations. No food or drinks at the station. No e-Mail or web access. Basically the place exists for demos of small-cap or homemade learning software.

The No Web prohibition is particularly galling since most of the good learning and teaching resources available today ARE ON THE NET. But even within the techno-elite of our chosen profession, wrong-thinking pigneadedness seems to be endemic. Technically we are beaking this rule, as we merrily blog here in the corner, but we will be damned if we are going to shell out 6 bucks an hour on TOP of the $400 conference fee, etc. to pay for the Conference Center’s wireless access, so the Electronic Village Interactive Lab (EVIL) is the last resort. We’ll try to be terse as we may be booted at any minute.

On the other hand, we can always cloak outself in righteous indignation. After all, we just finished PRESENTING on blogging at the EVIL, we should have a moral if not regulatory right to blog the proceedings. Or we could claim to be press filing under deadline. True, if self-imposed.

We will have to leave here soon anyway, they have a formal presentation scheduled. We need to eat and find a hotel and then sleep. We are starting to hallucinate again, mostly aural, hearing our cell phone, people calling our name, strange music where there is none. Not entirely unpleasant but disconcerting when one is trying to get things done in a professional mileu. More later.


Live from Long Beach



Popping back up this morning from beautiful Southern California, we are officially in “Arnold Country” now. Got in late last night and of course, with the convention in full swingy, 7,000 wacky ESL eccentrics swarming over this small city, there were no rooms at the inn.

Drove around til we found a dive, with a “Vacancy” sign semi-lit outside. Not the same as the pictured one, but close enough. The ammenities were limited to a single Pepsi machine groaning forelornly under a stairwell. In the bathroom they had flimsy plastic cups actually wrapped in plastic bags. Mondo hygenic. Took our medicine dry and checked out before 7.

The Blogging presentation this morning was hectic but energized. ESL teachers are incapable of listening to anything without constantly asking questions. Since people were free to come and go during the session, we had to answer the question “What is a Blog” about 27 times. Here’s hoping our enthusiasm and personal magnatism compensated for lack of sleep and occasional incoherence.

Turns out the “complete” wi-fi access here at the Convention Center costs $5.95 an hour (Visa and Mastercard accepted, of course). Rumor has it that the city itself has some kind of free municiple wi-fi access downtown, which we will try to find later. As a dyed it the wool northeasterner, the Dowbrigade doubts Californian cities even HAVE downtowns…..

One For The Road


Just a quick post from the office before we head to the airpost. It was surprisingly easy to cut the cord on our cable modem this morning – the server was down when we tried to post at 6 am (its hard to sleep in when you are sleeping on a naked futon in the middle of an empty room with no curtains on the windows), and we couldn’t even get into the Dowbrigade News to blog.

We are sure this fortuitious failure saved us (and you) from a maudlin on-line scene where we described in agonizing detail the seven stages of separation we needed to go through to end our connectivity voluntarily.

There is a non-urgent story about Pooh Bear and Eywore suing Donald and Mickey (actually a patent lawyer who bought up the rights to A.A.Milne’s creations is suing Walt Disney, Inc.) which will just have stay in blogging pergaory until we return.

We know we are babbling. If you had gone through what we have in the past four days, you would be too, or worse. Hasta pronto.

An Appropriate Image to Cut the Cord



Let the healin’ begin…..

12-Step Program for Broadband Addiction


We can’t cut the cord. Everything else is cut, cancelled,
discarded or stored. The cats are gone, to a legal studio in East Cambridge.
Number two son is gone, finally moved out by the force and finality of
having no place to crash. He should be landing in Lima shortly. We are
sitting in an empty apartment, a few forlorn dishes and lamps strewn
around, walls and cupboards bare, a ringing silence hanging in the air
without the hum of the heat or the whine of the refrigerator.

But we can’t cut the broadband. It is our umbilical to the world. In the
morning we will have to disconnect the cable modem, winking merrily behind
the computer, and store the machine itself in a secret, bomb-proof vault.
It will be the last thing we do before we head for the airport. Hello,
our name is the Dowbrigade, and we are addicted to the internet.

Since we first got cable broadband, four year ago when we still lived in
Cambridge, one of the first neighborhoods to be wired due to the concentration
of potential addicts, we have not been separated from it for longer than
a week or two at most. Most trying weeks, at that. Withdrawal is never
pleasant, although being on the road either ameliorates or exacerbates,
the cognitive dissonance, which seems to help.

The illegal wetback movers failed to show, and it looks as though we may
have to abandon the refrigerator and washer. Too bad, but they are just "things",
after all. Much less important than, say, our cats.

We were thinking about "things" today as we lugged the millionth
box up two flights of rickety back stairs. Who realizes how many "things" one
has accumulated until you have to pack them up and move them somewhere
else? Each object, of the thousands of objects, was once new, admired, examined,
handled and studied. Many of them may go days or weeks without being used,
but when the particular situation which inspired its acquisition occurs,
nothing else will do. We were looking at the blender through the transparent
packing tape when this occurred to us.

But things are replaceable, and people,
pets and experiences are not. And
dependence on anything is a weakness, be it drugs, power, sex or the internet.
Of course, we are not planning on cutting ourself off from the net completely.
Please, lets not get crazy. Rather, we believe we can "cut down",
first to 56K, then maybe to cyber cafe connectivity. We may try to hold
it down to one post a day. Lets see where that takes us.

As in any great experiment, there will be lessons to be learned and stories
to be told, and conclusions to be drawn by those who are into that sort
of thing. Somehow we know that before this is all through we will be way
out there near the cold calamitous edge at some point. walking the highwire
without a net, in that strange exciting border zone where one wrong move
can be fatal and the only place we know where a person NEEDS to be fully
awake to survive. Hopefully, we’ll be within reach of an internet-connected
computer when that happens, and coherent enough to communicate with you guys. Stay tuned….

We’re Going to Need Lots More Prisons


hurry up with that digital downloading. The government wants to impose
penalties of up to ten years in prision for downloading a single file….

draft bill recently circulated among members of the House judiciary committee
would make it much easier for the Justice Department to pursue criminal
prosecutions against file sharers by lowering the burden of proof. The
bill, obtained Thursday by Wired News, also would seek penalties of fines
and prison time of up to ten years for file sharing.

In addition, on Thursday, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy
(D-Vermont) introduced a bill that would allow the Justice Department
to pursue civil cases
against file sharers, again making it easier for law enforcement to punish people
trading copyright music over peer-to-peer networks. They dubbed the bill "Protecting
Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act of 2004," or the
Pirate Act.

from Wired News

Top Doc Backs Picking Your Nose – And Eating It!


your nose and eating it is one of the best ways to stay healthy, according
to a top Austrian doctor.

Innsbruck-based lung specialist Prof Dr Friedrich Bischinger said people
who pick their noses with their fingers were healthy, happier and probably
better in tune with their bodies.

He says society should adopt a new approach to nose-picking and encourage
children to take it up.

Dr Bischinger said: "With the finger you can get to places you just
can’t reach with a handkerchief, keeping your nose far cleaner.

"And eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of
strengthening the body’s immune system."

From Ananova

Mums the Word


A transitory state of nerve excitation with an infinite number of causes
and textures. Can be overcome with certain advanced
mental techniques, or narcotics, or both. Preferably both.

We are almost
done with putting our stuff into storage. Most of the heavy lifting
is over, and that is the part we’re getting too old for. Decided to break
down and pay some gypsy illegal movers (their presence in the US is
illegal, let alone their moving business) to schlep the refrigerator,
washing machine, and two steamer trunks over to the storage shed. Feeding
the fringe….

Apropos to that, our lazy 19-year-old who is leaving tomorrow for Peru
to join his brother in the adventure tourism business, tells us that
the reason washing machines are so heavy is that they put BRICKS in their
bases so they don’t constantly flip over from centrifugal force getting
suds and soapy clothes all over the floor. He says he saw it on NOVA.
Can this possibly be true? How does one REMOVE the bricks?

Anyway, while we were in the crazy middle of the move, racing back to
the house to meet the cat lady, Mom called. Of course, she would take
them in herself, she has a beautiful house in the woods on a river in
Maine, but she was calling from northern California where she and Step-Dad
are visiting friends, as is their habit in the spring, avoiding "mud
season" in Maine. Won’t be home til the middle of next month.

But that’s beside the point.  More power to Mom. What was interesting
was her report on her ongoing Late-night Yahoo Bridge Maven Poll on the
presidential race. Mom likes to hang out in the "Advanced" room of Yahoo
Bridge until the wee hours of the morning, teaching the chumps and rubes
something about how the game should be played. She inherited a knack
for the game from HER mother, a feisty and terrible (as in Ivan the
Terrible) Jewish Matron from Cleveland whose life was primarily a 90-year
competition with her equally beautiful and manipulative sister, but who
somehow managed to find time to pick up scads of US Contract Bridge Association
Master Points at tournaments along the way.

The Dowbrigade himself enjoys a rousing game of bridge now and again,
and has been known to meet his Mom in the "Intermediate" area of Yahoo
Bridge, and incredibly popular hangout with 24 hour action and thousands
of players online at all times. We avoid the "Advanced" rooms like double
black diamonds at the ski areas, and for the same reason – we hate to
be exposed for the fool we are.

Our main handicap as a bridge player is an extremely unreliable memory.  Sometimes
it works great, and we can remember the 30-year old phone number of the
Hotel Roma in La Paz, Bolivia, a notorious hangout for fugitive Nazi’s
least the late 70’s, and yet sometimes we can’t remember Norma Yvonne’s
current cell number.How can we be expected to remember how may clubs
have been played so far?

Be that as it may, beside being an incredible Bridge player, Mom is
a political junkie like me, and for months now has been asking everyone
around the table who they are supporting.  So far the poll is running
about 65% for Kerry, 20% Bush and the rest for "Don’t know/Don’t
Go figure. Maybe all the Bush babies are in bed by that hour.

This afternoon, however, she told another story. Last night, at about
3 am, she was playing at a table and asked her customary poll question.
She was surprised to learn that East was from Indonesia, South was
from Argentina, and North was
Germany. Since she is only polling registered US voters, she apologized
and tried to change the subject.

"But who are you going to vote for?" They asked, almost at
the same instant. She could tell they really wanted to know by how quickly
slapped the question into the chat box and by the proliferation of capital

"Kerry, Kerry, Kerry," she answered, "As many times as I can get in
there and pull the lever."

And then, Mom reports, they all cheered and congratulated her! Thank
God, one said, do other Americans feel the same way?

It was at this point in her story that the Dowbrigade interrupted and
reminded her that in US politics foreign support is a very sharp two
edged sword. We mentioned the fallout from Kerry’s "foreign leaders"
gaffe. She countered that that incident open up a whole area of discussion
and engendered visible manifestations of support for Kerry outside the

We concede the point, and Kerry seems to be soft-pedaling the foreign
stuff to just the right degree, not denying it but not drawing attention
to it either. But it could backfire at any moment. One thing almost all
Americans HATE is having furriners mess in our affairs, and having the
support of the French, in particular, can be the kiss of death in American

It’s kind of like the delicate disassociation Kerry is developing with
Al Gore.  Talk about the Kiss of Death.  Although the Dems
let him take the stage at major events, like that Party Jamboree last
week, Kerry has avoided personal contact as though Gore were Typhoid
Mary. And yet, we are sure that in his true personal feelings, Kerry
appreciates the support of the Gore wing of the party, and even of the
French. But if he says so, he’s a dead man walking.

Anyway, here’s hoping Mom gets her own Blog soon, so we can all read
the results of the Late-night Yahoo Bridge Maven Poll and other similar
gems. Keep up the good work, Mum.

St. Jean of East Cambridge


Church of Days Later Savings
has a new saint. Saint Jean of East Cambridge
has appeared out of nowhere to offer sanctuary to the Dowbrigade
cats for the duration of the Great Experiment. We DO believe in miracles.

Jean is a lawyer who was a student of Spanish with Norma Yvonne because
she defends many Spanish speakers, largely on drug charges.  Thrice

As Marmonidies wrote in his Eight
Degrees of Charity
, one of the highest forms
of giving is when one knows not to whom the gift is given and receives
no credit for it. We are not sure this qualifies exactly, but its right
up there.

When we return Jean will have an extended series of free Spanish lessons
as well as four new friends for life (two human and two feline). Thanks
to all who expressed concern and interest.

On with the move.  Beds next.



U-Haul Sucks


Despite having a “confirmed” reservation for YESTERDAY U-Haul STILL doesn’t have a truck for us (turns out “confirmed” means “depending on availability” and is basically a scam so you don’t go rent somewhere else), so we are busily moving an entire two bedroom apartment in our trusty ten-year-old Toyota wagon. Is that low-rent, or what? Blogging during breaks, delaying breaking down the desktop station and moving over to the laptop once and for all. Next trip – the exercise machine.

Would Have Been Easier to Use Photoshop


finished product of Chilean-born Danish artist Marco Evaristti’s "Ice
Cube Project" is seen in Ilullissat, Greenland, Thursday, March
24, 2004. Evaristti used 3,000 liters (780 gallons) of dye used to highlight
meat diluted with sea water, three fire hoses, two icebreakers and a
20-man crew to spray the chunk of ice for his artwork.

(from AP
Lars Nyboell)


Moving On Out


moving day, for better or worse. Already emotional and physical wrecks
over the preliminaries, today we are supposed to
get the bulk of our stuff out of 396 Salem St. in Malden just a few block
down from Malden High School, and into an empty room graciously lent
by a friend and neighbor even closer to the school, until we return from
Ecuador and find a new place to live.  The
14-foot U-Haul promised for yesterday never appeared, so we
are hoping
they make
on our
and fix us up this morning.

By the time we get on the flight to the conference Tuesday afternoon
we should be a blubbering, blabbering bruise, but at that point it will
be too late to do anything but husband our resources and try to muster
the energy to give decent presentations Wednesday and Friday. Oy vey,
we’re getting too old for this.

Kitty lovers, keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer, because our
supposed cat savior is expected to stop by at one to meet the little
critters, and if all goes well, take them to a better place.

Of course, the Dowbrigade, habitually broke and with the cultured cheapness
of an unrepentant academic, eschews professional movers, preferring to
bite the bullet and carry out the move ourself. Anyone who is at loose
ends, feels like lending a hand, or just wants to see
of declass