Archive for March, 2005

RSS Esplained

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Down here in Ecuador, we have been spending a
lot of time trying to explain, in Spanish, what exactly a Blog is.
The
closest we have come is by using analogies to a "Best places to go"
travel guide for a foreign country combined with a personal diary.
Everyone nods and says "Chevere" but we can tell they don’t have a
clue.  We haven’t even tried to get into what RSS is and why it
is even more significant than blogs themselves.  Perhaps we will
have to sit down and translate this article from todays New York Times,
which takes a stab at putting the technology into non-technical terms.
Amazing how something so intuitive and significant can be so hard to
explain…

Q. What does it mean when a Web site says it has an
R.S.S. feed available?
A. Really Simple Syndication (R.S.S. for short, and sometimes called
Rich Site Summary) is a tool used by a Web site for condensing new headlines
and information from the site into a bite-size summary, also known as
a feed. You can use a program called a news aggregator or news reader
to display these R.S.S. summaries (which usually include a headline,
a short description of the article and a link to the full article) on
your screen for a quick bite of news.

from the New
York Times

RSS Esplained

ø

Down here in Ecuador, we have been spending a
lot of time trying to explain, in Spanish, what exactly a Blog is.
The
closest we have come is by using analogies to a "Best places to go"
travel guide for a foreign country combined with a personal diary.
Everyone nods and says "Chevere" but we can tell they don’t have a
clue.  We haven’t even tried to get into what RSS is and why it
is even more significant than blogs themselves.  Perhaps we will
have to sit down and translate this article from todays New York Times,
which takes a stab at putting the technology into non-technical terms.
Amazing how something so intuitive and significant can be so hard to
explain…

Q. What does it mean when a Web site says it has an
R.S.S. feed available?
A. Really Simple Syndication (R.S.S. for short, and sometimes called
Rich Site Summary) is a tool used by a Web site for condensing new headlines
and information from the site into a bite-size summary, also known as
a feed. You can use a program called a news aggregator or news reader
to display these R.S.S. summaries (which usually include a headline,
a short description of the article and a link to the full article) on
your screen for a quick bite of news.

from the New
York Times

OSS Hitler File Available Online

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It
has long been known that FDR commissioned a psychological profile of
Adolf Hitler from the OSS, predecessor to the CIA. Now, 62 years later,
it is available on the Cornell
University library web site.

He was
a feminine boy, averse to manual work, who was "annoyingly subservient" to
superior officers as a young soldier and had nightmares that were "very
suggestive of homosexual panic." The mass killings that he later
perpetrated stemmed in part from a desperate loathing of his own
submissive weakness, and the humiliations of being beaten by a sadistic
father

OSS Hitler
profile
from Cornell web site

related article from the New
York Times

Crewel and Unusual

4

Full
disclosure: It is a little known fact that the Dowbrigade is an embroiderer
(and not just of our stories) and once created designs for a company
named "Crewel and Unusual."

The NY Times has a related article on how knitting is making a comeback
among younger Americans. Unfortunately, its hard to blog and knit at
the same time.

These days, young women knit during their lunch breaks, on
the subway and in
cafes.
Trendy
coffee
shops offer
knitting
classes
and
sell
yarn.
Across the country, young women get together to "stitch ‘n’ bitch," as
a best-selling book is aptly titled. Amtrak is offering "Stitch
‘n Ride" cars out of Oakland for people who prefer the click of
needles to the buzz of cellphones.

Virtual Sword Kills for Real

2

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Shanghai online game player stabbed to death a
competitor who sold his cyber-sword, the China Daily said Wednesday, creating
a dilemma in China where no law exists for the ownership of virtual weapons.

Qiu Chengwei, 41, stabbed competitor Zhu Caoyuan repeatedly in the chest
after he was told Zhu had sold his "dragon saber," used in the
popular online game, "Legend of Mir 3," the newspaper said
a Shanghai court was told Tuesday.

Qiu and a friend jointly won their weapon last February, and lent it to
Zhu who then sold it for 7,200 yuan (US$870), the newspaper said.

Qui went to the police to report the "theft" but was told the
weapon was not real property protected by law.

from Reuters

Comic of the Day

6

rall0328

from Ted Rall

American Babel

1

2005 has been officially designated the "Year of Languages."
Who knew?

In November 1979, I was part of a presidential commission that asked
the federal government to commit $180 million in new funds to create
a
language program that might well have prepared us to meet today’s
crises. The money requested would have enabled us to improve foreign
language
competency and cultural awareness at all levels: to educate our children
to meet the 21st century; to address the needs in undergraduate and
advanced studies; to advance international research and teaching
through academic and scholarly exchanges; to create an informed electorate
through citizen education in international affairs.

Kids, meet the 21st century.  21st century,
meet the kids. As to the need to speak more than one language,
hey, if those furriners couldn’t be bothered to learn English, who cares
what
they have to say?

John A. Rassias, writing in the Boston
Globe
about American
language chauvinism

The Dowbrigade on the same subject

New BU Dress Code

1

In a scathing report examining the exposure of three
Boston University researchers to tularemia last year, Boston public health
authorities
yesterday called on BU to strengthen internal oversight of safety
in medical school laboratories.

The study by the Boston Public Health Commission is sharply
critical of safety lapses in the lab where the scientists contracted potentially
lethal tularemia while developing a vaccine against the bacterial disease,
commonly known as rabbit fever.

Top representatives of the Public Health Commission
sketched out their findings last night for Boston city councilors, who
were meeting to collect testimony about BU’s ability to operate a proposed
lab where researchers could study the deadliest known pathogens, including
ebola, plague, and anthrax.

Several councilors — including Maura Hennigan, who is running for mayor
against incumbent Thomas M. Menino, an ardent champion of the planned
lab — posed this question: If BU could not safely operate a lower-security
facility, how can it be trusted to run a high security lab that would
handle lethal agents?

One more reason we have become a big fan of distance
education. Barring that, we may have to begin teaching our classes
in Bio-Hazard containment suits…..

from the
Boston Globe

Gossip Jumps the Pond

2

The news, in today’s
New York Times,
of the
takeover of that Dean of American Journalism, the National
Enquirer
, by a team of Brits, inspires a mixed reaction. On one hand,
what does the stodgy British press know about sleaze, scandal and sensationalism?
On the other, perhaps we can hope to see some naked tits while waiting
in the ckeckout line at the Stop and Shop….

Spirits were high in the offices of The National Enquirer
in Manhattan last week. A gaggle of British interlopers had taken custody
of the tabloid, a SWAT team of Fleet Street meat-eaters brought in to
revive the storied but now flagging checkout magazine.

from the New York Times

Campus Notes

ø

The New York Times has an article about Liz Smith
and the difficulty of being a star-friendly gossip columist in a world
of smarmy and snide blogs…

In
today’s gossip world, being kind is hardly an option. "The
Internet and blogs have returned gossip to its earliest human roots –
the kind
of
gossip that
the priests
told
you
was a venal
sin," said Ms. Gerhart. "You can make it up. You can speculate
wildly. You can accuse people of the most taboo practices, all in this
sort of merry way."

The buzz around campus has it that during the recent
full moon THE DOWBRIGADE discovered Harvard President LAWRENCE SUMMERS
and commie columnist
MAUREEN DOWD sitting naked around a fire on the steps of WIDENER LIBRARY
tatooing Nazi insignia on the bodies of drugged undergraduates.

from the New York Times

Viva la Revolucion

7

nerevs

We are writing from the lobby of the Hotel Hilton Colon, located in
a zone of recently constructed high rises on the outskirts of Guayaquil,
Ecuador. Of course, the Dowbrigade is not staying at the Hilton.
but as many penny-pinching adventurers know, luxury hotels in third world
countries are repositories of all sorts of useful resources, including
free maps, English language newspapers, travel agencies, clean, well-provisioned
bathrooms, poolside buffets, Wi-Fi access points, classy embossed stationary,
travel tips, directions, abandoned paperback reading material and shuttles
to and from the local airport. They are also great spots to do some serious
people-watching, if the people you want to watch are international jet-setters
and the local social and economic elite.

All you need is an American face or duds and a certain
insouciant confidence to walk right in as if you owned the place, and
take a seat among the privileged and pampered ruling class. If you have
the balls and situational morality to go a step further and scrawl a
room number and indecipherable signature on chits and receipts, a panoply
of goods and services are available for the asking.

The ostensible purpose of our presence in the Hilton
today is to track down some concrete information on the events that brought
us to Guayaquil in the first place; a series of preseason confrontations
between our hometown New England Revolution and some of the top local teams in this soccer-mad nation astride the earth’s midrift bulge. Turns out that the second
phase of our Three-Sport Pre-Season Tour has become a bit more
problematic than we had anticipated.

We learned over a month ago, via the excellent reporting
of Boston Globe ace soccer correspondent Frank Dell’Apa, that the New
England Revolution were planning a two week pre-season trip to Ecuador
and had arranged friendly matches against four of the Ecuadorian First
Division teams, including the two strongest and most popular sides; Barcelona
Football Club and Emelec. The attraction for the Revolution was the year-round
summer climate, the high level of club-team play here, and the cheap
prices. In fact, it was this news that inspired the Dowbrigade to book
his own trip to South America for the same dates.

However, it proved difficult to pin down confirmed ticket
information on the Ecuadorian end. We called several close friends and
football fanatics and asked them to pick up tickets to the Barcelona
and Emelec games. They reported back that not only were tickets not on
sale, nobody seemed to know anything about the games or the visit of
the American team. Of course, we realized that Ecuadorians were famously
disorganized, and loved leaving things for the last minute. Besides,
our airline tickets were non-refundable, and we were locked into the
dates.

By the time we arrived in Guayaquil, two days before
the first game was supposedly scheduled, we were beginning to wonder
if the games were the athletic equivalent of vaporware, all rumor and
no reality. So our first morning in country, we headed down to the local
strip, or at least the upscale version, to try to pin things down once
and for all.

Calle Victor Emilio Estrada is the place to see and
be seen in Guayaquil. Aside from the new mega-malls dotting the outskirts
of the city, this is the street most like Miami in the entire country.
A drunk waking up from a three-day bender with temporary amnesia would
have trouble believing he was not in a swank shopping district in some
Hispanic city in the States. Small, name brand boutique shuffled in between
American chains and fast food joints. KFC, Burger King, Dominos and Dunkin’
Donuts (the only place in Guayaquil to get a real bagel). The Mac Center,
where we replaced our iBook’s power adapter when we crushed the plug
in the dark on our last trip. Travel agencies, fancy Scandinavian furniture
stores, banks, bookstores and bars on every block.  On Friday and
Saturday nights the scions of Ecuador’s richest families cruise slowly
up and down the avenue in late model 4x4s, looking for girls, parties,
or something out of the ordinary to do.

It also features some of the most accommodating pharmacies
in the free world, a great place to find exotic, discontinued or withdrawn
drugs unavailable in the United States.  International pharmaceutical
companies have long used South America as a dumping ground for expired,
deregulated or potentially dangerous drugs they can no longer  legally
sell in closely regulated markets in North America and Europe.  Some
of our old favorites and all-time hits, long since vanished from drug
store
shelves at home, are still available, no questions asked and no prescription
required.

With our traveling first-aid kit replenished, we wandered
into the local headquarters of the Barcelona soccer squad, which in addition
to team offices and reception rooms, features a street-level store front
selling tickets and team gear. We sauntered up to the receptionist and
identified ourself as an American reporter in town to cover the preseason
games of our local professional soccer team, the New England Revolution.

For our efforts, he attractive young salesgirl gave
us a blank stare. "The Revolution?" she asked, as though we were asking
to sign up for an armed insurrection against the Ecuadorian government,
"I don’t know anything about that. Do you mean the Metro Stars? I think
they are coming for a match in June."

The mention of the New York team, arch rivals of the
Revs, bothered us more than her lack of information on the games we wanted
to see.

"No, no, the New England Revolution. A much better team.  I
know they are in Guayaquil RIGHT NOW. They arrived Friday, and are supposed
to play a friendly match against Barcelona on Thursday."

"I don’t know anything about that," she answered dismissively.

We were not about to be dismissed. "Please, I’ve come
all the way from Boston for this game.  My editor confirmed the
dates directly from the team officials.  Isn’t there someone who
might know? Perhaps a local soccer kingpin, someone with their fingers
on the pulse of everything soccer-related in Ecuador. If I go home without
the story, I’ll lose my job!"

She said she’d make some calls, but that most of the
team directors were in a very important meeting upstairs and were not
to be interrupted.

While we waited we looked around at the team gear on
display; caps, mugs, banners, towels, lighters, T-shirts, visors and
trays, all in Barcelona’s canary yellow and displaying the BSC logo.

We decided to purchase an adjustable mesh baseball cap,
not because we were in any way a Barcelona rooter, but in a good-natured
attempt to curry local favor and get in a dig at our wonderful wife
at the same time. Upon her arrival in the States, Norma
Yvonne became a vociferous fan of the hated New York Yankees. She
claimed it was because all their gear featured her initials (NY), but
we knew
it was only because of the horrified disgust on our face whenever she
walked into the room in her Yankee gear. She couldn’t be less interested
in baseball as a sport.  She was, however, a lifelong fan of Emelec,
Barcelona’s arch-rival and a team nicknamed "The Millionaires."  Tit
for tat.

Finally, our young friend got off the phone and informed
us, "You were correct. Barcelona will be playing the Revolution on Thursday.
The meeting going on right now upstairs is to decide whether the game
will be played in Machala or Portoviejo."

This was not particularly good news.  Machala is
four hours to the south, and Portoviejo five hours to the north. Only
in Ecuador, we thought, would a team wait until two days before and
international match to decide where the game would be played. But at
least it confirmed that the team was in Ecuador. She gave us a phone
number to call later that afternoon to learn the outcome of the meeting.
Before leaving we took a flyer and asked if she knew anything about the
game against Emelec the following day.

She looked at us as if we had wandered into PLO headquarters
and asked where we could get a good kosher meal. We decided to quit while
we were ahead and left.

We were not done yet, however.  Jumping into a
taxi, we asked to go to the Hilton Hotel, on the theory that even if
the team was not staying there, there would be somebody who knew about
the games. Neither the doorman nor the front desk could help us out,
so we headed for the bar.

The Hilton Guayaquil is a typical third world luxury
hotel, with a 12 story atrium, externally exposed elevators, fake Chinese
porcelain statuary and Persian rugs.  The barkeep was happy to talk
about soccer, although he seemed surprised to learn that they even played
"Fut-bowl" in the US ("You mean American futbowl?").
When we informed him that the US side was ranked in the top ten of the
world, and that they could take the Ecuadorian national team with one
leg tied behind their backs, he looked as if we had just accused the
Pope of being a communist pedophile. By this point our frustration was
starting to show.

Suddenly, on the seven-foot projector TV set up against
the back wall of the bar area, we saw the news we most wanted to see
flashed across the screen in four-foot red lettering, like a message
from God. 

The Revolution

Vs. Emelec

Tuesday, 7pm, Estadio Capwell

Not to be missed!

There was going to be a game in Guayaquil! The next
day! We had a time and a place, and were sure, since nobody knew that
the game was even on, that there would be plenty of tickets available.
We felt redeemed, rewarded, vindicated. We thanked the bartender, paid
for our beer (resisting the temptation to sign with a room number), and
headed out into the gathering darkness of an equatorial evening.  Once
more, the game was afoot, the ball was in play, and we could look forward
to a night of top-level international soccer featuring our favorite home
team and Norma Yvonne’s binky.  Little did we know.

Stay tuned…..

Careful What You Ask For Dept.

20

A
new chewing gum, which its makers claim can help enhance breasts, is proving
to be a big hit in Japan.

The makers claim Bust-Up gum can also help improve circulation, reduce stress
and fight aging, if chewed three or four times a day.

The gum releases compounds, contained in an extract from a plant called Pueraria
mirifica that helps to keep the muscle tissue in good order.

Pueraria mirifica, also known as Kwao Krua, is a species found in Thailand and
Myanmar and has long been used by hill tribe people as a traditional medicine.

The plant’s underground tubers contain a number of chemicals called phytoestrogens
– natural compounds that mimic the effects of the female sex hormone estrogen.

Makers of the gum cite tests carried out by Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University
that found Pueraria mirifica therapy was able to enhance breast size by 80 percent.

Further tests carried out in England found that the plant had a beneficial effect
on the skin and hair as well.

from China Daily