Archive for June, 2007

Pre Post Practice

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firstlondWandering about Old Blighty, the Dowbrigade has escaped to a tranquil English Garden belong to his new friend Norm, of DynEd fame, while recovering from the transatlantic flight and preparing for the legal decathalon which begins Monday.

It’s been 36 years since the last time we were kicked out of merry olde England, but they seem to be ready to let bygones be bygones and we were admitted without preconditions. At first, it hardly seemed like we were in a foreign country; all the signs were in English, and the architecture of the airport and the highway presented no novelties. Even the fact that everyone was driving on the wrong side of the street seemed a mere glitch in our dislexic wrold-view.

But when we got to Norm’s place, in a cheery rural town in the English countryside called Chearsley, suddenly it seemed we had been dropped into a Hobbit prequel. Shady, winding paths like green tunnels through the vines and bushes, stone cottages with thatched doors, houses with names like “Hobbleston” and “Turnip Close”, a 13th century church with lapidary stones worn to illegibility, a pub called the Bell, flowers, berries, nuts, ferns, vines and thorn bushes everywhere, dogs, cats and burros peeking from behind stone walls and banks of bushes, everything altogether foreign once one looks closely.

Much dizzying discussion of teaching, programming, interface design, information management and the weather, meeting people and drinking caffinated beverages has ensued. More acclimation exercises planned for this evening. By tomorrow weshould be fully recovered and ready to begin exploring.

No thought yet to the fact that we have to being teaching the entire history and structure of the US Legal System, case by case, begining Monday 9am, to 30 whip-smart Euro-lawyers. Time enough to worry about that on Sunday…..

Stay tuned.

Calling Adam Curry

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adamandmeGod help us, we’re going back to England. Back to the Olde Sod, back to that deranged and diseased island which has spawned the best and the worst of modern culture, from Pink Floyd to Princess Diana.

Our track record on Her Majesty’s turf is mixed. The last time we were there we were busted for smoking a chillum huddled under an azalea bush in the Queens Garden across from Buckingham Palace while waiting for the changing of the guard, and given 48 hours to leave the country. It was a perfectly innocent difference of opinion – we though we were invisible, crouched as we were between a bench and and the bush, but the bobbies though otherwise. That was 36 years ago, and we haven’t been back since.

The first time we visited the Merry Olde , ahhh, that was a different story. The Dowbrigade was, at that time, a seventeen-year-old smartass (hard to believe, huh?), fresh off the plane after being deported from Israel, our true Motherland, by the Mossad, for hanging with the wrong people, basically Palestinian intellectuals. That, and having close Israeli associates arrested for some obscure drug and military intelligence conspiracy which we obviously knew nothing about. We were, after all, just a 17-year-old American schmuck.

But when we landed in London, we had in our pocket the address and phone number of a 22-year-old secretary named Yvonne Bley, who lived with her cats in an apartment in Belsize Park. She took us in, all the way in, and it was cold outside. It was early December, winter was in the air, we wandered the heath or stayed at her place in front of the fireplace listening to Astral Weeks and Atom Heart Mother, just released. But wandering down that particular memory lane would quickly lead to diminishing returns, as we know our saintly wife Norma Yvonne is a regular reader.

At any rate, we are off to London again in three days, and don’t know a soul in the entire British Empire, except for Adam Curry, who we hung out with at BloggerCon in Cambridge, like, four years ago. Adam Curry, who probably meets a few hundred people a week like me, and who is currently in California or Calcutta, and who. like most famous people, is unreachable by email. So we don’t have much hope of getting a guided tour of Shakespeare’s haunts from old Adam, despite his best intentions at the time. Besides, Adam Curry is decidedly Big Time, and the Dowbrigade most decidedly is not.

However, in pouring over our stats and log files, we couldn’t help but notice that we get a fair number of hits from England. Should any readers, bloggers or interested third parties know anyone around London or have 411 about London, we will be stuck there teaching the American Legal System to European lawyers for most of July. Tips would be great; what not to miss, places to hang out, how to meet bloggers or new media people, how to recreate our reality in an alternate universe.

We will have private digs in a swanky section of town, near something called Imperial College, and constant internet access, so whatever happens, you can follow the story line right here.

Los Gringos Ya No Saben Que Inventar

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beerglaz.gif

Bold new design or brazen attempt to inject fresh fizz into an old product, the Samuel Adams Boston Lager Pint Glass was rolled out in February . According to Koch and others who worked on the project, it’s the first beer glass created not by marketing experts or glass designers but by a brewer interested in one thing only: how beer tastes when poured into it.

Boston Beer’s new brew glass – Boston.com

Do You Want Nucleation with your Brew?

Signs of the Apocolypse 872 and 873

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Dogs Begetting Cats

A dog has become a local celebrity in a Chinese village after she reportedly gave birth to a kitten.

A dog has become a local celebrity in China after apparently giving birth to a kitten. Vets say the cat-like animal is a dog with a gene mutation /Lu Feng

Hua Chengpeng, of Huayang village, Jiangyan city, told People’s Daily that the unlikely animal was the third ‘puppy’ in his pet’s litter.

“The first two puppies the dog produced were both normal, but when the third baby came, the whole family was very surprised to see a cat-like creature. It is a cat, not a dog at all,” he said.

Local residents have been flocking to his house to see the ‘kitten’ which local vets say is really a puppy which looks like a cat because of a gene mutation. It apparently yaps like a puppy.

Hua says his son brought the dog home from Liaoning city, where he had been working, a year ago.

from Ananova

Devil Cat with 26 Toes

toescatThe owner of a cat with 26 toes is trying to find out if her pet is a record breaker.

Most cats have just 18 toes, five on each front paw and four on each hind paw, Des has a total of 26, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Alison Thomas, of Felindre, near Swansea, said her pet has seven toes on each front paw and six on each back paw.

“We’ve had him for about 10 years, he just turned up on the doorstep and my husband made the fatal error of giving him a bowl of milk so he stayed,” she said.

“He was only about six months old at the time and was quite small, so his paws looked enormous.

“I originally wondered if he needed them chopped off, but the vet said he was fine.”

also from Ananova

The Dowbrigade has lived with cats our entire life, and we never knew they were supposed to have 18 toes!

Tavarez a Diamond in the Rough

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julient.jpgIn today’s stuffy world of pampered millionaire athletes and padded resumes, Red Sox starting pitcher Julian Tavarez is definitely a breath of fresh air. With a record that defines “journeyman” (8 teams in 14 years and a career ERA of 4.38), Tavarez was the butt of jokes and the target of boos last year as the Sox took their customary swan dive and sank silently in August and September.

The only time we noted Julian Tavarez in the Dowbrigade News before this season was one time last year, when we referred to him and Randy Johnson as “the two ugliest men in baseball.”

But this year, in a story that reeks of redemption and resuscitation, Tavatrez has become the stuff of legend. In a sport which has traditionally attracted immigrants and minorities, his story stands out like a fairy tale. It has a Lincolnesque log cabin quality, but without the chalkmarks on the shovel. Tavarez grew up in a dirt-floored shack in Santiago, Domincan Republic, shining shoes and selling newspapers.

He claims, not exactly with pride, but certainly not with shame, that he has never spent a single day in school. His entry in Wikipedia supports this, but the ever-politically correct Red Sox have on their official site that he attended public school in the Dominican Republic.

Guess they can’t handle having a popular player who is as unschooled as the wild boy raised by the wolves. What kind of role model would that be for the kids of America? “I’m not going to school today! Julian Tavarez never went to school.”

No, kids, growing up, he was too busy supporting his family and staying alive on the streets to go to school. That, and play baseball whenever he could take time off from surviving. Even young, Julian knew that baseball was his ticket out.

Of course, he had plan B. If baseball didn’t work out, he was planning a career in adult films. He had all the prerequisites.

You gotta love this guy. He got suspended for the first ten games of his Red Sox career for a fight in spring training.

This year, he has become Manny Ramirez’s binky. In the dugout, Manny will impulsively grab the 6’2″ Tavarez like a rag doll, and rub his kinky hair for luck, or as some sort of Dominican nuggie.

Tavarez, ever humble, doesn’t protest. He just wants to help out the team, in whatever way he can. Pain is nothing to him. Here he is after taking a no-decision on Saturday, as quoted in the Globe.

“Anything to help this team win. People look at you as a clown, dumb and stupid. People, fans, players, teammates look at you as a clown, as stupid, as a dummy who always does something to make people laugh. They don’t admit the truth and say, ‘You know what, that guy who is stupid and a dummy, he’s going to make something happen to win. Pain is nothing to him. He’ll do something to find a way to win.’ And that’s me. Dumb like a fox.”

Guantanamo Hilton

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guantanamo21.jpgApparently, Paris Hilton can’t be kept in the county jail because it a threat to her and the other inmates, and a temptation to the jail employees. The sheriff was reduced to strip searching all guards, maintenance people, delivery guys, lawyers and visitors, looking for cell phones, given the six-figure bounty on authentic pictures of Paris in jail being offered by several celebrity web sites.

In addition, it was getting tense with the jail and courthouse under siege and surrounded by dozens of video vans, satellite uplink antennas, and hundreds of intrepid reporters, accosting anyone coming or going who may have had a hint of a sniff of a clue as to how the poor girl is doing.

The solution is simple, according to son Gabriel. Move her to Guantanamo! Let the Paparatzi try to get to her there!

Certainly Paris herself can’t complain about three weeks in the sunny Caribbean, at an exclusive government retreat, 3-squares a day and plenty of exercise (see aerobics class photo above). No distractions, do photo ops, and no danger to her or the other inmates. Plus, from what we hear the other prisoners down there could use some cheering up. She could even join an Islamic study circle or a hunger strike, if she is so inclined. Seems like a no-brainer.

For readers who just can’t get enough of Paris in Jail, we present “The Prision Life: Paris” from the GSN game site, in which you help Paris keep up with the demands of prision life. Click on the speaker icon to nix the annoying music.

Josiah “Jed” Bartlet for President

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fancyfredWASHINGTON –Fred Thompson’s expected entry into the tight Republican presidential race is drawing crucial strength from conservatives and older men, vaulting him into the thick of the nomination fight, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll says.

Thompson, who has sandwiched an acting career around a largely anonymous eight years as Tennessee senator, has not formally entered the race. But he already has impressed many people. One in four of his supporters cites his strong character, more than any other GOP candidate.

“He can be kind of Reaganesque in his engaging with people,” said Ronald Coppinger, 47, a carpenter from Indianapolis, describing a plainspoken style like the late President Reagan’s. “I think that’s important.”

from the Boston Globe

The instant first-tier status awarded to ex-Sen., ex-D.A. Fred Thompson, vaulting him over most of the pack of Republican hounds baying at the heels of Sen.’s Clinton, McCain and Obama, is further evidence, if such is needed, that Americans have lost the ability to differentiate between objective reality and television reality.

For millions of Americans, especially those under 40, there is little cognitive difference between things they have seen on a screen and things that they have seen with their naked eyeballs. And a sociolically devastating corallary of this fact is that they feel that they know people personally who they have only seen on TV.

How many know more about the people who live in Jerrry Seinfeld’s apartment building than they do about the people in their own apartment building? How many spend more time wondering and worrying about the problems of the characters in their favorite soap operas than the problems of the members of their own families?

We have gotten to the point that just about any actor who is known for portraying beloved or iconic characters and can put together a half-way coherent political philosophy has a decent chance to first, be taken seriously as a candidate, and second, actually win an election.

The only requirements seem to be that they are men, and manly men at that, and that they are famous for playing trustworthy, take-charge guys.

Reagan was the prototype. Nigglers can say that Reagan was a movie actors rather than a TV star, but by the time he actually ran for President his movies were only available on TV, and most of the voters knew him from there, or Wagon Train, a 1950’s television show sponsored by 20 Mule Team Borax. As a politician, he played the same role he did in the movies; tall, taciturn, morally unbending. The public ate it up.

Schwarzenegger reprised the role in the 90’s. Despite his improbable accent, be sold himself as a Real American Hero. His indestructible and incorruptible larger-than-life persona was just what California voters were looking for.

Now Thompson is following in their footsteps. All three of these guys got famous for playing law officers; sheriffs, marshals, DA’s, street cops, FBI agents, CIA agents and kindergarten cops. This is an easy sell when the bad guys are shooting up the town and the current squad of Pinkerton men are more worried about feathering their nests and staying out of the hoosgow themselves than making the streets safe for ordinary folks.

What about Warren Beatty, you may ask? Well, we guess he didn’t play enough cops. His most convincing roles always involved an assumption of smug superiority that doesn’t play well in the hinterland.

On the other hand, if someone could convince Jeb Bartlet, er, Martin Sheen, to run for something, and fixed him up with some decent political handlers, we wouldn’t bet against him…..

ADDENDUM: Check out Paul Krugman in today’s Times on the topic:

On the other hand, consider the case of Fred Thompson. He spent 18 years working as a highly paid lobbyist, wore well-tailored suits and drove a black Lincoln Continental. When he ran for the Senate, however, his campaign reinvented him as a good old boy: it leased a used red pickup truck for him to drive, dressed up in jeans and a work shirt, with a can of Red Man chewing tobacco on the front seat.

But Mr. Thompson’s strength, says Lanny Davis in The Hill, is that he’s “authentic.”

Sista Hoods Spell Cyber Salvation

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digidivBoston’s plan to blanket the city with wireless Internet connections is set to pick up speed this month as companies jockey to play a role and a pilot WiFi project gets underway in a square-mile area of the Grove Hall neighborhood.

But the ambitious plan to create an “open access” wireless Internet environment citywide has hit some speed bumps, including the absence of major donors, delays in launching the pilot project, and blogger protests about Web filtering at WiFi hot spots.

Reeve would not say how much has been raised already, but she conceded that Boston has yet to line up the “key bucks” funders, such as companies, universities, or hospitals, it is hoping for.

The city has signed up about 20 families to give feedback about their ability to access city services, such as paying parking tickets or applying for food stamps, online . Some area residents have been loaned computers through a “taking technology home” program so they can take part in the program. “We do have a strong desire to address the issue of the digital divide,” Reeve said.

from the Boston Globe

The Free Wi-Fi contingent in Beantown is to be congratulated for their vision and humanitarian spirit. The Grove Hall area, where they are running their pilot project, is one of the most benighted of Boston, featuring endemic poverty, high unemployment and widespread gang activity. Just the sort of place that could really use a boost in legitimate economic activity and educational opportunity.

But is it any surprise business and academic sponsors are not lining up to throw money into this pot?

What we have here is a sort of “anti-redlining”, just as destructive, in its way, since it dooms to failure a project with the potential to improve millions of lives on both sides of the “digital divide.”

What is missing from this “Worst First” approach to technological bootstapping is that it fails to provide a Fair and Balanced access to the new technology.

In this kind of development, the haves and the have-nots need to be brought along together, hand in hand. Instead of launching in Grove Hall alone, they should have started in two spots, one from each side of the divide. Say, Grove Hall and the MIT/Kendall Sq. area. Then, maybe Chelsea (largely Latino) and Wellesley (Hillaryville). Then Mattapan and Harvard Square. You get the idea.

Furthermore, if this is a public system it would be in the public interest to encourage partnerships between the neighborhoods matched up from opposite sides of the digital divide. Make bandwidth and access speed in the high-tech areas dependent on the penetration and usage in their cyber “Sister Cities” or perhaps “Sista’ ‘Hoods”. Partnerships could expand to include workshops, joint projects, job training, and cyber-swaps of all sorts.

This way the business pull and corporate clout in the high-tech neighborhoods could find the funding the pro bono approach is missing, and at the same time pull their pre-cyber partners into the 21st century.

Two by two, like animals entering the Ark, the neighborhoods of this multi-faceted city could march into the digital age together.

Gaming the System

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olpcoxWhat will millions of poor children do with cheap laptop computers? Play games, of course. But not just any games.

The vaunted “$100 laptop” already being distributed in some countries by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child program lacks the horsepower to run flashy 3-D games like Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft. Besides, the idea of the nonprofit is to educate as well as entertain.

Game jam coordinator Mel Chua said it’s just the first of several such gatherings to produce useful software and content for the XO laptop. “We’re hoping to have music jams, movie jams, curriculum jams,” Chua said.

The software jams won’t be confined to the United States. SJ Klein One Laptop Per Child’s director of content, hopes the Needham game jam will serve as a model for software developers around the world. “We’re trying to formalize this as an idea that anybody else can easily run,” said Klein.

from the Boston Globe

If we know SJ, he’s going to make sure that these babies come loaded with the capacity to allow a group of 12-year-olds, transported to a virgin planet with nothing but natural resources, to completely recreate modern civilization, only better, and to have a blast doing it.

We are particularly encouraged by the fleeting mention of “Curriculum Jams”. All over the world, every day, creative tech-savvy teachers are creating content, on line and off, which they would be more than willing to share, given a channel and a chance to contribute.

We will be on the lookout for further updates.

Trucker Tries Unique Hood Ornament

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maninwheelchair.jpg(AP) A 21-year-old man got the ride of a lifetime when his electric wheelchair became lodged in the grille of a semitrailer and was pushed down a highway for several miles at about 50 mph.

Ben Carpenter was unharmed but was taken to a hospital as a precaution. He had been secured to his wheelchair by a seat belt. Carpenter, who has muscular dystrophy, told a television station that he thought he might not make it through the ride.

“I was probably thinking that this is going to keep going and not stop anywhere, 50 or 60 miles somewhere,” he told WOOD-TV of Grand Rapids.

Ben Carpenter’s father, Donald, told The Associated Press that his son had started to cross at an intersection Wednesday afternoon in Paw Paw, about 140 miles west of Detroit. The light changed to green while his son was in front of a semi, which started moving.

The wheelchair’s handles became lodged in the grille, the father said, and the wild ride started.

Motorists called police on their cell phones, and a pair of undercover police officers who happened to be nearby saw what was happening. They pulled the truck over and told the disbelieving driver, Donald Carpenter said.

The chair was undamaged except for losing most of the rubber on its wheels, he said.

“It’s a very bad story that ended very well,” he said. “We’re just thrilled that he’s still around.”

from CBS News

In another example of the ubiquity of cellphones producing red-hot eyewitness reporting, the photo appears to have been taken before paramedics were able to surgically detach poor Ben’s frozen fingers from his testicles.

Mr. Mush’s Cure for Tummy Upsets – Live Frogs

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eatingfrogs.jpgBEIJING (Reuters) – A man in southeast China says 40 years of swallowing tree frogs and rats live has helped him avoid intestinal complaints and made him strong.

Jiang Musheng, a 66-year-old resident of Jiangxi province, suffered from frequent abdominal pains and coughing from the age of 26, until an old man called Yang Dingcai suggested tree frogs as a remedy, the Beijing News said on Tuesday.

“At first, Jiang Musheng did not dare to eat a live, wriggling frog, but after seeing Yang Dingcai swallow one, he ate … two without a thought,” the paper said.

“After a month of eating live frogs, his stomach pains and coughing were completely gone.”

Over the years Jiang had added live mice, baby rats and green frogs to his diet, and had once eaten 20 mice in a single day, the paper said.

from Reuters

Like millions of other Americans, the Dowbrigade suffers from digestive problems. Since our ignominious Med-evac from South America last year, we have been afflicted with a veritable plague of stomach and intestinal problems. Bloating, farting, belching, cramps, diareahea, stabbing pains, aching pains, nausea, acid reflux, difficulty swallowing, gas and a nasty scar are our constant companions. This may be our answer.

Our attorney is currently trying to track down Mr. Mush, as we are anxious to bring “Musheng’s Mush” to the suffering masses of American bellyachers. Me already have the formula down, a gourmet puree of frogs, rats and mice, mixed with a few unpronouncable Chinese herbs, and packaged in an Imperial dragon bottle in deep red and gold. As you can see, we have put a lot of thought and effort into this project.

While our lawyer looks for Mr. Mush, we are searching for a grant which could fund the project. Something to do with traditional medicine and ethnobotany, or a humanitarian award for alleviating the suffering of millions.