Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages.

— "The War as We Saw It" by five soldiers in the New York Times

The success of _High School Musical 2_ is an indication of Disney’s long-term efforts to reposition its cable channel to appeal to the underserved 9-to-14 age group and to rope in youngsters for whom Mickey Mouse seems too babyish. For the time being at least, the movie has made a trio of fictional high school students named Troy, Gabriella and Sharpay as recognizably Disney as that 79-year-old mouse.

— "Move Over Mickey: A New Franchise at Disney" by Dave Itzkoff in the New York Times

I know what the path to old age is supposed to be: You’re young, you marry, you work, you retire, you become small, cute, and certain, and you die. But […] here I am, hanging out on the Internet where no one knows you’re an old dog, and where the pace on the treadmill has been turned up from cane-assisted to massively multiplayer intellectual marathon. The simple journey we’re supposed to take, one of ascent and descent, has been disrupted

— "Older than Lennon" by David Weinberger in Joho: The Blog

Excelling in grand spectacles of carnage and brutality, al-Qaida has succeeded in focusing the spotlight on itself. But it has won the west’s attention for another reason, which most would find difficult to acknowledge. It happens to confirm existing stereotypes and deep-seated prejudices about Islam and Muslim as emotive, violent, irrational, and fanatical. […] The truth however, is that the Muslim scene is much too broad and colourful to be reduced to al-Qaida and its holy warriors.

The myth of al-Qaida's omnipotence by Soumaya Ghannoushi in Comment is Free

After more than a decade of tightening guidelines, Europe has made green architecture an everyday reality. […] In the United States, architects cannot make the same claim with equal confidence. Despite the media attention showered on ‘green’ issues, the federal government has yet to establish universal efficiency standards for buildings. Yet, according to some estimates, buildings consume nearly as much energy as industry and transportation combined. And the average building in the U.S. uses roughly a third more energy than its German counterpart.

— "Why Are They Greener Than We Are?" by Nicolai Ouroussoff in the New York Times Magazine

It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen in Washington, Furukawa says. Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him! Quarters! I wouldn’t do that to anybody. I was thinking, Omigosh, what kind of a city do I live in that this could happen?

— "Pearls Before Breakfast" by Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post

Kiko has shut its doors, and that makes me sad. And not just because the Kiko team was headquartered in Medford, MA, my town (at least for another week). Kiko was an online “web 2.0” calendar, an interactive personal calendaring app that you can use from your web browser. The first version was pretty awful, but version 2.0, released a little before Google Calendar appeared on the scene, was really powerful and fairly awesome. Sadly it was competing with the inexplicably popular 30boxes as well as Google Calendar, which integrates nicely with Gmail and Gtalk and all the other Google properties, which really kills you if your market is the kind of person who would be using Gmail in the first place. The Kiko folks were a scrappy bunch of college kids, and I was really rooting for them to succeed, especially after my calendar project failed to get off the ground.

They got burned out, they knew that they had lost, and they are shutting their doors gracefully, which I think is a very respectable thing to do.

From the IMDb page listing goofs for Back to the Future Part III comes this marvelous entry:

bq. *Incorrectly regarded as goofs:* The complex logic, and conflicting theories, of time travel have resulted in a great many potential plot holes, especially when the movie is viewed in the context of the whole trilogy. But time travel movies are like that.

I find it highly amusing (and a bit disturbing) that people on the IMDb message boards are still to this day debating the logical inconsistancies of the Back to the Future time travel storylines. I could not possibly think of going into that movie as a “serious” treatment of time travel. I mean, they have hoverboards and ads for _Jaws 17_ and Michael J. Fox plays his own daughter. Not hallmarks of a “serious” time travel movie.

From the commentary on a Questionable Content strip (my current obsession), a simple but important truth:

It takes strength to recognize that if you did not succeed at something it does not mean that it was not worth the effort. Sometimes taking big stupid risks is worth it, regardless of whether the outcome is what you were hoping for.

Apple released the new MacBooks, as expected. I knew they were coming and bought my MacBook Pro anyway because I knew I still wanted something in this performance range, and didn’t want to make the compromises to have the cheaper MacBook.

So its not cool that the top-of-the-line MacBook, at $1000 less than my Pro, is almost exactly the same in capabilities with the exception of the smaller screen and wimpier graphics card. I mean, seriously? I’m glad Apple didn’t make silly compromises just to make artifical distinctions between product lines, but come on! If you can sell the same thing for $1000 less, then why is mine $1000 more? Argh!

Reader poll: is an extra 2.1″ (diagonal) of screen real estate and the ability to run a 30″ Cinema Display worth $1k?

I was never a big fan of Facebook, except as much as I’ll acknowledge that its the best of the various social networking sites out there. But as I have to sign in from time to time for social reasons, I start noticing things. For instance, I have 47 “friends” at Brandeis, and through them I am “connected” to an additional 5,395 people. Which, really, is probably about everyone to have attended Brandeis since Facebook was brought online there. 😉

In contrast, at Harvard I currently have *2* “friends” (one of whom is a carry-over from Brandeis), and through them, I am connected to 23,211 people.

Make of that what you will. I dunno, maybe it means I’m just way more popular at Harvard. Or maybe, ya know, the number is absolutely meaningless, which would lead one to wonder why the heck it is even displayed at all…

table.
|^. *Jack:*|Okay, this can function as a sonic blaster, a sonic cannon, and a sonic disrupter. Doc, what’s you got?|
|*Doctor:*|I’ve got a sonic…oh nevermind.|
|*Jack:*|What|
|*Doctor:*|It’s sonic, let’s leave it at that.|
|*Jack:*|Disruptor, canon, what?|
|*Doctor:*|It’s sonic! Totally sonic!|
|*Jack:*|A sonic what?|
|*Doctor:*|Screwdriver!|
|*Jack:*|Who has a sonic screwdriver?|
|*Doctor:*|I do.|
|^. *Jack:*|Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, ooh, this could be a little more sonic?|
|^. *Doctor:*|What? You never been bored? Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put on?|

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds…and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space…
…put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Not trying to throw around _Newsies_ trivia unnecessarily, but this one is just too strange to pass up. Apparently a Color Guard squad (i.e. flag/rifle/etc. team) did a _Newsies_-themed (and scored) routine in 2005. That’s not the weird part. The weird part is that I’m about 85% sure that I attended a Winter Guard competition at the very high school where this took place, back when I was dating a fabulous person who happened to do that sort of thing. Looking at the pictures I got a totally weird _deja vu_ thing.

Newsies flag routine

Apparently some of the child actors in one of the best Disney movies ever, _Newsies_, filmed a no-budget horror flick on the set. IMDb describes the improbable Blood Drips Heavily on Newsies Square this way:

bq. Washed up actor Don Knotts shows up on the back lot of Universal Studios in Hollywood, California in hopes of landing a role in the new Disney movie, Newsies. Unfortunately director Kenny Ortega quickly dismisses Mr. Knotts and has him thrown off the lot. Mr. Knotts is quite upset by the turn of events, so decides to go on a killing spree, believing that if he can’t have a role in the movie no one can. He knocks off one newsie after the next, each in a different and unique way.

Okay, seriously, I very much need to see this. Anyone have any thoughts on where I might find it?

The _New York Times_ article about the use of facebook.com by college students is notable for a few reasons. Most administrators surveyed are taking a fairly hands-off approach to the site, and show a surprising amount of cluefulness in realizing that it isn’t Facebook that is inherently good or evil, it is just another socializing tool that can be used in various ways. The second thing I find strange is the angle about online privacy. The _Times_ quotes several students who are upset or confused by the idea that what they do online, in a semi-public medium, is not private. For instance, they post pictures of underage drinking, and then are upset when they get written up for it. The assumption seems to be that Resident Advisors (i.e. other students) as well as administrators have an obligation to *not* to look at a web site publically available to everyone at the school and to not act on anything that is chronicled there. Um…why? How can you claim breach of privacy when you are posting things publically? Not to mention how much control Facebook gives users over their privacy settings — a lot, so that things really can be “private” if a user so chooses. There is really no reason to be shocked or angry that there are legitimate consequences to ones actions, be they in the real world or online.