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have you donated to the red cross yet?

A 2-year-old girl who lost her home and her father is held by her mother.

As of 10:30 this morning, only about 70,000 people had made donations on Amazon's site. While the total amount donated is heartening, it could be so much more if everyone who shops at Amazon made a donation of some kind.

My kids each donated $10 of their holiday money--and watched as the donation counter went up after we submitted the payment.

If you've got an Amazon account, there's no excuse for you not to use it to donate today. Look around at the relative riches you have. Can you really say that you don't have $5, or $10, or more, to help?

Skip today's latté, or the movie you were going to see, or fancy dinner you were going to treat yourself to. Use that money to help kids like the ones in these photos--who've lost their parents, who've lost their homes, who are at grave risk of death from diseases that will soon strike these devastated areas.

A young swedish boy holds a sign that says "Missing Parents and 2 Brothers"

you can help

child.jpgMuch of the main page of today is occupied by a button that lets you donate to the Internationa Red Cross relief efforts in Southeast Asia.

Over 80,000 people have died, many of them children.

Tens of thousands more are at grave risk of death by disease.

Please give what you can to support the relief efforts.

For more information on how you can help, go to The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami weblog.

(The photo, taken from Reuters, was captioned "An Indian child tsunami survivor holds on to a shirt donated by a volunteer organisation in Cuddalore, about 180 km (112 miles) south of the Indian city of Madras, 29 Dec 04.")

Update: If you reload the amazon page with the donation amount, you can watch it go up by thousands in a few minutes. They're at over 1 million dollars now, but so much more will be needed to help children like the one in the picture.

fleeting moments of fame

Apparently I'm mentioned in today's Wall Street Journal (US and Asian editions). It's part of the front page story in the Technology section (called "The Journal Report"); I'm featured in question #18 of the "20 Questions" story:

18. How do I start blogging? Like a growing number of citizens of the Net, Elizabeth Lawley, an associate professor of information technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology, has a blog -- a personal Web site where she posts a running diary chronicling everything from her Greek vacation to trips to conferences. While Dr. Lawley used blog software from Six Apart Ltd. called MovableType that is geared toward more sophisticated users, she recommends that first-time bloggers try services such as Six Apart's TypePad or Google's Blogger.

Many thanks to Ed Vielmetti for giving me a heads-up about the mention--I'd be interviewed by the reporter some time ago, and had completely forgotten about it.

holy crap, we bought a new van!

One minute we're talking about how we really ought to think about replacing rather than repairing our aging, ailing 1991 Mazda MPV.

The next we're signing on a 2-year lease (at a surprisingly low cost) for a 2004 Honda Odyssey EX complete with built-in DVD system.


No buyer's remorse, but some buyer's incredulity!

It's a gorgeous van, though. Silver with gray interior, lots of nifty bells-and-whistles. And significantly safer than the ancient van we've been using, which makes me feel oh-so-much better about our upcoming trip to Alabama.

Will post photos after I pick it up tonight...

new social software blog

Blogging has been a little light over the past week because I've been working with Clay Shirky, Ross Mayfield, Sébastien Paquet, and Jessica Hammer on a brand-new Corante blog on "social software" called "Many-to-Many" (which I'll refer to from now on as M2M, since that's a lot shorter and easier to type).

I'm really excited about this--it's an amazing and talented group of people with a wide range of views. I know Clay's taken some flak lately as being somewhat exclusionary, but that's not been my experience in the development of this new blog. This is not a list of A-list bloggers, nor is it the "in-crowd" at O'Reilly (three of us aren't at etcon, in fact). But it is a group of people with a variety of perspectives and experiences. Much to my delight, it's 40% women. And if we count Clay as a part-time academic (he teaches at NYU), it's split right down the middle academic vs practicioner.

I think the new blog will be an interesting space. I hope you'll stop by and visit.

i made the news today, oh boy

A Japanese grad student of mine sent me this link to a Japanese Yahoo! News article that mentions me by name. Cool. :-) Now if only I knew what it said! (Joi? Masako? Anybody? Help! ;-)

I'm guessing it's a reworking of the CNet piece that appeared Thursday, but I'm not 100% sure.

authenticity and the baghdad blogger

Paul Boutin does some investigative digging, and comes to the conclusion that Salam Pax's Dear Raed blog is probably for real. Read his analysis here. (Thanks, Joi!)

My gut agrees. And I have pretty good instincts. There are, in fact, a lot of subtle clues that one can use to assess whether a series of writings are authentic. It's not an infallible process, but those of us who spend a large percentage of our time reading (grading papers, reading e-mail, participating in mailing lists, reading blogs, etc) start to develop a good sense. Authentic voice is very hard to fake. It can be done, but it takes a great deal of skillful effort. And there's no evidence that there's an agenda in Salam's writing--what would be the motivation for someone to go through the significant effort involved in creating a believable virtual persona in this context?

So I'm with Paul, but for different reasons.

I got interviewed by a CNET reporter today about warblogging. Apparently, in the national "profnet" system used by reporters to identify professorial experts on topics, I'm linked with blog concepts. Cool. I gave her Salam's URL. And Allison's. And Kevin Sites'. We talked for quite a while, about the voice and personal connections to the net that weblogs enable. Will be interesting to see how that gets shaped into a story--if at all. Will provide a link here if it does go live.

rosenberg on the war

Scott Rosenberg, the publisher of, wrote a stunning piece about the coming war in his weblog this week. It should be required reading for everyone.

Here's an excerpt:

In the name of protecting the U.S. from terror attacks, [Bush] is launching us on a campaign of imperialism; in smashing open Saddam Hussein's dormant nest of horrors, he will spread the seeds of destruction to a thousand new plots. These are not just vague, eve-of-war fears. In a Fresh Air interview tonight that I can only describe as "dreadful," in the primal meaning of the word, CIA historian Thomas Powers put details on the face of these fears. He predicted, as everyone does, a swift U.S. victory in a month or so. Then a couple months of calm. Then, a gradual awareness: That this project of installing a client government in Iraq, even in the sunniest of outcomes, must last a generation or more. That hundreds of thousands of American troops have now become sitting-duck targets for suicidal terrorists who will have no need to hijack a plane to access their foes. That these troops will now sit on the border with another "axis of evil" enemy, Iran, which, like Saddam's Iraq, also seeks nuclear weapons. That this war, like Bush's larger "war on terrorism," has no clear definition of its aims, its scope or its foes -- and that such a war has no end in sight and can have no victory.

devil went down to iraq

(Expect more current events posting than usual over the next few days. Sorry. Will try to sweeten it with tech and teaching content as much as possible.)

Those who follow the music business may have seen the recent rant that Charlie Daniels wrote--and his publicist e-mailed out--about "the Hollywood crowd's" traitorous stance on the war.

What you might not have seen is the response to Daniels by Jeff Wall, a disabled veteran who publishes TwangZine.

I'm not a panty waist liberal. But I'm not a right wing whacko either. I'm just a middle of the road, old half crippled, fat guy doing his best to feed his family, love his kids and keep the lights turned on. As for your statement of "You're either with us, or you're against us", well all I can say to that is fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yoooooooooooooooooou Charlie. Here in America, I got just as much a right to say I think war with Iraq is wrong. Hell, it ain't even a right, It's a responsibility. And you dishonor my dead shipmates by saying otherwise. Feel free to disagree with me. I served 20 years to give you that right. My shipmates died for it.

poetry for today

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
-- William Butler Yeats

more words worth reading on war

From what I can tell, Salam is for real. An Iraqi blogger, telling us about life in Baghdad.

And in today's NYTimes Book Review, Margo Jefferson has an excellent essay entitled "Wars and Rumors of Wars." In it, she quotes the following line from Elegy for Kosovo, by Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare: "Blood flows one way in life and another way in song, and one never knows which flow is the right one."

I've wavered about putting Salam on my blogroll (yes, he's there now, under "Political Blogs"). Not because I don't think his site is worth reading, but because I'm afraid. Afraid that I'll begin to read it, and become that much less able to pretend that what's about to happen isn't happening. Afraid that I'll hear too much about the blood that's about to flow.

Today was a glorious day, weather-wise. In Upstate NY, we don't get a lot of 65°F days in March. I had a rare kid-free breakfast out with my mom, thoroughly cleaned the interior of my car for the first time in longer than I'd like to admit, got the Delta-Sonic "Super Kiss" car wash & wax, and took Lane out for dinner and then a long walk. The whole time, I pretended to myself that I didn't know war was around the corner. But it creeps into the corners of mind. It's there at the edges, always looming. The boys and I talked about it a bit tonight before bedtime. It's hard to know what to say to them. How much should they know? And why do I want them to know it?

words worth reading on war

I don't want to be a "link-and-comment" blogger--not that there isn't value to links and comments, or that they can't tell you a lot about the person providing them. It's just that this blog is more valuable to me as a place to work out my ideas and thoughts than as a collection of annotated links.

That being said, here's a link from the Washington Post, The Urge to Help, The Obligation Not To. And a comment--read it.

It's powerful stuff, written by Ariel Dorfman. According to the bio on the page, Dorfman, "a native of Chile, teaches at Duke University. His latest books are Exorcising Terror: The Incredible Unending Trial of General Augusto Pinochet (Seven Stories Press) and In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land: New and Collected Poems From Two Languages (Duke University Press)."

(Thanks, Eszter!)

timeless evil

Goering image and quote: Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

i've always wanted to have a neighbor just like you

I cried yesterday when I heard about the death of Fred Rogers. And I cried again, reading the lovely tribute to him by Charles Taylor in

The oft-quoted line that opens L.P. Hartley's novel "The Go-Between" -- "The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there" -- applies to nothing so much as to our own childhood selves. It's very easy to forget how difficult naming or even admitting your fears can be for young children. To do that is, for a child, almost to will those fears into being. Fred Rogers found a way to name those fears and to tell kids that admitting them was a way of being strong enough to deal with them. The softness of his approach, the determined zipper-cardiganed and tennis-shoed niceness of it, shouldn't obscure the greatness of his achievement.

it's official!

Walked into my bi-weekly breakfast with RIT's president and provost, and the first word out of each of their mouths was "Congratulations!"

I'm tenured.

It wasn't a surprise, but it was an extraordinary, enormous relief.

My deepest and most heartfelt thanks to all of you who provide support--direct and indirect--through this process. E-mails are forthcoming to the many who wrote letters on my behalf.

beyond the boundaries

Nick Denton says:

Exploration is driven by greed and rivalry: the quest for gold; trade routes for spices; rivalry between European powers; the superpower conflict.

Maybe. But exploration starts well before greed and rivalry set in. Exploration starts when our children start to crawl, and begin to push the boundaries of their known world. Exploration is as much--if not more--the curiousity of a child as it is the conflict between adults.

He also says "When it comes to space, even the most rational of writers put romance over return. They're wrong."

I hope they're not. If we stop putting romance over return, if we live our lives driven by the bottom line rather than by enthusiasm and emotion, we lose the joy in what we do.

When my son asks why he should bother going to school (not just the physical building, but the participation in an ongoing learning process), it's the ability to explore that brings his motivation back. To explore worlds of thought, worlds of words, worlds outside of worlds.

Some time back, I talked about boundaries. And after I did, I thought a lot more about outlines, edges, boundaries, and how the most interesting things seem to happen at the edges. The edge to edge linking of blogs...the interdisciplinary ideas that emerge at the boundaries of traditional thought...and the excitement of crossing boundaries--whether they be physical, intellectual, or emotional.

Manned space travel gives us surrogates who cross boundaries in a way that stirs people, and inspires them to learn, to challenge their boundaries.

I heard a story this morning on NPR about students at a high school in Syracuse, NY, who had designed an ant farm experiment that was aboard Columbia. For three years, students at this school worked on the experiment...selecting materials for the farm, hypothesizing the behavior of the ants. They corresponded regularly with professors at Syracuse University, the scientists at NASA, and the astronauts themselves. During the 16 days of the voyage, they studied the live feeds of data, and continued their correspondence. They were vested in this mission, in these people, in the process of learning and exploration.

There are so few heroes in our world today, but those kids in Syracuse had seven. Seven men and women who were doing something that they could ream of doing themselves. Seven who could share not just the "data stream," but also the emotion and romance of the journey.

What's the "bottom line" in inspiring hundreds of disenfranchised inner city teens? What's the bottom line in making millions of kids' (and adults') eyes light up when they see a real person go beyond the boundaries of our world?

We all know that the "anyone can be president" dream is a crock. It takes money, connections, all the things that most of us don't have, to make it to the top of the political heap. But becoming an astronaut--that transcends economic and cultural barriers. The multiracial, international group aboard Columbia showed us that this dream is a reachable one--that these boundaries are permeable--for those who want it badly enough.

That's a message I want my kids to grow up with.

symbols and heroes

Why does the loss of the shuttle, and the seven astronauts aboard it, affect people the way it does? Why do I feel a sense of loss over the deaths of these seven people, whom I've never met, when I don't feel an equal sense of loss over the innocent people who die in my city, in my country, in my world, every day? Why does it strike me as right, and proper, to fly flags at half-mast in recognition of this loss, and not fly them at half-mast daily because of the many lives cut short for no good reason?

It's not the deaths of these seven men and women that I'm mourning. It's the loss of seven heroes, of seven symbols of humankind's unending urge to explore, to cross the boundaries, to see and know more than we already do. The astronauts are the clearest symbols to all of us--especially our children--of the reasons we push ourselves to learn and explore.

As Glenn Reynolds says "It's not that astronauts' lives are worth more than those of anyone else; it's what they do, and what it stands for."

When we lose a symbol--the twin towers, the space shuttle, a president or leader--it affects us differently than the day-to-day tragedies of life. The loss goes beyond the people, to the ideas and hopes and dreams. People like Dorothea Salo and William Gibson (and many others, I'm sure) share their childhood memories of the ideas and reality of space travel. As a post-boomer, I just barely remember the first moon landing--but I do remember it. And I vividly remember where I was and what I was doing when the Challenger exploded. These are historic events, events that shape our memories, and those of our children. (My six-year-old asked how many of the astronauts were moms and dads. Later in the day, he took apart his 3D puzzle model of the Discovery shuttle. Yes, he'll remember.)

While I've never been all that fascinated by the space program, I found myself shaken by yesterday's tragedy. And while I can understand that not everyone shares my sense of pain and loss, there are some things that are beyond my comprehension.

Jeneane, whose writing I generally love and respect, says about the debris:

Anything that lands in my yard is mine.

If it falls on my street, and no one's looking, and it's a small piece, I take it. I put it in a baggie in the garage workshop and save it for Jenna to sell on ebay when she needs money for school.

I am a capitalist by nature. I was unworried by the reports of toxicity. The official bunch standing around the debris didn't look too worried about toxicity. I might be worried they'd shoot me though.

I do not believe the little piece I would take would make any difference in finding out what happened. They have reams of data for that.

Sometimes I am slimey like this. And I don't mind. At least I admit I'd do it. That's something.

I was shaken, deeply, by this. I'm appalled by the belief that profiting from tragedy--no matter how removed you feel from that tragedy--is a legitimate expression of "capitalism." I'm trying to imagine how Jeneane's daughter would feel, years from now, if her "money for school" was acquired through the sale of this debris. I'm wondering if Jeneane's belief that "anything that lands in her yard is hers" extends to human remains--heck, those are probably worth even more, right? Likely to fetch a bundle on ebay from collectors.

Why this makes me so angry, I'm not sure. I suppose it's because it comes from someone's whose writings I trust--someone who writes so beautifully about her relationship with her daughter, her frustrations with injustice. It's hard to reconcile this self-described "slimey" statement with the person I feel as though I've come to know through her writing.

Update, 2/4/03, 10:35am
Jeneane responds to my post, and I've replied in her comments. Shelley wrote about my response, too, and I briefly responded in her comments. We need a better way of integrating comments into the web of trackbacks and pings...

the detroit project

I don't usually jump on the daypop bandwagon and hype a web site unrelated to my usual topics. But I'm making an exception for Arianna Huffington's new endeavour: The Detroit Project.

The idea for this project came to me while watching -- for the umpteenth time -- one of those outrageous drug war ads the Bush administration has flooded the airwaves with. You know, the ones that try and link using drugs to financing terrorism. Instead of shaking my head in disgust and reaching for the Mute button like I usually do when I see these ads, I decided to channel my indignation. Why not turn the tables and adopt the same tactics the administration was using in the drug war to point out the much more credible link between driving SUVs and our national security?

The two ads that are already available (in RealPlayer format) have been refused as "public service spots" by some television stations, but your donation can help to get them on the air.

hark! the ad hominen angel sings!

Okay, so maybe angel is a little strong. But it's certainly a theme of his.

Who? Chris Locke, of course. Who has a brand-spanking-new blog, complete with brand name, over at Corante--home of a number of excellent topical blogs.

Of course, by mentioning my admiration for Chris' writing--in the new blog, and the old--I open myself up to accusations that I've joined the cult of personality that has captured the hearts and minds of far too many good women. So be it. The writing's worth it. Really.

From today's column:

Scary. And beautiful. Magnificent, in fact. What we are seeing today on the web -- discounting the plethora of corporate spew -- is the emergence of ourselves as human beings discovering what it means to be human. If you're not doing that, do it. Spook yourself. If you're already spooked, don't quit now. We've only begun to scratch the surface. Why is the net getting so much pushback from the top-down hierarchies of power that freak if they can't control everything. Because it's working, that's why. We're giving ourselves permission to be outlaws

That's all for now. I think I hear da boss massa callin'.

women bloggers

Thursday's NYTimes has an article on women and blogging: Telling All Online: It's a Man's World (Isn't It?). Features Jeneane Sessum and Elaine Kalilily, as well as BlogSisters.

I took a look at my own blogroll. Out of twenty-four blogs (not counting group-authored blogs), six are by women. That's 25%. Pretty close to the % of women in professional computer positions in 2001 (28%, down from 36% in 1990).

But those raw numbers are not a clear indicator of my blog reading habits. Of those twenty-four I count seven that I always read, and that have a significant imact on my own thinking and writing. Of those, three are by men, and four are by women. And as my blogroll has morphed over the past few weeks, I have added more women, and dropped more men. Not because of their gender...but because of their voice.

The article puts it this way:

People who track blogs hate to make generalizations, but many acknowledged that female bloggers often have more of an inward focus, keeping personal diaries about their daily lives.

If that is the case, the Venus-Mars divide has made its way into Blogville. Women want to talk about their personal lives. Men want to talk about anything but. So far the people who have received the most publicity (often courtesy of male journalists) appear to be the latter.

I think this is close to the mark, but not exactly right. The "inward focus" rings true, but the "personal diaries" does not. The women whose blogs I read seem to speak with more of a personal and recognizable voice. But what they write goes far beyond a personal diary. They write about research, about law, about information architecture, about copyright, about gender, and about blogs themselves. But they write about them with grace and style, with a voice that is unmistakably theirs, unmistakably personal. I like that.

de croy's first law of government

From The Volokh Conspiracy, via Instapundit:

de Croy�s First Law of Government runs as follows: Concede no powers to your friends that you would not give to your enemies. If you are a Republican, the Law can be applied in the following form: give no powers of surveillance to the Bush administration that you would not be comfortable seeing in the hands of Hillary Clinton.

Read the whole post. It's an excellent discussion of the "Total Information Awareness" travesty that Poindexter et al are foisting off on a mostly unsuspecting public.

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