Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tech news: NYT and MySpace

If you already read Slashdot regularly, I'm sorry--this post will be old hat for you. But two stories on today's news digest grabbed my attention, and I feel they directly impact us J130 folk!

First is a story from yahoo news. The New York Times has sued the Pentagon over its domestic spying. I'd be very curious to see exactly who they spied on, and I'm willing to bet money that political opponents to GW will be predominant on that list. More amusing /. posters say the entire NY Times staff is on that list...

Next is a Wired story on MySpace. Learning that MySpace has been catagorized by NBC as "a cyber secret teenagers keep from tech-challenged parents" was very amusing. Doubly amusing but peppered with injustice is the tale of a high-school student who made a mock 'space blog of his principal, which made fun of his size. The gate-level student got suspended for 10 days and dropped into a special ed class that is far beneath his own skill level...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

News from the Ladies - Rough Draft II

Arab Co., White House had secret agreement
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration secretly required a company in the United Arab Emirates to cooperate with future U.S. investigations before approving its takeover of operations at six American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. It chose not to impose other, routine restrictions. Full story at Comcast.net.

State executions may be on hold for most or all of 2006
The postponement of Michael Angelo Morales' execution has created a de facto moratorium on California's death penalty for much of this year, perhaps longer, the state attorney general's office said Wednesday amid new calls for action ensuring even longer delays. Full story at the Sacramento Bee.

Allen makes first court appearance; prosecutors to seek death penalty
MODESTO, Calif. -- Five days after a California Highway Patrol officer was gunned down along Highway 99, the man accused of killing him appeared in court Wednesday to face a murder charge that could lead to the death penalty. Full story at KCRA.

Health concerns limit wireless Internet at Lakehead University
TUNDER BAY, ONTARIO - There are many benefits to studying at Lakehead University. Ubiquitous wireless Internet access, however, isn’t one of them. That’s because president Fred Gilbert won’t allow it until he’s satisfied EMF (electric and magnetic fields) exposure doesn’t pose a health risk, particularly to young people. Full story at IT Business.

No googling Perfect 10's nudes
Google's image search service violates the copyrights of Perfect 10, an adult magazine and web publisher, by displaying thumbnail-sized photographs, a federal judge has ruled. Full story at Wired.

Downtown plaza deals with uncertain future
Several vacant store fronts can be seen at Sacramento's Downtown Plaza, but is mall business on the decline or just in a state of transition? Shoppers have taken notice that a collection of stores has moved out of the mall. Full story at KCRA.

Sectarian violence surges after shrine bombing
BAGHDAD, Feb. 23 -- A wave of sectarian strife and recrimination swept Iraq Thursday after Wednesday's bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra. The interior ministry said that more than 100 people have been killed in the violence. Full story at the Washington Post.

Net video explosion triggers traffic jam worries

The amount of video online is skyrocketing, whether it's "Lost" episodes or movie trailer mash-ups. The phenomenon is putting new stress on ISP networks, which are seeing the demands on their bandwidth burgeon.

Now a new wave of companies--some newcomers, some with familiar faces--are stepping up to play the role of traffic cop, arguing that they have ways to manage this surge in video traffic and keep networks healthy. Full story at ZDNet.

Web site offers revenge for women scorned

Slash his tires. Burn his clothes. Stalk him. Hire a hit man to beat him up. Put rat poison in his oatmeal.

Sounds appealing to a woman scorned.

But you don't want to land in the slammer, do you?

Well now instead of plotting revenge with your closest girlfriend, you can visit http://www.manhaters.com and tell thousands of people how he cheated on you with your best friend, dumped you after sex, didn't give you a thing for Valentine's Day, missed your birthday, and berated you for burning his steak. Full story at ASAP.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sticks and stones

I'm not posting this on the J130 news blogsite, because I don't want it in the face of two sections of J130.

But I'm a little--well--dissapointed in that class. The blogs make it plain that some students, in a journalism major, have a down attitude about learning the basics. I think they're standing on thin ground.

Mike Althouse wrote a blog about this, and really called the shots, and was fun to read. But it offended some, and blogs defending the complainers popped up. The defenses just reminded me of another forum flame... tearing Mike's blog up line by line. I wrote an anti-flame blog before I really saw the dialogue in the comments, which was much more mature than the original responses. He apologized without backing down. I think the short-lived flurry is over.

But there are several things to learn from this. First, apologizing without backing down seems like a great way to do it and still reinforce your message. It felt professional.

Second... Sticks and stones. Commentary needs to be kept in the "words will never hurt me" category. Is that mostly a lesson for the readers or the writers? I don't know. Both, I guess. How do you stir a reaction without making someone take the writing personally? With this particular issue it's hard. Someone's going to look foolish because the message is that someone is behaving foolishly!

If Tom were alive, I'd ask him how he managed to write about the City Council in his editorials and still get the councilors to talk to him. It must be a feat of subtlety and .. good humor, perhaps?

NY Times: CIA reclassifying documents

... that the State Department's historians have already published. This is an ORLY? moment for the ACLU...

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 — In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.

The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Building a community...

This Poynter article and what few comments there have been on this J130 blog site got me thinking about communities.

Communication is the key to any group's success. I had never really tried to build a community until some friends of mine started a guild in World of Warcraft. My guildmates and I struggled to communicate our intentions, hopes, and critisisms clearly and respectfully in order to keep the game FUN and lighthearted for everyone.

There is an ever-present need to clarify your meaning in a text-only communication model, such as online chatting or blogs, where tone of voice and facial expressions are absent. Sarcasm needs that extra tone of voice to be recognized. Emoticon smilies don't convey any of the subtleties we see when someone smiles. Even face-to-face we know communication isn't clear.

But once we get past those barriers, communities make an environment much more enjoyable. A crop of co-workers that are fun to hang with can make a bleak job colorful.

Building that community means chatting about politics, news, sports... and complimenting and critiquing others in a positive way. It means working with your fellow employee on the "work" and embracing their human side, too.

I think this class could use some of that co-worker community feel. We'll all need help on our beats; we're all trying to learn. We're all here to publish blogs once a week. Why not share our thoughts on the daily news digests and blogs? Post a comment on what was done well, and what you would have done differently? We'd all benefit from that kind of dialogue, and I know I want to hear what other students - our "target audience" - think about the stories.

Then again, maybe some people think this is just another tuck-your-head-in kind of class, and community feedback isn't possible in our busy lives.

I think it's worth the time. Do you?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

New overlords - mind-controlling parasites!

Yes, it's true, according to this story. Once again I found it on /. The parasite "Toxoplasma gondii," which lives in the guts of cats, has been shown to affect behavior in rats.

Specifically, the parasite alter's the rat's instincts to avoid cat urine, and makes the rat actually *seek out* cat urine. As the parasite's eggs are often passed through the urine, the rat picks up the parasite eggs, the cat eats the rat, and the parasite makes it back into the cat's gut.

According to the article, there's a link between this parasite in humans and schizophrenia; antipsychotic drugs stop the growth of this bacteria.

Of course, humans are not as instinct-driven as rats... but I am feeling the urge to welcome our new overlords... welcome...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Copyrighted logo or international symbol? Red Cross v. Video Games

According to this interview (another story I found on slashdot), that little red cross on virtual med-kits you pick up in your average first-person shooter game is an illegal misuse of a protected trademark.

To quote the Canadian Red Cross spokesman David Pratt: "The fact that the Red Cross is also used in [videogames] which contain strong language and violence is also of concern to us in that they directly conflict with the basic humanitarian principles espoused by the Red Cross movement."

Right. So, at what point does a trademark become an international symbol? I can't think of a more ready symbol for medical aid than the good old even-barred cross. It's become an association between symbol and meaning that has imprinted our global society. It's beyond the nonprof's reach now.

It's certainly not libel or slander for Red Cross to be associated with healin' up some critical hit points while your avatar is out shooting Nazzis or aliens. If the Red Cross was stamped on the AK-47 you're blasting away with, sure. That could be interpretted as the Red Cross organization standing behind violence. But... Med kits?

And let me get this straight. Since when does placement of an object in an art piece equate to that trademark supporting said art? If I want to accurately portray my surroundings, why can't I have a Red Cross med kit in my virtual surroundings?

Art reflects life and the daily objects around us. Video games are an interactive art form. Censoring that art form would be a crime against freedom of expression.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Achilles handshake

To quote Eddie Izzard, "He suffers from hand-squeezy death!"

And can I just say... I can't get over this Bush quote. It HURTS MY BRAIN.

"I'm honored to, uh, shake the hand--of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein." --May 25, 2004 at the White House.

It just makes me cringe... it's ten times worse than throwing up on the Japanese prime minister's lap ("Bushusuru"). So... I'm sorry, world. *I* didn't vote for him.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My first blog - Why Journalists are like Jedis

My very first blog, courtesy of a homework assignment. I never figured I'd ever have a teacher who knew what a blog is!

I'm a great Star Wars fan. I have always wanted to be a Jedi Knight. Jedi are the Guardians of Peace and Justice throughout the Galaxy. How cool is that? They are like Journalists, the Guardians of Truth throughout the Galaxy. I could be, like, a combination, and get the best of both worlds.

...And as any Jourdi Knight knows, "Truth" is really just one person's point of view. What I want to share is someone else's Truth... you guessed it... their blog!

PZ Myers, who claims to be a professor at the University of Minnesota, wrote this blog on President Bush's State of the Union address --specifically, the section asking Congress to outlaw human cloning and creating human-animal hybrids.

To quote: [Bush is] trusting that everyone will think he is banning monstrous crimes against nature, but what he's really doing is targeting the weak and the ill, blocking useful avenues of research that are specifically designed to help us understand human afflictions. His message isn't "We aren't going to let the mad scientists make monsters!", it's "We aren't going to let the doctors help those 'retards.'"

There is a link to this blog from Slashdot, which also has some lively and interesting comments on the issue... Everything from obligatory Bush animalism comments to more intellectual moral debates.

"Why is this issue a newsworthy one?" I can hear Professor Fox asking. Here's what I think. State of the Union address=timely. Technology being censored=important issue to my generation. A blog=good news delivery. Polls show that people my age (22) prefer their news delivered with a twist of opinion.

In general, I say humanity can't be trusted with human genes. But on the other hand, research could lead to farming human organs so that no one has to go on a waiting list any more. I'm all for that. GATICA doesn't sound like such a great future, but in a way it has a lot of appeal...

I'd love to see how J130 students feel about cloning and chimeras. What do you think?