Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Google Offers A New Way to Follow News Stories

This looks like a promising new way to present a news story. I hope they substantially broaden their news sources.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The American Health Care Reform Debate In Pictures

Dan Roam is an author, teacher/lecturer and consultant on the topic of using visual thinking to solve problems and simplify communications. He has branded his approach as "the back of the napkin".

Last year he produced a few slideshows on the American Health Care debate which have now been consolidated into a single presentation. It is worth taking a look:

Rosie the Riveter Lives!

My son just sent me a copy of a report he worked on for Hard-Hatted Women. It is an interesting document. While clearly focused on local (Ohio) issues it also contains material of wider interest.

As I have been (slowly) reading Nick Kristof's and Sheryl WuDunn's Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which stresses the importance of women's education around the world, one of the organizations mentioned in the Hard-Hatted Women report particularly caught my eye. Rosie's Girls (named after Rosie the Riveter) which runs three-week summer camp programs which acquaint girls in grades 6-8 with basic carpentry, electrical, and metal-working skills in what looks like a VERY enjoyable environment (although, if you ask me, they need a better camp song!):

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Being Beside Yourself

Thanks to a post by Nina Paley on Facebook, I have just watched this marvelous, disturbing piece:

Skhizein from Josef K. on Vimeo.

Réalisé par Jérémy Clapin

Interview réalisateur et producteur du film Skhizein à la 12e Nuit des Lutins

Skhizein Awards and Nominations:

CANNES 2008 - Semaine de la Critique —> Prix découverte Kodak du meilleur court métrage.

ANIMAFEST (Zagreb) —> Meilleur film (animation and new media students jury).

ANNECY (France) —> Prix du public.

ODENSE (Danemark ) —> Meilleur film d’animation.

PALM SPRINGS (USA ) —> 2nd Best Animation Film.

OFF-COURTS Trouville (France) —> mention spéciale du jury


KLIK fest. (Amsterdam) —> GRAND PRIX - KLIK ! Award

Fest. Int. du Film Francophone de NAMUR (Belgique) —> Bayard d’Or du Meilleur Court Métrage

ANIMADRID (Madrid - Espagne) —> 2nd prize

ANIMADRID (Madrid - Espagne) —> Audience award

ANIM’EST (Bucharest)—> Meilleur film d’animation

IMAGO (Portugal) —> Audience award


CURTOCIRCUITO (santiago) —> Meilleur film d’animation Ex-aequo

UPPSALA film fest. (Finlande) —> Audience award

DOK LEIPZIG (Allemagne) —> Golden Dove

Les UTOPIALES (Nantes) —> Nomination pour le Méliès d’or (public)

ANIMACOR (espagne) —> Meilleur film d’animation

RIO DE JANEIRO INT. SHORT FILM FEST. (Brésil) —> Prix du jury jeune

BRAUNSCHWEIG Int.Film Festival (Germany) —> Prix « LEO » qui récompense à la fois la musique et la mise en scène du film.

FLIP Animation Festival (UK) —> meilleur film international


Festival on WHEELS (Turquie) —> Audience award

BAF 2008 (Bradford - UK) —> Meilleur film professionnel

LEEDS International Film Festival (UK) —> Meilleur film d’animation

LEEDS International Film Festival (UK) —> Prix du public

ENCOUNTERS festival (UK) —> Prix du public - nomination pour le cartoon d’or

Festival International du Court Métrage de LILLE (France) —> Prix du public

I CASTELLI Animati (Rome) —> Meilleur film Européen - nomination pour le cartoon d’or

Les Sommets du cinéma d’animation (Québec, Canada) —> Prix du Public

OSCAR - 81st American Academy Award - Shortlisted

Festival int. de Clermont Ferrand (France) —> Meilleur film d’animation francophone (SACD)

CESAR 2009 - Nomination - Catégorie Meilleur Court-Métrage

ANIMA (Bruxelles) —> Grand prix du jury

ANIMA (Bruxelles) —> Prix du public

FfAT Munich —> Mention spéciale du jury

Festival Regard sur le court métrage au Saguenay —> Meilleur court métrage d’animation

LUCCA Animation festival (Italie) —> Grand prix

Wood Green int. short film fest. —> Audience award

ANIMABASQUE (Bilbao) —> Best 35mm Short Film Award

Ann Arbor Film Festival (USA - Michigan) —> Audience award

DRESDEN (Allemagne) —> Audience award

DRESDEN (Allemagne) —> Youth jury prize

KKO festival (France) —>Mention spéciale du jury

COLCOA (Los Angeles) —> Meilleur film d’animation


TRICKFILM STUTTGART —> Mention Spéciale du Jury

FICA (Algarve, Portugal) —> Meilleur court-métrage d’animation

FESTANIM (Meknès, Maroc) —> Prix de la Francophonie

KRAKOW FILM FESTIVAL —> Prix du jury étudiant

HUESCA FILM FESTIVAL —> Mention spéciale du Jury Jeune


ARCIPELAGO —> Meilleur film numérique

MESSAGE TO MAN (St Petersburg) —> Centaur du meilleur film d’animation

XIIe Nuit des Lutins du Court-Métrage —> Meilleur Producteur

XIIe Nuit des Lutins du Court-Métrage —> Meilleur Film d’animation

L.A FILM FESTIVAL (Los Angeles)—> Best Animated Short

SHORT FILM POETRY SLAM (Braunschweig) —> Prix du Public

ANIMA MUNDI (Brésil) —> Meilleur scénario

FEST ANCA (slovaquie) —> 3e Prix

MOLISECINEMA (Italie) —> Mention Spéciale

CONCORTO (Italie) —> Premier Prix (Asino d’oro)



MILANO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL —> Staff Award + Mention Spéciale du jury

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Original Cast Members of "Chicago" Show How It's Done

I confess that I did not think much of "The Mike Douglas Show" when I was young. Seeing the following clips on YouTube, however, I have to revise my opinion. Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon and Jerry Orbach are the guests, during the original run of "Chicago". Video quality is pretty good but remember -- these are VCR tapes. Priceless stuff!

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Much College Do Students Need?

In this week's Newsweek Lamar Alexander argues that students should finish college in three years. Both of my kids attended Bard High School Early College and thus received Associate Degrees (in Liberal Arts) at the same time that they received their high school diplomas. Joel, who graduated college (Oberlin) last June, was able to apply enough credits earned at BHSEC that he could complete a major and two minors without two much of a problem. That, however, was when I was still employed. Ruth, now in her first year at Grinnell, may face the decision of either completing college in three years or encumbering herself with the debt for the fourth year. Joel managed to graduate debt-free. Ruth may not be so lucky.

I can readily see the point of finishing college in three years but I also know that the last year (in some sense the "extra" year) that Joel spent in college was a valuable one for him. There may be a case to be made for not thinking in terms of a "one-size-fits-all" model when contemplating the length of a college career. As Alexander points out in his article the statistics seem to indicate that it is no longer the reality -- but unfortunately, in real life, students are taking more than four years:

The average amount of time students now take to complete an undergraduate degree has stretched to six years and seven months as students interrupted by work, inconvenienced by unavailable classes, or lured by one more football season find it hard to graduate.

I'd like to know where Alexander gets that statistic, by the way; I couldn't find anything like it on Google. The National Center for Education statistics seems to say that it takes students a little over five years to graduate.

In any event, Newsweek bolsters the argument for a three-year college career with the following video:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Paper Bag Princess

For Halloween, 2006 Ruth enlisted Bev's help in creating a costume based on "The Paper Bag Princess". The pictures I took of the process have proven to be popular on flickr in the intervening years, especially around Halloween, that I thought I would collect them into a set .

Ruth Models Her Costume -02

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fifteen minutes of fame

The travel section of the L.A. Times online has included one of my flickr photos (of the Roosevelt Hotel) as part of a slideshow about hotels named after presidents.

Roosevelt Hotel

Sunday, October 04, 2009

On The Street Where You Live is one component of, which also encompasses StreetsWiki and StreetsBlog, as well as Community and Education components. The span of activity is global but it looks to me that these sites detect where you are logging in from and automagically tailor theirpresentations to your area.

From comes this report on the new center-median, two-way protected bike path on the Sands Street approach to the Manhattan Bridge:

My own community, Inwood/Washington Heights, has its own livable streets group, which has compiled a summary of local issues. Overall the group wants to make it easier for everyone in these communities to 'walk more, bike more, ride mass transit more, drive less.'

By making these tools available and easy to use, the LivableStreets Initiative makes it much more likely that its goals will be reached.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Working Against Child Marriage In Nepal

I don't want to make unrealistic claims; Nepal, of course, is not Afghanistan. This movie, nevertheless, shows the effectiveness of a grassroots push for fundamental shifts in social attitudes by pursuing changes in reproductive health practices:

Owning Your Online Identity

Facebook affords you an identity. I don't mean to be speaking metaphysically. I mean that when you sign up with Facebook you are issued a unique identifier (similar to a driver's license or a social security card) and, over the course of your Facebook career, that identifier comes to be attached to other identifiers, to your posted verbal communications, to the various apps to which you subscribe, etc. You have some control over this identity and, as recent history shows, you may have some say in how your identity may be used (if enough people agree with you and let Facebook know).

Facebook, however, ultimately owns your identity on Facebook. Facebook monetizes your identity. Alternative arrangements are possible. Chris Messina discusses these (and many more aspects of online identity in the socially networked web world) in this (somewhat technical) lecture.

I find it particularly fascinating because his exploration of some of the dimensions of online identity resonated with my study (mostly long ago) of the negotiation of identity in face-to-face interactions.   It is interesting to think of what Chris Messina is talking about in connection with the work of such sociologists as Erving Goffman, sociolinguists such as William Labov and Penelope Eckert, students of nonverbal communication like Paul Ekman and Adam Kendon and conversation analysts such as Harvey Sacks and Emanuel Schegloff.

Identity is the Platform from Chris Messina on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Outrage and Strategy in Improving Women's Lives Around the World

This slideshow about Afghani child brides is shocking to me...not because I learned any significant new facts about the situation of young women in Afghanistan but because these portraits convey its horrors much more intimately than the recitation of statistics or a verbal narrative can. 

There is a tendency, when so shocked, to believe that a mere expression of outrage will somehow stand a chance of beginning to improve the circumstances of women such as these.  It cannot. 

Directing outrage against members of a distant and unfamiliar culture, if it has any impact at all, runs the risk of alienating the targets and hardening their attitudes against us.  This is because outrage can effect change only among people who view themselves as fellow members of some community of shared values; there must be some sort of "us" within which A's outrage poses a threat to B's status , B's wellbeing or B's ability to sleep at night).

I don't mean to argue that we should not work for change in places like Afghanistan.  We do, however, have to find ways of being smart about it.  We will need to bring humility, research, subtlety, persistence and consistency to the task.  None of these traits, unfortunately, are characteristic of our principal means of communicating about public issues.  Tweets, blogs, political addresses, and television punditry, for example, do not tend to reinforce any of the qualities I've mentioned.  It isn't that, given sufficient care and coordination, they couldn't.  It is only that in our American rush for the one quick fix they are rarely used that way. 

I am encouraged, therefore, that Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, have brought out their new book Half The Sky.  I have not read the book but I intend to.  Examining the table of contents, reading the first chapter, and listening to interviews and reading reviews I conclude that Kristof and WuDunn present carefully researched arguments and reasonable suggestions for action. 

They have their own website to explore, complete with a long list of resources.  They are also partnering with MercyCorps' One Table campaign (which addresses issues of world hunger by investing in the women of the world) to deliver special material to reading clubs which discuss the book.

A world-wide, coordinated approach to addressing women's rights, women's education, women's economic status, and the exploitation of women seems to me to be a very smart way to proceed, well worth the effort and the patience it will take to make it work.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


“The lives of ideas (and those who think them) can be as dramatic and unpredictable as any superhero fantasy. What could be more natural than a graphic novel to show how intellectual adventure plays out in the world of experience, with all its contradictions? Logicomix is witty, engaging, stylish, visually stunning, and full of surprising sound effects, a masterpiece in a genre for which there is as yet no name.”

- MICHAEL HARRIS, professor of Mathematics at Université Paris 7 and member of the Institut Universitaire de France

Logicomix home page.

Review in the New York Times.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Climate Change: Get Real

1) offers a very useful list of articles collectively entitled "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic"

2) Dr. Saul Griffith  was a MacArthur Fellow in 2007 and runs a renewable energy company; His blog is .

I have watched both parts of a Web seminar he gave last week on the topic of energy literacy and I am very glad I did. He takes an engineering/design approach to questions of energy usage, shows lots of graphs illustrating various aspects of the situation, and ends up presenting the audience with some very thought-provoking, fact-based ways of thinking about our current circumstances.  Although I've seen some of the statistics he cites before I don't believe I have ever seen them in quite this way.  Very effective, IMHO:

Part 1:  O'Reilly Webinar on Energy Literacy, part 1

Part 2:  O'Reilly Webinar on Energy Literacy, part 2  (about 20 minutes into this one there is a slight glitch; the slide does not advance so he is talking about a slide you can't see.  It's not a problem on your computer, it's a problem with the conferencing software and it is resolved within a few minutes).

Each of the above are about 35-40 minutes long, so it requires an investment of time.

You can preview a little of what he says in these short videos from a different presentation he made, this one in person:

CompostModern, clip 1

CompostModern, clip 2

This video is 1.5 hours; from the first half hour I've watched it seems to cover pretty much exactly the same factual ground as the two-parter above.  I found it interesting, however, in that he delivers the presentation live, to a packed house.  This leads him to make many asides (and jokes) which I found interesting and often useful.  The slides are much harder to read, though:

Climate Change Recalculated

Monday, September 21, 2009

Human Countdown to Copenhagen

Bev (Mrs. Baslow) participated in the filming of a video, "Human Countdown to Copenhagen: Central Park". The final product will depict sand (each grain a person in a colored tee-shirt) flowing through an hour-glass (also formed of people, in glassy blue plastic ponchos) to form a representation of the earth. Bev wore a green tee and was part of the African continent.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

We Have Liftoff...My Daughter's First Weeks At College

It is fortunate that Ruth, my daughter, contributes to the blog Women's Glib. The past few weeks she has been posting some fascinating articles as she prepared for the move and then settled in. It has been great getting a glimpse of what has been on her mind:

Packing Delirium
Grinnell Fun Facts
Am I a Spanish Barbie?
Sociological Mindfulness and Why We Should ALL be Feminists

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Return of Citizen Obie

After a hiatus of over three months, Joel has begun posting to his blog, Citizen Obie, once again. I'm glad to see it return. The posts, while often Ohio-centric, nevertheless provided useful resources for progressively-minded readers no matter where they lived. The recent post about the decline of the public option in the health care debate contains links to numerous thought-provoking perspectives. Link

Monday, August 17, 2009

The First Days of the Rest of Our Lives...

Bev returned Saturday from her epic road trip driving Ruth to Grinnell. She had help driving, at least: Her friend Lissa on the way in and a friend of Joel's, Ben, part of the way back. The trip involved a stopover in Oberlin each way, to pick up and then drop off Joel, who thereby got to see the Grinnell campus and lend Ruth some moral support on her first day on campus.

The campus was, I gather, almost empty. Ruth was arriving early to participate in a freshman get-to-know-each-other canoe trip (in northern Wisconsin, a nine-hour drive away). There was little staff around and few students. Ruth seemed happy, Bev tells me, not to have to deal with the stress of moving in and meeting lots of people all in the same day. They picked up some furnishings at local stores, got Ruth's laptop connected to the school network, and dealt with a little paperwork. Ruth seemed very happy, eager to get started.

Bev was exhausted Saturday evening, when she finally got home and was still feeling the effects of her journey Sunday. We went out for brunch at The Garden Cafe as a belated celebration of my birthday and stopped and sat in Isham Park on the way home. But it was hot and humid so we didn't stay in the park too long. When we got back home we looked at each other and took a moment to acknowledge what we both knew but had not mentioned: this was it. We were the household now. Except for vacations and visits we would be the sole determinants of the rhythms and moods of our home. This was the beginning of a new phase in our lives.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere Nor Any Drop to Drink

Michael Pritchard proposes a solution:

More information at

Lifesaver Bottle at

I Want to Get Demarried, Part 2

According to Wikpedia:

On 1 January 1998, registered partnerships were introduced in law in the Netherlands. These were meant for same-sex couples as an alternative to marriage, though they can also be entered into by opposite-sex couples, and in fact about one third of the registered partnerships between 1998 and 2001 were of opposite-sex couples. For the law, registered partnerships and marriage convey the same rights and duties, especially after some laws were changed to remedy inequalities with respect to inheritance and some other issues.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I Want to Get Demarried

Don't get me wrong; I love my wife and want to spend the rest of my life with her, exclusively. I am not interested in pursuing other conjugal relationships. I don't regret the strictures of marriage but I very much oppose the connotations, the religious connotations, with which the word seems inextricably encumbered.

I want to be mate-paired with my wife. I want to be attached socially, legally and emotionally. If, however, being married carries with it the association of heterosexuality, the aura of sacredness, and the necessary implication of procreation then it is a tainted concept. I want an alternative.

The term "demarriage" seems already to be in use by sociologists of the family, especially in Europe. As far as I can see (and I could have gotten this very wrong) I am using the term in a different way then they. They seem to apply the term to society as a whole to mean an increasing disaffection with the institution of marriage, an attitudinal shift in progress since World War II. When they apply the term to married couples it seems to mean a period of mutual alienation, of drifting away. When I say I want to get" demarried" I mean only that I want to adopt a new contract with my spouse, something we can call by a different name. I want my government and my society to offer me that choice.

Interestingly, something of that sort seems to exist in France. It is called PACS, pacte civil de solidarité. According to Wikipedia:

[it] is a form of civil union between two adults (same-sex or opposite-sex) for organising their joint life. It brings rights and responsibilities, but less so than marriage. From a legal standpoint, a PACS is a "contract" drawn up between the two individuals, which is stamped and registered by the clerk of the court. In some areas, couples signing a PACS have the option of undergoing a formal ceremony at the City Hall identical to that of civil marriage. Individuals who have registered a PACS are still considered "single" with regard to family status for some purposes, while they are increasingly considered in the same way as married couples are for other purposes.

PACS were signed into law in France in 1999 and, in certain respects, seem already to be a success:

According to the 2004 Demographic Report by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. the number of marriages in France had fallen each year since 2000.

266,000 civil marriages took place in 2004, a decline of 5.9% from 2003. However, the report found that the number of couples getting PACS had increased every year except 2001. There was a 29% increase in PACS between 2001 and 2002 and a 25% increase between 2002 and 2003. For the first 9 months of 2004, 27,000 PACS were signed compared to 22,000 in 2003. The report found that one PACS in 10 had been dissolved (less than divorces for couples married for the same period, for which one marriage in three will be dissolved by divorce or separation after the first 3 years...

France's adoption of the PACS law has not been a panacea. The situation in France is far from perfect. Same-sex PACS couples still do not have the right to adopt, for example. It is, nevertheless, a step in the right direction.

It would be a good thing for us here in the States if we began discussing the adoption of such laws ourselves.

[7/16/09 -- Note: This article has now been cross-posted on Women's Glib, a remarkable weblog by several young women (including my daughter) and managed by Miranda.]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Books to Get (Someday)

I hope, in this blog, to post occasional notes on topics in linguistics. I will have to put my thoughts together coherently, first. In the meantime I will at least point to books I want on my shelf. Such as this one --

Bard High School Early College Rocks!

In his recent speech to NAACP, President Obama lauded the innovations of two New York City public schools, Bard High School Early College and Medgar Evers College Preparatory School, for "challenging students to complete high school and earn a free associate's degree or college credit in just four years."

Both of my kids went to BHSEC and both loved it. They HAD to love it to make the daily commute from our home at the very top of Manhattan by subway all the way down the West Side to 14th street, then down and across to Houston and Avenue D (on the East Side) by bus...about 90 minutes each way.

The school, it was clear to us from the very start, is very special. It is a true intellectual community -- a rarity among high schools, in my experience. Students are treated with respect, as responsible and intelligent adults. For the most part they respond by acting responsibly and by exercising a great deal of intelligence. Those who are not up to the challenge tend to realize this early and elect, often in their freshman year, to attend a different school.

Now, Kesi Augustine, a graduate of BHSEC has published a column about her experiences at the school over on the Huffington Post website. It is worth reading.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Want A Job As A Court Jester

I think I've decided what job I'm going to look for next. I want to be a corporate court jester.

I wish I'd thought of this sooner.

I wish it had been my job to walk around the halls of, say, Enron proclaiming things like "Gordon Gekko was a fictional character; he was the villain. GREED IS NOT GOOD!"

I want to be the executive at Google whose sole job is to walk into people's offices and say "Do you smell evil? Are we getting, maybe, just a little evil? I think I've spotted some evil, here and there."

I want to wander around Motorola, saying "Six Sigma? Six Sigma? It just sounds, I don't know, so SILLY. Couldn't we call it Ways of Making Sure We Do Things Better?"

I gotta go work on my resume.

I'm Back

This blog was initiated in the year 2000 -- nine years ago. It does not, however, have nine years' worth of postings, as a glance at the archive index will quickly reveal. I have been, at best, a piss-poor blogger. Even my feeble attempts at reviving this blog, from time to time, have proven embarrassing.

So now, things are going to change. Because I have to change.

It has been a month since I was let go from my job. I emerge into the world of employment-seeking (and sometimes, it seems, into the world at large) like a kind of Rip Van Winkle, asleep for the last twenty or so years. I failed to do the things necessary that would prepare me for a job search at this time of my life and now I must catch up.

Like certain other undertakings (I'm thinking about losing weight, in particular) this one necessitates not just a few tweaks -- I will not be searching for any magical solutions -- but rather a wholesale revision of myself.

I'm pretty sure it will be difficult, painful, and stressful. I'm just about as sure it is the only way I can make any progress in my life.

I'll try to be much more specific about what I think I have to do (and what I think this blog will be like) in subsequent posts.

American Accent Redux

It has been a few years, now, and I encountered an updated version of the quiz whose results I posted in a previous entry. The results are pretty much the same, only reported a little differently.

What American accent do you really have?
Your Result: Mid-Atlantic

You have the accent of Philadelphia, south Jersey, and Baltimore. Everyone around there knows what a Philly accent is but not enough outsiders can ever recognize it.





Northeast New England


North Central

What American accent do you really have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz