The End of Mailing Lists?

It occurred to me that just about any mailing list would be more effective as a blog/RSS format. The only trick would be for interactive mailing lists, where anyone can post. Not sure how that would work.

Just a quick thought to get you through lunch :-)


2005 Suuuuucked

Well, with all these Best/Worst of 2005 lists coming out now, I thought I would contribute my two cents: 2005 was awful. There were some high points in there, but for the most part it was a nightmare. On a personal note, I had a lot of good stuff happen to me this year, (I got my own place in Manhattan, I got a great job, I had two acting performances that I think went well…), and as you know, some seriously bad stuff as well. But outside my cave, horror after horror.

Throughout the year, Iraq has been in the spotlight – the endless stream of violence and death there is just overwhelming. Whatever you think of the war, it has costed the US, its few remaining allies, and the Iraqi people dearly in blood. It's time to get the hell out of there ASAP…

Immediately before 2005 started was the Tsunami, the anniversary of which was yesterday, I believe. The sheer devastation is still difficult to comprehend, and the people in the affected regions are still in bad shape. Anyway, you know all about the Tsunami, so no need to elaborate on its horribleness here.

In March, a student in northern Minnesota went on a shooting spree in his school.

On July 7, terrorists attacked the London Underground. As if that wasn't bad enough, it turns out that the terrorists were actually raised in London

Then we had the heart-wrenching Gaza withdrawal. By almost all accounts that I've heard, the Jewish community in Gaza was something of a paradise – warm people, strong communities, agricultural achievements, great schools, etc. Seeing all that destroyed was painful, to say the least. And it was chilling to see Palestinians burn down all the Gaza synagogues at the earliest opportunity – showing a complete lack of tolerance or respect. On top of it all, it was probably pointless, and almost certainly politically motivated. One of the theories I heard was that Sharon did it to take the heat off his son, who has been under investigation for corruption. If that's true, it's beyond sick, and Sharon should be immediately removed from power. No leader has the right to be so selfish.

Shortly afterward, Hurricaine Katrina. I mean, Holy S—. A major American city, rich with history and culture, all but wiped out. And one of the worst parts is that just about every aspect of the disaster could have been prevented. From the levees to the shockingly incompetent response to the obnoxious stonewalling by insurance companies, it brought out the worst in human nature. I wrote a wishy-washy entry about FEMA here.

Not to mention the absurd number of hurricaines before and after. “Day After Tomorrow” anyone?

The Transit Strike. Smack in the middle of the busiest shopping season of the year, seriously damaging the New York economy, and hitting lower-class workers the hardest, since they get paid hourly and can't afford alternate transportation, like taxis. Not that taxis go to poorer neighborhoods anyway.

The persecution of Jews in Paris and Paris riots.

On a more trivial note, Star Wars came to an end. The fact that Episode 3 was probably the last ever Star Wars movie is depressing, and the movie itself was depressing.

Other notable craptastic stories: Chinese Pollution, Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff (someone I'm embarrassed to say is a practicing Jew), Karl Rove and Valerie Plame, Ward Churchill calling some World Trade Center victims “little Eichmanns”, Sony's virus/spyware, the usual string of celebrity debacles – the list goes on and on.

Some synagogues have the custom of reading a prayer immediately before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). “Let the year and its curses end – Let the year and its blessings begin.” Amen!


Do I Look Like That?

Joystiq has a cute article about facial recognition matching the head of Nintendo and Jim Carrey.  There's an online demo of the site, My Heritage, where you can upload your picture and see what celebrities match up to your mug.  I found it… faulty.  I apparently match up with just about anyone, including:
Sean Astin (67%)
David Beckham (64%)
Renee Zellweger (64%)
Ronald Reagan (62%)
Hayyim Nachman Bialik (61%)
Keira Knightley (61%)
Brigham Young (60%)
Mark Hamill! (57%)
Sid Vicious (55%)
Zhang Ziyi (42%)

Disclaimer: I did use a few photos, and there are some “tweaks” you can do, but they were all definitely, recognizably me.  I do wear glasses, so I think that messed them up a bit… most celebrities don't.

Anyway, if I have time, I will try putting in actual celebrity photos and see how they do… or better yet, you do it, and let me know how it works ;-)


p.s. Happy Chanukkah!

Humorous Look at Wikipedia

Wikipedia, as the poster-site for publically-managed content, has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. Penny Arcade has a very funny and cute look at some of the perils of open content…


Droidel, Droidel, Droidel

I loooove it when “Yoda” news and “Yid” news cross paths :-) Last Friday, the official Star Wars site posted a Make Your Own Droidel Dreidel crafts project for kids. And they even have a surprisingly thorough explanation of what the dreidel is all about – whoever wrote it knows their stuff :-)

Anyway, make those droid-themed dreidels – what are you waiting for?


Super Slashdot

Two seemingly unrelated stories on Slashdot:

Israeli Company Creates Nano-Armor:
Izeickl writes “According to IsraCast, an Israeli company has created materials made of inorganic fullerene-like nanostructures (IFs) which have amazing shock absorbing properties. During preliminary tests, these materials, which are five times stronger than steel, have successfully resisted to steel projectiles generating pressures as high as 250 tons per square centimeter. These materials could be incorporated in “nanoarmors” able to protect soldiers or police forces within three years.”


Superman 'Too Big' for the Big Screen:
Evilelf writes “The new Superman is giving movie bosses a headache – because of the size of his bulge. They fear Brandon Routh's profile in the superhero's skintight costume could be distracting, reports the Sun. Hollywood executives have ordered the makers of Superman Returns to cover it up with digital effects.”

So who needs Superman and his super “bulge”? We have Nano-Armor! And it's just in time, since Superman is rapidly running out of phone booths to change in…


Playlist of Ideas

I'm going to go out on a limb with this post :-)

In today's culture, with its overwhelming amount of “content” – be it movies, television, or music, cultural guidance is critical. At least if you don't want to waste your time listening to Top 40 crap. For example, aspiring DJ's will visit the websites of top DJ's to find out what they've been playing. Anyway, since savvy recommendations are so important, I decided to coin the phrase “Playlist of Ideas”. That's sort of what I'm trying to accomplish with this blog – reporting on interesting/new/offbeat ideas that I've encountered. So the blog as a whole is something like a playlist, and I'm the DJ. And LiveJournal is the club. And I suppose you're the clubbers. I'm trying to be trendy :-P If it takes off, you heard it here first. If it doesn't and it sounds really stupid, and you haven't even read this far, because you stopped at the headline… well, leave me alone – I never started a trend before. It's hard work.

“A Playlist of Ideas.” Think about it.


p.s. Did you think about it yet?

Telecom Trouble

Via Slashdot:

“AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. are lobbying Capitol Hill for the right to create a two-tiered Internet, where the telecom carriers' own Internet services would be transmitted faster and more efficiently than those of their competitors.”

This is very bad. Lawrence Lessig, in his book “The Future of Ideas“, pointed out that the rich innovation of the internet stems largely from its infrastructure – you can write a program on one end of the internet and another one on the other end, and you generally don't have to worry about what's going on in the middle (except for connection speed). The internet is open to new ideas – that's how we have things like iTunes, IM, and RSS, applications that were not envisioned by the internet's creators. Contrast this to a telephone line – internet access requires a horrific amount of screeching and hissing. That's because phone lines were designed with voice communication in mind – anything else requires engineered arm-twisting. The internet wasn't specifically designed for anything, so it can handle anything. That's its power. This is all from Lessig's book.

Back to the article – by introducing a second tier, users are no longer guaranteed a consistent, open behavior. They are going to have to start designing applications around an internet “optimized” for (read “tied to”) video technology. At the very least, this means the playing field will no longer be level. It also means that innovation will go downhill, since developers can no longer be sure that their systems will interact with the internet the way they expect. Innovation will now be bottlenecked with the politics of negotiating with telcos.

An interesting point:

“Cable TV companies like Comcast Corp. have invaded the telecoms' main business, telephone service. The telecoms want to strike back by offering Internet-based television. They want to offer all the programs now available on cable, as well as movie and game trailers, and full-length films.”

Yes – Voice Over IP is now a significant threat to telephone companies, and with technologies like WiMax on the horizon, even cell phone companies are in danger. The telcos naturally want to leverage their assets. Buuuut… as I pointed out, if this comes at the expense of killing the internet (or “transforming it from an open forum for ideas into nothing more than cable television on speed”, in Lessig's words), it's really an unacceptable move. It's a tough world, my telecom conglomerate friends…


Morgan Freeman on Black History Month

He's against it. His argument makes sense – there's no “White History Month”, why a Black History Month? As he points out, African-Americans are Americans – their history is a central part of American history, and should be taught as such.

He also said that the only way to stop racism is to stop talking about it. I didn't like this at first – it seems like it's simply sweeping a mess under a carpet – but I came around. As soon as you start talking about racism, race becomes a factor. Differences in race (and religion and language and whatever) can be tolerated and even celebrated by examining common ground – that's how you transform difference into diversity. So I would qualify Mr. Freeman's statement: instead of saying simply that we should stop talking about racism, I would say that we should instead talk about politics, culture, work, love, the weather, just about anything. This we we can see each other as real people, with real feelings and real complexities, and not just demographical “instances” (to borrow a term from Computer Science).


p.s. I hope that didn't come out too preachy…

Mesirat Nefesh

I haven't written anything since the funeral last week. I just wanted to share something about Judy (may her memory be a blessing) that I found out at the funeral service.

I always knew that she wanted to pursue an acting career, that she had been accepted to and enrolled in NYU's Tisch School of the Arts for that purpose, and that she had left after one year. But I never knew why, until last week. Her father (my maternal grandfather), may he rest in peace, got sick with cancer when she was a freshman. She left school to help take care of him and her family. In other words, she gave up her dream in order to help others.

This is an amazing example of the Jewish concept of “Mesirat Nefesh”, or “self-sacrifice”. I couldn't find a nice definition of it anywhere, but the general idea is that you put your own needs and wants on hold in order to fulfill the needs of others (or God).

This is also typical of my aunt – she was always an amazing hostess for my family and myself when we went to her house every Thanksgiving weekend, and she even hosted Thanksgiving this past year – less than two weeks before she passed away – despite her advanced illness. And even then, she told me that I was welcome to stay over whenever I wanted, if I ever needed to get away from the New York/New Jersey area (an offer she had repeated many times).

Also, I really appreciate all the support and sympathy that I've been getting from my friends. I am a bit surprised, though, that no one left any comments for that post, and I'm not quite sure what that means. Does it mean no one is reading, or that the people who are reading all know me in person anyway and have chosen to talk to me directly? Anyway, I usually don't do this, but even if you talked to me personally, I'd appreciate if you wrote something short for my aunt in the comments section. I don't know why this is bothering me, but it is…

Anyway, I'll miss my aunt Judy – she was a wonderful woman, and she left behind three wonderful kids. May they take comfort in knowing how much their mom gave of herself to give comfort to others.