Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from May 2004

Warding off tragedy with a thin piece of plastic

May 29th, 2004 · Comments Off on Warding off tragedy with a thin piece of plastic

In the ongoing tragedy of Sudan–being ably blogged by James Moore and Joanna Cippolla Moore–a new act is about to begin.

Summer rains are expected to flood many refugee camps, while making it hard for aid and food trucks to get

According to the UN’s World Food Program project,

There can be few places on the planet
in such desperate humanitarian straits as Darfur. More than a million
people have been displaced by the conflict between the government in
Khartoum and rebel forces, the violence exacerbated by marauding
militias on horses and camels.

Most people are living in impromptu camps, sheltering under flimsy
roofs of straw and cardboard, surviving on food handouts and the
medical attention of the few brave NGO doctors and nurses who have been
able to reach them. Malnutrition rates are soaring, particularly
amongst children under the age of five; livestock is dying as its
owners can no longer afford to spare the animals any water from their
daily ration; clothes are turning into dirty rags.

Anyway, we can help the UN’s World Food Program save lives in Sudan by making a credit-card donation online
There’s something about that image of clothes turning into dirty rags
that really got me, so I was grateful for the opportunity.

Tags: Good versus Evil

Garlic salt and bacon grease

May 27th, 2004 · 2 Comments

This is the gourmet equipment from my mother’s kitchen–garlic salt and an old coffee can she kept full of bacon fat.

My mother’s recipe for hamburgers:

Go to Boy’s Market and chat with neighbors while waiting for Mr. Boy to grind up some beef.
Pay for groceries by saying “charge it, please” before heading home.
Put some bacon grease in the huge black skillet to melt.
Pass out bites of raw hamburger to any children or dogs hanging out in the kitchen. (Kids get a shake of garlic salt on their meat, but dogs don’t.)
Put some garlic salt into each patty and a whole bunch more on top.
Sear burgers top and bottom in pan–serve when meat inside is hot but still dark red.

I love all the extra choices I have now for cooking. (Cilantro! Szechuan bean curd! Miso soup!) But the real secrets of cooking I learned from my mother–who had 4 tricks to make anything taste better:

  • Add a pinch of sugar.
  • Add a teaspoon of salt.
  • Mix in a tablespoon of butter or cream.
  • Do all the above

Of course, all these things are now known to be very, very bad. And I’m a good girl, so I rarely do them. Some day, though, modern medicine will change its mind again, as it has so often before. Mmmmm, bacon fat as health food. I can hardly wait.

Tags: My Back Pages

Search results easier to map than conversations…

May 25th, 2004 · Comments Off on Search results easier to map than conversations…

Visualizing weblog conversations (see Judith Meskill and Mary Hodder)
means tracking a meme from blogger to blogger. Who linked to whom? Who
quoted but failed to link? Who said what first? How fast and how far
did the conversation spread?

Visualizing search results is less ambitious–sometimes a good
thing. Dropping cannon balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa is less
ambitious than launching millionaire space tourists, but the stuff
you learn from one benefits the other…Not that Judith and Mary are
launching space tourists–sorry, irresistible wise-guy impulse there.

If one picture is worth a thousand words, that’s probably because words
get processed in linear sequence but pictures end up on your retina,
which has billions and billions [TM]* of generations of tricks for
processing two-dimensional information in order not to get eaten.

Here are a few sample interesting ways to display search results:

Geographical (works only if search results contain geographical info):
Mikel Maron’s WorldKit (Sample: Phil Wilson’s British blogger map)
GeOrkut mapper of Orkut friendship nets (closed down, alas, but here’s a sample.)

Kartoo (you can play with this one online)
Touchgraph (interesting static samples)

Haven’t tried these:
Grokker/Groxis (looks Boolean)
Inxight (This looks more like a
very good database than a visualizer per se. It’s a commercial app with
some really big customers including the Department of Defense.)

Leave a comment to let me know about some of the billions and billions more–

* “Billions and billions [TM]” technical term in Betsy-speak meaning “lots and lots and I don’t plan to look up how many.”

Tags: Feedster

25 million Web searches an hour, and more…

May 25th, 2004 · Comments Off on 25 million Web searches an hour, and more…

Incredible you-must-read-this geeky resource: article on history of search by Ramana Rao of Inxight Software:

It’s been nearly 60 years since Vannevar Bush’s seminal Atlantic Monthly
article, “As We May Think,” portrayed the image of a scholar aided by a
machine, “a device in which an individual stores all his books,
records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be
consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.”
Unmistakably in this is the technology now known as search by millions
and known as information retrieval (IR) by tens of thousands.
From that point in 1945 to now, when some 25 million Web searches an hour are served, a lot has happened.

In the mid-1980s at Xerox PARC I witnessed the beginnings
of a research
effort related to search that has swept me along for nearly 20 years… [emphasis Betsy’s]

Tags: Feedster

Somebody out there loves us

May 25th, 2004 · Comments Off on Somebody out there loves us

New Yorker article

(Thanks to Steve Cohen over at LibraryStuff for the link!)

Tags: Learn to write good

My friend Jay’s house just burned down

May 24th, 2004 · Comments Off on My friend Jay’s house just burned down

Just read about this over on Scripting, thanks Dave–

Jay McCarthy–the generous, funny, energetic blogger of MakeOutCity–has a first-person account of watching his house burn down:

I was a bit panicked and shaken but I grabbed
my backpack and threw my computers in it and put on some pants. I
should have probably put on the pants with my wallet in them, but for
some reason I didn’t. And I should have probably got a jacket as well
seeing as it is so cold now…

One of my neighbors was very kind and gave me his jacket and we talked
about his son and where he is going to school. I haven’t talked to this
man probably since a Halloween in grade school or at some baseball game
with his son, whom I never really hung out with much…

Our friend Lisa Williams has started a PayPal account to help cover Jay’s family’s expenses, e.g. take-out pizza. A very worthwhile cause, in my opinion.

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

Politics: Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Boo-Hoo?

May 23rd, 2004 · Comments Off on Politics: Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Boo-Hoo?

“Back in 2000, a Republican friend of mine warned me that if I voted
for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we’d lose millions
of jobs, and our military would be totally overstretched. You know
what? I did vote for Al Gore, he did win, and I’ll be damned if all
those things didn’t come true.”

James Carville, Democratic strategist

Thanks to Frank Paynter for this political gem!

Tags: Invisible primary

Gratitude for latitude

May 23rd, 2004 · Comments Off on Gratitude for latitude

Lilacs: I
just got back from my little sister’s house, way up in Maine. She has a
big old-fashioned lilac-colored lilac bush in the front yard, and a big
dreamy white lilac bush by the dining room window.

Her lilacs are still just budding and breaking out, more than a week
after my Massachusetts lilacs disappeared.

the little kid said, thank heaven for geography because without it we’d
all be on top of one another. Even worse, all our lilacs would wither
at the same time.

Tags: My Back Pages

The flowers that bloom in the spring…

May 20th, 2004 · 1 Comment

Go check out Jim Moore’s gorgeous springtime photos. I guarantee you will want to join Gilbert and Sullivan in a loud chorus of tra la….

Tags: Life, the universe, and everything

Outside the screamversation box

May 20th, 2004 · 2 Comments

Screaming accusations. Whining self-defense. Finger-pointing instead of problem-solving.

I’m not talking about three two-year-olds sharing one cookie–I’m talking about public policy “debate” in many blogs, news
media, and even bookstores.

For echo-chamber number one, Why I Hate the Democrats. Meanwhile, in the opposite echo-chamber,  449 Stupid Things Republicans Have Said
As if filling our minds with anger, contempt, and conceit were a
good preparation for solving serious problems…

I went to the bookstore today, but not for any of those books. I got a copy of The Pentagon’s New Map by Thomas P. M. Barnett, the first hard-cover book I’d bought in a while.

The author has a weblog that my Berkman friend Critt Jarvis had pinged me to make Feedster Feed of the Day. Here’s just one of the blog quotes I really liked:

[Reflecting on a right-wing-radio interview] There
are no Republican-only answers for the questions posed in this Global
War on Terrorism. A real grand strategy appeals to both sides of the
political spectrum, or it’s no grand strategy at all.

…you have to remember who you are at the end of the day. He’s David
Gold and I’m Tom Barnett. He’s got a conservative talk radio show and I
have a vision of a future worth creating not just for America, but for
the world.

There will always be that temptation to view the enemy as
fundamentally inhuman, or something so alien we simply cannot recognize
its motivations and desires. But I didn’t want to write that book, or
sell that fear, or divide this nation or this world into those who are
“us” and those who must forever remain “them”….
The battle for hearts and minds isn’t merely going on in Iraq, but all
over this world.

It’s late and I’m sleepy, so I’ll stop now, but here’s what I said when I made him Feed of the Day:

Date: May 20, 2004
Feed:  “Thomas P. M.
Barnett : : Weblog”  ( for )
Citation: Book-in-the-news The
Pentagon’s New Map featured in multi-dimensional smartperson blog by
its author war-college prof Thomas P. M. Barnett. Hard to say what
gives more pleasure–his non-toxic, optimistic global vision or his
first-person blogging of media frenzy to die for.

Tags: Good versus Evil