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

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from March 2007

Pat and Mike and don’t “Stop cyberbullying”

March 30th, 2007 · 2 Comments

Cartoon says Stop cyberbullying
Two Irishmen jumped off the Empire State Building…which brings me to my own suggestion for turning the Kathy Sierra horror story into a victory for blogging kindness. Let me tell you a (non-PC) story I heard from my dad…


Pat and Mike and their half empty bottle of whiskey somehow get to the top of the Empire State Building. “Sure, and a leap to the ground would be a glorious end to this fine evening,” says Pat.

“I’m not so sure,” says Mike. “What if it hurts?”

“Ye baby” says Pat, “watch this.” So Pat jumps over and hollers back up to Mike, “Jump, ye baby, it doesn’t hurt at all.”

So then Mike jumps, and he and Pat are both flying down through the air and feeling grand. But Pat is still that little bit in front. So Pat hits the ground first. And Pat yells up to Mike, “Mikey–go back, go back–it hurts, it hurts!”

Good people around the blogworld are asking how we can defend cyberbullying victims like Kathy Sierra. But the great story here is that Kathy defended herself against bullies who lured each other on into more and more outrageous posts and comments.

One minute the bullies, like Pat, were flying high, with power to hurt and diminish whatever they touched. Then–thanks to Kathy–bullies hit the reality that a wide public is reading ugly comments made about *them*.

It hurts, it hurts.

No, I’m not rejoicing in anyone’s pain. There’s been more than enough pain to go around in this whole sorry mess.

My point is–let’s get back to the positive here–that warning cyberbullies to “Remember Kathy Sierra” is powerful and likely to succeed. It’s not a call to improve your morality. It’s a call to remember the horrible wrath that rained down on anyone who had even tenuous connections to sites where anons gathered to bully Kathy Sierra. Respected people, good people, like Frank Paynter and Jeneane Sessum, whose work on the web had made them widely loved, suddenly found themselves under truly scary attack by angry (and well-meaning) people who were ready to shoot first and maybe aim later.

“Remember Kathy Sierra.” It’s better though longer than “Stop Cyberbullying.” And it’s shorter than my alternative warning to potential cyberbullies:

“Go back, go back. It hurts, it hurts.”

p.s. I bless Andy Carvin for “Stop Cyberbullying Day,” (also Scott MacLeod for some great cartoons.)

Tags: funny · Metablogging · stopcyberbullying

Spacetime and springtime on the kitchen counter

March 30th, 2007 · Comments Off on Spacetime and springtime on the kitchen counter

Spacetime and springtime on the kitchen counter

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine.

Frank got home late last night from Texas–McMurry University gave him a really neat present, a wooden box with a compass and watch inside it. Or, as Frank explained it to me “Space and time.”

Where should I photograph this cool little toy? As it happened, on the counter next to our sink one of many small grocery-store spring plants was in fresh bloom. Then I decided the stoneware casserole with a dragon on top of it would make another good addition to the photo.

Ahh, multitasking. Can you see from this photo why Linda Stone thinks it’s not such a good idea?

Tags: Frank Wilczek · Life, the universe, and everything

Not ready to make nice

March 29th, 2007 · Comments Off on Not ready to make nice

Dixie Chicks

Originally uploaded by Kingsnake.

Frank and I watched that Dixie Chicks movie tonight–three young women, toting seven babies among them, trying to make a career in the public arena, end up a focus of loonies who think it’s great fun to target prominent women with ugly insults, an attempt to wreck their career, and some (maybe credible and maybe not) death threats.

I had no idea, when I borrowed Shut Up and Sing from my little sis in Florida, that it would be so relevant to the current blogstorm surrounding ugly insults (and more) aimed at some of the blogosphere’s most high-profile women on some websites that just got called out by Kathy Sierra.

I’m glad that by pushing back hard and loudly and effectively, Kathy Sierra has got some much-needed wider public attention to cyber-bullying. I would have preferred it if her mention of their names hadn’t aimed lynch-mob psychologies toward two of my most admired elder-bloggers, Jeneane Sessum and Frank Paynter. (And I am proud of my old friend Dave Winer for stepping up to defend Frank and Jeneane and even Rageboy, all of whom have said some pretty harsh things about him in the past.)

I’m not in favor of lynch-mobs–and I should probably take Dean Landsman’s good advice to “Blog no evil.”

But I’m not ready to make nice on this.

I think that those who wrote ugly stuff about Kathy and Maryam and Tara deserve to think about what it would mean to have their own real names permanently attached to the nasty stuff they wrote in some “sekrit” web clubhouse.

Doc Searls was told that some unknown hacker made all this big mess. If that’s the case, said hacker has been responsible for criminal acts far beyond cyber-bullying, and I look forward to reading more about police efforts to learn the troll’s identity. Update: Doc has now expressed some doubts of his own on this story.

I hope that Kathy and Maryam and Tara will dismay their tormentors, as the Dixie Chicks did, by moving on to more renown and new achievements.

Tags: Good versus Evil · Metablogging · stopcyberbullying

Old HP scanner hath charms…

March 27th, 2007 · Comments Off on Old HP scanner hath charms…

… when its stepper motor is reprogrammed to play Beethoven’s Für Elise.

This is the kind of lovely geek achievement that gives you some hope for the whole crazy human race.

Thanks to Tinglilinde for the link!

Tags: funny · Science

My little sister and her little white dog

March 24th, 2007 · Comments Off on My little sister and her little white dog

My little sister and her little white dog

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine.

I miss my own little white dog Marianne.

But now that I’m in Florida visiting my little sis, at least I get to play with her little white dog.

Palm trees — blue skies — feeding pelicans on the St. Petersburg pier — these are all spiffy.

But spending a week with my sister is even more so.

Tags: My Back Pages · Sister Age · Wide wonderful world

Giant cow “Beano” pill soon to save planet

March 23rd, 2007 · 1 Comment

Three Sisters
Originally uploaded by BigFrank.

They look so innocent, but….

Cows, in their intestines, produce methane gas. Lots of it–enough gas to become a problem for global warming.

Scientists have developed a pill that helps cows break down that methane, using its energy to produce sugar. Cows get fatter–methane goes down–and the whole planet becomes a happier place.

What good news from science, that gives us all reason to smile!

Tags: funny · Science

Geeking it up, and getting just too darn geeky?

March 22nd, 2007 · 1 Comment

I’ve been DailyKossing my phone-jamming investigation posts recently–the latest one (even I admit) is incredibly geekish–my 2-page deconstruction of the 20-page appeals court decision.

I don’t expect “real reporters” who arrive at the NH phone-jamming from “USAgate” to know where all the bodies are buried, either from Tobin’s original trial in December 2005, or from his Tobin’s January 2007 appeal, when I was the only “reporter” present. So my new Daily Kos post is a “reporter service” piece, I admit that.

But such are the pangs of vanity that it hurts anyway that only five people have “recommended” that diary post in the hour since I first put it up on Kos.

Looking on the bright side, if the US Appeals Court was going to set just one defendant free, James Tobin seems like a really decent guy–aside from his unwillingness to help implicate co-conspirators higher up in the RNC.

Tags: New Hampshire!

Phone-jamming–Tobin walks, will US Attorney replace him in the dock?

March 21st, 2007 · 5 Comments

Two pieces of blockbuster news today in the ongoing NH phone-jamming scandal.

1) NH Democrats detail, in 10 damning pages, the evidence the NH’s US Attorney Thomas Colantuono stone-walled and “slow-walked” the investigation of the 2002 Election Day crime where the NH Republican State Committee paid a Virginia telemarketing firm $15,600 (having just received $15,000 from Abramoff clients), some of which went to pay an Idaho telemarketing firm to make repeated hang-up phone calls to Democrats’ ride to the polls lines. (Josh Marshall posted that 10page document as 10 html pages; it’s here as one 10-page pdf file.)

2) James Tobin’s conviction has been overturned by the US Appeals Court, on the grounds the NH’s US Attorney Thomas Colantuono chose the wrong statute to use in prosecuting him. I did predict this result in January, after the appeals court hearing at which I was the only “reporter.”

Update:Here’s a text file of the court’s opinion. They don’t acquit Tobin, but remand his case back to the courts of NH to be re-tried. Poor Mr. Tobin.

Update: Yet more documents :

Tags: New Hampshire!

Florida déja, and not déja, vu

March 21st, 2007 · Comments Off on Florida déja, and not déja, vu

Betsy Devine with sign (Beware of Alligators) in Florida

It was 64 degrees in Tampa this morning and everybody was saying how cold it is. Oh boy! After the last month of snow and ice (Cambridge got its December in March this year), I feel like running outside in my bathing suit!

On the flight down I sat next to a NH family also headed to visit relatives–mom and dad and three nice kids ranging from 5 to maybe 15. I had an aisle seat next to cute teen boy curly-mophead and his 30-something dad, who wearing the shaved-head “I am cool” look but not the “I am nobody’s dad” tattooed and pierced look. The dad told me that he and his wife had been to Florida 20 years before but this would be the first time for their kids. The kids were sharing a bunch of game-boys and walkman type electronics around. As we were landing the dad was telling his kids with great pleasure and pride, “Look–palm trees.”

And since this was just about what I’d been thinking myself–“Oh boy, Florida! Palm trees!” I felt old and young at the same time, but in general, just wonderful.

Tags: Travel

Nicolas Bourbaki and the Stepford husbands

March 18th, 2007 · Comments Off on Nicolas Bourbaki and the Stepford husbands

“First rate people hire other first rate people.
Second rate people hire third rate people.
Third rate people hire fifth rate people.”

This is André Weil’s Law of Faculties — a theorem propounded by the mathematician André Weil (1906 – 1998), which appears on page 10 of Absolute Zero Gravity, a collection of science jokes I once coauthored.

Weil’s Law also gives insight into the problems inside our White House and Justice Department–which one former Reagan US Attorney analyzed rather cynically for the LA Times:

“The incompetence has been amazing … There are too many Stepford husbands in this administration: young men who are perfectly coiffed and have great clothes, but very few of them have ever been in a courtroom.”

Weil’s Law explains so much about the progression from young Karl Rove pushing George W Bush into politics because Bush looked so good in cowboy boots, down and around to George W Bush agreeing to turn Federal Emergency Management over to the inexperienced Michael Brown, an old college roommate of his pal Joe Allbaugh.

Lift a rock, and see Stepford husbands, all the way down.
(thanks to Talkingpointsmemo for pointing to the Stepford quote.
Not to disappoint any Bourbaki fans, I had the pleasure of spending many hours with Andre Weil for a 1990s project at the IAS, collecting an oral history from four retired mathematicians there. You can find transcripts in the IAS library–my only surviving mention from that era now on the web is a footnote in a memoir by Armand Borel.

About those Bourbaki meetings, Weil recalled with delight the way participants would meet to dispute mathematics with screams of rage, then emerge from the meeting room in perfect amity to enjoy an excellent dinner. One evening, Weil himself emerged from the meeting room a bit earlier than the others and encountered the hotel concierge standing outside the door. “Oh Monsieur,” she said with great anxiety, “I have been standing here for half an hour trying to decide whether I should perhaps call the police to make sure that nobody in there is being harmed.”

This memory gave Professor Weil enormous pleasure–and, remembering his pleasure now, I’m smiling too.

Tags: Editorial · My Back Pages · Science