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

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Entries from August 2008

Obama not ready to lead

August 26th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Obama and Clinton: CNN Texas Debate Mashup

Originally uploaded by stevegarfield

Joe Biden said it. Hillary Clinton said it. And (I confess) Betsy Devine also thought it, back when the primaries were getting started. Who was this young guy with his groupy supporters, his visions of Red-and-Blue harmony? Wasn’t he just a naive dreamer who would quickly be crushed by Karl Rove and his cynical minions?

A supporter of John Edwards, I later trended toward Clinton, deeply annoyed by the Hillary-haters who found welcome instead of rebuke among Obama’s groupies.

But the big-eared guy with the funny name won me over. Making a long story short, he won me over completely, on March 18, with his “speech on race,” giving respect to divisive resentments, both black and white, even as he asserted his own call to unity.

What would it be like, I finally asked myself, to have a President who was thoughtful and empathetic and deeply intelligent. Somebody who stayed loyal to his big-mouthed pastor long after it would be expedient to have denounced him, but somebody who stuck up for what he himself believed in, even when what he believed was a complex reality, not poll-tested bullet points.

Predictably, McCain supporters will use people’s long-ago words to claim that Obama now is not ready to lead. I disagree, and so (I bet) do most of the people they’ll be deceptively quoting.

Tags: Editorial · politics

SciFoo session about “Science 2.0”

August 9th, 2008 · Comments Off on SciFoo session about “Science 2.0”

George and Esther Dyson

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

My plan to have webfolk give “lightning” talks for scientists ended up in the schedule as 9:30 a.m. “lighting” talks.”

Nevahtheless, as Katherine Hepburn would say, an overflow SciFoo crowd showed up in Google’s “Damascus” room (seats 22) to hear Tim O’Reilly’s own explanation of Web 2.0, followed by stellar short talks by Esther Dyson (EDventure), Chris Anderson (Wired), Barend Mons (WikiProfessional), and Victoria Stodden (Harvard’s Berkman Center).

What was the premise here? As posted in SciFoo’s wiki for session suggestions:

Science Outreach 2.0? I see proposed sessions to have science “heard” by politicians (Eric W, Adam Wishart), to get more young people to fall in love with science (Chris Riley), and to get non-scientists involved in “spectator science” or “citizen science” activities (Margaret Wertheim, Jack Stilgoe, Karen James, Brother Guy).

Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, social networks, web services) are great ways to reach out to non-scientists. What I’m proposing is a session on this useful subset of HOW-TO (a fairly new set of useful tools), a session where Sci Foo’s webfolk (and web-savvy scientists) might give “lightning” talks about “Here is a great web tool useful for scientists doing outreach, here is a quick demo of how it works, here is a URL where you can learn more about it.” Betsy Devine

Here are links to some of the websites that were discussed there:

  • What is Web 2.0?: Original (2005) essay by Tim O'Reilly
  • Science networking site, mentioned by Esther Dyson.
  • User-friendly online DNA comparison tools, explained by Esther Dyson.
  • Science authors can get book-tour information out to the "long tail", explained by Chris Anderson (Wired).
  • Wiki-like tool for Medline that combines language tools and authoritative sources with user input, explained by Barend Mons.
  • Victoria Stodden discussed the misfit between what copyright does and what scientists want to have happen to content they put online. To come, I hope, a link to the web-based license that solves these issues.
  • Collaboration inspiration, or how people showed up from all over the internet to help Oxford astrophysicists classify millions of computer-photographed galaxies, and a Dutch teacher named Hanny discovered a unique new astronomy object, not explained by Betsy Devine, though I would have done so if we had time at the end of the session.

George Dyson, seen in this photo being attacked by a palm tree at the Wild Palms Hotel, did not speak at my session, so this photo is somewhat false advertising for this blogpost.

Update: Jack Stilgoe (Demos) was at this session and blogged it.

Tags: Metablogging · Science · Useful

Before the Sci Foo deluge

August 8th, 2008 · Comments Off on Before the Sci Foo deluge

Before the Sci Foo deluge

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

The Wild Palms Hotel will be wilder in just a few hours, as scientists, webfolk, and other high-tech high IQs arrive for Science Foo 2008.

Frank and I are not the only people here so early. I am pretty sure I saw Neal Gershenfeld across the patio. In the Sci Foo wiki, he has offered to demo some amazingly techno inventions. If he brought a fabricator, his luggage was hugely heavy!

Astrophysicists Angelica de Oliveira-Costa and Max Tegmark get here later this morning. Fortunately, even astro-visionaries like Max don’t need to pack any universe inside their suitcases to lead a session. The universe just plain follows them around.

Chris Anderson (long tail) and Chris Anderson (TED) will both be here. I remember once sharing a dorm-room with another Betsy and a third girl named Kedzie. Getting phone messages straight was a nightmare that year, and my sympathies go out to those two Chris Andersons.

Looking forward to meeting a lot of great people and hearing a lot of incredible ideas. I see myself here as a technical “enabler”, doing some scientist-to-webpeople match-making. But this Sci Foo (SciFoo?) blogpost is already long enough.

Tags: Frank Wilczek · geeky · Metablogging · Science

The trouble with Crime 2.0

August 7th, 2008 · Comments Off on The trouble with Crime 2.0

Poisoner eyes her victim

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

You already know to watch out for poisoned teacups, but what you should have been worrying about instead …

An internet-based team of “three people from the United States, three from the Ukraine, two from China, one from Estonia and one from Belarus” (says Reuters) stole credit card numbers by millions from US retailers, and sold them “… to people in the U.S. and Europe for thousands of dollars. The buyers then withdrew tens of thousands of dollars at a time from automated teller machines, officials said.” Even so, the chief conspirator’s lawyer sounds very confident that his client will never enter a jail cell.

After all…. the guy who made possible the NH 2002 election phone-jamming got his conviction overturned because the interstate denial-of-service attack on Democrats’ phones was not covered by Federal laws against phone “harassment.”

It’s hard for the laws against doing bad stuff to keep up with human innovation in stuff we can do. Maybe that’s how it should be.

But let’s hope the US Attorney’s office works smarter on identity theft cases than they chose to do in the matter of NH phone jamming.

Tags: Good versus Evil · New Hampshire! · politics · Reputation systems · Science · voting

“Beach book” says USA Today

August 5th, 2008 · 2 Comments

"Beach book" says USA Today

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

I guess Dan Vergano at USA Today really likes Frank’s new book (yay!) — he wrote it up in a review of science “beach books” yesterday and urged his readers to “curl up with Lightness of Being.”

This inspired me to repurpose our teddy bears onto my old beach dune photo. They look happy, don’t they?

Tags: Frank Wilczek · funny · Science

Squeaky chew-toy physical theories for dogs

August 2nd, 2008 · 3 Comments

The joy of an old, forgotten photo

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

The dog of physics blogger Chad Orzel has a lot more to say about science than my little dog ever bothered to let me know about.

Chad Orzel’s dog on classical mechanics: “Classical mechanics is like a good bone. You can chew it, and chew it, and you think it’s all used up, but then you come back, and you can still chew it some more.”

My dog Marianne on classical mechanics: “Wow, I fell off the couch — again!”

Marianne would have loved virtual bunnies made of cheese.

Tags: funny · Metablogging · Science · Wide wonderful world