Archive for March 5th, 2008
UPDATE 10 April 2011: The flashcard program Anki, which is free, is completely capable and runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and smartphones. Be sure to watch the series of short (2-minute) videos that explain its use: it’s quite powerful and thus somewhat complex. “Cards” can carry text, links, images, audio, video, etc…
Not “Flash” (memory) cards, but the old-fashioned learning aid updated for your computer. For example, CueCard (free):
CueCard is a simple and intuitive flash card program. Just make up cards for what you want to memorize, and CueCard will quiz you on them. CueCard features smart testing, which automatically focuses on the cards you are having trouble with. It also offers printing (including custom page layouts and sizes), pictures and sounds on cards, Unicode support, card formatting, a multi-lingual user interface, Import/Export, a study time. Version 1.5 minor update fixes a bug when importing cards from Excel.
Flashcard Exchange offers a huge library of already-made flashcards as well as the capability of making your own. Free.
FlashcardMachine offers similar functionality, also free.
jMemorize is a free Java flashcard program.
ProProfs.com is another flashcard site: make and share. Free.
That’ll get you started. Maybe I’ll make up a set of Esperanto flashcards to share.
UPDATE: Also check out ComputerFlashcards.com.
UPDATE: Not free ($50) but maybe worth a look: StudyProf Flashcards. Link is to a Download Squad review.
Eric Boehlert suggests that bloggers may have found a mechanism to fight some sorts of “journalism”:
The Associated Press last week got a preview of how this presidential season is going to unfold, and how online liberal activists aren’t going to stand down when the press takes cheap shots at Democratic front-runners.
After AP reporter Nedra Pickler wrote a news story highlighting how some fringe Republican operatives were raising questions about Sen. Barack Obama’s patriotism, angry readers dispatched nearly 15,000 electronic letters protesting the piece. Why? Because instead of providing balance and context, which is what good journalism does, the article simply offered a platform for Obama’s opponents to roll out their smears, to broadcast their dark doubts about the senator’s character.
That kind of media shortcoming has become predictable; reporters love to quote partisan Republicans about how deficient Democrats are. And in the past it would have likely produced angry denunciations online within the liberal blogosphere — a blog swarm, perhaps. In fact, within hours of the article being posted on the wires, John Aravosis at Americablog condemned the news agency for the way it regurgitated “right-wing lies about Obama lacking patriotism.” (Aravosis was simultaneously irked by an interactive poll posted at CNN.com that asked readers if Obama was sufficiently patriotic.) Even without an organized effort, it’s likely the Pickler article would have prompted scores of blog readers to send off a fistful of angry missives to the AP.
But nearly 15,000 letters sent in just a matter of days in response to a single news wire article? That’s something else entirely and could mark the dawn of a new era in progressive media activism. The phenomenon has received very little mainstream media attention (journalists probably don’t want to encourage this sort of thing), but make no mistake: It was a very big deal.
From Cool Tools (with related tools at the link).
This incredibly compact, bike-oriented multi-tool has five different sizes of Allen wrench plus a Phillips screwdriver head, all of which folds up into a little pod about the size of a walnut. Sometimes I’ll carry it in my pocket or toss it in shoulder bag; mostly I keep it in the under-seat pouch of my bike. It really comes in handy for quick adjustments: raising the seat height, tightening the rear view mirror, adding and removing accessories, etc. Because it’s so small it doesn’t give enough leverage for really tight nuts (you can’t remove a handlebar stem with it), but by extending the tools on the opposite side of the one you’re using you can get a handle that’s effectively 2.5 inches long, which is enough for small jobs. It also works well as a keychain fob, though at 58g it’s slightly on the heavy side. — Dylan Tweney
One standard technique of authoritarian and totalitarian governments is to rule through fear. The fear can be of the government itself, but generally fear is created by identifying some foe, particularly a foe with elements inside the country (to create reasons to spy on citizens and quash those individuals and groups that cause trouble for the government). A good example in the US is the McCarthy era: Communists could be anywhere, and they looked just like you and me! Only the Government could tell the difference for sure! Be afraid!
Rolling Stone has an excellent article on how this is playing out in the US today. It begins:
“So, what you wanna do?” the friend asked. “A target?” the wanna-be jihadi replied. “I want some type of city-hall-type stuff, federal courthouses.”
It was late November 2006, and twenty-two-year-old Derrick Shareef and his friend Jameel were hanging out in Rockford, Illinois, dreaming about staging a terrorist attack on America. The two men weren’t sure what kind of assault they could pull off. All Shareef knew was that he wanted to cause major damage, to wreak vengeance on the country he held responsible for oppressing Muslims worldwide. “Smoke a judge,” Shareef said. Maybe firebomb a government building.
But while Shareef harbored violent fantasies, he was hardly a serious threat as a jihadi. An American-born convert to Islam, he had no military training and no weapons. He had less than $100 in the bank. He worked in a dead-end job as a clerk in a video-game store. He didn’t own a car. So dire were his circumstances, Shareef had no place to live. Then one day, Jameel, a fellow Muslim, had shown up at EB Games and offered him shelter. Within hours of meeting his new brother, Shareef had moved in with Jameel and his three wives and nine children. Living together, the pair fantasized about targets in Rockford, a Midwestern city of 150,000, with a minuscule Muslim population and the lone claim to fame of being the hometown of Cheap Trick.
The fact that Shareef was a loser with no means of living out his imagination didn’t stop his friend from encouraging his delusions of grandeur. On the contrary, Jameel continually pushed Shareef to escalate his plans. “When you wanna plan on doing this?” he asked Shareef, talking about the plot to go after a government building. “Because we have to make specific plans and dates.”
“I wanna case one first,” Shareef said. There was only one problem: Jameel’s car was in the garage getting repaired. “We can case one when you get the car back.”
“What about time frame?” Jameel prodded.
“I like the holiday season,” Shareef said, displaying an ambivalence unusual in a suicide bomber hellbent on murdering civilians. “Hell, we ain’t gotta hit nobody —just blow the place up.”
Finding a meaningful target to blow up in Rockford isn’t easy. A hardscrabble town in the middle of America, the place is not much more than an intersection of interstates and railway lines, with little of note that might attract the attention of terrorists. So Jameel suggested the main attraction in town: CherryVale Mall, a sad-sack collection of clothing stores and sneaker shops on the outskirts of Rockford. “The mall’s good,” he told Shareef.
“I swear by Allah, man, I’m down for it too,” Shareef said. “I’m down for the cause. I’m down to live for the cause and die for the cause, man.”
When Jameel got his car back from the garage, the two men went to case the mall.
“If you ever wanna back out . . . ’cause, you gotta let me know,” Jameel said. “I’m checking your heart now.”
“I’m down,” Shareef said.
“We ain’t gonna get caught,” Jameel assured him. “Don’t worry.”
“I’m not worried about getting caught,” Shareef replied. “Not alive.”
For all his bluster, Shareef was, by any objective measure, a pathetic and hapless jihadist — one of a new breed of domestic terrorists the federal government has paraded before the media since 9/11. The FBI, in a sense, elevated Shareef, working to transform him from a boastful store clerk into a suicidal mall-bomber. Like many other alleged extremists who have been targeted by the authorities, Shareef didn’t know that his brand-new friend —the eager co-conspirator drawing him ever further into a terror plot —was actually an informant for the FBI.
Most of us experience ‘gut feelings’ we can’t explain, such as instantly loving – or hating – a new property when we’re househunting or the snap judgements we make on meeting new people. Now researchers at Leeds say these feelings – or intuitions – are real and we should take our hunches seriously.
According to a team led by Professor Gerard Hodgkinson of the Centre for Organisational Strategy, Learning and Change at Leeds University Business School, intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level and so is a real psychological phenomenon which needs further study to help us harness its potential.
There are many recorded incidences where intuition prevented catastrophes and cases of remarkable recoveries when doctors followed their gut feelings. Yet science has historically ridiculed the concept of intuition, putting it in the same box as parapsychology, phrenology and other ‘pseudoscientific’ practices.
Through analysis of a wide range of research papers examining the phenomenon, the researchers conclude that intuition is the brain drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision – but one that happens so fast the reaction is at a non-conscious level. All we’re aware of is a general feeling that something is right or wrong.
A first: I forgot to post my shave of the day. I used Mitchell’s Wool Fat soap after trying a gimmick suggested on one of the shaving boards: soaking the puck in its little ceramic container for some hours. The puck expands and becomes softer and easier to lather. (In fact, I had learned to lather MWF without taking this step, but I’m always up for an experiment.)
I used the Rooney Style 2 Finest, an indefatigable lather-maker, and it produced a great lather as usual. The razor was the Merkur Futur, and I’m not sure what blade was in it, but it did a fine job.
The oil pass was with my own mix, and I got a flawless smooth shave. Aftershave was Blue Floïd and I’m a happy little shaver.
If you have some whole cloth, the GOP can easily manufacture a scandal for you. Glenn Greenwald:
Throughout the 1990s, the word “Whitewater” was the weapon used continuously by the Limbaugh Right and the establishment press to cast innuendo on the Clintons’ financial lives. The word was just tossed around as slippery shorthand for corrupt dealings. It never had any substance. No specific allegations of wrongdoing were ever made about the original “Whitewater” transactions by those throwing the term around. And after $73 million was spent on an endless investigation, no wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons was found.
One could read literally thousands of news accounts about the “Whitewater scandal” and never encounter a single, specific charge of impropriety. The word simply stood for a series of confusing, complex, boring financial transactions that were combined with dark and vague innuendo which, repeated enough, led to a “where-there’s-smoke- there’s-fire” presumption of guilt. Slothful journalists could not get enough of the tactic because tossing “Whitewater” around required no real work, active investigation or critical thought — the mortal enemies of most establishment reporters — but instead was just a cheap and easy way to imply that they were pursuing some sort of scandal.
“Rezko” is the Whitewater of the Obama campaign. It’s almost impossible now to find an article or news account about Obama that doesn’t include some dark reference to the “Rezko” affair, always with the suggestion or even overt claim that it’s reflective of some serious vulnerability, some suggestion of wrongdoing and corruption. But what is it? The reporters throwing the word around quite plainly have no idea.
Having paid only casual attention to it in the past, I spent several hours yesterday morning reading every “Rezko” article I could find in an attempt to understand as much as possible about the allegations. The point isn’t that there is no credible evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Obama, although that’s unquestionably true. It’s far beyond that. There aren’t even any theoretical allegations or suggestions as to what he might have done wrong at all. The person who is accused of wrongdoing is Tony Rezko, in matters inarguably having nothing to do with Obama. Nobody claims otherwise (although many try to imply otherwise).
The only substantive connections Obama and Rezko have is that the latter was a contributor to Obama’s campaign and was a partner in a standard residential real-estate purchase which nobody suggests, at least in terms of Obama’s conduct, was anything but above-board. But Rezko himself has a sinister-sounding, villain-like last name and is of Syrian origin, which, for multiple reasons, helps build the shallow media drama.
But Obama isn’t even accused of — let alone proven to have engaged in — any wrongdoing at all. I spent many years litigating all sorts of civil cases involving financial transactions like these. Few things are easier than concocting some nefarious angle to innocuous real estate transactions, yet they can’t even do that here. Despite that, the “Rezko” innuendo lurks and grows and clearly isn’t going anywhere.
Adam Liptak has a story worth reading in the New York Times today. Here’s how it starts:
Steve Marshall is an English travel agent. He lives in Spain, and he sells trips to Europeans who want to go to sunny places, including Cuba. In October, about 80 of his Web sites stopped working, thanks to the United States government.
…. “I came to work in the morning, and we had no reservations at all,” Mr. Marshall said on the phone from the Canary Islands. “We thought it was a technical problem.”
It turned out, though, that Mr. Marshall’s Web sites had been put on a Treasury Department blacklist and, as a consequence, his American domain name registrar, eNom Inc., had disabled them. Mr. Marshall said eNom told him it did so after a call from the Treasury Department; the company, based in Bellevue, Wash., says it learned that the sites were on the blacklist through a blog.
So that’s that. Register your domain name through a U.S. company and your business goes kaput if the U.S. Treasury Department decides it doesn’t like you. It doesn’t matter if you’re based in Spain, your servers are in the Bahamas, your customers are mostly European, and you’ve broken no laws. No warning. Just kaput.
Solution: make sure your business has as little connection to the U.S. as you possibly can. It’s just not worth the potential hassle. I’m sure the rest of the world is getting this message loud and clear.
Those who smoke have observed that when they have a cup of coffee, they want a cigarette. It could just be association—they often smoke on coffee break—but Healthbolt points out that it is more than that: some foods make cigarettes taste good, some make them taste bad.
Well, if not transcendent, at least taking your shave to a whole new level. Here’s how it works (at least for me and a few others I know), assuming
- you’ve so far been shaving with a limited range of blades—the usual suspects are Merkur, Israeli, Derby, Swedish Gillette, and Feather—and,
- you’re one whose very best brand is not one you’re already using.
First, get good at the basic double-edged safety-razor shave. At this point, your prep is solid: you can easily create an excellent lather, and when you bring blade to beard, your beard is fully wetted and as soft as it’s going to get.
Moreover, when you shave, you’re not hesitant: your strokes are smooth and efficient, and you seldom encounter a nick or any skin irritation. You enjoy your shave, and the result is a smooth face and a jolly outlook.
At this point, you’re certainly ready to take your shave to the next level. How? Here’s what I—and some others—found. Get the Tryphon sampler pack #5: the “Huge.” This has the largest assortment of brands of any pack available. Then start working your way through the pack.
Since at this point you’re an experienced shaver with a good technique, it won’t take you long to check out a given brand of blade—three shaves, tops.
- Some of the blades won’t work for you at all. Put those aside in an envelope to send to someone else—they may well work for him.
- Some of the blades will work fine—just as good as the blade you’ve been using, or perhaps even a little better.
- And, if you’re lucky, one or two of the blades will make you say, “Wow!” They shave so smoothly, so easily, so readily that you feel as though you’ve not really been shaving before.
If you’re not one of the lucky ones, your very best blade may be the one you’re already using—though, if you haven’t tried a great variety of brands, it’s unlikely: the range of blades is quite great, you’ll discover. And it may be that none of the new brands you try will really astonish you with the excellence of the shave. But, more likely, you’ll find a blade better than you imagined possible. You have much to gain and little to lose.
My experience started with trying the usual beginner blades. The Merkurs were horrid for me (though they are really very good for some), the Israelis and Derbys were okay but they tugged too much where my beard was tough. The Swedish Gillette was sort of so-so. The Feathers were sharp, but I kept getting the occasional unpredictable nick. Some would say that this is due to my bad technique, and who knows? It may have been.
But when I started on the exploration, I encountered a brand of blades that did indeed make me say, “Wow!” It cut smoothly, easily, and never produced a nick or any sign of irritation. As it turns out, that brand works well only for a minority (it was the Treet Blue Special), but, as it happens, I was one of that minority. What a fine shave it gave!
So I recommended others try it, and a couple of other shavers had the same reaction as I: shaving nirvana! Most, however, probably thought I was crazy, though I explained as clearly as I could that individual shavers have very different responses to the same brand, that this one might not work for them, etc. But I thought it was worth a try.
What I’m saying now, though, is not to try just that one brand: the odds are against it being the transcendent blade for you. Maximize your odds of hitting the lucky strike, and try as many brands as you can. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a blade whose excellence is beyond that of any blade you’ve tried before. At the very least, you will be able to do some inexpensive exploration and learning: blade acquisition disorder is the least costly of all the shaving-related acquisition disorder, much cheaper than the acquisition disorders for razors, shaving creams, brushes, shaving soaps, aftershaves, and the like.