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.