Wednesday, February 23, 2005
E-LECTIONS, MALWARE & A PLAN FOR THE OSCARS
Wouldn't it be nice if the Oscars divided up the awards in a fair and deserving way? (Well, no it wouldn't, actually, because what fun would Oscar night be if it was sensible and predictable.)
How (at least one winner each night asks) can you judge what is the best film or the best acting? Candidates for "best" are not what a mathematician might call "simply ordered sets" with a way to rank every candidate better or worse than every other.
So here's a plan my wife and I devised to spread out some awards in an equitable way. Give Scorsese the Oscar for directing "The Aviator". It's got the big scope and myriad pieces working together that show -- once again -- that Scorsese is one of the all-time great film directors. Give best actor to Foxx for "Ray" and to (the other) Hilary (the one who spells her name with one "l" and is not running for President) for "Million $$ Baby". And give "Sideways" the best picture Oscar because it's the most original, surprising, and most enjoyably watchable film of them all.
Oscars, of course, are not decided by back-room politics and compromise (except when lobbying for the film company's Oscar promotion services). Each award is separately decided on a vote that is independent of every other. (At least that is what they say when the "suits" from the accounting company walk out with the envelopes.)
There is a continuing human desire, though, to work out the results of elections in advance, without relying completely on the messiness of elections. In presidential elections this desire can be particularly strong in places where your brother is, say, the governor of the state, or your ally is the political boss of some really big city in a swing state where the vote is close.
Given the natural desire to win elections, which some people from time to time push beyond the limit of allowing a fair vote and counting it accurately, one growing trend seems to me extremely risky. That is the desire to have e-lections, or elections run by computer.
I have just removed, at great effort, a lot of bad programs that were on my computer. The infestation was so bad, I had porn sites starting up while I was running anti-spyware programming. I had malware (a general term for any bad software) that blocked my anti-spyware program as it was trying to block the malware. I ran one spyware program that took out hundreds of bad programs, ran another that took out another couple dozen, and then ran the first again which found some more.
There are, for an example of malware, a number of programs that will run on a user's browser and hijack it. When the user clicks on a link on company A's web page to buy something from company B, it will switch the information in the link to give the credit for the referral to company C who will then get the commission instead of company A.
It is very hard to monitor the safety, accuracy, and contents of exactly what a computer is doing these days. Entrusting elections, at the current state of the art, to computers, is to allow a huge hole in the security of elections. It is way too easy for people (who want an election to have the result they prefer) to breach the security of the computers running the election. And it is too hard, at the current state of the art, to prevent or even detect it.
Beware the person who argues that e-lections are safe.
Monday, February 21, 2005
ABOUT THIS BLOG
This BLOG is all about finding and PREVIEWING interesting things and interesting people. Anything interesting that relates to the future is material for a PREVIEW in a post in this BLOG.
If you are an actor, for example, and you have an interesting event coming up -- such as an important part in a very interesting play -- let us know and we may be able to post a notice or a quick feature about you and your project.
If you have developed a new product, for example, that will be released soon that has some special interest -- let us know and we may be able to post a notice or run a quick feature about your product and your company.
If you are in public affairs, for example, and you have information about an issue that will be of continuing interest in the future -- -- let us know and we may be able to post a notice or run a quick feature about you and about the issue.
This BLOG is part of a larger popular science project... an interactive online site, and a one man show (with guests), "HOW TO PREDICT THE FUTURE --AN EVENING OF SCIENCE THEATER."
For more information about this project, this BLOG, or to provide information for a possible posting about your product, your project, your issue... or anything else that deserves a PREVIEW, please contact us:
email -- at qporit @ aol.com.
WHEN WILL I BE LOVED
SADLY, AUDIOBLOGGER -- WHICH HOSTED THIS AUDIO POST -- HAS GONE AWAY TAKING THIS POST WITH IT.
Here are some audio comments on the film "Sideways," which is up for some Oscars next week.
SADLY, AUDIOBLOGGER -- WHICH HOSTED THIS AUDIO POST -- HAS GONE AWAY, TAKING THIS POST WITH IT.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
BISTRO DU VENT
Bistro du Vent (212 239-3060) is a new restaurant in New York City on 42nd Street and 9th Avenue, just across the street from Theater Row, a collection of great off Broadway theaters, and next door to a convenient parking garage.
I selected the restaurant because it was so convenient to "Hurly Burly", the terrific revival of David Rabe's 1984 drama (with great performances by a great cast including Ethan Hawke and Parker Posey), because it is part of a group including Babbo and Esca, estimable restaurants which vouched for its pedigree, and because it advertises that it is open to 2:00 AM, making it a comfortable spot for after-theater food. (I hate it when the waiters grab your plate away because the restaurant wants to close at midnight.)
I selected it despite advice from people at the ticket booth at "Hurly Burly", who recommended The West Bank Cafe (212 695-6909)... "Oh, everyone from the show goes there..."
I wasn't disappointed with the Bistro. My steak was excellent, tender and with interesting flavor. Frites were thick but still crispy. The appetizers -- from a large selection -- were excellent. I enjoyed the desserts. Service was pleasant and efficient.
I do have a few suggestions. Now, these suggestions apply to a great many restaurants besides this one.
1- Serve sparking water (mineral water or club soda) in a different shaped glass from still water. Because, when the glasses are the same, there is going to be someone, about two thirds of the way through the meal, who is going to fill the half-empty glass of sparkling water with ice water from the pitcher.
2 - If you have a cheese platter, put it on the appetizer menu as well as the dessert menu. Especially after-theater. Cheese makes a good first (or only) course, and there is no reason to keep it hidden on the dessert menu until it is too late.
3 - Have a least one good, rich chocolate dessert.
And, especially for me, if your normal serving of espresso is only half the espresso cup (note: in this restaurant their espresso cup is actually larger than usual), make it easy to cut -- or extend -- the serving with some plain hot water. (Few people ever do this, but it provides the same caffeine -- no more, no less, with twice as much liquid.)
Note: This is not a restaurant review (which would require more research), but rather an eating anecdote. If you decide to visit, and I hope you will, please share your experience by adding a comment, below.
WSJ INVESTIGATES CORPORATE AND GOVERNMENT INTERN PROGRAMS
In a very interesting article, The Wall Street Journal (Friday 2/18/2005) reported on an investigation of undergraduate internships available at US corporations government offices. For many companies, and certain careers, and for many students, the internship program is a central part of the recruitment process.
Perks for interns varied from opportunities to meet the CEO and pitch projects and ideas to top management on the high end, to pizza parties at the low end (unless you really, really like pizza parties in which case it's a major perk).
The number of interns at some places was quite large -- 8,000 at Walt Disney World in Florida, more than 2,000 at NASA, 1,500 at IBM.
Students looking for summer work should check out this valuable article.
Friday, February 18, 2005
MO7IES SUSPENDS VIDEO REVIEWS
Mo7ies has suspended the use of video reviews. (See our posting
2005-02-06 -- New Web Video Sites.) They found it too difficult to get users to post reviews.
It is difficult. It takes practice. It takes time to get it right. (I know. I tried submitting 2 reviews and found out how difficult it is.)
But I think it was (is) a great idea. I think it would take time for people to get up to speed with submitting reviews and I think people would love it once it gets up to speed.
So I am very disappointed.
I am still experimenting with audio and video for this BLOG (ABLOG? VLOG? AVBLOG?) and I hope to introduce some video postings and more audio postings (NOTE: RAY has the first audio posting) soon.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
"Lenny," is being shown tonight on SHOWTIME at midnight.
This movie about Lenny Bruce, the controversial comedian, starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by Bob Fosse, was one of the most interesting and thought provoking films of the mid seventies.
There's a nice commentary about the film in the user comments on IMDB (The Internet Movie Data Base).
GREENSPAN TESTIMONY SEEMS SHOCKING
In testimony before a Congressional committee today, Alan Greenspan seemed to say (I am never exactly sure what he said or meant) that the problems with Medicare will be several times as expensive and difficult as the problems with Social Security.
He said that one important reason he believed in private accounts for Social Security is that poorer people do not feel like money in the present Social Security system is really theirs, and they will feel richer if their Social Security account is privatized. And that it is important that they feel richer. (That's what he seemed to say, but it did not sound as silly when he said it.)
In response to a question from Barney Frank (who is one of the brightest minds in Congress, and one of the most interesting when questioning witnesses), Greenspan said something that seems really shocking. Asked whether he (Greenspan) would have voted for Social Security when it was first proposed in the 30's, Greenspan indicated he did not know if he would have voted for it.
Sometimes the context (such as a person's underlying political philosophy) in which someone makes a statement (such as support for privatization of Social Security) is important for understanding the significance of the statement.
There is an old joke (probably older than Social Security). A visitor to Honolulu asks a man she meets on the street whether the name of the state is pronounced Ha-Wa-yee or Ha-Va-yee. "Ha-Va-yee," the man answers. "Thank you," the visitor says. "You're Velcome," the man responds.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Streaming Media published an article today on video logs -- or VLOGS -- the linking of streaming video to web logs. (By the way, the VLOG name and domain have been coopted by Serious Magic which is releasing a product called VLOG IT! designed to make video logging simpler by, among other things, putting a virtual teleprompter in your computer.) The article describes the growth (and problems) with video logging. It cites in particular as a source of renewed interest in VLOGGING, the effectiveness and immediacy of the streaming video of the Tsunami that many people posted on the Internet.
Here at QPORIT, we have been testing posts with links to streaming video and hope to introduce that soon.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
NY TIMES ON THE 2006 OSCARS
An interesting article in the entertainment section of the New York Times on Sunday (2/13) described the films now thought to be leading possibilities for next year's Oscars. The article begins, "This time last year, film industry insiders were picking..." And then goes on to name five movies, like "Alexander," that did not end up on Oscar's short list.
It's always fun to preview the films in the works that look interesting. Hey, that's one of the reasons to do this BLOG. And the preface to the article is designed to deflect any criticism the author might face if his selections fail to make the Oscar list next year. But (and I know that for an article about next year's Oscar's I'm making too much of this) there is something insidiously wrong about that quote.
The trouble is, it is a completely meaningless statement, because the "film industry insiders" are a nameless group. There were doubtless some that did like the named films and others that didn't. It is always fatuous to describe the results of a prediction when the prediction itself was never explicitly made. It is more common to describe how well you predicted something that you claimed to have predicted a while ago. But it is no more useful to say a prediction failed, when there never really was an explicit prediction made.
Predictions must be forward looking. Stated. Then checked.
Does the article actually make a prediction now about next year? Well, the prediction is ascribed to "Hollywood experts." So, whether the films mentioned are successful or not, we will never know who was right or wrong.
My prediction is that whether they succeed or not, all these movies will get a lot of pre-release publicity. (More precisely -- and again this is overkill -- there's a high probability each of them will get lots of publicity; and a small, but significant, chance that at least one will be such a turkey that it will be delayed till the year after or just quietly slipped into the theaters.)
Personally, I am looking forward to "The New World," Terrence Malick's version of the story of John Smith and Pocahontas. Films about early American history have been mediocre performers, so I wouldn't be too certain it will do well financially, but it is a story that I personally find interesting, and I hope it will be fun to watch.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
TEST OF PROBLEMS WITH E-MAIL POSTING TO BLOGGER
When some e-mail posts that I sent failed to appear here on QPORIT, I queried Blogger support and got the following message:
There is currently a problem with Mail-to-Blogger which causes posting by email to be unreliable for some secret words but not others. We are looking into this issue further and we apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.
(Note that there are several items about mail-to-blogger listed in Blogger's HELP/STATUS which mention problems with stability and delays.)
As a test, I sent some posts by e-mail to see if and when they would arrive. (Of five posts I sent on 2/10 and 2/11, two have arrived so far, the other three have not appeared -- at least, not yet.) This post (edited to add comments but stamped at the time it was first posted by Blogger) was sent from Hotmail with a copy to an address at AOL.
The time the copy arrived at AOL is shown below:
--- EST: 2/11/05 02:03 PM
The time it was posted by Blogger is shown below:
The time it was posted by Blogger is shown below:
--- EST: 2/13/05 10:24 PM
That is, it arrived and was posted about 2 days and 8 hours after it was sent.
That is, it arrived and was posted about 2 days and 8 hours after it was sent.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
The front page story in all the New York newspapers today is that a new strain of the AIDS virus, with many genetic mutations compared to other samples of the AIDS virus, has appeared in one patient in New York.
This new strain takes only months -- instead of years -- to cause full blown AIDS, and is resistant to almost all the medications used to treat HIV and AIDS and prevent HIV from turning into AIDS. In particular it can not be treated by the usual "cocktail" of medications.
If this virus spreads, it could cause a virulent epidemic, just when the treatments for the familiar strains of the virus were beginning to seem very successful. A recent story in the New York Times had just described great progress in preventing the spread of AIDS from mother to child.
Not every news organization has displayed this story as prominently as the New York papers, so it may be necessary to look around for more detailed information outside of New York.
This story reminds everyone of the importance of protection when engaging in sexual activity. Sexually transmitted diseases are still a mortal threat.
Friday, February 11, 2005
J & J TO SPONSOR NEUROSCIENCE CHAIR
How can companies stimulate research without compromising academic independence? This question is particularly acute for pharmaceuticals. Drug trials performed by scientists who are directly paid for the research trials are suspect.
One of the better methods for stimulating research is to provide financial support for leading academic researchers to pursue fundamental research. The more support there is for fundamental research, the more progress there will be (more or less). And this method of providing support is indirect, reducing the likelihood that research results will be biased (intentionally or not) or perceived to be biased.
J & J is contributing $5 million dollars to the Columbia University Medical Center to provide for Fellowships and a Professorship in "Translational Neuroscience" . "Translational" refers to the transformation of research into drugs. So this project appears to have aspects both of academic and practical research.
The translation of theoretical research to practical products is a very important and difficult problem. It is difficult to accomplish in every field, not just pharmaceuticals. In this field the spectre of tainted research is particularly acute. So for this project to succeed would be extremely interesting and valuable.
Projects like this one should be followed with great interest, for the stakes are very high for both good and ill.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
LOVE'S WILL & THE PRE-VALENTINE'S NEST FEST
I, myself, will be doing a performance this weekend!
LOVE'S WILL is a (15 min) performance of classic love poetry (Shakespeare, Donne, Marlowe, Swift, etc...) with some classic violin music.
It will be at about 1:30 or 1:45 or so at the NEST ARTS FACTORY'S "Landscapes and Love Songs (A Weekend in Paradise)" .
This is a whole weekend pre Valentine's Day celebration of art, music and dancing. The hours, more or less, are Fri (2/11) evening, Sat (2/12) 1:00 - 5:00 PM, Sun (2/13) 1:00 - 4:00 PM.
For more information, contact Jed Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org. .
The NEST Arts Factory is located at 512 Hancock Ave., Bridgeport CT.
BENEFIT PARTY FEB 21 for TSI/PLAYTIME
Theatre Studio Inc (TSI) is a very remarkable place. It is a unique resource for writers, directors, and actors to develop new material. And it is a great place for an audience to preview and discover new talent.
They provide a theater and a program called PLAYTIME where (many, many, many) short plays, scenes from new plays (and classic plays) and other short works can be rehearsed and presented. To participate, you don't have to be famous; you don't have to be rich; you just have to have an interesting idea.
TSI has been running for 25 years. It was created by A M Raychel, who is the artistic director. And they are now having a BENEFIT PARTY on Feb 21 at their theater (750 8th Ave Suite 200 -- at 46th & 8th -- in Manhattan, NY NY). There will be refreshments, comedians, and some talks about their plans for the future.
TSI/PLAYTIME is a great program and it should be supported (as well as enjoyed).
... And for anyone developing a career in the theater, it is a resource and an opportunity that could be extremely valuable!
For more information about TSI/PLAYTIME, and the BENEFIT see their website, The Theatre-Studio, Inc.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
MORE ABOUT NANO
Following up on the posting on Business Week's Nanotechnology cover story, here are some more sources for information about nanotechnology.
A journal (Small Times) devoted to such stuff provides a calendar of future events all over the world: http://www.smalltimes.com/calendar/index.cfm. Checking out their home page provides even more information.
There's also a blog about nano here on blogspot: http://nanobot.blogspot.com/ .(It even uses a similar template to this one!)
BUSINESS WEEK ON NANOTECHNOLOGY
The cover story (Business Week, Feb 14, 2005) on nanotech points a set of scattered pinlights at an important field that is in its infancy. Pinlights because the article focusses brightly on narrow points; scattered because the article is all over the place.
For that matter, nanotech itself is all over the place. And the article makes many very interesting points:
- Nanotech is not a field, it is many fields, organized only by the size of the objects it deals with. (It is sometimes chemistry, sometimes physics, sometimes medicine, sometimes consumer electronics... and so on. The objects are roughly the size of small molecules. )
- The products it describes will come to market at vastly diffferent times over decades.
- The industry will rise and fall, and threatens to create another one of those technology stock bubbles.
- There are safety issues.
Business Week, of course, is organized to write about business. The business opportunities have many uncertainties in every area: investment, time to market, consumer reaction, product safety... so most every positive statement in the article is mirrored by a "but" somewhere else.
Nanotechnology is real. The best parts of the article are perhaps the (all too short) sidebars, describing, for example, the time lines for products of different kinds to appear; and the dangers that threaten the development and acceptance of nanotechnology. (Acceptance is probably the wrong word. If some products are hazardous to human life, acceptance is not the issue -- prevention is.)
Nanotechnology is in such an early stage that perhaps the most sensible approach is to look at the technology and organize a discussion by the specific technologies involved, and how they are likely to develop over time; what the physical, chemical, biological, and engineering issues are, and how research is approaching them. Of course, this is not nearly as much fun as writing or reading about the incredible possibilities for new products, the human-life-on-earth threatening potential dangers, and the opportunities for fortunes and bankruptcies that NANOTECHNOLOGY could create.
Monday, February 07, 2005
THE PROMOTIONAL VALUE OF BEING CENSORED
It is likely that the best bargain in network advertising is to place an ad on the superbowl that attracts attention, especially if it is judged too racy to run. GoDaddy placed an ad in the superbowl -- it was supposed to run twice -- that had the slightest suggestion of sexiness... they called it a comment on censorship. After running once, the ad was censored and not run the second time.
Discussions of the ad, mentioning GoDaddy over and over and over, have taken place before and after the superbowl, most recently on CBS evening news. Perhaps they have something to look forward to: Apple still gets mileage from its "1984" ad.
GoDaddy: Low cost domain names, domain transfers, web hosting, email accounts, and so much more. is a web hosting spot. I'd expect they get a powerful number of hits in the next few days. Even I looked them up. I'll check them out for my next web hosting project.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
NEW WEB VIDEO SITES
With broadband penetration getting larger and larger, I think we are going to see more streaming video web sites appear this year. I just became aware of two new ones, through Craig's List, one of the best places I know of to get a hint of cutting edge applications -- because people with new business projects post there for all kinds of things they are not ready to pay for yet.
The new sites are a web video phone and video mail service from SightSpeed, and Mo7ies.com, a collection of streaming video film reviews made by users (that is built partly on SightSpeed).
I haven't tried these services yet, but they seem very interesting, and look like the harbingers of a new wave of streaming video applications.
Saturday, February 05, 2005
DISCOVERY CHANNEL ON MEGA CATASTROPHES
Two recent shows on the Discovery Channel described some major catastrophes that are quite certain to occur (they say) ... some time in the next 100,000 years.
The first is a collapse of an island into the sea generating a mega tsunami several hundred feet high. One candidate island is located so its tsunami would strike the US Eastern shore. A small scale version of such a huge wave seems to have occurred quite recently in a small bay.
The second is a huge volcano which could lower Earth's temperature drastically. They describe studies that suggest a huge volcano about 80 thousand years ago reduced the human population to a few thousand.
These are very interesting shows, marred only by an overly portentous style of narration and hyper-dramatic music.
NEW YORK MAGAZINE PREVIEW
New York Magazine (1/20-26/2005) shows 25 of the hottest people "who will make their mark in 2005". Let's track and see how well these people do.
Succeed or fail, Oskar Eustis, the new boss at the Public, is sure to be important. Unfortunately, Marin Ireland, who sure sounded great, just got trashed by the Times for Sabina. Still, she seems like an interesting actress to watch.
Only 2 hot people over the age of 40?