February 2005

Recently the organizers of a conference session accused Bush administration officials of what would seem to be some pretty disgusting behavior…

…a demand to change the title of session at a Federally-funded conference on suicide prevention from "Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals" to another title which did not include the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. They also demanded that the conference add a session on faith-based suicide prevention.

From the SF Chronicle:
Federal agency balks at word 'gay'

However, I wonder if the original claims were overstated. The conference Director – the only one who ever spoke directly with Bush administration officials – completely refutes the session organizers version of what Bush officials said. No doubt there is some fiction on both sides – the conference is fully funded by a Federal organization, so the conference Director's priorities are clear, and the session organizer appears ready to benefit from the drama surrounding this supposed event.

I am an ardent Bush-hater, but I'd like to think I do it on the facts, and not on a knee-jerk reaction. Republicans did this sort of thing to Cliton every third day for 8 years, and we all cried foul. Lets not be hypocrites.

For more background see:

The text of the session organizers' original protest e-mail.

A revised version of the facts from the Director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), which organized the conference.

In the name of blogging about hard-to-find things that I finally found:

The MS Word expression for a Hard Return (Carriage Return) is: ^013.
(For those who are going 'Duh!' right now: 13 is the decimal code for a CR in ASCII.)

So, I had a document that used to be HTML and contained a huge amount of space between each paragraph. To fix it I did a search and replace where the search string was "^013^013^013" and the replace string was "^013^013" (one blank line). I kept doing the search and replace until no instances of the search string were found, and – Presto! – all the extra space is gone.

There might be an easier way to do this, but there it is. :)

Following the release today of Google Maps I thought I would whip up a search bar plugin for Firefox. (Thanks to Joe for introducing me to writing search bar plugins.)

One of the great things about Google Maps is the simple query syntax:

Search for an address: type in as much of the address as you know at any level of resolution. The following queries all work provided the city and street are specific enough:

  • Exact Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500
  • Partial Address: 1000 Market Street, San Francisco
  • Intersection: Telegraph and Bancroft, Berkeley
  • Airport Code: JFK
  • Zip Code: 10028

Get Directions: type in any of the above types with a “to” in the middle.

And much more. That's it. Go Google!

Installing the Search Bar in Firefox

  1. Download the following files: Google Maps source file and the Google Maps icon.
  2. Copy these files to the searchplugins/ folder in your FireFox installation directory. On a Mac, this is: /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/searchplugins/
  3. Quit all Firefox sessions and restart.

Morgan posts this interesting discussion of economic and human factors indicators, their importance, and (editorial comment to follow) how generally crappy and worthless they are. (Link)

I join the bevy of bloggers who are sharing this news:

Google has just released their Google Maps out into the wild. I am constantly amazed by the folks over at Google. They continue to innovate and release these new products that aren't just the same old thing – they're better than the originals.

Google Maps is fantastic. The maps are every bit as good as Yahoo or Mapquest, and the user interface is far superior. One excellent feature is the ability to pan and zoom a map through keyboard controls.

It also seems to be a bit more accurate than other GIS-based mapping systems. Yahoo and Mapquest tend to get address mapping wrong by up to a block, but in my limited tests Google's system is spot on. Even with the little I know about GIS, I can tell what a monster achievement that is.

Check it out!

An article in today's New York Times reminded me of the appropriation of culture by NASA critics following the Columbia disaster of 2003. Investigators blamed the crash in part on a 'broken safety culture' in which the emphasis on safety was lacking and individual engineers' ability to raise safety concern and make changes was hampered. At the time I was upset over the use of the term culture to encapsulate the problem, mostly because of the tendency for bureaucrats and administrators to imply that culture could be changed by fiat. But no company can change culture through administrative action – that much seems true two years later when, despite progress in the specific areas that caused the disaster, there are lingering questions from both inside and outside the agency regarding shuttle safety.

A recent letter in Discover magazine pretty much sums up the problem as I see it. The author wrote in response to Discover naming the winning of the X-Prize by Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne as the 2nd greatest SciTech achievement of 2004. In a nutshell, he argued that the push for government regulation of private spaceflight in the wake of the X-Prize is ridiculous because of the fallacy that government regulation somehow makes for safer practices. NASA seems to prove this. I think we can safely say that ethics, market success, and PR are all powerful incentives for a private company operation out from under the cloak of government to maintain rigorous safety practices while still innovating in a way that NASA is wholly incapable of.

The Information Society Project at Yale Law Schoolis putting on an interesting conference in a few months called 'The Global Flow of Information: A Conference on Law, Culture, and Political Economy.' (link)

Patterns of information flow are one of the most important factors shaping
globalization. Today, all sorts of entities — individuals, groups,
countries, and international organizations — are trying to promote and
control the flow across national borders of different kinds of
information, including intellectual property, scientific research,
political discourse, brand names, and cultural symbols. Ever-proliferating
digitally networked environments subject information to yet new methods of
distribution and manipulation. Control and influence of information flow
will help define who holds power in the global information economy.

My only complaint about what otherwise looks like an interesting conference is in the typically obsolete use of the term 'culture.' There is an interesting panel on the subject, but if we are to believe the abstract the main concern is with the circa 1982 notion of culture as high culture – art, movies, music, books…

This excellent article from today's New York Times discusses older American's use (and changing use) of mobile phones. It's particularly indicative of the ways that we see perceptions of mobile phones changing – one of the main points of the article is that many older Americans who used to view their mobile phones as useful only for security and emergencies are now comfortable with everyday calling. Many still see it as 'just a phone' however, a find which contrasts with the perceptions of youthful users who are increasingly integrating functions like SMS and picture taking into a much broader model of an integrated device.

Many of the older people interviewed for the article also complain that the features of both their devices and their calling plans don't suit them. Small keypads, tiny screens, and complicated features are sometimes more than even I can handle…