Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Web glitch -- Back later

I apologize for this brief (I hope) interruption in service. My blog is going to a new CMS (don't ask), and links are not working.

When they are fixed, which I hope is by Thursday, Aug. 6, San Diego Science World will be back in operation.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Welcome Cathy Seipp Fans!

I'm going to be revitalizing this nearly-abandoned blog. I've done most of my posting at The Festering Swamp, to this blog's detriment. The Festering Swamp is a group blog that celebrates the work and life of the late Cathy Seipp. I'll be doing more writing in that vein here.

Comments are now working. I'm using the Blogger commenting system for now; later I may switch to Haloscan, if I can only get it to work. I was stymied by the inability to download my template. I can't find the option to do so in the settings, although Blogger says it is supposed to be there. So for now I'll try Blogger comments and see how it works.

So if you've got something nice to say about Cathy Seipp, please say so here!


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Attention Festering Swampers:

Click on the title link to comment on the current Festering Swamp post. We've had repeated troubles with Journalspace this weekend, so I may set up a mirror on this under-utlized blog.

Below is the post for Sunday, Feb. 2:

British deaf rights organizations want to give parents the right to choose deaf embryos from in-vitro fertilization. That eye-opening news comes courtesy of gold bug/dancin' fool and witticism king allan, who checked in to the comments section to give the news. The writer allan quoted likened the proposal to Blade Runner, where genetically altered humans called replicants were created for the amusement of normal humans. From allan's newsletter:

"Right now, in the U.K., a pair of deaf-rights organizations — the Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People and the British Deaf Association — are lobbying to give deaf prospective parents (and presumably, hearing parents as well) the right to genetically engineer deaf children. Their efforts are focused on amending a bill currently passing through the legislative process in the House of Lords, the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, which currently would prohibit the screening of embryos for the purpose of choosing one with an abnormality. According to the U.K.’s The Sunday Times, a broader coalition of organizations representing people with disabilities will also begin campaigning for this amendment to the bill, starting this month."

Some deaf parents would rather have deaf children, the rationale goes, as explained in the Sunday (UK) Times, so they would fit better into the household.

A clause in the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, which is passing through the House of Lords, would make it illegal for parents undergoing embryo screening to choose an embryo with an abnormality if healthy embryos exist.
In America a deaf couple deliberately created a baby with hearing difficulties by choosing a sperm donor with generations of deafness in his family.
This would be impossible under the bill in its present form in the UK. Disability charities say this makes the proposed legislation discriminatory, because it gives parents the right to create “designer babies” free from genetic conditions while banning couples from deliberately creating a baby with a disability.

Technically speaking, this won't be genetic engineering. The embryos are not being altered. Generally speaking, IVF creates multiple embryos, and only one usually gets chosen. But we are already edging close to outright genetic manipulation. The Times article mentions a case where an American deaf couple chose a sperm donor whose family line has a history of genetic deafness. I'm reminded of the Ellen Jamesians from The World According To Garp. The novel describes the EJs as a group of radical feminists who react to a girl being raped and having her tongue cut out, by cutting out their own tongues.

Is that analogy fair? I can imagine how some deaf-rights advocates must feel about the current IVF standards, which call for discarding embryos with abnormalities such as deafness. Could that be viewed as a form of genocide against the genetically deaf? But is choosing an embryo that has a genetic defect, merely for the convenience of the parents, morally right? For that matter, is choosing to abort a fetus (or not implant an embryo), with a genetic defect also a case of convenience for the parents?

Just to muddy the waters a bit, here is another example of eugenics, one that does not involve aborting fetuses or selecting embryos:

Rabbi Joseph Eckstein pioneered an entirely new approach to Tay-Sachs disease in 1985, in light of the fact that he found all the available options either unappealing or irreconcilable with halachic (Jewish) law. His solution: to eliminate the gene from the Jewish population entirely. Eckstein is the founder of an international genetic testing program called Dor Yeshorim, the "generation of the righteous." In the program, Orthodox Jewish high school students are given blood tests to determine if they have the Tay-Sachs gene. Instead of receiving direct results as to their carrier status, each person is given a six-digit identification number. Couples can call a hotline, if both are carriers, they will be deemed "incompatible."
Individuals are not told they are carriers directly to avoid any possibility of stigmatization or discrimination. If the information were released, carriers could potentially become unmarriageable within the community. During 1993, 8000 couples were tested, and eighty-seven couples who were previously considering marriage decided against it as they were at risk for having a child with the disease. The program then, aims to eradicate the disease through the venue of choice of mate.
Jewish writings contain references to genetics and eugenics as far back as the Bible and Talmud. In Jewish law, it is prohibited to "marry a woman from a family of epileptics or lepers lest the illness be transmitted to future generations." Avoidance of genetic disease by choice of mate has been accepted since the biblical era. Do the Jewish ancient writings thus indirectly sanction the approach of Dor Yeshorim?

* * * * * * * * * *

UPDATE: As a Libertarian who had been interested in Ron Paul, I don't have much choice among the other presidential candidates on the ballot. But there's someone I can recommend wholeheartedly, who has the insight and honesty needed for the job. A refreshing voice in the political wilderness. I hereby endorse . . .

Click on the photo to get to the Web site of the best candidate for Prez.

NOTE: Click here to comment via Haloscan


Thursday, January 31, 2008

This One's For You, James!

I am mostly blogging at The Festering Swamp, and this personal blog has been sadly neglected. Due to relentless prodding from my journosaur friend James, I'm going to start updating it again.

This is just the barest of updates. Click on the title link to go to The Festering Swamp, where I mark my five decades as a carbon-based life form on Planet Earth.



Thursday, September 20, 2007

Too Long A Wait

Ack. I've really let this blog go. Most of my time has been spent writing for a group blog, The Festering Swamp.

I'll be updating this blog more regularly from now on. It's my own blog, after all.

In the meantime, here's Charley Stough, author of BONG BULLETIN, with an example of the Grey Lady lapsing in a most fundamental manner: Forgetting how the calendar works:

SPEAKING OF THE END. In July the New York Times published this correction: "An article on Thursday about the arraignment of three men in the shooting of two New York police officers, one of whom died, misstated the schedule set by a judge for a trial in the case. The trial is expected to begin by February, not by 'Feb. 30.' The error occurred when an editor saw the symbol '--30--' typed at the bottom of the reporter’s article and combined it with the last word, 'February.' It is actually a notation that journalists have used through the years to denote the end of an article. Although many no longer use it or even know what it means, some journalists continue to debate its origin. A popular theory is that it was a sign-off code developed by telegraph operators. Another tale is that reporters began signing their articles with '30' to demand a living wage of $30 per week. Most dictionaries still include the symbol in the definition of thirty, noting that it means 'conclusion' or 'end of a news story.'"

Yeah, well, it also ends something else. When a copy editor for the New York Times doesn't know what "--30--" means, as well as thinks there has ever been or ever will be a Feb. 30, something else has gone by the boards too. Sure hope somebody regrets the error.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Selling out is selling out

Federated Media, the blog advertising network, recently got caught using its bloggers to help with an advertising campaign.

What's wrong with that? What's wrong is that these bloggers have presented themselves as independent voices in the tech world. That's a journalistic function. Yet they lent their names, and words, to advertising in exchange for money. In this case, the client was deep-pocketed Microsoft, which wanted to push its meme of "people-ready".

In the old-fashioned print media world, this would be an obvious no-no for ethical journalists. We journalists are not supposed to tie what we write to advertising dollars. And we most definitely are not supposed to get paid for lending our names and journalistic prestige to ad campaigns.

Some people on the Web like to call this old-fashioned idea outmoded. The new paradigm, they recite with a numbing patter of marketing jargon, is to bring in advertisers along with journalists and the public. It's a win-win-win.

Some call this an example of "conversational marketing", which its advocates say is a way to benefit all parties ---- journalists, readers and advertisers ---- by getting them talking with each other to find out the others' needs.

But conversational marketing is also a convenient way of sugar-coating an attempt by advertisers to control how journalists write. Nick Denton of Valleywag deserves thanks for exposing this campaign. Now that it has been exposed to the light of day Federated Media has hastily retreated from its conflict-laden plan.

Jeff Jarvis, one of the most far-sighted media types, forcefully made this point about Federated Media's plan.

Jarvis, who had a long career in print media, said the case reminded him of similar attempts to buy him.

"In each of these cases, the advertiser’s effort is to get more closely associated with us, our content, our reputations, our brands," . . . Jarvis wrote. "They want us to speak their names. Nicely. Or at least be near them, associated with them. This happens at every editorial product I know and it becomes incumbent upon their editors to resist and to protect their integrity from integration. . ."
Read it all.

Jackie Danicki provides more perspective.

Some of those involved in the Federated Media debacle, such as tech guru Om Malik, reacted honorably. They recognized the criticism had validity. Their reputation for integrity was too valuable to tarnish.

John Battelle, founder, chairman and CEO of Federated Media, honorably took responsibility for the debacle. However, he still doesn't seem to get it. He gives a straw-man version of the criticism:

"Microsoft was trying to do something new, but the overwhelming presumption behind many of the critics of this campaign has been that Microsoft was being evil. That it was trying to pull the wool over our eyes. That it was, in short, a bad actor. Why? Why this knee jerk assumption that an important character in the conversation happening in our world is evil, wrong, malicious? And that all the authors associated with the campaign are dupes, fools, schills? Are we really still stuck in 1996, where every single thing the company does is presumptively evil?"

This has nothing to do with Microsoft being evil. This has everything to do with an advertiser's attempt to get involved in the editorial process. Once you've said it's okay for journalists to help advertisers with their campaigns, you've broken a crucial ethical barrier that is there to prevent undue influence. It is a bad precedent.

Microsoft was just doing what many advertisers would do, if given the opportunity. And Microsoft was not breaking any ethical barrier; it is not a journalistic outfit. It is not Microsoft's duty to obey standards of editorial integrity and trust. That is the duty of journalists.

Still, Battelle deserves credit for wrestling with the matter. Much of what he writes about the value of conversation with advertisers has validity; it is referenced in the classic ClueTrain Manifesto. He just needs to remind himself that technological advances do not necessarily invalidate ethical considerations.

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, who evidently doesn't value his reputation as much, was less responsive than Battelle. Arrington told his critics to "go pound sand."

"People understand that if there’s text in an ad box, someone is paying for it to be there," Arrington said.

But people don't expect that a supposedly independent journalist is being paid to provide the text. They don't expect, and shouldn't have to expect, that the journalist is being paid by an advertiser to advance a pet theme.

This is no new media paradigm. It's an old-fashioned conflict of interest. (Judging by the numerous blinking, tacky animated ads on his site, Arrington is desperately doing all he can to kiss up to advertisers, even at the expense of annoying his readers).

Give the man credit for openly admitting he doesn't see an ethical problem with advertisers buying his words. Now the onus is on Arrington's readers to figure out which words are really Arrington's and which words are from advertisers using Arrington as a ventriloquist's dummy.

And some in this sordid mess don't seem to take their own "conversational" schtick too seriously, at least when they're on the defensive. Chas Edwards, Federated Media's vice president for sales and market development, posted a weasel-worded defense of his company's campaign, "Does Relevant Advertising Mean Selling Out?"

Of course, the headline is misleading. The relevance is not in question; it's editorial co-operation and pay for taking part in advertising.

Yesterday, I left a comment on Edward's blog saying so. It hasn't been posted. Indeed, no responses have been posted.

Perhaps Chas Edwards doesn't like what the public is telling him and has decided to shut down the conversation.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thanks, Rocky, and Tony!

As a native San Diegan, I'm very grateful to the city of Los Angeles for its fine choice in elected officials. Namely, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky "The Clown" Delgadillo and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio "Romeo" Villaraigosa.

These two jokers have made Los Angeles the laughing stock of American cities, the Cleveland of the Left Coast. That takes the prize away from San Diego, with our own oafish misadventures, such as a city employee pension fund that is costing billions more than anticipated. The New York Times gave San Diego the dubious title of "Enron-by-the-Sea".

We San Diegans also had an incompetent chucklehead of a Mayor, Dick Murphy, who campaigned on a platform of "20-20 vision", yet couldn't see the debacle. Murphy ignored the advice of the city's pension board and got rid of a pesky member who warned of the ongoing catastrophe. Thankfully, Murphy had the good sense to resign.

But our new mayor, Jerry Sanders, seems more competent than Murphy and his predecessor, Susan Golding (although that's admittedly a very low bar). We also have a city attorney, Michael Aguirre, who's aggressively investigating alleged corruption.

But mostly, San Diego has been helped by our colossus to the north, which has entertained the country, indeed the world, with the comical mishaps of its leaders.

If you've been on Mars recently, Rocky the Clown has been caught lying and dissembling about his wife's use of his city-owned vehicle. She got in an accident with it, when she was apparently using it improperly for a personal errand. Rocky the Clown billed the taxpayers. He has now reimbursed taxpayers.

His wife also was driving without auto insurance for a while -- as was RtC himself. For the full, hilarious story, read Steve Lopez's columns in the Los Angeles Times.

Romeo's contribution was his own dissembling about his marital woes. Earlier this year, he denied a report by blogger Luke Ford that his marriage was on the rocks.

Here's Luke:
On Jan. 29, 2007, I reported the following on this blog:

The mayor and his wife Corina haven't been seen together in public in about ten months (since the president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, visited in May 2006). Villaraigosa no longer wears his wedding band (not since the first week of September 2006). His wife does not live with him in the mayor's mansion (I don't think she's ever lived there with him).

"So, will he be reverting to his maiden name?" asks one internet commenter.

Connie was recently spotted cleaning the couple's home at Mt. Washington.

Around 2:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, a journalist at City Hall finally worked up the courage to ask Villaraigosa after his press conference, "Where is your wedding ring? What's the deal?"

Villaraigosa said that he had lost weight and hadn't had the time to have it resized. The mayor said he was still together with his wife Connie.

In June, the mayor conceded he was separating from his wife, Corina.

Guess the exercise program didn't work out. Or, perhaps his wife objected to the kinds of exercises Mayor Romeo was performing.

Blogs such as Mayor Sam have reported a rumor that the reason for his marriage's breakup is that Romeo has fathered a little bundle of joy -- but not with Corina.

This is unconfirmed, but if true, one suspects the evidence will show before long.

Then there's the debacle with Paris Hilton and Sheriff Lee "Xenu" Baca, which should need little explaining.

Although San Diegans are supposed to be jealous of L.A.'s higher profile, this is one category in which I'll gratefully concede precedence.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Microsoft hooks Linspire

When you shake hands with Microsoft, count your fingers afterward. San Diego's Linspire may find that out, courtesy of an agreement it signed with Microsoft to make their computer operating systems work together better.

The deal was promptly attacked by prominent Linux supporters, who see it as part of Microsoft's long-term strategy to neuter a rival operating system it sees as a growing threat. Linspire sells a version of the non-proprietary, open-source Linux operating system. Microsoft, of course, sells its ultra-proprietary Windows operating system.

"Through this agreement, the companies will work to advance office document compatibility, enhance instant messaging interoperability and reinforce existing collaboration on digital media," the companies said in a June 13 press release announcing the deal. "In addition, Linspire will be providing its customers with the option of acquiring a patent covenant from Microsoft for customers operating the Linspire desktop."

Microsoft has been threatening legal action against Linux users, claiming that the non-proprietary software includes its intellectual property. The deal with Linspire is the latest in a series of non-aggression pacts Microsoft has signed with Linux makers, including Novell, Xandros and now Linspire.

Microsoft claims that Linux and other open-source software violates 235 of its patents. However, Microsoft has not identified the allegedly infringed patents. Defenders of Linux say Microsoft is attempting to scare companies away from using Linux by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt, known by the acronym "FUD".

In the press release, Linspire chief executive Kevin Carmony said the agreement will make it easier for Linspire users to share documents and technologies to make Windows and Linux work better together. Read the entire press release here.

“Linspire has always been about choice, and this announcement continues our tradition of offering options for improved interoperability, enhanced functionality and confidence," Carmony said in the press release. "Over the years, in an effort to expand choice, we have entered into dozens of agreements with commercial software vendors. It certainly made sense to collaborate with Microsoft, one of the most important partners in the PC ecosystem."

However, Groklaw one of the foremost Web sites devoted to defending Linux and other open source software, said the deal is really about Microsoft's attempt to lock down all Linux competition. Microsoft will use these agreements to intimidate those using other versions of Linux not covered by its agreements.
Groklaw's post: "Linspire joins the plot:" is recommended reading. Find it here.

If you want to support Linux against Microsoft's suspiciously warm bear hug of an embrace, there are numerous other versions of Linux to use. There's Debian and Ubuntu Linux, for starters.

For those who don't understand how Linux works: take this Linux 101 online course..


Thursday, June 07, 2007

More Patterico on Flight 327

Patterico has just posted a very detailed article with more information from current air marshals who think Flight 327 was a terrorist dry run or probe.

This is precisely what I like to see in a story — plenty of meat on the bones. The readers know where you got your information from, what the sources told you, and why it is important. When you had to keep sources anonymous, you said so, and why. We weren’t left to wonder. Facts are spelled out, not just implied. And you have some unexpected eye-openers. (The unwritten policy of ignoring illegal immigrants is indefensible and incomprehensible).

The article also distinguishes between a probe and a dry run. A probe is simply looking for weaknesses. A dry run is a rehearsal for a plan already well advanced. Obviously, the latter is more serious.

Congratulations, Patterico, for doing the work the Washington Times didn't do.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Apology to Patterico

I unfairly used harsh language in challenging blogger Patterico's claims about a Washington Times story on reports of terrorist dry runs. I apologize to him. Patterico did a very good job of providing the evidence the article did not provide. I should have known he would come through.

Read my fuller explanation at The Festering Swamp.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Another tired rant against anonymity

This time, it's in the Washington Post. It's another in the sopoforic series of of deadly dull pontificating against the uncouth, unsanitary medium of blog comments.

Tom Grubisich writes:

"You would think Web sites would want to keep the hate-mongers from taking over, but many sites are unwitting enablers. At, editors and producers say they struggle to balance transparency against privacy. Until recently, many of the site's posters identified themselves with anonymous Internet handles -- which were the site's default ID. Now, people must enter a "user ID" that appears with their comments."

Yes, he wrote "user ID" in quotes. That says a lot about Grubisich's "opinion" of the "savvy" of the readers of his rant against anonymity on the "Internet". He then ponderously wades through the predictable arguments for anonymity, such as for whistleblowers, and, predictably, concedes that, yes some allowance must be made.

"If Web sites required posters to use their real names, while giving the shield of pseudonymity when it's merited, spirited online debate would continue unimpeded. It might even be enhanced by attracting contributors who are turned off today by name calling and worse. Except for the hate-mongers, who wouldn't want that?"

So it goes in Grubisich's mental simulation of the Internet. Only hate-mongers, he says would object to improving "spirited online debate" by controlling it. So that makes me a hate-monger, along with all the others who find such prissy, clueless babbling to be worse than useless. Flash: People are rude on the Internet! Flash! I've got a solution that's been proposed a gazillion times before! That makes me some Internet pioneer!

Grubisich really falls on his face when he points to -- where his piece appeared -- as an example of how controlled discussion can work. (A little kissing up never hurts, I guess). For example, read the comments about's new policy.

Grubisich linked to this announcement, but apparently didn't bother to read what people were saying. They weren't pleased. The commenters point out how the nifty feature of collecting a commenter's statements on a MyPost page doesn't work. (Derivative as hell, despite the Post's feeble disclaimer it is not copying MySpace).

For those too lazy to click, here's the entire list of comments on the MyPost announcement, as of May 15:

I like it. I think it will be a great way to actually see who is who on the site, and not have to deal with anon. trolls.
Posted by: amberdb | May 8, 2007 09:17 AM

Clicking on "wiredog" on the home page doesn't work, let's see if it works here.
Posted by: wiredog | May 8, 2007 10:24 AM

Nope. Doesn't work here, either.
Posted by: wiredog | May 8, 2007 10:26 AM

Can we have mypost on the blogs too? Pleeeeease!
Posted by: amberdb | May 8, 2007 11:16 AM

hi, i think this is a great idea. really super. but if it's launched already, why can't we access our posts when we click on our ID? please help. thanks.
Posted by: | May 8, 2007 12:37 PM

It is not set up on the blogs, but it works from other news articles. It should be set up on the blogs too!
Posted by: amberdb | May 8, 2007 02:32 PM

Uh, I just commented on an article, and it didn't give a link, either. This "MyPost" does not appear to be public at all. Are you sure you pushed it live? (Yes, I'm a Web geek.)
Oh, and will comments be connected to our IDs? My comment name is not the same as my WP user ID.
Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | May 8, 2007 03:57 PM

Posted by: lcharters | May 14, 2007 10:00 AM

When will the Forums be restored to the state they were in when Lindsay was moderating?
Posted by: eerieindiana | May 14, 2007 10:37 AM

where is MyPost
Posted by: testing | May 14, 2007 12:38 PM

If this MyPost exists, then it is not showing up on my PC (tried using Opera and IE to find it).
Posted by: Tirade | May 14, 2007 05:15 PM

Well, clicking on my name doesn't work, and I can't make any comments after any articles. All I get is "View all the comments" and there are none, and "Make a comment" can't be accessed. Am I missing out on something or is this not operational yet?
Posted by: psherman | May 14, 2007 09:56 PM

This is a great idea. Perhaps this is why I haven't been able to post after the articles for the last week.
Posted by: Lynne | May 15, 2007 07:54 PM

I just posted a comment, it didn't show. What's up?
Posted by: Lynne | May 15, 2007 07:56 PM

This looks like a watered down version of's user profiles.
Posted by: Huh? | May 15, 2007 09:22 PM

There you have it: the chasm between the reality of the user experience, and the pompous pontifications and bloviations of so-called Web experts pandering to empty suits at corporate behemoths.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

The place is Traxx

I'm just passing through Irvine on Amtrak, headed to the meetup of fans of the late Cathy Seipp. We denizens of The Festering Swamp will enjoy socialite, convivialite, bibulosite.

Liveblogging will follow at the event on TFS. So hie thee hence, beginning around 3 p.m. Saturday, PDT.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Blackwhite Department

War is peace
Freedom is slavery
DRM benefits consumers


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Meetup of Cathy's Fans This Saturday

Someone just called me about my blog, asking how many times I updated it.

Not enough.

But most of my blog writing is now at the Festering Swamp, linked to in the headline above. Click on it and go there.

If you're too lazy to click, here's the post, made May 9:


Inland San Diego has been sweltering the last couple of days. So when I got home today I rushed straight to the shower to cool off and degrime. Scrubbing away with soap felt deliciously refreshing.

This soap came from Lisa of Goatboy Soaps, who sent it and lip balm to liven up our meetup this Saturday at the bar in Traxx Restaurant, at Union Station, at 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. The soap is deliciously aromatic and felt very soft on the skin. Each soap is imprinted with a lovely dragonfly design. I also enjoyed the lip balm, which is also scented in lemonade or watermelon. (Well I had to try it out to tell you what to expect . . .)

Thanks Lisa!

Be one of the first 19 at Traxx, and these luxurious party favors are yours. When you shower with the soap and anoint yourself with the lip balm, you'll experience what I mean.

Patterico, we hope you can show up, along with others of your blogging peers who admired Cathy's work or just want to check out the scene. Bring your famous Treo.

Mark and David Ehrenstein, hope you can make it!

Mike K., LYT, Dana, DNS and Julie Scott, it'll be a pleasure.

allan, you'll keep the quips flowing!

Lurkers who haven't commented, ya gotta show up! Our new commenter Anonymous (who really needs a nym), please introduce yourself.

Taco Bell Chihuahua, ¡vamanos! ¡bebemos! ¡borrachamos!

No RSPV required. We're just going to congregate for however long we want. Although if anyone knows they'll be going, it would be nice to know. so I can budget for all the shots of Patron.


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