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Issue #2 for javir

4/21/2008 - 5/23/2008

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Manchester United Edges Chelsea for European Title Jonathan Tasini: (WSJ.com: The Daily Fix) Submitted at 5/22/2008 12:53:00 PM

For the second time in 10 seasons, Manchester United won European club soccer’s premier tournament by snatching an unlikely victory in the final moments. In 1999, two late substitutes scored after the 90th minute to stun Bayern Munich, 2-1. On Wednesday in Moscow, English rival Chelsea had a penalty kick to clinch the game, but defender John Terry slipped and hit the post. A few kicks later, Manchester United goalie Edwin van der Sar dove to his right to block a Nicolas Anelka’s penalty kick and Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester’s 66year-old manager, could celebrate his second Champions League title. Edwin Van der Sar’s save sparked a raucous celebration in Moscow. (Photo by Jamie McDonald of Getty Images) “United had not won in 90 minutes but, when it comes to European Cup finals, they never do,” Matt Dickinson writes in the Times of London. “They love to inflict torture on their fans, but it all adds to the richness of the story — one that comes with a happy ending for Ferguson now that he has his second European Cup. Knowing the man, he will wake up this morning and start dreaming of a third.” Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich once again saw his expensive collection of talent fall short of a European crown, which sits just fine with Rob Hughes of the International Herald Tribune. “Not for the first time, Abramovich, who has paid more for his sport than any man before him, discovered that in soccer not everything can be bought,” Mr. Hughes writes. “Not for rubles or love or money. Thank goodness.” But Mr. Terry’s failure to convert was a sadder sight. “If you wanted to grasp the degree of his pain after he slipped and missed the penalty kick that would have given the European Cup to his oligarch patron Roman Abramovich in his own city, it was surely captured by the sight of Frank Lampard — for the last few weeks immersed deeply in the tragedy of his mother’s shockingly sudden death — attempting to offer some kind of consolation,” James Lawton writes in the Independent. “He might as profitably have attempted to turn around the Moscow River flowing beside the stadium.” Mr. Terry, preparing for his kick, had “stiffened in the belief that after a season of some adversity, and the loss of the England captaincy, he was about to enjoy the supreme moment of a career marked by burning ambition.” The Daily Telegraph’s Jim White celebrates the peaceful invasion of Moscow by English football fans. “All day they had been mixing, reds and blues, turning Red Square purple,” Mr. White writes. “All day they had swapped their war stories about the traffic jams and getting lost on the Metro system. Not to mention the

prices. Moscow must be the only town on earth capable of making the followers of a club sited on the Fulham Road reckon they have it cheap back home.” The all-English final was all too English for the Guardian’s Richard Williams. “They did their best but it was still only a Premier League game with extra-time and trimmings,” Mr. Williams writes. “A battle between two adversaries who know each other’s strengths and weaknesses inside out, the European Cup final of 2008 was a match totally devoid of the sort of exotic contrasts and unpredictable internal contests that once marked this most glamorous of club contests.” *** The San Antonio Spurs were grounded, sleeping in their airplane before Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Then they raced out to a big lead before squandering it and the game, as Kobe Bryant awoke from first-half slumber to score 25 of his 27 points in the second half. “Folding NBA-sized limbs into airplane seats — even cushy airplane seats — and spending the night on the grounded team jet is a full -fledged traumatic episode in this pampered universe,” Marc Stein writes on ESPN. “Yet none of that comes anywhere close to the sort of discomfort San Antonio found when it finally made it to the Staples Center, where the Spurs crashed from 20 points up with more than half of the third quarter gone to a crushing 89-85 defeat in Game 1.” Those three double-digit losses the Spurs suffered in New Orleans in their previous series took less of a toll, Buck Harvey writes in the San Antonio Express-News. “The Spurs would have been better off losing by 20 instead of once being up by 20,” Mr. Harvey writes. “Their starters could have sat on the bench for the fourth quarter, as they often did in New Orleans.” In the Orange County Register, Jeff Miller juxtaposes the game with the nearby “American Idol” finale. “The red carpet was across the street, where television history was being made,” Mr. Miller writes. “Just as well, since it was Bryant’s exit — certainly not the Lakers’ entrance — that will remain from this unlikely, unusual 89-85 Game 1 victory. Few players ever have been able to do what Bryant just did, against the defending NBA champions, no less. After only slightly influencing the game for better than two quarters, he simply reached out and grabbed the thing all for himself.” *** Los Angenelos choosing between Simon Cowell and Sasha Vujacic on Wednesday night had an easier time than Detroit sports fans will as they try to follow the playoff fortunes of their Pistons and Red Wings. Starting Saturday night, three of the games will coincide. “On Saturday night, and again Monday night, and again Wednesday night, Detroiters and suburbanites young and old, male and female, expertly coiffed and mildly disheveled, will stand side by side in bars and

restaurants staring at multiple TVs, trying to digest it all,” Bob Wojnowski writes in the Detroit News. “Wings fans and Pistons fans will be forced to mingle, get to know each other, maybe share a plate of mozzarella sticks.” In bonding, they’d only be following the lead of the athletes they support. “Chauncey Billups often wears a Tigers hat as he walks off the Pistons’ bus,” Michael Rosenberg writes in the Detroit Free Press. “The Pistons reserve several seats behind the visitors’ bench at the Palace for visiting celebrities, and the Tigers and Red Wings are often among them. The Pistons’ Jarvis Hayes and Jason Maxiell attended the Wings’ game against Dallas last Saturday. [Pistons president Joe] Dumars often goes to Ford Field in the fall to cheer on the Lions.” *** Why do none of Charles Barkley’s ill-advised acts — most recently, losing $400,000 in gambling — undermine his popularity? “He is an athlete born with a limitless supply of Get Out of the Headlines Free cards,” Gary Shelton writes in the St. Petersburg Times. “Given the scandals of college sports today, perhaps a course in Barkley 101 should be taught in schools.” *** From a battle with cancer to a Colorado state baseball championship: 18-year-old Nate Jurney’s journey is screen-worthy stuff. “But know where truth exceeds fiction any screenwriter in Hollywood could imagine?” Mark Kiszla writes in the Denver Post. “Jurney has proved to be far more than an inspirational good-luck charm for Ralston Valley. The dude can hit. In the most crucial game of the season, Jurney batted eighth in the Mustangs’ lineup during the title-clinching victory, and ripped a wicked single on top of his gutsy, refuse-tosurrender double.” Mr. Jurney’s left knee has been replaced with an artificial joint, which made that double so gutsy. But when artificial enhancements become too good, then they breed controversy and resentment from competitors. That’s the legal dilemma surrounding Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee before his first birthday who wants to run on his prosthetic legs to the Beijing Olympics. On Slate, William Saletan analyzes the strange court ruling on Mr. Pistorius, which he summarizes as, “Artificial legs are fine to run on, as long as you don’t win the race.” – Tip of the Fix cap to readers Michelle Alessandri and John Falck. Found a good column from the world of sports? Don’t keep it to yourself — write to us at dailyfix@wsj.com and we’ll consider your find for inclusion in the Daily Fix.

Introduction to Google Search Quality By Eric Case (Official Google Blog) Submitted at 5/20/2008 6:20:00 PM

Posted by Udi Manber, VP Engineering, Search Quality Search Quality is the name of the team responsible for the ranking of Google search results. Our job is clear: A few hundreds of millions of times a day people will ask Google questions, and within a fraction of a second Google needs to decide which among the billions of pages on the web to show them -- and in what order. Lately, we have been doing other things as well. But more on that later. For something that is used so often by so many people, surprisingly little is known about ranking at Google. This is entirely our fault, and it is by design. We are, to be honest, quite secretive about what we do. There are two reasons for it: competition and abuse. Competition is pretty straightforward. No company wants to share its secret recipes with its competitors. As for abuse, if we make our ranking formulas too accessible, we make it easier for people to game the system. Security by obscurity is never the strongest measure, and we do not rely on it exclusively, but it does prevent a lot of abuse. The details of the ranking algorithms are in many ways Google's crown jewels. We are very proud of them and very protective of them. By some estimate, more than one thousand programmer/scientist years have gone directly into their development, and the rate of innovation has not slowed down. But being completely secretive isn’t ideal, and this blog post is part of a renewed effort to open up a bit more than we have in the past. We will try to periodically tell you about new things, explain old things, give advice, spread news, and engage in conversations. Let me start with some general pieces of information about our group. More blog posts will follow. I should take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Udi Manber, and I am a VP of engineering at Google in charge of Search Quality. I have been at Google for over two years, and I have been working on search technologies for almost 20 years. The heart of the group is the team that works on core ranking. Ranking is hard, much harder than most people realize. One reason for this is that languages are inherently ambiguous, and documents do not follow any set of rules. There are really no standards for how to convey information, so we need to be able to understand all web pages, written by anyone, for any reason. And

that's just half of the problem. We also need to understand the queries people pose, which are on average fewer than three words, and map them to our understanding of all documents. Not to mention that different people have different needs. And we have to do all of that in a few milliseconds. The most famous part of our ranking algorithm is PageRank, an algorithm developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who founded Google. PageRank is still in use today, but it is now a part of a much larger system. Other parts include language models (the ability to handle phrases, synonyms, diacritics, spelling mistakes, and so on), query models (it's not just the language, it's how people use it today), time models (some queries are best answered with a 30-minutes old page, and some are better answered with a page that stood the test of time), and personalized models (not all people want the same thing). Another team in our group is responsible for evaluating how well we're doing. This is done in many different ways, but the goal is always the same: improve the user experience. This is not the main goal, it is the only goal. There are automated evaluations every minute (to make sure nothing goes wrong), periodic evaluations of our overall quality, and, most importantly, evaluations of specific algorithmic improvements. When an engineer gets a new idea and develops a new algorithm, we test their ideas thoroughly. We have a team of statisticians who look at all the data and determine the value of the new idea. We meet weekly (sometimes twice a week) to go over those new ideas and approve new launches. In 2007, we launched more than 450 new improvements, about 9 per week on the average. Some of these improvements are simple and obvious -- for example, we fixed the way Hebrew acronym queries are handled (in Hebrew an acronym is denoted by a (") next to the last character, so IBM will be IB"M), and some are very complicated -- for example, we made significant changes to the PageRank algorithm in January. Most of the time we look for improvements in relevancy, but we also work on projects where the sole purpose is to simplify the algorithms. Simple is good. International search has been one of our key focus areas in the past two years. This means all spoken languages, not just the major ones. Last year, for example, we made major improvements in Azerbaijani, a language spoken by about 8 million people. In the past few months, we launched spell checking in Estonian, Catalan, Serbian, Serbo-Croatian, Ukranian, Bosnian,

Latvian, Filipino, Slovenian and Farsi. We organized a network of people all over the world who provide us with feedback, and we have a large set of volunteers from all parts of Google who speak different languages and help us improve search. Another team is dedicated to new features and new user interfaces. Having a great engine is necessary for a great car, but it is not sufficient. The car has to be comfortable and easy to drive. The Google search user interface is quite simple. Very few of our users ever read our help pages, and they can do very well without them (but they're good reading nevertheless, and we're working to improve them). When we add new features we try to ensure that they will be intuitive and easy to use for everyone. One of the most visible changes we made in the past year was Universal Search. Others include the Google Notebook, Custom Search Engines, and of course, many improvements to iGoogle. The UI team is helped by a team of usability experts who conduct user studies and evaluate new features. They travel all over the world, and they even go to people's homes to see users in their natural habitat. (Don't worry, they do not come unannounced or uninvited!) There is a whole team that concentrates on fighting webspam and other types of abuse. That team works on variety of issues from hidden text to off-topic pages stuffed with gibberish keywords, plus many other schemes that people use in an attempt to rank higher in our search results. The team spots new spam trends and works to counter those trends in scalable ways; like all other teams, they do it internationally. The webspam group works closely with the Google Webmaster Central team, so they can share insights with everyone and also listen to site owners. There are other teams devoted to particular projects. In general, our organizational structure is quite informal. People move around, and new projects start all the time. One of the key things about search is that users' expectations grow rapidly. Tomorrow's queries will be much harder than today's queries. Just as Moore's law governs the doubling of computing speed every 18 months, there is a hidden unwritten law that doubles the complexity of our most difficult queries in a short time. This is impossible to measure precisely, but we all feel it. We know we cannot rest on our laurels, we have to work hard to meet the challenge. As I mentioned earlier, we will continue providing you with updates on search quality in the coming months, so stay tuned.

Hillary's Demise Was All About Iraq (The Huffington Post Full Blog Feed) Submitted at 5/23/2008 7:47:57 AM

Most of us know now that Hillary Clinton has lost the Democratic presidential nomination race. But, she really lost the race before she officially entered the presidential race, because of one issue, and one issue only: Iraq. Sen. Clinton, and her supporters, gave Barack Obama the political opening to enter the race not just by her vote to authorize the war but her refusal to stand before her constituents when she ran for re-election in 2006, explain her vote and admit she had committed a grave error. A significant portion of Obama's support has come from people vehemently opposed to the war. Rather than take a moral stand, Sen. Clinton listened to her political operatives whose only calculus was winning, not morality. Of the many great strategic and tactical errors her campaign made (and one hopes a positive outcome of this race is the diminished roles of Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson in shaping the Democratic Party) the greatest one was believing that a vote for the Iraq war would be a strength. Stop and think of that for a moment: to win a political office, she was willing to live with the specter of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and a huge financial cost to our country, which, by one estimate, will be three trillion dollars. Looking back, I gave her an opening to repair her image with the anti-war base. In the Fall of 2005, I entered the New York Democratic Senate primary to challenge Sen. Clinton's immoral support for the Iraq War. I had no expectations of winning. Rather, I, and the many people whose voices our campaign represented, wanted a debate about the war. We tried to engage Sen. Clinton about her vote. At virtually every turn, she refused to have an open debate. At the New York State Democratic Party convention, I sought to have my name placed in nomination to force a debate about the war. Sen. Clinton's staff, and her supporters, threatened delegates who were considering signing my nomination petition. Rep. Jerrold Nadler led the effort, pressuring anti-war delegates who wanted to openly criticize Sen. Clinton's vote; I witnessed with my own eyes Nadler corralling one of my delegate supporters, trying to get her to remove her name from the petition (she refused). Other delegates, who were furious about the war, were scared away from our campaign by the prospect that they would lose access to Sen. Clinton, or other goodies that come with being part of the machine. Over the summer of 2006, we played a somewhat comical game over whether Sen. Clinton would agree to debate me. I issued a very polite letter to her, asking for debates. Her campaign never responded. The press repeatedly asked her, and her campaign operatives, whether she would agree to a debate. The typical response was roughly: "We'll see how the campaign develops". That was also their answer on Election Day as people were going to the polls. And, yes, many of us have found her new-found demands for more debates with Obama...er...amusing. Here are the lessons I draw from 2006. Had Sen. Clinton used her Senate re-election race in 2006 to admit her vote was wrong, she would be preparing to accept the Democratic nomination for president. Sen. Clinton's supporters failed her. People like Nadler and others, more concerned with their political futures and having no backbone to confront a then-feared political machine, refused to demand that she admit her vote for the war was a mistake. By falling into line with the machine, they allowed her to slide by in 2006--and they bear some responsibility for her failure in the 2008 presidential race. But, forget political careers. The real tragedy is this: because of her national profile and, even back when the war was being debated, her seemingly clear path to victory in the 2008 primaries, Sen. Clinton could have been a national voice against the war. With her power, celebrity and influence, she could have prevented the deaths of a million Iraqis and thousands of American soldiers, not to mention an unconscionable amount of money. Measured against the war's devastation, her loss in this election pales by comparison.

Clutter War II: Attack of the Giant Baby (43 Folders -) Submitted at 4/21/2008 6:58:02 AM

As of next Sunday, our lovely daughter will have been with our houshold for six months (Happy Half-Birthday, Eleanor). It’s a good arrangement, and we’re all pretty happy about the whole thing so far. But, to look around our house, you’d think we were raising a small army of babies, each of whom has their own Amazon Prime CLUTTER page 2

Programmable NeuroLED lighting solution has brains, man (Engadget) Submitted at 5/23/2008 8:20:00 AM

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets Joining the elite club of intelligent lighting solutions that are sophisticated enough to not be laughed at is

NeuroLED. Truth be told, we're pretty far from understanding exactly how this contraption works, but we are told that the system is controlled by software written in Java and that it can be altered to react in different ways via toggle switches or wall-mounted touch panels. From what we can tell, the system can be

used for pure entertainment, educating or even spicing up a nightclub, and considering that it can play nice with WiFi, remote access is also within the realm of possibility. That's about all the explaining we can do -click on through to let the vid do the rest of the yappin'. Continue reading Programmable NeuroLED lighting

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CLUTTER continued from page 1 account and an addiction to things that are shaped like giraffes. Oh my, the stuff. The baby stuff. Everywhere. Means of conveyance, swingy seat, Bumbo, squeaky toys, fuzzy toys, toys for biting and bending, jammies, jackets, socks that do and don’t look like shoes, amusing hats, blankets, books, rattles, pacifiers, cleaning supplies, extra diapers — plus of course, there’s the raw tonnage of stuff belonging to the caretaking adults that has been displaced or disused as a result of the occupying baby’s needs. It is a scene, man, I can assure you. And there’s not an iota of blame to place on the actual baby; it’s all us (and mostly me). [By the bye, for an illuminating look at the perils of the creeping ParentCrap industry, have a look at Parenting, Inc. It’s chilling. And, for me, personally damning.] At any rate, as we approach that august 183-day mark in our little girl’s life, you might be able to guess where my head is right now. Yep. It’s on clutter, and on what I need to do to get my face back into Peter Walsh’s excellent de-cluttering book as a means for regaining domestic sanity and striding toward the possibility of a life without tripping, piling, or losing what’s left of my sleep-deprived mind. But let’s start with first principles: It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh Well, obviously for me, it starts with re-reading It’s All Too Much( isbn.nu| library search). As I’ve said before, this is a fantastic book that distinguishes itself by helping you understand why you have clutter, rather than just trying to help you find new places to store and “organize” it. Author Peter Walsh encourages you to imagine the life you really want, and then ruthlessly purge the items that are keeping that vision from becoming a reality. Pure gold. Now, if you don’t have the time or inclination to look at the book with me right now, or if you’re one of those

smarty boffins who points out that this would represent yet another piece of clutter — or even just to bring existing Peter fans back up to speed — here’s some posts from my previous excursion into the world of It’s All Too Much. It was a bracing sprint that helped me rid myself of crap that had been doing nothing for my life for years: • My War on Clutter- “Although no official record of the conversation exists, I would not be surprised to learn that I tried to talk the staff who delivered me into letting me keep my first diaper; just because — y’know — you never know when it might come in handy.” • My War on Clutter: Never “organize” what you can discard- “The truth is that this is like covering your tumor with a bandage, and without thoughtful paringdown, all those crates and boxes and storage spaces do nothing to improve the basic problem.” • My War on Clutter: The Tools to Purge BIG- “I cannot overstate the importance of making a zone like this early in your project. You must know without hesitation that whatever you run across — no matter how big or bulky — will find a temporary home in your dump zone before quickly being whisked out of your house forever.” • My War on Clutter: Inspiration for Independence Day - “If my own clutter war is piquing your interest in improving your surroundings, tomorrow could be the occasion for you to put a few minutes toward making a dent in your own pile.” • Vox Pop: Converting clutter from trash to treasureReaders share their excellent suggestions on responsible, useful ways to repurpose trash into someone else’s treasure. • More from Peter Walsh on clutter, quality of life“Capacity is only worth building when it’ll be used in the service of stuff you really want.” Thing is, I now return to this book and this mission

Using FeedJournal #3: How to Publish Anything By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson Blog) Submitted at 4/22/2008 2:32:00 PM

This is the third post in a series on how to best take advantage of FeedJournal Reader. Today, I describe how you can select any text to be published in the next issue of your personalized newspaper. If you are like me, you are probably receiving links to interesting online articles from a multitude of sources: email, newsletters, ads, feeds, etc. I find that more and more relevant and interesting information is becoming available online, but I usually don't have opportunity to read it at the time of discovery. I would like to file it away and read it later. The simplest strategy would be to bookmark the web page and browse my bookmarks once I have some time available. I could use my web browser's bookmark feature, an online boomarking service like Furl or del.icio.us, or use Instapaper. Provided I am online, these solutions allow me to access the relevant articles, but they don't allow me to read the article uninterrupted. As I often touch upon in my blog, there is a fundamental problem with reading long texts on a computer. I suggest printing the articles on paper so you can concentrate fully on the reading task at hand and thereby use your reading time more effectively. A more bulky, but interesting, alternative to paper is of course the e-reader devices, which are doing an excellent job of emulating the experience of reading printed material. If you decide to go the route of printing your reading list, you might find FeedJournal Reader a very attractive solution. It's a service, which allows you to subscribe to news feeds and periodically publish them in a personalized paper.

To make your paper even more valuable, you can mark any text not in your subscription list to be published in the upcoming issue. Below is my preferred recipe: Ingredients(all free): One Google Notebook account with the browser extension (optional) and one FeedJournal Reader account. Scenario: You have browsed to an interesting article but have no time to read it right now. Instructions: Select the text with the mouse, right-click on the selection and choose "Note this (Google Notebook)". The text have now been saved to your Google Notebook account. Make sure it is added to a section marked as shared, as it enables RSS feeds from the notebook. Grab the feed URL from the public page of your Google Notebook and subscribe to it in FeedJournal Reader. Once you subscribed to that section's RSS feed, any additional entries you add to Google Notebook will be automatically published in FeedJournal Reader. Another solution I have been successful with is Evernote 2.0 which replaces Google Notebook's functionality in the scenario above. Evernote is still in invitation-only beta mode, but looks very promising since it offers client applications for both web, Windows, Mac and mobile platforms. I have invites to share for accessing Evernote beta, so just let me know if you would like one. UPDATE (Apr 24, 2008): As Ken Lawrence correctly pointed out to me, the Evernote solution does not work for FeedJournal, because it cuts off the notes if they are too long. This correction only invalidates the last paragraph of my blog post. Using the suggested Google Notebook service works as advertised. Thanks, Ken!

Richard Walden: Myanmar: Why You Won't Be Going There Anytime Soon (The Huffington Post Full Blog Feed) Submitted at 5/23/2008 8:09:29 AM

Sitting here in Bangkok, Thailand with hundreds of other experienced international relief people is the pinnacle of frustration. The Generals in charge of Myanmar, isolated from world opinion as they may be, are nonetheless intent on achieving "Failed State" status with or without a cyclone disaster. Yesterday, I attended a meeting of 40 mostly European, Australian, American and Canadian logistics experts who have been sequestered in Bangkok awaiting the daily visa or two Myanmar reluctantly grants to those whose expertise 2 million of its people desperately need. There were perhaps 1000 years of accumulated expertise in that room and yet the volunteers were kept from rendering more than arms-length assistance by the very fact of their being from countries whose governments have publicly displayed their displeasure with the Burmese Junta -- a la Laura Bush's tirade after the storm, which vastly complicated private American relief workers' ability to gain access to the country. Linked by speaker telephone were another 40 mostly Asian staff in Yangon (Rangoon) who were providing the rest of us with their observations from inside the curtain of ignorance the Junta has erected around its 53 million people. The few non-Burmese relief workers in Myanmar are very sparingly allowed out of Yangon into the affected Irrawadfdy Delta areas. Failure to cross a "t" or dot an "i" on an air freight manifest results in confiscation of relief cargo or its being sent back out on the same plane trying to deliver it to those in need. Not a few relief agencies have lost track of hundreds of

thousands of dollars worth of cargo in this manner over the past 2 weeks. On Sunday, the ASEAN Treaty members (10 SE Asian countries) and the UN Secretary General meet with the Junta in Myanmar to discuss ways they and the rest of us might help cyclone victims. The betting is that the ASEAN member states -- only a few like Thailand, Singapore and The Philippines can be of real assistance - will send a modest amount of medical staff and perhaps what food and medical supplies they can spare and then ask the United Nations and the NGOs to provide funds and materials in lieu of a massive influx of non-Asian relief staff. Expect a new industry of relief commodities to hastily develop inside Myanmar as their cousins and nephews remind the generals that there is money to be made in servicing the relief community. La plus ca change! Those in the relief field serve those in need and not those in power... but it pains nonetheless to hear about the Bush Junta and Hurricane Katrina thrown up in the same conversation as the Myanmar Junta and Cyclone Nargis. That bit of gallows humor comes up in the bar adjoining the meeting room at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, scene of this century's version of the Pentagon's "Five O'Clock Follies" in the Saigon of the Vietnam era -- this being the latest laugher provided by the Burmese Junta to a roomful of journalists who also are being denied visas to bear witness to this still unfolding tragedy. [ Richard Walden is President of Operation USA, a Los Angeles-based international relief agency, www.opusa.org.]

with a renewed level of resolve because I have to face the previously unthinkable; we must convert Dad’s entropic home office into a nursery suitable for a shiny little baby who doesn’t appear to enjoy sleeping on USB cables and books about developing in ShockWave (yes, thanks, there’s still lots of “low-hanging fruit” remaining). So this new adventure begins. I hope to share some of this parent-focused de-cluttering with you over the next couple weeks, so pop back by if that appeals. For what it’s worth, I hope it will also have tidbits that appeal to the child-free or child-neutral amongst you. As I returned to It’s All Too Much in the last week, I was struck by a line that sounded like something straight out of my Time & Attention talk. In introducing a chapter on the excuses most people give for suffering clutter, Peter Walsh says: Everything in your home is there with your permission. And it’s true. Or putting just a slightly sharper point on it, it might be said that “Everything in your home remains there with your permission.” That clutter becomes a tiresome houseguest that you just don’t have the heart to throw out. And he keeps inviting his messy friends who also have decided to camp out on every available surface. So, if you’re the sort of put-together life hacker who would never accept a lame project or a pointless task, what sense is there in not applying the same rigor to your surroundings? Exactly. Anyhow, here I go. Wish us luck. And, as ever, I hope you’ll share your thoughts on how you beat the crap back after your little one arrived and took over. I’d love for Eleanor’s second six months to take place in a comfortable, clutter-free house that baby, parents, and giraffes alike can enjoy.

Celebrity Startups are Back (Portfolio.com: Top 5) Submitted at 5/22/2008 10:00:00 AM

Run for your lives! The apocalypse is nigh. How can we tell? Celebrities are launching Web startups — again. Not since the height of the bubble, when the likes of Cindy Crawford, Michael Jordan, Matt Damon, and Patrick Stewart tried to cash in on dotcom fever, have so many stars lent their names to dubious online enterprises. The four horsemen are saddling up, and tech is asking for another trampling. Hammer( He ditched the "MC" in the '90s.) dancejam.com U can't touch Hammer's Internet venturing skills. Well, maybe you can: Hammer is chief strategy officer of DanceJam, a video-sharing site where dancers upload clips of themselves. Ashton Kutcher ooma.com Kutcher is the creative director of ooma, a VoIP company that offers free US calling to customers who buy its phone jack gadget. Just who is it that's being punk'd here, the investors or the consumers?

Kanye West kanyetravel.com For some reason, the rapper launched Kanye Travel Ventures, a fairly typical travel site where you can book discount airfare, hotels, rental cars, and vacation activities. What, no deals on Louis Vuitton luggage? David Caruso lexicondigital.tv Caruso is CEO of Lexicon Digital Communications, which is "developing intellectual proprietary application solutions and products." Perhaps the rest of the CSI Miami team can figure out what the hell Lexicon does? Andrew Shue cafemom.com Shue (Billy on Melrose Place) launched this social network where mothers can share stories, pictures, and advice--like don't let your daughter marry her sister's exhusband who's sleeping with his coworker. Related Links Harry Potter and the Chamber of Copyright Law Dude, Where's My Investment? Game Guide: America's Cup

Podcast: NASA Manager Talks About the Mars Landing (Wired Science) Submitted at 5/22/2008 3:44:26 PM

Photo and text by Dave Bullock PASADENA, Calif. – As NASA's Phoenix lander approaches Mars, technicians in Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are busy sending last minute course corrections to the spacecraft. Slated to touch down on Mars Sunday afternoon, Phoenix should start sending back signals and images from Mars Sunday evening. Wired Science will be covering the landing live from Pasadena. Bookmark our "Mars" category page and come back throughout the day on Sunday for the latest updates. Scientists have equipped the lander with a wide range

Double, double (Seth's Blog) Submitted at 5/23/2008 5:12:34 AM

I'm standing in line in a strange town, waiting to buy a cup of redbush/honeybush/rooibos tea, the tea so good it needs three names. There's an angry woman at the front of the line. "Double, double," she says. The barrista stares blankly. "How can I help you?" "Double, double!!" "I'm sorry, do you want a coffee?" "DOUBLE, DOUBLE!" (At this point, it occurs to me that this might be local jargon for 'double cream, double sugar in a standard coffee'). Sometimes, we get hung up on catch phrases and jargon that work great when everyone understands what we mean, but fail to bring understanding to outsiders. Yelling louder isn't always the answer. Changing your words might work better.

of instruments, including stereo cameras, an optical microscope, mass spectrometer, wet chemistry lab, electron force microscope and even a weather station. Ideally Phoenix will dig into the martian soil and find water and signs of microbial life. Mission System Manager Joe Guinn (pictured) is responsible for the Phoenix mission's complicated technical systems and the technicians who operate them. He's been working for 5 years on the Phoenix project and as the countdown clock heads toward touchdown his excitement is palpable. Last Friday we caught up with Guinn and interviewed him at NASA/JPL Mission Control. Use the player below to listen to our interview, or right-click the link to download the MP3 file. Download the MP3 of the interview with Joe Guinn

G4 Cube shell used to house Mac mini and friends (Engadget) Submitted at 5/23/2008 7:58:00 AM

Filed under: Desktops, Peripherals, Networking In Apple-loving households, there's a decent chance the Power Mac G4 Cube will never lose its luster. Case in point: one particular fanboy (yeah, we said it) took a gutted Cube housing and neatly fitted his Mac mini, Airport Extreme and "accessory HDD case" inside. Of course, he did have to exercise quite a bit of patience and showcase his cutting skills in order to make the optical drive accessible, but the end result is certainly something to be proud of. Hit the read link for the gallery of shots taking you from start to finish. [Via Nowhere Else] Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

ProteinDS app enables DJ-style scratching on Nintendo's DS (Engadget) Submitted at 5/23/2008 7:30:00 AM

Filed under: Handhelds, Portable Audio Not like we haven't seen Nintendo's DS used as a music maker before, but this variant may be the most amazing to date. yarglaaaafr's ProteinDS application is currently in demo mode, but judging by the

demonstrative video waiting after the break, it's remarkably solid as-is. C'mon, it's a tool that enables users to scratch up tunes via the handheld's built-in touchscreen -- how could Mario not approve? [Via BoingBoing] Continue reading ProteinDS app enables DJ-style scratching on Nintendo's DS Read| Permalink| Email this| Comments

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