mm209: Happy Birthday, Dad!

November 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I wrote a note to my children today, and I’m just self-indulgent enough to share it with you.

My father was always proud of the fact that he shared a birthday with Winston Churchill, one of the giants of his time.  Churchill has been gone for 42 years, and the world is a lesser place for his passing.

Dad was no Churchill, but he was student enough of history to aspire to make a difference in the world, and with his optimism and generosity, he did.

His own father died when Dad was a small child, but he once related to me that, well into middle age, he would meet someone who remembered his father, gone for 40 years, as a respected businessman, scrupulous and fair.

In the years since he’s gone, I’ve had that same experience about him.

At the age of 31 (eerily close to the age his own father had died) he was afflicted with a brain tumor. The art of brain surgery was pretty rough in 1956; my mother was told to prepare for widowhood. Yet, he survived, recovered fully, and went on to lead a worthy life.

He sold paper boxes all of his adult life, first for other people but later running his own small company (in which I worked for 15 years), but politics was his first love and avocation.

As our township’s committeeman, he managed to carry the town for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in its history in 1964.

Later, he served as our town’s first Jewish alderman, and narrowly lost his race for mayor, He once told me, after seeing a picture in the weekly paper of the victorious opponent officiating at a Veteran’s Day ceremony in cold driving rain, that losing that election was absolutely the better outcome.

If politics was his first love, baseball was next. Time and money were in short supply during my childhood, but he made up for it while my children were growing up by sharing many a Cubs and White Sox game (he maintained season’s tickets to both for years) with his grandchildren.

He sponsored a Little League team in town (the first individual to do so), and my brother still does. It’s a blast during the spring and early summer to see kids biking to the park with Dad’s name on their backs.

His love of baseball took an unusual turn when his close friend Gus, whom he had had known for many years, revealed that he had been a promising rookie with the Cubs before the war, until his arm blew out.

Attending many games on Saturdays with my father and my older son relit the fire for Gus. Comfortably retired, he purchased the Triple-A farm team in Omaha, and one year that team won the Triple-A World Series. My father, who served on the team’s board of directors, always cherished his World Series ring.

Dad moved from elective office to appointments, and after spearheading the fundraising campaign to create a still thriving cultural center from a shuttered school, served the town’s recreation board for a number of terms, including as its president.

A recreation center he had helped the city build was named for him shortly after his untimely death from heart disease at 67.

That was 15 years ago, and his family misses him every day.

Oh, yeah, the note I wrote my kids today.

Hi, Children,

Today, November 30, would have been Grandpa S—–‘s 82nd birthday.

He was an extraordinary man and we’re all fortunate that he’s been in our lives.

He, along with dear Grandpa J—–, remain examples for all of us of integrity, generosity, optimism and courage facing crippling illness, and, most of all, the importance of family.

Grandpa S—–, as you’re sure to remember, used to love to give gifts to his children and grandchildren on his birthday.

I hope that his memory serves as that gift today, and every day.

Love,
Dad

Happy Birthday, Dad.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm208: Overdue — a Bloomberg post

November 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

During the past long, hot summer of an impossibly early 2008 election season, this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© developed an interest in the potential presidential candidacy of the current mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg.

For example, you might wish to refresh your memory here, here or here.

In contrast to a certain Republican candidate, Bloomberg is the mayor who walks the talk, whose reputation is built on six years of outstanding accomplishment, not just one horrible day, and has no indicted close friends.

But it’s been quiet for a long time on the Bloomberg front. Perhaps it’s because he keeps denying he’s a candidate.

Why let reality stand in the way of such an intriguing possibility?

bloomberg

Bloomberg’s Latest Itinerary Lists China and Indonesia

By DIANE CARDWELL

As Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg again prepares to trot around the world with a gaggle of cameras behind him, a question is emerging: Is he traveling so much for the city? Or for much-denied presidential aspirations?

The mayor — whose official trips this year have taken him to Mexico, Paris and London as well as New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Seattle and St. Louis — will fly to China and Indonesia the week of Dec. 9.

He is taking along Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, who has been promoting Mr. Bloomberg’s presidential prospects almost since the mayor was re-elected in 2005. The mayor is also bringing his companion, Diana Taylor.

Assorted other aides — including, perhaps, Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development — will make the trip, too. A mayoral spokesman said yesterday that the list had not been set.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Bloomberg’s Latest Itinerary Lists China and Indonesia – New York Times

As a non-resident of NYC, I have no problem with its mayor’s global junkets.

And were he actually running for president, his junketeering would more than likely take him to Bennington (New Hampshire) not Beijing; Shenandoah (Iowa) not Shanghai; maybe even Indiana not Indonesia.

But in a field of windbags and executive pygmies, of discredited Republican religious loonies and Democrats with imaginations so limited that they’ve spent an entire year of congressional leadership dithering to no effect, Bloomberg certainly stands out as a person, self-made and accomplished, seemingly capable of governing on a national scale.

Run, Mike Bloomberg!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm207: Shorter attention span blogging

November 28, 2007

shortattention_thumb2

MUDGE’S Musings

One of those days today, where nothing and everything is intriguing. All of these appeared this week in the NYTimes.

nytimes

Freud Is Widely Taught at Universities, Except in the Psychology Department

By PATRICIA COHEN

PSYCHOANALYSIS and its ideas about the unconscious mind have spread to every nook and cranny of the culture from Salinger to “South Park,” from Fellini to foreign policy. Yet if you want to learn about psychoanalysis at the nation’s top universities, one of the last places to look may be the psychology department.

A new report by the American Psychoanalytic Association has found that while psychoanalysis — or what purports to be psychoanalysis — is alive and well in literature, film, history and just about every other subject in the humanities, psychology departments and textbooks treat it as “desiccated and dead,” a historical artifact instead of “an ongoing movement and a living, evolving process.”

The study, which is to appear in the June 2008 issue of The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, is the latest evidence of the field’s existential crisis. For decades now, critics engaged in the Freud Wars have pummeled the good doctor’s theories for being sexist, fraudulent, unscientific, or just plain wrong. In their eyes, psychoanalysis belongs with discarded practices like leeching.

But to beleaguered psychoanalysts who have lost ground to other forms of therapy that promise quicker results through cheaper and easier methods, the report underscores pressing questions about the relevance of their field and whether it will survive as a practice.

Are there stranger institutions than today’s U.S. colleges and universities?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Freud Is Widely Taught at Universities, Except in the Psychology Department – New York Times

And yet. One sentence does stick with one…

“Some of the most important things in human life are just not measurable,” he said, like happiness or genuine religious feeling.

I’ll think about that one for a while (or at least until something distracts me!).

shortattention_thumb2[6]

And now for something completely different…

MUDGE has a love-hate relationship with his cable company. I suspect that many people share this feeling (and perhaps it’s not measurable).

Cable TV is terrific, if spendy. Cable internet is breathtakingly quick, especially if one is capable of remembering the dim dark dial-up days.

But, cable is a monopoly in most markets, only now facing serious competition. In television, the satellite people compete well, assuming you can place the dish effectively. But they’ve never offered a serious internet connection solution. Cable internet is a serious internet connection solution.

POTS, as embodied in the modern successors (Verizon and the new AT&T) to the Justice Department eviscerated AT&T — Ma Bell to we rickety old folks — can offer reasonably quick internet access (if you are located close enough to the central station, or some sucker has granted POTS an easement for a repeater station), but quick only if you compare it to the dial-up it probably replaces. Much slower than cable.

In MUDGE‘s market, the local copper wire phone company has offered bundles that include phone service, DSL internet and satellite television. In response, the cable guys are now offering reasonably inexpensive phone service via cable. In response to that, the phone guys are desperately burying fibre optic lines to reach out to the “last mile,” thereby offering a true high bandwidth choice for internet access, as well as competition for cable-delivered television. An awesome expenditure, and thus far fibre has been limited to a few scattered upscale neighborhoods (i.e., nowhere near casa MUDGE).

Recently, the cable guys have come under increasing scrutiny by the FCC, which believes that cable has abused its monopoly position.

Cable Industry Wins Compromise on F.C.C. Plans

By STEPHEN LABATON

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — In the face of a lobbying blitzkrieg by the cable television industry, the Federal Communications Commission drastically scaled back Tuesday evening a proposal by the agency’s chairman to more tightly regulate the industry.

The compromise was a significant, though not total, victory for the cable industry, whose executives and lobbyists had worked to erode support on the commission for the agenda of the chairman, Kevin J. Martin. Among other things, the commission agreed to postpone for months the decision Mr. Martin had hoped would be made on Tuesday, over whether the cable television industry had grown so dominant that the agency’s regulatory authority over it should be expanded.

But Mr. Martin and some consumer groups insisted that the decisions by the commission could nonetheless help to make programming more diverse and ultimately reduce cable costs.

One of the new rules adopted on Tuesday, for instance, would make it significantly less expensive for independent programmers to lease channels.

The reasonably outspoken FCC Chairman, Kevin Martin, turned out not to have the votes he counted on to carry the day, and thus allowed the discussion to devolve into a dispute over whose market size numbers were more accurate.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Cable Industry Wins Compromise on F.C.C. Plans – New York Times

So, cable didn’t take the regulatory hit they were fighting off, and most of the U.S. will be unable to see the Packers-Cowboys game on NFL Network this Thursday, as an unregulated cable industry has decided that NFLnet is too expensive for anything but their premium packages.

Sigh.

shortattention_thumb2[8]

L-HC discussed the trend away from paper maps in a post some time ago. Navigation systems based on GPS populate more and more upscale cars. Stand alone personal navigation aids from Garmin and Tom-Tom are advertised heavily during this gifty time of year.

MUDGE‘s newest cellphone, the LG EN-V discussed here before, has a GPS receiver built in, as do most modern cells, and has available a subscription navigation service (for $10 per month) that will provide turn by turn spoken instructions. Very cool, if slightly expensive, until, one supposes, you really need it.

Can Google, that information octopus, be far behind? Certainly not!

Google Doesn’t Know Where You Are (But It Has a Good Guess)

By Saul Hansell

UPDATE: See comment from Google at the end.

Users of Blackberries and many other smartphones can now push a button and the Google mapping service will figure out more or less sort of where they are.

Last month, I wrote a post called “One Reason We Need a Google Phone: Free GPS.” I was complaining that cellphone carriers, mainly Verizon, are disabling the GPS navigation systems built into phones so they can charge $10 a month for the service. I posited that a Google phone wouldn’t have such a nasty gotcha. (Actually, in Google’s very open model for its Android operating system, carriers and phone makers are free to put as many gotchas as they want into phones.)

Of course, what everyone leaps to be concerned about is privacy — Google, Big Brother, Homeland Security, etc. has yet another way of pinpointing one’s location.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Google Doesn’t Know Where You Are (But It Has a Good Guess) – Bits – Technology – New York Times Blog

Face it folks, what is GPS in the phones for, if not to let a public agency locate you. It’s called Wireless Enhanced 911.

I guess the concern is that one might well be locatable even if one hasn’t declared an emergency.

We’re heading there folks. London has what, 2,000,000 video cameras blanketing the streets, and big cities in the U.S. are following suit as fast as they can afford to. Indeed, in MUDGE‘s not so big city, he passes such a camera, apparently monitored by the police, almost daily. Often, I wave.

The expectation of privacy is slipping away, and while I’m certain my buds at ACLU are concerned, I just can’t too exercised.

There are 300,000,000 of us after all. The best data miners on the planet will get indigestion trying to mine that.

So I guess I can go back to worrying about the demise of Freudian psychoanalysis.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm206: It’s 10:30pm — Do you know where your tap water has been?

November 27, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

While most of the world frets about the $100/barrel cost of petroleum, another resource shortage has been looming at the outskirts of our attention.

Water.

Our SUVs will grind to a halt without the former.

Life will grind to a halt without the latter.

In many parts of the world the growing shortage [note to self: as a writer, can you live with the contradiction in terms?] of water for agriculture and drinking purposes is already a critical issue. Governments can print money, but the planet’s supply of water is apparently finite, especially the fresh variety.

Which leads us, as in many instances, to California. You’ll remember California, the home of huge redwood forests, spectacular ocean vistas, and once arid deserts now populated by tens of millions of people.

Water is imported into this residential desert from as far away as Colorado, and as the population, and agricultural activity that supports it grows, the potable supply in many cities is insufficient.

Which leads us to today’s story, courtesy as so many are, of the NYTimes.

November 27, 2007

From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking

By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. — It used to be so final: flush the toilet, and waste be gone.

But on Nov. 30, for millions of people here in Orange County, pulling the lever will be the start of a long, intense process to purify the sewage into drinking water — after a hard scrubbing with filters, screens, chemicals and ultraviolet light and the passage of time underground.

On that Friday, the Orange County Water District will turn on what industry experts say is the world’s largest plant devoted to purifying sewer water to increase drinking water supplies. They and others hope it serves as a model for authorities worldwide facing persistent drought, predicted water shortages and projected growth.

The process, called by proponents “indirect potable water reuse” and “toilet to tap” by the wary, is getting a close look in several cities.

It’s a clever system, actually, not directly sending the output of the reclamation project to the taps.

groundwater

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking – New York Times

Water. We’ve covered it here before. It’s a universal theme.

Anyone remember the amazing Polanski/Nicholson/Huston/Dunaway film “Chinatown“? Its plot driver was the 1930s surreptitious provision of irrigation water for the orange groves of the San Fernando valley, now the northern bedroom suburbs of Los Angeles.

In the past, MUDGE was always grateful for living quite near one of the Great Lakes, a seemingly reliable and endless resource.

That was then. Now, between wrestling with states and cities in the dry West that would love to get hold of some of that lovely stuff, and fending off the likes of Nestlé, largest marketer of bottled water in the world, whose facility in Michigan has begun to deplete bottomless Lake Michigan, our Great Lakes-adjacent location is not looking so comfortable.

So, technology might provide an answer, as it might for so many of civilization’s issues.

One solution that out of desperation has been tried in many parts of the world is desalinization, the conversion of salt water (¾ of the planet’s surface, or so we’re told) to fresh. After all, California (the state in question) has many hundreds of miles of oceanfront. However, desalinization turns out to be frightfully expensive, both in dollar terms, as well as, I was interested to learn, in environmental terms as well.

Impacts of desalination include brine build-up, increased greenhouse gas emissions, destruction of prized coastal areas and reduced emphasis on conservation of rivers and wetlands. Many of the areas of most intensive desalination activity also have a history of damaging natural water resources, particularly groundwater.

Desalination: Option Or Distraction For A Thirsty World?

Okay, so I understand it’s a closed system, this Spaceship Earth we all inhabit. Over the course of eons, water cycles through salt and fresh, and the Groundwater Replenishment System called out above is an attempt to provide some of that cyclic advantage, cosmetically at least.

We’ve long taken fresh potable water for granted in the Western world. Our desert west and its growing crisis is only a harbinger.

Like so many of our bedrock expectations, a planet heading for 9billion humans will seismically shift those watery assumptions.

Cheers!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm205: Let them eat: Green Alleys?

November 26, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Call me an environmentally shallow and sloppy reader, but somehow I’ve missed until now Chicago’s Green Alley initiative. Sloppy because I had to read about Chicago, MUDGE‘s home town after all, in the NYTimes!

nytimes

By SUSAN SAULNY

CHICAGO, Nov. 25 — If this were any other city, perhaps it would not matter what kind of roadway was underfoot in the back alleys around town. But with nearly 2,000 miles of small service streets bisecting blocks from the North Side to the South Side, Chicago is the alley capital of America. In its alleys, city officials say, it has the paved equivalent of five midsize airports.

Part of the landscape since the city began, the alleys, mostly home to garbage bins and garages, make for cleaner and less congested main streets. But Chicago’s distinction is not without disadvantages: Imagine having a duplicate set of streets, in miniature, to maintain that are prone to flooding and to dumping runoff into a strained sewer system.

What is an old, alley-laden city to do?

Chicago has decided to retrofit its alleys with environmentally sustainable road-building materials under its Green Alley initiative, something experts say is among the most ambitious public street makeover plans in the country. In a larger sense, the city is rethinking the way it paves things.

In a green alley, water is allowed to penetrate the soil through the pavement itself, which consists of the relatively new but little-used technology of permeable concrete or porous asphalt. Then the water, filtered through stone beds under the permeable surface layer, recharges the underground water table instead of ending up as polluted runoff in rivers and streams.

Some of that water may even end up back in Lake Michigan, from which Chicago takes a billion gallons a year.

“The question is, if you’ve got to resurface an alley anyway, can you make it do more for you?” said Janet Attarian, the project’s director.

Once upon a time, Chicago proudly characterized itself as “the city that works.” Haven’t seen that self-congratulatory slogan lately.

Why? A public school system, that despite some pockets of (mainly charter school) competency, leaves far too many of its students, yes, behind.

Why? A police department that, after years of rebuilding a professional reputation, has recently displayed some alarmingly “Dirty Harry” characteristics.

Why? A public transportation system forced to go begging annually to the state government to bail it out; this year, the state bucket has been missing in action. Draconian service cuts have been narrowly avoided, but the political machinations continue, and the needs of the public for affordable means to get to and from their jobs, is, as always, well down on the pols’ lists of  priorities.

Why? A surface street system whose signaling has seldom been updated since its installation in the 1950s; facilities that are routine in suburban systems such as traffic sensitive left-turn arrows for high volume intersections are the exception.

Why? A trash collection recycling program that was a joke from start to finish, and even the emperor finally had to acknowledge his “blue bag” nudity, and begin two decades late to put in place a realistic program.

Why? A steady stream of city officials and elected ones populating the state and federal prison systems, as “the city that works” basically worked for the politically connected, with kickbacks, sweetheart contracts and the like.

Why? A perfectly useful and manifestly convenient lakeside downtown airport that served corporate and private traffic for more than 50 years until, without input from the City Council or anyone else, construction equipment delivered stealthily destroyed its runway in favor of a park no one knew we needed, late one night!

But, thanks to Mrs. Mayor, we’ve got some grassy roofs, a zillion miles of decorative (if politically sourced) wrought iron fencing around public parks, including the late, lamented downtown airport, and a superficial green sensibility.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

In Miles of Alleys, Chicago Finds Its Next Environmental Frontier – New York Times

This curmudgeon is guessing that, at a minimum, the more than likely politically connected Green Alley contractor is charging the city a considerable premium over the proper rate for its more than likely monopoly status, and somebody deep in the administration is quietly supplementing his grandchildren’s college fund, or supporting his Gold Coast mistress. Green business is Chicago business as usual.

Hey, keep those trains and buses running, Chicago, or your Green Alleys will be serving miles of foreclosed, abandoned bungalows, as homeowners, unable to cheaply commute to their jobs, lose those jobs.

Talk about fiddling while Chicago burns!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm204: Wind power — Ugly, noisy, destructive! Who knew?

November 25, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Twice within a couple of these holiday weekend days the NYTimes has featured stories on power generated by modern wind turbines.

Quite intriguing, really, the theory that power can be produced without burning fossil fuels, without creating 2billion years of hazardous nuclear waste, without the variability of the winter’s snowfall (influenced lately by drought).

Just throw up a few huge turbine blades and let Mother Nature take over.

Well, of course it’s hardly that simple. As the pair of stories make clear, no work of man is without controversy, and wind farms are apparently not as benign as proponents have long claimed.

First, from Sweden:

swedenwind

By MARK LANDLER

MALMO, Sweden — Steadying himself on the heaving foredeck of an inspection ship recently, his face flecked by spray, Arne Floderus pronounced it a good day for his new offshore wind farm.

A 30-mile-an-hour wind was twirling the fingerlike blades of a turbine 380 feet above his head. Around him, a field of turbines rotated in a synchronized ballet that, when fully connected to an electrical grid, would generate enough power to light 60,000 nearby houses.

“We’ve created a new landmark,” said Mr. Floderus, the project manager of the $280 million wind park, one of the world’s largest, which was built by the Swedish power company Vattenfall.

The park, in a shallow sound between Sweden and Denmark, testifies to the remarkable rise of wind energy — no longer a quirky alternative favored by environmentalists in Denmark and Germany, but a mainstream power source used in 26 nations, including the United States.

Yet Sweden’s gleaming wind park is entering service at a time when wind energy is coming under sharper scrutiny, not just from hostile neighbors, who complain that the towers are a blot on the landscape, but from energy experts who question its reliability as a source of power.

So the wind doesn’t blow 24/7/52… who knew? And it turns out that people no more want wind farms next door than they do coal powered generation plants or Three Mile Island. The concept is called NIMBY. Not in my back yard. The elemental conflict between private property rights and the greater good.

NIMBY often wins.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Sweden Turns to a Promising Power Source, With Flaws – New York Times

Our second Times tale comes from Greece:

greecewind4

By JOANNA KAKISSIS | Published: November 25, 2007

THE tiny Greek island of Serifos, a popular tourist destination, depends on its postcard views of sandy beaches, Cycladic homes and sunsets that blend sea and sky into a clean wash of color. So when a mining and energy company floated a plan earlier this year to build 87 industrial wind turbines on more than a third of the island, the Serifos mayor, Angeliki Synodinou, called it her “worst nightmare.”

Greece primarily depends on “brown coal,” a particularly dirty variety that emits much pollution. So wind power has seemed an attractive alternative.

But the huge turbines do catch the eye, and nearby they are considerably noisy.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Debating the Merits of Energy From Air – New York Times

MUDGE‘s first exposure to such objects in any quantity, i.e., a true wind farm as opposed to the occasional country turbine, eye-catching and modern and jarring in a rural landscape though it was, was in Southern California.

Along I-10 just west of Palm Springs is a pass through the mountains featuring what seemed like hundreds of turbines, atop ridges, in valleys, looking like nothing ever seen before. Looked it up today; the farm is called the San Gorgonio Pass, one of several such projects in California. Truly stunning.

But, then again, it’s out there in the desert, next to virtually nothing but the occasional trailer park and chameleon. According to the California Energy Commission, at the time the article was published (2003?), San Gorgonio consisted of more than 2,500 huge turbines.

Breezing along (as it were) the interstate at 79mph, one doesn’t hear them. But they do make a lasting visual impression.

Would I want such an installation in a lake near me? Ugly? Noisy? Destructive?

Given a choice between that, and the nukes that pepper the region that MUDGE calls home (eagerly received by a power-hungry public 50 years ago), can you doubt my response?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm203: One Laptop Per Child — News, and a discouraging word

November 23, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

One of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s favorite topics for the past few months, the One Laptop Per Child initiative of Nicolas Negroponte and his non-proft spin-off from MIT, is back in the news today. Here are many of our previous posts:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!

Today, the “Give One, Get One” “civilian” donation program has been extended.

By RODRIQUE NGOWI | The Associated Press

12:10 AM CST, November 23, 2007

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — A promotion in which a customer buying a $188 computer in the U.S. and Canada automatically donates a second one to a child in a developing country was extended until year’s end, organizers said Thursday.
The “Give One, Get One” program will now run through Dec. 31, instead of ending on Nov. 26, according to the One Laptop Per Child Program, a nonprofit spinoff from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Always felt that two weeks was artificially short — after all the end of year gift/donation period lasts all the way to the end of the year.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

One Laptop Per Child extends promotion until year’s end — chicagotribune.com

Of course, Newton’s law makes mandatory an equal and opposite reaction to the mostly positive news generated by this program.

From a site not before encountered comes the following two recent curmudgeonly observations, and we always make room for a fellow contrarian:

techdirt

from the soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations dept

The One-Laptop-per-Child project, which the press is still referring to as the “$100 laptop” despite the fact that it now costs twice that, finally began rolling off the assembly line this week. What’s most striking about the effort is how dramatically Nicholas Negroponte has had to scale back his formerly lofty ambitions to get the project off the ground. He initially said that they’d need 3 million orders before they started production.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Techdirt: Dramatically Scaled-Back OLPC Begins Production

from the isn’t-technology-supposed-to-get-cheaper? dept

I’ll admit it. I’ve never quite understood the rationale behind the $100 laptop (or OLPC or whatever it’s being called these days). Yes, it’s a noble goal to get technology into the hands of people around the world with the hope that they can do something productive with it — but a big top down attempt to build something without much actual user feedback seems destined to fail.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Techdirt: Price Of The $100 Laptop Going In The Wrong Direction

Many a time, lofty goals founder on the shoals of the real world. Okay, $100 became $188, but one wonders what exactly has happened to the dollar itself in the several years since this project was born.

We know what happened to the dollar: it has lost much ground vs. the rest of the world, thanks to our kill-taxes-but-spend-stupendously administration of George III. One might imagine that had the project been denominated in Euros that its final cost might well have stayed closer to its initial target. So that feels like petty and carping argument.

MUDGE is still prepared to give OLPC the benefit of the doubt — the lofty goals thing deserves at least that.

And as we’ve been suggesting in this space,

I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond.

If this promotion serves to prime the production pump, so as to assure economic deliveries to the nations like Peru and Mexico and Italy (for Ethiopia — now that’s fitting!) that have committed to the project, then it’s absolutely worthwhile.

As the giving season is well upon us, why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1″ to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE