Joho the BlogMarch 2008 - Page 3 of 7 - Joho the Blog

March 22, 2008

The neck-and-neck narrative

From Politico:

Journalists have become partners with the Clinton campaign in pretending that the contest is closer than it really is. Most coverage breathlessly portrays the race as a down-to-the-wire sprint between two well-matched candidates, one only slightly better situated than the other to win in August at the national convention in Denver.

In fact, says the post,

But let’s assume a best-case scenario for Clinton, one where she wins every remaining contest with 60 percent of the vote (an unlikely outcome since she has hit that level in only three states so far — her home state of New York, Rhode Island and Arkansas).

Even then, she would still be behind Obama in delegates.

The post is about why the media portrays a contest Hillary is highly unlikely to win as a neck-and-neck horse race.

(As an Obama supporter, I’m reluctant to blog this since I have never been right.)

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Babbage’s difference engine

Here’s a short YouTube of the calculating machine the British Museum made in 1991 following Charles Babbage’s design:

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Lisa Stone at Berkman

I am so disappointed that I had to miss Lisa Stone’s Berkman talk. She’s blogged a transcript here, and pretty soon the video will be up here. Sounds like a great talk…

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Palfrey on a book about digital youth

John Palfrey has blogged about Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected (open access version here), reflecting on the essays and enticing us to read them ourselves. The book sounds terrific, and the post is a treat to read just to see the generosity of JP’s intellect. (Disclosure: JP is the exec. dir. of the Berkman Center, and, I’m thrilled to say, I’m co-teaching a course with him this semester.) [Tags: ]


March 21, 2008

Lego robot solves Rubik’s cube

Big deal. My own algorithm for solving the Rubik’s cube puzzle is faster and requires only a hammer and a quarter pound of superglue.

(But seriously: Wow.) [Tags: ]


March 20, 2008

Obama’s Constitutional Christianity

Gene Koo has a terrific post that looks at the Christian themes woven into Obama’s speech on race.

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Breaking news: I am not hip

Last night, I stayed at what an officially Trendy Hotel in NYC. Why? Because among hotels that had rooms available, it was among the least over-priced. The result: An OK night’s sleep and confirmation that I am less hip than you or that other person standing next to you, even if that next person is Dick Cheney’s proctologist.

Technically, the Hotel QT is a nice place with clean lines and sharp-edged design. It’s a “boutique” hotel (“boutique” is hotel-ese for rooms that are what Starbucks calls a “tall” coffee and English calls “tiny”), but I got a free upgrade to a “suite.” I didn’t ask why. It turns out that a suite at the QT is a single room that would count as small at a normal hotel, with space for a bed and a tray-like thingy that works as a desk, as well as a bathroom with separate segments for sink, shower, and toilet. There’s a small pool in the lobby, and a free breakfast that I missed because it starts at 7am, and I was out by then. Also, there’s free wifi. Yay.

So, when the pleasant, young clerk asked me how my stay was, I resisted saying until he insisted. My short list of nitpicks each pegged me as fabulously untrendy:

1. The little bottles of shampoo and conditioner are indistinguishable except for their small labels. Unhipness revealed: I need glasses to read labels. Or maybe trendy folks wear their glasses into the shower. I wouldn’t know.

2. The shower head is more than a foot in diameter and is fixed directly above you, like a lamp over a pool table. This is not very practical for cleaning downward-facing parts of the body. Unhipness revealed: I favor function over form.

3. The outside wall of the shower consists of a window, the bottom half of which is frosted, but the top half of which is clear, enabling me to wave to the office workers across the street. Unhipness revealed: I am hung up about my body.

4. The bed is on a platform that juts out about six inches into the small space between it and the outside wall. The platform is brown. The carpet is brown. I have a bruise on my shin from walking into the platform. Twice. Unhipness revealed: I am a klutz.

5. I believe I was the oldest and ugliest person in the hotel. I’d appreciate it if the hotel would remedy this in the future by installing some even older, uglier guests. Thank you.

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March 19, 2008

CBC getting toes wet in the fresh, clear water of DRM-free programming

Michael O’Connor Clarke blogs about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s trying out distributing a major show using BitTorrent and without DRM. You go, Canada!

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Embrace the double standard

Jeff Jacoby, a conservative columnist for the Boston Globe, is angry at Obama and at those who cheered his speech. We (I not only cheered, I wept) are guilty of accepting a double standard because, says Jacoby, if our clergyman had said the hateful things that Wright did, we would not have sat quietly in our pews for twenty years. Yet, we are willing to give Obama a pass. Obama not only should have objected to Wright’s words all along the way, he should have left the church or worked to get Wright fired, just as Jacoby would have done if his rabbi had said equally awful things.

I know Jacoby’s synagogue. It’s in my neighborhood. I’ve been there. It’s lovely. Airy. Light. It’s in Brookline, a terrific part of greater Boston. Jacoby’s synagogue’s got comfortable seats, pretty ornamental touches, and a well-dressed, affluent, overwhelmingly white congregation.

The notion of a double standard assumes, in an odd way, a single standard. The criticism only makes sense within contexts uniform enough that our moral judgments should be the same. If I condemn a Democratic governor for paying for sex but excuse a Republican congressman for the same offense, then I’m guilty of applying a double standard.

But Jacoby apparently didn’t hear what Obama said in his fearless, epochal speech. Who is this “we” who applied a double standard? Our glorious union is nevertheless imperfect because it is riven by divisions deeper than we are comfortable acknowledging. The racial division is so deep that politicians never talk about it except in platitudes so empty that they function as lies. Now Obama has.

If we apply a single standard, we are denying the fact that synagogues in Brookline are very different from African-American churches in Illinois. We can, and should, express our strong disagreement with the particularities of Wright’s sermons, but if we stop there — and every political advisor in the land would have urged Obama exactly to stop right there — we will continue in our fantasy that there is a single culture, a single set of values, a single set of assumptions, a single view of history, a single vision of the future, a single set of constraints, a single set of opportunities for all in our imperfect union.

Obama is asking us to do what is perhaps hardest. What it takes adults to do. Obama’is speech asks us to embrace difference and simultaneously to transcend it. That’s why Obama presented contexts that not only helped us white Jews in Brookline understand why a Black pastor might say such things, but also acknowledged how African-Americans can seem to white folks who don’t see why they should be disadvantaged for crimes they did not commit.

Unless we accept double, triple, multiple standards, we are invisible to one another, and thus to ourselves. The thoughtless insistence on a single standard is unseemly and unhelpful, especially when it comes from those who live in privilege for whatever reason.

Jeff, you and I live in what is pretty much a white part of Boston. As far as I can tell, Brookline has made little progress in integrating itself in the twenty years I’ve lived there. We’re stalled. Stuck. Now, who did I hear talking about this just yesterday?

What a tragedy it would be to throw away the hope Sen. Obama presented us yesterday. It, at long last, gives us a way forward. [Tags: ]


March 18, 2008

Obama on race

I just watched Obama’s speech on race. Before the commentariat bashes the speech into a shape they can sell for the next few cycles (Wolf Blitzer: “It was a preemptive strike” – feh!), I want to say that I thought this was a fearless speech that shows the way forward on the issue we Americans fear more than death, taxes, and terrorism.

I listened thinking about what Obama chose not to say. He could have condemned racism and tried to put the whole race issue behind him, as Mitt tried to remove religion as an issue. Instead he seized the moment and put a push-pin into the timeline: Here’s where we started to confront in public the racial divides the majority culture has refused to acknowledge.

He could have given simple platitudes. Instead he trusted us with the complex truth. Think how any other major politician would have handled this.

And we saw a bit of how the audacity of hope can not only move us, but move us forward. [Tags: ]


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