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August 27, 2005

Chaucer the Orange Tabby Needs a Loving Home

Chaucer the tabby

Chaucer needs a place to call home.

Susanne and I were visiting the Petco in Cambridgeside today, and we met the most wonderful orange tabby named Chaucer. Chaucer is beautiful cat who is recovering from a horrific attack in which someone poured bleach on him. He received burns on 25% of his body. Thankfully, volunteers at St Meow's, a Cambridge no-kill facility, rescued Chaucer and nursed his wounds. Apart from a few patches where he's still healing, he's looking healthy and happy. Now he just needs a new home.

We have actually seen Chaucer twice at the Petco in the last 10 days, but today was the first day we got to know him. He is so sweet and loving, we would do anything to take him home ourselves. But because we already have two cats and our lease won't let us take in a third, our hands our tied. But we were so touched by Chaucer that we decided to post this message today.

We have no affiliation whatsoever with St. Meow's. We're just doing this because we met a beautiful cat in need of a caring family and want to help out in whatever way we can.

To learn more about Chaucer, please visit this web page. You can also contact St. Meow's directly at 617-767-6294 or saintmeows [at] comcast.net.

If you're looking to bring a pet into your life and you live in the Boston area, please pay Chaucer a visit.

Posted by acarvin at 06:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 26, 2005

Get Me a New Wire Service, ASAP!

eric at a bar

Does he look like a news editor to you? Believe it.

Yesterday, E&P; ran a story about the Associated Press and its plan to launch a wire service targeting the 18-to-34-year old demographic. The new service, called asap, will take advantage of the AP's massive infrastructure to put out stories in various media formats, including text, photos, audio and video.

"Nobody else is already everywhere," asap head Ted Anthony told E&P.; "We have all these people doing interesting things all over the world."

Along with the obvious fact that this is a newsworthy development, it gives me the opportunity to play proud big brother, as asap's news editor will be none other than Eric Carvin, who until recently was the overnight news supervisor at AP headquarters. (I've known about this for a little while, but being a good brother I resisted giving into my inner blogger and spilling the beans before they were ready to talk about it.)

Way to go, Eric. Knock 'em dead and take no prisoners. Unless they ask nice - otherwise it might upset Mom. -andy

Posted by acarvin at 05:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Robertson Effect

Ever since Pat Robertson made his assassination remarks about Hugo Chavez, it's been a real hoot reading the reaction from blogs around the world. The day the story broke, CNN's The Situation Room was able to find only one blogger who supported Robertson's comments. Meanwhile, as anyone who reads Global Voices knows, bloggers from Bolivia to Bahrain have had their say on the controversy.

This seemed like a great excuse to go over to BlogPulse.com and plot some charts to see how the Robertson Effect was playing out throughout the blogosphere. Plotting a graph to see how the phrases "Pat Robertson," "Hugo Chavez" and "assassinate" have been used in blogs over the last two months, you get these dramatic results:

blog chart with spike for this week

As you can see here, the phrase "Pat Robertson" takes a massive leap over the last few days. Interestingly, there only 2/3rds as many references to "Hugo Chavez," and even less so for "assassinate," even though both terms make impressive spikes of their own. This seems to suggest that a number of recent blog postings dealt specifically with Robertson's anti-Chavez remarks, while a great number of posts were just anti-Robertson posts without direct mention of the event. Perhaps a number of bloggers posted the initial controversy, then continued to post more general comments about Robertson after that.

While playing around with the BlogPulse graphs, I also plotted the same three terms on a six-month scale. Here are the results:

blog chart 2 with spike for this week

The results, as expected, are similar, but notice the unusual bump in the number of posts related to Robertson back in early May. I wondered what could have happened that week, so I poked around a bit on some news archives. Within a minute or two, I discovered that Robertson made some remarks suggesting that liberal judges were a greater threat to the US than terrorists:

If you look over the course of a hundred years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings. I think we're going to control al Qaeda. I think we're going to get Osama bin Laden. We won in Afghanistan. We won in Iraq, and we can contain that. But if there's an erosion at home, you know, Thomas Jefferson warned about a tyranny of an oligarchy and if we surrender our democracy to the tyranny of an oligarchy, we've made a terrible mistake.


Way to go, Pat. No wonder there was a spike in the blogosphere.

There are few guarantees in life. But Pat Robertson putting his foot so deep in his mouth that he tickles his own tonsils is certainly one of them. -andy

Posted by acarvin at 03:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Alleyway Marine Rescue

Yesterday, Susanne and I were running errands at lunchtime when we walked by a dumpster just off Beacon Street in Boston. The dumpster was full of items recently abandoned by someone who'd probably just moved, including an old mattress, a broken desk and some shattered poster frames. Atop this heap, though, we found an enormous plush toy -- a stuffed shark.

Marine Rescue, Part 1

It had to have been six feet long - simply huge. I made some kind of land shark joke, but Susanne's face was overcome with sadness. Always an animist at heart, Susanne hates seeing any kind of object that's been abandoned by its owners. But toys and stuffed animals are the worst.

We continued to run our errands a few blocks down the street, then made our way back to the apartment. The lonely shark was still sitting atop the dumpster. Susanne insisted that we rescue it.

"You can carry it into the grocery store," I said, laughing.

"Go back to the apartment and get the car keys," she replied.

As it happened, the shark was abandoned just a few dozen yards from our parking space, five minute's from our apartment. Susanne suggested we put it in the car, so the next time we took the car to Cambridge, we could give the shark to Goodwill so they could give it a good home. While Susanne guarded the shark, I walked home, said hello to our groggy cats, grabbed the car keys, and backtracked to the car, where I found Susanne waiting, shark in hand.

Marine Rescue, Part 2

We had some things in the back seat of the car, so we tried the trunk. At first we worried the shark was too big for the trunk. Indeed, it was a little cramped, but the cute carcharodon seemed perfectly cozy.

Marine Rescue, Part 3

Sometime this weekend, we'll probably bring the shark to Goodwill. Unless there are any other takers, of course. -andy

Posted by acarvin at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pat Robertson and the War Criminal

In the days since Pat Robertson said he'd like to see Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez whacked by the US, I've heard a few commentators mention connnections between Robertson and former Liberian president and notorious war criminal Charles Taylor. I was curious to learn more, so I started poking around and quickly found a CBS News story from 2003 in which Robertson slams Bush for asking Charles Taylor to resign. (Taylor is now a fugitive in Nigeria, hiding from the UN Tribunal he deserves.) Here are some snippets from that story:

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson accused President Bush of “undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels” by asking Liberian President Charles Taylor, recently indicted for war crimes, to step down.

“How dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down,'" Robertson said Monday on “The 700 Club,” broadcast from his Christian Broadcasting Network.

“It's one thing to say, we will give you money if you step down and we will give you troops if you step down, but just to order him to step down? He doesn't work for us.”

(snip)

Robertson told The Washington Post in an interview published Thursday that he has “written off in my own mind” an $8 million investment in a Liberian gold mining venture he made four years ago, under an agreement with Taylor's government.

“Once the dust has cleared on this thing, chances are there will be some investors from someplace who want to invest. If I could find some people to sell it to, I'd be more than delighted,” he said in the article.

(snip)

A U.N.-backed tribunal indicted Taylor on June 4 for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Robertson told the Post that the war crimes indictment “is nonsense and should be quashed.”

Want more? Read this Washington Post piece about the Pat Robertson/Charles Taylor connection.

Lesson learned: if you subscribe to the Pat Robertson School of Thought, it's okay to support a world leader who's an indicted war criminal when you've invested in gold and diamond mines in his country. But if another world leader sticks in your craw and you haven't invested millions of televangelism dollars in his country, you can send a hit squad after him.

Pat Robertson's ethical compass points only in one direction - at himself. -andy

Posted by acarvin at 12:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 25, 2005

Katrina and Her Waves

Nearly 13 years to the day since Hurricane Andrew smashed into Miami, a new storm named Katrina is about to pay Florida a surprise visit. Right now it looks like it'll hit well south of where my parents live in Indian Harbour Beach, about 45 minutes south of Cape Canaveral. Last year, they had to evacuate three times in a row because of the rash of hurricanes that season. Let's just hope Katrina isn't the opening credits of a long-feared sequel... -andy

Posted by acarvin at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Africa's a Mobile Phone Oasis, But You Can't Live on Water Alone

Village VoicemailThere's a lengthy article in today's New York Times about the rapid pace of mobile phone adoption in Africa. Here's a sample:

From 1999 through 2004, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa jumped to 76.8 million, from 7.5 million, an average annual increase of 58 percent. South Africa, the continent's richest nation, accounted for one-fifth of that growth. Asia, the next fastest-expanding market, grew by an annual average of just 34 percent in that period.

Africa's cellphone boom has taken the industry by surprise. Africans have never been rabid telephone users; even Mongolians have twice as many land lines per person. And with most Africans living on $2 a day or less, they were supposed to be too poor to justify corporate investments in cellular networks far outside the more prosperous cities and towns.

But when African nations began to privatize their telephone monopolies in the mid-1990's, and fiercely competitive operators began to sell air time in smaller, cheaper units, cellphone use exploded. Used handsets are available for $50 or less in South Africa, an amount even Ms. Skhakhane's husband was able to finance with the little he saves from his factory job.

It turned out that Africans had never been big phone users because nobody had given them the chance. (emphasis added by yours truly)

The Africa-as-mobile-phone-oasis story is hardly new, but it's important nonetheless. African countries generally have some of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world, so mobile phone growth raises the likelihood that more and more mobile providers will begin providing data access. It's the classic leapfrog story: why try to dig up the entire continent to deploy Internet cables when you can get access through the airwaves?

However, it's also worth noting that we shouldn't see mobile phones as a silver bullet for wiping out Africa's digital divide. Internet access via mobile phones is wonderful - I go crazy when my phone gets out of data service range - but it's not a replacement for affordable computers with cheap Internet access, as was argued by The Economist and the World Bank earlier this year. It would be very tempting for us to say, "No need to worry about Africa's digital divide - they've got cell phones, don't they?" but the fact of the matter is that none of us who take Internet access for granted would want to be relegated to using mobile phones as our sole source of access. Try going about your day-to-day business for a week with your computer shut off, using only your phone, and you'll quickly see what I mean.

So on the one hand, I'm very excited about the rapid adoption of mobile phones in Africa. It makes me even more eager to figure out open source strategies that would allow a person to access and post podcasts and blogs using only a run-of-the-mill mobile phone. If we're going to get mobcasting to work, Africa will be the obvious proving ground.

But on the other hand, I think we need to remember that mobile phones in themselves can't entirely solve any community's development needs. Different development challenges require different tools. No doubt, mobile phones will be near the top of the list -- but that list also includes $100 laptops, wind-up electricity generators, low-cost community radio transmitters, and the timeless ham radio. So let's not make policy decisions under the assumption that mobile phones are the only tool necessary for bridging the digital divide. Some day we may have the Swiss army knife-like tool that miraculously handles every development challenge in the book, but until then, we'll need to embrace a spectrum of technologies based on what's actually needed on the ground on a case-by-case basis. -andy

Posted by acarvin at 02:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Please Join the Digital Divide Flickr Group

picture of a PCI've just set up a new Flickr group for people interested in sharing photos about the digital divide. For those of you who don't know Flickr, it's an uber-cool tool for sharing photos with large numbers of people. It has a variety of RSS feeds that make it very easy for users to subscribe to photo streams based on the photographer or the topic.

Anyway, if you like to take pictures that might be of interest to the group, please join us.... -andy

Posted by acarvin at 02:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The War on Splogging: Fighting an Online Cancer

Doc Searls has an excellent post this morning about the dire need for search engine companies to engage in a war on splogging. Splogging is a term coined by Mark Cuban to describe blogs with no added value, existing solely to trick people into visiting and exposing them to advertising. Splogs are often encountered in two ways: by searching for a key word on a search engine, or receiving it as a fradulent hit through your RSS aggregator. More often than not, they're automated, linking to countless blogs and other websites, using keywords selected solely to attract more eyeballs and click-throughs for their advertising. And automation means that splogs are being created at a dizzying pace, to the point that when you do a search for almost any term, you're bound to get a bunch of hits that are nothing but money-hungry splogs.

With each passing day, I'm seeing more of both, and frankly, it's become maddening. Fortunately, Doc was able to put some real thought into just how bad this has gotten, and how it's an existential threat to the Web. His post offers a simple, but powerful way of combatting splogging: an industry-wide open source taskforce in which search engine companies pool their resources to fight the splogging scourge.

I suggest that everybody in the search engine business, including all the Static Web and Live Web companies I listed above, pool their knowledge and expertise, and beat a cancer that (in my humble but considered opinion) threatens the whole Live Web, including blogging in particular and frequently updated free content in general. Across the search engine marketplace, there is an enormous amount of duplicated effort fighting splogs and other forms of blog spam. There is also an open source solution to this: share the know-how. Even the data (perhaps through a public list of offenders)....

Open-sourcing expertise is the right thing to do for the free marketplace we call the Net, as well as for all the responsible leaders there. Especially when we're fighting a cancer as malignant as this one.

I'm really glad Doc, Cuban and other big-time bloggers are addressing splogging. It's more than a nuisance. It's the kudzu of our time. -andy

Posted by acarvin at 09:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 24, 2005

Cat vs. Feather Toy, Part 2

feather winnie

Video clip of Winnie taking his turn with the feather toy, stalking it from behind my backpack.

Posted by acarvin at 09:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cat vs. Feather Toy, Part 1

Susanne and I picked up a new feather toy for our cats this weekend. Tonight they got to have one of their first workouts with it. Each cat has their own tactic for attacking the toy. In this first video, you'll see Dizzy standing and spinning as he goes after his favorite part of the toy - the handle, rather than the feathers.... -andy

feather dizzy

Video clip of Dizzy and his feather toy. Incidental background music courtesy of Coheed & Cambria (he just loves playing to emo-core).

Posted by acarvin at 08:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson Issues Fatwa Against Hugo Chavez

Waking up this morning, I saw a headline on the Yahoo homepage saying that an American religious leader was calling for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Before I could click the link, images of Pat Robertson flashed through my mind. Soon enough, the link opened, and there he was - a still photo of the televangelist, with a wire report outlining the gory details of Robertson's rant.

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said.

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," he continued. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Robertson's comments are obscene on so many levels. I find it extraordinary that any religious leader whose beliefs supposedly advocate turning the other cheek would actual come out and suggest that we should send a hit squad against a world leader. Granted, Hugo Chavez is hardly a saint, and there's much to be said about having a more favorable government in Venezuela. But a television preacher suggesting we should rub him out? It's just disgusting. No matter what religion you represent, any leader of the faithful who comes out and says someone should be killed is doing a disservice to humanity. Pat Robertson is sounding more and more like Mullah Omar of the Taliban rather than a good Christian. (Just imagine it: what would the world be saying if an Islamic leader suggested the same thing about a world leader? We probably would have called in Delta Force before lunch.)

Meanwhile, I'm both shocked and fascinated by the fact that Robertson added the aside "and I don't think any oil shipments will stop." What exactly is he trying to tell the world? That it's good for the US government to use force against any oil-possessing government it has a grievance with? Next thing you know, Robertson will be calling for air strikes against Nigeria because President Obasanjo just criticized extrajudicial killings and the use of torture by police. It's just insane.

A few hours ago, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issued rather tepid criticism of Robertson's rhetorical shenanigans. "Certainly it's against the law. Our department doesn't do that type of thing," he told the press. "Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time." A State Department spokesman said basically the same thing.

This is unacceptable. The Bush administration as well as religious leaders of all persuasions need to stand up and repudiate Robertson's foolish statements. His behavior is reckless and should not be tolerated. Simply saying "private citizens say all kind of things all the time" is not a condemnation. Pat Robertson's remarks should be condemned by everyone who believes in diplomacy and the rule of law. Ignoring Robertson's ugly behavior is tantamount to condoning it. - andy

tags:

Posted by acarvin at 04:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Verizon, Yahoo Launch Low-Cost Broadband Service

This morning, Verizon and Yahoo announced the launch of a new low-cost broadband service. The move follows Yahoo's partnership to offer similarly priced broadband with SBC in various parts of the country. Quoting from an AP story on the subject:

For $14.95 [per month], subscribers will be able to download Web pages via a digital subscriber line at speeds of up to 768 kilobits and upload data at 128 kilobits. The cheaper service, which requires a one-year contract and has a price hike after 12 months, offers Yahoo premium services, such as antivirus protection, on-demand music videos and unlimited photo storage, according to an advertisement on Yahoo's site.

All in all, this seems like a very positive step. US broadband has been too expensive for too many people for too long. SBC's and Verizon's decision to lower the price point on basic broadband services will hopefully force their competitors to do the same, lowering the costs of high-speed Internet access for disadvantaged families. It will be interesting to see how technology activists in low-income communities react to the announcement. -andy

Posted by acarvin at 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 21, 2005

Using iTunes to Get My Podcasts and Videos

Along with the ultra-cool Wall of Video I was able to create this weekend, the team at MeFeedia have made it easy for anyone to subscribe to my podcasts and videos on iTunes. In case you haven't heard, the latest version of iTunes has a podcast manager that handles both podcasts and video blogs. So now you can have all of my latest stuff sent to you directly in iTunes, without ever having to visit my site -- not that you shouldn't visit, just to say hi...

I've added a couple of links in the right sidebar on my homepage that do all the work for you - once you've installed the latest iTunes, of course. After you've installed it, you can simply click one of two links, depending on whether you're a Mac or PC person. Here they are, in case you can't see them on the right side:

Subscribing for Mac users | Subcribing for PC users

If you publish your own video blog or podcast, you can add a link like this to your site as well. Here's how to do it.

Step 1: Go to Mefeedia.com and add your RSS feed.

Step 2: Mefeedia will then bring you to a page with several links on it. One of them will invite you to get an iTunes 1-click subscribe button on your blog. Click the link.

Step 3: Mefeedia will show you some HTML code. Add it to your website, tweaking it if you like.

And that's that. So for those of you use iTunes, please subscribe to my podcasts and videos! -andy

Posted by acarvin at 08:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Chhayam Drummers

chhayam

Video clip of drummers and dancers performing a chhayam, a lively Cambodian procession, at yesterday's Lowell Water Festival. Later, the chayyam would weave its way through the festival along the Merrimack River.

Posted by acarvin at 05:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 20, 2005

Introducing My Wall of Video

I've just added a new feature to my blog for those of you interesting in video blogging. I call it my "Wall of Video," and it's basically a collection of thumbnails representing the video blogs I've posted to the site. I'm using a script created by the video blogging portal MeFeedia.

The Wall of video will be featured on two pages in my blog. On the homepage, you'll be able to see it in the right column, just under my collection of photos from my photo blog. It'll look something like this, but longer and thinner:

Meanwhile, there's a link below it that will take you to a larger version. That way you can get a better look at each of the pictures to get a sense of what each video is all about.

So far, there are around 30 videos represented in the wall. That's about half of the videos I've posted to the site since 2003. Some of the videos are missing because they were posted in file formats not supported by MeFeedia; the others are missing, I think, because I included more than one link to a video in the same blog entry, which might be tricking out the script. So I'll have to change habits and include only one URL for each video blog entry, rather than having separate URLs for high-bandwidth and low-bandwidth versions. If I create two versions, I'll just blog it twice.

Enjoy... -andy

Posted by acarvin at 06:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Khmer Dancecast

For those of you who prefer to listen to the Khmer blessing ceremony at the Lowell Water Festival rather than view it, here's a podcast of the entire performance. -andy

Posted by acarvin at 04:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Khmer Dance at the Lowell Water Festival

khmer dance

Video of a Cambodian dance troupe performing a blessing dance at the opening of the Lowell Water Festival, one of the largest Southeast Asian festivals in the US.

Posted by acarvin at 04:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Khmer Fiddler

khmer-fiddle

Video of a Cambodian man playing a traditional fiddle at the Lowell Water Festival

Posted by acarvin at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dragon Boats on the Merrimack

dragon-boats

Video of dragon boats practicing for today's races along the Merrimack River for the Lowell Water Festival

Posted by acarvin at 04:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)