November 2004

Google Scholar

Google’s got a new service for searching journals, conference proceedings and other scholarly writings called (appropriately enough) Google Scholar. Nice clean interface, and like Citeseer they’re pointing not just to the official pay-for-download sites like the ACM and IEEE portal sites but also the free-for-download versions that authors usually put on their own sites (often in violation of copyright, but the last thing professional orgs want to do is piss of their own community).

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Guantanimo in New Jersey?

NPR just did a 5-month investigative report on how Homeland Security is jailing non-citiziens without trial for up to two years, where they’re being threatened or attacked & bitten by guard-dogs, beaten by guards and then eventually deported.

Guantanimo? No, New Jersey. It’s all in response to a Clinton-era law calling for the deportation of non-citiziens who have ever in the past been convicted of a crime — even people like Hemnauth Mohabir who had been fined $250 for carrying about $5 worth of drugs, had a steady honest job, is married to a US citizien and has a child with her.

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Salute to the Honorable Republican Of The Day


Cuddos to Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT) for speaking out against the Republican repeal of their own Gingrich-Revolution-era rule that would require Tom DeLay to step down as Speaker if he’s indicted for violating state campaign finance laws.

“This is a mistake,” said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut.

When the Republicans gained control of the House in the elections of 1994, “we were going to be different,” Mr. Shays said.

But “every time we start to water down what we did in ’94,” he said, “we are basically saying the revolution is losing its character.”

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Talk on health care tonight in SF

For you locals, there’s a potentially interesting talk tonight at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco: U.S. Health Care in Crisis, by the two Time Magazine investigative journalists who just wrote Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business — And Bad Medicine. The interview on KQED’s Forum was good — if I can somehow make it to The City in time I’ll probably attend…

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Slide shows in pure XHTML, CSS & JavaScript

the Simple Standards-based Slide Show System (S5) gives you PowerPoint-like presentations in pure XHTML, CSS and JavaScript. See it in action here. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license, and backwards-compatible with OperaShow Format 1.0 — Neat!

I’m not giving up using Keynote, but it sounds perfect for retro-folk who still like writing your slides in Emacs or Vi…

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Ex-pat Democrat on Kerry’s concession

From an interview with Donna Ducarme of Democrats Abroad, in the November 5th issue of The Amsterdam Times:

I’m physically wiped and sore all over and mentally tired. I’m so angry I can hardly breathe. Those of us who fought for Kerry are very disappointed and frightened that he lost. We’re worried for the future of America. I’m so angry that he conceded before all the votes were counted.

Kerry Sign in Amsterdam

My thing was to register all the voters we could possibly register; one of the reasons we got them registered is that we promised that their votes would matter and then he conceded before any of our votes had been counted. Kerry has created a problem amongst individual members but he’s also cut us overseas voting activists off at the knees because not only will potential voters not believe Kerry anymore, they won’t believe us.

I personally believe he has disenfranchised every overseas voter. We’re all voting by post and, when he conceded, all of our ballots were still sitting there in the boxes waiting to be counted. It’s a betrayal of a sort I’ve never experienced in my political life. We galvanized voters who’d not been involved in politics since the Vietnam years because they thought they could make a difference. Are we supposed to wait another thirty years before we rally those troops again and what happens to our country in the meantime?

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Amsterdam Red-Light District

During the day the Red-Light district is mostly downtown shopping with cute fashion shops, Chinese restaurants and British sports pubs. OK, and hash bars and prostitution, but the vibe is still downtown shopping district. Come dusk every few blocks you’ll hear a quiet whistle, and if you turned your head someone would offer to sell you coke or X (low quality, according to my tourist guidebook). The prostitutes were all out behind their windows, preening under red neon in bikinis or lingerie and looking rather bored.

Going down a side alley (I know, never go down the side alleys…) I ran into a very friendly gentleman who wanted to pick my pocket. We chatted for a while, him asking questions like “have you taken any pictures of your trip,” and patting his pocket, as if to say “now you pat the pocket where your camera is!” I never gave him a lead and kept to the touristed streets, glad that I’d zipped everything in my inside jacket pocket. Eventually he asked if I smoked pot and I when I told him I didn’t we parted ways, and I went to the Hash Museum.

(No pictures — even during the day I didn’t want to take my camera out.)

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Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum

Eagle Bill and Me

The Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum was far more interesting than I expected, even after getting past my initial American surprise of seeing the potted marijuana plant that adornes the sidewalk entrance to this place. Their small establishment is full of the history of the use of the hemp plant as both textile and drug, plus a great collection of ’30s & ’40s anti-marijuana propaganda.

The best part was getting to meet Eagle Bill, a self-described “half biker, half hippie” and former canabis breeder and smuggler from the US. It’s hard not to like Bill from the get-go — he’s got an infectious smile and the same love and passion for his drug of choice that you see in wine growers and conesuirs up in the Napa Valley. He was demonstrating his vaporizor system for inhalation of smokeless, pure THC vapor. It’s safer than smoking, obviously, but what surprised me is his claim that with vapors you get high (giddy, euphoric) but not stoned (zoned out). I’ve never done pot myself so this may be common knowledge in other circles, but when smoking he claims some breeds, like Indica, will get you stoned while others, like Sativa, would get you high. With the vaporizor you just get high. That makes sense if the vapor really is just pure TCH (the breed shouldn’t make a difference then except amount of vapor produced) but it makes me wonder what the extra chemicals are in the smoke that makes one stoned instead of high.

Another interesting comment by Bill — his main complaint about today’s pot is that it’s too strong. Back when he started smoking it was about 4% THC, now the stuff you buy on the street is about 18%. It’s still the same chemical (I assume, though see above), but now one joint is like smoking four old-fashioned ones in the same time period. Reminds me of the bathtub gin of the Prohibition era — when you’re risking getting busted, you don’t bother making a nice 4% alcohol Merlot.

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Amsterdam Day 1

Amsterdam Canal

[still clearing my backlog — this is from about a week ago…]

Amsterdam is gorgeous. Take a cross between Boston & San Francisco, remove the hills & homeless and replace them with a canal every 2 blocks and you’ve pretty much got Amsterdam. The canal district is Becon Hill, the Red-Light District is a cross between Haight-Ashbury & the Combat Zone (only with more overt illigal-drug sellers on the street and the prostitutes solicit from inside heated rooms), and in this alternate universe Critical Mass won the war.

It’s very much my kind of town.

I happened to arrive the day of their 5th annual Museum Night, where 39 museums are open from 7pm-2am all for one price, with special events at each and free water-ferry & trams between them. I must’ve hit 7 museums, the highlights being the black-gospel choir at the Bible Museum, blacklight-painting exhibit at Rembrandhuis and the lit-up Botanical Museum. For continuity sake, I ended the night at the NEMO science museum to check out their Smart Fashion exhibit.

Update: pictures are now up!

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