More Stromateis

  • As I was leaving my office to run an errand, I spotted a name tag on my shelf. It reminded me that nine years ago today Margaret, Pippa and I were in Washington D.C. serving as volunteers at the last display of the full AIDS Quilt. While we were there we saw newly-placed panels for my late colleague, David Weadon and for our friend from Florida, Gary Seife.

    Disasters didn’t start in Louisiana this September, and they didn’t stop in Pakistan, where a Himalayan winter is coming up on people without homes. AIDS combined with poverty is still killing millions — even if they’re further from our home.

  • The news that BlackBoard and WebCT are merging doesn’t surprise me in the least. (Stephen Downes has some PR clips here). A commenter at Inside Higher Ed suggests that this makes them the Microsoft of online learning; I’m just glad that Seabury got out of their grasp a few years ago.
  • Ron Jeffries picks up the dangerous rhetoric in the Bush administration’s increasingly frantic efforts to get Harriet Miers onto the Supreme Court. He cites the threat to a Jeffersonian separation of church and state that results when a President cites a candidate’s faith as the basis for knowing she’d make a good Supreme Court Justice. I8’m more offended by the overt doubletalk: “You should support her, cause she’s a conservative evangelical Christian, but her faith won’t make a difference in how she rules as a judge.” This kid of talk reveals Bush’s deep disdain for the intelligence of the public.
  • Yesterday afternoon, I checked in to see what the big fuss had been about at Apple: so, a new iMac model, new version of iTunes, videos and TV shows available from the iTunes music store, and video-capabilities for the iPod. The iMac seems like a good plan — Pippa immediately wondered how much it would cost and how wide the screen is, envisioning its use as a TV-substitute right away. The video iPod looks to me like more valuable for its reinforcing Apple’s momentum than actually for changing the consumer environment (the Nano is a more interesting design change, and watching short intervals of video on a tiny screen has limited appeal for most users, I think). It still looks to me like a gesture to sustain interest and buzz while (a) they develop a credible library of short-form video to watch, for which TV is exactly the right source (that part’s brilliant) and (b) they iron out the kinks on a video cell phone.

    Wouldn’t it be great if the Apple dominance of DRM’ed audio and video provided the impetus that the entertainment industries need to loosen their fixation on restrictions? After all, in a year or so, the studios and record companies could have established a very big installed base of files that depend on using Apple software. In the long run, non-proprietary formats serve the interests of both provider and server; proprietary formats serve only the owner of the format, as both providers and users have to abide by the format-owner’s dictates.

  • Larry Lessig was great on Marketplace tonight.

4 thoughts on “More Stromateis

  1. AKMA, your post here just reminded me that open source touches on a number of these issues. As you no doubt saw in the Blackboard thread, there are a number of folks that are beginning to explore open source alternatives such as Moodle as their educational CMS. I can’t help but think that if more folks began to switch to open source applications more generally, popular usage might help force entertainment industries to lighten up a bit on the restrictions – and we might still be willing to pay for good content.

  2. UT, we switched to Moodle at Seabury a couple of years ago and it’s working out very well for us. Open Source, Open Access, I’m all for ’em.

  3. With regard to the Bush/Miers bullet point, a quote from bloomingcactus, “George W. Bush is certainly a man of conviction and believes God is speaking to him about matters of public policy. What troubles me is his lack of humility and concern for the carnage of war on innocent victims. In a new BBC documentary series, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, says: “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, “George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.” And I did, and then God would tell me, “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq ‚Ķ” And I did. And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, “Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.” And by God I’m gonna do it.'”

    Now that’s scary. Read the whole thing at

  4. Considering that the public elected Bush, why should he consider them to be any more intelligent than he is??

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