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September 17, 2004

See Washington, D.C. on a Segway

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City Segway Tours, which started out in France (Paris, then Nice), has expanded to the U.S.

Other American cities you can now tour via guided Segway ($65 for four hours) include Chicago and New Orleans.

Call 877-734-8687 or visit their website.

September 17, 2004 at 09:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Meetup Groups

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What's this?

A chance to meet other people who use Google?

Looks like it.

Brand new, it would appear: only 63 members world-wide as of now.

Be an early adopter, check it out.

September 17, 2004 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My next computer

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This is it.

The new iMac G5, just out, with a 20" screen.

But - I won't be buying it until early next year.

Why?

Because that's when Apple's new Tiger operating system (OS X 10.4)

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will be the installed platform.

No way am I going to buy now with Panther (10.3.5) and then install Tiger on top of it.

Not that there's anything wrong with Panther.

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I installed it on top of Jaguar

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and it's what I'm using now on my 17" iMac.

I love it.

But I have a whole lot of love.

Hey, that might be a catchy song title, what?

Maybe call my group Heavy Hindenburg?

No?

OK.

I'll try and think of

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another name.

September 17, 2004 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'I Was Certain, but I Was Wrong' - Part 2

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This past Tuesday, Steve Friess wrote a story for USA Today about the swirling controversy over what actually happened to John Kerry in Vietnam.

Friess then delved more deeply into the subject of memory, and how we create it.

After reading his article, you might consider memorizing the title of this post (also the title of yesterday's post on the same subject) for future reference, re: both your own memories and those of others.

Here's the story.
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Memory does not always serve, and that's no lie ; Historical events can be 'misremembered'

For decades, Ulric Neisser would tell the story of how he heard of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor from a news bulletin that interrupted a radio broadcast of a baseball game.

Then, about 40 years after the fact, Neisser realized something troubling: There is no baseball in December. His memory couldn't be right.

Does that make Neisser a liar?

Some sort of twisted, deluded fabulist? Far from it.

Experts say it actually makes him completely normal.

A growing body of varied research is asserting that personal memory, despite everybody's thorough confidence in their own, is a stunningly unreliable resource susceptible to innocent and accidental errors.

Indeed, as the confused nation watches Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry wrangle bitterly with a group of fellow Vietnam veterans over their differing accounts of events in 1969 in Southeast Asia, the conclusions of talk-radio pundits and others is that someone must be lying and that there's such a thing as right and wrong in such cases.

Yet the only certainty that memory experts know to be true is that memories are uncertain, fallible and corruptible.

So chances are high that people on both sides are "misremembering" some pieces of the 35-year-old story.

Kerry says he pulled Special Forces officer John Rassmann out of the jungle-bound Bay Hap River in a hail of enemy gunfire; the veterans seeking to discredit him say there was no gunfire and that Kerry exaggerated his role and injuries to enhance his chances at heroism honors.

"People have their agendas, and both sides want their view to be true, but that doesn't necessarily mean that anyone is deliberately lying or fabricating," says Emory University psychologist Scott Lilienfeld, editor of the journal Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice.

"Memory serves us pretty well most of the time, but it's not a perfect system.

"When somebody says, 'I know, I was there, he's a liar,' that's just very naive considering what we know about memories in traumatic situations."

The trouble stems from the popular misconception that the brain records everything it observes with objective clarity.

People wrongly believe that the truth is in there somewhere, footage in the brain just waiting to be cued up with the accuracy of an instant replay.

In reality, research shows the brain plays all sorts of tricks.

People frequently come to think of moments they see in films as a real part of their own history or come to believe events that happened to close friends or relatives actually happened to us instead.

"We don't like the idea that our memories are filled with bits of fiction, but it's true for everyone, and we ought to accept it," says University of California-Irvine memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, known as the "diva of disclosure" for her work helping crime witnesses remember more accurately.

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Eyewitness accounts are a particularly troubling area with disturbing implications for the judicial system, Loftus says.

A study in 1996 by the U.S. Department of Justice analyzing 28 wrongful-conviction cases in which the convict was exonerated later by DNA evidence showed that faulty eyewitness testimony was the major factor in the jury's decision to convict.

The problem is so serious that, in 1999, then-Attorney General Janet Reno issued a 34-page guidebook for law enforcement with tips on how to enhance the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Among the suggestions:

* Avoid having witnesses pick suspects out of en masse lineups; instead have them examine potential suspects or their photos one at a time.

* Ask open-ended questions, not suggestive or coercive ones.

* Separate witnesses and instruct them to avoid comparing notes.

Neisser, who "misremembered" his Pearl Harbor experience, happened also to be a prominent memory psychologist and became fascinated by his 1941 faux pas.

He published his experience in one of his books and then received a torrent of letters from people suggesting that football, not baseball, was on the radio that Sunday in December.

"I had just confused a football game with a baseball game, it seems," said Neisser, now professor emeritus in the psychology department at Cornell University.

"Why'd I do that? Well, I was a big baseball fan my whole life. This was a question of my shifting my memory slightly to make it fit better. It was a better story to me that way. And I believed it."

After this discovery, Neisser went on to conduct an experiment.

The day after the explosion in 1986 of the space shuttle Challenger, he had several college freshmen write down their recollections of how they learned the news.

Three years later, he had the same students, by then seniors, once again write down their memories.

The result: More than a quarter of the students misremembered their own story in significant ways, and most had changed some significant details.

One woman originally wrote that she learned the news from friends while sitting in a class; three years later, she said she learned it from a news bulletin on TV.

Many students refused to reconsider their now-firm recollections even when confronted with their own handwritten accounts from the day after the event.

"Our memories are us," Lilienfeld says.

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"It's very integral to who we are. Partly because our memories are imbedded in who we are, they are inevitably colored by our personality, our expectations, our lives. It is somewhat unnerving to realize that things we remember distinctly might not have happened or happened that way."

September 17, 2004 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Maybach of Computers

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Don't have $357,000

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lying around for

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Mercedes'

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flagship?

No problema: for only $5,450 (that's the base price; it can be as high as $12,000), you can have a hand-crafted computer, keyboard, and mouse, all carved from the same block of flawless, hand-picked exotic wood (Thuya and Amboina burl are available, among some 90 others) by the same masters who create the wood panels for the Mercedes Maybach.

Each set takes over 20 hours of painstaking labor to produce: the mouse alone takes 6 hours, the keyboard around 14.

From the website:
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Each of Wood Contour's extraordinary wood peripheral sets is crafted out of a single piece of rich hardwood. More than 90 different types are available, all from managed wood plantations.

When a system is ordered, an individual from the company goes to personally select the right piece.

They pick one block of wood that will be long enough and thick enough to produce all 3 components - mouse, keyboard and monitor.

When exotic or specialty wood sets are purchased, the piece of wood must go through a kiln process that will steadily bring the humidity rate to the required percentage.

Once this process is completed, the manufacturing process begins by cutting the board to the required dimensions.

It takes around 6 hours to curve the round shape in a mouse, and close to 14 hours to carve out a keyboard.

Once the initial process is completed, the manual process of hand finishing the peripherals begins, all by trained craftsmen.

On the keyboards, the paint is embedded into the wood using a process called tamp-on processing.

This ensures that the keys will never fade from wear.

Once all the parts are ready, they are assembled by hand.

September 17, 2004 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Incident at Loch Ness'

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It's been called the Scottish "Blair Witch."

"Incident at Loch Ness" is a high-concept mockumentary (some say bookofjoe is too - absent the height of the concept) that purports to follow German über-director Werner Herzog as he makes a documentary probing the myth of Loch Ness.

The film's makers are using clever guerilla marketing tactics to flog their movie and generate buzz.

They've put up a fake blog, www.truthaboutlochness.com, supposedly written by an enthusiastic fan.

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Must be working, 'cause the film was written up in yesterday's Wall Street Journal and even made it into this sacred space.

September 17, 2004 at 06:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

urbanoïd

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This company, run by husband-and-wife design team Nathalie Ferranti and Cyril Daniel, is based in Marseille, France.

All manner of stylish things here, including the puzzle-piece-like leather floor tiles they call Molecules.

Each piece measures 22" x 16"; they're about one-fifth of an inch thick.

To get an idea of their actual size, take four sheets of 8.5" x 11" paper and tape them together: that's 22" x 17".

Clever, what?

The tiles come in varying shades of chestnut brown; they're nonadhesive and nonskid.

You fit them together however you like.

When you get bored, just take them apart and make a new shape.

The sets come with diamond-shaped sections that fill in the gaps if you prefer a more solid appearance.

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A box of 10 pieces is $1,150; 20 will set you back $2,200.

September 17, 2004 at 03:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Online Scrabble

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As if you didn't already have enough ways to waste time online, here's yet another, the old classic made virtual.

Any number of people can play any number of games simultaneously.

You get an email when it's your turn.

September 17, 2004 at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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