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April 27, 2008

Facebook — Virtual throwdown in Second Life beats the real thing

Daniel de Vise, in today's Washington Post Metro section front page story, reported on a recent outbreak of Facebook-based violence at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, better known for high SAT scores than schoolyard fights.

Facebook is missing a huge — I mean mega — opportunity if it doesn't instantly seize this chance.

Long story short: Link Second Life to Facebook such that people can take their disputes right into virtual violence and have it out to their satisfaction.

I mean, who wants to wait until Monday in the schoolyard to settle a Facebook dispute that breaks out on Friday night when you can — virtually, at least — throw down right here and now?

Here's the Post article.

    Schoolyard Face-Offs Blamed on Facebook Taunts

    Twice this month, students at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda have used their fists to settle disputes that arose on Facebook.

    So Alan Goodwin, the principal, took the unusual step of asking parents to monitor their children's postings on the social networking site. He did this in a posting to the school's e-mail list, which is a forum as addictive to some Whitman parents as Facebook has become to their children.

    "I am becoming increasingly frustrated by negative incidents at school that arise from students harassing other students on Facebook," Goodwin wrote April 18.

    Teens are conducting an increasing share of their social lives electronically, via text-messaging, e-mail and social networking sites such as Facebook. Threats, harassment and bullying have followed them online. Although such behavior is not new, research suggests that it is expanding rapidly, and educators and lawmakers seem resolved to pay closer attention to the words students exchange online while off campus.

    Over the winter, a freshman at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring became the target of a Facebook group devoted to enumerating the reasons why other students hated him.

    Recently, a sophomore at Whitman referenced a sex act between two girls next to the photograph of a freshman she wanted to provoke. "I think it went back and forth online for about a day," said the victim's older sister, who requested anonymity to avoid further harassment. "On day two, the girl said, 'Let's do this in person.' "

    That Friday, they fought.

    The other fight at Whitman — a school better known for superior SAT scores — was also typical schoolyard fare, students said, prompted when a male student boasted on Facebook that he could beat up a larger classmate.

    Educators, long accustomed to ignoring fights when they happen off campus, are being forced to reconsider.

    "Kids communicate, good, bad or indifferently, over Facebook a lot," said Patricia O'Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase), a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education who has a daughter at Whitman. "Until an actual incident arises at school, it's below our radar screen."

    Goodwin, discussing the incidents by e-mail, said that what struck him about the fights was that the students involved "had not been involved in such things before and we could have prevented [the fights], I think, if we had known."

    It might be the first case in the Washington region of school officials publicly linking a fight to words exchanged on Facebook. Rival MySpace, which many students regard as more juvenile, has been linked by authorities to gang posturing and fights. In 2006, the principal of Annapolis High School identified MySpace as the possible source of a conflict that culminated in a series of fights on campus and a shootout at a suburban mall.

    Alex Sopko, a senior at Whitman, said many of her friends spend more than an hour a day on Facebook.

    "I wouldn't say people spend more time on Facebook than talking in person," said Sopko, 17. "But if I had a choice between calling someone or instant-messaging or writing them on Facebook, I'd probably choose Facebook."

    Caustic comments, once passed around class as folded notes, are now immortalized on semi-public Web pages, where they can be viewed by thousands. Students are called fat, their sexuality is questioned and their fashion choices critiqued, often in language not fit to print in a family newspaper.

    Rebecca Kahlenberg, mother of two Whitman students, said the principal's post served as a valuable piece of intelligence from school officials who, by her reckoning, know more than most parents do about the social habits of their children.

    "I don't think it would occur to a parent to ask, 'Was there any bullying on Facebook today?' " said Kahlenberg, author of a new book called " 'Like, Whatever': The Insider's Guide to Raising Teens."

    Kahlenberg said Goodwin's note prompted her to ask her daughters if they had been bullied on Facebook.

    "But I don't think you need to see all the postings and everything," she said. "Just like once they have their license, you don't drive with them every time. There's a certain element of trust."

    Researchers have assembled a fairly clear portrait of cyber-bullying. In a recent survey of middle-school students, 18 percent of respondents said they had been bullied online at least once in the previous two months. Girls were victimized twice as often as boys. Half the time, victims didn't know the identities of their bullies.

    "Your traditional bullying is still more prevalent than cyber-bullying, but not for long," said Robin Kowalski, professor of psychology at Clemson University and co-author of the report. "Because this is the medium through which they are communicating now, it's not surprising that this would be the venue through which they would bully each other."

    A new Maryland law adds cyber-bullying to the legal definition of bullying in the state and requires school boards to write anti-bullying policies by July 2009. The law was spurred by the case of a student from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac who was tormented by classmates, both in person and on MySpace, when she came out as a lesbian.

    "My concern was that situations like this would continue to arise," said Del. Craig L. Rice (D-Montgomery), who introduced the legislation.

    The father of another victim of cyber-bullying told lawmakers he found school officials to be "largely uneducated" about the extent of student participation in social networking sites and reluctant to intervene in his son's case.

    The boy, a freshman at Sherwood High School, became the subject last winter of a Facebook hate group. The postings, mostly from a pair of cyber-bullies from Sherwood and Churchill high schools, grew increasingly violent and anti-Semitic. The victim, who was not allowed to use Facebook, learned of the postings through friends.

    According to the father, who requested anonymity, administrators at Sherwood High cooperated fully, but officials at Churchill were "absolutely dismissive" and did not consider the problem to be the school's business. The Facebook group has since been shut down.

    State education officials questioned the reach of the new legislation because it asks school officials to police student conduct outside school.

    But an assistant Maryland attorney general advised Rice that it was permissible to require school-system policies to address cyber-bullying "if the effects are manifested on school grounds."

April 27, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Twirl–a–Squirrel — Spinning bird feeder flings off squirrels the moment they alight

From the website:

    Squirrel Defense Wild Bird Feeder — Harmlessly Spin Squirrels Off

    If you place this device at a normal height from the ground, squirrels will not be injured when they're forced to let go of the spinning feeder.

    After all, squirrels are built for jumping.

    As soon as a squirrel's weight is registered by the battery-operated device, your feeder begin to spin and the squirrel helplessly flies off.

    Squirrel's weight on feeders activates a motor which gently twirls it off.

    Use with all hanging feeders up to 10 lbs.

    Does not harm birds or squirrels (don't hang higher than you've seen squirrels drop safely).

    Requires 3 D batteries (not included).

    Durable weather-resistant PVC.

    No assembly required.




[the video up top, just in and added at 4:48 p.m. today, is via Ray Earhart]

April 27, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Robot Conductor


A child-sized Honda ASIMO robot (above) will lead the Detroit Symphony Orchestra when it performs "The Impossible Dream" on May 13, 2008.

You could look it up.

April 27, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Be More Chill' Iced Serving Bowl — Just named Official Serving Bowl of the Ned Vizzini Fan Club


Now that's news you can use.

From the serving bowl — not the Ned Vizzini — website:

    Iced Serving Bowl

    Keep salads and fruits crisp and chilled — without ice cubes!

    Simply place the included liquid chill pack in your freezer overnight, then lock it into place on the bottom of the bowl.

    Food stays fresh and cool without getting soggy — even outdoors!

    Includes large frosted bowl and clear domed lid to keep cold in — and bugs out.

    Ideal for picnics, parties and everyday meals.

    Dishwasher and freezer safe.

    10" diam. x 6-3/4" high with lid.




April 27, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'True Enough' — Sign 'O' The Times


Farhad Manjoo's new book's title perfectly encapsulates the information ethos of the our post-Britannica Wikipedia world.

His blog, "What I learned on Wikipedia today," looks pretty interesting — until you see the last post is dated September 17, 2007.


If you'd like a more extended treatment, you could do worse than read today's Washington Post Style section front page article by Monica Hesse, one of the Post's young stars to whom they'd better give a huge raise before she's plucked away by Rupert Murdoch and his bottomless checkbook over at the Wall Street Journal.

April 27, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Car Closet — 'Allows room for a backseat passenger'


Can your backseat clothes rack do that?

Didn't think so.

From the website:

    Car Closet

    Car Closet hangs your clothes front-to-back, not side-to-side.

    Hang one end over the clothes hook or grab handle in your car and the other over the backseat headrest.

    Driver can see clearly and it won't interfere with a backseat passenger.

    Holds up to 10 lbs. of clothing.

    Expands to 40" long.

    No tools required.



April 27, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tim Harford's 3 Rules of Passwords


1) They must be impossible to remember

2) They must never be written down

3) They must change frequently

The "Undercover Economist" — who still returns my emails, a less and less frequent occurence these days... but I digress — stated the principles above recently when musing about the dilemma of passwords in today's golden age of hacking and phishing.

He offered a remedy on the April 23, 2008 Financial Times website which you can read all about here; me, it's way beyond anything I'd be capable of.

But the reason I'm even raising the subject of passwords here is that ever since I've used a computer, I've done precisely the opposite of Harford's three rules.

My passwords are very easy to remember, they're always written down in many places and they never — ever — change.

No wonder my life's what it is.

Though I must confess I kind of like it this way.

April 27, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Toilets of the World'




is forearmed.

April 27, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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