Wednesday, December 31, 2003
The 'We' Word: And The Tyranny Of The Majority
False collectives-what Americans call 'weasel words'-poison the language we use to talk about public affairs by cobbling together spurious majorities.
After 1,200 Meals, 'Check, Please'
New York diners have never had it so good.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Sex, Silliness In The Year Of Publishing Shamelessly
A very weird year in magazines.
Thoughts On The Killing Of A Young Correspondent
I said earlier: He was a Dutch journalist, and young man of conscience, killed on assignment in East Timor on September 21st, 1999. That is one way of telling his story. I have given you four more: Sander as world citizen, Sander as dweller in the university tradition, Sander and the scruple of post-colonialism, Sander as soldier in journalism's conflict with the media. Others will tell their own tales today, different from mine, and that is all we can do.
"Here's another one, seduced and abandoned," Nina's husband often said, pulling abunch of wilted, yellowed broccoli from the refrigerator shelf. He held it, pinched between two fingers, his handsome face contorted in disgust, as though it smelled.
Monday, December 29, 2003
Tech & Science
What's It Do? Nothing, But Mathematicians Relish The Quest
Although proving theorems usually doesn't add up to anything practical, the intellectual allure is powerful.
Wins, Losses And Algorithms
When people try to divide subjective opinions into components and put them together to get more accuracy, they often end up disagreeing with the result.
So, Scrooge Was Right After All
Gift giving is irrational — unless, perhaps, you hare hedging your bets.
Library Books Play Second Fiddle To Videos, CDs
As budget-squeezed public libraries rush to buy DVDs for an insatiable public, branches must act more like multimedia centers and less like temples of the printed page.
Oh, R-o-ob, The Bad Words Won't Go Away
Just like clothing, our language reflects who we are, and we are a people who can only deem most profanity "evil" if we are ready to be seen 50 years from now as being as laughable as the producers of "Gilligan's Island" who required Mary Ann to keep her navel covered.
Japan's Empire Of Cool
Even as this country of 127 million has lost its status as a global economic superpower and the national confidence has been sapped by a 13-year economic slump, Japan is reinventing itself — this time as the coolest nation on Earth.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Tech & Science
Mother Of Invention
Virtual cow fences and self-reconfiguring automatons are just two of MIT roboticist Daniela Rus's futuristic visions.
Between Iraq And A Hard Place
Approximately 2003 reasons to be grateful it's almost December 31.
It's A Long New Year's Eve That Starts At Thanksgiving
If alcohol has a season, it is now: the eye of the storm between Christmas and New Year's, when New Yorkers have waded through four marathon weeks of holiday cocktail parties.
Saturday, December 27, 2003
Few literary scholars appreciate the fact that they labor in a field that lacks ''empirically valid hypotheses,'' or perhaps they prefer it that way.
How To Hold Up A Subway Tunnel: Get A Big Hanger
The resulting four-year nightmare of jackhammers, blocked stairwells and rerouted exits will finally end next month, and commuters will get their station back. But most will have missed the feat of engineering that unfolded all around them every day.
Friday, December 26, 2003
Tech & Science
Making Memories In Real Time
"We're on vacation. We should be being on vacation, not looking at pictures of ourselves on vacation."
A Very Merry Equation
The festive season throws up all manner of mathematical enigmas.
High-Tech Quirkiness Restores Radio's Magic
Music beamed by satellite has resurrected the thrill of musical discovery that has all but vanished on what is called terrestrial radio.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
Survivors All, This Family Makes Its Own Holiday Spirit
It was a peaceful day. A happy one. It was also a respite from much harder days — days in which the family, rather than coming together, felt as if it was coming apart.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
The Ritual Of Breakfast, Without The Stress
Considering how truly great breakfast can be, it is a shame that people rarely eat it properly.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Tech & Science
Falling Physics, When THe Weather Outside Is Frightful
The next time it snows the first thing I'm going to do is grab my magnifying glass and run outside to look at car windshields, the better to appreciate the dance between destiny and contingency, the collision of law and chance that is one of nature's simplest but most sublime creations, the humble snowflake.
Has The Mainstream Run Dry?
In 2003 TV's ratings went on the blink. Music buyers went missing. Pop-culture audiences divided young from old, red state from blue state. What does mass culture without the masses look like?
The Tyranny Of The Standing Ovation
Go to nearly any Broadway house, any night, and you can catch a crowd jumping up for the curtain call like politicians at a State of the Union address.
The Curse Of Designing With Microsoft Word
Word actively dumbs down the design sensibilities of those who use it.
Monday, December 22, 2003
Nothing New Under The Tree
When it comes to Christmas TV specials, they sure don't make them like they used to. And most of the time, for various reasons, they're not even trying.
When In Doubt...
... Just say 'Merry Christmas'.
Sunday, December 21, 2003
True And False
Liberal Democrats and teachers' unions and school professionals should stop trying to prove that No Child Left Behind is a failure and should stop pretending that money is the cure for everything; Republicans should accept that money does, however, matter terribly if you wish to attract the kind of teachers who can make a difference.
Where Birds Don't Fly
Give us your tired, your poor and your properly fingerprinted.
Tech & Science
A Grand Plan For A Tiny Science
A good bit of vision is needed to grasp the possibilities of nanotechnology, the science of using very small things. As such, it could be the perfect technology for Israel, a country that knows about small.
Sanctuary In The Past
The old soap about Americans not caring a whit for their history doesn't account for one thing. It doesn't account for the great many who do. It doesn't account for those untold thousands of people who go marching backward every chance they get. These legions of Americans aren't just mindful of their past, they read history books as the script to bring yesteryear back to life.
Plan B For 'Plan 9'
For one obsessed fan, seeing the worst movie of all time over and over just wasn't enough.
Pulling Strings To Get Volins Back Into Children's Lives
The University of South Carolina, now a model for the rest of the country, is doing work here that may at best keep the violin a mainstream instrument and at worst provide it a permanent niche. It will not be allowed to become an antique.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
Smaller AirPorts Are Growing In Stature
Many passengers are happy to drive a bit to save money or avoid long lines.
Every Long Movie Has That Special Moment — Here's How To Find It
Fortunately, the makers of "Loard of the Rings" have given viewers a subtle visual cue for when to dash for the facilities.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Tech & Science
Strange Lights Imaged, Astronauts Not Crazy
The study shows that auroras reach far higher into the atmosphere than expected, though scientists are still puzzled over how it is possible.
This Buyer Of Fiction Has Real Clout
Meet the woman who decides what Barnes & Noble stocks.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Saddam Is Ours. Does Al Qaeda Care?
There's strong evidence that Osama bin Laden is using Iraq the way a magician uses smoke and mirrors.
Tech & Science
Seven Days Of Creation
The inside story of a human cloning experiment.
Look! Up In The Air! It's A Plane! The Joy Of Flight
A hundred years after the Wright brothers, everyone has to change planes in Atlanta.
McLanguage Meets The Dictionary
Dictionaries don't tell us how to use our words, they describe how we use them.
For Some, It's A Very Moo Shu Christmas
Welcome to the conundrum that is Christmas New York style: while most restaurants close for the holiday, or in a few cases, stay open and serve a prix fixe meal laden with froufrou, thousands of diners, most of them Jewish, are faced with a dilemma.
The Kitchen Faucet Is A Vegetable's Best Friend
It has become clear that fruits and vegetables have been responsible for about as many reported cases of food poisoning as beef, chicken, fish and eggs combined.
Disney Puts 'Motion Sickness' Bags On Mission: Space Ride
Several theme park consultants told Local 6 News that it is the first time "motion sickness" bags have been made available on a theme park ride.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Tech & Science
Writing Science For Children In An Age Of Discovery
Writing a children's book is never easy. But the challenges are multiplied for children's books about science.
Monday, December 15, 2003
Tech & Science
Inventions For The Gifts Of Tomorrow
As always, the holiday season sets off a mad scramble for new gift ideas. Who knows? Even some of the more bizarre of the last year's patents might one day evolve into real products that can be tied up with a bow.
Children With Time On Their Hands Have Vanished... Let Us Mourn
FAO Schwarz and its customers knew, once, the difference between doing and being, understood that children needed time alone, in peace, to imagine their futures, even if it was just to scan the pages of a catalog. Those children are gone now, so there is no need for a company that catered to them. That's a reason to mourn, if ever there was one.
When Books Kill
Movies and video games get blamed for acts of senseless violence all the time. But some famous murderers got their ideas from literature.
Traffic Flow Is Crucial Part Of Debate At Trade Center
Planners have been given, through unparalleled disaster, the rare opportunity to correct what is now regarded as a major mistake made in the 1960's: the truncation of Dey, Cortlandt, Fulton, Greenwich and Washington Streets to create the site of the twin towers and 7 World Trade Center.
Saving The Family Farm
"Innovation" might not be the word that comes to mind when you travel the back roads of New England. And "marketing expert" might not be the term you'd apply to the guy cutting hay. But agriculture is changing, and farms are having to change with it. Witness these four examples of farmers breaking with tradition to survive.
Spare Us The Dreary Science Behind Art
It ultimately doesn't matter much what event caused Munch to paint The Scream.
DreamWorks Still Looking For A Hit In '03
DreamWorks operates in a netherworld of being too big to be considered merely a production company yet too small to be a major studio.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Tech & Science
In Archimedes' Puzzle, A New Eureka Moment
A historian of mathematics appears to have solved the mystery of a treatise written 2,200 years ago by Archimedes.
The Thrill Is Gone
Airline travel isn't what it used to be — and it's not just because of 9-11. Forced into action, the industry is attempting to redefine the flying experience.
Consumerism was the triumphant winner of the ideological wars of the 20th century, beating out both religion and politics as the path millions of Americans follow to find purpose, meaning, order and transcendent exaltation in their lives.
Food For Thought
The newest ideas in cooking aren't so different from the oldest.
The Powering Up Of The Power Lunch
The right lunch at the right place at the right time is a statement, a way to get the jungle drums chanting.
In San Francisco, Good Things Come On Small Plates
San Francisco is joining in the East Coast trend towards small portions of food.
Good Book Care Starts With Proper Shelving
There are definite ways to store books and set up a house for comfortable reading. A good starting point is shelving.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
Coffee, Tea Or Freedom?
Ever since the Tiananmen movement was brutally crushed, China has been fairly stable because its leaders and its citizens have each been a bit afraid of the other. But the fear has steadily ebbed.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Wine's Secret Club
L.A.'s wine storage scene — yes, it's a scene — has exploded. And the locker rooms are for more than just cellaring. (Have you heard about the fabulous $13 Shiraz?)
Away At College, But Not Quite Away From Home
So long, dorm room. These days, a growing number of parents around the country are buying property for their college-age children to live in.
Religious Upsurge Brings Culture Clash To College Campuses
Religion on campus is thriving these days, but it doesn't always find an easy home in the intellectual, secular world of higher education.
Santa's Coming To Town. Big Deal
And yet another blow for tradition: Santa Claus leaves New York children cold. Father Christmas can ho-ho-ho all he likes, but all that the tiny tots of Manhattan can manage in return is a Bronx cheer.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Out Of The Shadows
Armed only with ancient film, scraps of paper, broken buildings and an irrepressible passion to create, Baghdad's artists are emerging from the long darkness of Saddam.
All That Noise For Nothing
Every day, car alarms harass thousands of New Yorkers — rousing sleepers, disturbing readers, interrupting conversations and contributing to quality-of-life concerns that propel many weary residents to abandon the city for the suburbs. So there must be a compelling reason for us to endure all this aggravation, right? Amazingly, no.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Attack Of The Killer Bras
The Bush administration prefers trade war to tapping the potential of industrializing China.
Doctors. Teachers. Coaches. Ministers. They all share a common fear: being sued on the job. Our litigation nation — and a plan to fix it.
A Shot In The Dark
The U.S. military requires troops to take controversial anthrax shots and court-martials them if they refuse. But critics say the vaccine is too dangerous — and with Saddam's bioweapons nowhere to be found, needless.
Tech & Science
Scientist Links Man To Climate Over The Ages
Humans have altered the world's climate by generating heat-trapping gases since almost the beginning of civilization and even prevented the start of an ice age several thousand years ago, a scientist said on Tuesday.
In The Capital Of The Car, Nature Stakes A Claim
After decades of blight, large swathes of Detroit are being reclaimed by nature. Roughly a third of this 139-square-mile city consists of weed-choked lots and dilapidated buildings. Satellite images show an urban core giving way to an urban prairie.
The Halo Squard
Guardian angels patrol the rough streets, unpaid but appreciated.
Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Tech & Science
Humanity? Maybe It's In The Wiring
Neuroscientists have given up looking for the seat of the soul, but they are still seeking what may be special about human brains, what it is that provides the basis for a level of self-awareness and complex emotions unlike those of other animals.
Turning Heads With PowerPoint
David Byrne, who climbed to fame with the Talking Heads, lately has been wrapping his brain around PowerPoint, cranking out art.
Higher And Higher
The tall building is the symbol of all that we hope for — height, reach, power, and a revolving restaurant with a long wine list — and all that we cower beneath. It is a symbol of oomph and of waste, the lighthouse of commerce and the outhouse of capitalism, the tallest candle on the biggest cake, and the cash-economy prison made up of countless anonymous cells.
Price For '12 Days Of Christmas Jumps'
According to an annual inflation gauge based on purchases included in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," inflation is up 16 percent this year as rising prices for services, such as drummers, outweighed declines in prices for goods, such as pear trees and gold rings.
Monday, December 8, 2003
Final Days In The Life At Jennicam
After seven years, it looks like former Washington resident Jennifer Ringley is finally turning off the webcams.
Hints Of Wine? Chocolate Enters The Tasting Room
In the beginning, there was wine. And there were wine tastings and wine snobs and wine-of-the-month clubs. Then olive oil, vinegar, cheese, coffee and butter followed into the American culinary consciousness. Now the appreciation of fine chocolate seems poised to become the next gastronomic parlor game.
Vegans Vs. Atkins
Animal-rights activists claim that low-carb, meat-heavy diets are killing people. Are they raising legitimate health concerns — or are they just rabid anti-carnivores?
Beat Me Daddy (Eight To The Bar)
We were the Eight-Bar Band: there was me and my bugle; and Timson, whose piano had no top and got rained on from time to time; and Steve, the front-man and singer. And then there was blissed-out, autistic Hambone, our "percussionist" who whacked things together, more-or-less on the beat. Sometimes, it seemed like he was playing another song, but then he'd come back to the rhythm and bam, you'd realise that he'd been subtly keeping time all along, in the mess of clangs and crashes he'd been generating.
Sunday, December 7, 2003
Tech & Science
'We Can Implant Entirely False Memories'
You were abducted by aliens, you saw Bugs Bunny at Disneyland, and then you went up in a balloon. Didn't you?
MTV used to be about ambition. Now it's about hot tubs.
The L.A. Advice Guy
The frenzied search for replacements for Dear Abby and Ann Landers had at its core a strange double standard.
Greens And Doctors Are Against Them, And Now It Seems They Cause Arthritis Too. Can Anything Save Chopsticks?
The Year of the Goat has not been kind to chopsticks.
The Writing On The Wall
Though handwriting's days may be numbered, traditional cursive is still taught exactingly in New England classrooms.
When Political Art Mattered
Only once in the 20th century did plays and posters and other creative works really change the consciousness and the policies of the country: the 80's, in response to the AIDS epidemic. How? And why?
How 'The Nutcracker' Became An Institution
That the origins of this performance were part czarist, part Orthodox Church, part German fairy tale reconfigured by a French novelist, speaks also of the wonderful way that culture, like sports, bursts the boundaries of nationalism.
Saturday, December 6, 2003
It's Not The Hat That Makes The Cowboy
With the closing of the frontier, the decline of western movies every Saturday afternoon at the Bijou and the evaporation of afternoon westerns on television, being a cowboy more and more comes down to wardrobe.
Friday, December 5, 2003
Search For A New U.N. Role
The organization has been under a microscope since the U.S. defied it on Iraq.
Focus On Interaction, Not A Piece Of Cloth
I have always thought that religious belief and its practice are matters of personal choice, veiling included; for a majority of Muslims, this is indeed the case. But is wearing the veil as a sign of solidarity no longer optional in a post-Sept 11 world, where the whole faith seems to be under assault in the West?
Tech & Science
Roast Dinosaur Off The Menu?
New evidence questions the idea that a meteorite impact thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs triggered worldwide wildfires.
Fast Food Flap
His detractors call him a pimp, a sell-out and a hypocrite. He, in turn, accuses them of being elitist, unrealistic prigs. Who would have suspected that a chicken sandwich could generate all this heat?
Copyright laws are stifling art, but the public domain can save us.
DJ: Sorry For Handling Of Santa 'News'
WBAB talk show host John Parise still doesn't believe in Santa Claus, and he's not sorry for saying so. But he apologized yesterday for the way he broke the secret to children listening to his morning show Monday.
Thursday, December 4, 2003
Should I Have Asked John To Cool It? Standards Of Reason In The Classroom
To all such students — indeed, to all students, those with disabilities and those without — I try to apply the standard of disability law: I make reasonable accommodation for them. The challenge, though, lies in making reasonable accommodations for students whose standards of "reasonableness" are significantly different from yours.
It's The Naughty List For DJ
The Babylon radio station WBAB/102.3 FM is experiencing a backlash from some listeners after a Monday morning show promoted a big announcement to families for several days, then told children that Santa Claus ... (stop reading this if you're under 10) ... does not exist.
Wednesday, December 3, 2003
Why Do People Read Newspapers?
A massive research effort by the NAA- and ASNE-backed Readership Institute endeavored to find out. Now newspapers are heeding some of the findings in an effort to reverse the persistent circulation slide.
Store Owner Fights Display Ban
To Christopher James, Christmas inspires too much joy to be celebrated only one or two months of the year.
Tuesday, December 2, 2003
The Two Terrorisms
The apocalyptic "new" terrorism affords leaders the chance to neutralize "old" militant groups reluctant to be associated with such sweeping destruction.
For A Good TIme, Well, Don't Call Dad
Sir Walter Scott's dark heroes, rebellious and promiscuous, and his proper heroes, law-abiding and monogamous, reflect the two types of men scientists recognize by the kinds of relationships they have with women: cads and dads.
Disney Devotee Designed, Lives In Facsimile Of Haunted Mansion
Something frightful happens every time Mark Hurt turns on the cold water in his downstairs bathroom.