Thursday, September 30, 2004

Friday, September 24, 2004

Seinfeld

Seinfeld is finally coming out on DVD! The DVD will evidently coincide with a special being shown around Thanksgiving.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Cat and mouse games

Cat Stevens was barred from entering the U.S. Evidently, he was on the U.S. terrorist list--after singing all those songs about peace trains and so on, there's little wonder! And that beard he's sporting. Heck, you can tell he's a terrorist from a mile away. Somewhere, I think there's a song in all of this.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Skimming and scanning

I've been looking for information on teaching English skimming and scanning skills to foreign students. I've come across the following links:

  • Reading Comprehension: Some very basic information on skimming and other reading skills.
  • Reading Skills: Provides an essay with intro and conclusion highlighted (as an exercise showing how much info can be inferred from these two sections of a paper).
  • Skillwise: A BBC site with useful links to lesson plans and materials dealing with skimming.
  • Skimming: This site has a basic description of skimming and scanning skills along with some good links to sites (e.g., a site for testing reading speed, etc.)

Other Reading Links:

Does anyone know of other good books or links?

Sky Captain

Last night, I watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Angelina Jolie, Bai Ling, and Michael Gambon, and directed by Kerry Conran. I think it's worth seeing, if not solely for its novelty. The movie's retro effect was done very well with a faux black and white feel (even though the film was in color) and with exaggerated illumination and shadows. I was particularly fascinated by the giant machinery, recalling an age when the future was envisioned as an era with simply bigger and stronger machines. Some reviewers complained about the lack of chemistry between Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, but I think they expect too much from this film which is more interesting as a reflection on film itself than a reflection on subject matter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Moodle

Through Blinger, I just came across Moodle, a course management system that evidently runs as a PhP file and is free for download. It definitely looks like something worth investigating.

Rather have someone else in office...

Rather at CBS is reported to be standing by his earlier report, insisting that the documents are legitimate. Personally, I wouldn't mind watching Bush crash and burn on this issue. Looking at little Bush's past, one can't help but be struck by the hypocrisy: a coke user who wants to send away all drug users, a pro-war hawk who uses his influence to avoid the Vietnam War (which he supported!), a "compassionate" conservative who works exclusively for the benefit of the wealthiest one percent of the population.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Should laptops be de riguer?

The Christian Science Monitor has an article on the trend for some colleges to require students to have laptops. This makes sense to me. Teachers require work to be done on a computer anyway, and if all students have a laptop, teachers have greater flexibility (to include the option of having students bring laptops to class).

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The so-called post-convention bounce

According to a recent Alternet article, Bush's convention bounce is the worst ever for a sitting president. The article, based on a new post-convention Gallup poll, points out that Bush received a mere 2-point bounce so that he now leads Kerry by a single point. (Thanks to Net Politik for the lead to this story).

Monday, September 06, 2004

A few people should get the axe!

I've finally got around to reading the 9/11 Commission Report. My general impression after the first 100 pages is that both the U.S. government and the terrorists displayed a fair amount of incompetence before and during the 9/11 attacks. In the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center, for example, one of the plotters kept going back to the truck rental company to get his $400 deposit back. (As a result, he was eventually caught.) On the U.S. side, the contingency planning was notably poor and "unimaginative" (as the commission points out). If the commission's report is to be believed, the FBI appears as a highly politicized organization that clearly failed to do its job.

Apart from the commission's report, I'm also shocked by the number of informants prior to the attack, who provided clear warnings. Paddock, of the LA Times, recently reported that the convicted terorist Jack Roche (an Australian) had volunteered information four years ago in exchange for a more lenient sentence but was "ignored by Australian and U.S. authorities." Arrested in connection with the 2002 Bali bombing, Roche evidently had information on the whereabouts of Bin Laden and other top Al Qaeda figures. He called the Australian Security Intelligence Organization 3 times and also contacted the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, but evidently the agents in both offices felt they had better things to do with their time.

So what conclusion are we to draw from all this? Is U.S. intelligence or the military terribly underfunded? Personally, I find it hard to see how more funding would make a difference. The 9/11 attacks were done with box-cutters and mace, with the perpetrators shouting that they had a bomb. It's hard to see how more tanks or weapons systems would stop such an attack. The most practical and easy step that would stop all such future attacks--the creation of a barrier between the passenger cabin and the cockpit--hasn't been taken yet!

I also feel that excessive funding of intelligence has an inevitable downside in creating a KGB-like apparatus whose activities are hidden from the American people. We are familiar with this from our history--the example oft cited being the team of FBI agents following Martin Luther King Jr. around. Excessive security measures can be used to stifle democratic dissent--as when police recently created lists and questioned protesters before the protest in New York. I find it highly suspicious that the FBI and CIA still seem to be spending so much of their time obsessed with Green Peace activists and elderly suburban peace activists like the cookie-munching Fresno activists shown in Fahrenheit 9/11.