MOTTO OF THE DAY: Central Park Media is a distributer of Japanese cartoons - anime and manga - in translated versions in the United States. Their motto, which I couldn't find on the website but is printed on the packaging of their products, is World peace through shared popular culture.
This is one of the coolest phrases I've ever come across. First of all, it's a vision of diversity without multiculturalism. A variety of genres, styles, local flavors should exist, but they should be experienced globally, not just locally. It's not just McDonald's that's spreading around the globe. We also have sushi and falafel.
Secondly, it's a more sophisticated take on the whole "we must understand each other to create peace" argument. Yes, it's important to understand one another. But that's much easier to do when we've "grown up together". When there are bits of your culture integrated into mine, and bits of mine in yours.
Quick, think of the last British movie you saw. The last French one. The last Japanese one. The last Arab one. Interesting.
UPDATE: Greetings to all of you who've linked in from InstaPundit! Paul Sand brought my attention to this article, which illustrates the point nicely and was featured on Best of the Web today.
SCENES FROM THE AMERICAN STREET: I was at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges this weekend, staying with my friends at Bryn Mawr and attending thesis rough-draft presentations (and presenting my own) at Haverford. There were loud anti-war posters and ads for protests everywhere you looked. But at Bryn Mawr, almost every tree had a yellow ribbon tied around it. And at Haverford, small American flags were standing on the lawn, the kind you see everywhere on the Fourth of July.
As my professor opened the first meeting, she smugly announced that the American Philosophical Association had "taken a vote and decided that the war in Iraq is unjust". According to their website, the resolution, based on just war theory, passed with 1,202 voting in favor and 263 opposed. It's dated February, so I hope some of them have changed their minds by now. I then somehow got into a sparring match with the class over whether the U.N. and Nato have been weakened by the actions of France or the United States. Amazingly, everyone else in the class sided with the French against the United States.
At the train station on my way home, waiting in line to board the train, I got into a conversation with a preppy-looking black man about 25 years old and a respectable-looking white man about 35 years old. It turned out the second man was a reporter for French TV. He started ranting to us about how the U.S. would not listen to France, and how France wasn't opposed to war but only had a different timetable. The other man and I looked uncomfortable tried to tell him that standing in line in a train station for five minutes was not really the place to get into a political debate, but he kept ranting until someone loudly said to him, "Cold weather we're having today, isn't it?"
SPAM FILTER UPDATE: My spam filter, POPFile, is now working at 95.11% accuracy. (See previous post on this topic here.) I get the feeling that number would be even higher if I'd set up only two categories, "spam" and "real", but I really like having the "auto" characterization as well. At this point, the breakdown is as follows:
If I had a fourth category called "business", real would go down even more. Many of the e-mails in real are from coworkers during days I work at home (it's difficult for me to check my office e-mail from home), or from my academic advisors about my thesis-in-progress.
The cool thing about POPFile is that you get breakdowns of the frequency of words in each category. Consider the following charts (sorry for the bad formatting, I'm too lazy to fix it right now):
Lookup result for freedom
Bucket Frequency Probability Score
auto 0.0029120559 0.9109495643 0.9327215425
real 0.0001641767 0.0513577541 -1.1416370375
spam 0.0001161980 0.0363490681 -1.3909689054
freedom is most likely to appear in auto
Lookup result for liberty
Bucket Frequency Probability Score
auto 0.0011648224 0.4839685540 0.4764926080
real 0.0006567066 0.2728530642 0.0630980755
spam 0.0005809900 0.2413937971 -0.0252697450
liberty is most likely to appear in auto
Lookup result for market
Bucket Frequency Probability Score
auto 0.0004659289 0.0813583638 -0.8097827626
real 0.0004925300 0.0860033106 -0.7697319973
spam 0.0047641181 0.8318883240 0.8672308867
COMPENSATING: There's a rather good bakery and cafe near my office called Vie de France. Their logo, printed on the sign in front of the restaurant as well as their napkins and takeout bags, is a French flag tilted at an angle. I walked by today and noticed that they've put up a gigantic sign with an American flag, and a shiny "God Bless America" banner.
REASONABLE PEOPLE: These are not the kind of peace protestors you hear about in the mainstream media or the conservative press. Nor, I think, are they what you would find portrayed in the liberal media. These are my friends' personal accounts of questioning. I'm proud of them, even if I disagree with their instincts and/or their conclusions. They're intelligent, they're distrustful of authority, they really care about human rights violations, and they know that they have no answers whatsoever. Fascinating stuff. Here's "Signy" talking about a peace protest today, and "Gaudior" pondering war two weeks ago.
I'M SURE THIS IS A TERRIBLE THING TO SAY: I just read this Fox News story, saying that Iraqi television showed two American POW's they claim were captured when "peasants" shot down a helicopter. This passage:
Franks denied that a second chopper had been lost, or that any craft had been shot down by farmers.
Iraqi state television showed pictures of one Apache helicopter in a grassy field. Men in Arab headdresses holding Kalashnikovs automatic rifles danced around the aircraft.
reminded me of that Far Side cartoon that showed a dog dreaming that he had actually captured a car he'd been chasing. The car was shown upside down as the dog stood atop it and howled at the moon.
THE SCIENCE OF MYSTICISM: I think this article treats the subject too lightly. The brain patterns that correspond to religious and mystical experiences are a fascinating subject. The researcher in the article, Dr. Michael Persinger, has invented a magnetic-field-generating helmet that can induce mystical sensations in the wearer. The reporter takes this to mean that experience of gods is completely within the brain and thus that gods do not exist.
But it seems to me more reasonable to conclude from this that gods are actually some kind of magnet. This is not inconsistent with my own (pagan) mystical experiences, which are more acute in certain places. Magnetic fields are different at different places on the earth's surface, right? And they can affect the brain, right? Sounds like direct experience of the deity to me.
INTERVIEW WITH SPAMMERS: This article profiles two professional spammers in New Zealand. The second person interviewed is a 14-year-old who goes by the nickname ^god and, aside from spamming, dabbles in online credit card fraud. HELLO? PARENTS? THIS IS WHEN YOU TAKE THE COMPUTER AWAY FROM YOUR KID.
STAR SPANGLED ICE CREAM bills itself as the conservative alternative to Ben & Jerry's. While I'd be happy to eat Iraqi Road or I Hate the French Vanilla, some of their flavors, like School Prayerleens & Cream, are not quite to my liking.
CAT UPDATE: Maggie is feeling safe and comfortable enough to play with a little green catnip mouse that I put out for her when she arrived. She's all cute and pouncing! She was also extremely interested in the stir fry I cooked for lunch, but she refused to eat any even when I cut her a small piece of meat. She still hasn't eaten any cat food, either. But maybe the mouse-play will make her hungry.
CAT NOTES: Maggie (see pictures below) was delivered to my apartment last night with a folder stuffed full of pamphlets, lists of poisonous houseplants, vaccination records, and many stern warnings against declawing. She promptly went under the bed, where she stayed for 4 hours, despite all attempts to coax her out. She changed her mind around 12:30, though, when she came out and awakened me with LOUD, INSISTENT CRIES. I pointed out to her the food and the litter box, but she showed no interest in them and continued her LOUD, INSISTENT CRIES at intervals of about 15 seconds for the next hour. Eventually she decided she would curl up on the bed and go to sleep IF I PROMISED NOT TO TOUCH HER.
Around 3:30 I woke up again to go to the bathroom. Maggie was quite disturbed by this, and REPEATEDLY EXPRESSED HER EXTREME DISPLEASURE THAT I HAD CLOSED A DOOR until I came out again. She again voiced this EXTREME DISPLEASURE ABOUT THE BATHROOM DOOR this morning at 7:45. I hope this doesn't last.
She hasn't touched her dry food, and though she seemed happy when I put out some wet food for her this morning, she only ate one bite of it before going away. So far this morning, she has been amusing herself by alternately sitting on the barstool to watch the computer screen, moving her litter from one side of the litter box to the other, and MEOWING VERY LOUDLY ABOUT THIS CONFUSING NEW SITUATION.
I'm going to stay home with her for at least the morning today, and perhaps the whole day. I think the front door would displease her even more than the bathroom door.
CAT BLOGGING! My new cat arrived from her foster home at around 8 last night. She's about a year and a half old, and recently had a litter of kittens, all of whom had nice new homes before I met her. I named her Tony Margaret, after our British allies present and past. She's called Maggie for short.
I took a few pictures with my 1999-era webcam. They're not great, but it will give you an idea of what she looks like, anyway.
WHAT? This article in Reason is all well and good, but ... what alliance with Russia are they talking about? Last time I checked, Russia was in the Axis of Weasels camp with Germany and France, not with us.
AH, THE JOYS OF LIVING IN OUR NATION'S CAPITOL: Tractor Driver in Standoff with Police on Mall. This is in addition to several bomb threats in buildings yesterday. It seems the guy is still there, at least as of when this article was written. Note the building closings listed to the right.
UPDATE 2: I checked a map, and discovered that this is all happening 8 blocks north of my office and one block west. I work at Farragut Square, and tractor-guy's little pond is shown nicely on the map. I get the feeling the subway is going to be really crowded today.
UPDATE 3: The papers said traffic was closed only up to H Street, but there are police out there blocking all southward traffic from K Street. That means I walked a block to work on a street empty except for two cars travelling northward. From Solveig's window, you can see gridlock on K Street, normal traffick on I Street, and many pedestrians crossing an empty 17th Street, all the way down to the river. They did let a Diet Coke delivery truck drive south on 17th Street, though. It's good to know that you'll always be able to have a refreshing drink, even if a crazed tobacco farmer is threatening to blow up a pond.
UPDATE 4: It looks like 17th Street is open to H Street again. There are still numerous cars honking outside the window.
UPDATE 5: He's still out there. It's been over 24 hours now. They say he's been moving his tractor around a little bit and talking to police. It's been confirmed now that he's doing this because the government lowered subsidies for tobacco farmers.
I SAW REAL LIVE PEACE PROTESTORS! I didn't go to the protest at the Washington Monument today, but I took the subway into town and ran into a few people headed for the protests. One girl was wearing a shirt that said, "Bush is just another word for cunt." Another had a sign reading, "Regime change in 2004." So I guess they were more anti-Bush protestors than peace protestors. A group of very muscular guys in U.S. Marines t-shirts were making fun of them quietly from a few feet away.
"We're not returning it out of anger," insisted White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "We want the French to set it up in the Seine and gaze at it for the next few decades."
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
TEACH-INS: More people should be doing things like this. There's no reason the anti-war, anti-America liberals should have a monopoly, even at their own events. Calling her talk "the sociolinguistic ramifications of conflict in Iraq" was a brilliant move.
INTERESTING READING: Check out this FoxNews poll on attitudes toward war with Iraq. It's interesting, but I get the general feeling that it's somewhat slanted. I don't know anything about statistics and polling, so I can't say anything certain, but see for instance question 22. It just feels kind of sneaky to me.
WHO DO THEY THINK WE ARE? Orin Kerr pointed out a NYT article about the volunteer "human shields" in Iraq. The volunteers are making a distinction between "legitimate military targets" such as army bases and oil refineries, and civilian locations like hospitals and schools. They want to protect the civilians, not the military targets. They object to the Iraqi government trying to place them at or close to legitimate military targets.
But wait a second - if they think the civilian targets need their protection, that must mean they think the US is going to deliberately bomb civilians. If they were trying to prevent war, they would have gone to the most critical military targets. If they were trying to prevent accidental civilian casualties, they would have gone to legitimate military targets that are very close to residential areas and civilian infrastructure. But their actual plan, of staying in the heart of residential areas, means that either (1) they are complete cowards who only want to look brave, or (2) they believe the US is preparing for a full-scale, indiscriminate slaughter of Iraqi civilians.
As if we needed any more evidence that these people are moronic.
PAIN UPDATE: Thanks for all of you who sent in hopes that I would get better soon (hi Mom). Today I feel like my calves have been removed and replaced with large rocks, with the full range of flexibility that implies.
AN ACQUAINTANCE OF MINE FORWARDED ME ONE OF THOSE ANTI-WAR PETITIONS THE OTHER DAY. He (clearly) doesn't know anything about my political leanings. He must have just assumed that since I'm a "nice person" and one of his friendly acquaintances, I must be against the war. Either that, or he didn't care to find out my position beforehand, and just forwarded it with the hope that I would agree. His preliminary message, before the forwarded text, didn't even say something like "If you agree with this, you might want to sign it."
I sent him a rather unpleasant, but I hope polite enough, e-mail this morning. I don't mind that he's against the war, of course. It just pisses me off that he assumed I would be against the war. Just like everyone at college assumed I supported Gore in the 2000 election. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it a million times in the future: There are intelligent, reasonable, and well-meaning people on both sides of every issue. Just because you know someone is intelligent, reasonable, and well-meaning does not mean that he or she agrees with you about any given political issue.
I CAN'T MOVE: On Saturday night, I went Scottish Dancing at the Delaware Valley Spring Ball for about four hours. I haven't done any dancing in months, so I was out of shape, but I wasn't quite aware of exactly how out of shape I was. My legs were sore yesterday, but today I literally can hardly move. I tried to get out of bed and stand up, and I fell back down. I finally managed to stand, using my headboard as a prop, and screamed out loud from the pain. I was in tears by the time I reached the bathroom. From now on, I start slowly.
But it was so much fun! I'm going to start going to Scottish dance classes here, now that there's not snow everywhere.
ANOTHER UPDATE ON THE SPAM FILTER: At 150 messages scanned, I've reached 81.33% cumulative accuracy. But that figure includes all the first e-mails where it knew nothing. In the messages received since I got back from my weekend trip, accuracy seems to be about 96%. It's much more likely to mark non-spam e-mails as spam (false positivies) than let spam slip through into my inbox (false negatives), but that is probably because of the extremely small sample of real e-mails it's seen (we're up to 6). Current breakdown:
UPDATE ON THE SPAM FILTER: A few days ago, I downloaded PopFile, a new spam filter that learns based on what you tell it about your e-mail. So far, it's scanned 72 messages, and is operating with only 68.42% accuracy. I think it needs some more time.
But from looking at the statistics the program generates, I've learned something about my e-mail patterns that I never realized before: I don't get any e-mail. I mean, I do get some e-mail. 72 messages in the past few days, actually. But a whopping 55% are spam. Another 41% are 'auto', a classification I created to mark (1) mailing lists I subscribe to, and (2) e-mails from companies that I want to recieve (for instance, Amazon discount offers and MetroRail delay alerts). That leaves the remaining 4% which are real e-mails from friends. Four percent of 72 messages is 3, folks. Three real e-mails since March 4. And even that number is misleading, since one of those was a test message I sent to myself to make sure my e-mail program was still working after I installed the spam filter.
It was a little depressing at first (nobody loves me!). But then I realized that I usually talk to my friends and family on the phone (cell phone = free long distance) or on IM (I can do other things at the same time). There's no need to sit down and write out long letters. If I want to do that, I can write a blog post and reach everyone who wants to hear it at the same time.
And many of those 'auto' messages are quite useful. I want to know if there's a delay on the subway before I leave for work. I want to know if the price of flights to Boston has suddenly dropped for the weekend. It's a quick and easy way to get useful information right to my computer without having to check a dozen websites every day.
All this has unexpectedly changed my perception of how I use the Internet. E-mail, I find, is a more important tool for mass communication than for individual communication. To talk with other people, the real-time interaction of instant messaging is much better. To a large extent, blogs have replaced e-mail as the way to keep in touch with a large number of people. This is especially true of "daily life" blogs like the ones found on LiveJournal - the intended audience is people the writer already knows. It's a friendlier version of those "here's what I've been up to for the past month" e-mails you used to get all the time, addressed to about 60 people each.
It's different at work, but that analysis will have to wait for later.
I NEED TO BLOG MORE: I hardly ever really write things any more. I think this condition is aggrivated by my recent acquizition of a Netflix subscription. I'll try and do better - but not this weekend, because I'm going to Philadelphia for my cousin's Bat Mitzvah. (I wonder if "mitzvah" is a scrabble word. It would be worth a lot of points.)
I've been thinking lately about a new "concept" for this blog. A redesign, getting it off blogspot, and putting in more personal updates along the lines of what my old journal used to be. I hope I'll do this sometime in the reasonably near future. Right now, I have to decide whether I can wear jeans to work today.
A PACIFIST IN THE ARMY: This guy sounds almost as stupid as the human shields who voluntarily went to Iraq. His explanation of why he joined the army:
"It was the Clinton administration, the economy was strong and war didn't seem to be on the horizon," Travis said. "Not once did any of the recruiters I spoke with mention war, enemy, shooting or death."
The army does war? Why didn't anyone tell me before I signed up?
SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM: It's one of my research areas at work, so I've learned a lot about spam in the past few months. My research has mostly been about how spam affects ISP's, but I've also learned a great deal about how end-users can cope with spam. Late last year, an ubergeek named Paul Graham invented a new way to control spam at the user-level: content based filtering customized to each user. The mechanics of it is explained in his paper A Plan for Spam.
When I searched around a couple of weeks ago, the only downloadable programs were for Unix-based systems and Mac (google "Bayesian spam filter" and you'll find a bunch of options). But yesterday I discovered PopFile, which works on Windows! I downloaded it, but it's still in the training stages, so I can't yet tell you how accurate it is. Since it's customized to each user, you have to spend a couple of days telling it whether each e-mail is spam or not. But Bayesian programs in general claim well over 99% accuracy. The installation process was somewhat complicated, but the website walked me through it with no problems.
In a few days, I'll let you know how it's working.