A Bit About Words — the columnist considers recent objections to something I do in my writing, the use of ‘they’ for a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun. “Since feminist writers drew our attention to the fact that the English language has

deeply ingrained male-biased conventions, those of us with a conscience have tried to find a way of compensating for our lack of a pronoun which applies

equally to male or female referents.” I believe that such sensitivity is important, and that the form as well as the content of good writing can be consciousness-raising. I’ve considered and rejected other proposed alternatives as less preferable to ‘they’. Surprisingly, the objection that this use of ‘they’ is an inelegant modernism is countered in this essay with examples of this usage by preeminent English-language writers dating back five centuries. [via Daily Dean] And more commentary on linguistic artifice. This time from Safire, about, er, archers [via metaforage]

Power failure here in Brookline, Mass. last evening. It hit the neighborhood sometime before we got home from playing in the sprinklers in the park on the first really hot day of the summer season. The power wasn’t restored ’til sometime after 4 a.m. this morning, my laptop’s batteries were run down, I’m not up to wireless posts from my Palm device yet. And, anyway, we liked playing in the dark. That’s why you got no new entries here yesterday.

“Arguably the most interesting and disturbing program on cable television these days…” “A disembodied

late-middle-aged face dominates your tv screen: expressionless

dark eyes under a huge forehead, mouth pursed in what’s either a

smile or a grimace–you never know…. it never

leaves the screen and its expression never changes. … The show’s other component is the soundtrack, which consists of

relentless stream-of-consciousness monologues… in a central or eastern

European accent, against a disturbing ambiance of

satanic-industrial clangings and wind-tunnel moanings.” NY Press [via Robot Wisdom]

The biggest beat of all: “If you’re really into dance music, you probably know two-step garage. If you’re not — if the difference between house and techno seems like little more than

the punchline-ready distinction between country and western — maybe you’ve seen it referenced in a magazine. Maybe it meant something, or maybe you

just wrote it off as another example of dance music’s tendency to spit out new genre names as signifiers of readymade revolution. Either way, two-step is a

legitimately distinctive new style that owes a lot to drum ‘n’ bass and the futuristic minimalism that dominates American pop and R&B. But its debt extends

equally to every other strain of dance music that has cropped up in the past 25 years. Giddy disco, soulful house, mechanistic techno, rhythm-crazed

hardcore, bouncy Jamaican dancehall, big-bottomed Miami bass, gin-sipping G-funk, glitchy ambience — they’re all there.” Salon

The Budget Traveller’s Guide to Sleeping in Airports. “For travellers who are really on a budget and are looking for a way to skim a few bucks off their travelling expenses, why not consider sleeping

in an airport? Many airports are actually better than local lodging. And to top it off — it’s free! Your friends and family may look at you funny

when you return with your airport stories, but that’s only part of the fun.”

‘The More Things Change’ Dept: With Shiver of Fear, Russians Sense a Return to Police-State Ways. “It is not an easy thing to quantify, much less to prove.

But among intellectuals and activists here who advocate a

democratic Russia in the Western mode, a gnawing concern is

arising that the relative freedom from state surveillance and

restriction that citizens have relished in the last decade may be

drawing to a close.” What do you expect after choosing a former KGB officer who was director of the Federal

Security Service as President? At least here in the U.S. we’ve got a bumbling ne’er-do-well businessman instead… And:

China is conducting the largest crackdown on

Internet cafés
since the Web came to the country, the Internet

edition of the Shenzhen Legal Daily reported Thursday… The crackdown hits the main way rural Chinese reach the web. International Herald Tribune

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting focuses on Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans. The Sunday Times commented, “A blazing example of what online journalism should be, using a website’s freedom to set the agenda and its limitless space to explore the issues.”

Burning now an option to clean up ocean oil spills previously thought incombustible — Every time there’s been a major catastrophic oil spill, you could’ve found me wandering around with a numbed look (different from my usual numbed look) and wondering with anyone who would listen to me why they couldn’t dispose of the oil slick by igniting it. Now,

“…researchers have shown in laboratory experiments that some open water oil spills previously thought to be

incombustible potentially can be cleaned up via burning, the most efficient, rapid and environmentally friendly option…. When feasible, it is an

inexpensive technique that can have a very high efficiency of removal, possibly greater than 99 percent. The burning is very rapid and any

resulting ecological damage is less severe compared to conventional oil removal methods.

However, the window of opportunity for using burning is often limited by wave and wind conditions and by the proximity of the spill to

populated areas. In addition, over time, oil spilled at sea becomes mixed with water forming an emulsion that is difficult or impossible to ignite.

Now, Penn State researchers have widened the applicability of burning by showing that diesel fuel emulsions up to 80 percent water and crude

oil emulsions up to 35 percent water can be ignited. In laboratory experiments, they demonstrated that positioning an external radiant heat

source near the spill facilitates ignition. In addition, they have developed simple charts for use as a quick reference to determine the minimum

external heat source needed to facilitate burning.” EurekAlert!

Phil Jackson’s Book Club: “Nietzsche may not seem like typical bedside reading for Shaquille O’Neal, the NBA’s dominant center, but unorthodox Lakers coach Phil Jackson thinks

there’s something in Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is to enrich Shaq’s game, both on and off the court. Jackson drives his team toward mastering

the spiritual and physical components of the game and each season supplies a recommended reading list to his team, matching a specific book–from

philosophy and biographies to mysteries and literary fiction–with each player and assistant coach. Phil Jackson shared his recommendations with


Putting Digital Pen to Paper: “The president and CEO of Anoto wants to make sure you’ll

always have a digital copy of anything you write, even if

it’s on a Post-it note… By combining a digital pen with a

Bluetooth wireless radio link, a miniature

camera and a piece of paper marked with

a faint pattern of coordinates, (he) has developed a way to

record handwriting and transmit it as a

fax, e-mail message or a text message

via wireless phone or personal digital

assistant… ‘You will use this pen the way you use any

other pen. The only difference is that you will

always have a digital copy of anything you write.’ The Industry Standard

Q: How do you pass off a cancer-reducing

mobile add-on?
“The cancer issue – quite rightly – won’t go away. For every study

concluding that phones pose no risk, there is another saying they

can cause brain tumours… The controversy continues over reports that mobile phone

manufacturers have patented cancer-reducing add-ons, when they

claim there is no risk to humans from the phones.” The Register

Since being mugged in Toronto

two years ago, his past has been a blank. And no one

has come forward to identify him. Is there anybody can tell me who I am?

“I, a person suffering from amnesia, in the City of Vancouver,”

begins one of the more unusual affidavits to come before the

Canadian courts in recent years. It was a statement of a man

who may or may not be 26, who may or may not be British, and

who may or may not be named Philip Staufen. All he knows, in

the words of the affidavit, is the following: “I am a white male,

Caucasian, about five feet, nine inches. I weigh 150lbs. I have no

visible marks on my body. I have no memory of any events prior

to waking up in the hospital in November of 1999.”

The man stumbled into Toronto general hospital with a bloody

face, a damaged nose, a British accent with perhaps a hint of

Yorkshire in it, and very little else. No wallet, no identification

and no idea who he was. His hair was dyed blond and his

clothes were from brands available anywhere in the world, with

no identifying labels. When the hospital authorities insisted he

provide a date of birth and name, any name, before they could

treat him, he came up with the first name that flashed across his

mind, Philip Staufen, and the first date he could think of, June 7


The Guardian UK

New Cell Standard: Goodbye, WAP? “The world’s leading mobile phone makers and operators introduced an industry-wide initiative

Wednesday that they hope will bring true Internet functionality to next-generation cell phones and lay the

ghost of past failures.” Wired

Palm to split — official. The troubled company will rid itself of either its software or its hardware business, says CEO. He just won’t say which yet. And, dealing with the glut in inventory of existing models caused by the sudden downturn in the PDA market just as it rolled out a new range of products, Palm gave attendees at a developers’ conference in Orange County free wireless-enabled Palm VIIx’s and a free month’s subscription to Palm.net. The Register

“Next time you use your StarTac,

remember Patrice Lumumba.

The full story behind the Congo’s

bloody mineral trade
… Tantalum – the refined extract of Columbite-tantalite (coltan for short)- is a hot product. It’s used in everything

from mobile phones made by Nokia and Ericsson to computer chips made by Intel, according to the Industry Standard. The

Congo supplies 7% of the world’s tantalum, and demand is only growing. Almost all the Congolese tantalum comes from

rebel-controlled coltan mines where they maintain brutal control over the local population. According to the Industry

Standard, the rebels have earned millions of dollars from western technology companies who have so far done little to

avoid purchasing “conflict” tantalum. A recent UN report called the companies trading minerals in the Congo ‘the engines

of conflict in the DRC.’ ” NoLogo

Adbusters: July 4th — “Where yesterday flew the Stars-and-Stripes, today will fly the

Brands-and-Bands. Some will wave it at the head of parades, some will

swap it for Old Glory in front of the Wal-Mart or City Hall, some will unfurl

it from highway overpasses. Some have even promised to paint it on the

side of their houses.”