Sunday, January 30, 2005

RSS Aggregators - The better way to read blogs

I've had several conversations with different people recently about RSS and RSS aggregators like bloglines. I thought I'd post a summary of info about these things in case any of you reading this are interested in making your blog reading easier and more enjoyable.

First, what is RSS?

RSS or Really Simple Syndication is a family of XML-based communications standards with the following members:

Functionally, RSS (pronounced "arr-ess-ess") is a web syndication protocol primarily used by news websites and weblogs.

Second, what is an RSS aggregator?

A program known as an RSS aggregator or feed reader can check RSS-enabled webpages on behalf of a user and display any updated articles that it finds.

Why should you care? RSS saves users from having to repeatedly visit favorite websites to check for new content or be notified of updates via email.

See the RSS entry in the wikipedia for more info if you'd like to dig deeper.

RSS aggregators come in two basic flavors. The first is is an application that sits on your desktop (tied to a specific computer) and aggregates your RSS feeds and presents them to you. The second type is web sites that act as your aggregator and when you sign in to them (doesn't matter what computer you're using) the web site will present your RSS feeds to you. I'm a big fan of the second type of RSS aggregator because the web version is available anywhere. You can check your feeds from work, home and other computers if you're traveling.

For the most comprehensive list of RSS aggregators I've seen see this wikipedia page. The RSS aggregator I use is It's very easy to register and subscribe to your feeds.

How do I subscribe to a feed? Most sites that provide an RSS feed will have an image link on the page that looks like this . If you find this link simply copy the link location or address and enter that in your RSS tool for the link feed location. If you don't find a link like this try just putting the URL of the blog in as the location or address of the feed.

In the case of my blog you can use either

Have fun. Let me know if you have any problems setting this up.

Winter Kiting

Taking a break on Lake Calhoun Posted by Hello

I decided to post this picture as a reminder to myslef sometime next summer of how nice it is to live in MN in the winter :)

This picture is from January 23, 2005 while I was trying to kite surf on frozen Lake Calhoun. I say "trying to kite surf" because I'm still learning and spend most of my time sitting on my butt trying to figure out how to balance all of the different forces involved. This learning process can be a bit painful but fun at the same time.

Are you a Geo-Green?

I have to say this argument makes a lot of sense but I really can't imagine the Bush administration going anywhere close to this direction. Moving beyond the Bush administration, how would you ever get Americans (who as a group are into short term satisfaction) to take such an approach to long term change? It seems like a tough sell but maybe we'll end up in such a horrible situation someday that this option will start to look much better to many many more people.

January 30, 2005
The Geo-Green Alternative

Davos, Switzerland

One of the most striking things I've found in Europe these past two weeks is the absolute conviction that the Bush team is just itching to invade Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. Psssssssst. Come over here. A little closer. Now listen: Don't tell the Iranians this, but the Bush team isn't going to be invading anybody. We don't have enough troops to finish the job in Iraq. Our military budget is completely maxed out. We couldn't invade Grenada today. If Iran is to forgo developing nuclear weapons, it will only be because the Europeans' diplomatic approach manages to persuade Tehran to do so.

For two years the Europeans have been telling the Bush administration that its use of force to prevent states from developing nuclear weapons has been a failure in Iraq and that the Europeans have a better way - multilateral diplomacy using carrots and sticks. Well, Europe, as we say in American baseball, "You're up."

"I think this is an absolute test case for Europe's ability to lay out its own idea for a joint agenda with the United States to deal with a problem like Iran," said the Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash, author of "Free World: America, Europe and the Surprising Future of the West." "O.K., we think bombing Iran is a bad idea. What is a good idea?" For the Europeans to be successful, though, Mr. Ash said, they can't just be offering carrots. They have to credibly convey to Iran that they will wield their own stick. They have to credibly convey that they will refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for real sanctions, if it is unwilling to strike a deal involving nuclear inspections in return for normalized economic relations with the West.

"Very often there is the notion that Europe is the soft cop and the U.S. is the hard cop," Mr. Ash said. "Here it must be the other way around. Europe has to talk as credibly about using economic sanctions as some in Washington have talked about using military force."

The U.S. has to help. The carrot the Iranians want for abandoning their nuclear program is not just unfettered trade with the West, but some kind of assurances that if they give up their nuclear research programs, the U.S. will agree to some kind of nonaggression accord. The Bush team has been reluctant to do this, because it wants regime change in Iran. (This is a mistake; we need to concentrate for now on changing the behavior of the Iranian regime and strengthening the reformers, and letting them handle the regime change.)

If multilateral diplomacy is to work to defuse the brewing Iran nuclear crisis, "the Europeans have to offer a more credible stick and the Americans need to offer a more credible carrot," Mr. Ash said. But the Europeans are not good at credibly threatening force.

That's why this is a serious moment. If Britain, France and Germany, which are spearheading Europe's negotiations with Iran, fail, and if the U.S. use of force in Iraq (even if it succeeds) proves way too messy, expensive and dangerous to be repeated anytime soon, where are we? Is there any other way the West can promote real reform in the Arab-Muslim world?

Yes, there is an alternative to the Euro-wimps and the neocons, and it is the "geo-greens." I am a geo-green. The geo-greens believe that, going forward, if we put all our focus on reducing the price of oil - by conservation, by developing renewable and alternative energies and by expanding nuclear power - we will force more reform than by any other strategy. You give me $18-a-barrel oil and I will give you political and economic reform from Algeria to Iran. All these regimes have huge population bubbles and too few jobs. They make up the gap with oil revenues. Shrink the oil revenue and they will have to open up their economies and their schools and liberate their women so that their people can compete. It is that simple.

By refusing to rein in U.S. energy consumption, the Bush team is not only depriving itself of the most effective lever for promoting internally driven reform in the Middle East, it is also depriving itself of any military option. As Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, points out, given today's tight oil market and current U.S. consumption patterns, any kind of U.S. strike on Iran, one of the world's major oil producers, would send the price of oil through the roof, causing real problems for our economy. "Our own energy policy has tied our hands," Mr. Haass said.

The Bush team's laudable desire to promote sustained reform in the Middle East will never succeed unless it moves from neocon to geo-green.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Physicists Getting Excited

I have to say I'm one of them. I'm not really well educated in the world of physics and math but I love studying, learning about and contemplating things such as cosmology (no, not cosmetology) and the origins of the universe. For anyone else that is interested in this be sure to take a look at the PBS Nova series called The Elegant Universe. This 3 part show provides an introduction to Einstein's relativity, quantum mechanics, the problems that are presented by these two theories and String theory's attempt to unify the two.

Watching this show raises more questions for me than it answers - but that's why it's fun. The questions are big ones such as: What is the universe? What is God? If there is something beyond our universe what does the universe exist within? What is bigger than the universe? These questions are ones that really make my brain start to hurt after a little while. I can only take it for so long but I enjoy it.

Economics, Markets and Politics

As I started reading this article I really had no idea what the author's point and political perspective was. I was pretty confused. He seemed to be spinning something that was new, at least to me, so I kept reading.

I really don't have the same level of trust in free markets and capitalism as the author. I'm a bit more skeptical. However, I have to admit that I've never really studied economics and/or it's effect on politics. I do find that authors general premise that free markets lead to free thinking and hence democracy. Sure, sometimes it takes a little while (or a long while) but there is a flow in that direction when economics are leading the way. China is no small test bed of this theory now and in the years to come.
January 28, 2005
The Market Shall Set You Free

Princeton, N.J.

LAST week President Bush again laid out a faith-based view of the world and again took heat for it. Human history, the president said in his inaugural address, "has a visible direction, set by liberty and the author of liberty." Accordingly, America will pursue "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world" - and Mr. Bush has "complete confidence" of success. Critics on the left and right warned against grounding foreign policy in such naïve optimism (a world without tyrants?) and such unbounded faith.

But the problem with the speech is actually the opposite. Mr. Bush has too little hope, and too little faith. He underestimates the impetus behind freedom and so doesn't see how powerfully it imparts a "visible direction" to history. This lack of faith helps explain some of his biggest foreign policy failures and suggests that there are more to come.

Oddly, the underlying problem is that this Republican president doesn't appreciate free markets. Mr. Bush doesn't see how capitalism helps drive history toward freedom via an algorithm that for all we know is divinely designed and is in any event awesomely elegant. Namely: Capitalism's pre-eminence as a wealth generator means that every tyrant has to either embrace free markets or fall slowly into economic oblivion; but for markets to work, citizens need access to information technology and the freedom to use it - and that means having political power.

This link between economic and political liberty has been extolled by conservative thinkers for centuries, but the microelectronic age has strengthened it. Even China's deftly capitalist-yet-authoritarian government - which embraces technology while blocking Web sites and censoring chat groups - is doomed to fail in the long run. China is increasingly porous to news and ideas, and its high-tech political ferment goes beyond online debates. Last year a government official treated a blue-collar worker high-handedly in a sidewalk encounter and set off a riot - after news of the incident spread by cell phones and text messaging.

You won't hear much about such progress from neoconservatives, who prefer to stress how desperately the global fight for freedom needs American power behind it (and who last week raved about an inaugural speech that vowed to furnish this power). And, to be sure, neoconservatives can rightly point to lots of oppression and brutality in China and elsewhere - as can liberal human-rights activists. But anyone who talks as if Chinese freedom hasn't grown since China went capitalist is evincing a hazy historical memory and, however obliquely, is abetting war. Right-wing hawks thrive on depicting tyranny as a force of nature, when in fact nature is working toward its demise.

The president said last week that military force isn't the principal lever he would use to punish tyrants. But that mainly leaves economic levers, like sanctions and exclusion from the World Trade Organization. Given that involvement in the larger capitalist world is time-release poison for tyranny, impeding this involvement is an odd way to aid history's march toward freedom. Four decades of economic isolation have transformed Fidel Castro from a young, fiery dictator into an old, fiery dictator.

Economic exclusion is especially perverse in cases where inclusion could work as a carrot. Suppose, for example, that a malignant authoritarian regime was developing nuclear weapons and you might stop it by offering membership in the W.T.O. It's a twofer - you draw tyrants into a web of commerce that will ultimately spell their doom, and they pay for the privilege by disarming. What president could resist that?

Correct! President Bush is sitting on the sidelines scowling as the European Union tries to strike that very bargain with Iran.

It's possible that skepticism about the European initiative is justified - that Iran, in the end, would rather have the bomb than a seat in the W.T.O. But there's one way for the Bush administration to find out: Outline a highly intrusive arms inspection regime and say that the United States will support W.T.O. membership if the inspectors find no weapons program (or if Iran fesses up) and are allowed to set up long-term monitoring.

There are various explanations for Mr. Bush's position. Maybe some in the administration fear losing a rationale for invading Iran. Maybe the administration is ideologically opposed to arms control agreements (a strange position, post-9/11). But part of the problem seems to be that Mr. Bush doesn't grasp the liberating power of capitalism, the lethal effect of luring authoritarian regimes into the modern world of free markets and free minds.

That would help explain the amazing four-year paralysis of America's North Korea policy. Reluctant to invade, yet allergic to "rewarding" tyrants with economic incentives and international engagement, the president sat by while North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, apparently built up a nuclear arsenal. Now, with Iran no more than a few years from having the bomb, we're watching this movie again. And it may be a double feature: the inertia we saw in North Korea followed by the war we've seen in Iraq. With Iraq and Iran in flames (live, on Al Jazeera!) and Mr. Kim coolly stockpiling nukes, President Bush will have hit the axis-of-evil trifecta.

Pundits have mined Mr. Bush's inaugural address for literary antecedents - Kennedy here, Lincoln there, a trace of Truman. But some of it was pure Bill Clinton. Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton said that history was on freedom's side and stressed that freedom abroad serves America's interests. But he also saw - and explicitly articulated - something absent from Mr. Bush's inaugural vision: the tight link between economic and political liberty in the information age, the essentially redeeming effect of globalization. That's one reason Mr. Clinton defied intraparty opposition to keep commerce with China and other nations strong.

In the wake of John Kerry's defeat, Democrats have been searching for a new foreign policy vision. But Mr. Clinton laid down as solid a template for post-9/11 policy as you could expect from a pre-9/11 president.

First, fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction, which means, among other things, making arms inspections innovatively intrusive, as in the landmark Chemical Weapons Convention that President Clinton signed (and that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et. al., opposed). Second, pursue terrorist networks overtly and covertly (something Mr. Clinton did more aggressively than the pre-9/11 Bush administration). Third, make America liked and respected abroad (as opposed to, say, loathed and reviled). Fourth, seek lasting peace in the Middle East (something Mr. Bush keeps putting off until after the next war).

And finally, help the world mature into a comprehensive community of nations - bound by economic interdependence and a commitment to liberty, and cooperating in the global struggle against terrorism and in law enforcement generally.

But in pursuing that last goal, respect and harness the forces in your favor. Give history some guidance, but resist the flattering delusion that you're its pilot. Don't take military and economic weapons off the table, but appreciate how sparingly you can use them when the architect of history is on your side. Have a little faith.

Robert Wright, a fellow at Princeton University's Center for Human Values and at the New America Foundation, is the author of "Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny."

The Secret Lives of Just About Everybody

The article "The Secret Lives of Just About Everybody" was originally published in the NYTimes on January 11, 2005. You can see the entire article for free here.

One of the things that occurred to me while on my trip to Cancun a couple of weeks ago is how Cancun seems to cater to the tourist that wants to go on vacation and create a "secret life". This is the way I thought of it while I was in Mexico. I used terms like "other identity" and "secret self" but it's pretty much all the same thing. The same thing seems to be what Las Vegas is building it's image around - "What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas." It seems that going on vacation and creating a secret life is pretty harmless and I'd agree that for the most part it is. However, problems can arise when those secret lives go against a persons core values or promises made in their other realities (usually that the traveler will return to after the vacation). I think these are the types of secret lives that the author is referring to when they say "When exposure of a secret life will destroy or forever poison the public one, people must either come clean and choose, or risk mental breakdown, many therapists say." This is the type of article that I think can make anyone reading it take a serious look at themselves and ask "what secrets am I keeping inside that are taking a little out of me each day?" It can be scary. Sometimes the secrets are kept from oneself and sometimes they are kept from a dear loved one. Being honest with yourself seems like the first step.

Cubicle side-effects

I'm sure that by now most of you have heard about the study out the Mayo clinic that shows that fidgetiness has a correlation with how much excess weight people have stored up in their bodies. If not check out this article here.

I'm sure most everyone has their own opinions about what this means for themselves and others around them. What this news made me think of was the first time I was able to sit in a car for more than 4 hours without needing to get out and run around for a little while. I remember it pretty well. I started my first ever "office job" in November 1997. About 3-4 months later I took a road trip that was about a 4-5 hour drive. I remember being quite surprised when I made it to my destination (driving by myself) without stopping the entire trip. The gas tank was just about empty and my bladder was full but I didn't have the feeling that I "must move now or my body is going to explode" that I'd always experienced prior to this day when stuck in one seated position for more than 2 hours. Since that day in March 1998 I've had many more road trips and plane rides. Each time the experience is a bit different. Sometimes I get the need to move much stronger than others. The only explanation I've every been able to come up with is that sitting for hours on end in my cube has trained my body to ignore the screaming need for movement. Although convenient at times, this is not something that puts a smile on my face. If anything it makes me start to feel like I'm putting one foot in the grave.

A9 start to differentiate

Check out the following article about the new Yellow Pages on,1759,1755463,00.asp

Also take a look at how they did it here

I think the most interesting feature is the click-to-call capability that uses VOIP to connect the person browsing the yellow pages with the store/merchant. There are certainly a lot more features worth checking out such as the ability for people to review the store and that business owners can update the information about their listing.

If you have any favorite places in the cities where images are available take a look. It's kind of fun to see these places and then be able to walk down the street to see what is next door.

I'd love it if they added functionality so I could make the A9 yellow pages my home page and each time I see the page the search results of some random category search are displayed for my chosen zip code. I think it would be a great way to get to know the businesses in my neighborhood that I would otherwise never discover.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I don't want Mommy!

This op-ed piece was in the NYTimes a couple of weeks ago and I thought it was worth noting and commenting on. My comments on this one aren't going to be all that well organized, sorry for that.
The author’s comments about the movie "Love Actually" made me step back and look at that movie a little differently. I have to say that "Love Actually" is one of my favorite movies from the last few years. It is a movie that gave me hope in the power of love - maybe this was a foolish conclusion for me to come to but I couldn't help but feeling better after seeing that movie and I have to admit that I even shed a tear while watching it the first time. Something that happens maybe once every couple of years. On some level it horrifies me that I was so taken by the love stories inter-tangled in "Love Actually" now that this light has been shed on the movie's theme. I have to say that the "Tracy/Hepburn" model of equals is something that appeals to my conscious/logical mind more than the "marry your PR assistant" model. It makes me take a pretty deep gut check.

I found the following line interesting for several reasons:
"Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them."
I just don't understand how the researchers or the men they were studying make the leap to this conclusion. Why would a woman with an important job be more likely to cheat? Anyone have any insight into this one?
I realize that this article is full of generalization about both men and women that are obviously not true about everyone. However, it’s a good place to start bouncing these ideas around.

NYTimes Article starts here:
January 13, 2005

Men Just Want Mommy



A few years ago at a White House Correspondents' dinner, I met a very beautiful actress. Within moments, she blurted out: "I can't believe I'm 46 and not married. Men only want to marry their personal assistants or P.R. women."

I'd been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with the young women whose job it was to tend to them and care for them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers.

Women in staff support are the new sirens because, as a guy I know put it, they look upon the men they work for as "the moon, the sun and the stars." It's all about orbiting, serving and salaaming their Sun Gods.

In all those great Tracy/Hepburn movies more than a half-century ago, it was the snap and crackle of a romance between equals that was so exciting. Moviemakers these days seem far more interested in the soothing aura of romances between unequals.

In James Brooks's "Spanglish," Adam Sandler, as a Los Angeles chef, falls for his hot Mexican maid. The maid, who cleans up after Mr. Sandler without being able to speak English, is presented as the ideal woman. The wife, played by Téa Leoni, is repellent: a jangly, yakking, overachieving, overexercised, unfaithful, shallow she-monster who has just lost her job with a commercial design firm. Picture Faye Dunaway in "Network" if she'd had to stay home, or Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" without the charm.

The same attraction of unequals animated Richard Curtis's "Love Actually," a 2003 holiday hit. The witty and sophisticated British prime minister, played by Hugh Grant, falls for the chubby girl who wheels the tea and scones into his office. A businessman married to the substantial Emma Thompson falls for his sultry secretary. A writer falls for his maid, who speaks only Portuguese.

(I wonder if the trend in making maids who don't speak English heroines is related to the trend of guys who like to watch Kelly Ripa in the morning with the sound turned off?)

Art is imitating life, turning women who seek equality into selfish narcissists and objects of rejection, rather than affection.

As John Schwartz of The New York Times wrote recently, "Men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses, and evolution may be to blame."

A new study by psychology researchers at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates, suggests that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors.

As Dr. Stephanie Brown, the lead author of the study, summed it up for reporters: "Powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men may prefer to marry less-accomplished women." Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them.

"The hypothesis," Dr. Brown said, "is that there are evolutionary pressures on males to take steps to minimize the risk of raising offspring that are not their own." Women, by contrast, did not show a marked difference in their attraction to men who might work above or below them. And men did not show a preference when it came to one-night stands.

A second study, which was by researchers at four British universities and reported last week, suggested that smart men with demanding jobs would rather have old-fashioned wives, like their mums, than equals. The study found that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to get married, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.

So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? The more women achieve, the less desirable they are? Women want to be in a relationship with guys they can seriously talk to - unfortunately, a lot of those guys want to be in relationships with women they don't have to talk to.

I asked the actress and writer Carrie Fisher, on the East Coast to promote her novel "The Best Awful," who confirmed that women who challenge men are in trouble.

"I haven't dated in 12 million years," she said drily. "I gave up on dating powerful men because they wanted to date women in the service professions. So I decided to date guys in the service professions. But then I found out that kings want to be treated like kings, and consorts want to be treated like kings, too."


Monday, January 24, 2005

Spanish Class

I just attended the first session of an introductory Spanish class that I've signed up for. My recent trip to Mexico provided an opportunity to use the little bit of Spanish that I know and has inspired me to try to build on it. I'm curious to see if the momentum carries forward or if my experience with learning languages repeats itself again. Usually at some point I start to feel like I'm falling behind the pace of the class and I get pretty lost and confused.

We'll see what happens!

89.3 The Current

MPR has really come through with the new 89.3 The Current. This is the first day this new MPR station is broadcasting and the overall quality of Twin Cities radio has just taken a major step up and forward. This reminds me of a mix of the best of the old 89.9 KMOJ and Rev 105. Some names you may recognize from those stations that are hosting shows on 89.3 are Mark Wheat and Mary Lucia.

Take a listen at 89.3 and check out the program schedule at

It will make you smile and improve your day!

If you really dig it you can become a founding member at for only $10 a month. Hard to beat the music and programming you get for you $ that way. If you're not already a member what are you waiting for?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Picasa and Hello

As any of you that are reading this can probably tell I just figured out how to put photos on my blog. The tools I'm using to do this are really cool! and they're from Google!

The tools I'm using are Picasa for photo editing and Hello for integration with my blog (hosted by Blogspot). Very easy to use!

Here are the links to relevant sites. or

If any of this interests you take a look!

One of the reasons I don't play soccer anymore!

Hardware in my ankle. Posted by Hello

This image has always fascinated me. One reason is that 5 of these 7 screws are still in my right ankle. The top closest to my foot were removed because they were sticking out a bit and if I wore a high cut shoe (such as hiking boots) they would rub on the shoe and cause me discomfort. Kind of gross I know, but such is life.

Image from inside the Pyramid of Kukulkan. Posted by Hello

This image is from inside the Pyramid of Kukulkan and shows the cramped space. It was very hot and humid inside and smelled a bit funny. All though this environment created a lot of stress for people that are prone to claustrophobia it was quite impressive. It took a fair amount of self discipline to step back from the stress of the moment and all the people and take the scene in.

Trip to Mexico

Pyramid in Chichen Itza Posted by Hello

I've been away from my bolg for a while for a couple of reasons. One is that I've been traveling a fair amount recently and it's been a bit difficult to find the time and energy to follow through on posts. I decided that a fun way to re-enter in to the blog world would be to share a picture from my trip to Mexico. This is a picture from a Maya ruin in Mexico called Chichen Itza. The structure in the picture is called the Pyramid of Kukulkan or El Castillo. Of all the Mayan ruins we saw this structure was the most impressive and also the most well-restored. It was quite impressive to climb to the top and also to go inside. If you have a chance I'd recommend going to check this one out.