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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Things Aint What They Used To Be

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Center for Digital Media and Learning has published the findings of its three-year ethnographic study of youth and digital culture. There's great stuff in here, like this description of a 17 year-old romantic couple who use a variety of technologies to be in constant contact with each other:
Each day, the couple wakes up together by logging onto MSN to talk between taking their showers and doing their hair. They then switch to conversing over their mobile phones as they travel to school, exchanging text messages throughout the school day. After school they tend to get together to do their homework, during which they talk and play a video game. When not together, they continue to talk on the phone and typically end the night on the phone or sending a text message to say good night and “I love you."
If these technologies had been available when I was in high school, I would have used them like a fiend. The important finding of the study, though, is that the technologies don't create new relationships, only extend and enhance existing ones.

Here's the lead researcher, Mizuko Ito, explaining some of the findings.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 3:31 PM | link | 0 comments |

Slip of the Tongue

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

As she stood fumbling with the microphone and facing he fellow Presbyterian Women, I know the greeter had too much to think about to be overly careful about her introduction of the guest speaker from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

So when she introduced him by saying, "He's worked for years on the Presbyterian disaster" I could either chuckle or suspect her as an insurgent from The Layman.

Chuckle. Chuckle.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 11:14 AM | link | 0 comments |

In Praise of Newsprint

Monday, November 17, 2008

Andrew Sullivan links today to a quote by Rupert Murdoch in which the global media tycoon assesses the prospects for the future of newspapers. The long-and-short of it is that newspapers are evolving to meet the demands of an information-hungry public, becoming less newspapers and more newsbrands. Assumed in this prognosis is the continued decline of actual subscriptions to actual newspapers. Nobody disputes this.

I've been subscribing to my local paper four days a week for almost two months now. It's the first time in years that I've paid for a paper. I justified the expense (which I incurred at the hands of a salesman in the grocery store) with a less-than-humble recognition that to be a subscriber to a major west coast daily confers upon one an inarguable aura of coolness. Still, my subscription to the paper is shaping up to be a very positive force on my life. I even mentioned to m'lady this morning that upgrading the subscription to every day might be worth it.

Here it is: the paper's website is set as my browser homepage, but I probably read one story for every 10 headlines I see there. With the printed version in my hand, it's much easier for me to begin to read a story with a headline I find less-than-captivating, then discover, two paragraphs in, that I'm hooked by a good story and end up reading the whole thing. When I arrive at the final sentence, I feel good: like I just learned something or flexed some otherwise atrophied muscle in my brain. I don't get that feeling from hypertext, even if I read the whole story.

Also, I can go back to a story in the paper that I passed over earlier. Maybe I was in a rush, or maybe I was just skimming to see what's in there, but I didn't read the story. I saw it, though, and now I remember it's there, and I'm gonna go find it and at least begin to read it. Online, that won't ever happen. If I skip the headline once, it's gone. I've clicked on something else or linked to another site, and I may never see that headline again. If I do see it again (say, the next time I open my browser) I'll hardly notice it.

Just saying, I like holding the paper in my hand. The little ritual of reading the paper is creeping its way into my routine, and, I must say, I quite like it.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 12:11 PM | link | 1 comments |

Landonville and Kairosblog Return

posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:51 AM | link | 4 comments |

Dayton Moore Isn't Stupid

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Last week NPH's affliction of a baseball team made a trade for a free swinging, power hitting first baseman. News of the trade had hardly hit cyberspace before the army of Royals bloggers were on it, decrying it as a meaningless, if not foolish move (I'd link to the posts, but they're long on letters and short on nuance). I don't let the ability to publish on a blog delude me into thinking I know a durn thing about this business, and I have no reason to doubt that people like Rany Jazayerli know exactly what they're talking about. But they've reduced the game of baseball to a mathematic equation in which the correct compilation of digits--percentages! percentages!--will automatically churn out a playoff team.

The surprising low budget success of the Oakland Athletics and Billy Beane, as chronicled by Michael Lewis' engrossing book Moneyball, has spawned a generation of stathead baseball fans who have a higher reverence for Bill James than for Babe Ruth. I'm fascinated by what Beane was able to do in Oakland. It heralded a new era in baseball, really, one in which a player's performance is seen less in terms of potential and more in terms of the raw data of his production. And there's a new statistical formula for assessing that production engineered every day: VORP, OPS, OBP--take your pick.

So when Dayton Moore said that the Royals' offense needed to address its very, very bad On Base Percentage (OBP), the bloggers shouted in acclamation. It shan't be long, they opined, before Kansas City has its own wonder of calculus on the diamond. But then he traded for Jacobs, a player who's OBP is really terrible. Out came the torches.

Moore became the GM of the Royals in the middle of the 2006 season, and I've already chronicled the team's improvement since his arrival. That, to me, buys him a lot of credit, because the teams he's run out there every summer have been different from one another in minimal respects (add a Gil Meche and Jose Guillen here, take away an Angel Berroa there). And yet they're getting better.

What blogger-dom seems not to perceive is that Moore is trying to build an excellent organization, not simply a feel good story of unappreciated talents mined for their maximum potential. So given the chance to acquire a raw, power hitting first baseman who never walks but who could hit 30 homers a year for well into the team's future, he'll scrap the stat and nab the player. Then he'll address On Base Percentage some other way; just maybe he's got a plan to improve Jacobs' OBP.

Beane's A's won lots of games and a few division titles. But they barely sniffed the World Series for all those wins. That, for Moore, is not a model to emulate. After all, Moore cut his teeth in Atlanta, where the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles, a span in which they went to the World Series five times.

I'm operating from a different assumption than the one animating bloggers' twitchy fingers: Dayton Moore knows more than they do.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:03 PM | link | 2 comments |

"That Doesn't Look Like A Riot to Me"

Monday, November 10, 2008

California's Proposition 8 passed last week, eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state. Beginning the day after the election, opponents of the measure, upset by the outcome, began gathering in vigil and protest, most notably in front of the LDS church in Westwood. They're upset by the support that church provided to the passage of the proposition.

Over the weekend someone emailed me a "news bulletin" claiming that Christians were being targeted with threats of violence by these protesters. The story came from World Net Daily featured the headline: "'Gay' threats target Christians over marriage ban." The story's evidence of that serious claim? A comment left on a single blog.

By contrast, the LA Times coverage of the protests has asserted things like,
Police guided the demonstrators through the streets for more than three hours without major confrontations. No arrests were reported.
Then yesterday the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins went on CNN and claimed that the protesters were "rioting." The remark comes at about 2:55.


When asked "Where were the riots," Perkins answers, "There were arrests the other night."

Do the math: some arrests=a riot.

No matter how you come out on this issue, it is certainly disconcerting to see people who's position is based wholly on moral conviction demonstrating such a callous disregard for the truth.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 11:55 AM | link | 0 comments |

Bagging for Biden: It's All Over (And It's Only Just Begun)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Biden is the Vice President.

Be still, my beating heart.


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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:42 PM | link | 3 comments |

Nothing Is More Than Something

Monday, November 03, 2008

With the downturn in the economy, churches are receiving more and more phone calls from people asking for help. Most of these calls, at least in my church's case, come from people outside the congregation, people who, more likely than not, found a listing in a phone book and cold called with a story and a plea: the mortgage is due; the electricity is being disconnected; the car needs gas.

Whoever fields these calls wants to help. We all feel a powerful pull to help, to wave a magic charity wand and fix the situation. If we could, we would become need technicians, men and women who know just which button to push to get the bank of the single mother's back or put some petrol in the family Chevy. We could traffic in gas and grocery gift cards, vouchers for services, memorandums of understanding with utility companies, and so salvage situation after situation from the brink of catastrophe.

There is some success to be had here. But it is a grudging success that comes with the tacit expectation that the next billing cycle will bring the same panicked phone call from the same person. Regardless, it's success worth aiming for, because if you can keep a family's water from being shut off you should.

But I'm realizing--sloooowly--that there's a lot more work to be done in these kinds of situations and a whole lot less workers. If you need food, there are innumerable food pantries around. Clothes? No problem: charities are overflowing with donations. Even medical care can be provided for those who have absolutely nothing.

If you have something, though, and you're scraping and clawing to hold on to it, then you're much, much harder to help. There really aren't any organizations to help you pay your rent, and in the end the utility company is going to collect its money from somebody. Because it costs a lot more to keep people in homes and cars than it does to simply give them food, clothing, and a night's shelter. If you're homeless, we can help you; if you're trying to avoid becoming homeless, we're mostly stuck.

Once you've been evicted, though, and the car has been repossessed, come see us and we'll give you some non-perishables.

It makes one sick with helplessness.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 11:43 AM | link | 0 comments |