Life is a Mystery

29 June 2008 . Comments Off on Knowing ourselves and each other

Knowing ourselves and each other

How much can we learn about each other on Facebook? It turns out, quite a bit!

The findings, in a nutshell, are:

  • People get each other;
    SNW profile owners are generally seen by others as they see themselves (i.e. impression agreement was substantial)
  • People on Facebook get each other;
    Impression agreement was associated with context (agreement was stronger on the basis of Facebook profiles than on YouJustGetMe profiles)
  • Women are better guessers and easier to guess than men (random assignment);
    within the context in which raters were judging unknown targets (i.e., YouJustGetMe profiles), women were better raters than men and were rated with higher levels of agreement than men
  • Some profile elements provide better clues than others;
    several specific elements of the profiles were associated with increased or diminished levels of impression agreement.


One of the [other] interesting findings that David revealed was that Facebook reveals more about agreeableness and neuroticism than face-to-face encounters.

29 June 2008 . Comments Off on Chinglish


We like to laugh at malformed English around the world, but what if the last laugh is on us? Andrew points to an article at Wired which describes how English is recombining with other languages, particularly asian languages, to form a new global tongue.

Any language is constantly evolving, so it’s not surprising that English, transplanted to new soil, is bearing unusual fruit. Nor is it unique that a language, spread so far from its homelands, would begin to fracture. The obvious comparison is to Latin, which broke into mutually distinct languages over hundreds of years — French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian. A less familiar example is Arabic: The speakers of its myriad dialects are connected through the written language of the Koran and, more recently, through the homogenized Arabic of Al Jazeera. But what’s happening to English may be its own thing: It’s mingling with so many more local languages than Latin ever did, that it’s on a path toward a global tongue — what’s coming to be known as Panglish. Soon, when Americans travel abroad, one of the languages they’ll have to learn may be their own.

27 June 2008 . Comments Off on We are the light

We are the light

I just looked at a “briefing” by David Plouffe about the state of the Obama campaign, including a plug for more dollars. What caught my eye, though, was the graphic behind Plouffe.


This image includes a light that appears to be rising off the horizon, something like a sunrise. Look closer.


That’s us on the horizon. Its the “little people” who power the campaign. Here figuratively lighting the way. Masterful. The sophistication of the Obama campaign’s manipulation of imagery should scare me, but I find myself just loving it.

27 June 2008 . Comments Off on Every vote counts

Every vote counts

We are used to thinking of presidential elections as strategic chess games. We’ve all become used to the electoral vote calculus, so many votes from this state, so many from that. Safe states (like perhaps Minnesota this year) don’t really matter, their electoral votes are in the bag, while others (like perhaps Ohio) are close enough that their electoral votes are up for grabs.

It appears the Obama campaign is trying to tone down the calculus and make every vote matter. They are building a campaign in all 50 states, even those in which an electoral college victory is hopeless or assured. The message is that the popular vote matters, the margin of victory matters. It is not enough to win, Obama wants to win big, to generate a true mandate.

That is nice to see. That could mean coattails to bring along downticket Democrats (though this is not working in Minnesota yet). More importantly, it means that every vote counts, no matter where you are, get to the polls, Obama needs you there.

26 June 2008 . Comments Off on And continues…

And continues…

The continuing rollout of a more conservative Obama… now noting that he opposes the death penalty ruling of the Supreme Court yesterday:

I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes. I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our Constitution.

It will be a long march to November, I hope he can hold his coalition together even while spouting this stuff. I, for one, am not happy. (Hat tip to Andrew for the link.)

Congratulations to everyone (that’s you Ben!) who made yesterday’s ruling possible!

21 June 2008 . Comments Off on Happy birthday to…

Happy birthday to…

Did you know birthday parties were not common until the 1830s, and even then kids celebrating kids’ birthdays only emerged between 1870 and 1920? Now this is a song many of us hear and sing a few times a year. It is also a song notorious in copyright circles since it generates roughly $2M/year for a subsidiary of Warner Music. Robert Brauneis of GWU Law School took the trouble to dig into the history of the song and found some surprises.

“Happy Birthday to You” is the best-known and most frequently sung song in the world. Many – including Justice Breyer in his dissent in Eldred v. Ashcroft – have portrayed it as an unoriginal work that is hardly worthy of copyright protection, but nonetheless remains under copyright. Yet close historical scrutiny reveals both of those assumptions to be false. The song that became “Happy Birthday to You,” originally written with different lyrics as “Good Morning to All,” was the product of intense creative labor, undertaken with copyright protection in mind. However, it is almost certainly no longer under copyright, due to a lack of evidence about who wrote the words; defective copyright notice; and a failure to file a proper renewal application.

The case turns out to be complicated in a way that will seem all too familiar to anyone who has tried to unravel a copyright history. The difference here is that the object of this copyright is so familiar to us all.

“Happy Birthday to You” is probably one of the few songs that people in the last two generations learned through live performances in family or community settings, and many of the others were likely children’s songs – “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” and the like – that they no longer sing or hear as grown-ups. Thus, for many people — and you, dear reader, should consider whether you are among them — “Happy Birthday to You” is the only secular song passed down through an oral folk song tradition and still sung in adulthood. No wonder it’s a surprise to find that the song is not a folk song of unknown origin. But it’s not.

The article (hat tip to Andrew Sullivan) is accompanied by an impressive web page of documentation, a reminder that we need to find ways to help academics build this kind of record in the humanities as well as the sciences.

20 June 2008 . Comments Off on Now it starts

Now it starts

I’ve been saying to Mary for most of this year, “I love Obama and hope we can elect him president. But if we do, the peace community will be in for a rude surprise, he is not nearly as progressive as he appears.” I’m not sure why I thought that, but my gut tells me it is true. That’s part of what may make him appealing and electable in a general election. The right paints him as a wild lefty, but he isn’t.

Well, the disillusionment starts today. Obama released a statement on FISA that certainly disappoints me. I want Obama to lead the charge against this hijacking of our rights and awful precedent of retrospective immunity for breaking the law. Instead we get this:

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.

He does say that he will “work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses.” But it is clear he will support the bill even if that attempt to remove immunity fails.

Boo, hiss. But my eyes were open when I started supporting Obama, and I will continue to enthusiastically support him. Even though my heart hurts a little bit right now.

20 June 2008 . Comments Off on We can do together…

We can do together…

I just saw this cute button today…


19 June 2008 . Comments Off on Ugly bike

Ugly bike

I love MAKE magazine, and lifehacker points to this nifty article on making your bike too ugly to steal. Makes sense to me. Of course, I hardly have to try, my bike is butt-ugly because I purposely bought an old ugly (but quite functional) bike after my shiny bike was stolen years ago at MIT.

Speaking of my bike, I just got a broken wheel fixed up so I’m ready to ride again! I love the bike shop on our corner, Grand Performance. It is a top-notch serious-peddler store, full of racing bikes and tiny-thin tires, but the folks there are not above treating my ugly city bike with loving kindness and they charge less than the bike chains. If you are ever in the neighborhood, check them out.

19 June 2008 . Comments Off on FISA again!

FISA again!

We just can’t seem to keep the Democratic caucus in Congress from buckling again and again. The one bright spot in their record was their success blocking telcom immunity in a new FISA bill (PDF). Somehow, though, they think a compromise on this issue is necessary and a compromise that would again provide immunity to telecom companies that wiretap Americans for the government without a court order is now to be voted on. Talk about grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory!

Please call Sen. Obama and ask him to provide some leadership in the Senate opposing this new FISA bill: 202-224-2854. Contact your own representatives in Congress and ask them to stop this madness.

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /