Thursday, December 06, 2001
"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."
That's an Oscar Wilde quote from "Quotes of the Day." I know I run a great risk by using it, but most people won't notice because they'll want to quote me on it.
Quotes of the Day
Friday, November 16, 2001
Wednesday, July 25, 2001
I haven't written commentary on this issue because Blogger has been having problems, particularly with templates. I posted this article thinking that I would have commentary later, but I published it because I wanted to have something here to see that Blogger was working before I moved some of my pages to a more logical (and operable) location. Oops! Guess what: I couldn't change the links on the Blogger Template after moving the files. I'd change them manually, but then I wouldn't know when Blogger was fixed -- then I'll have to republish the archives (that repeat the erroneous information, anyway). Condit, FBI negotiate proposed interview
Click here for the story
Police frustrated with lack of help from Levy's neighbors
District police are frustrated . . . by the silence of some of Chandra Levy's neighbors, who investigators believe could provide clues to the missing woman's whereabouts. A half-dozen visits to Levy's apartment building still leave police with "far too many people, more than a handful," who have yet to be interviewed about her disappearance, Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance Gainer said.
Police frustrated with lack of help from Levy's neighbors
Thursday, July 19, 2001
Two more biggies gone
In the latest wave of Internet madness, two very useful services have taken their leave for financial reasons. I hope there is some revenue for them somewhere, and some consolation where some reasons may be personal.
I was trying to think of an image for the great drain on venture capital, but none of them were very attractive and I didn't want to insult anyone -- at least not in such a blunt and direct way. It saddens me to think that fear of losing money is what causes so many losses -- and I guess it's just more visible now -- but the investors aren't the only ones who lose when money and/or carpets are pulled from beneath ventures.
The first one to which I refer is Diggit! Image Search Engine, and while I just thought of a real and practical use for it today (while I thought it was neat and all that), I only played with it because I liked it before. Also in the land of Where can I find it? was All-in-One Search Page whose usefulness is hard to dispute. All search engines don't find the same things in the same way (which can get to be an altogether different subject, but I'll practice some discipline today), so it's nice to have a few pages around that submit your queries to a number of different engines, thereby increasing your odds -- that seem to turn maddeningly on a letter or two.
We'll miss ya, folks . . .
Faisal Jawdat -- I give him his attribution though I have not met him and did not ask his permission -- I think of this as a sort of a referral with a small sample attached. I was impressed by the quote:
Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. For every thing that is given, something is taken. Society aquires new arts, and looses old instincts...The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet ...His notebooks impair his memory; his libraries overload his wit; the insurance office increases the number of accidents; and it may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, by a Christianity entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue....The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume, and do not invigorate men. The harm of the improved machinery may compensate its good.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
. . . which shows just as much in taste for the selector as it does in wit, wisdom and perception in the author.
Credit to Quote File - e
Saturday, July 14, 2001
Anything a little suspicious? No, I don't mean with the story itself -- Am I echoing the Drudge Report? Actually, if you check my blogs, I've been on this story a long time -- and I live in the same neighborhood where Chandra Levy, Joyce Chiang and other victims whose assaults may or may not be related to this case.
I even learned from the staff here that Joyce and her brother Roger lived in my building at one time. Joyce was last seen just a block away from my favorite hangout, Kramerbooks & afterwords, A Café . If I squint a little outside my front door, I can see the bridge that crosses into Georgetown around 22nd & P Streets, NW, not that far from where passersby found Christine Mirzayan’s body in the Summer of 1998 around the 3600 block of Canal Road NW where she apparently died from blows to the head and was cast down a hill covered with ivy, high grasses, shrubs and little trees.
Police don't believe there are any connections between these crimes -- at least that's what they're saying to the press. Who knows what they might or might not disclose in the interests of their own investigative options? Anyway, I don't know whether it's a consolation to feel that this isn't the work of a serial killer. It could be good for Chandra Levy -- if she turns up alive somewhere. On the other hand, it is of little comfort to me that several people may be responsible for any harm to so many respectable young ladies who have such promising futures. If one has to ask, "Who could do such a thing?" doesn't one have to ask also whether it is a whole band of culprits committing crimes with impunity while nobody sees any of their activities? It may be news for a lot of people, but for me it's a neighborhood issue.
Much is made of this lie-detector test as a means of collecting evidence: I don't know how far you could go with such results. Going to an independent examiner, though, is too much like a pre-emptive strike. It is the summary behavior of Condit that looks suspicious and not any particular individual acts.
As to accepting the independent examiner, I have to side with the Police -- it means nothing. There are no controls, nobody really knows how it was conducted -- repetition over a series of trials is very important in order to get accurate results -- and I don't know about anyone else, but I haven't heard how many [paper] tapes were run, how or whether they were compared or the exact duration of the examination. It serves one well who wishes to evade, but it doesn't serve the process of accumulating evidence at all. For it to mean anything at all, it shoud be run by the central authoritative source that holds the evidentiary repository.
There is another side to this issue: Nobody really passes a lie detector test -- we don't really have "lie detectors" -- we have polygraphs. It is a polygraph because it graphs a number of physical responses, like pulse, blood pressure, skin galvanometry, thoracic and abdominal respiration. In a videotaped session -- which could also turn up procedural flaws -- one might also be able to detect pupillary dilation. This is a good indication of how people feel about what they are saying, but it doesn't really indicate whether they are lying. It is understandable how somebody might fear such a "test." One has to think, I've been so tired lately -- what if I yawn periodically? Will they make something of that? It is possible to be disturbed by the examiner's tone. One imagines the examiner being silent for a while and then speaking suddenly (one might imagine a policeman shouting during the test) -- what kind of response does surprise show? What if there is guilt or remorse about a parallel issue not directly involved in the crime? What if you didn't really do anything, but you feel a sense of responsibility. In Condit's case, supposing he weren't involved in her disappearance, he should wonder whether he could have helped find Chandra if he had been more forthcoming earlier in the investigation.
To someone reading the newspaper, reasons and motivations can be rather vague. To somebody who has never had legal counsel available, it isn't as evident why many public personalities react the way they do. First of all, having an attorney can be a little like having a gun -- if you feel threatened, even for an instant -- you are apt to call on any means at your disposal to remove the threat. Once you retain an attorney, for whatever reason, even curiosity leads you to call to find out about possibilities.
Dentists, physicians and attorneys are seldom alone at cocktail parties -- even the potential for free professional advice will draw a crowd. It may seem that I'm making light of this issue, but I'm not. Everybody feels slighted at one time or another, and many times when it happens, the injured party would like to be able to spend an hour with an attorney just to ask questions to determine whether to get a lawyer. Your lawyer's first interest isn't whether you look guilty when you act in your own interest, it's how you might be defended, how you might be positioned, what you can prove and what the prosecution might be able to establish. Your attorney wants to know "whether you did it," and will probably ask -- and if you deny any culpability -- the counselor may not believe you.
The knowledge or assumption of guilt will determine the strategy of the defense: It is also difficult for the layperson to understand the motivations of a lawyer. Would you like to go into a trial aggressively defending someone and emerge with egg on your face? What would that do for your client? What would that do for your career? It is the nature of this relationship that guides both the behavior of the barrister and the customer.
If you've ever heard a physician say, "This is not a good sign," then you probably have a pretty good idea what it feels like for your legal representation to say, "We have to be very careful here,very careful." Unfortunately, that's the point at which most of us start listening.
In another twist, The Reliable Source with Lloyd Grove and Barbara Martinez, Grove cites in his article Iron Man and Marshmallow Man? in a subheading called THIS JUST IN . . . (washingtonpost.com)
Appearing on this weekend's installment of the PBS show "This Is America With Dennis Wholey," [Marlin] Fitzwater says about Rep. Gary Condit's public behavior: "If he was involved in any way, then he did the right thing for himself. If he is innocent, then he's done all the wrong things." Fitzwater elaborates: "I think he has some involvement. . . . Maybe peripheral, maybe even unintentional, but I think he is a key at some point."
I argue alternating sides of this story, but emphasis has to be placed on the above quote: This is roughly what I was going to say, anyway. Another way to put it is that Condit's whole suite of behavior suggests that he had some involvement. While it is hard to treat the Enquirer story as credible, there is a series of events that might suggest that Levy was pregnant -- she calls her Aunt with "good news." Two options would occur to me in a situation such as hers (1) She got a job, or (2) She was going to have a baby. I entertained another thought, too, which was that while she was so optimistically hoping and believing that just the right opportunity would come along for her (to stay here and develop her career or whatever her specific plans were), someone with bad intentions and what she wanted to hear used this edge to take advantage of her. While Condit's behavior is indeed suspect -- especially after prescribing that Clinton take his medicine without flinching -- there are too many other plausible scenarios that fit the situation at least as well as his involvement.
Reuters calls the story, in a feed picked up by Yahoo! Lawyer Says Condit Passed Lie-Detector Test. This adds some perspective to the description. Other headlines such as the story in the feed under Top Stories - Reuters is called Lawyer: Condit Passes Privately Administered Lie Detector Test. Yahoo! is doing a good job with Chandra's disappearance in more than just descriptive and honest reporting -- there is some thoroughness here, too -- a whole collection in its Full Coverage feature called In-depth coverage about Missing Intern Chandra Levy with a pointer to a Society & Culture Directory on Missing Persons at the bottom of the column.
Friday, July 13, 2001
Don't try this address after July 12
Another one bites the dust:Not to be disrespectful, but the Internet World is changing steadily.
HomeRuns.com didn't last quite a year in DC, and it started about 5 years ago in Boston (as I understand its legacy), but the end came fast for casual observers -- although it wasn't a rush decision.
Some of the employees seemed to have sensed something when a standing inventory was taken. A part of this is that the long-distance medium hasn't done well -- yet -- with "short run" commerce. I wouldn't wonder: If I wanted to order a book from Amazon -- I'd know that I could find out whether the company had it -- before I'd ever be able to find it by combing local bookstores. I might even be able to put in an advance order -- before it was printed -- which might be valuable if I were in the midst of a hot task and could order a reference with anticipation -- without stopping. If I wanted a pizza, or if I were going to take a trip to the grocery -- I think I'd use it as a way to step out for a break and get some fresh air.
If I were a few years older, I might consider taking my constitutional at a time of my choosing -- especially if I were already retired -- or even semi-retired. Part of the problem is that Internet culture has only reached a fraction of the Seniors Market, as much as we'd like to believe otherwise. It is all well and good to cite those exceptions among our personal acquaintances -- the aware few, and commercials that underscore the participation of seniors abound, but the truth of the matter is that this is a very hard market to reach -- though none of us are getting any younger.
Maybe this is the note on which investors and entrepreneurs should end. Venture capital is withdrawing at alarming rates and we have gone far beyond a panic. A panic is a quick reaction (knee-jerk as some of my friends prefer) that corresponds to a short period of overcompensation, after which balance is restored. This is not what is happening: More Voodoo economics? The market response is a wholesale rejection of the prophecy for our New Internet World.
This new world isn't here yet -- the key word here is yet. I don't mean that it will wait centuries, I mean that it is a cultural change -- and one that could happen rather quickly. What could change it? Advertising: Internet advertising -- in many cases, but not all -- preaches to the choir. The most fundamental idea of advertising is to inform: Mailing campaigns and radio/television advertising might be more appropriate because it reaches people who are not already there, or in this case already here. Persuasion will help after people are aware of the possibilities, and not before.
The answer is not to give up hope: All the promise is still here. It may be true that you can bring a horse to water without getting it to drink -- but it doesn't mean that it is never worthwhile to bring that horse to water. That's what we need in this market -- more horse sense.
Thursday, July 12, 2001
Chris Pirillo [also see]put this in today's Lockergnome Windows Daily [A newsletter For the World's Most Curious Users], but he didn't include a link as he usually does, so I'm including it here for anyone who may have glossed over what they normally might have stopped to investigate:
HARRY KNOWLES \ If you haven't figured it out yet, we're using the space usually reserved for GnomeTERMS [A regular feature of Lockergnome Windows Daily, usually dedicated to technical terms. --EC] to introduce some of the folks who have made the Internet what it is (and what it will be). Ya know, like Harry Knowles, the Internet's first recognized film critic. Well, he's not really a critic, per se, but his site, "Ain't it Cool News" has bucked the system and pumped out movie reviews often before the studio is ready. You see, Harry and his merry band of "advocates" sneak into test screenings and post their reactions to the site: a cornucopia of reviews, gossip, and the latest Hollywood scoops. That's not too bad for a man who lives nowhere near Sunset Boulevard. It just goes to show you how the Internet has obliterated many barriers. Don't remind me of the dancing hamster thing, please. [Credit to Lockergnome]
Aw, c'mon, Chris, I was only tryin' ta help . . .
Ain't It Cool News
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
It reinforces an assertion of mine (I won't mention a word about the effect of patents on creativity -- Oh Blast! Too late.) that originality is over-rated. Well, it doesn't say so in that many words -- good authors usually manage with many fewer words than I use -- even if they don't write in English. The idea of this book isn't too far from what programmers used to complain about all the time when they'd have to move from assignment to assignment reinventing the wheel -- that there are ready solutions for most design problems and it's just a matter of seeing the match between them and applying the prescribed technique.
Sure, I could have joined an affiliate program, but how many people have visited this page so far?
I'd make millions, of course -- but that would be too easily. Roger would catch on right away.
Amazon.com: buying info: Design Patterns
Tuesday, July 10, 2001
Get it while you can -- the nature of the Internet is changing . . .
OED Online - engagement
Monday, July 09, 2001
U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington Has Assigned a Veteran Homicide Prosecutor to Oversee Investigation of Missing Intern
This story might be a good follow-up to my previous posting. The original source was cited as this page at the http://www.newsweek.msnbc.com/ website.
On Joyce Chiang and Chandra Levy
Research Note: Memo to the File.
I'm calling this collection of links "Research Note: Memo to the File" for at least two reasons. The first is that "Memo to the File" is an expression that has often been used to speak of work that doesn't get done -- more explicitly, File Number 13, or simply "File13" means the wastebasket, trash can or whatever it is in your idiom -- maybe they say "recycle the file" these days -- or maybe they will now.
This isn't meant to be a direct criticism of anyone in particular -- but I don't know -- maybe it should be. I know that so many people "go missing" that the task of figuring out what happened to them is unimaginably difficult. That's not to say that "nobody knows [what happened to them]," though. While speculating on the Chandra Levy case, I recently spoke to a friend as he waited for a bus that serves Dupont Circle and he told me how he had witnessed an unrelated murder, identified all the suspects, but it didn't come to trial because those he claimed were participants essentially "evaporated" -- disappeared without a trace. His point seemed to be, consistent with our conversation, that there are many people who see or know something, but say nothing -- for a variety of reasons that aren't hard to imagine.
Given this, the "presumption of the worst," the dead-end leads and generally the "needle in the haystack" syndrome -- there is a huge amount of information through which to sift, including a lot of distractions such as false reports and factors which may be related, but are eventually discounted, ignored or disregarded -- usually because no connection can be established. I am persuaded by the nature of research and investigation, that while most of the "intelligence gathering" is "leg work," most of the problem solving activities involve "head work," or the tremendous cognitive task of determining which "pieces of the puzzle" are valid and establishing the connections between them. To look at an accumulation of evidence (and a lot of unsubstantiated suspicion like "gut feeling" or "hunches/intuition" and "instinct") and say "this says something to me" is one thing -- to figure out what it says and follow it to a solution is quite another thing -- simply a complicated "thing."
The case for hunches is very poorly made, but can easily be explained as the assembly of scenarios which we constantly and unconsciously "spin" or "weave" from a knowledge of cases that vary only slightly from the mystery at hand. Police are fatigued of uninformed speculation, largely because "jumping to a conclusion" usually leads to a lot of unnecessary work -- the proverbial "wild goose chase." Once a possibility has been established, there is a certain obligation to challenge, contest and verify results -- which means to investigate further -- or to be distracted with more field work, more leg work. In the case of false leads from uninformed speculation, it means either ignoring evidence that is presumed redundant -- yesterday's rejects -- or another frustrating trip "back to the drawing board" to see whether "something was missed" and a line of speculation does indeed merit further investigation.
As a researcher, rather than an investigator or detective, anyone who reads this little essay of mine can benefit from information which has already been gathered. I found 54 links on the Internet, but after writing this much to frame the way in which this information should be "sifted" -- with a "critical eye" -- I won't have time to follow each link just to see whether the search engine delivered me "valid hits," notwithstanding all the bifurcations on which each valid link might lead me. I've decided to post all of them here (1) as a personal reminder to myself, a sort of "tickler" that will allow me to "dispatch" each lead as I have time; (2) to be able to refer to the collection of links when discussing this issue with friends and researchers; and, (3) to allow anyone who stumbles across this page to be able to start his/her own investigation.
I don't want to add to the uninformed speculation with more unsubstantiable theory, but something that has made me curious was that I have heard that both young women were from California. Looking at common elements, we have to consider both region of birth and age range; culture may play a role, as may persons in common circles with the women, and their origins may both play into this connection. My interim question that I can't seem to move past at the moment is "Is there a connection between this case and California?" Another variation on this is "Is there some DC-California connection?"
Something that set me on this line of thinking goes back to the early nineties when some friends of mine were discussing Joyce Chiang's disappearance: One said, "I'm sure this girl is dead, and police haven't been investigating all these prostitute murders because they say that prostitutes are always at risk." The other answered, "But this girl wasn't a prostitute." The first returned, "No, but she was out partying, and how would the [presumed] murderer where she worked just by looking at her." I was inclined to think as well as the spate of taxi-driver murders that periodically seem to plague the area.
This could be a study on search engine hits, too. Anyway, here are the links -- as a "Research Note" -- for myself or anyone else who wants to figure out what is happening to these young women who come to the DC area:
- MetroActive.com --- may be a repeat.
- Washington Post
- Washington Post
- Basket Case
- Washington Post
- Georgetown Alumni News
- utexas news
- egroups messages
- Fox News
- CNN All Politics
- Fox News
- aagen archives
- Serial Killers
- GPO Access
- Third World Women List
- Basket Case
- cydom smithie archives
- America's Most Wanted
- LAFN Joyce Chiang Missing
- AsianWeek INS Lawyer
- a.nderson.net smith86 news
- lainet.com personal page news item
- The Hoya News
- Metroactive Papers Saratoga News
- Wellesley Shakespeare?
- nknu Writing?
- nknu Writing?
- smith92 news
- Wellesley Shakespeare again?
- A Canadian College Alumni News
- A California Elementary School Awards Report
- Georgetown Alumni News
- AOL Personal Page Year in Review
- julen.net "mind"
- DCWatch Mail
- Egroups List Message
- EChinatown.net Accountants Directory
- aagen.org archives
- DCWatch Mail
- GPO Access
- Cybersleuths News
- Smith.edu Personal Page Archive
- Third World Women List Archive
- FreeRepublic.com Forum