At the Hadrian Hotel

At the Hadrian Hotel

Monday, October 30, 2006

Reagan Had It Right

Tonight, while driving home from work, I heard a story on NPR about a new two-volume anthology of American Speeches. The first volume covers "Public Oratory from the Revolution to the Civil War" and the second "from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Clinton." In the story, they played audio from a speech given by Ronald Reagan (then a Democrat) entitled "A Time for Choosing." It was given on October 27, 1964 in support of Barry Goldwater (a Republican).

Although the speech was given over 40 years ago, the portion that NPR played for their story was extremely relevant today:

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I'd like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There's only an up or down -- [up] man's old -- old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

That last line is the one that got me. I was only 5 years old when Reagan gave that speech, so I wasn't paying too much attention to politics or the state of the nation at the time. I'm a bit older now, and I am paying attention. I think that anybody who is paying attention will realize that, at least with the statements quoted above, Reagan had it right.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

"Man of the Year" - Art Imitates Life

SPOILER WARNING!!! -- Plot element revealed

Tonight, my family went to see the new Robin Williams movie, "Man of the Year." As some of you may know, an electronic voting machine company plays a major role in the plot of the movie. The Delacroy corporation has won the contract to provide electronic voting machines nation-wide. A few weeks before the presidential election, one of the Delacroy programmers decides to run tests on the system software, and discovers that every time she runs a test the same candidate always wins, no matter how many votes she enters for the other candidate. This plays a pivotal role in Williams' character being elected president.

The problem that the programmer discovers in the Delacroy machine immediately brought to mind the problem that was discovered by Ed Felten, Ari Feldman and Alex Halderman. You can read more about Ed's research in his blog. It almost makes you wonder if the writers might have been involved in the research as well. :-)

As for the rest of the movie, my family found it to be quite entertaining. If you like Robin Williams' style of comedy (you know, off-the-wall-stream-of-conciousness), you'll probably enjoy this movie. There was quite a bit of out-loud laughter coming from the audience. So, if you want to laugh and worry about our next election at the same time, I highly recommend this movie.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006


This was originally sent in an EMail message to my seventh grader's teachers...

By now, I'm sure that you've all used Google to search for various bits of information on the Internet. I expect that you've found a few interesting tidbits as well. So, once you've found something, what do you do? Do you add it to your browser Favorites or Bookmarks? What if you found it at home but need it at school? What about the reverse situation? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get to all of your bookmarks from anywhere? Well, you can. All you need is an account on and you're good to go. First, point your browser at and then click on the "get started" link near the top of the page. Once you have your account set up, click on the "login" link (if you're not automagically logged in after verifying your account) and the the "help" link in the upper right corner.

Now you can start saving your bookmarks in one place, and get to them from any place. There is one very important thing to note, however. Don't put anything sensitive or personal in There is no privacy on, but as you'll see in a moment, that's the beauty of it.

So, now there are lots and lots of people saving bookmarks to However, they're not just saving their bookmarks, they are tagging them with one or more single word tags. These tags make it possible for anybody to use to find bookmarks for sites on any variety of topics. This goes Google one better because you're not just looking up sites based on words on the page. You're finding sites that people have seen and determined to be related to a given topic. Of course, not everyone will agree that a given site is relevant to a particular topic, but odds are pretty good that you'll find something good. The question I hear you asking now is, "So, how can I do this?" It's actually pretty simple...

Let's say that you want to find all of the bookmarks that everybody has tagged with the word "education." Just surf on over to this URL:

This should return a page with a number of bookmarks along with a link to more pages of the same (you can see the bookmarks I tagged with education by going to or If you want to find bookmarks tagged with more than one tag, such as education and geography, use this URL:

By using a simple "+" character, it is possible to string together any number of tags. "Cool!" I hear you say. "But what if I want to be updated when somebody tags something new?" That's actually pretty easy if you use an RSS reader. Just build a URL like the ones above with one simple change - put "rss/" in front of the word "tag," like this:

and subscribe to it in your RSS reader. Then, whenever there is a new bookmark tagged with "education" you'll get a message in your RSS reader. Of course, you can string together tags for the RSS feed the same way that we did with the multi-tag URL above. Pretty neat, isn't it? Oh, by the way, you don't need a account to search it or get a feed, only to save your own bookmarks there.

Another interesting, and potentially useful, phenomenon on the Internet is the proliferation of blogs (weB LOGS). There's quite a number of people out there writing about all manner of topics. Some of what's out there might be useless drivel, but there's a whole lot of useful information out there as well. However, Google is not always well suited to searching for information in the blogosphere. For that we have Technorati - a blog-specific search engine.

With Technorati, you can search blogs in 3 different ways. You can search for any word that appears in a blog post, just like Google can be used to search for words in web pages. It is also possible for blog writers to tag their posts with keywords, just like the people who tag bookmarks can. Technorati allows you to search these tags as well. To give it a try, go to:

and have a look around. Note that not every blog on the Internet is listed in Technorati - the blog owner needs to register his blog in order for it to be searchable. When a blog is registered, the owner can specify tags that generally apply to the blog. The third type of search allows you to search for these tags in Technorati's blog directory. If you search for the right things, you should be able to find this blog or one that belongs to Ed Felten, a Princeton Computer Science professor ( I've always found Ed's blog to be quite interesting, and if you are at all interested in Information Technology policy, you might like it too....

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