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April 24, 2005

New Vancouver 2010 Logo

Here's the new logo for the 2010 Winter Olympics to be held in Vancouver:

Vancouver 2010 Logo
According to the Vancouver 2010 Website:
For centuries, the Inuit people of Canada's Arctic stacked rock in human form to create the inukshuk, a steadfast guidepost that provided direction across the vast horizons of the North...

With the deepest appreciation for Canada's aboriginal heritage and for the joy Canadians share in celebrating winter's snow and ice, the emblem of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games is a contemporary interpretation of the inukshuk. It is called "Ilanaaq", which is the Inuit word for friend.

I liked the old logo, but I like the new one, too. Though it does look kind of like Strong Sad:

Strong Sad

Nikon on the NEF Controversy

So Nikon starts using a new image file format in which part of it is encrypted. Users notice and complain. Nikon responds, and as a marketing person, I don't know whether to be in awe or contempt of their attempt to clarify their position while saying absolutely nothing:

The Nikon D2X professional Digital Single Lens Reflex camera has received widely positive acclaim for its overall performance and image processing quality. Recently, speculative statements which appear to be based on misunderstandings and misinformation about the D2X camera's "encryption" of certain white balance data have propagated on the internet.

The purpose of this advisory is to clarify this matter with facts and explanations.

Excellent! We're all looking forward to it.

The Nikon D2X is capable of producing high quality images that can be saved in a variety of file formats, including the proprietary Nikon Electronic Format (NEF), standard TIFF and several levels of standard JPEG compressed files.
Okay, so NEF is proprietary. At least they've admitted to that.
The NEF, a Nikon proprietary raw file design, was introduced with the Nikon D1 Camera and Nikon's original Capture software. The combination of Nikon camera, in-camera image processing, NEF file format and in-computer image processing with original Nikon Capture software was developed as a system that faithfully saved image files that represent the camera settings made manually or automatically by the photographer at the time a picture was taken.
Isn't the point of any digital camera file format to faithfully save image files that represent the camera settings made by the photographer?
Nikon's preservation of its unique technology in the NEF file is employed as an action that protects the uniqueness of the file.
This sentence says nothing.
At the same time, Nikon makes available a software developer kit (SDK) that, when implemented appropriately, enables a wide range of NEF performance, including white balance, for Nikon photographers and their productive use of the NEF file.
Now we're getting to it. Nikon wants developers to license an SDK in order to be able to access certain information in the pictures that users create.
Since the inception of the system, Nikon has always provided photographers with choices about how they might use the system's performance and enjoy high quality images. Nikon’s choices for opening and processing NEF files have been and continue to include:

* Nikon Capture software
* Plug-in for Adobe’s Photoshop
* Nikon PictureProject software
* Nikon View software
* Availability of Nikon Software Developer Kit (SDK) and the software that has been developed using the SDK

Through use of the Nikon Software Developer Kit, authorized developers can produce software by applying creative concepts to their implementation and adding capabilities to open Nikon's NEF file and use NEF's embedded Instructions and Nikon's Libraries.

Was that last sentence actually written in Japan?

Nikon photographers reap benefits from independent developers' approaches, because it allows the photographer to open and process their NEF images.
As opposed to opening up the format, in which case independent developers couldn't open and process... uh, never mind.
After a developer's software is created using the Nikon SDK, a NEF file can be opened, edited in either TIFF or JPEG format, and then saved in formats available in the developers' software. This process has been available since the first Nikon SDK for NEF.
Wow! You mean if developers license your SDK, their software can open the photos I take? And then edit them? And then save them? Will the wonders never cease?
With each introduction of a new Nikon digital Single Lens Reflex model, Nikon updates the available SDK selection to provide new information; this is the situation with the D2X, D2Hs and D50 models. As stated above, application for the Nikon SDK is possible for bona fide software companies that send Nikon a written application for the SDK. Once approved, the SDK is provided to the developer at no charge and they are authorized to use it.
I love that term, "bona fide software companies". Open source developers and interested end-users need not apply.
Nikon has provided its confidential SDK software to many software developers. With the Nikon SDK, developers may design excellent and creative compatibility between the NEF and their software, all without compromising the integrity of the NEF's original concept, and ensuring that work done by the photographer during the picture taking process can be incorporated into the rendering of the image.
"...design excellent and creative compatibility"? I was joking above about this having been written in Japan. Now I'm not joking. I think it was, and I think that Nikon USA's PR people tried to edit it, but gave up when they couldn't understand what the hell headquarters was saying. "...without compromising the integrity of the NEF's original concept"? What exactly does that mean? How does it "compromise integrity" for software to directly read in a file?
The trilogy of performance, from Camera-to-NEF-to-Capture, has evolved though several generations of Nikon Digital SLR models, improving along the way. As a proprietary format, Nikon secures NEF's structure and processing through various technologies. Securing this structure is intended for the photographer's benefit, and dedicated to ensuring faithful reproduction of the photographer's creative intentions through consistent performance and rendition of the images. Discussions propagated on the internet suggesting otherwise are misinformed about the unique structure of NEF.
Oh, so it's for photographers' own good that Nikon won't let them read the data in their photographs? Good to know. Thanks, Nikon!
Nikon's Camera System, NEF and Capture software are a tightly knit system, and they are all developed through the cooperative efforts of Nikon's design teams, and this collaboration results in achieving the highest image quality.
Unlike those other digital camera vendors, who don't have proprietary formats, and so don't have "tightly knit" systems.
Nikon strives to provide photographers with excellent picture taking performance, compatible Nikon in-system image processing performance and by extension, compatibility with additional software developers' products, with the ultimate goal of delivering a high level of integrity for a photographer's creative vision.

Nikon continues to welcome dialogue with bona fide software developers.

Nikon to all non-developers: STFU.

The inimitable Jean-Louis Gassée used to call Microsoft's proprietary Office file formats (Word, Excel, etc.) "roach motels" -- "roaches go in," he'd say, "but they don't go out." In other words, once you start accumulating a library of data in one of these formats, it's very hard to walk away from Office. I don't know Nikon's true aims in creating a proprietary format. Perhaps they want to be able to revise it frequently without breaking compatibility. (Possible, but there have long existed methods of doing this with open formats.) Perhaps they have only the best intentions. But I think the Web community (if it's possible to say such a thing) now understands the roach motel concept, and though it's too late with regard to Office, we don't want to let it happen again.

I have (as I go to check) 5,960 digital photos that I've taken since 1998, and I'm now accumulating new images at the rate of 1,500-2,000 per year. I'll have these photos with me for the rest of my life, always in digital format. The thought that I might be dependent on a proprietary SDK to read some of the information in any of them is upsetting -- and in fact I do have a few photographs taken with the mechanically and optically excellent Nikon D70 camera we have at work. So the idea I had to buy my own digital SLR from Nikon is now out the window. I'll continue to live with my PowerShot SD300, perhaps upgrade to an SD500, and if I want a digital SLR, I'll take an extra-long look at Canon's models. Nikon will be off the list.

April 17, 2005

The 2005 Theocracy Comeback Tour

With the Republicans' election wins in November, the United States now has the rough equivalent of a parliamentary majority. The party in power -- assuming it holds ranks -- can do pretty much whatever it wants. Leaving aside partisanship for a moment -- and only for a moment -- I find it curious that the Republicans seem to be focused on the powers they don't have instead of the powers they do:

Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's [judicial] nominees.

Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Found here in the New York Times, via OxBlog.

Why spend one's political capital to get 10 blocked judicial nominees through the Senate? Is there some larger purpose at work here? Some deft, subtle strategy that eludes me? Because from where I sit, I can't see it. From where I sit, it looks like the Republicans are like a spoiled child on his birthday, looking at the tower of gifts and throwing a tantrum over the one gift he didn't get.

It's worse than that. As far as I can tell, whatever the Republicans may wish their post-election message to be, in reality, based on their actions to date, it has been the following:

  • Social Security reform is a great idea.
  • Bankruptcy reform is going to help the average person.
  • It was urgent that Congress intervene in the Schiavo case.
  • That Tom DeLay, he's one fine, upstanding character.
If I were a Republican, I'd be furious with my party for squandering its opportunity like this. As it is, I'm not a Republican (nor am I a Democrat), and so, partisanship picked up from the side table once again, I find much of what the Republicans have been doing to be disgusting.

Social Security reform is a good idea in theory, but the President has never actually advanced a plan, and the plans advanced by his vassals have been incompetent at best. Bankruptcy reform is a reasonable idea in theory, but the bill passed was so one-sided against consumers, it could have come straight out of the Middle Ages.

And then we come to the Schiavo case and the filibuster. In the former, the Republicans (and some Democrats), disagreeing with years and years of consistent judicial decisions, many (if not most) by judges appointed by their own party, tried to overrule the judiciary by legislative fiat, all to preserve a life when it was impossible to find anyone who could say that they would want their own life preserved in such a state, and all in the name of God. In the latter, the Republicans are now invoking the name of God again, saying that the removal of a longstanding Senate rule, used quite often by themselves when they were the minority party, is somehow against God's will.

It's not just disgusting. It's frightening. It's the attempted comeback of the theocracy. I suppose that's the larger purpose at work. The Republicans want to use their expanded powers to remove -- or at least minimize -- secular influences in government.

April 16, 2005

"Shorthorn" and Innovation

This is pretty funny:

Despite the removal of WinFS from Longhorn, Allchin was adamant that the new OS will contain enough features to be compelling for consumers and PC makers.

"There's no question -- we made some trade-offs here. I couldn't do everything that everybody wanted from the customer perspective, and they were very clear in what trade-off they wanted us to make," he said.

Still, he said, dubbing Longhorn without WinFS as "Shorthorn" is "derogatory," because the operating system "is packed full of capabilities." Some of the features he mentioned were "great roaming support," .Net Framework 2.0, "new browsing capabilities," the "fresh" user interface, improved migrations and deployments, "more resilience to malware" and "a new photo experience."

So Jim Allchin is upset because people are making fun of the scaled-back feature set of Longhorn? Am I supposed to be sympathetic?

Meanwhile, Apple is about to ship Tiger, and from the looks of it, Tiger might have just as many new features -- if not more -- than Longhorn. And since releasing OS X 10.0 four years ago, Apple has been averaging about a year between major operating system releases. In other words, it's entirely possible that they could have another new version out by the time Longhorn ships.

A reasonable question to ask is why Apple is able to innovate so much more quickly. I don't believe the average IQ is any higher in Cupertino than it is in Redmond, nor do I believe Apple has some secret project management sauce that Microsoft lacks. My assumption is that the difference is in the hardware base. Apple writes software only for its own hardware and can be ruthless about not supporting machines that are past their prime. Microsoft writes software for a vast and diverse universe of hardware and assumes people are going to try to install new operating systems on pretty much anything they can plug into a power outlet.

I honestly don't know which is the superior approach. I'm fundamentally attracted to distributed systems, like the PC hardware market. But do distributed systems always win? It depends on how you measure winning. The Wintel platform has overwhelming market share, true. But Apple -- one little company with just over a third of the market capitalization of Dell alone -- somehow seems to consistently create new hardware that runs rings around anything done by Wintel manufacturers. How can that be?

Trackbacks Disabled

I've temporarily disabled trackbacks on my blog. I was getting 50-100 spam trackbacks per day, and when my first attempt to install MT-Blacklist failed, I gave up for the time being and just disabled trackbacks on a global basis.

What strikes me about spammers is how much work they're willing to create for vast numbers of people to get very little benefit to themselves. I think of the countless hours I've spent dealing with spam in both e-mail and on my blog, and how many millions of people have done the same, and it's all so that a relatively small community of pathologically sleazy people can make a little bit of money. A spammer who turns on a script to blast trackbacks across thousands of blogs overnight doesn't think or care about all the work he's creating for people; he just thinks about the fact that he might make one or two sales as a result.

April 14, 2005

Apple's Quarterly Results

Apple announced their Q2 2005 results yesterday (announcement here, conference call coverage here). I was honestly astounded:

For the quarter, the Company posted a net profit of $290 million, or $.34 per diluted share. These results compare to a net profit of $46 million, or $.06 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue for the quarter was $3.24 billion, up 70 percent from the year-ago quarter...

Apple shipped 1,070,000 Macintosh® units and 5,311,000 iPods during the quarter, representing a 43 percent increase in CPU units and a 558 percent increase in iPods over the year-ago quarter.

Just when I was wondering if perhaps the iPod frenzy had cooled down a bit, they sell five million iPods in the quarter -- six and a half times as many as in the same quarter last year? And a 43 percent increase in CPU units? Clearly some of that is due to the Mac mini, but the hypothesized "halo effect" -- iPod purchasers later switching to the Mac -- must be real.

1337-Subtitled Revenge of the Sith Trailer

Via Boing Boing, this is the funniest thing I've seen in a long while -- the trailer for Revenge of the Sith with 1337 subtitles (well, technically, a combination of 1337 and MMPORG):

Original

Emperor Palpatine: Learn to know the dark side of the Force and you will achieve a power greater than any Jedi!

1337

Emperor Palpatine: Go d/l those hacks I showed you and you'll be teh roXXorz!!!

Well worth downloading (and the $1 donation for bandwidth). The mirror page can be found here.

April 12, 2005

Multi-iPod Households

John Ludwig writes about the frustrations of a multi-iPod household:

And itunes really sucks at handling this. we like to keep all our music on one server and this just creates a legion of problems. Getting itunes on all machines to take notice of new music on the server. Sharing playlists across the network. Ratings collision -- we all have different ratings we want to maintain. And doing different loads of music onto each ipod.
I have some experience with this myself, though not with nearly as complex a setup as John has. I'd say that iTunes is actually reasonably good at allowing different loads of music on a per-iPod basis -- at least it seems that way to me. But after that, multi-user support degenerates quickly. Ratings collision is a big issue -- as noted, each user may have different ratings to maintain. And then there's the issue of playback frequency -- iTunes makes it easy to create Smart Playlists that key off frequency and last-played date, but with multiple users, this isn't really useful for any one person.

Apple, are you on top of this?

April 11, 2005

Hardware Acceleration for Physics

This is potentially very cool:

[G]ame creators haven't taken the time to calculate the physics that govern the behavior of objects such as falling bricks. [Manju] Hegde, CEO of Mountain View, Calif., startup Ageia, wants to make it easy for them to do that with a chip for the personal computer that specializes in physics calculations.

Dubbed PhysX, the chip will enable things like gelatinous creatures whose bodies shift shape like a liquid, crumpling fenders in car crashes, massive explosions with 10,000 pieces of debris, clothing that hangs realistically, and lava or blood that flows like the real thing...

Ageia has $38 million in venture capital from firms such as Apex Partners and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing. It has commitments for $30 million more from other investors.

One reason Ageia has garnered such support is its chip could tip the scales in the PC's battle with game consoles.

The PC gaming community is about to be overshadowed by another set of new consoles from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Those machines will have plenty of extra processing power to handle better physics.

The consoles will be able to calculate the interaction of moving objects and determine what the graphics chip needs to display on the screen at any instant. And they may have enough power to imbue the game environment with physical attributes, so that the grass sways when the wind blows.

Hegde says a PC with a physics chip could match the consoles...

But do gamers really want to buy an add-on card just to improve the realism in their games? Ageia's president, Curtis Davis, argues that they will when they realize physics is key to situations where they try to do something in a game and the environment doesn't respond. If you crash a plane into some trees and none fall, it destroys the fantasy...

But Hegde said Ageia's first physics chip will be akin to network processors, with many processors operating in parallel. As such, he says the chip will be more powerful at specific physics tasks than a microprocessor.

Hegde believes developers will make use of the physics chip because it results in better games.

Ageia plans to have add-on boards with its chip out by Christmas. And it hopes at least five games will exploit its hardware physics by the time the add-on cards go on sale.

So, first, a reality check: the odds of widespread developer support for a physics accelerator card are low, to say the least. To take advantage of it, games would have to be rewritten to feature more opportunities for higher-quality physics, and the game business is tough enough as it is without spending money implementing features for less than one percent of the market.

Having said that, could this have a future in next-generation consoles? Given that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony are all launching next-gen consoles in the next few weeks, this is a good time for Ageia to be coming out. By the time they're in the market, can show off what they're capable of, and have their prices down -- say, by early next year -- the console makers could be kicking off their next-next-generation early design efforts. Sony wouldn't use something like this; I'm sure they'd see the Cell as their solution to this sort of thing (which it may well be). But Microsoft? Nintendo? Could be.

April 10, 2005

How Long to Be Robbed in Naples?

In the April 2005 issue of National Geographic Traveler (unavailable online, even with a subscription -- Geographic doesn't get it) is an article on petty crime around the world, "Thieves Among Us". It recounts an interesting experiment conducted in Naples:

Last summer, [Bob Arno and Bambi Vincent, a Las Vegas-based husband-and-wife team who have tracked petty crime worldwide] set up an experiment to determine how long it would take for a Rolex watch to be stolen in Naples's crime-plagued Spanish Quarter. Arno wasn't out on the street long when he heard a whistle -- a signal from a "spotter" to his cohorts. Soon after, one of them whizzed by on a Vespa, evaluating the goods on Arno's wrist (the real thing can fetch $3,500 on the black market). Moments later, several scooters cornered Arno and the bandits made off with the watch. Total lapsed time: four minutes. The gang miscalculated, however, as the Rolex was fake. "It's about as stupid as you can get walking around with a Rolex in the Quartiere Spagnolo," he says.

April 09, 2005

Reporting Hate Speech = Hate Speech?

This is so absurd it's almost funny. A former aboriginal leader from Canada is on trial for hate speech directed against Jews. From a CBC story on the trial:

David Ahenakew's lawyer says the reporter who wrote the newspaper article that led to the aboriginal leader being charged with a hate crime should have been charged with the same offence.

Doug Christie told court Wednesday that James Parker, a former reporter with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix newspaper, knowingly disseminated hate by publicizing Ahenakew's anti-Semitic comments.

"Who distributed the allegedly hateful words?" said Christie, who argues that Ahenakew thought he was having a private conversation with Parker when he praised Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust.

"If it had been Dr. Ahenakew, no one else would have heard them other than him and Mr. Parker. Mr. Parker had a story that was the best he could hope for in his life."

Parker covered a conference on aboriginal health in December of 2002, when Ahenakew -- a former senator with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and a member of the Order of Canada -- made a speech in which he blamed Jews for starting the Second World War.

Parker spoke to Ahenakew outside the conference, recording their conversation.

In the interview, which was played in court Monday, Ahenakew referred to Jews as "a disease" and said Hitler "made damn sure" Jews didn't take over Germany and Europe. "That's why he fried six million of those guys," Ahenakew said.

The publication of the comments resulted in Ahenakew being charged with the wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group.

I'm tempted to say something funny about this, because it's just plain stupid legal theorizing on behalf of a difficult-to-defend client (at least according to Canadian law), but is it part of the larger trend of attacking journalists for their reporting? Kevin Sites reported a Marine killing a wounded Iraqi and was widely branded a traitor out at the far right end of the blogosphere for it.

(I should note, by the way, that I don't agree with Canadian law in this regard. Ahenakew's comments were disgusting, but I believe in freedom of speech as long as it doesn't directly incite violence against persons, which his words don't seem to do. Having said that, Ahenakew is a Canadian citizen and must know the laws there.)

April 08, 2005

Oh Please Let This Be True

From The Digital Bits (via Dark Horizons) comes word on a possible new director's cut:

Oh man... have we got some GREAT news for you Dune fans today! We've done some digging with our sources at Universal, and we've learned the real reason behind their delay of the Dune: Extended Edition (previously announced for 5/10, but then pulled "indefinitely" with no explanation given). Those of you who are familiar with the film know that there's a longer version that's been shown on TV, credited to director Alan Smithee (a pseudonym used by directors when they want to distance themselves from a project for whatever reason). Well get this... after years of saying he would never revisit Dune, at the 11th hour director David Lynch apparently decided that he might want to be involved in the new DVD after all. Which means that when it's eventually released, not only is the DVD going to include the original theatrical version of the film... it may also include a brand new "director's extended cut" edited by Lynch himself. No kidding. [Editor's Note - we've been told by studio sources that this isn't a done deal. It IS why the disc was delayed, but Lynch's involvement is still in discussion and no work has been started yet. So cross your fingers and let's hope it comes to fruition.]
The rumor has always been that Lynch's first cut of Dune came in around four hours or so -- at least an hour and a half longer than the theatrical version. To see that at last would be a real treat.

By the way, I'm fully aware that people either hated or loved David Lynch's version of Dune, with most of them hating it, so being excited about this probably isn't a popular position. While acknowledging the film's flaws -- Baron Harkonnen becomes a cartoon character instead of the clever (if corpulent) leader he is, for one -- I nevertheless fall into the "loved it" category.

April 07, 2005

Stewart and Caterina in Newsweek

Now the Flickrites are everywhere. From the latest issue of Newsweek, "Hi-Tech's New Day":

050402_SciTechFlickr_vl.vmedium

The new economics of starting a Web business may even be changing the entrepreneur's celebrated goal: striking it rich with an IPO. With the market for new stocks still flat, many entrepreneurs just want to get scooped up by one of the few Internet giants like Yahoo, Google or media mogul Barry Diller's AIC/InterActiveCorp. In this respect and many others, the Vancouver-based Flickr is typical of the dot-com revival. It's yet another photo-sharing site, but with a few nifty innovations: users can tag their photos with keywords, adding them to groups of similar shots from other users, and can append comments to any picture. More than a year after married founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake started the company, it has drawn more than a million users -- without promotional expenses, of course.

Earlier this year, the couple was close to raising money from top venture-capital firm Accel, which would have put their company on a traditional track and prepared them, one day, to go public. Instead, this month they sold to Yahoo for a rumored $35 million. Integrated into Yahoo, they won't have to build human-resource, finance or legal teams. "We'll be taken care of and can concentrate on what we like doing best, which is building the product," Butterfield says. And if there's another tech swoon, or if another set of hungry entrepreneurs cook up an even better photo-sharing mousetrap, Flickr will have Yahoo's might to protect itself.

This is a great answer to the "why sell now?" question.

My hope and belief is that, two or three years from now, when we look back on the Flickr acquisition by Yahoo, it will be seen in a new and even more significant light. Yahoo isn't just getting a photo sharing community, or the technology that powers it -- they're getting the people who arguably know more right now than anyone in the world about creating Web-based ecosystems.

April 06, 2005

Webshots vs. Flickr?

My friend and general good-guy Robert Scoble had this to say about CNET acquiring HeyPix:

Congrats to James Park. He's president of Windup Labs. That's the company that did HeyPix and they just sold to CNET.

This might just be a bigger photo deal than Flickr going to Yahoo. Here's why.

It's joining Webshots. Now, don't know about Webshots? I didn't either until recently. But Webshots has 23 million members (Flickr has less than a million). and they get 750,000 uploads a day. More uploads in five days than Flickr has had in all of its existence.

I have to say, this really surprised me. Can Webshots really be that big? I suppose I haven't paid much attention to them because they aren't really talked about all that much in the blog world:

Webshots vs. Flickr (Blog Mentions)

Meanwhile, Flickr has been growing at an exponential rate:

Webshots vs. Flickr (Daily Traffic)
So with all due respect to Robert, this is why the Flickr acquisition is far more important.

As for why Flickr is growing so much faster than any other photo sharing service on the Web, I'm not the most qualified person to answer that... but I'm fairly sure it goes back to something I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

Open API Web services + open data repositories = Web ecosystems
Flickr is an ecosystem. Is Webshots? Is Ofoto? Is Shutterfly?

April 05, 2005

Congratulations to UNC

I just wanted to say congratulations to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill men's basketball team, who won the national championship game last night.

With UNC in the Final Four, I couldn't help but watch their last two games -- but I'm not a basketball fan, which makes me a bit of an odd duck in this part of the world (the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, known as the "Triangle"). Basketball may not have been invented here, but this has to be where the soul of college basketball resides these days. Within a 15-mile radius, we have three teams with great basketball histories -- UNC, Duke, and North Carolina State. In fact, all three made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament this year. When you think that the Triangle has a population of about 1.2 million -- about 0.4 percent of the US as a whole -- that's fairly amazing.

April 02, 2005

Coming Together in Hatred

From a New York Times story out this past week:

International gay leaders are planning a 10-day WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem in August, saying they want to make a statement about tolerance and diversity in the Holy City, home to three great religious traditions.

Now major leaders of the three faiths -- Christianity, Judaism and Islam -- are making a rare show of unity to try to stop the festival. They say the event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable.

"They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable," Shlomo Amar, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, said yesterday at a news conference in Jerusalem attended by Israel's two chief rabbis, the patriarchs of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, and three senior Muslim prayer leaders. "It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it."

Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: "We can't permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem."...

Interfaith agreement is unusual in Israel. The leaders' joint opposition was initially generated by the Rev. Leo Giovinetti, an evangelical pastor from San Diego...

"That is something new I've never witnessed before, such an attempt to globalize bigotry," said Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Jerusalem Open House, a gay and lesbian group that is the host for the festival. "It's quite sad and ironic that these religious figures are coming together around such a negative message." ...

Mr. Giovinetti circulated a petition against the festival, titled "Homosexuals to Desecrate Jerusalem," which he said had been signed by every member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party in the Israeli Parliament. Another American who helped bring together the opposition was Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, which says it represents more than 1,000 American Orthodox rabbis. At the news conference in Jerusalem, he called the festival "the spiritual rape of the Holy City." He said, "This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land."

So, in other words, the one thing that seems to unite Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is hatred and fear of homosexuality. How sad.

My Favorite Restaurant in Paris

This is a snagged picture (because it would be awful to whip out one's PowerShot SD300 in a place like this) of Le Coupe-Chou, my favorite restaurant in Paris:

Le Coupe-Chou

Le Coupe-Chou ("the cut cabbage") is on a narrow street near the Sorbonne. It's in a building that dates (at least parts of it do) to the 1600s. Entering it feels a bit like walking into a cave. I was there in the evening, and when it's dark, much of the light comes from candles and the fireplace. I sat at the table next to the fireplace in the photograph above (thanks to my friend Christophe, who made the reservations for me, given that my French wasn't quite good enough a couple of months ago).

The service at Le Coupe-Chou is what I think of as traditionally Parisian: polite yet not chatty, unobtrusive yet efficient, and measured in time. The food was wonderful. And the prices are quite reasonable: the restaurant offers prix fixe menus at €24 and €32 (the latter including dessert).

Le Coupe-Chou can be found at:

Le Coupe-Chou
9 rue de Lanneau
75005 Paris
Tel: 01 46 33 68 69
Highly recommended.