Time on my Hands

Today’s postal flurry is explained by my whereabouts, the Continental Airlines Presidents’ Lounge at Newark International Airport.  Take a six-hour layover between our flight from Boston and our flight to Milan (Continental cancelled our original afternoon flight, leaving us one Boston-Newark option), mix with free wi-fi and bucketloads of free crackers and cheese, add a virtual stack of unread articles and half-formed ideas, and this is the result.

Random Articles

As the blog train begins powering up for the fall, a few news articles have caught my wandering attention:

  • 100,000 Gone Since 2001 (Bob Herbert, The New York Times 14-Aug-07) 100,000 people have been murdered in the U.S. since 9/11. “No heightening of consciousness has accompanied this slaughter, which had nothing to do with terrorism. The news media and most politicians have hardly bothered to notice. At the same time that we’re diligently confiscating water and toothpaste from air travelers, we’re handing over guns and bullets by the trainload to yahoos bent on blowing others into eternity in armed robberies, drug-dealing, gang violence, domestic assaults and other criminal acts.”
  • A New York Times article about former Surgeon General Dr. Richard H. Carmona, recounting how the Bush administration muzzled Carmona and politicized the post, quotes Carmona as saying “I increasingly witnessed a government that was more and more using theology and ideology to drive its policies and its people — stem cells, abortion, Plan B, the war and many more . . . Our go-it-alone so-called cowboy diplomacy has in fact isolated us from the world more than ever in our history.” The story is consistent with this administration’s promotion of cronyism, political loyalty, and ideological purity over competence, expertise, and fact-based analysis.
  • A Grass Roots Effort to Grow Old at Home discusses the movement to foster aging in place (a term which always makes me think of “ripening”) by delivering social, medical, and support services to elders in their homes. I read the article to be certain it credits Beacon Hill Village for its leadership role in this movement; it does. The executive director of Beacon Hill Village is a good friend and I’m pleased to see this non-profit acknowledged for its pioneering efforts.
  • Last, Who Owns the Concept if No One Signs the Papers? discusses an issue that students raise frequently: how can I prevent others from copying my great idea? The quick-and-dirty answer is this: you cannot protect ideas. You can protect the particular manifestation or expression of an idea through a patent, copyright, or trade secret, whichever might apply. The article focuses on the dispute between Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, founders of ConnectU, and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. The Winklevoss twins engaged Zuckergerg’s services as a coder to work on ConnectU, their Harvard University-based social network site. They claim Zuckerberg copied their sites program code and business plan to start Facebook and want Facebook’s assets turned over to them. The Winklevoss twins never paid Zuckerberg for his services, promising him to pay him later if they made money, and apparently never asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Jason Pontin, the article’s author, states “I suspect that Facebook would not exist had it not been for ConnectU” but nevertheless concludes that ConnectU does not have a case against Zuckerberg.

One for the Passengers

It’s a dog-bites-man tale, saying that air travel has become a horrible experience. Still, it could be worse. If Jean-Paul Sartre wrote No Exit today he’d set it on a crowded passenger jet (is there any other kind?) in mid-flight, with every passenger talking on a mobile phone. At least for a while that experience will stay in the realm of fiction. The FCC released an order last week deep-sixing use of cell phones in flight.

Next time I fly I’ll remember: this isn’t as bad as it could be.

News Flash

Jet Blue, Delta, and Southwest today announced their merger to form a new air-travel giant: Mea Culpa Airlines. The troubled carriers noted that air travelers will see no improvements in performance, cost, or comfort, but they do promise to be sorry–deeply, deeply sorry–for any and all inconveniences.

[From today’s New York Times: Airlines Learn to Fly on a Wing and an Apology; With 3,200 Flights a Day, A Few Problems; Storm Brings New Woes to Travelers at Kennedy (Our nearly-three hours on the JFK tarmac following a nine-hour flight from Rome were small potatoes. A Royal Moroc Air jet ambled around JFK for 14 hours before throwing in the towel and releasing passengers)]