NBierma.com File

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Posted on Thu, Aug. 28, 2003

Book Review | At a reunion, he ruminates about lost love

By Alan Lightman

Pantheon. 231 pp. $22

Reviewed by Marta Salij

Man goes to 30th college reunion. Remembers girl who got away. Feels sad. The end.

You just got five hours of your life back.

Too harsh? What if I told you that the girl in question isn't even at the reunion, so there isn't any hope of a confrontation or reconciliation between the old lovers?

What if I told you that the only thing the man does is go into a room at his alma mater and fall into a reverie? Are you on fire to read this yet?

Only devotees of slow stories of rue - somehow I'm thinking Ingmar Bergman fans - would be. If you belong to that camp, my apologies for turning my nose up. You'll adore Reunion.

The rest of us will wonder, at the very least, why Lightman set most of the story as a flashback. English professor Charles narrates. He's divorced. He's childless. He has a lover named Sheila, who is "not unattractive in her middle-aged nakedness, and I think I may even love her." He says he's comfortable.

Sheila is lively, but alas: Charles doesn't take her to the reunion. Maybe he wants to brood over the lover of his senior year, Juliana, by himself. Cue violins. Cue mournful oboe.

Juliana was a ballet dancer, half sylph and half cipher. She and Charles met cute; after an hour in a Manhattan coffee shop, he was sure she was The One.

But Juliana had her art. She was a little old to turn into a ballet star, but she was determined. She spent her days in rehearsal, her evenings in performance, and her late nights on the floor of the dressing room with Charles. Charles quickly confused great sex with great love.

Then Juliana got pregnant. Charles wanted to marry her and raise the child. She wanted to dance. One day, she disappeared. Charles looked for her, for a time.

What you're expecting is a book in which the middle-aged man looks over his past and... goes back to Sheila with new appreciation? Breaks off with Sheila to look again for Juliana? Breaks off with Sheila to find a new 20-year-old ballet dancer? Salutes the callow youth he was, forgives himself, moves on?

None of the above. Charles returns to Sheila feeling all mopey. Surely he's learned something. Wait, there's this:

"The first kiss, the first ecstasy of love, the play of light in the trees on a particular fall day, the endless flood of strength in our biceps and thigh. We have the illusion that all of this will happen again and again. In a way, this falseness of youth is even more painful than the branching channels ahead," the mature Charles writes.

Lightman has moments like this, nicely phrased reminders of platitudes such as "all things pass," made a bit digestible by being so nicely phrased. But not very digestible.

Pretty sentences, all dressed up with nowhere to go. That's what I think is ailing fiction, has been ailing fiction for some time. I get no points for noticing. Better minds than mine have complained.

Lightman's Reunion falls into the category of wistful musings on the sadness of life, dressed up in novel form. Another category is snarky commentary on the shallowness of modernity, dressed up in novel form: Key practitioners are David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, et al. There are other categories, but it fatigues me to list them.

Here's what I do want points for: These are not novels. They are essays, maybe even newspaper columns, sometimes glorified diary entries, stretched out to unconscionable length and price.

How about a novel dressed up in novel form, huh? With characters who face conflicts (you remember those from ninth grade: Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, etc.), who act, suffer and grow. I could really sink my teeth into one of those right about now.

This review appeared originally in the Detroit Free Press.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Chi.Tribune editor:
I hate to think a bit of history has come to be considered an "ugly, pointless and noxious" affectation [as a letter writer says].
"lede" (pronounced leed) is a term for the first paragraph of a news story.
"lead" (pronounced leed) is a term for the most important news story; traditionally it carries the biggest headline and runs on the right-hand side of Page One, above the fold, where it is the most visible and eye catching even if the paper is folded in half in a news box, on a newsstand or for handling by a newspaper hawker on the street.
"lead" (pronounced led) refers to the spacing between printed lines. In the days of hot type, the leading (pronounced ledding) actually was fashioned of pieces of the metal lead (so was the type itself).
The point of all these thumbnail definitions is this: Before the computer age, publishing depended on printers who set stories in type. The printers and the writers/editors generally worked in different places, and for efficiency's sake there needed to be a way for editors to mark instructions on stories for printers to understand and follow. A whole glossary of shorthand evolved -- symbols indicating things to be set in uppercase or lowercase type, what kind of spacing needed to be between the lines, how the editors wanted the stories arranged on a page, etc.
A word written down as "lead" could be confusing -- did it mean the beginning of a story, or the main story on the page, or did it refer to the metal lead and spacing between lines? Instructions for the printers needed to be short and clear; no one had time to waste getting a message from the composing room back to the newsroom to ask for clarification.
"Lede" has a distinctive spelling, a specific meaning and it's short, to boot. Though hot metal type is gone, much of its terminology lingers as terms of art in journalism. Probably fewer and fewer journalists know the derivation of the words they use in the trade: a lede is a lede because, well, I was taught to call it the lede.

Monday, June 21, 2004

My mini-corpus for "back in the day," "back in those days," and variants. To scan it, hit Ctrl+F, type "back", and keep hitting return.

coming [home to] ... people who knew you back, back, back in the day, is one of the most rewarding feelings of the world. livejournal.com

I mention this because for years I have listened to business whine about how it is not appreciated in Massachusetts. Back in the day when the minicomputer was king and legends like Ken Olsen, Edson deCastro, and An Wang were riding high, the loudest whining came from Route 128. But it is a chronic disease that knows no industry bounds. Today the whiners-in-chief are the biotechers.
The Boston Globe
June 16, 2004,

In '35, we lost hammerin' Hank Greenberg to a broken wrist in Game 2 of the Fall Classic, but the still-standing G Men -- Charlie Gehringer and Goose Goslin -- got the job done and delivered Detroit's first title.

Success was contagious back in the day, evidenced by the fact that later that year, the Lions -- behind coach Potsy Clark and QB Dutch Clark -- brought home the city's first NFL championship.

Detroit Free Press
June 16, 2004

To hang with Lindeberg, however, it means blowing through cash like a country clubber: One of his polos can cost $100. Penguin, which led the charge back in the day of Palmer and Nicklaus, has brought back its own Munsingware line from the 1950s and '60s with renewed vigor, and for about half the price of a designer shirt. Savvy shoppers might find the local vintage clothing store offers even better bargains
The Miami Herald
June 16, 2004

Back in the day, I used to be a strikeout pitcher. But, now, my goal is to stay in the game as long as possible.
Edmonton Trappers'
scott downs, pacific coast league

It's doubtful, however, that back in those days of old, I ever thought there might be anything special about a family eating and praying together.
Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
June 16, 2004
Ed Hayes
Retired Sentinel staffer Ed Hayes, 79,

Nikolaenko was a Synergy director back in its days as Nexus Minerals and even sold it a gold mining plant for $2 million that was subsequently sold for $52,105. Moir has legal toecutter Martin Bennett looking at the deal.

Australian Financial Review
June 15, 2004 Tuesday

GRAPHIC: Wahlberg plays system in crime documentary
BACK IN THE DAY: Mark Wahlberg introduces his former probation officer Richard Skinner to `Juvies' director Leslie Neale at the Sanders Theatre yesterday. STAFF PHOTO BY TARA BRICKING
The Boston Herald
June 15, 2004

"Obviously, there aren't as many big men available as there was when I came out or back in the day," former NBA great and Houston assistant coach Patrick Ewing said.
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
June 15, 2004

"I remember the crowd being just as loud, just as vocal back in the day," said Rick Mahorn, a member of the Bad Boys teams in the '80s and early '90s. "I think the difference now is the Thunderstix. That adds a whole new layer of noise
The Detroit News
June 15, 2004

Herbert Hoover was president, and Prohibition was in effect 75 years ago in June. ... Graduation was in June back in those days.
Grand Forks Herald
June 15, 2004
"Not Quite Like Back in the Day"
In the run up to war in Iraq, the Beastie Boys released "In a World Gone Mad," one of the more flaccid of the protest songs of that period, full of heavy-handed prescriptions and spurious rhymes ("You and Saddam should kick it like back in the day / with the cocaine and Courvoisier"). "To the 5 Boroughs" continues this meager assault.
The New York Sun
June 15, 2004

Though the Beasties insist they had no master plan when they were recording the album, they clearly wanted to show their appreciation of New York City, name-checking everything from Modell's stores to the 1 and 9 subway lines over the same kind of East Coast beats that Run-DMC and The Sugarhill Gang would have busted out back in the day.

Newsday (New York)
June 15, 2004

"Back in the day, U Street NW was the epicenter for [the District's] colored residents who were not welcome downtown.
The Washington Times
June 15, 2004,

Compared to what it was like to start your own Web page back in the day, starting a blog is a breeze. You
The Macon Telegraph
June 15, 2004

''Back in their day, Dallas was the best, but right now it's San Francisco,'' he said.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)
January 31, 1995,

On Back in the Day, track three of her last album, Worldwide Underground, Badu romanticizes about a youth spent listening to the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire and Patrice Rushen.
hed:Erykah Badu still doing her own thang;
Flaunting booty not her style.
Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio)
February 29, 2004 Sunday 4X EDITION

Pontiac GTO
t has standard features galore and build quality unheard of back in the day.
June 14, 2004,

r Bernard Bischoff , 92, of Bullitt County, coming home brought back many memories of when he was a child growing up at Farmington and having to tote water from a spring up to the house.

"You used to could see from here to Six Mile Lane," Bischoff said. "Things were different back in them days."
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
June 14, 2004 Monday

Price isn't the discounters' only advantage. Back in the day, bad service was the tradeoff for low prices.
June 14,2004

Slash, on the other hand, seems to relish the attention. He looks exactly as he did back in the day, and he's recognized by cops and kids alike when he enters the building for a sound check.
June 14, 2004

Was everything perfect back in the days of "Father Knows Best"? No, but although there was immorality, there was a consciousness that it was wrong, and people knew there was a need to repent. Regaining our conscience won't condemn us, but will redeem us to the joy of a restored destiny.

I'm not one to constantly yearn for the good old days, but I do believe in the future and in the awakening of a God-given consciousness.
Fort Pierce Tribune (Fort Pierce, FL)
June 12, 2004

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX): "It was Ronald Reagan that got me
involved in politics. Back in 1976, I became a precinct chairman
for the Republican Party in Fort Bing County, Texas, where they
shot Republicans, didn't elect them, back in those days.
The Hotline
June 7, 2004

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Back when, in the days when media was still called the press, young reporters didn't quite know what to make of this actor-turned-politician. A cub named Brokaw was in Los Angeles then.
Dateline NBC (8:00 PM ET) - NBC
June 6, 2004

boxer Milton Wynn
Wynn says his CD -- much of which he produced -- has an "urban feel" that
is broad, but unique. "There is something on the record for everyone. It
doesn't have some of the typical stuff you hear that degrades women and
promotes violence. I heard LL Cool J say in an interview that he's doing music
like he did back in the day -- for fun. Will Smith has done it for years.
That's basically what my album is: A lot of songs where you can just have a
good time."
Ethnic NewsWatch
Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine
June 2003

More than six years later, HiKru has performed for as many as 900 hip-hop party people. They've grown from two guys with beats pieced together in a basement to a five-piece band, with bass, drums and keyboards pushing the rhymes of Boney (Jason Bonza) and DHablo (Donnie Gardner). Now they're starting to take the show on the road and looking to make an album.

"He wanted to do all of this even back in the day,'' Bonza said of Gardner, "but it was all silliness to me. It's always been fun, and it still is, but things really started clicking a couple of years ago. I said, 'Donnie, we need to do this for real,' and he said, 'I've been telling you that for years.' ''
The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
January 31, 2003 Friday Met and metro Editions
HiKru takes crew on the road

Q. What comedians influenced you?
A. Really none. Back in the day, of course, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby and Slappy White; I used to watch them.
Chicago Sun-Times
January 31, 2003 Friday
Bruce Bruce

"I was at Palatine for 11 years (as an assistant) and Palatine-Fremd always looked like this back in the day.
Chicago Daily Herald
January 31, 2003,

DA REAL THING is a telling title for this album! Yes, this is indeed the
real thing, or Sizzla as we were familiar with him from "back in the days", as
that saying goes.
Ethnic NewsWatch
Everybody's: The Caribbean-American Magazine
January, 2003/February, 2003

"Back in the day, 'It Happened One Night' would just sweep the Oscars.
Los Angeles Times
January 31, 2003 Friday

Sports Illustrated
May 24, 2004
The First and Last Annual Alphabet Awards
By Steve Rushin

Numbers don't lie, but letters sometimes stretch the truth. KFC now pretends, in commercials, to stand for Kitchen Fresh Chicken, and it can't be long before we see the similar rebranding of Fatburger (to Fitburger) and IHOP (as in, I'll Have Oatmeal, Please). Worse, San Francisco Giants rookie David Aardsma is now, alphabetically speaking, the first surname in baseball, supplanting Hank Aaron at the front of the game's alltime roll call, in the way that AAA Locksmith weasels its way to the front of the business listings, line-jumping worthier tradesmen like Aardvark Tamers and Abacus Salesmen.

Though the Giants recently demoted Aardsma--to Triple A, aptly enough--the fact remains: In sports, the letter A will always belong to Aaron. Or will it? To avoid future confusion, we hereby award 26 letter jackets, assigning each letter of the alphabet to the greatest sportsman whose surname begins with that letter, thus answering the question I hear most often in sports: Who's the biggest A you've ever met? (Polite answer: Muhammad Ali.)

B's a bee-yotch. How to choose among Barry Bonds, Larry Bird and David Beckham? Easy. They're B-listers, bowing down before Jim Brown, who never missed a game in nine seasons.

For their success at stud, Citation and Wilt Chamberlain vie for the C, but not even Bob Cousy or Roger Clemens can compete with Ty Cobb, cantankerous cuss. D is a death match between Joe DiMaggio and Babe Didrikson. The winner had a sweet swing, a celebrity spouse and a famous nickname. The loser sold Mr. Coffees. Sport's biggest E's were Andy Etchebarren's eyebrows, but they--and Erving, Earnhardt and Evert--lose, on a last-second drive, to Elway.

F: If boxing, baseball and football really are chess matches, then Bobby Fischer is a better athlete than Joe Frazier, Bob Feller and Brett Favre. G: The Great Gretzky, more than Red Grange, Lou Gehrig or Steffi Graf, dwarfed all others in his sport, as did Ben Hogan--H--in his.

I is the exclusive isle of Allen Iverson, whose thin competition--Michael Irvin? Monte Irvin?--was voted off that island early, leaving AI to cannibalize his cofinalists, Dane and Garth Iorg.

Michael Jordan shot (and earned) the J. Sandy Koufax threw--and drew--our K, with Evel Knievel (again) falling short by inches. The cursive L sewn to the baby-blue sweater of Laverne, on Laverne & Shirley, would not look as divine on Joe Louis or Carl Lewis as it does on Vince Lombardi. Diego Maradona was a better footballer than Joe Montana and Dan Marino combined. Rocky Marciano never lost, Man o' War was beaten once, but none of these M's--nor Musial, nor Mantle--was Willie Mays.

N? Nicklaus. Next!

Had Bobby Orr beaten Hitler with his headlong goal in the '70 Stanley Cup, had Shaquille O'Neal head-faked the Fuhrer in the '02 Finals, either might own the O now worn, like a halo, by Jesse Owens.

Palmer? Payton? Petty? Puh-lease. P is Pele, period.

Our Q, strangely, has the lowest Q rating of any letter-winner. Yet here he is, Dan Quisenberry, who uttered the line: "I found a delivery in my flaw." If championships are the measure of the man, then the R rightfully belongs to be-ringed Bill Russell (11 titles), with Babe Ruth (seven) finishing third, behind Rocket Richard (eight). Among the S's, Secretariat would have been lightning-fast without a jockey, but Willie Shoemaker would not have been without a horse. Advantage, Secretariat.

Who would win a prison decathlon, atop the T's, between Iron Mike Tyson and Big Bill Tilden, men with little in common save athletic dominance and incarceration for sex crimes? Jim Thorpe, during visiting hours, that's who.

Bob Uecker was told by Birdie Tebbetts before his first major league baseball game, "Son, up here we wear the supporter on the inside of the uniform." It's with regret, then, that we give the U to Johnny Unitas.

Sports have seen more sweet vans (Brad Van Pelt, Andy Van Slyke, Johnny Vander Meer) than the members of Phish. But one--Norm Van Brocklin--stands out, victorious in the V's by a nose over Dazzy Vance, who didn't win his first big-league game till he was 31 and still pitched himself into the Hall of Fame.

W is President, but the nation's highest-ranking W remains neither he nor Ted Williams nor Tiger Woods. It's John (the Wizard of Westwood) Wooden, a man who has more W's to his name than any other figure in sports.

X is not the domain of Olympic champion diver Ni Xiong. It belongs to the shoeless and illiterate Joe Jackson, who signed his confession in the Black Sox scandal with that very letter.

Cy Young will forever wear a Y on his chest, like a Yale letter winner, but only because we couldn't knit one big enough for the Y, in Springfield, Mass., where James Naismith invented basketball, the sport played by the memorably named ...

...Wang Zhizhi, formerly of the Dallas Mavericks. But he isn't our Z, nor are any of those hockey Zhamnovs, Zholtoks or Zhitniks, nor the Zimmers, Zisks and Zernials of baseball. Emile Zatopek would beat our winner in a footrace, but still we honor Zippy Chippy, who deserves to finish here as he did in nearly 100 races: dead last.

Sports Illustrated
April 14, 2003
Pros By Any Other Name
by Steve Rushin

Though war still sounds like football--troops last week entered the "red zone" outside Baghdad--servicemen are more eloquent than sportsmen and sports media in one important regard. They coin better nicknames. And so the Coast Guard cutter Evergreen became the Never Clean, the Iris the I-rust, and the Red Cedar, gloriously, the Dead Peter.

While Americans still coin excellent disparaging nicknames for foreign airlines (APSA: "Angry Peruvians Smashing Airplanes") and state railroads (ACELA: "Amtrak Customers Expect Late Arrivals"), we've lost our way in nicknaming ballplayers. In fact, it is now difficult to distinguish athletes from Apple products. Is T-Mac shilling iMacs? Does A-Rod have an iPod? You'll be forgiven for thinking, as I once did, that C-Webb was C-Span's website.

Military history is rife with generals and warships whose evocative nicknames--Old Blood and Guts, Old Ironsides--sound like cut-rate whiskeys. Sports history, too. And so one can imagine calling for a shot of Ol' Perfessor (Casey Stengel) or Ol' Magnolia Mouth (Babe McCarthy, the ex-Mississippi State basketball coach with a magnificent drawl). These were nicknames to put hair on your chest. Barkeep, two fingers of Three-Finger Brown, please.

Indeed, as James (Babe [Ol' Magnolia Mouth]) McCarthy will attest, our sportsmen used to get nicknames within nicknames, one fitting neatly inside another, like Russian nesting dolls. And so Cardinals third baseman Johnny Leonard Roosevelt Martin became Pepper, and Pepper Martin became, supplementally, the Wild Horse of the Osage.

This prepositional nickname construction--the Wild Bull of the Pampas (Luis Firpo), the Black Uhlan of the Rhine (Max Schmeling)--has largely fallen into disuse. Sure, NASCAR's Bill Elliott is Awesome Bill from Dawsonville, but the best we could do with a modern, ball-smiting behemoth like Mark McGwire was the pathetic Big Mac. Seventy years ago he'd have been something rather grander--the Red Scythe of Pomona, perhaps.

Big Mac, like Air Canada--a nickname embraced by Vince Carter--is descended from a brand name. Likewise, new ballparks, named for corporations or corporate titans, come equipped with prefabricated nicknames that have about them a forced, executive-approved jocularity: the Bob, the Ted, the Jake.

Mercifully, there is hope. As UCLA seeks to hire yet another heir to John Wooden, former Bruins basketball coach Jim Harrick--recently fired at Georgia--has been referred to, in some circles, as the Lizard of Westwood. Today's nicknames don't stick like the Splendid Splinter's, but those fans of the Tampa Bay Double A's (ne Devil Rays) are at least trying. Many nicknames that don't look clever at first blush really are. And so, in England, it helps to know that Arsenal soccer player Ray (Pizza) Parlour was arrested on a drunk-and-disorderly charge at a Pizza Hut in Essex.

And then there's Ivan (the Terrible) Gantz, a former Indiana club pro and part-time Tour golfer prone to assaulting himself in anger. Gantz, according to Golf Magazine, once punched himself in the face for blowing a chip and--in Texas, in self-reproach--threw himself onto a cactus. Golf, in fact, is doing more than its share to resuscitate nicknamery. Robo-putter Loren Roberts is the Boss of the Moss, a sobriquet that would have stood proudly alongside the Galloping Ghost and the Sultan of Swat in the Golden Age of sportswriting. An English writer has called chronic runner-up Phil Mickelson "the Nearly Man," a perfect nickname that sadly hasn't gained currency. The English, incidentally, do this well. Can Hammerin' Hank Aaron ever hope to compete with the unspoken H's of Cockney boxer 'ammerin' 'enry Cooper? 'ell no 'e can't.

The decline of boxing nicknames may be merely an accident of geography. The sport that gave us Jack (the Manassa Mauler) Dempsey still delivers alliterative nicknames based on a fighter's hometown. But whom do you find more fearsome--Rocky (the Brockton Blockbuster) Marciano, or Kevin (the Flushing Flash) Kelley, a shopworn New Yorker who'll fight featherweight champ Marco Antonio Barrera on Saturday? Not since George Michael's arrest have flushing and flash appeared in such deleterious proximity to one another. We may never again see the likes of fight promoter Harry Levene, spectacularly dubbed the Merchant of Menace.

An anonymous citizen of cyberspace has compiled 531 hockey goalie nicknames, from the legendary George (the Chicoutimi Cucumber) Vezina to obscure players like Blaine (the Lach Net Monster) Lacher and Adam (the Holy Goalie) Lord. This last calls to mind clergyman Tim Davis, who races automobiles as the Pastor of Disaster. Shameful, isn't it, that no professional driver has yet been dubbed the Colossus of Roads?

But back to goalies for a moment. Nicknames do not get better than Steve (the Puck Goes Inski) Buzinski's. It's a standard of excellence seldom equaled. Really, is anyone cowed by those two coastal colleges--in Rhode Island and Puget Sound--whose teams are called the Anchormen? We are reminded, in these days of round-the-clock news viewing, that actual anchormen would be more intimidating.

Wolfblitzers, anyone?

We've lost our way in nicknaming athletes. Is T-Mac shilling iMacs? Does A-Rod have an iPod?

Sunday, June 20, 2004

The New York Times

May 13, 2004 Thursday
Correction Appended
Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section G; Column 1; Circuits; Pg. 1; STATE OF THE ART

LENGTH: 1539 words

HEADLINE: Google Mail: Virtue Lies In the In-Box

BYLINE: By David Pogue.

E-mail: Pogue@nytimes.com


AS Google's white-hot initial stock offering hogs the headlines, its rivals can only gnash their teeth and wonder: How did a couple of Stanford Ph.D. dropouts build an outrageously profitable billion-dollar-a-year company in only five years?

Part of the answer is great Web-search technology. But another part is the company's motto: ''Don't Be Evil.''

That credo explains why Google's home page is practically empty, because ads and graphics would slow dial-up modems. It also explains why Google's ads are clearly labeled and separate from search results. Slipping paid-placement links into your search results, as MSN and Yahoo do, would be evil.

So six weeks ago, when Google described Gmail, the free e-mail service it is testing, the prevailing public reaction was shock. The company said that its software would place ads in your incoming messages, relevant to their contents.

It appeared to many people that Google had gone way beyond evil into Big Brother land. What could be more sinister than snooping through private correspondence looking for advertising opportunities?

Privacy advocates went ballistic. The Electronic Privacy Information Center called for Gmail to be shut down, describing it as ''an unprecedented invasion into the sanctity of private communications.'' And a California state senator, Liz Figueroa, offered a bill that would make it illegal to scan the contents of incoming e-mail. (Never mind that such a bill would make it illegal for children's e-mail services to filter out pornographic material.)

Those reactions, as it turns out, are a tad overblown. In fact, no human ever looks at the Gmail e-mail. Computers do the scanning -- dumbly, robotically and with no understanding the words -- just the way your current e-mail provider scans your messages for spam and viruses. The same kind of software also reads every word you type into Google or any other search page, tracks your shopping on Amazon, and so on.

Besides, if you're that kind of private, Gmail is the least of your worries. You'd better make sure that the people at credit-card companies, mail-order outfits and phone companies aren't sitting in back rooms giggling at your monthly statements. Heck, how do you know that your current e-mail providers -- or the administrators of the Internet computers that pass mail along -- aren't taking an occasional peek?

Still, you feel what you feel. If Gmail creeps you out, just don't sign up.

That would be a shame, though, because you'd be missing a wonderful thing. Even in its current, early state, available only to a few thousand testers, Gmail appears destined to become one of the most useful Internet services since Google itself.

Like Yahoo Mail and Hotmail, Gmail is a free, Web-based e-mail program, which means that you will be able to check or send e-mail from any computer on the Internet, wherever you go. Even if you already have a traditional e-mail account, a Web mail account makes a great backup.

But otherwise, you wouldn't even peg Gmail as being from the same planet as Yahoo and Hotmail. The most important difference is the amount of storage: one gigabyte. That's 250 times the amount you get on a free Yahoo account, 500 times the amount on Hotmail.

One gigabyte changes everything. You no longer live in terror that somebody will send you a photo, thereby exceeding your two-megabyte limit and making all subsequent messages bounce back to their senders. You're no longer neurotic about checking your mail twice a day just to keep the in-box cleaned out. You can let years' worth of e-mail pile up, complete with file attachments (maximum size: 10 megabytes each).

One gigabyte means that Gmail can be a handy personal transfer disk. Send files to yourself and then retrieve them when you get to the office. Keep important pictures or documents in your Gmail account all the time, ready to forward when friends request them.

In fact, Google argues that with so much storage, you should get out of the habit of deleting messages. Why risk throwing away something that you might need again someday? An Archive button moves a message out of the in-box, but it remains searchable. Actually deleting a message involves fussing with a pop-up menu.

Of course, if you're going to keep all your e-mail around forever, you'd better have some pretty good tools for managing it. Fortunately, if anyone can tame a vast pile of data, it's Google. Its famous search command works brilliantly on your own e-mail, plucking one message out of 5,000 in a fraction of a second.

Each message offers a hollow star icon that turns yellow when you click on it, to signify anything you like: ''Deal with this,'' ''Those darned in-laws,'' or whatever. Each row also displays the first line of the message in light-gray type, which is a time-saving bit of X-ray vision.

Gmail doesn't have the usual mail folders. Instead, you can flag messages with labels of your own choosing. The advantage here is that you can apply different labels to a single message, in effect filing it under several categories at once. An extremely easy-to-use filter feature lets you flag incoming messages with certain labels automatically according to who sends them, what's in their subject line and so on.

Yet another clever organizational feature is ''conversations,'' known to computer geeks as threading. Back-and-forth messages on a single topic, even among several participants, appear as one entry in your in-box. When opened, the exchanges appear like file-folder tabs, which you can expand or collapse individually or all at once.

And now, about those ads.

They turn out to be a maximum of three text-only four-line affairs, clearly labeled and way off the to the right, just as on Google itself. In my e-mail, a message about Earth Day contained an ad for a computer-recycling company. A question about music players had two ads for stores selling the Apple iPod. In a press release for a computer show, a Linuxworld link appeared.

You sometimes get Releated Links beneath the ads, too. Google doesn't get money for these; it offers them just to be friendly, and they can sometimes be useful indeed. For example, in a message about a coming family vacation, sent from my wife downstairs (yes, we're that sort of family), Google offered a link to a Web site of restaurant reviews in the resort town we were considering.

Ads appear in fewer than half of my messages; in fact, they seem to appear primarily when a capitalized brand name appears in the message. If your correspondence is mostly personal stuff (''Miss you guys. How did Casey's toe surgery go? Went out to the new vegetarian steakhouse yesterday -- great.''), you may not see many at all.

The ads are so subtle, so easily ignored, that it's hard to imagine anyone preferring the big, blinking, slow-loading graphic ads that appear every time you check for messages at the Hotmail and Yahoo Mail sites. Even more refreshing, Gmail doesn't turn you into an unpaid billboard for Yahoo or Microsoft (Hotmail's owner) by stamping ads on at the bottom of every outgoing message, no matter how sensitive the topic.

Other Gmail features include an excellent spelling checker, a built-in address book, auto-complete for addresses, the ability to specify a Reply To address (a different e-mail address for replies to your messages), indicators (>>) that denote messages sent only to you, in-message photo display, online help and one-key shortcuts (C for Compose, R for reply, and so on) that let power users cruise through entire e-mail sessions without ever touching the mouse. The automatic spam-removal feature is adequate for the moment, but once thousands of people begin to use the Report Spam button, Google plans to harness the cumulative intelligence of its customers to refine its spam filters in innovative ways.

Finally, Google promises that it won't shut down your account until you go nine months without using it. (Hotmail and Yahoo delete all your mail and recycle your address after only 30 days). Now that's not being evil.

Google hasn't said when, exactly, Gmail's testing period will end and the service will go live.

That's just as well, because there are a few items that should still be on its To Do list: compatibility with Apple's Safari browser (at the moment, it works on on the Mac, Windows and Linux versions of Mozilla, Firefox and Netscape 7.1, plus Internet Explorer for Windows ), for example, and a signature feature that stamps your name on each outgoing message. It would be nice if you could use regular e-mail readers like Outlook Express to check your Gmail, as you can withHotmail. A certain audience will miss the ability to format outgoing messages with fonts, styles and colors, too.

Otherwise, Gmail is infinitely cleaner, faster, more useful, more efficient, less commercial and less limiting than other Web-based e-mail services. Once Gmail goes live, Hotmail and Yahoo won't know what hit them.

The only population likely not to be delighted by Gmail are those still uncomfortable with those computer-generated ads. Those people are free to ignore or even bad-mouth Gmail, but they shouldn't try to stop Google from offering Gmail to the rest of us. We know a good thing when we see it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Detroit Free Press
June 16, 2004
Pistons are part of our town's glory

Asking Iffy to reminisce is kinda like asking Phil Jackson to whine about
the refs -- naturally he's going to do it. So it should come as little
surprise to faithful readers that even now, while Pistons fans are walking
on air, Iffy's taking a stroll down memory lane.

The head cheeses at Your Morning Friendly asked him to say a few words about
Detroit's past champions, and he was only too happy to oblige, especially
since the past is one of Iffy's favorite hangouts.

Math was never his strong suit, but after removing his shoes and other
apparel, Iffy concluded that our fair burg has enjoyed 21 past champs among
the major sporting teams. He includes in this number 10 Stanley Cups for the
Red Wings, four championship banners each for the Tigers and Lions, two
previous titles for the Pistons and one for the Shock.

No, he hasn't forgotten about our ersatz gridiron heroes -- the Michigan
Panthers, Detroit Drive and Detroit Demolition -- but for now he's focused
on the big boys and girls.

Detroit's first flag bearers -- and in many ways his favorite team ever --
were the Tigers of 1935, who dispatched the Cubs in a six-game World Series.
The year before, our Tabbies lost a bitter, seven-game set to the Gas House
Gang from St. Louis.

In '35, we lost hammerin' Hank Greenberg to a broken wrist in Game 2 of the
Fall Classic, but the still-standing G Men -- Charlie Gehringer and Goose
Goslin -- got the job done and delivered Detroit's first title.

Success was contagious back in the day, evidenced by the fact that later
that year, the Lions -- behind coach Potsy Clark and QB Dutch Clark --
brought home the city's first NFL championship.

Then in the spring of 1936, Jack Adams' Red Wings made Detroit the City of
Champions by winning the Stanley Cup, thanks to the stellar play of stickmen
like Larry Aurie, Ebbie Goodfellow and Syd Howe, and the unparalleled
efforts of netminder Normie Smith.

The Wings have been Detroit's most prolific provider. They followed their
title in '36 with banner years in 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955.

You don't need Iffy to tell you that Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, was
the driving force behind those last four Cups, nor do you need him to remind
you that Wings fans had to wait 42 long, hungry years before they could
savor the team's eighth title.

The Lions, meanwhile, enjoyed a renaissance in the 1950s, winning three
championships in six years (1952, 1953, 1957). Those were the "Happy Days"
when Bobby Layne ran the show with a supporting cast that included the likes
of Doak Walker, Leon Hart and Hopalong Cassady.

Our beloved Wings of recent times matched the Lions' feat by winning three
Cups in six seasons (1997, 1998, 2002) behind players we came to know and
love on a first-name (or nickname) basis: Vladdie, Sergei, Slava, Nick,
Brendan, Ozzie, Igor, Vernie, Dom, Brett, Luc, Cheli, Kris, Tomas and
Darren, to name a few, not to mention Scotty and The Captain.

And now it's the Pistons' turn again, time to rekindle the glory years of
1989 and 1990, when the Bad Boys brought Motown back-to-back NBA crowns.

And speaking of roundball, let's not forget the Shock, the Cinderella team
that went from worst to first, from cellar dwellers in 2002 to WNBA champs
in 2003.

Y'know Iffy has a soft spot in his heart for our championship Tigers teams.
They've also done the best job of spanning the generations with their
titles, winning in 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984.

That means they're overdue to win another, but clearly they have no chance
of hanging a banner this year.

Hey, wait a minute. Isn't that what we were saying about the Pistons a
couple of weeks ago?

Contact IFFY THE DOPESTER at iffy@freepress.com

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Ottawa Citizen
January 31, 2004
Saturday Observer; Pg. B1, 3479 words

//Other tongue: More than 100 years after it was introduced,
Esperanto has only 1,000 native speakers. Elaine O'Connor investigates what happened to a utopian ideal.//

Kulture neutrala kaj pli facile lernebla ol la angla lingvo, Esperanto estis
kreita en 1887 por esti lingva slosilo al utopia socio. Oni celis, ke gi
estu la unua universala lingvo de la mondo.

There are more than a billion people in the world who can read this
sentence, yet only 100,000 who can read the paragraph above which,
translated into English, states: "Culturally neutral and easier to learn
than English, Esperanto was created in 1887 to serve as the linguistic key
to a utopian society. It was supposed to be the world's first universal

Clearly, it never came close.

More than 100 years after it was introduced, there are just an estimated
100,000 fluent speakers worldwide. It's believed even fewer -- a scant
1,000 -- are native speakers who grew up with Esperanto in their homes.

But those who do speak Esperanto do so with gusto.

"It's totally fascinating to be able to interact so easily with others in a
neutral shared inter-language, without feeling guilty of encouraging
linguistic colonialism or imposing my language on others," says Brian
Kaneen, president of the Canadian Esperanto Association, which has about 150

At a general level, the language has greater influence -- a 1999 Universal
Esperanto Association congress put the number of casual speakers at up to
three million, and there are Esperanto associations in more than 50

In comparison to the meme-like spread of English, Esperanto has proven a
colossal failure, yet when judged against other constructed languages --
there have been more than 600 attempts to invent a universal planned
language -- Esperanto is a remarkable success. Indeed, it's the only one of
these linguistic experiments to survive in any meaningful way.

Some linguists argue Esperanto may yet prove its worth in a future in which
English is expected to be eclipsed as our de facto lingua franca by more
complex languages such as Chinese.

Meanwhile, Esperanto, in part because of its philosophical allure, retains
adherents, among them Vancouver linguist Mark Fettes.

"People who stay with Esperanto tend to be interested in other cultures,
tend to be open-minded people who enjoy diversity, who don't feel threatened
by it," says Mr. Fettes, a board member of the Esperantic Studies

"Esperanto is so encompassing, it's a place where you make the most
unexpected and enriching encounters with people."

- - -

Born in Russian Poland in 1859, Esperanto's inventor, Ludovic Lazarus
Zamenhof, grew up in Bialystok, a city plagued by ethnic tensions between
Russian, Jewish, Polish and German groups. Troubled by the frictions he
believed arose in large part from linguistic differences, Zamenhof became
obsessed with creating a universal second language. In 1887, he published a
booklet, Lingvo Internacia (International Language) under the pseudonym
Doktoro Esperanto (meaning "one who hopes").

He wasn't the first to do so. The notion of an international, neutral,
shared language is a utopian ideal many have tried to realize. In 1879,
German priest Father J.M. Schleyer conceived Volapuk, a constructed language
based on French and German. In its heyday, Volapuk gave rise to textbooks
and societies -- an 1889 Parisian congress was conducted entirely in the
dialect -- yet its unnecessary complexity ultimately led to the demise of
the world's first artificial language.

By contrast, Esperanto is exceptional for its simplicity. The rules are
straightforward: no conjugating verbs, no silent letters, just 16 grammar
rules and none of the maddening exceptions found in English. There are only
9,000 words, based on European language roots (including Latin, Greek,
English, French and German), and speakers can create new words by combining

"Esperanto is a very creative language. It can be thought of as a kind of
linguistic Mechano set," says Dr. Stevens Norvell, a Halifax-based
Esperantist who owns some 2,000 books on and in the language -- believed to
be the largest collection of Esperanto literature in Canada.

Using a 26-letter alphabet, Esperanto consists of nouns, such as "pupo"
(doll) ending in "o," or, if plural in "j", such as "pupoj," (dolls)
adjectives such as "delikata" (nice) ending in "a," adverbs, such as "tute"
(quite) that end in "e" and verbs, such as "teni" (hold), which take an "i"

It is so streamlined that language teachers estimate it takes just over a
year to become conversationally fluent, compared to the roughly six years
needed to attain the same competency in English. Online, it is possible to
learn Esperanto in native tongues as diverse as Welsh, Catalan, Galician,
Chinese, Korean and Swahili. At the multi-lingual Esperanto website
www.lernu.net more than 2,600 people are registered to learn.

Gatineau resident Dr. Jean Alain says of all the languages he's tackled --
English, Spanish, Latin, German and Japanese -- Esperanto is by far the

"For all the other ones I've dabbled in, I've always found it extremely
difficult to go past a certain point, because it's one thing to learn the
first 1,500 words and basic grammar, but it's another thing to get to the
point where you can speak it," says Dr. Alain, who recently joined the
Ottawa Esperanto Circle of a few dozen Esperantists.

With Esperanto, it only took him a year to become literate.

"It's easy to learn and philosophically it's a good idea," he says.
"Esperanto is nobody's language, but the idea of Esperanto is that it
aspires to become everybody's second language."

A vast network of Internet sources (some 60,000 Esperanto websites),
regional clubs (the Worldwide Esperanto-Association has members in 119
countries) and international conferences (the World Esperanto Congress in
Goteborg, Sweden this summer drew 1,800 Esperantists) have kept the language
alive -- in 1987, 6,000 speakers met in Warsaw to celebrate Esperanto's

It's surprising that Esperanto, known among devotees as "the Latin of
democracy" or "the linguistic handshake," has survived as well as it has,
considering that historically it has met with fierce opposition.

Adolf Hitler was so disgusted with the idea of a neutral universal language
he banned Esperanto in Germany and ordered some speakers into concentration
camps. In 1938, Josef Stalin claimed it was a bourgeois conspiracy and
banished 11,000 Soviet Esperantists to Siberia. The language remained banned
in the Soviet Union until 1956. Esperantists fared little better during
China's Cultural Revolution, when adherents were imprisoned. In the United
States, the American Esperanto Association was investigated as a suspected
communist front in the 1950s.

"It has been perceived as incredibly threatening by all sorts of regimes,"
says University of Ottawa classics professor Geoffrey Greatrex.

"There is a broadness, a breadth of vision" to the language, says Mr.
Greatrex, a fluent Esperantist and fellow of the British Esperanto
Association, "and I think that is what causes problems to national
governments. It's a threat ideologically, but also as an erosion of national

Even today, national leaders prefer their citizens steer clear of the
tongue -- Saddam Hussein expelled the sole Esperanto teacher from Iraq
during his reign. In Africa, the introduction of neo-Esperanto languages has
prompted violent protests -- in 1999, two Ethiopian teachers in a Walaita
school sparked a riot after they refused to teach a similar universal
language -- in the ensuing violence, three children were killed.

- - -

The people who choose to speak Esperanto, it seems, do so because they share
a common global outlook and philosophy, one that values cross-cultural
understanding and cultural equality.

"Surely international understanding means meeting others halfway, not
imposing oneself?" says Mr. Kaneen, a Vancouver-based retired language
professor and Esperanto teacher who discovered the language growing up on
the Isle of Man.

Besides, he says, "why waste years trying to learn an ethnic language, when
you can achieve almost perfection (in Esperanto) in one-tenth the time?"

Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that a travel service has sprung up to
connect like-minded Esperantists around the world.

Pasporta Servo, an international hospitality service, has some 1,225 hosts
in 80 countries willing to shelter travellers for free -- provided, of
course, they speak fluent Esperanto.

All of the service's information and correspondence is conducted in the
language -- its tagline is: "Hitch a ride to the world. All you need is your
thumb ... and Esperanto."

In North America, there are Pasporta Servo hosts from Miami, Florida to
Juneau, Alaska, and last year in Canada, Esperantists in Nanaimo, Vancouver,
Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener, Montreal and Halifax offered up their homes.

"When I wanted to go to Bulgaria or Romania or Budapest, I just wrote ahead
and said I'd like to visit and the Esperantists met me at the airport ...
and I immediately had someone I could talk to," says Dr. Norvell, who both
uses the Pasporta Servo service and hosts a few guests each year, recently
from Germany and Korea.

Mr. Greatrex has stayed with Esperantists across Europe -- in France, Italy,
Germany, Austria and even Russia.

"To be able to converse with people there, and go 'round monuments and hear
about the history of the place," he says, "it makes going abroad a much
richer experience, breaking down language barriers."

Esperanto's cultural influence extends beyond these travel networks -- it
has seeped into the mainstream, where culture mavens view it as a
fascinating oddity.

William Shatner's 1965 cult film Incubus, for example, is filmed entirely in
Esperanto -- the only feature film produced entirely in the language (actors
enrolled in a week-long Esperanto boot camp during production).

Music fans can find hip-hop, grunge, metal and folk music in Esperanto, but
it crops up in popular music, too. In a 1995 music video to promote his new
HIStory album, Michael Jackson wears a green star, the symbol for Esperanto
(the other being two lowercase e's facing inward), as he strides in front of
a statue inscribed with the words: "Ni konstruas i tiun skulptaon en la nomo
de iuj landoj kaj tutmonda patrineco kaj la kuracpovo de la muziko,"
meaning: "We build this sculpture in the name of every land and the global
motherhood and healing power of music." Elvis Costello printed the liner
notes from his 1986 album Blood and Chocolate in Esperanto. Even google.com
has an Esperanto interface.

But the language has its own high culture as well. Unlike other artificial
languages, Esperanto has a pedigree, counting among practitioners playwright
George Bernard Shaw, novelists Leo Tolstoy and Umberto Eco, former British
prime minister Harold Wilson and former Austrian president Franz Jonas.
There are seven Esperantists among Nobel laureates, most recently, Reinhard
Selten, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1994, and claimed Esperanto
"generally develops a person's intellectual level."

And the language lays claim to a body of serious literature. In 1999, Bill
Auld, a retired British school teacher, was nominated for a Nobel Prize for
literature for his poetry and stories in the language.

Translations of most classics -- the Bible, the Koran, Shakespeare, Dante,
Goethe, Gogol, Ibsen, Baudelaire and Sartre, among others, are all available
in Esperanto. Many are housed in the Hector Hodler Library in Rotterdam,
home to more than 15,000 books on and in Esperanto. Each year, the existing
body of literature grows -- about 100 magazines are still published in

- - -

Despite Esperanto's success in establishing a unique culture and following,
English is taken for granted as the inevitable world language, with good

The vast majority of the world's population knows enough to communicate in a
rudimentary fashion, making it the default tongue in travellers' circles.
Though there are more than 6,800 distinct dialects spoken around the globe,
according to the International Linguistics Center's Ethnologue global
language database (considered the world's most comprehensive), English is
the dominant language in more than 30 countries and is spoken as a first
language by an estimated 341 million people. The total number rises to more
than 500 million with the inclusion of second-language speakers in the over
75 countries where English has official second-language status. An
additional 300 million to 750 million speak some English as a foreign
language, according to the International English-Speaking Union.

For now, English reigns supreme. Three-quarters of the world's mail is
written in English, 80 per cent of the world's electronically-stored
information is in English, and 36 per cent of the estimated 200 million
Internet users worldwide communicate in English, according to research on
global English by The British Council.

At least two-thirds of the world's scientists read in English and roughly 85
per cent of international organizations cite English as their working
language (as opposed to 49 per cent that use French and fewer than 10 per
cent that use Arabic, Spanish or German), linguist David Crystal writes in
his 1997 book English as a Global Language.

And English usage is growing apace. According to The Future of English?
author David Graddol, the number of English as a second language speakers
will outnumber native speakers within a decade. But is English growing fast
enough to maintain world supremacy?

Demographically speaking, Mr. Graddol argues, the Chinese- and
Spanish-speaking populations are younger, larger and multiplying faster than
English-speaking populations. In addition, Asian countries are expected to
increase their share of world wealth from 21 per cent in 1990 to 60 per cent
in 2050, making them a dominant economic force, a factor that will have an
as yet untold impact on the language of international trade.

Even now, in terms of native-language speakers, Mandarin Chinese is the most
commonly spoken language on Earth, with approximately 1.2 billion native
speakers, according to the Ethnologue database.

"The size of the global market for English may increase in absolute terms,
but its market share will probably fall," Mr. Graddol predicts in his 1997
book, and as a result, "we may find the hegemony of English replaced by an
oligarchy of languages, including Spanish and Chinese."

Looking far ahead into the next century and beyond, then, there could be a
case for an Esperanto renaissance of sorts, if English is eclipsed by more
complex languages such as Chinese -- in much the same way Latin was eclipsed
by English more than 300 years ago.

- - -

Already, there is a strong case for a neutral global language in the world's
international federations. In the United Nations and the EU's European
Parliament, bureaucracy created by multilingualism is, in some views, well
out of control.

In the UN, where there are six official working languages (English, French,
Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese), the mass amount of documentation and
translation required eats up as much as a quarter of the UN's working
budget, according to a 1996 study by Mr. Fettes.

In the seat of the European Union in Brussels, council meetings and press
briefings take place in ampitheatres where simultaneous translators -- there
are more than 700 in the institution -- pack glassed-in booths lining the
walls. In order to accommodate the EU's 11 official languages (Dutch,
French, German, Italian, Danish, English, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish,
Finnish and Swedish), most officials sit through presentations wearing head
sets. Translation services already cost 700 million Euros a year -- 40 per
cent of the EU's administrative budget. The European Parliament held a
hearing on language issues and the Esperanto option in 1993, but made no
move in that direction. Meanwhile, the confusion will likely increase -- 10
new Eastern European member states were admitted to the existing 15, with
Romania and Bulgaria expected to join in 2007.

"The EU Parliament so far is still limping along trying to provide
interpretation and translation in all the official languages, but there's a
lot of debate in the EU at the moment, particularly with the expansion into
Eastern Europe, about how feasible it is to run a democratic institution in
15 or 16 different languages at the same time," says Mr. Fettes, a former
organizer with the World Esperanto Association in Rotterdam.

Language use in these situations is highly political, with nations jostling
for the top linguistic position. As recently as 1991, London's Daily Mail
campaigned for English as the lingua franca of the European Union, arguing,
"if Europe is to have a future, it needs more than a common currency, a
common foreign policy and a common set of laws. It must have a common
language," concluding, "that language can only be English."

As it stands in these organizations, language rights are bestowed on an
inequitable basis, based partly on national clout, a distribution that runs
counter to the aim of establishing democratic, equal unions.

Esperanto, on the other hand, is neutral because it is stateless, but that
is also its key weakness -- central to Esperanto's failure, it seems, is its
lack of a national power base and absence of the cultural embeddedness and
socio-economic influence so central to language dissemination.

Yet Esperantists persist in presenting the case for adopting Esperanto in
such organizations.

"In the last year I think there's been a definite increase in effort
expended by Esperantists in the European Union to co-ordinate their
activities to draw attention to the language problem," says Mr. Greatrex,
former president of the European Esperanto Union.

"That's the first stage. The second is to say, 'Look at the solutions
dispassionately.' And we are confident that if this effort is made, the
outcome can only be favourable to Esperanto."

In fact, before the League of Nations gave way to the UN, the association
considered adopting Esperanto several times between 1920 and 1924, and 11
member states recommended teaching it in schools. However, France fought
vehemently against the idea (French and English served as primary diplomatic
languages), and it was scrapped.

Although today Esperanto holds consultative status at the UN and UNESCO and
has been officially recognized as a literary language by the International
PEN Club (in the late 1980s, even Ottawa Mayor Jim Durell signed a
proclamation in favour of Esperanto), it has never since been taken
seriously as a conduit for borderless communication. Detractors blame the
language itself, citing its utilitarian phrasing, inelegant words and dearth
of emotional emphasis.

International organizations are exploring alternatives instead. The UN has
established a group to develop a Universal Networking Language program to
enable information to be encoded so it becomes instantly available to all in
their chosen language without laborious translation.

In 1999, EU Council of Ministers interpreter Diego Marani took matters into
his own hands and developed an Esperanto-offshoot language, Europanto,
designed to incorporate all European languages. It's been taken even less
seriously in the EU community.

Yet Esperantists believe their day may yet come.

"We're probably looking at something that is going to take 400 years, says
Dr. Norvell, who publishes Inter Ne (Among Us) a monthly Esperanto bulletin
distributed in 25 countries.

"But it will come about I think because it will simply become too cumbersome
to carry out the amount of translation that needs to be done, particularly
as various languages which have large numbers of speakers insist on their
language rights.

"There will be so much pressure to do something," Dr. Norvell says with
emphasis, in English, "that I think Esperanto will be at least among the
seriously considered possibilities."

Ottawans interested in learning Esperanto can contact Geoffrey Greatrex, who
runs an eight-session course this fall at (613) 562-5808.

An Esperanto Glossary

Please: Bonvolu

Thank you: Dankon

Yes: Jes

No: Ne

Hello: Ha lo

Goodbye: Adiau

Taxi: Taksio

Restaurant: Restoracio

Hotel: Hotelo

Airport: Aerohaveno

Train: Trajno

Airplane: Aeroplano

Friend: Amiko

Good: Bona

Bad: Malbona

Drink: Trinki

Coffee: Kafo

Tea: Teo

Water: Akvo

Beer: Biero

Home: Hejmo

Room: Cambro

Travel: Vojagi

Buy: Aceti

Look for: Seri

To be: Estas

To walk: Marsi

To sit: Sidi

To go: Iri

To have: Havi

Man: Viro

Woman: Virino

Child: Infano

First: Unua

Second: Dua

Third: Tria

One: Unu

Two: Du

Three: Tri

Fast: Rapida

Slow: Lanta

New: Nova

Happy: Felicxa

Beautiful: Bela

Picture: Foto

Book: Libro

Dog: Hundo

Cat: Kato

Hour: Horo

Day: Tago

Night: Nokto

Morning: Mateno

Week: Semajno

GRAPHIC: Colour Photo: Robert Cross, The Ottawa Citizen; (See hard copy for
photo description).; Photo: Brigitte Bouvier, The Ottawa Citizen; Esperanto,
which was banned by Adolf Hitler and whose adherents were banished by Stalin
to Siberia, 'has been perceived as incredibly threatening by all sorts of
regimes,' says University of Ottawa classics professor Geoffrey Greatrex.
'It's a threat ideologically, but also as an erosion of national
boundaries.'; Graphic;Diagram: The Ottawa Citizen; (See hard copy for

Habits of the High-Tech Heart by Quentin Schultze
Reviewed by Nathan Bierma
The Banner, 2001

The cyber-boom of the 1990s came with such dizzying speed and delivered such profound changes to our lives, we’re only beginning to weigh the consequences. Quentin Schultze is among the first to haul out the scale. The spread of digital technology over the last decade may have brought some improvements to the world, Schultze says, but not without great cost to coherent systems of moral meaning.

In his new book, Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age, Schultze is out to do more than just gloat over the burst dot-com bubble; in an astute and entertaining critique, he deconstructs the Silicon Valley “cyberculture”—its mythology, methods, and the lifestyle it introduced to the nation. As usual, the Calvin College communications scholar has taken a unique approach to a much-discussed subject. His title is a take-off on the book Habits of the Heart, in which sociologist Robert Bellah and his co-authors argue for the appreciation of communities and shared narratives in an individualistic age. Schultze takes an analogous approach to the subject of digital technology, anchoring his analysis in the civic and moral insights of Democracy in America author Alexis de Tocqueville, who coined the term “habits of the heart” in the nineteenth century, and former Czech Republic president and moral thinker Vaschlav Havel. Schultze manages to craft a work that is distinctly Reformed in its approach, but minus much of the usual Reformed vocabulary, so as to reach the wide public and academic audience that needs it.

What was lost in the giddy dot-com mania of the 1990s, writes Schultze, was any sense that “the moral value of information depends on distinctly human faculties, such as insight, discernment, and judgment.” These virtues are not inherent in technological progress; indeed sometimes they run counterintuitive to the convenience-minded conventional thinking of technological soothsayers. The innovations and ambitions of the “digerati”—the Silicon Valley elite—may in fact hold “no real solutions to today’s or tomorrow’s moral dilemmas,” writes Schultze. “Will a fingertip-controlled world or a wearable computer bring us more peace and justice? Will they foster virtue at home and work?”

Nonetheless, the gushing, sometimes salvific rhetoric of the narrow-minded digerati builds a seemingly unassailable narrative of social progress. Schultze says the Information Age has actually ushered in a new religion: that of informationism, foolish faith in the possession and spread of information as the redemption of humankind. This new faith values the is over the ought, observation over participation, and measurement over meaning.

With witty and informed observation, Schultze wades into the thick of the new cyber-age—with its ephemeral digital empires and 15-minute celebrities rising and falling like tides, and its bizarre anecdotes from bleary-eyed workers for dot-com startups—and forms a refreshing critique. Computers and the Internet, he says, have actually served to fragment our lives, drowning us in a digital Babel, distracting and distancing us from sound common understandings of moral wisdom. The more we are randomly connected across unseen digital networks, authenticity is flimsy, and important virtues such as truthfulness, humility, empathy, and selfless friendship are considered to be dinosaurs. We must moderate our own informationism, respond to informationist rhetoric with humility and wisdom, and reject society’s decision that efficiency is a virtue.

A book that asks such good questions begs more answers, or at least more suggestions. We’re not going back to an un-wired world, after all; e-mail and the Internet are here to stay. So how do Christians go forward, besides embracing their traditional and moral roots, and faithfully engage new digital technology? In his incisive 1992 book, Redeeming Television, Schultze offers several practical measures Christians can take as citizens, churchgoers, and media professionals in their interaction with the medium of television. A similar practical prescription, or a discussion of whether one is possible, would have enhanced his latest book.

Nonetheless, Schultze has penned the authoritative theological analysis of digital technology in the twenty-first century. It is fitting that he do so; there are few experts on technology who have the theological depth of Schultze, and likewise few religious scholars who have Schultze’s experience and expertise in the field of communications. This book teaches much about both faith and technology, and, true to its theme, answers the noise of the digital age with a voice of wisdom.

Dear sir/madam,
This mail will definitely be coming to you as a surprise, but i must crave
your indulgence to introduce myself to you.
I am Miss Marah sadija, former mistress to the son (Qusay) of the Iraqi
former leader, Saddam Hussein.

I am an Ethiopian, by birth and i am presently in a refugee camp in
the living conditions are unbearable.
I do not wish to take your time with a lenghty mail, but i have to

put this proposal to you so that you can assist me.

While i was still in contact with Qusay,he made a deposit in my
name to a security firm in Spain, which has an affiliate branch in
This deposit was made in my name and the secret code and necessary
documents arepresently in the possession of an attorney,

presently in London.This deposit was made in the form of a consigment
and the content is
a considerable amount of money in United state dollars which i cannot

disclose to you for security purposes,
until you have confirmed your willingness to assist me.

I would be pleased and grateful to you if you could assist me in
collecting this consignment on my behalf from the security firm in Dubia,upon

which i will be offering you a percentage for your efforts.

The attorney in London, will arrange an authority to release and pay

in your name which you will tender to the security firm coupled with all

necessary documents that will back up your claims in collecting this consignment
on my behalf.

I have to stop here now as your response will determine our
subsequent corresspondence. Please feel free to dis-regard this
proposal if it is not in line with your principles.

Allah bless you,
Marah Sadija.