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Jim Lehrer, of what I always called "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour", has revealed his rules for journalism. "Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything" is one that strikes me as missing greatly from the news pretenders today (especially channels with 'news' in their name), and it also seems to me that these are parallel with the expectations The Daily Show demands from the news programs they lambast nightly. Via. #

Today may be Zamenhofa Tago - 'Esperanto Day', in honor of Esperanto inventor LL Zamenhof - but film-lovers have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an entirely new language. In James Cameron's new movie Avatar, the aliens speak Na'vi, an artificial language invented by linguist Paul Frommer. The actors in the film were not required to be fluent (they learned their lines phonetically), leaving Frommer as the only Na'vi speaker on this planet. You can join his exclusive club with a dictionary and a system of grammar, and if you end up on a distant planet inhabited by giant blue creatures, you'll be set. See also: Atlantean, the Divine Language, and, of course, Klingon (among many, many others). Update: Language Log has a nice consolidation of the technical aspects of Na'vi by Frommer. #

In 1927, Frank Hutmacher, a Russian-German immigrant, married Veronica Nuss and spent the next three years building a home made of stone slabs, clay, rocks, and what little wood there was available. The Hutmachers and their children continued to live in the earthen home until the late 1970s. In 1979, the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places because so few earthen homes of its kind survived so long, but time and the elements have continued to wear on the farm's buildings. In recent years, however, efforts have been made to restore the structure, using historical construction methods in hopes of keeping this rare surviving example of Ukrainian stone architecture intact. #

The MIT Media Lab, my favorite MIT department, has done it. DARPA challenged the internet to find ten red balloons, each numbered and identified with a DARPA sign, scattered around the Untied States on December 5th. Entrants had until the 14th to report the winning GPS coordinates, but MIT had them in within nine hours (a bit longer than I predicted). Their ingenious plan was to try to include people instead of firewalling out false positives and blocking spies - and paying cold, hard cash for successful hits, a'la MLM. #

The stock markets are usually intangible, you pass around money and imaginary chunks of property and companies, and maybe you've traded in gold but you have never held it in your hands. That is, until some poorly-written software and a gentrified pier conspire to deliver 28,000 tons of actual coal to a commodity futures trader. Via. #

Justin Timberlake - in a NPR t-shirt? Speculation runs wild on how such an event could come to be. #

Keeping the power on in a war zone, which in turn keeps the sewers flowing and water pumping, is an exercise in herding cats and MacGyveresque engineering. Owned by the Palestinian National Authority, GEDCo is the Gaza Strip's local power source. Some power comes in from nearby Egypt and Israel, and Gaza must rely on those countries for diesel fuel for the generators, but - for obvious political reasons - Gaza can't trust those sources, and must find a way to keep the lights on with what they've got. #



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