Video game addiction

One of the highlights of Christmas vacation was playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on my brother's PlayStation. I didn't think I liked video games, especially the horribly violent kinds like GTA. But it was so fun! It was like being a character in The Godfather or some Guy Ritchie movie. I was stealing motorcycles and punching cops and doing all sorts of other nefarious things I would never ever do in real life. Now I want a PS2 and GTA:VC. My birthday is coming up you know…

UNFPA and 34 Million Friends

The other day I wrote about UN conference on population and the unanimous rejection of the US' position against condom use and other family planning. Over the holiday I found out something else from the UN Foundation site:

Earlier this year, President George Bush decided to withhold $34 million appropriated by the U.S. Congress for the UN Population Fund's (UNFPA) work in the developing world.

With a budget of only $270 million worldwide, UNFPA will be hard-pressed to serve women throughout the world without the U.S. contribution. According to UNFPA estimates, the $34 million could prevent 4,700 maternal deaths, 60,000 serious maternal illnesses, as well as more than 77,000 infant and child deaths.

Behold the 34 Million Friends campaign, an attempt to "bridge the funding gap" of $34 million by asking for $1 from 34 million "friends" in the US. In less than five months, the campaign's raised $155,000. That's a lot, but it's hardly $34M.

Funds raised from the "34 Million Friends" campaign will go towards UNFPAs core programme budget, to compensate for the loss of United States support. This includes giving women and men in over 140 developing countries access to quality reproductive health information and services.

I'm donating $100 that I received for Christmas towards the 34 Million Friends campaign. Please spread the word and if you can, join me and contribute. Even the smallest amount — the cost of a latte at Starbuck's — can help make a difference. [via Ellen Goodman and my mom who cut out the article from the paper]

Save our sounds

Save Our Sounds, America's Recorded Sound Heritage Project is raising funds to match a Congressional grant to preserve over 140,000 original audio recordings. "These original recordings are on old wax cylinders, decaying wire, decomposing acetate, and deteriorating audio tape…The Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress are preserving important collections of historical recordings of spoken word and music, from Woody Guthrie's 'This Land Is Your Land' to Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech, from American Indian recordings of the 1890s to the oral histories of ex-slaves recorded in the 1930s." The project aims to put the recordings online once copies have been made. [via The Boston Globe]

Christmas Scrabble miracle

Last night while playing Scrabble I experienced a little Christmas miracle of my own. I was in 2nd place and it wasn't looking good for a comeback. All the letters were gone from the bag and we had only to play what remained before us. And then lo and behold, I looked at my letters, looked at the board, and promptly scored the highest single score I've ever gotten in one play. I laid down "brittle" onto a "d" to form "brittled." Not only was it a Scrabble (entitling me to an extra 50 points), I also played it on the triple word score. Since no letters remained in the bag, my use of all my letters also ended the game. 126 points for one word, and the game was mine.

Wired News on bloggers and Lott

Another article in Wired News about weblogs, this time addressing webloggers' roles in taking down Trent Lott. Nothing particularly new or different in it, except there were some quotes of note from Elizabeth Osder, a visiting professor at The University of Southern California's School of Journalism. First she says,

"Bloggers are navel-gazers…And they're about as interesting as friends who make you look at their scrap books."

That part is funny. But then she says,

"There's an overfascination here with self-expression, with opinion. This is opinion without expertise, without resources, without reporting."

Which is just foolish and ignorant and demonstrates that Ms. Osder hasn't spent much time following the happenings of the (ugh, I hate this term) blogosphere.

Without expertise? Hardly. Have a look at Joshua Micah Marshall's short bio, or Dan Gillmor's about page. Without reporting? She must have missed the whole Kaycee Nicole saga. And without resources? She must not understand much about the Web or blogging at all. Not only do we have sites like Google at our disposal, but we have the distributed knowledge of a diverse readership. As Dan Gillmor likes to say, "my readers know more than I do." There are domain experts for nearly anything you can possibly imagine. Weblogs provide a way to connect and share that knowledge.

Free online wine course

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) offers courses online at If you've got some time on your hands over the Christmas holiday, perhaps you'd like to enroll in one of their free courses? They're offering A Taste of Wine Online ("a close look at three of the world's classic wine grape varietals"), The Professional Chef Discovers Contemporary Flavors with California Raisins (taught by my fav Thomas Keller!), and The Professional Chef Discovers California Cheese ("an exploration of cheese that promises to be at once serious, timely and above all enjoyable"). Not only are these classes free, you can also earn credit for them. I know how I'm going to spend some weekend time once I'm done with all this unpacking…