a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Pace in terra

Posted on the December 23rd, 2007

Eric Clapton – “Holy Mother” (Hyde Park) — link to lyrics here

Tagged with: , ,
Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Pace in terra

Italy’s Padoa-Schioppa talks to the Financial Times

Posted on the December 21st, 2007

Interesting short video interview here with Italy’s Minister for Economics and Finance (“TOMMASO PADOA-SCHIOPPA talks to Martin Wolf — The Italian Finance Minister discusses market turmoil”, Financial Times, Dec 20, 2007). Padoa-Schioppa talks about the Euro-zone, various key issues at present, and how Europe is being affected by what’s happening in world market conditions.

Toward the end of the nine-minute talk, interviewer Martin Wolf complimented Padoa-Schioppa on recent improvement in Italy’s economy, describing it as “remarkably successful on the fiscal side.” In response, the Italian minister agreed that he is “much more comfortable” with Italy’s situation now than a year and a half ago, saying that Italy is “out of the financial emergency.”

Answering Wolf’s question about Italy’s situation at present in “what may be a very turbulent world economy,” Padoa Schioppa said that the “recent turbulence doesn’t seem to hit Italy in any significant sense.”

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Italy’s Padoa-Schioppa talks to the Financial Times

Darth Vader, are you out there?

Posted on the December 18th, 2007


Distribution of Dark Matter – 3.5 Billion Years Ago

NASA, ESA, and R. Massey (California Institute of Technology)


Well, it’s a question that might come to the mind of many movie-goers after watching the impressive multi-media presentation Dark Energy on the Hubble Telescope website.The presentation’s video introduction, complete with spooky music in the background, is studded with phrases such as “an unexplained force,” “mystery force,” and “death of the universe.” Evoking the fun of being scared out of your wits by the fantastic and threatening seems to be one intention of the video creators.

It is only the frame, though, for telling the story of the revolutionary discovery only a few years ago of what really is a great mystery, the dark matter filling most of space. Just what this dark matter is actually doing to the universe is the heart of this stirring true tale.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Darth Vader, are you out there?

The Boldness of Boly

Posted on the December 18th, 2007

In a small village in the Hungarian countryside, the 3,800 residents of a slo-mo place called Boly are showing the world how to take technology seriously and change daily life as most of us know it. In Boly, they’re wired, as the reporter in the Reuters video says (A village that clicks, reporter Matt Cowan, Reuters, Nov 27, 2007).

Tagged with: , ,
Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on The Boldness of Boly

How small can it go

Posted on the December 17th, 2007

That’s still very much an open question about the ever-shrinking transistor, according to a recent Reuters news video. Last week scientists in the semiconductor field celebrated the 60th anniversary of the electronic device which one engineer describes as possibly the 20th century’s most important innovation. And he explains why (Transistor turns 60, reporter Matt Cowan, Reuters, Dec 13, 2007).

Tagged with: ,
Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on How small can it go

What nation is top dog in the digital revolution

Posted on the December 14th, 2007

The United Kingdom is ahead of the pack in the digital revolution, says James Thickett, Director of Research of Ofcom, the UK’s official regulatory body of communications industries.

The pack he’s referring to is made up of the twelve countries surveyed for a new Ofcom report just released yesterday. Nations studied were France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Canada, the UK, and the U.S. The report on the global communications market also provides a look at the four arriving powerhouse economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Some of the Ofcom report findings were:

  • The UK is picking up digital television at a higher rate than other countries, with 76 percent of UK households having gone digital by the end of 2006. In second place was the U.S., with 61 percent, followed by Japan with 60 percent;
  • Broadband connections had arrived at over half of all UK households by the end of 2006, bringing the country ahead of the U.S., for the first time;
  • Women use the Internet more than men, both in the UK and in the U.S. In the United States, women, at 52 percent, led men in online presence, while in the UK men and women spent the same amount of time online except in the 18-34 age group where women were a leap ahead of men in percent of use (57 to 43).

Thickett summarizes the new Ofcom report findings in a video presentation (below). He particularly highlights what he describes as enormous growth in mobile communications across the globe.

In the sector of mobile phones, for example, he said the UK has one of the highest rates of growth in the world, with 115 mobile connections for every 100 people. Only Italy has a higher rate, with 130 connections for every 100 people.

This massive rate of growth in the use of mobile phones also is happening in Brazil, Russia, India and China, according to Thickett, with those countries accounting for over 40 percent worldwide of new mobile connections.

The full report is available online

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on What nation is top dog in the digital revolution

Reflecting on the world’s move to the city

Posted on the December 12th, 2007

Earlier this year, a report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced that in 2008, for the first time in history, more people will be living in cities than in rural areas. The number of city dwellers will be 3.3 billion, the report stated, and within less than two-and-a-half decades that urban population will mushroom to almost five billion (State of World Population 2007).

This week, New York Times writer Stephen J. Dubner asked five prominent American scholars for their thinking about what we should be thinking about this increase in urbanization (“How Should We Be Thinking About Urbanization?“, by Stephen J. Dubner, A Freakonomics Quorum, New York Times, Dec 11, 2007). The thinkers Dubner consulted were James Howard Kunstler, Edward Glaeser, Robert Bruegmann, Dolores Hayden, and Alan Berube.

The five responses were varied, complex and thought-provoking. Among other things, there is some discussion of how the UN chooses to define “city”, the ways in which cities are expanding, and also an update on who lives in suburbs today as opposed to when “the burbs” first came into being.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Reflecting on the world’s move to the city

Exaflood: Is it real or is it Oz?

Posted on the December 11th, 2007

When I came across a video on the website of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IAA) warning that at predicted growth rates, online user traffic soon is going to overwhelm capacity, I was fascinated. This approaching tsunami of user demand has been christened with its own name, the Exaflood. What exactly this is, and the user growth patterns of the Internet that are feeding its ominous arrival are presented by IAA in an informative and concise visual package.

Of course, the question that then came to mind was whether there is more than one side to this story.

Nosing around online, I soon found a recent article by New York Times technology reporter Steve Lohr that addressed this very issue (“Is the Exaflood Coming?”, New York Times, Nov 30, 2007).

So in this post, for anyone interested, I re-trace my beginning path in learning some basics about this dark spectre of the Exaflood. Is the threat real? Or is it mostly a scary PR tactic by those opposed to net neutrality (net neutrality = all users are created equal, in effect)?

I recommend that you first read Lohr’s brief analysis (link above). Then, watch the IAA video below. Then decide for yourself.

Whether you agree, disagree or reserve judgement, you’ll be more prepared, in any case, to understand this crucial discussion that is underway.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Exaflood: Is it real or is it Oz?

Television losing younger viewers

Posted on the December 6th, 2007

The Internet has surpassed television as the first choice among 16-24 year-olds in Europe, according to a new study released by a media trade organization, the European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA).

Titled “Shifting Traditions: Internet Rivalling TV In Media Consumption Stakes,” the September 2007 survey is based on more than 7,000 random telephone interviews, according to the EIAA press release. Countries represented were the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

The study found that in the 16-24 year-old age span:

  • 82% use the Internet between 5 and 7 days each week while only 77% watch TV as regularly (a decrease of 5% since last year);
  • 10% more time is spent on the Internet than in watching television;
  • almost half (48%) claim their TV consumption has dropped off as a direct result of the Internet.

Other key findings of the survey found that 169 million people are now online across ten European markets. That growth is being driven by increased use of the Internet among seniors and women. Internet users are staying online nearly 12 hours a week on average, the report said, and social networking sites,  MySpace and Facebook as two examples, are now visited by 42% of Internet users.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Television losing younger viewers

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Aretha’s call to arms

Posted on the December 4th, 2007

The song that launched Aretha Franklin into the rock music stratosphere 40 years ago was much more than a pop music hit, according to a multimedia celebration of “RESPECT” on the website of the daily newspaper the Detroit Free Press. The year of the song’s release was 1967, and the civil rights movement in the U.S., was fully in motion. Aretha’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” arrived just at the right time.

“It gave an anthem to the civil rights movement and, ultimately, it served as a call to arms for women everywhere,” the text of the presentation states.

The video below (“Forty Years of ‘RESPECT’,” Detroit Free Press) is a music-filled, narrative history of the singer, the song and the times. A text version is here.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Aretha’s call to arms

Net will climb to third place by 2010, they say

Posted on the December 4th, 2007

The Internet will edge past magazines, now ranked third behind newspapers and television, as a favorite for advertisers by 2010, according to an article in the Guardian online yesterday (“Net to become third biggest ad medium,” by Mark Sweney, Guardian Unlimited, Dec 3, 2007) .

The report on global advertising was just released by the media agency ZenithOptimedia, according to the Guardian article, and it projects that by 2010, the Internet will lay claim to 11.5 percent ($61 billion) of the total global spending on advertising ($530 billion). For the same time period, the top two favorites for advertisers, newspapers and television, will have a 25.4 percent share and a 37.5 percent share respectively.

The Internet currently ranks behind radio on the list of advertising mediums, but is projected to surpass it next year, according to the newspaper article.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Net will climb to third place by 2010, they say

The blogosphere: voters or villains?

Posted on the December 1st, 2007

Which position U.S. political candidates take on this question may correlate largely with which political party they represent, according to an article in The Times (“Are Republicans internet Luddites?” blog by Tom Baldwin, Washington correspondent, The Times, Nov 28, 2007). Republican politicians are considered “inept” in their use of the Internet, according to the article, in contrast to their Democratic counterparts who are utilizing it more.

In illustration of the difference, the article cites the number of Facebook and MySpace friends of various candidates — leading Democratic candidate Obama, for example, has 360,000 buddies on these two sites, whereas Republican candidate Giuliani has only 20,000.

A possible reason for the partisan divide? Though acknowledging that it is a” generalization,” Baldwin says that Republican “activists are more likely to regard the web as a purveyor of porn and terror or, at best, a business tool.”

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on The blogosphere: voters or villains?

What sector of their society do Americans have the most confidence in?

Posted on the November 30th, 2007

The U.S. military, according to a recent Harvard University study. The national survey gave those in uniform a ranking of 3.15 out of a maximum possible rating of 4. Who scores the lowest among the twelve sectors listed? The press, with 2.26, ranking just below the White House which got a 2.43. (Note: graph values: 2 = not much; 3 = moderate amount; 4 = great deal)

The September 2007 study was based on interviews with 1,207 adults in the U.S., according to the report (“A National Study of Confidence in Leadership,” by the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2007). The annual study (begun in 2005) primarily seeks to measure Americans’ confidence in leadership, and is conducted in collaboration with the weekly news magazine U.S. News & World Report.

For a brief summary of the findings, go here (“Study: More Than 60% Don’t Trust Campaign Coverage,” by Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher, Nov 28, 2007) where I first read about this survey.

In its introduction, the Harvard report states that more than 75 percent of those surveyed believe there is a leadership crisis in the country, with 50 percent describing their confidence in their leaders as “not much” or “none at all.” A related question asked whether the U.S. has worse leaders today than twenty years ago. In response, 63 percent said they believed today’s leaders are worse, 12 percent said the quality of leadership is the same, and 7 percent said they weren’t sure.

In an exhibition of that famed Yankee optimism, however, almost eight in ten of those surveyed said they were confident that the next president — whether Democrat or Republican — will be good for the country, according to the study.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on What sector of their society do Americans have the most confidence in?

We can help, Lingro.com says, and it’s true

Posted on the November 28th, 2007

That is if the language you’re learning is Italian, German, French, Spanish, English or Polish. Lingro’s translation website is free. Essentially, it’s as easy to use as one click on the unknown word on any web page — newspaper, magazine, whatever — that you’re reading. Lingro also allows users to add new words, and to create personal word lists for a flash card learning game. I read about this website here (Nov 21, 2007, Languagehat.com).

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on We can help, Lingro.com says, and it’s true

Is Negroponte’s $100 laptop idea too great for its own good?

Posted on the November 25th, 2007

Nicholas Negroponte’s much praised plan to provide very low-cost laptops to poor children around the world “has been derailed, in part, by the power of his idea,” according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“A Little Laptop With Big Ambitions – How a Computer for the Poor Got Stomped by Tech Giants,” by Steve Stecklow and James Bandler, Nov 24, 2007).

The major derailers? Microsoft and Intel. Last year, Intel introduced its own cheap laptop, price tag less than $300, for developing countries, according to the article, and earlier this year in China, Microsoft’s Bill Gates announced a $3 software package that includes Windows.

Why are the technology giants doing this? Reportedly, to drive back a threat to their future profits that Negroponte’s idea represents. The $100 laptop uses Linux and other open source software rather than Windows, and it doesn’t use Intel chips, the article states. It’s an idea that the big tech companies apparently do not want to become popular.

All’s well that ends well, however, may be the final verdict. According to the WSJ article, developing countries now have several cut-price laptop models available to them, in addition to Negroponte’s star creation. Perhaps Negroponte’s thinking out of the (proprietorial) box has started something rather interesting.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Is Negroponte’s $100 laptop idea too great for its own good?

Do elections drive the polls, or do the polls drive the elections?

Posted on the November 20th, 2007

The polling industry is renown for being secretive about its methods, typically publishing only selected results from its surveys. For years, many people have voiced suspicions about the credibility of political polling – are those who do the polls truly non-partisan, are the questionnaires administered in a competent manner, who exactly is being polled, for example.

Now the skeptics have a champion, and it’s coming from the blogosphere. A group of political news organizations are turning the tables and launching an online project to scrutinize the polls themselves. Led by HuffingtonPost.com, the news groups are asking their respective website visitors to participate in a survey forum about their experiences with being polled.

Some of the survey questions include: who called them, when, did they agree to participate, were the questions worded fairly or slanted toward a desired response? You can see the complete online poll form with all the questions here.

Tagged with: , ,
Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Do elections drive the polls, or do the polls drive the elections?

“Do we still need feminist media?” is the question

Posted on the November 19th, 2007

Will there be more room for women’s voices with the digital revolution of news media that is underway online? Yes, and the increase already exists, according to a recent study that found that women make up half of all bloggers.

Perhaps this means good things for improving the status of women as a result of the ongoing weakening of the MSM “gatekeeper” that often still continues to bar women from serious opinion pages, and frequently ignores them in favor of the male when an expert comment is needed. Read about this and more here.
(“Do We Still Need Feminist Media?” by L.S. Kim, Ms. Magazine, Posted November 9, 2007 – Alternet.org)

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on “Do we still need feminist media?” is the question

MIT project blogs on best uses of “civic media”

Posted on the November 19th, 2007

What is civic media exactly? “Any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among its residents,” according to MIT.

The project’s name is MIT Center for Future Civic Media. Recent blog posts include an analysis of local media during the state of emergency imposed by Musharraf in Pakistan (Nov. 9, 2007) and a report (Nov. 5, 2007) on Step It Up, a new online organization calling for global environmental change.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on MIT project blogs on best uses of “civic media”

Should online media charge visitors to view content? Apparently not.

Posted on the November 19th, 2007

Nielsen numbers for online traffic at newspapers released last week show a big jump in unique visitors to the New York Times website for October. This info from Beet.TV —
In reaching 17.5 million uniques, the paper had its best month ever, a Times spokeswoman told me. The numbers are up from 14.6 million in September.. (read more here)
Reason for the jump in traffic, according to a New York Times spokesperson quoted in the piece — the end in September of the feature Times Select that allowed access to some content only via paid subscription.

Tagged with: , ,
Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Should online media charge visitors to view content? Apparently not.