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Time Digital 8 March
Douglas Rushkoff finds the navigation systems in new cars almost too efficient.

Although the device ably directed me toward the destination I had input (Grandma's condominium complex in Boca Raton, Fla.), I found myself getting bored with blindly following its audio instructions and decided to take a slightly different route. ''You missed the turn,'' my electronic guide scolded me. ''Take the next left.'' But I didn't want to take the next left. I found myself doing the opposite of whatever the computer said, just to experience a taste of autonomy. What if one day the directions the little voice was giving me became mandatory, I wondered, and enforced by the highway patrol? (They would know exactly where I was, that's for sure. So much for getaway cars.)

Brill's Content March 1999

  • An article examines the New York Times bestseller list, whose ranking methodology is ''as closely guarded as the Coca-Cola formula'' according to Random House senior vice-president Stuart Applebaum.
  • An article explains why so many websites spread stories over six pages when two or three might do. It inflates website traffic statistics, and some studies say readers would rather click than scroll down.
  • The magazine quizzed chain and independent bookstore clerks about current and famous books (e.g. What's the new book by the guy who wrote The Bonfire of the Vanities?) Indie clerks did better than chain store clerks, but only a little.
  • (Brill's Content has a nice website but none of these three pieces is online.)

    • 2 March A Salon essay by Lev Grossman describes how the writer took revenge on poor Amazon reader reviews of his first novel, Warp, by (anonymously) posting reviews of his own.

    (posted Fri 12 Mar 99)

    • 9 March Slate's Explainer wonders who the inspiration might have been for Dr. Strangelove: part Kissinger, part Von Braun, mostly Herman Kahn and Edward Teller.

    • 7 March A New York Times article speculates that the growing World Wide Web will bring about adoption of a universal time scheme in which the day is broken into 1000 units (each equivalent to 86.4 seconds). This would avoid confusion that arises, for instance, in email dated in different time zones. One scheme is being promoted by Swatch (the watch maker), which has established its own meridian through its building in Biel, Switzerland, where midnight is equivalent to @000 Internet time.

    • 7 March Parade magazine syndicated columnist Marilyn Vos Savant is asked if she likes science fiction.

    I have never enjoyed science fiction, despite the fact that the late great author Isaac Asimov ''gave me away'' at my wedding. (My father had recently passed away.) For me, there's too much emphasis on the impossible. I like to read about the opposite: reality. So I enjoy fiction that explores concepts like truth, beauty and love -- in short, the humanities.

    • 6 March Slate's editor Michael Kinsley rants good-naturedly about the ''gratiutous meritocracy'' of 100-best lists and awards in general.

    What's wrong with them? Well, of course they're pseudoscientific or, to put it another way, dishonest. There's no objective measure, and no hope of broad general agreement, that No. 34 is superior to No. 35 (though any sane person can see that No. 67 should be much, much higher). ... But that's not the real problem. Even if it were possible to determine scientifically whose performance as a supporting actress last year was better than anyone else's, why should you want to do that?

    • 5 March Ray Bradbury was telephone-interviewed by Chicago Tribune Internet Edition columnist (and Locus subscriber) Charlie Meyerson. [more]

    Bradbury, 78, calls the Internet a toy. "I don't have a computer, I don't believe in the Internet," he said in an interview Thursday from his home in Los Angeles.

    ''It's a step backward, it's a game show, it's idiotic. You can't get the information you need off the Internet. You go to the library or you own the Encyclopaedia Britannica and you get the information that way."

    • 28 February The New York Times Magazine has a lengthy article by Stephen S. Hall about what science has learned about fear.

    Chemical Engineering Progress, Feb. 1999: an article by Brian Frankie and Robert Zubrin, ''Chemical Engineering in Extraterrestrial Environments'', discusses work being done to develop technologies for in situ resource utilization (ISRU), particularly for application in a manned Mars mission -- mining the surface for metals and oxygen, mining the atmosphere for oxygen, methane, water.

    (posted Wed 10 Mar 99)

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