Dept. of Unintentional Prophecy: Doonesbury

For the first part of this story, one must get one's Negropontes straight. Nicholas Negroponte is the MIT Media Lab guy; it's not his fault that his brother is a war criminal. (Well, knowing how siblings are, we should at least give him the benefit of the doubt.) He's the guy who designed the $100-dollar computer with wireless Internet connection, for distribution to people all over the poorer parts of the world. The hundred dollars is the estimated cost once it gets into mass production, and the moment it was announced, jillions of peopole really wanted one; but this is for people who need it. And he's pushing to get it into production and into people's hands.

The second part is about the second Mrs. Doonesbury. As you may recall, Mike met this young programmer at Microsoft, Asian of course (stereotype!), and wound up marrying her. I followed this passively, and it was not for some time that I took some hint in the morning's comic and realized who she was.

You see, that little spat we had in Vietnam affected the lives of Doonesburians, and not only B. D., who wore his football helmet through his combat duty. There was a rather nondescript middle-class couple whose adventures we watched as they dealt with the little Vietnamese war orphan they had adopted. One day Daddy came home to find Mommy very exicted: the baby, who spent a lot of time sitting in front of TV, had said her first word! Namely, "Big Mac".

That's who Mrs. Doonesbury is. I've forgotten the proof, but maybe somebody can dig it up. Professor Weil, are you listening?

Returning to out main story, there's an item over on Amygdala about Negroponte's work with his fabulous machine. He's now got a deal that, if it really works out, will put an Internet-capable laptop in the hands of every schoolchild in Libya. Not your favorite beneficiary, but you've gotta start somewhere, and it's not the kids' fault, you know.

So, the tie-in:
[...] The idea of a laptop for every schoolchild grew out of Mr. Negroponte’s experience in giving children Internet-connected laptops in rural Cambodia. He said the first English word out of the mouths of the Cambodian students was “Google.”

colorless green ideas

Some day I'll write a real blog posting. Meanwhile, don't miss Brad deLong's discussion of how colorless green ideas sleep furiously. Seriously, you'll be glad you did, provided you don't skip the comments.

What is the Internet?

People have asked that for a long time, actually years. And it's hard to answer simply; even Ted Stevens, a trained communicator, had some trouble making it entirely clear. Now, though, thanks to Seth Breidbart (no, I don't know who he is) as quoted by JP Stormcrow in a comment (#44) to a post by that's well worth reading for its own sake if you have any use for Bérubé at all, we have a clear, simple one-sentence definition, shorter than these attributions:

It’s the largest equivalence class in the reflexive transitive symmetric closure of the relationship “can be reached by an IP packet from”.