By Stephen Downes
December 29, 2003

So, Scrooge was Right After All
It's still pretty slow out there, so I'm continuing to mix the holiday reading with the e-learning stuff. In this item, the economic advantage of gifts is discounted - you are more likely to get less for your $50 if you exchanged gifts than if you spent the money on yourself. Well, d'uh. But the author, naturally, misses the point of gift giving. No, it's not to show emotional attachment and all that. No, it's a form of gambling. When you exchange gifts, you are wagering that you will get something worth more than the money you spent buying a gift. It's a tricky game - spend too little, and you will start receiving trinkets in return. Spend too much and you will be on the losing end of the gamble. What you want to do is to get the best item you can for the least amount of money - but, of course, shopping during the Christmas season of high pressure and high prices pretty much guarantees that you won't. Me? I don't gamble, and when I give gifts it's always (a) outside the gift-giving season, and (b) not part of a gift exchange. You know. Like a gift. By Ross Gittins, Sydney Morning Herald, December 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Wardriver and the Cop
Cute story about obtaining wireless internet access by parking outside a school. For those haven't memorized the jargon, 'WEP' stands for 'Wired Equivalent Privacy', a security standard for wireless networks, and 'AP' stands for 'Access Point', a place where you can log on to the internet. 'Wardriving's what the author was doing - searching for free wireless internet access (the term derives from the movie 'Wargames' in which the characters 'war dialed', that is, dialed random numbers looking for modems they could hack). The presumption is that schools should consider locking their wireless internet networks, and I suppose most will over time. But wouldn't it be wonderful if you knew that you could always access the internet by parking near a school and using your wirless computer? By Jon Udell, Jon Udell's Weblog, December 29, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Top Ten Trends for 2004
Subtitled: "It's All About Productivity Now. Dramatic Productivity Gains from New Technology Dominate the Landscape." Honestly, if it's all about productivity, I want to pack up my computer and take up a new line of work. These ppredictions by Sam S. Adkins of the Workflow Institute seem well grounded, but they miss the wonderment that defines real change. "Enterprise Application Integration accelerates." Yawn. "Productivity gains from new mobile technology explode." Sigh. Where's the motivation, the urgency? He could have written all his predictions in one line: online learning will continue to be commodified and co-opted. Is all this what people really want out of our great new internet? (p.s. what's up with Internet Time's comment field rejecting my email address (specifically, the .ca part of it) as 'questionable content?) By Sam S. Adkins, Internet Time, December 23, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New Year, New Way
I like this analysis of the use of certain words in news coverage, usage which has bothered me for some time. "To have a chance," writes the author, "we will need to strike the word "taxpayer" from our vocabulary." Quite right. The use of the word 'taxpayer' signifies some sort of special disconnected citizen, one who views any investment into society as a burden. "Citizens are up to something very different," he notes. "In a democracy, citizens engage in a process we have come to call 'self-governance.'" Though I pay taxes quite willingly, I am not a 'taxpayer' - I am a 'citizen' who regards the investments I make in education and other services to be the price I pay to live in civilized society. By Robert Herold, Pacific Northwest Inlander, December 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

In Princetonian's Spare Telling, Class of '33 Drifts Into Winter
"A great strong class," read the byline for many years, though of late the adjective "small" has been added. I never belonged to a "class" the way these Princeton alumni did. I wonder how that shapes my outlook on university education. By Andy Newman, New York Times, December 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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