| (posted Wednesday, July 24)|
Click here to see letters to our tech guy. You can send any technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and all other mail to email@example.com.
| Welfare Sheen|
Douglas J. Besharov (" Welfare as We Know It") writes: "Total federal expenditure for AFDC families exceeds $50 billion a year, or roughly 4 percent of federal outlays."
This is misleading at best. AFDC families generally are eligible for Medicaid benefits and other federal and state programs.
But the missing expenditure that is almost never mentioned is the cost of administering all the various handouts. If the current trend continues, it won't be long before more than half of all wage earners in the United States will be paid either directly or indirectly by the government.
Just as we cannot have a successful economy based solely upon delivering pizza to one another, so too does an ever-growing public sector reduce the chance for success.
| Puncture Wounds|
I find it fairly distressing to read Anne Hollander's contention (" Hole in the Head") that piercing is worse for us than corsets were, and that corsets have been proved non-harmful. Maybe they did not displace organs, as they were once thought to do, but corsets did weaken backbones, so contributing to osteoporosis.
Piercing leaves only minor scars if one decides to remove the jewelry. I have many friends who have had their nostrils and septums pierced. The scar is visible only if you stare very closely--who would be staring at the inner part of someone's septum anyway?
I have a few piercings and have never worn a corset, but I refuse to believe that piercing is a worse fashion statement than emaciated models are. A nose ring is preferable to anorexia, don't you think?
| Teach Your Children|
I found the body-art article (" Hole in the Head," by Anne Hollander) quite interesting. A friend of mine recently was stopped by an airport metal detector and not permitted into the boarding area until after he was taken to the men's restroom for an inspection. Since I routinely walk through those detectors with a ring of keys, pocket change, a pen knife, and a substantial belt buckle, I could not imagine what type of private adornment he was wearing that would set off the alarm. A double click or two from the pages of S LATE, and I saw, very graphically, hardware that could cause such a problem. This is a prime example of the value of our new information age. For my wife, who is a public-school librarian, the experience was a perfect example of the horror of today's technology. The first time a parent who thinks Mark Twain is nasty walks into her library to find kids viewing a screen filled with pierced penises, she'll have hell to pay--especially if she was the one who encouraged them to check out S LATE. We both agree your links were a valuable enhancement to the article. And we're pretty sure you'll agree this is a real problem for teachers in today's schools.
| Beam Him Up|
Just read Judith Shulevitz's review of the movie Independence Day (" Mother Ship"). Wow! Not only did she miss the whole point of the movie (a fun romp in which good guys beat bad guys, again), give away the entire plot and ending, and poorly criticize the components, but, in doing so, she blemished the entire persona of your magazine. Does this represent the attitude of your publication? Does Shulevitz represent your target audience? Does your entire magazine take itself as over-seriously as she obviously does? Maybe I am not the right kind of reader for S LATE.
| Facing the Music|
I believe the problems David Schiff identifies in his article (" Musical Monotony") are symptomatic of a larger reality: Classical music has become a relic of past culture that no amount of contemporary packaging can revive. Worried about an aging, proportionally shrinking audience, the classical-music establishment tries different ways to jump-start a popular interest in its product, but how can it succeed? Classical music basically limped to a halt earlier in this century when the idiom of tonality, that which the average person can identify with musically, was abandoned. With every passing moment, the classical music repertoire, now quite mature, recedes further into the past. It's no wonder that as the years go on, society becomes more alienated from and unfamiliar with it, preferring more relevant (contemporary) artistic idioms. Let's face reality. Classical music is museum art. Give PBS a break. Nothing it can do will make classical music popular again. Society has voted with its feet.
| Rhythm and Blues|
I cannot believe that David Schiff (" Musical Monotony") seriously argues that viewers would flock to PBS if only it would start broadcasting Eliot Carter concerts instead of Yo-Yo Ma performing Schubert. My God! To the naive untutored listener, some concert music of the 20th century sounds like a late-night cat fight. By the same logic, MSN should be attracting customers by showing off the subtle beauty of their server architecture, not wasting its time displaying ("shudder") hypertext and graphics. Televised concerts are a trade-off, just as webzines are different from their paper ancestors. Recently, I watched Zuckerman and Perlman perform Mozart on PBS. Watching their expressions close-up as they pulled notes from their instruments was an experience I never could have had in a cavernous American concert hall.
| Vive la La-Z-Boy|
I dismissed long ago the idea of sitting in an upright chair (" Electric Chairs") at a table to do my daily work--which is all done with my trusty Powerbook--as uncomfortable and spiritually disabling. After a couple of failed experiments, the chair problem is solved. My wife gave me a huge recliner. It was big enough for my 6-year-old to sit in with me when it was new, and the arms are old enough to hold her now at 10. I have plenty of room to spread my elbows to avoid carpal-agonizing wrist angles. Add a pillow, or sometimes a padded lap desk board, and I am a surfing fool. It's easy.
| A Computer Designed for Sitting|
Instead of a chair design to accommodate reading on the Net (" Electric Chairs"), I would like to see the commercialization of a product that will allow me use the reading chair I already have. I envision a modified laptop LCD screen. It would be modified with a pointing device to allow me to move around the Net. This device doesn't have to be expensive if some creative thought is used. It would just be a "viewer." It wouldn't have the expense of its own brains. It could be connected to a desktop system with an infrared device, or more cheaply with a wired connection. Heck, such a device would even allow someone with a multitasking machine to work on the keyboard and someone else to surf the Net. LCD displays are expensive--at least, the latest designs are. In time, they will go down in price, but there is a choice in the meantime. If reading is the objective, the latest/greatest displays aren't really needed. In this case, older and cheaper technology can be used. Know of any takers?
| Pulling Wheelies|
I don't understand all this fuss about where to plant your butt while Net-surfing (" Electric Chairs"). I use a wheelchair. All the time, as a matter of fact. Jeez, you walkers!
| Surfing at Six Paces|
I thought I was the only one with this problem (" Electric Chairs"). But I found an easy solution: Make sure that your monitor is on and your binocular lenses are clean, place a cappuccino on your end table, then position yourself on the sofa, feet on coffee table, and voila, at a distance of 20 feet, you can browse your favorite Web site in perfect comfort.
For those who complain that you can't read an online magazine in the tub (" Electric Chairs"), I suggest "The Liquid Magazine," a bathtub with a built-in projection system that turns the water around you into a shimmering 3D zine. To turn pages, you drag your hand through different levels of the water. When you're done, just pull the plug: Throw out the babble with the bath water.
| Sit on It|
The chairs described (" Electric Chairs"), have one thing in common: They are all chairs. The idea presented was that the chair you sit on makes it uncomfortable to view your monitor. So, in direct fashion, all solutions were aimed at fixing the chair. By fixing "the chair," you are committed to "the chair." The chair you like will become yours, and not necessarily one-size-fits-all. So let's refocus the problem.
The problem is comfort while sitting in an office chair and staring at a standard computer. You already have millions of chairs from which to choose. The problem isn't reinventing the chair but reinventing the computer. Therefore, a better solution is to come up with a computer that you can use no matter what your favorite position: standing up, sitting down, or prone.
The computer screen will need to be light enough to wear, and the controls, small enough to carry with you. The main part of the computer will be positioned (as a carrying case, if necessary) next to you.
The screen(s) will need to be about two inches or less in diameter and be worn via headset or eyeglasses. This technology exists currently in the form of the Sony Watchman color TV.
The keyboard could be placed over the lap and be flexible in the middle, or detachable into two equal parts. Picture the Microsoft Natural keyboard with a detachable middle between the two sets of keys. Alternatively, the keyboard could be placed over the chest, worn like a sash over one shoulder, or worn with a strap around the neck. Typing would take place as if you were playing a musical instrument. The pointer controller would be in the form of a hand-held device with a soft, flexible controller that protrudes from the center. The device would look like a miniature joystick and operate much like a mouse control on a laptop computer. The pointer controller would strap to the palm of one hand, or be worn as a glove and controlled by the thumb or fingers of the other hand. It would be small enough not to disturb typing. The devices would connect/communicate via wire, infrared, or radio frequency to the portable CPU.
training specialist, Microsoft
| Surf City|
Your attempt to design the perfect Net-surfing chair (" Electric Chairs") is misguided. The problem is the design of the desktop computers themselves. I use my sub-notebook in bed, outside, and from every chair in my apartment (yes, even the comfy white one in the small room).
| Turn Your Head and Spit|
Actually, if the experience of going to the dentist weren't so traumatic, we would recognize the fact that the dentist's chair is perfect for extended computer work. The light would be the monitor, and the tray, the keyboard--and everything you need would be within easy reach. Except for the pain in the mouth, it is a very comfortable experience.
| The Gates Library|
$19.95 is too high a price tag for a virtual magazine. I am sure that Bill Gates, with his great wealth, could underwrite S LATE without moving a decimal point in his banking account. Why can't Gates behave like Andrew Carnegie, who used some of his great wealth to construct public libraries? Gates, similarly, could offer S LATE as proof of his awareness and appreciation of the people from whom he earned his great wealth.
| The Internet Is Perfect as It Is|
I hope you'll consider continuing to make SLATE available online at no charge. Advertising works. But the rates you've set for subscriptions are just way beyond what some of us can afford. That's not what the Internet is about, and the future of computers and access has to be more widespread, not more elitist.
Meanwhile, Vanity Fair is less expensive. And I don't use up expensive cartridges printing it out. Sorry.
| Money-Market Fun|
The panel discussing privatization in the current Committee of Correspondence (" What is Wall Street Saying?") seems to be confusing, or merging, two important issues. Privatization is not necessarily the same as investing in the stock market. If I have control over all my retirement funds, I may well invest them the same way the government presently does. On the other hand, since retirement is a few years off, I will probably lower my ownership of bonds and increase my ownership of stocks. This course of action is available to the government too. It doesn't have to cede control to participants in order to reap the benefits of investing in more efficient and profitable segments of the economy.
Investing funds in the stock market has the potential to increase returns and, over time, the absolute size of funds available for social security. The government can continue to be the portfolio manager, and continue to address the social issues it always has, but with more money. Instead of investing in bonds, we invest in stocks--less for inefficient government, more for efficient industry. These greater returns can be sought independent of any effort to allow people to invest on their own retirement account, which would be true and complete privatization. Why not begin with an adjustment to the investment guidelines for the trust fund, allow some equity or other long term investment? I am not an economist, but wouldn't the potential for interest rates to increase as the Treasury seeks bond buyers to replace the partially absent trust fund be offset by the reduction in supply of corporate debt corresponding to newly available equity funds?
| Our tech guy answers your questions.|
| Please continue e-mailing your technical questions, comments, and concerns about connecting to S LATE to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. I answer the juiciest mail here, and leave the scraps to my underpaid and overworked assistant. Any other mail can be sent to email@example.com.|
| I can now report that S LATE provides its printable edition in both Microsoft Word (.doc) and Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) formats. See our " Consider Your Options" page. If Content is King, I figure file formats are Assistant Chairperson of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities--but nonetheless, they are important because if you can't read it, you can't read it. I value your feedback. Should we provide S LATE in other formats too?|
| || In that vein, S LATE is now providing videos in QuickTime (.mov) in addition to Microsoft's (.avi) format. Somebody suggested MPEG as well, but come on, let's not get greedy.|
| Revisionist S LATE It's actually sort of charming, but you might want to know about this: On reading my printout of the latest S LATE, I found I was reading a final edit, with the final editing (and next-to-final editing) clearly visible. So, it read, "So-and-so is (crossed out) increasingly is (added)." It was rather nice and multimedia-ish to follow this most literate editor through the small, but meaningful, changes being made, but since it probably wasn't deliberate, I just thought I'd let you know.|
| I hope everyone enjoyed this "feature," but we won't be repeating it. In two articles posted July 19, we neglected (blush) to apply "review and accept" to our revisions. We've since gone back and covered up our mistake.|
| E-mail Glitches Continue|
Those of us who have worked in high technology, and listened as the technical types said, "It will work, no problem ...," followed by, "Just a small technical glitch, no problem ...," followed by, "Small matter of programming ...," then, "It will work next week, trust me ...," understand and appreciate your frustration. Doing good things requires patience, especially when you are doing good things with technology.
| What Rick is alluding to here is our failure to deliver S LATE by e-mail for the second week in a row. Apparently, attaching a file to a mail message so that it works in all mail systems is quite tricky. Rather than sending out mail to 4,000 people with half of it guaranteed not to work, we have held back. Someone suggested we tried this too early, but I think it's never too early to realize you don't know what you're doing.|
| Performance Anxiety|
Today's SLATE is exciting. Waiting for five minutes for a page to load and then wondering whether the elevator bar will show up is almost as exhilarating as watching the Standard & Poor's 500 Index has been lately. Is there a correspondence principle that says that the best writing on the Web must accompany the worst programming? If the sites that load quickly contain nothing worth reading, and the site that is literate sends me to the red STOP button after five minutes of white screen, how can the Web change the world?
Can you persuade Bill to send you one or two of the great programmers who wrote Word and Excel, or have they all taken their MS stock and started New Age bed-and-breakfasts? If so, just contract the programming out to the people at Netscape.