Newsweek asks this week if it may be time for a New Patriotism. I’d say yes.

…Was it patriotic for the White House to instruct the EPA to put out a press release after 9/11 saying the air around Ground Zero was safe when there was no evidence for it? Was it patriotic to invade Iraq when there was no sign of an imminent threat and plenty to suggest that it would seriously detract from the war on Al Qaeda? Was it patriotic for the White House to allow American companies that reap millions in contracts with the Department of Homeland Security to incorporate in Bermuda in order to avoid paying taxes?

Perhaps most important, is it patriotic to define patriotism the old-fashioned way — as a kind of narrow nationalism? That jingoistic definition is carrying a price for the president, who must now go on bended knee to allies he so recently scorned. When you’re spending \$1 billion a week in Iraq, dissing our friends, as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have done consistently, seems to be a tad … counter-productive. Those “freedom fries” in the House cafeteria are burning us now; those gibes that John Kerry “looks French” don’t look so clever.

(via Robert Scoble)

The American Library Association’s list of the 100 most challenged books of the last decade. Titles in bold I’ve read:

  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

It’s an interesting, and somewhat sad list. Does Judy Blume get some sort of prize for being on the ‘questioned’ list so many times?

Here’s one hell of an “oops” — a greatly publicized study detailing the harmful effects of popular drug Ecstasy has been retracted after the scientist realized that instead of Ecstasy, methamphetamine had been used in the experiments.

“We write to retract our report ‘Severe dopaminergic neurotoxicity in primates after a common recreational dose regimen of MDMA (Ecstasy)’ following our recent discovery that the drug used to treat all but one animal in that report came from a bottle that contained methamphetamine instead of the intended drug MDMA,” Ricaurte said in the retraction, to be published in the Sept. 8 issue of Science.

While I’m certainly not going to promote drug use in general, or Ecstasy in particular, that’s one hell of a mistake to make, especially for such a widely-distributed report. Truth to tell, I’ve always been a little suspect of studies on both sides of many drug issues — for every study that comes out that claims any given drug is fine, causes no problems, and should be de-regulated, another will come out claiming that said drug will cause major biological and psychological disorders for the user and their descendants for the next twenty generations, and often both studies will come from groups apparently equally well credentialed. So who do you trust?

Jeffrey Zeldman has posted two ‘favelets’ for easy one-click site validation. Drag them onto your browser bookmark bar, and with one click, you can run any page you’re at through the W3C’s beta page validation service. Very handy.

On a related note, every page of this redesign validated from the get-go. The single issue I ran into was with a link in a story earlier where I’d forgotten to escape the ampersands in the link. The ampersand character — & — should be coded in valid HTML as &, and failure to do so will result in broken validation. Unfortunately, because many database-driven sites use a URL format of“sample”&option2=“sample” or some such, you occasionally need to remember to fix the link so that it looks like“sample”&option2=“sample”. A minor annoyance, but not insurmountable. Once I got that link fixed, I validated without any further changes needed. Go me!

Jonas posted what to me is an absolutely fascinating post yesterday:

People often ask me, what – in my opinion – is the biggest of all differences between European and US-American societies. Most expect me to answer along the lines of crooked politicians (sorry, no difference, there), or the food, beer, and wine quality, but nawp. The most fundamental of them all, the mother-lode of differential lifestyles, the one thing that gives the deepest, most sincere, look into the respective societies, is the drivers test, and the DMV in general.

He then goes on to describe the amazingly different approach that Europe takes with people before letting them get behind the wheel of a car. To sum up:

  • A six- to nine-week class (minimum).
  • Actual in-car learning doesn’t start until around week three.
  • Mandatory test driving situations, “including night-drives, driving in bad weather, and the no-hold-barred-no-speed-limits-anywhere Autobahn.”
  • First-aid and roadside assistance training and testing is madatory.
  • Final driving tests with an approximately 20% failure rate.
  • A two-year probationary period after receiving your licence. Infractions within this time send you back to driving school.

That system is so much better than the ludicrously simple system we have here in the states. We get, what, a written test that a badly-trained monkey could pass, and a driving test that usually involves going around the block a few times? Then we’re allowed to get on the road, no holds barred. It’s really frightening when you stop to think about it — or when you get cut off at 65MpH on the highway.

Jonas sums it up quite nicely at the end of his post:

We expats get to hear a lot about the Second Amendment and its application back home. “They give guns to everyone?”, my friends ask. “Don’t mind it,” I usually reply, “they do much worse. They give cars to everyone.”

And here we go, folks — step one of the new design. It’s not completely finished yet, as all I’ve got active at the moment is the primary content, but the rest will follow soon enough.

Update: Okay, I should have thought to check this first, but this redesign has just proven — again — that Internet Explorer sucks. This may or may not get fixed in the future — I’m tempted to just leave it as-is. I’m doing things correctly, dammit, and it’s not my fault that that program doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Grrr.

Update: That’s it — we’re live. The only page I have yet to dink with is the ‘About’ page, but considering it’s 4:22am, I need to get to bed. All pages linked in the navbar now work, and there are even more choices for RSS feeds available (Full posts with comments, full posts without comments, and excerpts only). I still haven’t looked into the IE wierdnesses, but that will come. Maybe.