Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Porn Royalties at the Norwich Bulletin

No publication has pounded the proverbial table as hard as the Norwich Bulletin in insisting that Julie Amero was an agent of immoral and illegal behavior in the classroom. In news item after news item, she is treated like a social leper.

And because I've defended Julie, I try to keep abreast of what the Norwich Bulletin is saying about the case these days. I use two search words, "amero" and "porn". Last night nothing new appeared but what did appear surprised me.

The search for "porn" produced the Norwich Bulletin's own recommended product sponsors.

Under Local Web Info is an entry for a Bee Control Co. that offers "teen porn" and "school girl porn". To the right of that a Shop Local set of listings for United Porn products.

If you look further into the listings you'll find this interesting entry:

That's right. features " pay-site reviews. Largest porn star buyer's guide.", and so on.

What this all means is the the hairstyling site Julie Amero stumbled into could very well have been one of the Norwich Bulletin's recommended vendors for all we know. And furthermore the Norwich Bulletin or a like merchant might have made money on the clicks.

Now, not for a moment do I believe Julie, The Bulletin, or a Ledyard Church are pushing porn knowingly. So why is Julie the only one convicted here.

This country has been ill-served by legislation that felonizes the possession of drugs or pornography near school buildings. In urban areas the results are disastrous. In the case of the Norwich Bulletin, a child that accesses porn while doing research on local issues in their newspaper and clicks on a church site that spews porn might automatically hold the newspaper liable on a morals charge.

And I'm guessing the newspaper would sing a very different tune if the shoe were on their foot.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You're NOT Going to Believe This

You can't make certain kinds of things up. I have long ago given up on criticizing George W. Bush because it's just too easy.

Today, I'm reading some little newspaper blurbs in USA Today. I'm minding my own business. Honest.

The blurb says that Laura Bush has hired a new White House pastry chef.

Now, in my mind, I'm thinking, "What else does she have to do but hire pastry chefs, slide down banisters, or maybe practice Miss Piggy imitations?" I mean honestly. The woman has way too much time on her hands. You would think she'd search the world for the very best.

Right? Well, this is uncanny.

The guy she hires wrote, "Desserts For Dummies". I almost fell out of my chair. It's perfect, isn't it?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Julie Amero, Porn, and the Danger of Disney

"I ask this rhetorical question: Where does objectionable material come from - a site like or the pornographic dot coms? Where do abusive JavaScript and Web Attacker kits reside?" - Detective Lounsbury, as reported at Network Performance Daily
It is predictably sad that Detective Lounsbury, the prosecutor, the defending attorney, the jury, the superintendent, and just about everyone involved in this case has no idea what they don't know. That's right. Unless they've been reading our content, they still don't know what they don't know.

Let's talk about it.

In a research project called Strider, Microsoft discovered this;
The Microsoft researchers found that Web sites aimed at kids were a regular target. Several variations of Disney Channel's "" have been registered and all redirect to a parked anchor for the misspelled "" On that site, Google AdSense ads for adult content and pornography are being served.

The data from the Strider Typo-Patrol System also highlighted the use of typo-squatting in phishing attacks. Web sites belonging to Bank of America Corp., Barclays Bank PLC., Citigroup Inc. have all been targeted, with misspelled variations of domains pointing to fake banking sites with Google ads tailored to financial services.

Not only was Lounsbury wrong, he was LOUD wrong. But that's just the tip of a prosecution morals racket that puts every American at risk. That's right, when any jury in this country is shown the graphic content found on the accused's computer they are sickened. And rightly so. But what they don't realize is that their home computer may contain the same stuff. In fact the judge, jury, lawyers, reporters, and townsfolk may have that and worse.

Let's talk about "Bring Your Kids to Work Day". Lots of companies encourage this. They let little Dick and Jane sit at the company computers and surf. And the kids do. They spell and misspell all kinds of sites they love including Disney.

So what?

Read this testimonial from a private investigator endorsing ComputerCop Pro;
"My most recent case two weeks ago involved a publicly held corporation and $100 million. I was given search criteria by the client and uncovered hundreds of erased files including emails. As a result of the investigation, the CEO/president of the company was fired."

Let's think about this. You or me, a teacher, priest, CEO, anybody can have their computer scanned and be prosecuted or fired or humiliated because their child visited Disney but typed it wrong!

You see, Julie Amero is no more responsible for what happened on an unprotected school computer than you or I are on our protected ones. Now that we all know this, there is no need for Det. Lounsbury to insist beyond credibility that Julie was porn surfing, or that the attorneys had a clue what the state of the computer was, or that the judge could smell the stench of the prosecutor's claims.

This is a mistrial and a tragic miscarriage of Justice. Everyone needs to admit it sooner than later.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Autism, Language, Altered States

This is an important video that every special education resource should see. Hat-tip to reddit for pointing out this blog entry. Some patience is necessary to watch the initial scenes. This is an important film - invest the time.

Julie Amero Expected Justice

John Sharp's blog (In Security) is must-read material.

He explains what Julie was confronted with - a trojan horse website infested with porn automations. She didn't stand a chance.

The answer to why she may not have accepted a generous plea bargain deal becomes obvious in John's blog. Julie was pregnant when the vile charges were administered...

So she stood up for herself for whatever it's worth. And those of us who understand what being kicked around by the system feels like are standing by her as well.

So call us fools if you like. I can sleep at night.

OMG!J - Online Mutant Gonzo Journalists

Since Alex, Walter, and I have started looking into the Julie Amero case it has become obvious that the main stream media no longer has the vision, budget or attention span to investigate grass roots news.

Oh, there's plenty of cash to lavish inside the beltway of Washington DC where the bar for journalism includes being a member of any of the wealthiest families in the world. They investigate incestuous political stories at dinner parties.

No, what the global media needs today are the tools that empower young and old gumshoe journalists to collaborate on the co-ordination of evidence.

Today, let me recommend something that I've talked about before, a tool called Note Mesh. This is a tool that is used by students attending a specific class to organize, share and annotate their class notes - the gestalt of a mutually correcting group being stronger than the individual. What is different about this from a WIKI is that the group is private and can be restricted to a select membership.

In the Julie Amero case a number of investigative avenues need to be pursued, co-ordinated and verified. We need volunteers who will establish a Note Mesh thread to: establish the time line of events in the classroom, establish an inventory of cases against teachers, priests, government and corporate individuals, and so on who may be affected by such accusations, ComputerCop analysis and training evaluation, layout of the classroom, and so on.

If you want to help establish such an investigative information clearinghouse we will point you to a MSM journalist who can use it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

St. Jude asks Lady Justice to Dance

In the bit buckets of every classified ads section all over the world come small prayers to St Jude. Don't forget me. Help me stop falling. I just don't know anymore. Who should I trust?

Who are these people praying to? He's just that crazy wanderer that everybody complains about - some bleeding heart, weepy, pathetic bastard who every once in a while enters the shared subconscious of people who are always surprised to be invited to his narrative of social duty. No it's not an accidental iPod download and he doesn't let you shut it off. He's the original nag-ware.

Lately, he's been known to have been channeling Lenny Bruce in Berkley, and George Carlin in Cambridge, and Samuel Clemens in West Hartford. He's bumming spare cycles - he wants to exercise some dialogues this country hasn't heard in a long time. And he wants to talk about the difference between machines and humans.

On the street, the word is that he's dating Justice and she's asking him questions.

I'm blind-folded, what should I see?

When I look around I see lots of innocent people's lives being ruined. Where are the impartial judges? And where are the open-minded jurors? Look into to my mailbag and see Julie Amero.

She's been punished too much. This is not my work. But I can't dance unless I'm asked and her lawyer needs to accept assistance by reaching out to his peers.

Let me see if if can find someone to ask him to ask... I hear music in Norwich and I don't want to miss this dance.

Redemption comes to Norwich when the Norwich community begins to give Julie the social firewall she never had two years ago. She needs her friends and neighbors, and strangers to invite her into the social services community, into the warmth of a caring community, and into the hands of deserving salvation. It's never too late to ask or for people of conscience to invite.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Search for Deep Pockets in Amero Case

Eileen McNamara of The Day reports in "Unpaid Invoice May Have Led To School Pornography Incident" that
In a presentation to the Board of Education Tuesday night, Robert Hartz, the school district's information systems director, said the company that supplies the school's content-filter software failed to send him the necessary paperwork to activate an updated version of the filter prior to the 2004 school year. Hartz also blamed himself for the computer pornography incident, saying he may have overlooked an invoice for the update.

“That's why we didn't get this thing updated in time for the 2004 school year and that's why this incident happened,” Hartz told the board.

When students come to class with excuses like "the dog ate my homework" teachers have a tendency to be a little more suspicious. So let's pretend we're teachers for a moment.

Soooo. You're telling us that none of this would have happened if you were in compliance with federal laws requiring content filtering?

"we didn't get this thing updated in time for the 2004 school year and that's why this incident happened"

And knowing this, you did what to take accountability for this incident?

-sfx- crickets chirping

That's right folks. The Norwich schools are run by very understanding responsible people who - how do I say this politely - ALLOWED AN INNOCENT WOMAN TO ENDURE TWO YEARS OF A PERSONAL HELL... because they didn't pay their bills on time and, by the way, forgot to tell the police, the judge, the defending attorney, the public, THE TRUTH.

But wait, our descent into this theater of the absurd would be incomplete without the reporting of this very same event by the Norwich Bulletin.

In an article entitled "Norwich Porn a Fluke" by Daniel Axelrod we get a slightly different spin:
Hartz said Norwich's filtering software generally worked in 2004, but new offensive sites weren't blocked partly because Symantec, creator of the school's WebNOT computer filter, failed to send him a licensing certificate to activate the software's updates feature.

"I don't think we've ever compromised on being able to fund our firewall ... and (other) filtering software," Norwich Superintendent Pam Aubin said. "We're very lucky to fund a full-time information systems director."

Okay let's be teachers again.

So now I'm hearing Symantec is the reason we didn't have a safe computing environment!

"Norwich's filtering software generally worked in 2004, but new offensive sites weren't blocked partly because Symantec, creator of the school's WebNOT computer filter, failed to send him [Hartz] a licensing certificate to activate the software's updates feature."

So it's not YOUR FAULT for not paying a bill?

""I don't think we've ever compromised on being able to fund our firewall ... and (other) filtering software," Norwich Superintendent", Pam Aubin said."

You don't think you've ever been compromised...

-sfx- crickets chirping

Well, these two stories are very interesting aren't they?

If I were a stockholder in Symantec, I'd be on the phone right now with my teacher's hat on.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bodily Fluids in the Amero Case

I think the jury probably lost their minds when the prosecution described what the students claimed they were exposed to. You see, nudity and the usual convenience store magazine rack teaser art isn't going to sway a jury.

Nope. I'm thinking it had to be golden clincher in a case like this, yep, the old Bodily Fluids gambit.

I can just see the jury hearing those dreaded words now... "Geezus, Martha, Cover your ears! It's worse than anyone in Norwich can imagine... it's bodily Flu-ides!"

The prosecutor smiles and kisses the sky like Jimi Hendrix... Cha Ching!

For you viewing pleasure, an explanation of bodily fluids...

Pro Bono This! - The Julie Amero Saga Continues

This travesty of justice has turned a corner in recent days and the wheels of a truer justice are turning.

John Dvorak has joined the chorus here.

I cannot think of a single reason this woman's trial should not be considered a mistrial immediately. This woman and her family and friends have suffered terribly under the burden of these scurrilous charges. But justice is coming... of that we can be sure.

However, last night I searched for pro bono legal aid for the Amero case. And I wound up at the American Bar Association web site. Woe, unto the needy searching for help. There are convicts in solitary confinement with more sophisticated web sites.

Actually, searching for "social justice" and "lawyer" and "pro bono" results in sites dedicated to the word "oxymoron". It is easier to find a covered wagon repairman than a social justice attorney in this country. The reason isn't hard to understand given the sentiment in the mass media about anyone claiming innocence. I'm old enough to remember fellows like Ramsey Clark, William Kunsler, and a handful of others.

In Region 19 our students are expected to do community service and they do. I'm talking about raising money, raising consciousness, and doing good deeds.

Pro bono volunteers don't seem to have that same connection to community. You see just because politicians like Lieberman can reduce Connecticut's ROI to 49 of 50 states doesn't mean we don't have a need. You see if Connecticut's pro bono lawyers ever rediscover social justice the schools in Hartford, Norwich, New Haven, Bridgeport, and all over the rest of Connecticut would be getting attention instead of neglect.

But I'm tired tonight so I'll stop preaching.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Seventh Ring of Hell in Norwich

Mary Landesman is beginning to realize, like so many of us, that the public has been lied to about Julie Amero.

But every time I think we've reached all time lows in judicial history, it happens to be little more than the latest rung our heads hit as we free fall into the depths of this trial.

Mary reports,
"It's a case of possible discrimination against an attorney with a debilitating medical condition, a semi-sleeping judge who allegedly ridiculed the attorney's symptoms, an improperly instructioned jury who acted upon what they were told, never realizing that what they were told may have been tainted. And it's a case of a negligent and manipulative school administration, the real culprits behind the events that led to Amero's downfall that fateful day."

Much of this we already have covered but let's roll back to "possible discrimination against an attorney with a disability"!

I can tell you for a fact that any teacher in this country would be asked to resign if they seriously ridiculed the disability of anyone on school grounds. It appears the ethical standards for teachers exceed those of the bench!

Lady Justice hides her tears behind her blindfold. It is the responsibility of the Norwich community to demand a clean-up of their system. Any American who has a brain has to wonder if the court system has become so corrupt and cynical as to presume anyone accused of morals crimes as though they were perverts unworthy of an honest trial in court.

The fact that evidence exonerating the defendant was disallowed by this judge implies that the game is fixed - that police can simply point an accusing finger and declare that magic evidence proves a defendant guilty and that a nod and wink judiciary enjoys the sport.

Today Julie Amero is being treated like a sexual predator despite the fact that no one in the technical community believes the assertions made in court about the behavior of the computer.

Having taught at Mohegan Community College for many years, I'm asking former students to start asking questions, you're being hoodwinked. And that's not fair either.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

More Troubling Evidence of a Mistrial in the Amero Case

The Alex Eckelberry Op-ed piece in the Norwich Bulletin has triggered a very interesting set of responses (view all the comments).

Alex got me wondering about what might have been the environment at the time of Julie Amaro's malware encounter. What I discovered was more than a little troubling. In June and July of 2004, before Julie's experience, the Griswold Middle School had an infestation of pornography that caused local authorities to seize a computer and hard drives. A student printed a nude image to take home in their backpack! Funny how no prosecution took place in those cases.

It is inexcusable that no action was taken to upgrade the protective software at that time (they had the summer to do it). And it explains why nobody thought much of Amero's experience at the time, essentially telling her "not to worry about it."

What this adds up to however is grounds for a mistrial since the community responsible was well aware of computer pornography being present on school district computers yet prosecuted Amero under the pretense that she was the menace to society.

This woman has been cruelly maligned because of the lack of honesty and integrity on the part of everyone involved with the prosecution of this case. Everybody apparently KNEW BETTER than to believe this woman intentionally accessed those sites or that such an incident was unusual in the school setting.

I cannot help but believe the Amero case will have far reaching consequences. For one, every case in which Detective Mark Lounsbury (or any other police department) acted as an expert witness must be called into question if his testimony was the deciding factor in a prosecution case. Computer experts across the blogosphere find his sole dependence on the ComputerCOP Pro program to be insufficient and misleading. There is plenty of reason to believe other software agents, undetectable to programs like this, were in play.

The second consequence is that every prosecution globally that depends solely on the results of such programs are probably responsible for wrongly convicting a large population that's innocent.

This case makes clear that malware is this generation's disruptive technology. It is the first wave of automations that disassociate the user of a machine from the behavior of a machine. Law enforcement agencies and legislators worldwide need to take immediate action to reevaluate every case in which a human is being accused of wrong-doing based on the behavior of a computer.

The Amero case is a landmark that must be remedied immediately. This is a mistrial based on technical ignorance of the justice system and significant disingenuity on the part of the locals who prosecuted the case.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Why Julie Amero Matters - Computers in Society

"Freedom begins when you tell Mrs Grundy to fly a kite" -- Robert Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

This is a follow-up to my previous post on the Julie Amero case.

A few months ago my son, an EO Smith student, was studying Arthur Miller's "The Crucible". He wandered around the house for weeks wrestling with the play. "What does burning witches have to do with today?" I'm sure he wasn't the only student who couldn't quite resolve the issue... yet.

The Julie Amero case is yet another Crucible being played out in small town America. It represents the eternal tension between those who live in a world they cannot understand and those whose very existence adds complexity, risk, and the temptations of the unknown chance.

Her case is a threat to computers in any classroom. Computer manufacturers such as Gateway, Dell, and others should look hard at what's going on here. You see, what teacher will ever turn on a computer in class if the risk is that they can be prosecuted and jailed for life because of malware? The answer is no one.

And her case is a threat because any international terrorist who is sophisticated enough to hijack an online PC (and they are) can blackmail, smear, or humiliate any priest, police officer, teacher, lawyer, whoever by letting the American public lynch them. Without firing a shot, innocent Americans on any stripe can be targeted and quite easily disengaged without a trace of manipulation being left behind to incriminate the real culprits.

Our obligation to the new generations of American children must be to teach them that objectionable stuff exists in cyberspace and they'll need to confront it. In Ashford, from an early age, our kids pass a poster that asserts "Character is what you do when no one is looking". At the high school level, one can only hope that message is reinforced by trusting students to exercise good internet habits.

But prosecutions such as Julie Amero's affect all private citizens who own computers. Who can explain all of the garbage that accumulates on their home computers? I'll venture to guess very few.

The key, of course, is that we engage them in the internet, and computers, and the risks that represents. We cannot, anywhere in America, assume guilt when a human is associated with automated behaviors on a computer or browser.

I hope Joe Courtney is made aware of this case and works for legislation that addresses the need for protections for Americans who are being prosecuted on morality charges as though the actions of an infected computer are willful actions of an individual who happens to be there at the time. We have long passed the threshold of being able to attribute - without a shadow of a doubt - whether a computer user is wholly aware of what may be happening under the covers of their own machine.

It is time, once again, to end the witch-hunts.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Potential Brain to Computer Interface

In my readings and writings on education I have become convinced that this generation of kids may enjoy a life expectancy that is indeterminate by our current measures and that their health, well-being, and mental facilities will become unimaginably broadened by technologies currently in development.

This article describes a potential neural connector to an intelligent computing extension that will enhance the abilities of the humans who chose to so progress. This is a glimpse of the very near future.
From: Neural 'extension cord' developed for brain implants, news service by Tom Simonite

In 2001, Smith and colleagues developed a way to grow new lengths of nerve fibre by gradually pulling apart groups of connected neurons (see Nerve racking stuff). Lengths of nerve generated in this way, and measuring up to 10 centimetres, have already been used to fix damaged nerves in the limbs of human patients.

Protein coating

The data cables are created in the same way. A group of neurons is cultured on top of an array of 96 electrodes covered with a protein coating that causes them to attach. When placed 100 microns (about the width of a human hair) from another patch of neurons on a separate plate, the cells grow towards them, eventually joining neuron clumps together.

A motor is then used to slowly draw the two plates apart – causing the nerve fibres to continuing growing, at up to 1 cm each day. "We plan to use the free end to interface with the nervous system," Smith told New Scientist, "while the other end interfaces with a computer."

Tests have already shown that electrical signals can be transmitted in both directions along the cord. "Tests in animal models are next," says Smith. Connecting the chord to electrodes outside of the brain means the reaction of neurons to non-organic material can be controlled. In future, the cord could connect an amputee's nerves to a sophisticated prosthetic, he says, and might even offer a way to connect artificial eyes or ears to the brain.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pornography in the Classroom; Justice Perverted

The story of substitute Julie Amero deserves the attention of the teacher's unions, parents, administrators and law enforcement and I mean both ears listening eyes open and paying attention.

I don't know anything about Julie Amero except that she faces a forty year term in prison for allegedly exposing children to pornography.

Here's an opinion from the Norwich Bulletin;
Norwich substitute teacher Julie Amero clearly was wrong to access several pornographic Web sites on her computer at Kelly Middle School. In October 2004, she exposed seventh-grade students to images of naked men and women. For her crimes, she is facing up to 40 years in prison.

We find that potential punishment excessive, but we do expect that this sordid experience will serve as a cautionary tale to every parent, teacher and school administrator in Eastern Connecticut.

Amero, 40, of Windham, would appear to be an unlikely person to expose children to the lurid images she called up on the classroom computer. She had no criminal record.

Like all substitute teacher candidates, Norwich Superintendent of Schools Pam Aubin said Amero underwent extensive background checks that included fingerprinting. She had taught at Kelly for 1 1/2 years without incident.
Intent was apparent

Still, she was accused and convicted of intentionally accessing several pornographic sites -- not pop-up ads or windows, as she suggested. And she did not turn off the computer when the students saw the images.

While her deeds were disgusting and merit punishment, we expect that her sentence would be significantly less than the maximum 40 years, which some convicted killers do not get.

This is not to minimize the crime she committed; the intent is to have the punishment fit the crime. Sentencing is set for March 2.

That said, this must be a wake-up call for school districts and administrators, who need to ensure that all computers have the proper filters so that a potentially dangerous Web site is not accessible; who need to ensure that substitutes are monitored and managed well; and that children are protected in every other way.

Aubin characterized the Amero case as a "needle in a haystack," and that may well be.

But one needle can do a lot of damage -- to a school district's reputation, and to its students.

I will tell you why she is innocent and why the Bulletin and the entire system has failed Julie Amero. Furthermore, IMO, the Norwich Bulletin's opinion reduces American Justice to a lynch mob mentality more like Iraq than anything we as Americans represent.

I have worked in various roles as a computer scientist for over 25 years. I have been a parent for over thirteen. I have taught school on occasion and I serve on the Region 19 School Board in Connecticut - hence my blog.

The exposure of so-called pornographers has become a law enforcement cottage industry over the years. Every so often, I'll read a newspaper article in which some over-zealous enforcement agency "finds pornography on a civic computer" and of course the owner of that computer is inevitably treated and sentenced like a dissident in a totalitarian regime. In this case, this substitute teacher is facing a sentence of forty years in prison! Note once again the inflammatory rhetoric used by the holy and judgmental Norwich Bulletin to smear this woman's reputation; "her deeds were disgusting and merit punishment" and "this sordid experience will serve as a cautionary tale to every parent, teacher and school administrator in Eastern Connecticut." Not only that - they infer that A CRIME has been committed!

Listen to these words carefully.

The teacher's unions and every self-respecting citizen in this country should petition that this verdict be thrown out and that the school administrators who failed to help her turn off the computer be fired. If the judge in this case was derelict in duty then the State needs to take a hard look at what's going on in the justice system in Norwich as well.

Here's why I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that this woman is innocent. Years ago, I taught an entry level computer science course at Mohegan Community College that in down times attracted older students looking for career salvation or enhancement using computers. What I encountered was a profound ignorance of how computers work and sometimes a mistrust of technology that colleagues refer to as cyberphobia.

About a dozen years ago, I had a student who at the end of a semester asked if I could look at her computer at work because it was acting "funny". She worked at the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union. As a pro bono gesture, I met her at her office one afternoon to take a look. What I found was a computer that had never quite been set up correctly and which looked to have been under continuous attack by every conceivable malicious entity one could imagine. There was nothing I could do to help and I believe I advised her to back-up the important things and totally reformat the disk or request a new machine. However, the experience has remained with me for years and I've seen the same effect in other State agencies and private companies - spyware, viruses, malware, and uninvited, self-propogating content.

A number of years ago, when my boys were on AOL messaging their friends I noticed some troubling things. They were somehow getting subscribed to buddy lists enticing them to talk to strangers. To this day I don't know if these were pornographers or police entrapping kids to join pornography chats - who knows where this stuff comes from. But what I do know is that it took me DAYS of dedicated time to rid the computer of stuff that was being downloaded without anyone's knowledge.

I lectured my boys and the parents of the other kids to be careful and clean out the buddy lists and so on. But these are losing battles. In our home instant messaging for the boys was eliminated.

But every year I do a sweep of the home computers which I have locked down fairly tightly for inappropriate materials. And every year, spyware, viruses, inappropriate stuff shows up and it is never an easy thing to get rid of. The idea that anyone can just shut off the machine and it will all be alright is a joke.

The sophistication of today's cyber-villans is scary and it is ubiquitous. The people assigned infected computers are no more pornographers than church-going people are. I will wager that the prosecutor, the police chief who testified against this woman, the judge, the school administration, and the Norwich Bulletin have machines as infected as Julie Amero's was when she entered that classroom. I am further willing to wager that all those self-righteous people are equally clueless how to make the obscene stuff go away.

This incident is a lesson in the miscarriage of American Justice and it reeks to high heaven. The idea that a middle-school substitute teacher HAD MOTIVE to expose teens to porn IS SO ABSURD AT FACE VALUE that everyone involved in this travesty should have their heads examined.

As a teacher and a computer professional I have watched my students, neighbors, and my family struggle with how to stop a virus, or automatic pop-ups, or finding the "OFF" button. The story of this poor woman, in a strange classroom, confronted with a cyber-assault that no one seemed to know how to remedy is Kafka-esque in tragedy. Julie Amero is every innocent American.

The legislatures need to begin to demand rigorous "innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt thresholds" on such incidents. The true villans exist in cyberspace and not in the office, classroom, or next door. The pushers of unwelcome content are victimizing too many innocent people and we need to confront the problem with a clear head instead of a brain dead, holier-than-thou lynch mob. Today, anyone's computer, protected or not, can fall prey to profoundly disturbing misuse without the consent, awareness, or intervention of the user. And so-called computer forensic experts cannot, without significant compelling evidence, determine if human intervention causes the effect.

This woman needs a fair, intelligent retrial sooner than later. Her only crime appears to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone else involved should be ashamed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

History of Head Transplants To Air

This article discusses a National Geographic show that documents secret Cold War experiments that resulted in some very bizarre head transplant experiments. Here's a teaser of what's in the show.
A Soviet hero, Vladimir Demikhov was renowned for his work in the Red Army hospitals during World War II. When peace came, he joined an elite team of Russian doctors ordered by Stalin to beat the West in the field of medicine at any cost. Labouring far from inquisitive eyes in a secret research complex outside Moscow and experimenting freely in his search for new ways of prolonging life, Demikhov was prepared to go where others did not dare.

He believed for example that it was possible to transplant organs like hearts and lungs in human beings. In those days, such a procedure seemed scarcely credible - but Demikhov proved it could be done. Often preferring to work in the dead of night, he showed that the heart and lungs could be taken from one dog and survive in the chest of another.

This laid the groundwork for such landmark operations as the first heart transplant, conducted by South African surgeon Dr Christiaan Barnard, nearly 20 years later. But Demikhov didn't stop there.

He was determined to prove that any human organ could be successfully transplanted, even the brain. To that end, he set about the challenge to create a two-headed dog.

The lights of his laboratory shone into the small hours of that February morning in 1954 as he and his team set about the intricate task of stitching the upper half of the puppy to the larger animal and connecting their blood vessels and windpipes.

As dawn approached, they waited to see if their creation would regain consciousness. Their first sign of success came when the puppy's head woke up and yawned. It was quickly joined by the larger 'natural' head of the mastiff, which gave its new addition a puzzled look and tried to shake it off.

The composite dog was ready to be revealed to the world. Though it had no body of its own, the smaller animal's head was reported to have kept its own personality, remaining as playful as any other puppy, according to Soviet propaganda.

Even the American magazine Time reported the experiment with grudging admiration, describing how the puppy's head alternately growled and snarled with mock ferocity, or licked the hand that caressed it.

"The host-dog was bored by all this but soon became reconciled to the unaccountable puppy that had sprouted out of its neck," their correspondent wrote. "When it got thirsty, the puppy also got thirsty. When the laboratory grew hot, both host-dog and puppy panted to cool off."

After six days, the bizarre hybrid died. But it had survived long enough to worry America, which was desperate to outdo the Soviets in all aspects of science and technology.
The program is called The First Head Transplant: National Geographic Channel, Sunday, January 28, 9pm.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Courtney To Serve on House Committee on Education and Labor

About a week ago, our own Joe Courtney was appointed to the House Committee on Education and Labor. The New London Day quotes Courtney's interest as having...
"requested the assignment so that he may begin to address education funding shortfall in eastern Connecticut's schools, to help lower the cost of a college education, protect individuals' retirement and pension plans, and bring tax fairness to middle-class families.

The committee assignment is an important one as Congress will consider the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the Higher Education Act, and the Head Start early education law".

As an avid backer of Joe during his campaign I want to congratulate him on his appointment and advise America that Joe is one of the finest political talents this country has and this assignment is a blessing for voters of both parties. I truly believe Joe will make a positive difference - something American education so desperately needs.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Basketball and Robots

Last night, EO Smith's varsity beat South Windsor High School handily by a bazillion points. I'm not writing this to gloat because it was an ugly game. The South Windsor team plays a flavor of basketball that I'll call smash mouth because that's more or less an accurate description of the kind of play fans get to watch.

I happen to love the game and I have two boys who play so I have a little skin in the discussion as well. Basketball is as physically challenging a game as any. Unlike football there is no protective equipment and unlike baseball there is a lot of contact. So basketball shares a gentleman's set of rules of engagement. Don't throw elbows, nothing below the belt, maintain temperament, play in control, and so on.

But inevitably every spectator eventually has to endure the team that brilliantly discovers the smash mouth epiphany.

The smash mouth epiphany is the realization by soccer and football coaches who work their way into the basketball world that you can bully basketball players on the other team enough to win with little more than excessive physical play on your team's part.

So last night, down by twenty or so points, I watched a South Windsor player pull the shirt down on an EO player so hard that the player fell down. No big deal because nobody got hurt and the ref signaled a foul. But basketball is not soccer. It is not.

But that incident was just another low point in a game characterized by slapping, yanking, pulling, banging, tripping, and so on. Any sport devolves into brutish, ugly play when the point of either team is to push the envelope on acceptable physical play to gain advantage or a win.

Basketball is and always was a demanding physical play in which athletes (not brutes) play hard, with plenty of contact and spirit to win. And I love to watch games like that. Congratulations to the JV and EO Smith coaches and players who did not allow themselves to be dragged into playing like brutes. That's the first step in becoming professionals in any calling.

As for brutish teams, I'm going to recommend that the robotics team borrow Asimo and suit him up for those games. Asimo has no teeth to lose, no nose to get broken, and no head injury that can't be repaired.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Rearing Children After College, "Adultolescence"

In late December, Money Magazine online published this report called Your adult kids are back. Now what? by Jean Chatzky, Money Magazine editor-at-large. It speaks to the growing phenomenon of College graduates who return home broke and financially dependent. Read on.
But boomerang kids are now so common that social scientists have dubbed the phenomenon "adultolescence," a period following college that can last five or more years.

More than 65% of graduates are moving back home, compared with 53% just five years ago. And while the difficult stages of childhood may have had lasting emotional impact, this one has financial ramifications galore for you - about $5,000 a year, on average, in assistance - and your kid.

How did adultolescence come about? Blame rising college costs and rampant consumerism. Today the average graduate emerges with nearly $20,000 in student loans and $4,000 in credit-card debt. Meanwhile, she faces a world in which rents have skyrocketed over recent decades but starting salaries, adjusted for inflation, have dropped 17%. She can't cut it, so she falls back on the bank of Mom and Dad for support in the form of either cash or an invitation to move back home.
Click on the link for the entire story - a good read.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

School 2.0 - Periodic English Literature Via Email

I came across a very interesting website the other day called It is a repository of free, public domain books of literature. There's nothing really new in that.

What distinguishes dailylit from other sites is that it emails the reader a chapter of the desired text one day at a time. For example, if you're an English teacher who wants the class to read Moby Dick in chapters, you can ask students to subscribe and then pick the frequency of that chapters will arrive in their emails.

It's a very nice idea that will save money on text books, innovate learning, and broaden our teacher's ability to teach difficult subject matter.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Jazz; It's Everywhere

Sorry. The New York Times just keeps getting better so it's very hard for me to pass up passing along certain articles. If you're a political junkie you must read Frank Rich.

But because this is my education blog let's check out this article, Jazz Is Alive and Well. In the Classroom, Anyway. by Nate Chinen, New York Times.
N.E.A. Jazz in the Schools, an outreach administered by the National Endowment for the Arts and produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center, reached an estimated four million students last year. “This could be an enormously powerful force in terms of audience development,” the endowment’s chairman, Dana Gioia, said of the program, a Web-based high school curriculum designed to run as a weeklong lesson during Black History Month. “The training of musicians is only one half of the necessary support for a thriving jazz culture.”

Of course, exposure to jazz doesn’t ensure an embrace of it; the biggest onus is on the artists who maintain the state of the art. “We have incredibly talented young folks out here now, but they have to create a market for themselves,” said the saxophonist Jimmy Heath, who retired from full-time teaching at Queens College not quite a decade ago and was named an N.E.A. Jazz Master in 2003.

However counterintuitive it sounds, local action may be the best hope for the revitalization of the music’s audience. Thanks to these educational programs, jazz now exists in college towns and isolated high schools where no club scene has ever thrived. The implosion of the monolithic music industry has little effect on that network. In that sense, jazz has a shot at becoming a folk music again.

“What I’m hoping for the future of the music,” Mr. Pierce said, “is that the students who come to these schools go back to their communities, create their own scenes and develop their own audiences so the music can come back to some level, as it maybe once was. When you multiply all these individuals and all these institutions, maybe that can happen.”

It may already have started. “These kids coming out of high school are more advanced than they ever were before,” said Mr. Crook, “and it’s because of the people teaching them, graduates of programs like this one. They’re bringing it back to the culture.”

In that sense, the International Association for Jazz Education conference might be understood not as a collision of worlds but as a gathering of the tribes. And the most important thing that happens there isn’t a clinic or show or ceremony, or a negotiation on the expo floor. It’s what happens after, when the various jazz constituencies pack up their stuff and head home.
I know that jazz groups exist in Region 19 and certainly at UConn. Seems to me the the church basements and town hall auditoriums should start encouraging some local jazz performances to see what all the noise is about.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Free Audiobook Podcasts

The Open Culture link is a wonderful source of podcast audio books for everyone. Here's a sampling;
# A Christmas Tale, Charles Dickens (iTunes)
# A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (iTunes)
# Aesop’s Fables, Aesop (mp3 download)
# Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (mp3 download)
# Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen (mp3 download)
# Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche (mp3 download)'
# Beyond Lies the Wub, Philip K. Dick (iTunes)
# Call of the Wild, Jack London (mp3 download)
# Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (mp3 download)
# Chamber Music, James Joyce (mp3 download)
# Collected Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson (iTunes)
# Common Sense, Thomas Paine (mp3 download)
# Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes (mp3 download)
# Dracula, Bram Stoker (Just an fyi, this is not the best reading I've ever heard.) (iTunes)
# Emma, Jane Austen (mp3 download)
# Frankenstein - A 1938 radio broadcast that is faithful to Mary Shelley's text. (iTunes)
# Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln (mp3 download)
And this is just the beginning of the listing.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Kindergarten Stats Don't Add Up

Yesterday's Courant news story, Success Easier In Connecticut by ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer, mentions the following odd statistic.
Connecticut had high marks in most categories, ranking well above the national average in family income, parental education and employment, preschool enrollment, elementary school reading and mathematics achievement, high school graduation and college attendance, for example.

The state ranked below the national average in only one category, kindergarten enrollment, with 70 percent of eligible children enrolled in kindergarten, compared with a national average of 75 percent. State education officials are not sure why Connecticut lags in that area, but one possibility is that many parents have decided to postpone their children's enrollment to allow them to improve their readiness for kindergarten, said Frances Rabinowitz, associate state education commissioner.
What could Frances Rabinowitz be thinking about? By suggesting "one possibility is that many parents have decided to postpone their children's enrollment to allow them to improve their readiness for kindergarten" does Frances realize this has NOTHING to do with the percentage of eligible children attending kindergarten?

Now I'm just thinking aloud but if a child is held back this year then that very same child would be eligible next year. Let's call it a wash. In other words, whether a child attends this year or next has nothing to do with the actual percentage of students attending except to skew the total eligible from one year to another.

So that introduces a far more troubling possibility and that is that 30% of Connecticut's children are not attending kindergarten at all and nobody seems to know why.

There is nothing I've read in the education literature to suggest that skipping kindergarten is a healthy idea. More troubling would be the possibility that kindergarten is insufficiently funded thereby precluding kindergarten for our kids.

Maybe it's time for the department of Education to stop speculating and start investigating because something doesn't add up here. Every child eligible for school in this state should have that option and if its being denied because of stealthful underfunding practices then we have a problem.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Amazing Secret to a Longer Life

From the New York Times article; A Surprising Secret to a Long Life: Stay in School By GINA KOLATA, New York Times
The one social factor that researchers agree is consistently linked to longer lives in every country where it has been studied is education. It is more important than race; it obliterates any effects of income.

Year after year, in study after study, says Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, education “keeps coming up.”

And, health economists say, those factors that are popularly believed to be crucial — money and health insurance, for example, pale in comparison.

Dr. Smith explains: “Giving people more Social Security income, or less for that matter, will not really affect people’s health. It is a good thing to do for other reasons but not for health.”

Health insurance, too, he says, “is vastly overrated in the policy debate.”

Instead, Dr. Smith and others say, what may make the biggest difference is keeping young people in school. A few extra years of school is associated with extra years of life and vastly improved health decades later, in old age.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

EO Smith Varsity Men Beat New Britain High!

Last night the EO Smith varsity won in overtime by approximately 5 points or so [too tired to remember the actual score]. Anyway, a very big victory for the school against one of the state's perennially fine teams.

Congratulations, guys!

Monday, January 01, 2007

School 2.0 Taking Off

Well, not in Region 19 or anywhere in Connecticut that I'm aware of. But in Philadelphia, at a school called Science Leadership Academy they're creating online student newspapers and magazines such as this one.

How do I know? I visit Marcie Hull's blog once in a while.

Oh, here's Gustav Gertle's blog. He's the student who created the magazine.