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small red square My pinhead of a resident manager is in the newly vacant, adjacent apartment using a belt sander at 9:30 PM. I confronted him to complain, and said he was being rude <1>, to no avail - he said with enthusiasm that he "could work all night", that he "has to do this now so he can paint tomorrow" - what's the rush? His family owns the building, yet getting maximum occupancy is their Prime Directive. The only reason is the landlord's typical greed. (During the Chinese Revolution landlords were among the first to go.) He's a self-important "Christian" of the worst, most hypocritical stripe - I've heard him declare with zero doubt that his god has promised him a place in heaven. It's impossible for him to understand the unpleasant effect he has on others (or he tunes out deliberately). How I hate him, when he pulls stunts like this - but he's fine otherwise.

small yellow square Say, did you hear about the NY Times article about the CMU study claiming that being online bummed people out? That's the headline anyway - today's Salon gave some details, bringing to mind my Dad's slogan that "Figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure!"

The study attempts to find subtle gradations on the basis of the kind of "How are you feeling today on a scale of one to five?" quizzes that psychologists like to use to measure people's moods -- and anyone who's ever taken one of those tests knows it's hardly an exact science. The researchers only tested people twice, at the start and the end of the two-year study -- which doesn't provide a very wide set of data points to offset the impact of other factors (time of year, state of the economy, random personal crises).

Beyond these statistical issues, there's a deeper problem with the study's basic setup. The researchers chose to limit their subjects to people who hadn't been online before, because they wanted to perform a "before and after" kind of study that would help them isolate the specific effect of Net use on individual psyches. So the participants in the study weren't people who simply chose to get online because they had some motivation to do so; they were people who got free computers and Internet access so they could be studied.

One obvious problem is that the researchers have no idea whether their subjects got bummed out because of what they encountered on the Net, or simply because they wound up sitting in front of a computer monitor rather than working in their gardens or playing ball. Is the increase in "loneliness and depression" caused by the Internet itself or simply by computer use, regardless of whether the modem's on? The study can't say.

By far the biggest flaw in the HomeNet research, however, is the way it lumps all Internet usage into one big heap. Using the Net to organize a charity drive or a political campaign is a different experience from using it to stare at pornography (as if anyone would do the latter with a bunch of psychologists watching). Building your own Web site is different from pounding on a search engine hunting down some obscure fact. There is no uniform "Internet experience"...

small white square Today I spent over an hour in the dental Chair of Agony - not bad drilling, but the prep for my newest crown, my third. Now I'm getting used to the temporary crown installed today. The worst part of this procedure is the goop they shove into your mouth to make the requisite molds - the dentist lingo for this is "taking an impression." In a different field, forensics, the term is moulage. (This visit to the dentist, and the next, were scheduled to avoid the hygienist.)

small green square Big environmental changes coming at work - within the month we'll be moving from our plush trailer complex back into the building from whence this project came, before I came on board. The building's been renovated and de-asbestosed - today I inspected it, and saw the office I'll share with my co-worker/supervisor. It'll be okay, perhaps half the size of the trailer we're in now. Two doors, but no window.

small cyan square Sobering news from Nova Scotia; a Swissair plane is the last you'd expect to have trouble. And today I finalized my holiday trip Back East; both flights will involve plane changes at DFW, so this along with my upcoming Euro-jaunt <2> with its Chicago plane changes means I'm looking at eight flights in the next few months...

CMU - Carnegie-Mellon University
DFW - Dallas-Fort Worth (airport)
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<1>The sound wasn't that bad, and he implied that he'd knock off at 10PM, but I had to complain on general principles - I don't think any noisy work should be done at night, and also feel that all workers should get (or be forced) to lay down their tools around 5PM.

<2>Fatherland Count is T minus 40 days and counting.