“Did you hear...”

But can it sing “Bicycle Built for Two?” The idea of a talking computer on a spaceship has had eerie connotations since “2001: A Space Odyssey” and HAL 9000 hit screens in 1968. But that didn’t deter NASA from developing a voice-activated computer assistant for the International Space Station. Astronauts last week began training on the program, called Clarissa, initially for help with testing onboard water supplies. They say the software, which gives verbal instructions in response to specific spoken commands, helps them work through complicated processes without having to refer back to instruction manuals. Developers say they plan eventually to use Clarissa for all computer-related work on the station, Dave.

E-gov from the outside in. A Washington-based civil liberties group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, is giving a dose of e-government to Congress with a Web site that provides links to reports by the Congressional Research Service. The site, at www.opencrs.com, was launched last week. CRS reports—often used to bolster congressional debates—are not usually released to the public, although Congress does not prohibit their distribution.

Blog, aka ... You know blogs have hit the mainstream when the Federal Election Commission holds a hearing, as it did last week, to help decide whether to apply campaign finance rules to the Internet, and bloggers, backed by a political action committee, lawyers and a PR firm, arrive to oppose. We take no position on the proposed regulations, but maybe this would be a good time to come up with another name for the practice of posting opinions on the Web. “Blog,” which sounds either like baby talk or something that happens in college dorm rooms after a hard night of drinking, has always fallen dead on the ear. Got a suggestion for something better? Send it to [email protected].

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