Rolled back home through the sunrise this morning from an excursion up the coast and into PDX. Roberto has been visiting for the last week, and we started a sightseeing trip over the weekend that culminated with dropping him at the airport early this morning. Great times, great places, great people. During the days on either side of the trip, I finished reading both Ambient Findability by Morville and Coyote Warrior by Vandevelder. Both broadened my horizons in their respective areas, and while I disagree with Morville’s dismissal of oral cultures, I’ll have to discuss that another time. One of his epigrams (from Ted Nelson, paraphrased below) is pretty arresting,. It is also exactly one of the theses of Vandevelder’s description of the attempted dissolution of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota. 
“EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED. In an important sense there are no “subjects” at all; there is only all knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly. Hierarchical and sequential structures, especially popular since Gutenberg, are usually forced and artificial. Intertwingularity is not generally acknowledged—people keep pretending they can make things hierarchical, categorizable and sequential when they can’t.”
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The camellias are blooming, and have been for a week or two. There was still a light frost this morning, though, and that helped me hang on to Saturn high up near Leo’s paws and Mars seeming to recede into the winter hexagon, glimpsed on my way home last night. Now that I look around a little more, the red maple close up against the kitchen porch is also budding strenuously, preparing to leaf out.

I haven’t been paying attention to climatological data, and there are unfortunately few lilacs nearby, but it still brings to mind Adolphe Quetelet’s prescription for lilacs; I think his test bed, so to speak, was in Paris, but I could be wrong. In any case, when the sum of the squares of the mean daily temperatures since the last frost of the winter exceed 4,274, look for the clustered clouds of little purple flowers.

Given that Quetelet was writing in 19th century Belgium, I think we can assume that he was talking about mean temps in Celsius. Odd to think of one of the effects of the French Revolution being the metric system, but there you go. This kind of social context and personal effects are precisely why I liked David Salsburg’s The Lady Tasting Tea, from whence I learned the Quetelet story. In general the book was excellent, but now that I reflect, I think I may have dropped out about half way through when the statistics got too deep for me. I’ll have to pick it up again.

Laziness? Must be.

11 November 2007

Which serves two purposes, really. It excuses (or explains) my lack of posts, and saves me from having to come up with a better explanation (or excuse). Although it is possible that the sudden access to two good libraries within the last few weeks has diminished my online presence, save in card catalogues.

Anyway, I soon hope to be posting on religion debate rhetoric, drag show-influenced politics, tree identification, epistemology of Holocaust deniers, and the philosophy of quantum theory. Right after I summit K2, of course. Meantime, here’s a list of some good books:

On Literature, Umberto Eco–the essay on Borges and influence alone is worth the price of admission

Denying the Holocaust, Deborah Lipstadt–I learned more about the process of rationality from the first two chapters than from any other single book I’ve read

Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte–beautiful and needs to be read several times

Where the Suckers Moon, Randall Rothenburg–zany, educational, and bearing few points of reference to anything familiar (it’s about advertising) 

The persistence of memory

28 September 2007

Well, so I could just consider this blog a reposting engine for Arts & Letters Daily, if that statement wasn’t itself some statement of the problem of influence. Which in my case includes an acceptance that I’ll probably never know more than a tithe of what the concepts I invoke represent, in any discipline. At any rate. . .

I’ve read other discussions of the vast accumulation of all sorts of the information formerly known as ephemera, but none so thoughtful as Jessica Winter’s piece in the Boston Globe. And certainly the thought that your Google search history from 2004 might become an issue at a job interview in 2009 is wierd if not troubling.

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sub rosa

17 September 2007

Watched the ‘palimpsest of Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose,’ over the weekend, and it was as good as I remembered. I was a little disappointed that the film didn’t focus a little more on what I thought was one of the most interesting, though indirect, themes of the book.

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Volcano, voting, vision

3 August 2007

Title of this post notwithstanding, I still prefer Dewey Decimal.

The 21 July eruption on Kilauea is still going strong, though I haven’t been anywhere I can see it recently. So far, looks like a fairly small amount of lava has been erupted, and it isn’t headed toward my house.

Meanwhile, an encroaching hazard of another kind is receiving somewhat less media attention. Election reform and in particular electronic voting machine oversight seem to be low on the list for discussion, compared with number of dollars raised by candidates.

As I prepare for a talk at work tomorrow night on the history & philosophy of science (I think I hear the yawns starting already), I ran across an outstanding optical illusion on APOD a couple weeks back. As they say, it is a good example of how good we think our perceptions are contrasted with how good they actually are. Or perhaps something deeper, say Benjamin Cohen’s example of teaching his engineering students about what we can perceive and what we can’t.

Kind of reminds me of a poem by Stephen Crane.

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My mom told me several weeks ago that the DPL now has a blog. Here it is. It’s cool. So is Duluth. Of course, an air temp of 0 F and windchill of -15 F is only enough to make these guys button their top button. But still.