Thursday, March 29I would also like to know when The Catalyst will update it's blankety-blank site. Why, when I was in charge, we never had any delays in . . . erm, nevermind. Move along.
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With a bill which passed its first senate committee Monday, New College in Sarasota will not only enjoy greater autonomy but also gain its independence to become Florida's 11th state university.I have no idea what to think of this (the move to independence, not petty copyright violations). I think that New College could thrive as an independent school. On the other hand, this move would put the college more at the mercy of the Florida Legislature than I am comfortable with. Independence would bring about a lot of visibility, and visibility can be a double-edged sword. I am also mystified as to why the political supporters of this move seem to be Republican. I am equally mystified as to what happened to the workable-sounding "semi-independence" idea, which would have granted New College separate accreditation (read: big time success in magazine college rankings) without losing the USF umbrella. I am positively delirious with mystification on the subject of why the New College Foundation seems to suddenly think this is a good idea.
--from The Oracle, the USF student newspaper, conveniently available at the New College Alumni Association site in an act of dubious legality with regard to copyright.
Paranoid conspiracy theories involving the Anti-Cuba faction in Florida, Jeb Bush, Roland Heiser, The New College Liberation Front, and Marty Rimm are welcome. As is knowledge of what the heck "Fuzzy" Steve Waldman thinks about all this.
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When I was working on my undergraduate thesis, selecting music-to-work-by was a very important issue. This is partly because selecting music is one of the all-time great ways to procrastinate, second only to cleaning one's room.
Actually, with Napster, selecting music probably wins--because you can waste time deciding what you want, waste more time downloading it, and then waste even more time by carefully rearranging your files. Beautiful.
When I was really fried and it was 4:00 in the afternoon and I'd been working (or pretending to work) solidly for 24 hours, only one musical choice would suffice: the Power Pig. The Power Pig played utterly brainless dance music with inane, monotonous lyrics. The music was fast and the words took up no precious brain processes that could be better used to analyze contemporary Scottish authors. Or rearrange footnotes for the 314th time.
I'm recovered from that now, of course. I don't need the Power Pig. I have synthpop.
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Friday, March 23I'm haphazardly creating my own personal library of fantastical writing by authors of colour, particularly those of African descent. Some months ago I went into a Canadian sf bookstore (no, it wasn't Bakka) looking for the novel Green Grass, Running Water by Canadian First Nations writer Thomas King. The woman behind the counter said that she had read the novel and it was wonderful, but did I understand what kind of bookstore I was in? Yes, I responded, biting back the urge I sometimes have to say, "I may not look like it, but I write the stuff. I do know what sf is."--Nalo Hopkinson, on SF writers of colour.
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Tuesday, March 20
- Damn, but it has been beautiful out lately. Wandering around Berkeley is a near-perfect experience in weather like this: the sun is warm, the people are friendly, the sky is blue, and some massively fragrant trees are managing to make everything smell exquisite without setting off my allergies. Wow.
- Everybody (yes, this means you, parental- and sisteral- types) should read the article on lexicography by David Foster Wallace in April's Harper's Magazine. It's about language, dictionaries, teaching, the Culture Wars, and snooty grammar people. It's wonderful.
- There's a longer and more dramatic set of Sumner Street Tales coming, but here's a short one: A few weeks ago I joined the Usability Professionals Association. Cheap student memberships are good. As part of the deal, I was supposed to recieve a poster describing the UPA's take on usability and user-centered design. A few days ago I was sweeping the front steps, and picked up a piece trash that was lying on the ground. It turned out to be a poster-sized package. Addressed to me. From the UPA. It was squooshed, and empty. Now, I've had packages left on my doorstep before. There's a gap under the gate wide enough to shove a small Amazon package through, and the UPS folks often leave things there. I don't think I've ever had anything stolen (other than newspapers, of course--but that's another story entirely and one that will cause me to raise my voice unneccesarily), not packages that obviously contained CDs or other portable and valuable items. Somewhere out there, however, is the proud owner and thief of a poster describing the Usability Process by presenting it as a board game. Much good may it do them.
- I know I don't talk about school much here. This is not because school things are not interesting to me--it's that most of my thoughts about issues brought up at school are too incomplete (not to say incoherent) for me to feel comfortable setting them down anywhere other than scrawled in little indecipherable phrases in my notebooks. This is probably a mistake. I'll work on it. Just for the record, the enthusiasms of the last few days have been over media ethics (especially in regards to new media) and non-profit budgeting (especially as it relates to libraries and their future). The former you probably already know is an old favorite of mine. Relevant scribbled note: "The trade magazine should be viewing the mainstream papers with suspicion, not the other way around . . ." The latter is, um, new. Blame Professor Lyman. Suffice to say that non-profit budgets are just hotbeds of entertaining and illuminating conflict and deceipt.
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Monday, March 19Feckless was word of the day for Sunday, March 18, 2001. Woo!He was a great admirer of the poetry of plain speech. He despised mere feckless adornments of language or thought.
--Richard Elman, Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs
Nelson spent decades in feckless pursuit of a superstructure for implementing his grand design.
--Paul Andrews, How The Web Was Won
Grandpa was a jovial, good-natured man but feckless and addicted to drink, producing in Lucy an everlasting hatred of liquor that she must have drummed into her grandson.
--Ron Chernow, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
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Saturday, March 17Someone inadvertantly touched off an apparently ancient battle on the subject of whether mailing lists messages should have their reply-to headers set to the sender or the list. This is the kind of thing over which Olde Skoole Unixe Geekes will wank endlessly.(If your eyes have already glazed over, don't worry about it.) Someone posted a link to support one side of the argument: "Reply-to" Munging Considered Harmful. Guessing that where there's one impassioned screed there's usually its opposite as well, I did a quick search and found: "Reply-to" Munging Considered Useful.
Although the second piece is not as well written, I am inclined to agree with it. This is mostly because reply-to-the-list feels more natural to me. I suspect that the real answer varies widely depending on the type of list, number of users, kind of users, kind of mail clients, and so forth. But what I'd really like to do is a full-fledged usability study comparing the two methods to settle the damn thing once and for all . . .
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Monday, March 12My mailing list count has gone up yet again (by two) in the last few days. I have yet to introduce myself properly to either of them, it's something I'm never good at. Bang goes any shot of doing work this month . .
In utterly random news, I bought some music this weekend, almost all of which resulted from Napster abuse. Take that, RIAA. Of course, almost all of the cds involved were used, so it counts not at all--but that was true for my purchases *before* Napster as well. I am a poor grad student.
My recent appreciation of Ah-muurhican music is of course carefully calculated to annoy Eva, who has an aversion to anything that sounds like Roy Acuff. Childhood trauma, y'see.
- The Who - My Generation (Best of comp.)
- Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue
- Ute Lemper - Berlin Cabaret Songs
- Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys - (Best of comp.)
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Thursday, March 8From The Red and the Black (1830) through Huckleberry Finn (1884—85) and The Way of All Flesh (1904), a whole stream comprising some of the most revered work in Western fiction turn on the oedipal notion that the older generation feels it's due respect and deference from the younger because it's lived more, seen more, and done more--while the young rebel, claiming they must be allowed to discover the machinery of the world for themselves if for no other reason than the workings of that machinery is always in flux. There have always been many people for whom you only had to state the idea to raise in them a frisson of recognition, a thrill of identification.--From an interview with Samuel Delany at RainTaxi
Well, a few years ago, I had a surprising revelation. A significant proportion of my undergraduate literature students simply didn't relate in any major way to that "universal" notion, through no more complex a situation than having grown up with moderately reasonable parents, who simply weren't concerned with those orders and strictures of formal deference. That whole concept of intergenerational respect leans with ponderous weight on the notion of huge amounts of land, labor, and wealth passed from generation to generation.
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You know that sort of slow patronising voice that upper-class British people always use in the movies when talking to Asian people? Apparently some people use it in real life, too.
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Two pieces of good news this morning, thanks to the synchonicity of what's just been updated on Blogger's front page:
My favorite is the March 2nd entry on copyediting. Time to polish up the old editing resume . . .
- Neil Gaiman has a new book coming out soon called American Gods.
- He's got a journal regarding the book up.
Also, apparently I should be reading John James and Christopher Fowler. And I should actually read Gene Wolf's Soldier in the Mist books and Michael Moorcock's Mother London both of which have been sitting on my shelves for ages. Why? Because Neil said so.
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In my neighborhood, there's a lot of buildings with "for lease" signs on them right now. They used to house dot-coms. The saddest is probably Petopia's old building. It was vacant for years before they moved in, and while the business of selling pet supplies online may have been a little silly, it was a good addition to the neighborhood. Unlike a lot of dot-com offices in San Francisco, it had a lot of windows, which meant we could see the earnest little drones at work late into the night there. It also had a giant birdcage in the lobby and doggy-doors in all the meeting rooms. Petopia was bought out by a bricks-and-mortar company, and they closed the office down. It is now vacant again.
With all this going on, we were a little surprised to see a brand-new dot-com going in just up the street. The building was getting a new BRIGHT YELLOW paint job on the outside and, on the inside, all those classic 1998 amenities looked to be included. Aeron chairs in the lobby, even. "Now there," I thought, "must be some smart cookies, to be doing so well in the cold, cold dot-com winter of 2001."
I was wrong, of course. They're actually really, really dumb cookies.
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Wednesday, March 7Had some speakers from Pixar at SIMS today. I didn't stay for the whole thing (it's amazing how often work for school gets in the way of interesting things at school), but one bit stuck with me: the developer told us that there wasn't a whole lot of scaling in making digital movies yet. He explained that while the feature films (Toy Story et.al.) take between 3 and 4 years to make, their 4-minute short films take . . . around two years. The length of the movie is just not a huge factor in how long it takes to make--the main factors are the number of things that are involved in making the film and the fact that they have to be done in a particular order.
The two year number resonated with me, because this time last week I attended a talk by Alan Cooper (at the inexplicably green comp sci building, Soda Hall) in which he explained in his, ah, self-assured and professional wrestler-esque manner that all good software takes at least two years to develop. After noting that he always gets in trouble for making these sorts of broad generalizations (it doesn't seem to stop him), he went on to relate more of his interaction design theory to us. In his process, it seems, things take a certain amount of time because you just have to do certain things in a certain order and that's going to take a while no matter the size of the project or the number of people you throw at it. In the question-and-answer period afterwards it came up that one of the largest problems his company faces is attempting to explain to dot-coms and other hurried organizations that, in order to deliver the kind of results they promise, they have to adhere to the methods they promise. Which can take time.
I wonder if, after this current and hopefully temporary unpleasantness, there will be more room for people to take the time that is needed to build things well.
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Ok, the internet economy can pick up again any time now.
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Tuesday, March 6Ah. That explains the Iain Banks / Ken MacLeod connection. They went to school together.
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Monday, March 5I've just finished Ken MacLeod's The Stone Canal. It's the second of his I've read, but it would've made more sense to read this one before The Cassini Division. Oh well, the ways of publishing companies are mysterious to me. This one was fun because the early parts of the novel take place in Glasgow in the '70s. For a fellow who must have known he'd get compared to Iain Banks, his choice of subject matter is awfully similar. I was especially please to see one scene take place in the pub in the Queen Margaret Union of Glasgow University. I spent some time in that pub when I spent a semester there--it sounds like it hadn't changed much from the seventies.
I'm pretty sure they haven't cleaned the toilets since the seventies, that's for sure.
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Saturday, March 3I miss the humanities. Now that I'm in a down-to-earth "professional" degree program, I don't kind the kind of elevated, genteel, high-concept exchanges of ideas as I did as an English major. Luckily, I'm on the 18th Century Studies mailing list, so I can still get glimpses of what I'm missing:
Firstly, apologies if this is off-topic as I have only just joined the list. However, the current discussion on farts has led on nicely to my own request.This was in response to a lively discussion on the history and origins of flaming farts as entertainment.
I'm researching into the subject of outdoor privies for my undergraduate dissertation at the University of [xxxx] and am looking for any mentions of the subject (or related items) in English literature/texts. Any drawings or images relating to privies and their use (especially if humorous) would be extremely useful
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Friday, March 2". . . I feel so . . . Virginian!" -- today's Zippy the Pinhead.
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