December 18, 2000
The New Common Sense: Common sense is a rich gift that we lack on the Web.
The Peer-to-Peer Future of Document Management: DocMan is dead! Long live DocMan!
Misc.: The Forester Variations.
Walking the Walk: EDS schmoozes the Navy.
Cool Tool: A toy for your inner head-banger
Internetcetera: Mark the date when the durn foreigners take over.
Links to Love: Links from you to cool places.
Who's Tired of Being a Millionaire?: Where you're donating.
Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs: The usual fabulous email.
Bogus contest(s): Mindless negativity about "our" "president"-"elect."
Special Intemperate Issue!
Although I'm noted far and wide for my warm, even loving acceptance of the views of others, the fact is that I'm one depressed boyo thanks to "our" "election" of "President" Bush (The Scare Quotes President). Throughout this issue you'll find slighting references and immature asides about the anointed leader of the free world. Please forgive me, for it is all part of how I heal. And, rest assured, within 4-8 years I will come out of my funk. In the meantime, I beg your indulgence. And, may I say a special word to my respected friends who enthusiastically supported George Bush's candidacy? No, on second thought, I'd better not.
(I have thoughtfully inserted a warning label where the mindlessly anti-Bush material begins. The first third of this issue is actually 100% Bush free.)
A Note on Dashes
You'll notice that this issue uses double dashes (--) rather than the typographically correct long dash (em dash). This is because it's been brought to my attention by a certain Linux geek (Greg Cavanagh) that the markup I'd been using (—), and which is widely recommended, is actually specific to Windows. The W3C (www.w3.org/MarkUp/html3/specialchars.html) seems to recommend the —. It is not rendered correctly by Dreamweaver. (You should see an em dash here: —) I am eager for you HTML know-it-alls to tell me what to do. Thank you.
It's premature to answer many of the most urgent questions about the Web. What do we do about intellectual property, about pornography, about privacy, about this and about that? While we desperately need answers to these questions, there's no possibility of giving good answers. At least not yet.
The problem is that good answers come not from law or even from moral codes but from common sense. By "common sense" I mean the set of values and rules that are so obvious that we don't even think about them. For example, if your rocking chair has caught a dog's tail under the runner, you lean forward to free the tail. If someone wants to argue about this -- seriously argue -- we will think, quite properly, that this person is significantly out of step with our culture. In short, he's a whack job. Likewise, if someone tries to cut in line for no good reason, or tells us the same joke three times in a row at lunch, we'll worry about which universe of discourse they're visiting us from.
Common sense is a gift of history, religion, philosophy, literature and more. For example, in the United States, if you take your boat out onto the sea despite a storm warning, we'll send the Coast Guard after you, putting other people's lives at risk. In ancient Greece, you'd be left to your own foolish devices. These two common senses reflect deep understandings of what it is to be human in an inhuman world. Common sense is a a rich gift.
Now, take our current world, viewed through common sense, and remove space and matter, and thus many of the laws of physics. Change the rules of the world and what was once common sense now makes no sense. That's why the Web is so puzzling so often. It's lacking common sense.
It will take a generation to develop this new common sense, but I wonder if we're already beginning to see signs of it. Elements include:
Content ought to be free. Forty million people signing up for Napster have rapidly moved this precept towards a new common sense, albeit one that flies in the face of our real world common sense and its business models. Does this mean that all content will be free on the Web? Of course not. But the old presumption against owning content without paying for it has been deeply eroded.
Strangers are fun. In the real world, the sound of footsteps behind us on a dark street sets our pulse racing in fear. On the Web, the sound of footsteps sets our pulse racing in anticipation. The Web's value comes from strangers.
We are fallible. In the real world we strive to maintain a consistent, flawless public face. On the Web, there's no time for that. Be fallible and move on.
Be generous with advice. In the real world, we may once in a while help a lost visitor orient himself. But on the Web, the new common sense says that we should share our expertise as well as our music tracks.
Be direct. We've all been trained in the art of polite indirection. We wrap our thoughts in the cotton batting of qualifiers. The Web favors directness both because directness is faster and because the differences around conversational indirection are so culturally relative.
Real genius requires a group. Our real world common sense says that committees are dumber than individuals and that unmanaged groups are mobs. The Web common sense says that open source development not only works but can result in works of genius.
Humorlessness is pathological. Humor is a way of forging context quickly. What you find funny tells me a huge amount about you. And, more important, a lack of humor betokens a self-seriousness that will break the back of the Web.
Digressions are essential. The aim of a journey traditionally has been to get from A to B and anything that diverts you from that destination is an obstruction. Worse, diverting oneself is an act of moral depravity. But not on the Web where all the fun and most of the growth in knowledge and understanding comes from wandering into patches you didn't know were there.
The exact details of the new common sense developing on the Web won't be known for decades. Until then, we won't really know what the Web is about ... or how it's resetting expectations off the Web as well as on.
[I'd love to hear your own observations about the shifts in common sense.]
Aimster is not a document management product. It does, however, represent the future of document management.
Remember in the late 80s and early 90s when document management vendors were singing a song that made perfect sense but turned out to be of just about no real appeal? Everyone uses documents, they said. Documents are the lifeblood of business, they said. Organizations waste huge amounts of time trying to find documents, they said. The information locked up in documents is the corporation's greatest squandered resource, they said. Therefore, everyone wants document management, they said. And every sentence was true ... except the last.
No matter how badly document management was needed, it was doomed to failure so long as it continued to think of itself as a database application that required users to lock their documents in a protected vault. Precisely because documents are the "lifeblood" of business, users were unwilling to give up control of them. Worse, managing documents meant adding a layer of red tape -- filling out forms, getting permission -- with no benefit to the day-to-day work of the user; the benefits were organizational, not individual.
In the early 90s, some document management vendors figured out that the real driver for the technology wasn't control over the document construction process but document distribution, also known as publishing. This idea ran counter to the vendors' key assumptions. Document management had been about securing documents against unauthorized changes and access, but now it turned out it was really about making them as widely available as possible. As the vendors were beginning to get their heads around this idea, the Web arrived, blowing away proprietary distribution schemes. Document management returned to the high-end, document-intensive, regulated-industry niche that had spawned it.
Now, along came Napster and peer-to-peer (P2P) computing. Napster, as you'd better know by now, enables 40 million users to access any music files you have in a directory on your hard drive that you designate as available to them. Aimster is another P2P application, with two differences. First, it's not aimed at any particular type of file. Second, rather than opening up my desktop directory to millions of strangers, it only makes it available to people on my AOL instant messaging "buddy list."
This does to document development what the Web did to document publishing. Without my having to do any additional work, my buddies can access the documents I'm working on or relying on. So, imagine that I'm part of the new project at work to decide where in Europe we'll open our next office. I set up a folder on my desktop and tell my P2P document management app -- the one that doesn't exist yet -- to make it available to the other people in the project. I set up subfolders as well. Maybe I tell my P2P app that a particular folder should only be visible to some subset of my project buddies. As I add documents that I want to share (an article on changes to the tax law in Belgium, links to Web sites about the livability of Dutch cities) and documents I'm working on (initial thoughts about why Antwerp is currently my favored city), the P2P app does some document management work: it indexes them, notes new versions, tracks access, builds a browsable "portal," notices similarities to other projects underway across the enterprise, etc. It does this without intruding one whit on my work habits.
It's not clear to me whether P2P document management will come from the old line document management companies or from the new P2P vendors like groove.net. Vendors have consistently underestimated the difficulty of building robust document management apps, so it may be hard for a hip-'n'-hot P2P company to succeed, whereas it wouldn't be hard for a project or document management company to add instant messaging and P2P capabilities. On the other hand, the document management companies will be tempted to see P2P as a way to sneak in the sort of overkill megatonnage that has kept their products off of hundreds of millions of desktops in the first place. Maybe some P2P and document management vendors will combine forces. But, one way or another, P2P will be the future of document management. IMHO.
E.M. Forster seems to be in the air. I'd snipped a paragraph of his from the Nov. 20 issue of The Atlantic Monthly that had first run in their Nov. 1925 issue:
"There is a word that is sometimes hung up at the end of a tram line: the word 'Stop.' Written on a metal label by the side of the line, it means that a tram will stop here presently. It is an example of pure information ... Compare it with another public notice which is sometimes exhibited in the dark cities of England: 'Beware of pickpockets, male and female.' Here again there is information. A pickpocket may come along presently, just like a tram, and we take our measures accordingly. But there is something else besides .... We have been reminded of several disquieting truths -- the general insecurity of life, human frailty, the violence of the poor, and the fatuous trustfulness of the rich, who always expect to be popular without having done anything to deserve it. ... By taking the form of a warning it has made us afraid. ... Besides conveying information it has created an atmosphere, and to that extent it is literature."
Then Michael O'Connor Clarke insisted (again) that I read Forster's 1909 short story, "The Machine Stops," online at http://plexus.org/forster/index.html. It's a dystopian tale of a world in which individuals live in isolation, connected to one another and to all the world's information through The Machine. Writes Forster: "The room, though it contained nothing, was in touch with all that she cared for in the world. " Weirdly prescient.
An article on Brooks Brothers in CIO (Nov. 15, Elana Varon) says:
According to a recent report by Forrester Research, online shopping technology like 3-D images and accurate color reproduction isn't advanced enough to simulate the experiences customers have shopping at the local mall.
And in a future study, Forrester is going to prove that when playing Flight Simulator, you don't actually travel anywhere.
The Cat and the Hack
After sending a CueCat to every one of its readers so we can scan in encoded URLs and avoid wasting 0.002 calories of energy typing, Wired (Dec. 00) has run a sidebar reporting on how users are hacking the evil little peripheral. You can now use it to scan bar-codes and look up products on sites such as Amazon and eGrocer. Or you can use it to look up ISBN numbers. In fact, one site shows you how to disable the component that lets the CueCat send reports on your activities back to the mother ship. For the latest hacks, the article points us to www.666pack.org/cuecat
Million Dollar Ideas
I have become a domain name impulse buyer. I get an idea and scarf up the domain name not because I think the name is squat-able but because I think there might actually be a business there. Here's one of my most recent purchases. I only wish I were kidding.
These million dollar ideas are available to you at a fraction of their original cost. No reasonable business plan rejected!
Bogus Mini Contest: Share with us the domain names you bought or almost bought and the pathetic thinking that led you there.
Middle World ResourcesA Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk
EDS has won a $6.9B contract to wire together 350,000 desktop systems and 200 networks for the Navy/Marine Corps., according to an article in eWeek (Oct. 16, Chris Gonsalves and Paula Musich). EDS won in part because they addressed broader issues: 40% of the work will be subcontracted to small and minority-owned businesses, EDS will employ any government workers displaced by the contract, and "EDS will also make cash-back payments to the Navy to share any productivity gains realized in the course of the ... contract."
The Secretary of the Navy expects to save $1.2B a year with the new system, meaning that it will pay for itself only 3 years after it's become obsolete.
For the Hyperlinked Organization
The oddly compelling Lockergnome suggests we try out Force Feedback headphones. Those of you who don't have children of a certain age may not know that Force Feedback is usually used to make your joystick handle bounce around in sync with the on-screen gun you're firing or the on-screen car you're racing. Force Feedback headphones sound like a bong for the drug-free. $39.95 from GameBundles.com. I haven't tried them.
Now you know what to get me for Chanukah. That and a neck brace and a mega-bottle of aspirin. Oh, yeah, and a recount.
According to InformationWeek (Nov. 27, Peter Ruber), the numbers around the IT labor shortage are, well, flexible. Rep. David Dreier (Rep., CA) says there are 364,000 unfilled high tech jobs. A study cosponsored by Georgetown U. says the number is 840,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reverses the digits and says it's 480,000. The number of H-1B high tech work visas granted -- 48% of which have been going to engineers from India -- has been raised to 200,000 for the next three years.
So, mark September 24, 2002 on your calendars. Using Dreier's numbers, that's the day the first good ol' American Job gets given away to a godless foreigner.
Marina Streznewski writes:
Recommended by Edward Tufte (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information guy), this site offers links to tons of thoughtful stuff. It's worth at least a quick look - and probably more.
This page aggregates information of interest to those in what used to be called "arts and letters." True to the Tufte tradition, and in line with the universal Law of Irony, it's so dense with information that it's practically unreadable.
Miriam "Dynagirl" Frost writes to let us know about her Design-a-Ballot contest, with categories for online and paper. Here's my entry:
Instructions: Using a writing instrument that leaves some type of visible trail (for example, a pen or pencil but not a spoon or viola), make an "x" in the box to the left of the choice you want. Choose one and only one. Do it now.
[ ] [Choice 1]
You may enter at: www.dynagirl.com/contest.html. Deadline: January 6th.
The immature anti-Bush material begins here.
Kevin Craine, author of "Designing a Document Strategy" writes:
Check out an editorial of mine published in the Oregonian. It's caused quite a stir. http://www.oregonlive.com/oped/index.ssf?/oped/00/11/co_11crain19.frame
It says that the mess in Florida was due to poor document design. Yes, that plus a massive legal effort to prevent an accurate count of ballots, plus a program in Florida administered by a right-leaning company that purged thousands of people (disproportionately dark-skinned) with misdemeanors from the voting rolls (http://www.salon.com/politics/feature/2000/12/04/voter_file/index.html), plus the inclusion of Bush-leaning ballots despite "technical violations" and the exclusion of Gore-leaning votes for "technical violations," plus a Supreme Court that decided it would do the electorate irreparable harm if it allowed its votes to be examined by humans.
Don't bother replying telling me why I'm wrong. My liberalism only goes so far.
The estimable Glenn Fleishman points us to his own coverage of the Pop!Tech event, discussed in a previous issue of JOHO.
...Unfortunately, the Seattle Times went on strike this last week; that and other factors prevented an article written for it from appearing.
However, the article that did run is several thousand words at creativepro.com, a site for graphics professionals:
Glenn's coverage is comprehensive and incisive, damn him.
Scott Kirsner, columnist for the Boston Globe, writes:
I did a much less humorous write-up on Pop!Tech at http://www.conferenza.com/artdsp.asp?file=200010/camden_intro.htm
Excellent summation. And I say this even though a smaller minded person would have immediately checked for his own name in the coverage, and, having not found it, might get all red in the jowls about the fact that the article mentions that his friend Doc Searls, a Cluetrain co-author, was in the audience, but not that another co-author not only was there but gave one of the presentations. Fortunately, I'm too big for that.
Bill K. points us to www.ideas.com where big companies ask for ideas (e.g., Coke wants someone to come up with a "new healthy drink product that kids (ages 6-12) would love to bring to school") and The Little People present their own terrible ideas for sale. Ultimately, I find the site depressing: Coke will pay $5,000 for a multi-million dollar idea? They're just toying with us. Not to mention the enormous ratio of bad ideas from the public at large. For example "Johnnie" writes:
"The E-Z Scoop handel is! what it says. A attachment handel made so one doesn't have to bind over so much hurting thier backs sheveling snow. "
So, his new handel won't hurt your bach?
Recently during a class discussion we decided to improve the quality of the news we should take druggies, alchoholics, smokies and people who are generally heavily stoned off the street to improve the quality and entertainment of the news.
Ideas.com is making me rethink my support of universal suffrage. Oh, wait, we don't have that any more anyway.
Jeanne Calhoun sends a press announcement vaguely related to ideas.com:
HelloBrain.com, the world's first intellectual capital exchange, continues to provide the high-tech industry with a new approach to product development. With more than 500 projects posted on the exchange and registered contributors representing more than 120 countries, HelloBrain.com has created a global resource for the high-tech industry.
The participants at this site are at least paying real money. For example, you can make $16,000 for writing a Linux driver for a particular inkjet printer. (Of course, you then are obligated to share the $16K with all members of the Open Source community -- read your Gnu licenses more carefully, people!)
CIO Nov. 15 (Meredith Levinson) points to two sites that go beyond ideas and projects. The first, www.qcircuit.com, tries to catalog human experience. The second, Collective Visions (cvisions.cat.nyu.edu) has family photographs and stories from more than 300 people.
Dinah "Metagrrrl" Sanders writes:
... have you shopped at novica.com? Nice stuff from different artisans worldwide. I've been very happy with my purchases from there and the money seems to get back to the artist to a larger degree than with most world markets.
This site is sponsored by National Geographic and it's just the spot to get your Zimbabwean cushion covers and your Peruvian Moche erotic ceramic replicas.
John Walston recommends his site http://www.buzzwhack.com, dedicated to demystifying (if not defenestrating) buzz words.
In fact, how about a mini-contest: Come up with lists of words for particular people or categories of people. For example, for a JOHO buzzphrase generator, you might want to use words such as: Web, metaphor, snarky, knowledge, bogus, and buzzword.
Oh, wait, that's how I wrote my metaphysics article...
bird points us to a site with actual source code (Delphi Pascal) for randomly generating three-word insults from Shakespearean schimpf words, e.g., "Thou art a wretched swag-bellied pignut!": http://community.borland.com/article/0,1410,26178,00.html
Following the links on this page led me to a Lego page touting inventions made out of Legos, and, in particular, the LegoCam. There's a robot that finds and fetches tennis balls, one that feeds a new CD to your CD player if it detects no movement on your dance floor, and one that creates a self-replicating set of nano-Lego-bots that hunts Bill Joy down like a dog. Unfortunately, that link has disappeared (probably through clerical error on my part), but you can see some surprisingly funky inventions, including a Lego toilet scrubber, at: http://mindstorms.lego.com/
Madanmohan Rao writes to let us know that India's largest business newspaper has run his excellent article on a Tunisian conference on global e-commerce: http://www.economictimes.com/today/30netw06.htm
Bob Filipczak writes:
I thought you might like this article, if not the guy it profiles:
Thomas Frank sounds like a fun guy to have lunch with. (By the way, the article reads a bit like one I wrote a while ago about my dinner with Rageboy: www.hyperorg.com/misc/rageboy/rageboydinner.html.)
Tom Matrullo sends us a link to the Continence Foundation of Australia: http://www.contfound.org.au/toilets/ where you'll find a list of wheelchair-accessible commodes. Did you know, for example, that in Australia, wheelchairs circle a toilet counterclockwise? This site helps explain why Australia has long been one of my favorite continence.
Maura "Chip" Yost, who is possibly more exercised about the recent election than even I am -- and I'm literally losing sleep over it -- writes:
Bush's military records were recently released under the Freedom of Information Act. You can check them out at: www.talion.com. GWB failed to report for his military flight physical (coincidentally, it was the first year the military included drug testing), failed to report to the disciplinary unit to which he was reassigned, and was routinely AWOL from his weekend warrior duty. Of course, with that record, the real irony will be if the absentee military vote puts him over the top!
I was in for 3 years, and if I'd pulled any of those stunts, I would have been court-martialed and possibly even dishonorably discharged. But, then, my dad wouldn't have pulled me out of it...;-)
It is with indescribable delight that I refer you to www.melaniegriffith.com, the pigeon-voiced celebrity's official site. It is an extension of her "Goddess Collection" contract and looks like a double-truck ad in a fashion magazine, lacking only the scratch-n-sniff perfume card. But look closely and you'll see "Melanie's Recovery Journal." There Melanie, almost webloggily opens her private journal wide for us to read about her torturous pep pill detox. The prose includes gratuitous caps and product placements.
For extra fun, see if you can tell when exactly the ghost writer kicks in! (Hint: look for the transition from sentences such as "I can't thank all beautiful people enough for being so supportive with their messages [sic]" to "...research points to abnormalities in another neurotransmitter, dopamine, as one of the major reasons behind the cravings, the loss of control, and the continued use of drugs in spite of adverse medical consequences.")
Hearing that I -- completely without justification -- dislike reading Jaron Lanier, Frank Schmidt is quick to point us to yet another of his writings: "You Can't Argue with a Zombie." It has something to do with difficulties in the notion that silicon could become conscious, but I didn't want to read it in case I agreed with it.
By the way, Lanier as a technoid and the "inventor" of virtual reality -- whatever that means -- is remarkably inept at HTML. His pages are among the ugliest on the Web, and not in the spare-and-spartan-on-purpose way of Jakob Nielsen. They're just plain can't-control-my-Web-page-editor butt ugly. For example, his home page on the Well (http://www.well.com/user/jaron/) uses the trick of putting in text to weight the ranking of search engines, except that he hasn't matched the text color to the background color well enough, so you can see his name typed there dozens of times. This page leads you to his official home page (http://www.advanced.org/jaron/) which suffers from a terminal case of font abuse. Quick, someone call Edward Tufte!
Dinah "Metagrrrl" Sanders writes:
Send us your own favorite charities so we can say you rule as well.
Marina Streznewski responds to my article on how to write a real good PowerPoint:
"Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely." --Edward Tufte
No lie - I was sitting in the audience when he said it.
John Gregory writes:
You ask for an example of a petition that changed national policy. Well, we're almost there in Canada. We're in the middle of a national election campaign... The party that's likely to come second is the Canadian Alliance, led by Stockwell Day. Mr Day announced that the Alliance would change the law so that the government could be compelled to hold a binding referendum if it received a petition to do so signed by 3% of the number of voters in the last election.
The national satirical TV show "This Hour has 22 Minutes" started a petition on its website last Monday, November 13, to make the government hold a referendum to make Stockwell Day change his first name to Doris. By Thursday Nov 16 it had over 400,000 names via the web - http://www.22minutes.com .
Iin the US of A, John, we do it by changing the name on the presidential ballot from "Al Gore" to "Pat Buchanan," thus saving ourselves a whole bunch of paperwork.
Jeffrey Mann of the META Group, also rises to the challenge of naming a petition that affected national policy:
Easy: Ralph Nader used petitions to get on the ballot, and sucked votes from Gore. That left us all in limbo and Waiting for Doofus. Also: Proposition 13 (I think) that took money from California schoolchildren and gave it to Ronald Reagan's friends. It got on the ballot because of a petition.
Also: The referendum on the euro on Denmark was forced (partly) by petitions if not formally. Now they're screwed...
And speaking of embarrasing foreign words for things: "Lul" means penis in Dutch. So "A lull in the action..." leads to many teenage snickers. "Ramp" means disaster in Dutch. All those signs at airports make me very nervous...
The best thing to come out of the US election debacle is that Vlad Putin actually made a joke, in public! He even -- almost -- smiled when he said that Russian technicians were ready to go to Florida to help the Americans...
Jeffrey, you should have read the fine print: I'm looking for petitions that affect *US* policy, so pulling out Danish petitions won't work. Further, petitions that lead to referenda only indirectly affect policy. As for embarrassing words, you don't want to know about a presidential ticket that let people vote for Bush and Dick with a single flick of the wrist. Finally, as for Putin's offer, at least in the US we don't have "show" elections that only mask the fact that the real decisions are made behind closed doors by a secretive governmental body accountable to no one ... oh, wait, they don't and we do.
Bob "The Professor" Morris responds to our mentioning the brouhaha over spelling "email" as "e-mail." Wired has switched to the dark side on this topic, and in my remarks I compared it to an old argument about how many spaces to put after a period; this is the background you need to understand Bob's comments:
... The point is to distinguish it from em-ailment, from which the wussies at Wired also suffer as a few contributes to the aforementioned culture(???) remark. But you don't (see below), so you should adopt e-mail...
The reason the tech publishing weenies even argued about this is that in the main, they resisted reading anything about any subject if they believed that could figure out the right answer just by being smart. Among most of the weenies in our joint weenie orbit, few would deign to look something like this up, though it is often written about, never, to my knowledge, with the wrong answer. (Hint: your answer is right.) What still stands as a good reference about e-pubs (ep-ubs is a sound you make leaning over the rail on a ferry boat in a heavy sea) is "Digital Typography, an Introduction to Type and Composition for Computer System Design", by Richard Rubinstein, Addison Wesley, 1988. He discusses it in Chapter 5, "Space and Putting Things in It."
Of course my favorite chapter has to be 6: "Time and Doing Things."
Kevin Johansen seems to be having a midlife intellectual crisis:
This woke me up last night:
Are processes alive? I mean literally. Stephen Hawkings says that it's strangely appropriate that the first artificial life that man invented was a computer virus. Processes are everywhere, self organizing, self sustaining, and organic in their complexity. From where I sit, that's life.
Those large enough and important enough to get our attention we name - call them the "strange attractors". For example, here in Denver we have a process that we call the "Denver Broncos". Most everyone is involved in it directly or indirectly. It eats a lot of energy and resource. It interacts with a number of other processes. If the "Broncos" do well on Sunday, the "Business" process on Monday goes better. If they do well all season, the "Business" process grows. In reaction to that, the "Real Estate Sales" process, a subset of the "Business" process, grows also and sucks resource from the rest of the "Business" process which then must go into other geographies for new resource - talent, money, etc. Or vice versa.
I'm thinking that there's a process ecology out there, and that it's got a life of it's own - that it's not just a metaphor...
Are the Denver Broncos as a process alive? You wouldn't be asking that if you lived in Boston. [Note for the sports-impaired: This is a reference to the fact that Boston's teams suck.]
Glenn Fleishman replies to mail from Bill Koslosky about the margin of error in the recent election and to some other matters.
Reader Bill Koslosky writes:
Assuming a 3% error...
We can't assume this. The problem with finding out how the sausage is made in this election is that the error ranges from small to huge, and it's not all in the counting: it's in the brains. It's clear that a large percentage of "error" is in people not understanding how to vote, whether it's their lack of training, intelligence, the design of the ballot, or a machine failure.
So how do you calculate "error" when you have multiple factors stemming from different causes? The legitimate issue in the lawsuits in Florida relates to this: which part of error reflects voters being denied their ability to express their intent, and which is from the voters' inability to express their intent independent of design and machine error?
Related to the measuring the 3,000 miles coast to coast issue: I've read that coastlines are truly fractals (or at least nearly infinitely recursive). People talk about a "500-mile coastline," but you can't measure that way. You either have to say "500 miles with a 1-foot resolution," meaning we count segment from point to point on the coast at the 1-foot level when it's not perfectly straight, which it never is; or, you say, "500-mile coastline, but we don't know what that means." The Maine coast could be 10,000 miles at the millimeter level and 500 miles at the 1-mile level.
This, more than anything, reminds me of the election: the closer you look, the more it blurs.
Stephanie Karger writes all too prophetically about the same issue:
As the shoreline is actually created - within our definition and perception - by the interaction of our mechanical "objective" and interpretive ""subjective" measurement, "the elected" is determined by the interaction of the ballots and the courts. Because this is a stable democracy, the courts and their traditional process rather than the army will become the final arbiter of reality. The nature of the presidency WILL differ because the court was needed - but that does not imply that its nature will be worse. That will depend on future decisions of participants.
I wrote back and disagreed with her. Shouldn't have.
Tom Matrullo has his own oddball slant:
Came across this by chance from a new tome:
Each in his own way discovered that sustained attentiveness, rather than fixing or securing the world, led to perceptual disintegration and loss of presence, and each used this discovery as the basis for a reinvention of representational practices.
reminded me of your recent point about the election.
The book is Suspensions of Perception : Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture by Jonathan Crary https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262032651
He's talking in this instance about Cezanne, Manet and Seurat.
Yes, I had exactly this experience after watching CNN for 83 hours straight. Greta Van Susteren dissolved into a mosaic of swirling dots and I realized that I wasn't seeing Greta, I was seeing the light of Greta. But, no, I was seeing Great's light interacting with my retina, with my nervous system, with my very being. Greta and I had achieved oneness, and not in that messy way where you have to wipe up afterwards. I felt filled and empty at the same time. But then some footage of "President" Bush came on and I rapidly achieved twoness.
Tom "The American" Freeman brings an international perspective to the steaming pile of shite we call an election:
I have been in europe for most of election season and explaining our world has been particularly challenging. Going into the election I would describe the american presidency as a union of head of state and head of government; to europeans this is an easy differentiation -e.g. Elizabeth v Blair. I would then say that americans very much admire and like Clinton as head of government and are profoundly embarrassed by him as head of state. Then I would say they have very similar feelings about Gore (policy wonk/debater chief) as head of government and Bush ('likable') as head of state. I would then say 'it is too close to call': duh
Maybe we should divide the office of the presidency. Make one person the executive who creates and implements and the other a hand-waving, smiling, empty-headed showpiece. Oh wait, we already did. (Joke heard the other day: We should be concerned about Dick Cheney's heart condition because George Bush is now a heartbeat away from the presidency.)
Lourens Ackermann writes from Namibia about Don Darragh's mentioning that if you put a banana in a jar, a monkey will trap itself by refusing to let go of the banana to get its hand out. Don took this as a metaphor for a trap of knowledge.
I respond: No, Mr Darragh no. You obviously don't know anything about catching monkeys. I do. I live in Africa. We have lots of monkeys. A glass jar simply won't do. You need an anthill in the side of which you make a hole. Put in pumpkin pips, Mr Darragh, not a banana. Where did you read that? Some zoo journal - I mean really!! What sort of monkey couldn't outrun you with a jar on his fist. You would be lucky if he didn't beat you like a gong with the thing. No, you need an anthill and pumpkin pips. What you said about the truth and stuff I really can't comment on. What it has to do with monkeys and glass jars I just don't know. But as I said, I don't want to talk about things I know nothing about. And you shouldn't either. So I guess we are square.
Oh, the things you learn through email.
Glenn Fleishman also replies to the monkey controversy:
This is a technique for catching raccoons, too, so maybe it's urban myth. Dig a small hole in hard earth. Pound long nails in from the outside in a circle. Put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom so that it can reflect some moonlight. A passing raccoon is compelled to grab it, but can't remove it's hand because of the nail points. Cruel, but apparently easier way to catch them than many others (for drugging and relocation, one hopes).
Ah, so Zen! One must let go of one's self to free one's self. Where Zen and stupidity meet ... outside of the election booth, of course.
Bruce Burn of New Zealand writes about my remark that "the grammatical rule is simple: it's 'I' when you're taking credit and it's 'me' when you're blaming someone else."
Close. But actually, it's "aye" when you're taking credit and it's "not me" when you"re blaming someone else. ;}
Reminds me of a pun I've been trying to work into conversation for many years. It has something to do with the anti-Bauhaus school of design:
It's eyes over ease, except overseas, and in words like "Weimar" and "Berlin."
Fifty JOHO-bucks to the first person who can supply a context in which that makes sense.
Glenn Clinton apparently wasn't crazy about my metaphysics piece:
Geez, whatever compelled you to put all this crap in one reading?!
The Net is just like the Library of Congress and nothing more. It is not a brain, it's a dumpster, for crying out loud! Dave, you gotta start meeting new people. These guys are too far gone...
The nice thing is that soon the Net will go the way of every other tool devised by and ruined by man. I find it aggravating that I am intentionally sidetracked when I'm looking for specific information. I guess that's okay - I enjoy trips to the city library and I'm safe from the money mongers there (I think!).
My first act as emperor when we seize control will be to revoke Glenn Clinton's library card. Vengeance will be mine!
Val Stevenson reports on her own use of the Philosophy hair care products mentioned in a previous issue:
I tried it, and my hair looks phenomenological...
Why, you brazen husserl!
Leon White writes about my argument that we don't know what to do about things like Napster because the Web subverts analogies to moral cases about which we're certain:
...I must disagree with your belief that Napster downloading is not like shoplifting. Napster downloading is like taping a live concert without the artist's permission. The product is not the round CD disk - its the artist's sound recording, regardless of media. As someone who receives $.20 every ten years from TV music use, I'd prefer you don't distribute my product, regardless of medium, without compensating me. A nasty attitude? perhaps, but I'd also prefer you not loan my car out to your friends and leave the tank empty. Especially if you're a car thief and not one of my kids .. Anyway - keep up the stimulating writing - I need your articles to distribute to my friends under my BI-line. (Hey, I'm not shoplifting a magazine ...- just kidding..)
I think you're actually agreeing with me: it's extraordinarily difficult to figure out what Napsterizing is *like* -- is it like shoplifting, taping a live concert, taping a radio broadcast, etc.? Getting the analogy right is important since we're allowed to tape off the radio but not allowed to tape a live concert (or are we?), and shoplifting is considered a far more serious crime than smuggling a tape recorder into a concert for your own benefit. But, we *can't* get the analogy "right" because the Web is too unlike the real world in some important ways. And that was my point.
As for distributing JOHO to your friends as if you wrote it, please do! I'm sick of getting all the blame around here.
Macri Spurling writes to tell me about her company, PurpleYogi. Here's how far I got into the attached press release:
Mountain View, Calif. - November 28, 2000 - PurpleYogi, Inc., a creator of distributed knowledge management software called Discovery Systems which make networks aware...
KM or the beginning of a really bad episode of The Outer Limits?
Juliea Stewart writes, apropos of the election:
i am also fascinated as to what david icke and other conspiracy theorists have to say about it - after all, icke has it (in his last outpouring) that bush snr is an active member of the illuminati.
Jeez, isn't there some sort of entrance exam for the Illuminati or are they letting just everyone in now? Whatever happened to standards?
BTW, David Icke's page begins as follows:
The Illuminati, the clique which controls the direction of the world, are genetic hybrids, the result of interbreeding between a reptilian extraterrestrial race and humanity many thousands of years ago.
[Please rest assured that I respect and value my many Republican friends. However, be warned: Gloat and die.]
Contest #1. We are in urgent need of bad words for George W. Bush, a clinically depressed, functionally illiterate, coke-snorting alcoholic. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
So, to get through the next four years, some of us are going to need a way to refer to him. "Shit for Brains" would work, but it'd be disrespectful to Ronald Reagan's presidency. So, please help me make it through this long night by coming up with a way to talk about Bush while making fun of him. You can pick on any one of his three names, or any combination of them. For example:
Fraud W. Bush
George Fugya Bush
George W. Shrub
(The last is from the title of Molly Ivins' biography of Dubya.)
Now, I know that Dumbya (a term that's gaining some currency) is Our President and thus deserving of our respect. And, we need to show respect for the office, if not for the man. And, of course I am mindful that this is a time for our great nation to come together, to heal its wounds. And, of course, reasonable people may disagree about which candidate to support, but in the end, the American People have spoken.
Yeah, well fugya. He's a moron who bought his way into office and will "govern" by installing his father's crowd of disreputable, rapacious, greedheads who will enrich their class at the long-term expense of the poor, the environment and the rest of the planet.
How about some orange ribbons as signs of protest of the way the election was resolved? Here are a few of mine:
Get yourself an image editor and do better.
Ross Wirth rises to the challenge to decode the inflated language so common in corporate "motherhood" blurbs.:
Motherhood - application of "artificial intelligence"
Real meaning - some idiot thought up a few heuristic rules that are now hard-coded into the programTrue story from the mid-80's.
Many of the stories from the mid-80s are about to come true again, although this time we won't have Alzheimer's to explain it.
I know this bitterness isn't pretty. Thanks for letting me vent. And you know what? It didn't help at all. Sigh.
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