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December 29, 2005

Dennett on Intelligent Design

The philosopher Daniel Dennett is interviewed in Der Spiegel (in English) and talks insightfully about Intelligent Design and Darwin. Really good contextualizing explanation.

Then he goes off on religion in a way that I personally find not just tiresome but sloppy. He, like Richard Dawkins, talks about religion in general, as if all religions were the same, as if one critique fits all. Further, he’s such an outsider to religion that he assumes believers are all simpletons. I find that smug, irksome and not very philosophical. [Tags: ]

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December 28, 2005

Bush’s reading list

The BBC reports on Bush’s reading list:

His reading includes When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House by Patricia O’Toole, which is about the former leader’s African safari and his attempt to return to politics after leaving the White House in 1909.

He is also reading Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground – an account of the daily lives of US soldiers as told by Robert Kaplan, who accompanied several units overseas.

He is an “avid reader,” said his spokesman, spreading mirth throughout the land.

So, what would you put on his reading list?

The Best and the Brightest, to understand how even smart people go wrong.

Oedipus Rex, for some insight into his own psychology.

_____??


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December 27, 2005

Summarily dooced

Lisa Williams points to a friend who was fired from DeVry University in Westminster, Colorado, for what she had written in her blog. They didn’t warn her, nor did they tell her what they found so offensive. That sucks. [Tags: ]

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Boxer on Iraq

Terrific speech by Sen. Boxer last week. [Tags: ]

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December 25, 2005

Ranganathan on Dewey

William Denton has unearthed and posted 15 minutes of SR Ranganathan talking about Melvil Dewey in 1964. Ranganathan was the great reforming library scientist and Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal system. This is like finding 15 minutes of FDR talking about Coolidge or Leibniz talking about Descartes. I can’t wait to hear it, but first I have to make breakfast for our kids… [Tags: ]


I’ve transcribed the audio. It’s got lots of holes and errors, so feel free to improve it.

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The synchonicity of intertwingled knowledge

Yesterday I finished the rough (rough!) draft of Chapter 5 of my book. It’s on the nature of the “leaves” of knowledge that we’re piling up willy-nilly. The aim of the chapter is to show how different that approach is from the traditional assumption that knowledge is a stable, inter-generational domain, divided into disciplines, to which we may get to contribute if our contributions are judged worthy by the gatekeepers.

But what is one of these so-called leaves anyway? I end up arguing that unique identifiers (unique to particular namespaces, although because this is supposed to be a book of general interest, I don’t use the word “namespace”) are important nodes around which meaning clusters, and that’s about as close as we get to there being actual leaves. And since there are multiple namespaces, and then there are all the clusters based not on IDs but on hyperlinks and meanings, the “pile of leaves” metaphor implies too much neatness and order. Knowledge is much more “intertwingled” than that.

“Intertwingularity” was coined by Ted Nelson and is a word that really works.

In the course of the chapter, I talk about ISBNs, the book identifiers. Out of the blue, I chose the edition of Moby Dick illustrated by Rockwell Kent because I was fascinated by the copy my parents had when I was a kid. So, I go on and on about ISBN 0679600108. Yesterday I googled 0679600108 and discovered that it is the example others have used when writing about ISBNs. Out of the gazillion books, why did I choose this one?

In Chapter 5 I also talk about Universal Price Codes and, oddly, go down a path (that I’ll probably delete) about the 1989 decision to expand the UPC to include enough digits to encode information for individually-weighed portions of seafood. (Yes, that’s just how fascinating my book is.)

Then I went for shabbos lunch to our neighbors’ apartment. The husband works in the deli department of a local grocery store. And guess what he starts telling us about? How he individual wraps and prices particular cuts of seafood in order to meet the kosher needs of the community. What are the chances of that coming up in conversation?

Yes, these are at best coincidences. But call ‘em synchronicity and a little chill can run down your spine. [Tags: ]

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December 24, 2005

Does free software chill innovation?

Pito Salas wonders if the market’s expectation that broad classes of software just ought to be free is preventing some very cool apps from being developed. And before you jump all over Pito, keep in mind that he’s been working hard for over a year (or is it two years?) on an open source aggregator, BlogBridge that he provides, yes, for free. (Disclosure: I’m on BlogBridge’s board of advisors, without any expectation of compensation. I’m also a friend of Pito’s.) [Tags: ]

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December 23, 2005

The shearing of Boston

Some Delilah has sheared Johnny Damon locks, as his new owners, the Yankees, require. To me this is only a reminder that hometown teams have nothing to do with the hometown. I get no sense of pride because the “Boston” Red Sox won the World Series. If players were required to have grown up in the town they’re playing for, maybe the team’s location would mean something. (Ok, so it’s a stupid idea. I’m not much of a sports fan.)

And The Boston Globe is shearing itself of some of its best people, including Ed Siegel, Thomas Oliphant, Jack Thomas, Ed Siegel, Richard Dyer and Renee Graham. Yikes. Thirty-three in all are falling to the budgeteers’ knives. Boston just got stupider.

Maybe they’ll start to blog. [Tags: ]

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December 22, 2005

Three models of the Internet

Grant McCracken blogs about three ways of taking the depth and seriousness of the Net’s effect on culture. Here’s a distillation, but you should read the whole thing:

1. Disintermediation – “The Internet is an efficiency machine. It removes the friction…”

2. Long Tail – “The Internet is a profusion machine. It allows small cultural producers to find small cultural consumers, and as a result, all hell is breaking lose…”

3. Reformation – “It change the units of analysis and the relationships between them. This reformation model says, in other words, that the coming changes will deeply cultural…and not merely social (model 2) and economic (model 1).”

He concludes by offering a fourth. And, he notes that the first three are telescoping: If you believe 3, you also believe 2 and 1.

My view: Left free of large institutions trying to stifle the Net, it would become #3. Anyway, Grant offers us useful distinctions. [Tags: ]


Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis have posted a piece they wrote for Nieman Reports, called “The Future Is Here, But Do News Media Companies See It?” The cutline gives away the surprise ending: “Traditional news media are not yet willing to adopt the principals of the environment in which they find themselves.” Good all-around survey of what’s going on.

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The transformation of So

Tim Berners-Lee has started a blog. Yay!

And what’s the first word in it? “So.” As in “So I have a blog.”

Remember when “so” indicated a logical connection between two thoughts? “I complained about the soup, so the chef spit into it?” Over the past ten years, beginning in (I think) Silicon Valley “so” flipped to become a way of easing listeners into an entirely new topic. Or into a welcome new blog.

So what? So, that’s what. (Thanks to Mark S Petrovic for the link and pointing out the “so.”) [Tags: ]

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