Skip to content

Notable readings of the day 03/27/2011

March 27, 2011
    • It’s a given that perspective employers are looking at your profile, but less understood is how more benign connections and looser degrees of separation can come back to haunt you. When you leave a comment on a photo or add a friend, who sees that? And, more importantly, what do they make of that connection? Are you guilty by your associations when matched against somebody else’s? Does your business competition derive trade secrets from your status updates, or even your wall posts, no matter how cryptic? Assume the answer is yes to all of these.
  • tags: futuristic scenario technology school augmented reality

    • Vernor Vinge’s Hugo-award-winning short science fiction story “Fast Times at Fairmont High” takes place in a near future in which everyone lives in a ubiquitous, wireless, networked world using wearable computers and contacts or glasses on which computer graphics are projected to create an augmented reality.
    • So what is life like in Vinge’s 2020?

      The biggest technological change involves ubiquitous computing, wearables, and augmented reality (although none of those terms are used). Everyone wears contacts or glasses which mediate their view of the world. This allows computer graphics to be superimposed on what they see. The computers themselves are actually built into the clothing (apparently because that is the cheapest way to do it) and everything communicates wirelessly.

    • If you want a computer display, it can appear in thin air, or be attached to a wall or any other surface. If people want to watch TV together they can agree on where the screen should appear and what show they watch. When doing your work, you can have screens on all your walls, menus attached here and there, however you want to organize things. But none of it is “really” there.
    • Does your house need a new coat of paint? Don’t bother, just enter it into your public database and you have a nice new mint green paint job that everyone will see. Want to redecorate? Do it with computer graphics. You can have a birdbath in the front yard inhabited by Disneyesque animals who frolic and play. Even indoors, don’t buy artwork, just download it from the net and have it appear where you want.
    • Got a zit? No need to cover up with Clearsil, just erase it from your public face and people will see the improved version. You can dress up your clothes and hairstyle as well.
    • Of course, anyone can turn off their enhancements and see the plain old reality, but most people don’t bother most of the time because things are ugly that way.
    • Some of the kids attending Fairmont Junior High do so remotely. They appear as “ghosts”, indistinguishable from the other kids except that you can walk through them. They go to classes and raise their hands to ask questions just like everyone else. They see the school and everyone at the school sees them. Instead of visiting friends, the kids can all instantly appear at one another’s locations.
    • The computer synthesizing visual imagery is able to call on the localizer network for views beyond what the person is seeing. In this way you can have 360 degree vision, or even see through walls. This is a transparent society with a vengeance!
    • The cumulative effect of all this technology was absolutely amazing and completely believable
    • One thing that was believable is that it seemed that a lot of the kids cheated, and it was almost impossible for the adults to catch them. With universal network connectivity it would be hard to make sure kids are doing their work on their own. I got the impression the school sort of looked the other way, the idea being that as long as the kids solved their problems, even if they got help via the net, that was itself a useful skill that they would be relying on all their lives.
  • About running cross-country in high school and the kind of boy that does it.

    tags: running cross-country adolescence antihero

    • the fact that the runner sees other people now and again, even every day, does not change who he is, or what he does. He is a loner, and he runs alone.
    • my subject is the specific kind of boy who takes up running, and he is very different from the girl who is his counterpart. This boy, whom I know well, is just not good at any other sport. He may have tried baseball, but could not throw; he may have tried soccer, but could not kick. He is not coordinated or strong or big. So he runs.
    • there will be no cheering, for cross-country running takes place almost entirely out of sight of the fans, who can see the action only at the starting and finish lines. And, therefore, there are no fans, save the runners’ girlfriends. But they have no girlfriends, because they are runners.

      Or perhaps they are runners because they have no girlfriends.

    • With Cera, we at last have an actor who effortlessly honors the American teen male anti-athlete, a boy who populates so many high-school cross-country teams. He is not a genius, he is not pathologically shy, and he is not widely loathed. Rather, he is a little shy, a little marginal, and a good bit quirkier than his classmates. He does not necessarily read constantly, but when he reads—or listens to music, or skips school to go to a matinee by himself—it is with an outsider’s wistfulness, with a hopeful eye on the world beyond high school.
    • All runners are at heart mediocrities, bad even when they are good.

      In general, teenage distance runners have no sense of themselves as part of anything bigger, any grand tradition. During my four years of competitive running, I never subscribed to Runner’s World magazine, never learned the names of any marathoners, never aspired to do anything with my running beyond earn a varsity letter, make some friends, and maybe have a dalliance with one of the girls on the girls’ cross-country team. We were shiftless and indifferent.

    • Smart, horny, some of us stoned some of the time: our team cultivated none of the blood-guts-and-tears machismo that characterized, say, our school’s football team, which won even less often than we did. What was it to be a cross-country runner? It was to be invisible to the rest of the school. It was to run away from school every day, through the middle-class streets of a nondescript town, nodding occasionally at townspeople, talking amongst ourselves, discussing Hamlet or fractals or Say Anything… or our coach’s legs. It was to participate in the one sport that valorizes flight rather than encounter. Runners are cowards, and cowards have a choice: they can either bulk up and become fearsome themselves, or they can learn to flee. Cross country was training in cowardice.
    • That is the essence of his running: a contest with himself, a test to see if he can become a man—if he can, to use the term of art, man up.
    • This is all art for young people trying to negotiate the path to being older people, and trying to figure out what kind of older people they want to be. Cera’s characters are always adolescing, and adolescence is nothing if not a race into time. You’ll always get to your destination, and really you are the only one who can speed up or retard the process of maturation—nobody can stop you from getting where you want to go, but nobody can help you get there, either. Like adolescents, distance runners have rivalries only with themselves. They don’t talk about beating that boy or girl nearly so much as they talk about beating their own “personal best.” They worry about starting too fast, getting winded, falling behind, sprinting to catch up. Like sexual adventuring, like deciding when to drink and when to drug, running is a series of decisions made alone, in one’s own good time.
    • Smith, like Paulie Bleeker, understands the truth about running, which is that since losers run, the run cannot be about winning. Even Harold Abrahams, who is intensely competitive, stands as proof that running is synecdoche for much bigger things: nobody can watch Chariots of Fire and think that it is about winning the gold, not in the way that we can watch Hoosiers and reasonably think it’s about the Indiana state basketball championship
    • to make running about winning is to betray the sport, and to become a jerk in the process. To the extent that running is about the self, it is the self nourished by solitude, not the self glorifying in narcissism.
    • Running after a cheap sort of victory—a six-month reduction in time served, meted out by a loathsome despot—is foreign to the kind of boy who runs. Such a boy does not mind facelessness, ignominy, even imprisonment. He has become accustomed to those conditions, and he knows they are temporary. As surely as he will grow up, he will escape, and the future holds better things.
    • The majesty of the running life lies in its resistance to caricature: the cross-country team is full of eccentrics, but each is eccentric in his own way.
    • Paulie Bleeker is not calling out to us, saying, “Be like me.” Rather, he is just standing up and saying, “It’s OK not to be like anybody.”
  • tags: napoleonic wars UK France finance

    • here was a remarkable and surprising contrast between Britain and France. Britain relied heavily on deficit finance:
    • whereas France, after the debacle of the assignats — a paper currency that had, as far as I know, the world’s first hyperinflation — relied on pay-as-you-go:
  • tags: attention focus information surplus filtering technology

    • Olcott wants to know how to measure the return on investment for attention spent, so that individuals could determine how to invest attention rather than merely expend it.
    • I wonder if our awareness of attention as a quantity to spend is the problem, burdening us with a kind of reflexivity that cannibalizes our experience of being engrossed in an activit
    • Olcott brings up the received wisdom that our sense of the scarcity of our attention is a product of the sudden information surfeit, which has made us aware of how little time we have for the information we want to consume, or—the same thing—the elasticity of our curiosity when information becomes cheap. Olcott has even attempted to quantify this: “the flow of information clamoring for attention has been increasing at somewhere between 30 and 60 percent per year for the past two decades, while our ability to absorb information has been growing at only about 5 percent per year (and that primarily through our growing tendency to multitask, or do several things superficially rather than one or two things deeply).”
    • “When technology made the threshold of entry into communication high, the amount of attention relative to the amount of information to which it could be paid was relatively large.” That made the limits of our media-consumption time irrelevant. But now the analog limits are gone.
    • we become aware of its value, and we want that value to be convertible into other forms of value (as capitalism trains us to expect).
    • The open-endedness makes us feel the information flow as “overload”—it is never simply settled as what it is, and requires continual decisionmaking from us, continual reaffirmation of the filters we’ve chosen. My RSS feed demands more from me than a newspaper, because I’m responsible at a meta level for what information it brings me; before, my decisionmaking would end with the decision to buy a paper. Now I have to tell myself I have enough, even as the culture tells me that in general, too much is never enough, and “winning” is having more.
    • As a result, I start to feel cheated by time because I can’t amass more of it. I become alienated from it rather inhabiting it, which makes me feel bored in the midst of too many options. The sense of overload is a failure of our focus rather than the fault of information itself or the various media. Calling it “attention” in the contemporary sense and economizing it doesn’t repair focus so much as redefine it as a shorter span, as inherently fickle and ephemeral.
    • I fear that expecting to profit from paying attention is a mistake, a kind of category error. Attention seems to me binary—it is engaged or it isn’t; it isn’t amenable to qualitative evalution. If we start assessing the quality of our attention, we get pulled out of what we were paying attention to, and pay attention to attention to some degree, becoming strategic with it, kicking off a reflexive spiral that leads only to further insecurity and disappointment. Attention is never profitable enough, never sufficient.
    • serendipity is a better attention-management strategy, a more appropriate way to deal with those times when we can no longer focus and become suddenly aware that we need to direct our attention somewhere.
  • tags: Christianity war human arrogance

    • Christians who witness against war do so for many reasons.  First and foremost is the example of Christ himself, who admonished us to love our enemies and peacefully submitted to violence against his person.  There is the tragic waste of human lives that always accompanies war, lives created by God and precious in his sight.

      Along with this, though, is an understanding that war—particularly modern war—represents the height of human pride and arrogance, an arrogance that forgets that God is God and we are not.  Rather than being fought over territory or to settle rival dynastic claims, modern wars are increasing fought to shape the course of History itself and to usher in some form of utopia, whether communist, fascist, or liberal-democratic.  They are a form of eschatology masquerading as politics.

  • tags: offense religion respect deference ethinic political correctness

    • Treating people with respect is a fine goal, but Collini noticesthat respect tends to be shown with special deference to so-called“out groups.” Claims of offense that would otherwise be ignored areinstead given credence and even deference. Collini also correctlyidentifies the people who tend to fall into this trap. Very few“progressive” forces, for example, would have shown any“understanding” of hurt Christian feelings if Jesus had been mockedin a Danish newspaper.
    • Collini’s central passage: “Where arguments areconcerned—that is, matters that are pursued by means of reasons andevidence—the most important identity we can acknowledge in anotherperson is the identity of being an intelligent reflective humanbeing.”
    • “This does not mean assuming that people are entirely—or evenprimarily—rational, and it does not mean that people are, inpractice, always and only persuaded by reasons and evidence. Itmeans treating other people as we wish to be treated ourselves inthis matter—namely, as potentially capable of understanding thegrounds for any action or statement that concerns us. But to sotreat them means that, where reason and evidence are concerned,they cannot be thought of as primarily defined by being members ofthe ‘Muslim community or ‘Black community’ or ‘gaycommunity’…
    • ifone decides to criticize a culture or a tradition or a work of art,doing so is not an act of Western arrogance. Criticism is notWestern or Eastern or Christian or Jewish, and those facingcriticism—and those societies and cultures facing criticism—shouldrespond in a spirit of openness about truth. To withhold criticismfrom certain communities or religions is, in Collini’s word, a formof condescension towards them. It denies these groups the abilityto engage in constructive dialogue, and to fortify their ownvalues. In the final analysis, everyone loses.
  • tags: revolution trigger Egypt France Tunisia chaos comolex system

    • Why now? Why did the crowd decide to storm the Bastille on July 14, 1789, and not any other day? The bread famine going on in France that year and the rising cost of food had something to do with it, as hunger and poverty does with many of the Middle Eastern uprisings today, but part of the explanation remains mysterious. Why this day and not a month earlier or a decade later? Or never instead of now?
    • The revolution was called by a young woman with nothing more than a Facebook account and passionate conviction. They were enough. Often, revolution has had such modest starts.  On October 5, 1789, a girl took a drum to the central markets of Paris. The storming of the Bastille a few months before had started, but hardly completed, a revolution.  That drummer girl helped gather a mostly female crowd of thousands who marched to Versailles and seized the royal family. It was the end of the Bourbon monarchy.
    • Why does one gesture matter more than another? Why this Facebook post, this girl with a drum?

      Even to try to answer this you’d have to say that the butterfly is born aloft by a particular breeze that was shaped by the flap of the wing of, say, a sparrow, and so behind causes are causes, behind small agents are other small agents, inspirations, and role models, as well as outrages to react against. The point is not that causation is unpredictable and erratic. The point is that butterflies and sparrows and young women in veils and an unknown 20-year-old rapping in Arabic and you yourself, if you wanted it, sometimes have tremendous power, enough to bring down a dictator, enough to change the world.

    • let Asmaa Mahfouz have the last word: “As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no hope, but if you go down and take a stance, then there will be hope.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: