Wednesday, 29 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Today is a long, exciting day.
The WWW@10 conference begins early tomorrow at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. This conference is marking the 10th anniversary of the World Wide Web... sort of.
The Web is actually a little older than 10. However, the conference will mark the 10th birthday of the World Wide Web Consortium, a group formed by the Web's creators to manage standards and organize the Web. The creation of this group marked a beginning for so much of what we do today.
My paper for the conference can be found on the Rose-Hulman website: Truth, Trust, and the Textual Camera: Nonfiction on the Web.
** * **
To get to Rose-Hulman, I will have to enter my own personal version of Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go. I have to make many stops using many forms of transportation.
Photos will begin to appear online tomorrow, as I blog the event.
The Geodesic Nate
Sunday, 26 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I am currently working on a geodesically-structured hypertext that will actually exist in the physical world. So, in preparation for the final sculpture, I have been working on studies in geodesic geometry.
I completed my first geodesic sphere today. I don't have the completed photos ready yet, but this picture shows the structure during construction.
Who says math isn't fun?
Friday, 24 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Yesterday, the hard drive on rubberpaw.com began to deteriorate. I'm backing up and bringing the site up again, but I'm doing it right. Doing things right sometimes takes time. Come back Friday evening.
Thanks for your patience.
In the meantime, check out an export of the Tinderbox file I used to map out the Normative decision-making process. (info on Decision-Making at Wikipedia)
Free at Last
Wednesday, 22 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I finally finished my paper for the WWW@10 conference over the weekend. It's a hypertext about hypertext literary nonfiction on the web, and it has a number of weaknesses. The language needs to be tightened up, and I ran across some very important research too late to include it. But it has been a good effort, and I'm proud of it.
The weblog should be returning to the normally-scheduled pattern of random posting hereafter. Thanks for hanging around.
Thursday, 16 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
If you haven't seen much of me this week, there's a reason. I'm putting the final touches on my paper for the WWW@10 conference. The research for my presentation was so intense, I went to prison for it.
And now I'm chained to my desk, finishing things up.
** * **
The soundtrack is Ehren Stark's Basement Corridors, from one of my favorite Magnatune albums, The Depths of a Year. But after listening to Ehren, relax to Paul Avgerinos's Sky of Grace.
The National Anthem
Thursday, 16 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I have been watching a documentary about the War of 1812. I didn't like the beginning, but it got better. They did a pretty bad/sensationalistic job with the burning of Washington D.c. Their retelling of the battle of Baltimore was very good. Their retelling of the battle for New Orleans was rather sensationalist as well. At one point, they mention that the British forces were not the greatest of England's forces. Then, they say that Jackson defeated the best forces in the world. They get too carried away with themselves.
Paul Johnson suggests in A History of the American People that the War of 1812 created the ability for England and America to get along later. This was, according to him, because the treaty of Ghent was equitable to both sides, an unusual document to be sure.
** * **
The story got me thinking about our national anthem.
We never sing the other verses. Why is that? Hmm.
Violence. The first verse is violent enough, but the third verse gets really violent...
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Although I do like parts of the final verse, it could hardly work. No doubt people would take offense to the last verse..
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Hmm. Critics of the war in Iraq could become very snide after this stanza. Snide or no, I don't like the idea of including conquest into our national song, just or not.
** * **
Some have suggested America The Beautiful for an alternate national anthem. I like this song, but again, we would have to trim the verses of the sadness of experience...
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
I like the recognition of America's brilliant beauty. But our nation is not a land. America is not, like other places, a place defined only by its location, but rather by the ideas and freedom...
O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife.
Who more than self the country loved
And mercy more than life!
The song would also serve as a reminder to us...
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!
But I suppose many would dislike it for the very reasons I like the song...
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
Here, Gold is not money, but rather a reference to character and goodness, to generosity and love, those valuable things that reside inside a person's heart, not a person's wallet. I would like to live in an America whose successes can truly be called noble. That day is not here.
But America The Beautiful is not pithy enough for our current time. Any replacement anthem would likely have no more than 5 or 6 lines to be repeated ad nauseum in any arrangement.
I don't think the essence of this amazing place can be captured fully in a song. It has many faults, many flaws -- it's made of humans. But it is exciting to know that freedom truly reigns in America, not a single man, not a single idea, not a party or a weapon, but rather the coming together of many millions of people in cooperative concord. It's a tough world out there, but it's good to know that we can work together.
Monday, 13 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I have been killing my ears all weekend.
This younger generation -- they'll all be deaf by age 30.
Especially when the fare sounds something like the Air Force Band's recording of Johan de Meij's beautiful Symphony No. 1 -- The Lord of the Rings.
I love de Meij's take on band music. As a trombone player, he understands the importance of filling the atmosphere of sound with the deep resonances of low brass. I'm nearly in tears right now, as I listen.
This semester, we will be playing movement V, Hobbits, in Concert Band. Music has always been linked to literature, yet De Meij shows a level of literary understanding rare for a composer. In Hobbits, he understands their nature: simple, down-to-earth, fun-loving people for whom the routine is important. Yet they are good-natured people, hardy people, who are willing to take up the most difficult tasks of the world when asked.
Each time the theme repeats, we, like Gandalf in the books, see another aspect of Hobbits. The piece moves from jolly to hardworking. The theme becomes resolved, then calm in the face of danger. It is a dance, but it is also a journey. By the end of the story, we have passed from innocence through drums of danger to find friendship and serenity in one's situation eventually to a triumph of epic proportions. This is all within the same theme!
** * **
The Air Force Band plays it rather too marchey. A lot more can be done with this movement than they allow. But this is to be expected. And it hasn't kept me from listening all weekend.
Call me Paddington
Sunday, 12 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
"hurry up and eat your breakfast. It's a lovely day and we may as well make the most of it."
Paddington needed no second bidding, and while the Browns were busy packing the rest of the picnic gear into the car he hurried back indoors, where his breakfast was waiting. He liked doing new things, and he was looking forward to the day's outing. One of the nicest things about living with the Browns was the number of surprises he had.
"I hope I've never done everything, Mrs. Bird," he said as she came into the dining room to see if he'd finished his toast and marmalade, "I shouldn't have any surprises left then!"
"Hmmm," replied Mrs. Bird sternly as she bundled him out of the room, "You'll be getting a surprise if you don't wash those bacon-and-egg stains off your whiskers before we go out. I've never known such a bear for getting in a mess.
--from "A Picnic on the River" by Michael Bond, from The Paddington Treasury
Politics in the News
Sunday, 12 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Everybody seems to be talking about voters right now. This is too bad.
Things are happening in the world, folks. The election just draws our attention away from important things. Even the sensationalists need not be disappointed -- The American Center in Kathmandu, Nepal was bombed on Friday. Did it make the news? Naah. It's not as exciting as
Louis Menand, who does a good job of writing thoughtful stuff, has put together an interesting article on how politics views voters.
Want to know what I think is perhaps as important an election this year? Voting in China!
On a Summer Day, a Refrigerator Poem
Saturday, 11 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
when the red fantasy of a sun
remembers this sweet sly day,
and fly over a rainbow.
Friday, 10 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
This semester, I am taking a course in Leadership at Elizabethtown College. Since I will be writing a large number of posts on the topic, I decided to create a separate part of the site to archive these ideas. You can find them at the Leadership Miniblog.
My latest post? Gatorade, The X-Factor, Burns, and structure versus agency.
(how interesting . I am finding the same terminology and ideas everywhere -- from literature to leadership to business to politics to science to Information Architecture)
Thursday, 9 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I hate false dilemmas. No. I really hate false dilemmas. They are the product of short-sighted people who do not understand reality and see fit to tangle and drag others into false thinking. These people cause false fear. They misunderstand reality. And they choose with false confidence.
When I was growing up, I was subjected to particularly malevolent false dilemma by people at my old church. It even rhymed. It went like this:
"There are only two choices on the shelf: pleasing God or pleasing self."
I now know better. To be a Christian, while it involves the choice to live righteously, is not sour or boorish. Rather, when God works to fill my life with true love, humility, generosity, honesty, and self-control, life is awesome. Life becomes worth living.
* ** *
These days, there's only one real choice for me. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities, plenty of choices to make in a day, but none of the other options match the joy, blessing, love, wisdom, and opportunity of following God. It's impossible to choose to please God and not please one's own self.
I have learned that life isn't about these stupid false dilemmas. We aren't given blindness, that we should fear. Rather, we learn to trust God to lead in a path that brings delight. The rhyming line suggests that pleasing God isn't very pleasant. They're wrong.
Christianity turns life upside-down, because it satisfies the invisible reality of our spiritual needs. It turns the pursuit of happiness into true joy. For those who have been changed by God, talking with a fellow-believer , secretly washing someone's dishes, sitting cross-legged and praying alone high in a forest-tower on Labor Day -- these things are way more fun than watching TV, going to a theme park, or even getting an exciting job. Diversions just occupy our time. At best, they're just a temporary high. But people are spiritual beings. For the Christian, whose life has been unbent by God, the dance of daily life becomes a great song of praise, squeezing the joy of truly full life into every corner of living.
Pleasing God or pleasing self? Ha! Tell me another one.
Update: Some have noted that Christianity does indeed include a renunciation of selfishness. I agree. But I add: it is this renunciation of selfishness which most truly fulfils our needs most properly and most fully.
In Which I Dream of the Perfect Hypertext System
Monday, 6 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I had an odd dream the other day...
After decades of research, we were able to create a technology system that could understand, store, track, and interpret human thought and experience. It was a tremendous effort to bring things to that state. Thousands, tens of thousands of researchers and programmers gave their working lives to the project. It took slow, methodical progress, and the periodic bursts of brilliant leaps in progress forced everyone to go back, re-evaluate, and redesign years of work.
But things worked so well, so smoothly. Annoyances, lags, and errors were removed daily. Each improvement brought more excitement, more joy in the endeavor.
Finally, it was completed. When we finished putting life, the universe, and everything into the computer, everyone logged on and was happy. For it was completed.
I looked over their shoulders and fainted in surprise.
What did I see?
They did a perfect job. All the wholeness of human experience was bound up with the computer. All the pain, the suffering, cruelty, and deceit, the joy, the love, the hopeless despair was there.
** * **
In the latest issue of Tekka, Cathy Marshall takes a stand on The Semantic Web. Is it safe? she asks. (You really ought to subscribe to Tekka, but you can also read the article on Cathy's site)
Life with Nate
Monday, 6 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Since poems seem to be the order of the weekend, I will post this gem from Brett Lojacono, written on the occasion of looking over my shoulder, as I coded some RSS stuff in C# .NET (while I downed large quantities of soy chocolate milk):
Life with Nate is kinda scary,
Life with Nate can get a little hairy,
You just never know what life with Nate will be like.
Hypertext as Postmodern
Monday, 6 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
As I read over a bit more of Landow's Hypertext 2.0 again, I remembered what makes hypertext fit particularly well with postmodern thought:
Hypertext values source information at least as highly as the research that uses it.
So if I write a piece of research, it's useless until people start linking to me. But my writing isn't valuable because it's true or right (as someone might have asserted in the past), but because people like, hate, and reference me. Nothing has to be true; it's just talk, just more to read. And one can never read it all.
Hypertext assumes that an issue is never settled. No single person can come to a crushingly-correct idea. The tempting opportunity to revise, to disagree, to undermine is always there, and is encouraged by the medium.
Hypertext assumes that we are all Oedipa Maas, and not much more. This would be a surprise for Vannevar Bush, who conceived his Memex to be a device that would encourage people to build on each other's ideas. While this can happen, it is by no means the default setting of people who use the Web.
** * **
Humanity has in the past assumed that forcing ideas into a logical structure is the best way to test their veracity. If hypertext truly decenters heirarchy (I'm not sure it does), then it decenters logic.
Not that this matters. People seem to have abandoned logic and causality without hypertext. The Link has become the most common rhetorical tool I have recently heard, whether it's the link between Al-Queda and Saddam Hussein, the link between Cheney and Haliburton, etc etc etc, blah blah blah.
Trust, if there is any, seems to come from the structure of information these days (which is why I'm not sure hierarchy has been truly decentered).
Note: the existence of a tool does not carry with it any truth at all. While it seems to encourage/enable certain ways of thinking, the existence of hypertext cannot validate interconnected modes of thinking or disprove others (for there are other natural ways of the mind. Hypertext is very much a product of Western thought). Hypertext is nice because it can contain nearly any defined type of discourse. If you think that the old ways are the best ways, then you can continue to keep the old ways. Just know, you would not be able to escape the prefix "if you think that the old ways are the best ways..."
As nice as Landow's (Marxist? Populist?) hypothesizing sounds in the book, I will say this: the signal to noise ratio in human communications has really plummeted since the Web came round. True, we hear more thoughtful voices, but we have to slog through a more flamewars and greater residue of human depravity to get to those voices.
The Philosopher Ballerina
Sunday, 5 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Yesterday, I put together a number of long, ranting posts in an online class-discussion on the topic of leadership and the assumption by many thoughtful, intelligent people that they would make good Philosopher-Kings (at least, in their sphere of interest). People like democracy until they must live democracy.
I am fortunately wise enough to know that I am not wise enough, efficient enough, or skilled enough to be a Philosopher-King in most settings. I know that working together with others is the best way I can work toward useful things in an organization.
In response to my ideas (I would like to think), I received the following piece of SPAM in my mailbox. I know now what the best role for a Philosopher must be:
Philosopher ballerinas around 268
inside shadow, compete with living. with umbrella near, inferiority complex is ravishing.
And share a shower with the dark side of her
Dana, the friend of Dana and
ceases to exist with
Dana and I took toward tape recorder with
(defined by bottle of beer),
clock beyond particle accelerator.
I added the linebreaks. Poetry spam. What will they think of next?
Researching by Blog
Saturday, 4 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Today, Mark Bernstein suggested that someone look at the issue of linking with Tinderbox aliases.
I whipped together a quick email...
This *has* been an annoyance. I just figured I was doing something wrong, that if I ever really really needed to link to aliases, I would be able to read the manual and figure it out.
My guess is that link types could be very useful here. I could see where I might want to have the links point to things in a number of ways.
Of course, you could approach it at least two ways.
One way would be to add a new set of link types denoting behaviour, so you would get another dropdown when you create a link (not just a link to an alias, or a link to a note that has an alias. You need to be able to deal with the potential that an alias might be created)
You could also do something like this: each individual link gets its own behaviour defined, and a link prototype sytem could be set up, just as with notes. That way, I could preset some of the types of links. So, if I create a link called "it does not follow" for logic, I might have it only link to the individual note or alias. There is little need for the link to go anywhere else, so I can safely preset those settings (although they would be overridable, as with prototypes for Notes). But if I create a link type like "a relevant source", I might want it to take me also to the other places. If I go back to the original note, I might find related sources. If I look at the other aliases, I might find other things that quote or refer to the source. Thus, I might make "a relevant source" point to all aliases as well as the original note.
Key to this discussion is also the idea of backlinks. My email is already getting too long, so I won't go into this.
Another key issue is the idea of transclusion. Tinderbox doesn't fully support the idea of transclusion except in exporting. I imagine that a lot of issues get raised in this area that are similar to the question of aliases. Perhaps if Tinderbox merged the idea of aliases and transclusion (I have put thought to this, but not nearly enough), some of these issues would be resolved or at least clarified.
** * **
I sent thse comments to Mark Bernstein, who replied with a few thoughts...
But the reason link types were essentially abandoned for more than a decade was Randall Trigg's work, which showed that if you asked people to choose types when they made links, they would work hard to defer that choice. In essence, everyone winds up choosing "Type: Thing" and "LinkType: GenericLink" nearly all the time.
To my thoughts about the topics being rather related to the issue of transclusion, he said:
Also, similar to versioning in hypertext systems.
** * **
I have a few more thought-through ideas on the topic, but I want to think through them a bit more before I post them tomorrow.
But there are enough of us bloggers who use Tinderbox to come up with a really good way to answer questions like this. We only use the cathedral method of research because it is so expensive for people to get together and talk to each other. Why not use our blogging to discuss and decide on the answer?
Odd that writing technology makes extended, fair, thoughtful dialog and discussion possible, after ages of people derriding writing, we have come up with a way to discuss in real-time in writing, with ways of accessing more information more quickly, more ubiquitously than memory could ever serve. Plato's objections, if they ever had any weight, certainly cannot stick any more.
We live in exciting times. The very nature of human thought is changing before our minds.
Thursday, 2 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I love my family.
Sunday night, I got a call from my brother. He said,
Mom and Dad were about to leave my apartment after helping me move in for the semester. So Mom walked over to the bathroom before they left. I kept talking with dad.
A few seconds later, I heard this scream from the bathroom. It wasn't a scream of fear or pain, but rather a glibly insane shriek of surprise.
"Jonathan! Come here, come here! You won't believe it!"
My brother cautiously walked into the bathroom.
"Look at the floor! Look at the floor!"
He looked at the floor. It was a normal bathroom floor, with normal bathroom tiles on it.
"Yeah? I'm looking at the floor," he said.
"Can't you see?" she shrieked again.
* ** *
After looking closely, my brother had to agree. Every third tile had a pattern unusually-similar to Fidel Castro's face.