Category Archives: metastuff

Jon Udell again

Jon Udell is reliably eloquent on subjects that are betimes tangent to my own thinkings. His Computational Thinking and Life Skills post of today is a lovely example, and includes this wise distillation:

When you’re writing software you use abstractions and also create them. What’s more, many of the abstractions you use are the very ones you created. When you live a world of your own invention you can do amazing and wonderful things. But you can also do ridiculous and stupid things. To see the difference between them you must always be prepared to park your ego and consider the latter possibility.

Won’t take you but a couple of minutes to read the post, but I’ll bet you’ll think about it for a lot longer.


I fear that I might find a Woody Allen biopic a bit tiresome, but that doesn’t lessen my pleasure in Jon Udell’s brief review, especially its Universal Solvent of a summary sentence:

Some ideas are better than others, no doubt. But to grow them into something that matters you have to see the story. And then tell the story.


RSA animations of verbal presentations seem always to be WONDERFUL. This morning’s example is UBERwonderful, encapsulating a lot of things I’ve thought over the years, but never managed to express coherently. Supremely worth 10 minutes of your time:

…and I’m reminded how valuable it’s been to me to have this medium to lay down markers for my own discoveries and learning. Sometimes it seems that the Audience is my own very, very self… but that’s OK too.

The Parenthesis

Here’s Dave Weinberger liveblogging Jeff Jarvis at the Berkman Center:

We’re going through a huge transition, he says. He refers to the Gutenberg Parenthesis. Before Gutenberg, knowledge was passed around, person to person. It was meant to honor and preserve ancient knowledge. After Gutenberg, knowledge became linear. There are beginnings and ends and boxes around things. It’s about product. There’s a clear sense of ownership. It honors current knowledge and its authors. Then you get to the other side of the parenthesis, and there are similarities. More passing it around, more remixing, less sense of ownership. The knowledge we revere starts to become the network itself. Our cognition of the world changes. The CTO of the Veterans Admin calls the Internet the Eighth Continent. “I used to think of the Internet as a medium,” but now he thinks of it more as a place, although there are problems with the place metaphor. (“All metaphors are wrong,” interjects Doc Searls. “That’s why they work.”) It was a hard transition into the parenthesis, and it’ll be hard coming out of it. It took 50 years after Gutenberg for books to come into their own, and 100 years to recognize the impact of books. We’re still looking at the Net using our the past as our analog.

Sure is a lot to chew on in that paragraph.

Paddy’s Day rumination

My interests, enthusiasms, and areas of expertise are errant: they persist in wandering off, but they eventually seem to come back from their assorted quests and reassert themselves in my consciousness and activities. So it has been with photography, as with music and woodworking and Information and Science Fiction and Literature and and and… When a particular fascination resurfaces, it has a whole new set of previously unrecognized (or imperfectly appreciated) facets that tempt me into a new Odyssey of exploration. This generally means the acquisition of new tools and resources, to carry out whatever new Grand Schemes assert themselves as necessities. Fortunately, the spouse is well acquainted with the pattern, and is skilled at eloquent rolling of the eyes.


Tomorrow is oook blog’s fifth anniversary, and what a long strange trip it’s been. Dunno how to assess the blog’s significance, since I have a constitutional aversion to conventional measures of “success” and I abhor counting hits or whatever. When you come right down to it, I’ve always thought of it primarily as a means to keep track of my changing attention (my magpie habits) for myself, and secondarily as a conduit for keeping informed of my doings the 20 or so people I think might be interested. Beyond that, I’m happy to occasionally discover that somebody has happened upon a posting via a search, or that some friend has pointed somebody to a posting.

I’m thinking about converting over to Word Press, but I don’t have sufficient faith in my own geek skills to start the process. I’ve also thought of making some sort of Fundamental Change in presentation style or content, but I don’t really have any positive reason to do that… so I think it’ll probably just limp along in its increasingly vieux jeu format.

and another

These things seem to keep happening, this time as I thought about where to begin in laying out a landscape of African musics that I’ve been accumulating in mp3 form since the spring.

Start anywhere
It all connects
and the trick is to choose
among branching paths
or perhaps it’s to
unwind the thread
as you sally forth
so as to be able
to reconstruct
your wanderings

That reconstruction is a tale
a narrative of Tolkien proportions
though without the necessity
of any end to the hero’s quest
and indeed with no heroes
or deus ex machina
just the progress of discovery

And what does the Argonaut seek?
Not fleeces or immured maidens
gloriously slain foes
or vanquished enemies

It’s the link, the nexus,
the skein of allusion
the journey and not
the destination
the joys of finding and telling


Funny how stuff comes up and then is echoed. At dinner tonight I was asked about how I happened to do dissertation research in Nova Scotia, and that led to the tale of how in the late 1960s I’d wanted to return to Sarawak to study the effects of infrastructure projects on communities and regions, but at that time there was no interest in and certainly no money to support such research. So here’s an interesting post from Doc Searls, Rethinking out loud about infrastructure:

I’m here to suggest that two overlapping subjects — infrastructure and internet — are not well understood, even though both are made by humans and can be studied within the human timescale. The term “infrastructure” has been in common use only since the 1970s. While widely used, there are relatively few books about the subject itself. I’d say, in fact, that is more a subject in many fields than a field in itself. And I think it needs to be. Same with the Internet. Look it up on Google and see how many different definitions you get. Yet nothing could be more infrastructural without being physical, which the Internet is not.

Doc links to Stephen Lewis on The Etymology of Infrastructure and the Infrastructure of the Internet which notes that

Infrastructure indeed entered the English language as a loan word from French in which it had been a railroad engineering term. A 1927 edition of the Oxford indeed mentioned the word in the context of “… the tunnels, bridges, culverts, and ‘infrastructure work’ of the French railroads.” After World War II, “infrastructure” reemerged as in-house jargon within NATO, this time referring to fixed installations necessary for the operations of armed forces and to capital investments considered necessary to secure the security of Europe.

My own use of the term had specifically to do with consequences of what the 1960s labelled as Development, essentially the first steps toward the social and economic transformations that were eventually labelled as Globalization. Much more to say about all of that…