Monthly Archives: January 2006

links for 2006-01-08 (trying out autoinclusion of daily additions to

Something viral in the air

Stephen Downes’ Edu_RSS is hors de combat at the moment, but his bombshell post was one of the first I saw in this set. Daniel Lemire quotes and comments.

Another in a similar vein is Reinventing Ourselves in 2006 from Will Richardson, and one more, A Season of Discontent, from Dave Warwick, includes this bit of eloquence:

People are voicing a growing discontent with the status quo of the education industry, its resistance to change, and our increasing unhappiness with being a part of an institution that seems more interested in maintaining its own comfort than doing its job — preparing children for their future.

Dedication to the mission is still with us. If anything it is stronger. It is the heart of our discontent. We live in an incredibly creative time with opportunities whose realization depends on our imaginations more than any other skill or character trait. Yet, we work for an institution that remains grounded in industrial age notions of itself, and we don’t like it.

John Pederson really nails it with his Extinction Management – Quit Your Day Job 101:

Today, I’m riding free. I gave up a job that I completely loved, but a job that was seriously conflicting with the creative, idealistic, and passionate part of my personality.

Now and again I find myself near a cutting edge, thinking about or working on something that suddenly gets Attention from others. My feeling of prescience usually doesn’t last long, but it’s a pleasant bask while it lasts. This time around, it seems like my decision to retire and to follow my nose into whatever seemed most interesting was prescient, and it’s gratifying to find that others are sufficiently frustrated with the institutions in which they are immured to actually do something about it. I look forward to what they’ll invent.

My basic sense is that educational institutions (and especially those of “higher” education) are pretty uniformly dysfunctional, and that the real fun is to be had in creating and promulgating alternative modes of self-education. The missing link is how to make a living at it, but I don’t have to solve that one. One advantage of being of a certain age…

Trying Squidoo

I’m exploring various alternative presentation modes for the Nova Scotia Faces materials, and the latest is a Squidoo Lens on Vernacular Photography. I’m not sure what Squidoo will offer that the Wiki can’t, but I may find my way to other Lenses for other enthusiasms.

Milton and Pullman

My friend Mo is wrestling with Paradise Lost. In conversation last night, I was saying that I found the 17th century pretty impenetrable, mostly because I really didn’t grasp what people did and didn’t know, and that I felt disconnected from how they thought about things and voiced their thoughts, and that I didn’t know any [moderately painless] bridges to repairing those deficiencies.

I’ve been reading Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass (consequent upon reading Laura Miller’s review in the latest New Yorker), and what did I find this morning but:

Oh, this was in the seventeenth century. Symbols and emblems were everywhere. Buildings and pictures were designed to be read like books. Everything stood for something else: if you had the right dictionary, you could read Nature itself. It was hardly surprising to find philosophers using the symbolism of their time to interpret knowledge that came from a mysterious source… (pg 173)

This passage is about the alethiometer, “a device driven by Dust that is able to answer questions formed in the mind of the user. It is a symbol reader, with each of the 36 symbols having an infinite number of meanings…”

On Resolving

2005 was a momentous year for me, because I retired and relocated and started to work outside the structure of educational institutions that I’ve been in and around for 40-some years. I’m now free to follow my own interests and priorities, and what I do with my time is entirely mine to decide. I have at my fingertips the tools to construct and deconstruct, drawing on a variety of collections and interests that have always been restive within the confines of academic disciplines and institutions. The Web provides me with a congenial sort of audience: asynchronous, largely anonymous, not jockeying for grades or trapped in intergenerational hoohah. There’s a continuous flow of nutritive substances via the blogosphere and the remarkable creativity that’s summarized as Web2.x, and I have the joy of figuring out how to build fruitful interlinkages amongst apps and enthusiasms.

So I’m now an Independent Scholar, and my fondest wish is to form my process of continued learning into a public hyper-document. Surely that’s mostly so I can realize and enjoy it more fully myself, but it’s also a conscious effort to develop an example of how Educating self and providing on-ramps for others might be done. That’s what I was trying to do as a teacher, but generally the effort was against the grain of academia. Seems like it should be much more satisfactory in my own spaces, where no stinkin’ badges need be shown.

I have in mind to work with various media, to keep a weather eye peeled for new possibilities, and to continue to rely on the kindness of friends and strangers. There’s every reason to expect at least as much innovation in 2006 as I’ve enjoyed in 2005.

Specifically, I intend to explore OPML further, and I expect to get a lot further with Google Earth, with various APIs, and with sound in various forms. Whether I’ll do anything systematic with podcasting is still up in the air, and awaits inspiration and some reasonable solution to the problem of digital rights vis à vis my collections of recordings in various formats.

My evolving strategies for managing the flood of blog and Web material have relied pretty heavily on (especially for stuff I want to share with others) and Onfolio (mostly for collecting links that I’m still thinking about possible public disposition of). Yesterday it occurred to me that I should make some sort of analysis of the flow of stuff through tags and into folders, and a quick question to Onfolio’s Forum produced helpful suggestions for accomplishing that end. It seems that I gathered more than 1100 links into my Onfolio collections in the last 12 months, and added about 500 items to (there’s not a lot of overlap –stuff that was clearly of public interest went straight to I haven’t used either service very intelligently or very systematically –tagging has been haphazard, and has proceeded by spates and droughts, and I haven’t annotated items very imaginatively, or taken the time to ruminate on what I’ve heaped up. I resolve to clean up that act in the coming year…

Which brings me to some continuing thoughts on the concept of resolution, and to a thread I’ve been following on Language Log. Yesterday, Bill Poser posted a beautifully constructed piece on Pointers, References, and the Rectification of Names, connecting a continuing discussion on computer languages (specifically, on the failings of Java) to a passage from The Analects (XIII:3), in which Legge has Master Kung saying

A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.

David Hinton’s rendering is a bit less ponderous:

Listen. If names aren’t rectified, speech doesn’t follow from reality. If speech doesn’t follow from reality, endeavors never come to fruition. If endeavors never come to fruition, then Ritual and music cannot flourish. If Ritual and music cannot flourish, punishments don’t fit the crime. If punishments don’t fit the crime, people can’t put their hands and feet anywhere without fear of losing them. Naming enables the noble-minded to speak, and speech enables the noble-minded to act. Therefore, the noble-minded are anything but careless in speech. (1998:140)

The meaning of resolve that I’m considering emphasizes bringing things into focus, and maximizing the available acuity and detail –a much more worthy objective than promising oneself to do or not-do something. I don’t know much about Ritual and proprieties, but I’m all for the flourishment of music.