Monthly Archives: March 2004

Google newsreader

A remarkable implementation of treemapping to visualize Google’s news, surely just the tip of an iceberg of renderings (via a slashdot posting):

Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap’s objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.

thinking about goals and means

It occurs to me (in thinking about what I want to do, preparatory to a talk with the Provost) that it’s mostly concerned with waking students up to the excitement of taking responsibility for their own wetware.
My aims as a teacher are aimed at General Education and interdisciplinarity, and not at disciplinary materials or agendas. I want to emphasize curiosity and creativity, and complex linkages –using the tools of information discovery and management to build communications and enhance the distribution and sharing of knowledge.
Anthropology is really good basic perspective for this, based as it is in the variety of humanity, and equipped as it is with highly-developed poaching and borrowing skills.

Speaking prose

This keeps happening. I serendipitously [i.e., by a surprising/unsought/unanticipated route or conjunction] discover a term or concept that efficiently labels something I’ve been doing or saying for a long time. Such nexus events connect me to a discourse I hadn’t recognized or heeded, and allow me to recognize what I do as “a kind of a…” I’m pretty sure this happens to everybody, but I at least haven’t paid much heed to it before now. For example…

Continue reading


Unpleasantly high numbers in a cholesterol test make it clear that I have to take action. I’ve started a log file to track my thoughts and discoveries. The bit that now seems the most difficult is giving up coffee, but at least in the early stages it seems like something I need to do as part of the Discipline.
It’s very hard to figure out the many contradictory versions, though exercise and moderation seem to be the universally agreed necessities. Ron cautions moderation in moderation too.

Magnificent quotations

Just how and why this cluster found its way here is too long a story. They surely belong with favorite quotations.
One day in 1755 the celebrated actor Charles Macklin boasted to Samuel Foote that he could repeat virtually any speech after a single hearing. Thus tempted, Foote challenged Macklin to repeat the following passage:

So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage leaf to make an apple pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street pops its head into the shop. “What! no soap?” So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picninnies, and the Grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch as catch can, till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.

‘Son,’ the old guy says, ‘no matter how far you travel, or how smart you get, always remember this: someday, somewhere,’ he says, ‘a guy is going to come to you, and show you a nice brand-new set of cards on which the seal is never broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that a jack of spades will jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. But son,’ the old guy says, ‘do not bet him, for as sure as you do you are going to get an earful of cider.’
Damon Runyon (The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown)
After all, one can’t complain. I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said ‘Bother !’ The Social Round. Always something going on.
A.A.Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore speaking)


A wonderful graphic, ‘quoted’ by Seb and repeated here so I can find it again:

The first time I can remember hearing the phrase “Pigs Might Fly” was in Kind Hearts and Coronets, as memorably mouthed by Glynis Johns. It would be enlightening to collect such bits of eidetic imagery and phraseology… I woke this morning thinking of the phrase “You’ll eat food from sawdust” that accompanied a 1950 Popular Mechanics article on the World of the Future.

Postmodernism Generator

Found via an entry in Sébastien Paquet’s blog: Postmodernism Generator. The source is another blog, Martin Terre Blanche’s Collaborative Learning Environments. The bit Seb picked out from Martin’s posting is worth repeating here:

One tends to think of Google as a tool for locating some particular thing (say a good academic paper on critical psychology in South Africa), but I suspect that most Google searches have as much to do with getting a feel for context as with locating something specific.

…an exemplar of the ways in which exploring this medium gooses me into thinking differently about the quotidian…
Reading further, there’s a great deal here that I find especially resonant at the moment. Another bit, Martin’s comment on a comment, says just beautifully what I’ve been thinking myself but hadn’t found the eloquence to articulate:

It could be fun to be read by zillions of people, but the real reason I write is not because I hope to reach a large audience. In a way putting one’s stuff on the internet is to already have such an audience. Writing here is a way of being in conversation with a few million others out there, contributing my part to the what is being said, without demanding that everybody must suddenly shut up and listen to me exclusively.

Later in the day, happened upon this by my highschool-era friend Matt Cartmill (incidentally, one of the dedicants of Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo [1947]):

As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life – so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.

(quoted at