Monthly Archives: November 2008

damn spamn

Yup, as soon as I fix the ‘Comments’ function (hors de combat for several peaceful months), back come the roaches. Not sure how long I’ll be able to put up with the irritation…


I’m pretty much a sucker for Doc Searls take on stuff, so I did as he suggests and went to Typealizer and put in oookblog’s URL and here’s what I got back:

ENTP – The Visionaries

The charming and trend savvy type. They are especially attuned to the big picture and anticipate trends. They often have sophisticated language skills and come across as witty and social. At the end of the day, however, they are pragmatic decision makers and have a good analytical abilitity.

They enjoy work that lets them use their cleverness, great communication skills and knack for new exciting ventures. They have to look out not to become quitters, since they easily get bored when the creative exciting start-up phase is over.

Hmmm. Guilty. And slightly preening-of-feathers too.

Another snippet from John Thorne

Again I’m struck by how Learning and Cooking [might could] have kindred pleasures:

One of the rarely discussed pleasures that cooking has to offer is just what we have done here –throwing ourselves into the water and letting it sweep us away… until it eventually deposits us, shivering but exhilarated, on a strange stretch of riverbank. Of course, we have to be prepared to swim like hell if we need to, but the real joy comes from surrendering to the flow. (Mouth Wide Open, page 98)

(from a chapter on menudo)

Good catch, Nick

This just in, via Nick:

and a bit more didactic:

Rev. Gary Davis did always say that playing guitar was just like playing piano, and now I sort of think I get it. See for more information on the instrument…

links for 2008-11-29

A longish rumination on Learning, sound, information management and such-like

(Some think-out-loud stuff that’s been accumulating for a while, and might as well get blogged, and added to via the blog as I progress. Responders might email to since something seems to be amiss with the blog’s Comment facility)

For several years (at least a decade) I’ve played with the idea that Learners need (better, more flexible, purpose-built) management tools for their information universes. Innovations like Tagging have come along to provide some of the wherewithal for what I’ve been imagining, and it’s clear that portable devices (originally mp3 players, now the mobile computing platforms of iPhones and the like) figure into the picture I’ve been developing. A desktop or laptop computer should be fully able to serve as the platform for pretty much anything a Learner wants to do, and the advent of cloud computing in wireless environments goes a long way to making these activities ubiquitous, especially if a Learner’s devices are interoperable (that is, if information in its various guises and formats can be moved seamlessly from desktop to portable device and back again).

My own interests and concerns have wandered pretty widely in the last decade, the interest in GIS and visualization of spatial data waning as fascination with music waxed, and as I became entangled with a growing archive of digitized images. I still think mostly in the frames of alphanumeric text and static images and flowing audio, though I’m ever more aware of the possibilities of video as a means to mix and distribute multiple media types. Throughout that decade I’ve been focused on the distribution of Learner-created material to audiences, via Web pages, blogs, wikis and Web services, with the thought that the main incentive for Learners to create new materials and mashups of old materials is the expectation that there are audiences to hear/see/respond to what the Learner produces, and that such interaction is both gratifying and heuristic (this is certainly an optimistic view of the varied morass of the Web, but I’m more interested in the positive than the defensive).

Aside: postings in the blogosphere are forever inserting themselves into my streams of thought [the Prepared Mind and all that, and perhaps the personal taste for Digression that seems eternal], case in point being one from Jason Scott’s ASCII that just crossed through the RSS membrane with this nugget:

Most people who visit me for the first time walk into my office where I do most of my work for the websites and projects and they stop dead because they are confronted with The Wall. The Wall is this collection of racks that take up a full side of my office. Where most people might have a couple shelves and a desk and some on-tap books and materials, I have this gigantic goddamn tsunami of papers, equipment and media going up and down the horribly-expanded enclosed deck that I took over when I moved into the house…

A bunch of stuff streams into my house, stuff which sometimes asks for attention but doesn’t get it, instead ending up on a to-do pile and then the to-do piles get combined into should-really-do pile and then a bunch of should-really-do piles end up in some sort of mega-meta-super-plus-4000 mecha-pile that makes my room look like I died in it somewhere. So part of this effort was to get a handle on it. Some papers are just obviously mementos or older artifacts; those are bagged into little plastic pouches and prepared for archiving. (In the future I will then take out all archived items of a certain nature and do something with them; or someone beyond me will.) Others are in need of scanning or being handled in some transcriptive manner. Others are just in the room because I like having them around. It ranges. There are still pockets of stuff in this room that will get yet another sorting, and I am sure I will discover many things of the “huh” variety – as you might surmise from the photos, I have an energy drink can collection which needs a more formal presentation environment and I have a few plastic bins of papers which should be sorted through and given the bag treatment. But I will get it all, I promise, and maybe a few people waiting months for me to get back to them will suddenly find themselves with e-mail or webpages. We can only hope. The Wall looks more imposing than it is; it just makes sense to have this X-Y outlook on my stuff and as time goes by it’s helped me keep track of a lot more than I’d have done otherwise. (see the original, with pictures of managed chaos)

((It’s a feature and not a bug that this medium facilitates synchronous call-outs like this))

Back to the main stream of this rumination… which has to do with organizing and working productively with information universes.

So I’ve been wrangling a simply enormous universe of recorded musics, legacy of my packrat tendencies and hydra-headed enthusiasms, trying to figure out how to make some sense of what I’ve accumulated in 50-odd years of collecting and adventuring in the jungles of coordinated sound. There are uncounted vinyl albums, boxes of reel-to-reel tapes, wallsful of cassette tapes and CDs, more and more hard-drive folders of mp3 and other digital formats, a growing shelf of DVDs and a heap of videocassettes, a couple of tightly-packed file drawers of notes and photocopies, any number of groaning shelves of books on more musical genres than I could possibly list, scores of instruments on various hooks and in cases, and a roiling mental stew of bits of information, opinion, preference… Is there any hope for this trove? I stumble around in it myself, with pretty good success when it comes to locating an item I’m searching for, but it fairly screams for audience. In the past, I’ve commandeered audiences by teaching courses in Cross-Cultural Studies in Music, and I’ve occasionally thought of doing a radio program, or of mounting some sort of Web-based distribution utility. The tentacled strictures of copyright make it difficult to imagine a street-legal route to Web promulgation. And in any case the first priority is to organize the whole thing for myself –to make a more orderly study collection of the resources.

I’ll invoke another happenstance of the day, a posting at ReadWriteWeb that greeted me when I fired up Google Reader this morning, Yahoo’s New VideoTagGame Lets You Tag Within Videos, describing “a game that encourages participants to tag sections within a video for better retrieval”. Here’s the nubbin of a problem I’ve been considering for several years: how can a Learner mark a moment or a section of an audio stream for later retrieval, and/or for annotation? What I want is a utility that facilitates transquotation (see the Xanadu sense of the term), and it already exists in video realms via Splicd, which allow you to call out a segment of a YouTube video and encode it in a URL. Jon Udell was working on this problem for audio streams 3 years ago (see his delicious tag ‘soundbite’), but I haven’t found any practical products that developed out of his beginnings. There are (so far as I know) no mp3 players that allow the user to mark a moment of an audio stream for return; there are no schemes that marry tagging with URL-specifiable moments within an mp3 file. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine an interface that would satisfy the requirements, and wouldn’t it have to be server-side anyway? (thus running headlong into the copyright problem).

If I had a URL-based mark-and-retrieve utility, I could work it into a suite of tools that would permit me to annotate a hypertext-based narration of my collections. A clumsy workaround could snip out a bit of a soundfile and save it as a new file, adding to the management problem. What I’d like is to use the original soundfile’s ID3 metadata to store a pointer to the annotation… and here the scheme gets all fuzzy as my imagination outruns my technical knowledge of the media involved.

So that’s what’s on my mind at the moment. I’ll continue this thread as inspiration piques, and/or others contribute comments.


In spite of my cold-oatmeal attitudes toward Education and IT, I do continue to follow the doings of people whom I know to be On The Right Track, among whom I include Stephen Downes, Bryan Alexander, CogDog, GeekyMom, and Brian Lamb. The most recent posting at Abject Learning quotes Stephen Downes and is worth reading for itself, but it also echoes what I’m finding in John Thorne this morning:

I have written before –most specifically when recounting my wood-fired bread oven adventures– that I do not take instruction gladly. Push a book in my hand and tell me I just have to read it and chances are it will be a decade before I can bear to pick it up… Facts only interest me when they are pieces to a puzzle I have already decided to assemble, and I would rather find them after hours of rooting around in a junkyard than have them handed to me on a plate. (page 29, Mouth Wide Open)

Cooking, learning… pretty much the same Thing, innit?

It being Thanksgiving

OK, you know I’m an unrepentant foodie. Stuff like today’s EatingAsia is what I hope for when I fire up the computer each morning (and I affect not to like liver…). And I read about food all the time, too. So last night I had some time to kill at Borders (where I’d gone to grab a special on Joss Whedon’s Firefly, $20 for the whole series…), and I looked at all sorts of books without much in the way of frisson. But I had to have something to read while visiting Gelato Fiasco in Brunswick (a Wednesday evening ritual), and I just happened to be in the Food section, and what did I see but John Thorne’s Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite, which I knew about but hadn’t bought/read yet… If John Thorne isn’t already on your List of Essentials, take a look at the Simple Cooking Website. I’m a long-time subscriber to his Newsletter. Anyway, Mouth Wide Open is as charming and mouth-watering as his other books, and his slightly asperitous take on the world of food is generally in accord with my own prejudices. A few examples from the Preface, to give you some reasons to get the book yourself:

More than anyone else, chefs know that there’s so much good food around these days that only a fool takes any of it seriously for longer than a moment. One’s eyes must always be fixed on the horizon for the appearance of the next best thing. Their recipes are a restless amalgam of many ingredients, looking for a combination potent enough to seize the eater’s fickle attention… (pg. xxvi)

…as chef culture continues to spread, my attitude toward it has turned me more and more into an outsider, uninterested in and out of touch with important changes in America’s culinary life. In other words, without really noticing it, I’ve become an old fossil. Maybe the time has come to stop staring, mouth agape, at the antics of Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain and company –and to try to comprehend what my cooking aesthetic would be like if I found them a source of inspiration. (pg. xxvii)

These passages brought me up short and broadened my comprehension of why I read food books, as I substituted my own increasing distance from the frontiers of Education and IT which used to engage my attention. And this next is Good Advice, in both foodie and digital realms:

My own rule of thumb, for what it’s worth, is to try to eat moderately, graze widely –and, most importantly, let others volunteer to be the zeitgeist’s guinea pigs. (note, pg. xxix)