Monthly Archives: April 2010

Fragments found while cleaning the desk

A couple of haiku inspired by mass media triumphalism of a year or more ago (just how long ago unclear, desk stratigraphy being undated and undatable), but sure to be relevant again before long:

moral certitude
inspires the cannon fodder
waving flags: Huzzah!!

another martyr
ours or theirs: keep careful count
a winner someday

The camera’s eye

I spend a lot of time looking at photographs, what with my own digitization projects and my wanderings in photographic history. The frame centers the viewer’s attention on details, and allows the photographer to express an aesthetic of composition. Sometimes one finds delicious bits within photographs. Here’s one from this morning’s Shorpy posting:

Shorpy detail

links for 2010-04-26

Library Thing

A few years ago (well, in September 2005, when I was newly retired and Library Thing was brand new) I discovered Library Thing, a service that allows you to catalog your library (entering books by ISBN, title, whatever)… says the Wikipedia entry, “a social cataloging web application for storing and sharing personal library catalogs and book lists.” I messed with it a bit and then got ummmm distracted by some other shiny thing. I happened to take a look again the other day, and discovered that they offer (for $15) a USB scanning device called CueCat. Plug it in and swipe it over an ISBN bar code and **PRESTO** the book is looked up (at Amazon or Library of Congress, your choice) and entered into your Library Thing database. In just a few minutes I scanned in a shelf of books, typing in the ISBN if there was no barcode, and searching by title if the book was too old to sport an ISBN. You can eyeball the current state of the project (200 books in, the very tip of the proverbial). Just what I’m going to DO with this is a bit less clear, but possibilities and uses will doubtless emerge to declare themselves.

“Accessory to your own intentions”

I’ve had 3 days with the iPad now, and it’s been as exhilarating as other brushes with new technologies. I think of the first few days with the TI-Pro in 1984, HyperCard on the Mac in 1990, my first work with Web browsers and HTML in 1993, and the beginnings of podcasting in 2004: in each case, pennies dropped one after the other as I tried this and tried that and articulated and then found the answer to the next question… Doc Searls really nailed it with his summary of the iPad (for which read ANY new technology) as “an accessory to your own intentions”. It’s not the DEVICE we should be judging, but rather our engagement with it, and its effects upon our imagination. Often enough, what you EXPECTED as the outcome pales next to what actually happens, and it’s the unanticipated that’s the important consequence. Case in point: for several years Kate has been working on a map summarizing the Appalachian Trail adventure that occupied Betsy and me between 1992 and 2003. Here’s the topmost bit:

Kate's Appalachian Trail map

The whole map is more than 15 feet long when it’s printed out, and we’ve been wrestling with how to display it. It’s too big to hang on the wall, and clumsy to roll out onto the floor and crawl around on to read the details summarizing each segment hiked, but as a pdf on the iPad it’s absolutely perfect: you can pan and zoom and really explore, just by waving your fingers over the screen. And that experience leads one to thinking about map displays of many kinds, and other features that might go into map apps for iPad and successor devices. Not something we imagined when the iPad first arrived, and it was realized only after I’d figured out a clear path to move pdfs (via Google Documents) from computer to iPad.