Ramblings & ephemera

The real digital divide: knowing how to use what you have & not knowing

From Howard Rheingold’s interview in “Howard Rheingold’s Latest Connection” (Business Week: 11 August 2004): Here’s where Wikipedia fits in. It used to be if you were a kid in a village in India or a village in northern Canada in the winter, maybe you could get to a place where they have a few books […]

Reading the impenetrable too fast

From Lee Siegel, quoted in Juliet Lapidos’s “Overrated: Authors, critics, and editors on ‘great books’ that aren’t all that great” (Slate: 11 August 2011): It was like Herbert Marcuse’s advice to a despairing graduate student who said he had spent days on a sentence in Hegel and still couldn’t understand it: “You’re reading too fast,” […]

Shelby Foote on how the Civil War changed the gender of the teaching profession

From Carter Coleman, Donald Faulkner, & William Kennedy’s interview of Shelby Foote in “The Art of Fiction No. 158” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): About the time that war started I think roughly eighty-five or ninety percent of the teachers in this country were men. After the war was over something like eighty-five […]

Kurt Vonnegut on using our talents

From David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, & Richard Rhodes’s interview of Kurt Vonnegut in “The Art of Fiction No. 64” (The Paris Review: Spring 1977, No. 69): I bawled [my daughter] out one time for not doing more with the talents she had. She replied that having talent doesn’t carry with it the obligation […]

A summary of Galbraith’s The Affluent Society

From a summary of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (Abridge Me: 1 June 2010): The Concept of the Conventional Wisdom The paradigms on which society’s perception of reality are based are highly conservative. People invest heavily in these ideas, and so are heavily resistant to changing them. They are only finally overturned by new […]

Errol Morris on “investigative journalism”

From Errol Morris’s “Film Legend Errol Morris Salutes New Graduates At 2010 Commencement” (Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: 10 May 2010): I have often wondered why we need the phrase investigative journalism. Isn’t all journalism supposed to be investigative? Isn’t journalism without an investigative element little more than gossip? And isn’t there enough gossip around […]

Errol Morris on film noir

From Errol Morris’s “Film Legend Errol Morris Salutes New Graduates At 2010 Commencement” (Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: 10 May 2010): There are many things I liked about noir. But in particular, there are images of one benighted character after another struggling to make sense of the world – and sometimes failing in the effort. […]

David Foster Wallace on the impossibility of being informed & the seduction of dogma

From David Foster Wallace’s “Introduction” (The Best American Essays 2007): Here is an overt premise. There is just no way that 2004’s reelection could have taken place—not to mention extraordinary renditions, legalized torture, FISA-flouting, or the passage of the Military Commissions Act—if we had been paying attention and handling information in a competent grown-up way. […]

Malcolm Gladwell on training to be a journalist

From Alex Altman’s “Q&A: Author Malcolm Gladwell” (TIME: 20 October 2009): If you had a single piece of advice to offer young journalists, what would it be? The issue is not writing. It’s what you write about. One of my favorite columnists is Jonathan Weil, who writes for Bloomberg. He broke the Enron story, and […]

Huck Finn caged

From Nicholas Carr’s “Sivilized” (Rough Type: 27 June 2009): Michael Chabon, in an elegiac essay in the new edition of the New York Review of Books, rues the loss of the “Wilderness of Childhood” – the unparented, unfenced, only partially mapped territory that was once the scene of youth. … Huck Finn, now fully under […]

All about freezing to death

photo credit: State Library of New South Wales collection From Peter Stark’s “As Freezing Persons Recollect the Snow–First Chill–Then Stupor–Then the Letting Go” (Outside: January 1997): There is no precise core temperature at which the human body perishes from cold. At Dachau’s cold-water immersion baths, Nazi doctors calculated death to arrive at around 77 degrees […]

Extreme male brains

From Joe Clark’s “The extreme Google brain” (Fawny: 26 April 2009): … Susan Pinker’s The Sexual Paradox, which explains, using scientific findings, why large majorities of girls and women behave almost identically at different stages of their lives – while large minorities of boys and men show vast variability compared to each other and to […]

Michael Pollan’s rules for food

Image by rsgranne via Flickr From John Schwenkler’s “Food for thought: renewing the culinary culture should be a conservative cause” (The American Conservative: 2008): Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food deconstructs the pretensions of “food science” in often hilarious fashion and distills all you need to know about eating into three directives: Eat food (as […]

Chemically remove bad memories

From Nicholas Carr’s “Remembering to forget” (Rough Type: 22 October 2008): Slowly but surely, scientists are getting closer to developing a drug that will allow people to eliminate unpleasant memories. The new issue of Neuron features a report from a group of Chinese scientists who were able to use a chemical – the protein alpha-CaM […]

Socioeconomic analysis of MySpace & Facebook

From danah boyd’s “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace” (danah boyd: 24 June 2007): When MySpace launched in 2003, it was primarily used by 20/30-somethings (just like Friendster before it). The bands began populating the site by early 2004 and throughout 2004, the average age slowly declined. It wasn’t until late 2004 that […]

My new book – Google Apps Deciphered – is out!

I’m really proud to announce that my 5th book is now out & available for purchase: Google Apps Deciphered: Compute in the Cloud to Streamline Your Desktop. My other books include: Don’t Click on the Blue E!: Switching to Firefox Hacking Knoppix Linux Phrasebook Podcasting with Audacity: Creating a Podcast With Free Audio Software (I’ve […]

A single medium, with a single search engine, & a single info source

From Nicholas Carr’s “All hail the information triumvirate!” (Rough Type: 22 January 2009): Today, another year having passed, I did the searches [on Google] again. And guess what: World War II: #1 Israel: #1 George Washington: #1 Genome: #1 Agriculture: #1 Herman Melville: #1 Internet: #1 Magna Carta: #1 Evolution: #1 Epilepsy: #1 Yes, it’s […]

DIY genetic engineering

From Marcus Wohlsen’s “Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home” (AP: 25 December 2008): Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field […]

Protected: Students, schools, civil rights, & the f-word

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Protected: Taboo acts and language and how they work together

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