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 […]

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 […]

What Google’s book settlement means

Image via Wikipedia From Robert Darnton’s “Google & the Future of Books” (The New York Review of Books: 12 February 2009): As the Enlightenment faded in the early nineteenth century, professionalization set in. You can follow the process by comparing the Encyclopédie of Diderot, which organized knowledge into an organic whole dominated by the faculty […]

How to deal with the fact that users can’t learn much about security

From Bruce Schneier’s “Second SHB Workshop Liveblogging (4)” (Schneier on Security: 11 June 2009): Diana Smetters, Palo Alto Research Center …, started with these premises: you can teach users, but you can’t teach them very much, so you’d better carefully design systems so that you 1) minimize what they have to learn, 2) make it […]

Intelligent Design? How about a flat earth?

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): Contradictions between scripture and scientific knowledge have occurred again and again, and have generally been accommodated by the more enlightened among the religious. For instance, there are verses in both the Old and New Testament that seem to show that the […]

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 […]

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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Protected: Etymologies & the dictionary definitions of the f-word

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Richard Stallman on the 4 freedoms

From Richard Stallman’s “Transcript of Richard Stallman at the 4th international GPLv3 conference; 23rd August 2006” (FSF Europe: 23 August 2006): Specifically, this refers to four essential freedoms, which are the definition of Free Software. Freedom zero is the freedom to run the program, as you wish, for any purpose. Freedom one is the freedom […]

Tracking children who might commit a crime later

From Mark Townsend and Anushka Asthana’s “Put young children on DNA list, urge police” (The Guardian: 16 March 2008): Primary school children should be eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behaviour indicating they may become criminals in later life, according to Britain’s most senior police forensics expert. Gary Pugh, director of forensic sciences […]

10,000 hours to reach expertise

From Malcolm Gladwell’s “A gift or hard graft?” (The Guardian: 15 November 2008): This idea – that excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 […]

Correcting wrong info reinforces false beliefs

From Jonathan M. Gitlin’s “Does ideology trump facts? Studies say it often does” (Ars Technica: 24 September 2008): We like to think that people will be well informed before making important decisions, such as who to vote for, but the truth is that’s not always the case. Being uninformed is one thing, but having a […]

Bruno’s memory structures

From Laura Miller’s “The heretic” (Salon: 25 August 2008): Still, the mental powers of Bruno and his fellow memory artists seem almost superhuman today. The basic principle, Rowland explains, is simple enough, “to link words with images.” Nevertheless, the structures employed were mind-boggling: vast, elaborate patterns and nested wheels within wheels (like the color wheels […]

To solve a problem, you first have to figure out the problem

From Russell L. Ackoff & Daniel Greenberg’s Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track (2008): A classic story illustrates very well the potential cost of placing a problem in a disciplinary box. It involves a multistoried office building in New York. Occupants began complaining about the poor elevator service provided in the […]

Bots on campus!

From Lisa Vaas’ “Are Campuses Flooded with Zombified Student PCs?” (eWeek: 22 October 2007): Rather, bot herders have sophisticated technology in place that can detect how fast a bot’s connection is. If that connection changes over time – if, say, a student is poking around at her parent’s house with dial-up all summer and then […]

It takes 10 years to develop expertise

From Peter Norvig’s “Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years” (2001): Researchers ([John R. Hayes, Complete Problem Solver (Lawrence Erlbaum) 1989.], [Benjamin Bloom (ed.), Developing Talent in Young People (Ballantine) 1985.]) have shown it takes about ten years to develop expertise in any of a wide variety of areas, including chess playing, music composition, painting, piano […]