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Saturday, 25 August 2018

What's the worst thing you've ever done?

Well, it's a long list, but I thought of one.

It was when I worked at the Internet Archive, possibly 2009, when it was still in The Presidio, and not the church in Inner Richmond.

We were in an old office building, which had two main floors and a third, with a little eyrie. It was the best smoke break spot a workplace could offer. So, I popped up there one day for a break. But, I stubbed my ciggie out in a little nook of the wooden balcony, thought nothing of it, and headed out for lunch.

I can't remember where we went or what I ate, but I do remember getting back to the office, and the fire engine out the back. Everyone was calm, but it was also quickly obvious what had happened. You know when they say "my heart sank"? Well, I know what that is. I nearly burnt down the fucking Internet Archive.

First thing I did at the standup was apologise profusely, but not too profusely, and mean it.

Posted at 9:11 pm

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Breakfast Meeting.

Everything you know about being in London feeling sometimes like you're a sardine in a can is true. Especially at morning peak hour on public transport.

I try never to have work meetings first thing, but had to a while back. This meant a short one hop train ride to the cloying Highbury and Islington station at around 8:45am. The worst time to be there. I waited on the platform with the upright morning warriors for the first hop train. It arrived, exactly as it meant to. We all got on. There's a particular polite jostle that natives do, allowing space and making small adjustments to allow the right space in the can. I backed into a tiny void, and then it happened.

My bum cheeks aligned precisely with those of a fellow commuter. The match was unnerving. Neither of us moved away, and the gentle rocking of the carriage maintained the slight and enjoyable pressure. We stayed in that position until the train arrived at Highbury and Islington. I didn't turn around, and neither did he.

I alighted, and didn't look back, and had a grin on my face as I arrived at my meeting. And still do when I think of it.

Posted at 5:38 pm

Thursday, 17 August 2017

A Tiny Thing

Love trumps hate. I wanted to make a small gesture after the craziness of the "white nationalists" in Charlottesville, and Trump's flaccid response. I made this graphic, and have printed some stickers for laptops and telephone poles and such. Feel free to use/copy etc.


Posted at 12:15 pm

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Stopped in my tracks

It's no secret I love Lapham's Quarterly. I eagerly await each season's delivery and then pour over it and nibble on it until the next one arrives. It makes me feel smarter than I am.

I always start with Mr. Lapham's editorial notes, and in the Spring 2017issue, Discovery, what he says in Homo Faber stopped me still. (I will say though, I've changed and emboldened his reference to "man" to be neutral, just because we can do that now.)
Our technologies produce continuously improved means toward increasingly ill-defined ends. We have acquired a great many new weapons and information systems, but we don’t know at what or at whom to point the digital enhancements. For direction to the “peace and security” of a cosmos that suits us best, we are better advised to look, as did Albert Einstein, to “the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist” than to the economist, the cosmetic surgeon, and the engineer.

Machines can measure blood flow and scan a heartbeat, but they don’t know how it is with people, who we are, and how it is between us. Data streams can number and store the dots in the EKG and the ATM, hook up assignations with Tinder and fix the trades for Goldman Sachs. But they can’t connect the dots to anything other than themselves. Watson and Siri can access the Library of Congress, but they can’t read books. Machines don’t do metaphor. They process words as lifeless objects, not as living subjects, and so they don’t know what the words mean. Not knowing what the words mean, they can’t hack into the civilising heap of human consciousness (of myth and memory and emotion) that is the making of ourselves as human beings.

The internet is maybe the best and brightest machine ever made by [humans], blessed with a near-infinite expanse of miraculous application. Language is not yet one of them. Computers scan everything but hear nothing. Even if they know where to find or how to make a cosmos best suited for human habitation, how would they send word word of the discovery? They know now who they are or what they do.
I also quickly looked up the Einstein reference and found the fuller essay, Principles of Research, from Einstein’s Essays in Science. I've also done a basic gender swap this time, because women are also capable of cosmic thought.
A finely tempered nature longs to escape from personal life into the world of objective perception an thought; this desire may be compared with the townswoman’s irresistible longing to escape from her noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still, pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity. With this negative notice there goes a personal one. Woman tries to make for herself in the fashion that suits her best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; she tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of her for the world of experience, and thus overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher and the natural scientist do, each in her own fashion. She makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of her emotional life, in order to find this way the peace and security which she cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.
I love the idea that a computer doesn't know who to tell when it discovers something. I'm totally going to steal all this, so thank you, Mr. Lapham.
Posted at 10:34 am

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