Everything but text

The ordinary citizen ought to be able to get information freely about all subjects in which he is interested, just as he can get geographical knowledge from maps and atlases. There is no field where humanisation of knowledge through the eye would not be possible. – Otto Neurath

Copyblogger. Pumping as usual but with a touch of reality.

One thing that many who publish online share in common is that we prefer to read. It’s faster to scan, pull out selected pieces of information, and decide whether to invest in a more careful examination.

The problem is, statistically the majority of people don’t like to read, and don’t comprehend and retain well when they do. The result is, those of us who publish only in text are fighting over a limited audience, while a larger group of people go under served.

Hidden in your ideas while reading the above is the future of the Internet.

(link to a rare article about Otto Neurath, his partner and wife Mary, and a link to the Isotype Institute)

Say no more about Blackwater

Once there was the military-industrial complex. Now we have the mercenary-evangelical complex.Maureen Dowd in the NYT, via Memex

But I must, just must attach a bit more. Why not a quote from a leading evangelist?

“When 50 million evangelical bible-believing Christians unite with five million American Jews standing together on behalf of Israel, it is a match made in heaven.”

A provocative investigation by Bill Moyers of what’s behind America’s trumpet and führer, I mean, trumpet and fervor. There’s one answer: dispensationalism.

Dispensationalism: the religious view held by many Christian Zionists, that the second coming of Jesus is incumbent upon the Jews being in Israel.

Dispensationalists are onto something. They are onto the growing depression that people are feeling, a deep emotional depression in the United States. A lack of any hopeful picture of what the world could be – and that failure is not a failure of dispensationalists. It’s a failure of the mainstream political framework in this country that to address the major questions facing the world in the 21st century.

News is dead. Long live News.

The Future of News is local or nothing much else, says a Jeremy Wagstaff, a longtime journalist now syndicating columns to the Wall Street Journal, the BBC and across Asia.

Jeremy makes a few strong points for a discussion carried on around the world. But first he narrows how he defines what we call news.

We journalists have been schooled in a kind of journalism that goes back to the days when a German called Paul Julius Reuter [wiki] was delivering it by pigeon. His problem was a simple one: getting new information quickly from A to B. It could be stock prices; it could be the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

That definition of news has remained with us until today.

Today we have gadgets, not pigeons. We’re informed quickly and from thousands if not uncountable sources and friends.

Because we’re informed, news doesn’t hit us in the same way it used to when we didn’t [have instant resources].

True, if someone hits a tall building with an airliner, that’s news to all of us. The U.S. invades or leaves Iraq; that’s news.

But the rest of the time, news is a slippery beast that means different things to different people.


What we’re seeing with the Internet is not a revolution against the values of old media; a revolution against the notion that it’s only us who can dictate what is news.

What we’re seeing is that people get their news from whoever can help them answer the question they’re asking. We want the headlines, we go to CNN. But the rest of the time, “news” is for us just part of a much bigger search for information, to stay informed.

Working. Stiff.

John Armstrong, author in Canada’s west. They say it’s a ‘hilarious memoir of horrible jobs’ in a fourteen part series at The Tyee:

I was free, but only for a while. We were all prisoners of the same hard truth, that a man had to make his way through life somehow. He could do it with a pickaxe or a pen and it hardly mattered which one he picked up. In the end, we were all doing life sentences, the warrant signed at birth, condemned without appeal and at the end of it release or execution amounted to about the same thing, with time and place yet to be determined.

“Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.” You could copy that line out of the Book and throw the rest of it away.

The End of Privacy?

Speaking transparently, feeling utterly nude under Big Brother’s increasing watchfulness, it’s clear that the legal foundation of privacy law is being rendered increasingly irrelevant.

Whether one fingerprint or ten fingerprints, whether DNA databanks or VISA purchasing trails, whether a camera near the curb or a camera through my window, whether radio authentication or long lines of interviews and strip searches, we are living in glass houses to learn that somehow in some way we have indeed transgressed the rules. Our steps along the street are different now.

“Privacy law has long relied on the twin pillars of notice and consent whereby consumers are notified of, and consent to, the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information.”

Notice and consent.
These pillars fall, says Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.

Of course Ben Franklin’s warning has been so overused it seems trite.

“Those who lightly give up their liberties in the name of safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

But Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner appointed by the British Parliament, recently cited Ben Franklin’s warning in his formal report to the British people. He’s further warned about what’s glued around the corner:

“Tiny cameras, hidden in lamp posts, will replace more obvious monitors. Microphones that can eavesdrop on conversations in the street are the next step in the march towards a “Big Brother” society.”

Less than chipper

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what a dream is anymore. I got a lot of shit kicked out of me.

Have you somehow made your peace with this world? I’m curious: without getting all religious or flaky on me, can you tell me how you did that?

Once upon a time, lord, wasn’t I sweet? A more mild-mannered, easy-going guy you couldn’t find. We all know, though, that things change, and often enough we’ve no good idea why, or how. Not exactly, anyway. The goodness bleeds out of you. The world takes your trust through a series of thefts both large and small. One day you wake up and you no longer recognize your face in the mirror. The muttering voice in your head is as unfamiliar as the face.

Dreams are tough things, cruel schoolchildren, cheap balloons, faded flowers, broke down hot rods, blind dogs, etc. Time carves them all down to dim wishes and fragments of memory.

Brad Zellar

Advertising advantage

Is there a strategy that will improve random odds?

This is an important question while McDonald’s is spending tens of millions across the USA implying in its advertising that there IS a strategy that will improve random odds. In all likelihood, induces McDonald’s, we each can choose a strategy that will improve random odds.

And that is false.

Perhaps a tort as well.

World Record for Skipping Stones

Stones on the Eel RiverThe new champion with the world record for skipping stones found his rock near Lake Erie. But there are 1000s & 1000s of, I swear, perfect skipping stones in the delta bed of California’s Eel River.

I’m astounded. I would never have imagined anything like it. Every footstep reveals a handful of granite Frisbee. There can’t be another factory like it anywhere. I’m stunned there isn’t a local championship event each year.

Others are stunned this summer when Guinness recently certified a Stone Skipping World Record of 51 skips by Russel Byars that has eclipsed 40 in 2002 and 38 in 1992. Most amateurs can ‘smut’, as skips are known, between 10 or 20.

Guinness experts analyzed film of his record-breaking effort frame by frame, checking the concentric circles left in the water by each hop — or, as stone skippers say, by the plinks and pitty-pats.

Skipping stonesThe aerodynamic and gyrodynamic features of spinning flight have only recently been studied in wind tunnels.

Research shows a skipped stone requires a speed of 12 m/s (25 mph) with a rotation of 14 revolutions per second which must be set strictly at an angle of 20 degrees.

In some parts of the world, skipping stones is an important activity. Pennsylvania has appointed a High Commissioner of Stone-Skipping to oversee Skipping and Gerplunking festivals. An effort known as the North American Stone Skipping Association started in 1989 to organize global champions. I shouldn’t be surprised to find “100% Guaranteed Professional Skipping Stones” for sale.

Fighting the Armada, perhaps British sailors scornfully ‘smut’ Spanish coins away, known as Drakes, or they may have used stones to plink male ducks, known as drakes, because scholars found that an old game of skipping stones across the water was known as Ducks and Drakes and is mentioned as early as 1585,

“A kind of sport or play with an oister shell or stone throwne into the water, and making circles yer it sinke, etc. It is called a ducke and a drake, and a halfe-penie cake.”

Mother Goose composed a rhyme to Ducks and Drakes:

A duck and a drake,
And a halfpenny cake,
With a penny to pay the old baker.
A hop and a scotch
Is another notch,
Slitherum, slatherum, take her.

If the Queen were scholarly

The nose and the QueenMore than stumping their crafted popularity or their hallway scheme-antics among friendly cohorts, we must demand superior qualifications from world leaders.

If George Bush were as well read and educated as our “childrens”, we’d hear more than slogans over borrowed policies.

If Queen Elizabeth enjoyed literature as eagerly as students of Oxford, read on, this is how she would explain Proust to her staff.

“Terrible life, poor man. A martyr to asthma, apparently, and really someone to whom one would have wanted to say, ‘Oh do pull your socks up.’ But literature’s full of those. The curious thing about his was that when he dipped his cake into his tea (disgusting habit) the whole of his past life came back to him. Well, I tried it and it had no effect on me at all. The real treat when I was a child was Fuller’s cakes. I suppose it might work with me if I were to taste one of them, but of course they’ve long since gone out of business, so no memories there. Are we finished?”.

John Naughton is certain we’ll hear these words in a movie someday.

As if leaning your elbows on 14th Century oak while enjoying a British pub, read Naughton’s superb composition describing his new Prime Minister.

“The truth is that much of what is most detestable about New Labour — its authoritarianism, contempt for civil liberties, adulation of ‘wealth creation’, micromanagerial obsessiveness over ‘targets’, etc. — are actually more Brown’s creations than Blair’s. The only difference is that Brown is now varnishing them with a new layer of patriotic tosh about “Britishness”, “British values”, etc. If the Tories weren’t so pathetic there might be some hope of unhorsing the pompous ass.”

Varnish and tosh. Seems similar to politics in the USA. We call it pandering.

Jeff Jarvis noticed how accustomed politicians have become to spoon feeding us when he captured this sound bite from Barack Obama.

“One of the things the next president has to do is to stop fanning people’s fears. If we spend all our time feeding the American people fear and conflict and division then they become fearful and conflicted and divided. If we feed them hope and we feed them reason and tolerance then they will become tolerant and reasonable and hopeful.”

Jeff continues, “Isn’t that essentially insulting? We are politicians’ empty vessels. We are molded by their rhetoric? The Presidency isn’t a PBS self-improvement show. It’s an executive job.”

Exactly. These jobs require superior qualifications.

We expect a mountaineer, for example, to be an expert.

“… If you wanted to go up or down a mountain, you had to look at it rather carefully. You wanted to reach the summit – but it would have been a mistake simply to look for an easy way up. As an experienced mountaineer, you first of all figure out where you must not go. You try to see possible avalanches, ice breaks, crevasses, and other fatal constraints. Only when you have, so to speak, blocked out the treacherous parts of the mountain, would you begin to plan your way up.”

It’s our turn now. No more easy way up.

Cremated alive in Burma

This is beyond horrid.

Nova Spivak reports:

The situation in Burma is far worse than the mainstream media has reported so far. There are now reports coming in from eyewitnesses of young school students being shot by the army, masses of injured protestors being cremated alive, and thousands of monks and other protesters being killed and dumped in mass graves in the jungles.

The Burmese people are helpless…