Personally, I’m lovin’ me some Tailrank.
Personally, I’m lovin’ me some Tailrank.
Besides all the evergreens on our property, we have two large maples on either side of our driveway. They’ve both just about finished dumping their leaves for the year. With all the rainy weather we’ve had we haven’t had a chance to rake any of them, and in places they’ve drifted as much as six inches deep.
As my son and I were waiting for the bus this morning, I commented that we’ll need to rake them up soon.
He replied, “No, just wait until December when the wind will blow them all back onto the trees.”
I suspect he may be a little confused on the deciduous cycle, but I’m willing to give it a try.
Dr. D’Adamo (of the Blood Type Diet) has some excellent observations on debating the existence of God, the bankruptcy of language, and wearing paradigm blinders. Fits nicely with what I said about truth and perception.
Speaking of diet, if I ever get the flu I think I’ll stick with chicken soup and garlic.
Scratch the move to Burundi (thanks, Armchair Anarchist). I’d like to see where Iraq and Israel/Palestine fall on this list. and what about Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea? Looking at China, India, and Russia makes me wonder how these numbers correlate with the distribution of nuclear weapons.
No, I didn’t think so. Hey, wait a minute, didn’t we just sing Happy Webday back in August? We’re going to have to decide on which one of these dates really is the web’s birthday. Oh, and the oldest known web page?
Links and Anchors
A link is the connection between one piece of hypertext and another.
That’s a pretty good place to start.
“This was a limited false positive issue with our antivirus protection,” a Microsoft representative said Monday. “After we became aware of the issue, we released a new antivirus signature that resolved the issue for our customers on Sunday evening.”
Translation: “if you were using our e-mail service, you wouldn’t have been down for three days.”
Scott Adams presents a surprisingly balanced and unsurprisingly humorous discussion on the practical value of intelligence. Only one off-balance remark:
The best performing groups were the ones where there was one smart person and the rest of the group deferred to him.
Oops. Generic use of gender-specific pronoun in the worst possible location.
Shelley Batts (you thought I was going to say “Powers“, now didn’t you?) leads us on a deliciously snarky virtual tour of the soon-to-be-opened Creationist Museum in Kentucky, commenting on descriptions from The Guardian. My favorite:
Speaking of the Flood, in the museum you’ll also find a large model of the Ark, as well as a soothing voice explaining how all those animals that usually eat each other were able to behave themselves for 40 days on a big boat that didn’t even have a midnight buffet.
Then Shelley finds yet another instance of “who, us proselytizing?”
New topic aggregator Megite. Shelley (Powers, this time) says it’s more inclusive than Techmeme. A quick look at the current postings does seem to find more bloggers from farther down in the Technorati rankings, but it’s hard to tail.
Our visual perception is essentially two-dimensional, given the shape of our retinas . Most people can mentally combine the two two-dimensional images they receive into a somewhat three-dimensional picture, called stereoscopic vision. Due to a misalignment of my eyes, I can only achieve that synthesis with considerable effort, and the resulting impression is so disturbingly unfamiliar that I immediately relinquish it. My only visual perception of a third dimension comes from observing the sizes of things and how much ground lies between them and me. But I’ve done it all my life, so it’s pretty much second nature.
In any case, we get confirmation of our perception of a three-dimensional space from our other senses: touch, hearing, even smell. All of the senses also appear to occur along a series of points within a fourth dimension: time.
Were it not for our perceptions, we could not know the “truth” about space and time. Or anything else, for that matter.
When I was fifteen, a “truth” entered my mind: You cannot know anything about which you have had no experience. While that may seem obvious to you, I had grown up with the concepts of Absolute Truth and Divine Revelation. The foundation of those concepts cracked when I accepted this new insight.
For the purpose of discussion, you could even say that truth is perception, because in order for truth to have any relevance it must be part of our experience — including in the term “experience” both the input from our senses and other forms of perception such as our thoughts.
“But!” I hear you cry, “Our perceptions can often be false!” True. Ha.
When we observe a discord in our perceptions, we say “that can’t be true”, or “we haven’t yet discovered the whole truth of the matter”, or “that must be wrong!” When we encounter a new perception that resolves the conflict, then we say that we’ve discovered a truth.
It’s certainly possible that some Ultimate Truth lies behind this process of discovery, but as far as our lives are concerned it’s irrelevant — because we cannot experience it outside our perceptions, which are anything but absolute. Personally, I don’t believe that there is an end to the road. Here’s why: to resolve discord in our perceptions, we generate new perceptions in our mind. But each new set of perceptions leads eventually to new discords. This in turn requires some new perception to resolve. In effect, we create the need for more truth. I don’t see that process leading to a final, static solution. Ever.
If a Grand Unified Theory were to be formulated, I suspect that it would raise more questions than it answers. I don’t think we could ever get to a point where we would say, “So that’s it. Nothing more to be thought. We can hang up our brains now.”
Proponents of logic may think that they can nail truth down. And indeed, they might be able to do so within the realm of what can be subjected to logic. But by limiting truth to that domain, they construct a well-ordered sandbox encompassing only a small portion of the seacoast of experience.
I’m not anti-logic. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that it’s a great tool for the dissection of ideas, but life is more than formaldehyde and scalpel.
What really ticks me off are those who try to use “logical” arguments to defend or refute concepts that cannot exist within that sandbox: the existence of God, for instance. Especially when they proceed to logically extend their “proof” into how I should live my life. That goes for rabid atheists as well as fundamentalists.
So if all this quest for truth only leads to a need for more truth, wouldn’t it be better if we hadn’t started down this yellow brick road to begin with? Why did our ancestors forsake a life like that of the bonobo to embrace mental toil?
In the evolutionary view, our ancestors apparently needed to develop their intellect to survive. In so doing, they acquired the ability to frame concepts that explain their perceptions and reconcile them. And so it began.
In the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge causes humanity to fall from that perfect life. They desired to be wise like gods, but only ended up creating a lot of work for themselves. Sounds like the same story to me.
“What is truth? ” Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, and didn’t wait for an answer. Soon thereafter, Pilate authorized Christ’s crucifixion — the source of the greatest truths and falsehoods in history, depending on what you ask of whom.
Another “truth” that came to me at fifteen: The greatest truths can be twisted into the greatest falsehoods. That still rings “true”.
But it means that not only should I be wary of those who try to hide a lie by clothing it in truth, I also want to avoid rejecting concepts wholesale just because they’ve been abused. In fact, because they’ve attracted so much falsehood, they might contain something worth investigating. With so much debris orbiting, something weighty should be at the center.
At least, that’s my perception.
The crescent moon a comb in cloudy hair
Soft Night caresses Earth, her secret love
With winking stars she promises return
Then flees before her rival Dawn arrives
The image above is from Chipping Campden, in the Cotswolds. I visited there once and had great fun telling everyone “I’m Chip Camden himself”.
The procedure would involve inserting human DNA into cows’ eggs that have had their own genetic material removed. The embryos created from this process would then be almost entirely “human”, with the only cow DNA being outside the cells’ nuclei.
With the aim of creating human stem cells without the need for human embryos. I’m sure the “pro-lifers” will have some beef with this, though.
Thanks, Shelley, for the commendation. Much appreciated, coming from such an excellent writer as yourself.
Has Valleywag jumped the shark with the departure of Nick Douglas?
But, to helm the site, we’re now looking for someone with, ideally, some background in reporting. An old-media career, useful in the sparkling new world of blogs.
I suspect we’re going to tone down the personal coverage of civilians, because they haven’t done anything to seek out attention, and their personal lives aren’t that interesting. Unless they are. Anyway, more money, a little less sex: that is Valleywag’s new gossip mantra.
It’s not April 1st, is it? Say it ain’t so, Nick (either one)!
Not another overload for the IP acronym! Can’t we make it PI instead?
Link blogging, lazy blogging, or blogging lite — it’s the practice of creating posts that contain a series of links to other posts, often with brief commentary. If done well, it can be quite interesting, covering a lot of ground while tossing out pithy insights along the way.
Some bookmarking services like del.icio.us and ma.gnolia can be configured to automatically create daily link posts from your bookmarks, if your blogging platform supports a common API. On the other hand, some bloggers prefer to hand-craft their link blog entries.
Randy Charles Morin uses del.icio.us bookmarking in conjunction with FeedBurner‘s Link Splicer to add link blog entries to his feeds only. This means that you won’t find Randy’s links on his blog pages, so you can’t comment on them or trackback to them. I learned about automated link-blogging from Randy when I was editing his Ten Steps to Professional Blogging. Randy perpetuates his reputation for laconism by often just providing links without commentary, but they’re usually pretty interesting links.
The Armchair Anarchist at the Velcro City Tourist Board uses del.icio.us, but posts directly to his blog. Following his standard intro “Fresh from teh intarwebs…” you will find a daily serving of links that could fill your whole day. Even if you don’t feel like perusing them all, AA’s one-line commentaries are entertaining in themselves (although he sometimes falls off the edge of del.icio.us’ “Notes” field character limit).
Tara Hunt (aka missrogue) uses FeedBurner’s Link Splicer, but from ma.gnolia. Her lists of links include a thumbnail of each page linked, which is cute but annoying — takes up too much space for not much benefit, IMHO. However, the links and Tara’s comments are always interesting. Hmm, looks like ma.gnolia doesn’t have the same character limitation on those comments as del.icio.us…
Signal vs. Noise, the 37Signals blog, occasionally drops in a link blog entry, which they conventionally title “Sunspots: The ___ edition”, filling in the blank with some thread contained in the post. They usually follow each link with a full paragraph of commentary. This blatant lack of laziness almost disqualifies them as “link blogging”, except for the fact that the links are largely unrelated to each other.
TDavid only rarely posts a “Hmm quickies” entry. I think he prefers to write in depth on most topics, so these bulleted posts seem like he’s more short on time than on potential content.
Kent Newsome gives us his daily “Morning Reading” in an easy, conversational style. You can almost hear his South Carolina accent (with maybe a little Texan creeping in?) as he comments on each link. You might not agree with everything Kent says, but you’re guaranteed to get it served straight up.
Last but not least, Assaf at Labnotes regularly posts his “Rounded Corners” entries. Not sure, but I think there’s a double entendre between the rounded corners found in a lot of “Web 2.0″ design and the metaphor of “rounding a corner” on the web’s streets. Like Kent, Assaf embeds the links in his discussion for a more natural flow. But Assaf achieves the higher punch:word ratio, teasing you into clicking through with ambiguity and subtle humor.
I didn’t mean to leave anybody out. With Shelley in mind, I specifically looked for female link-bloggers in my feed reader, but found only Tara among the excellent female bloggers that I read every day. What, if anything, does that say about the effect of gender on blogging style? Some psychologist should write a paper.
In any case, I’ve decided to change my link-blogging style. I’ve become disenchanted with del.icio.us. The character limit on the notes has become too restrictive for me, especially since embedding a secondary link usually eats up quite a few characters. I also like Kent’s and Assaf’s style of embedding the links within the commentary. So, for a while at least, I’m going to switch to collecting my links for a daily post that I was going to call “Chip’s Clips”.
But that’s taken.
Then I thought of “Sterlinks”, but that’s probably trademarked.
So, I’m looking for some help. Any ideas on a name?
Uh, I need it today. Thanks.
When I was in high school I worked at a NAPA auto parts store. One day, the bell on the door rang and one of our regular customers, a mechanic named Jack, walked in wearing his trademark greasy coveralls with an oil soaked rag hanging out of one pocket. Seating himself by the counter, he leaned back on the stool as he cocked his cap back on his head.
“Hey Chip”, he said, “I got me two pulleys I need a belt for. They’re 10 inches apart at the centers. One of the pulleys is 9 inches in diameter, and t’other’s 6. What size belt would I need?”
I got A’s in math and geometry, so I immediately set to work (on paper, of course. We had no computers then, and our only excuse for a calculator at the store was an old mechanical adding machine). It’s a fairly simple geometry problem:
First, you compute the length of belt required to go around each pulley, using the formula C = pi * d to compute the circumference of each from its diameter, then divide by 2 to get half of each circumference:
b = pi * a / 2 = pi * 4.5 = 14.14
d = pi * c / 2 = pi * 3 = 9.42
Next you need the hypotenuse of the triangle whose base is the distance between the centers of the pulleys and whose height is half the difference between their diameters. Using the Pythagorean theorem:
g = sqrt(e^2 + f^2) = sqrt(100 + 9) = sqrt(109) = 10.44
You need two of those hypotenuses (hypotenusoi?), plus (b) and (c) computed above, for a grand total of 44.44 inches, so a 44 1/2″ belt should do it.
Naturally, these calculations took quite a while by hand, especially computing the square root. All the while I expounded on the theory behind my computations as Jack looked on in interest along with Roger, my colleague behind the counter, who did not do nearly as well in math as I.
When I was finished and announced the result, Jack slapped the counter with his grease-covered palm and said, “Amazing!” Then he turned to Roger and said, “Roger, tell me. How would you have figured that out?”
Roger smiled and said, “I’da got me a piece o’ string, wrapped it around the two pulleys, and measured it.”
I’m not sure what color my face assumed, but I had to admit that not only was Roger’s approach far more simple, but it was also less likely to be in error. Small variances such as inaccurate measurements of the size or distance between the pulleys, as well as unconsidered factors like how deep was each of the pulley’s belt channels, could combine to create an error large enough to be off by at least a belt size. Although you’d have to be careful about physical considerations such as the stretchiness of the string, Roger’s algorithm leaves as much of the problem as possible in the concrete world.
It’s a lesson I have carried with me ever since. The more abstract and theoretical your approach to a problem, the less likely that it will accurately mirror a specific, concrete instance — and the more difficult it may be to implement. Keep it simple. Look around for that piece of string.
This all happened before I ever met a computer. In programming, you face cases every day for which you need an abstract solution. You can easily get to the point where you start thinking that the more abstract the solution, the better. But I’ve found that it’s best to identify precisely how generally applicable your approach should be, and then abstract it to exactly that level and no more . You don’t need to overcomplicate a solution. Look around for that piece of string.
This principle applies specifically to object-oriented programming. Some OOP “experts” will tell you that all base classes should be abstract. These same experts will then proceed to build a hierarchy of parent classes, none of which will ever be instantiated, in order to accurately model relationships between the final classes. Not only does this unnecessarily complicate design, development, and debugging — but it also often results in a stratified class hierarchy that ignores complex lateral relationships between classes and thus fails to model the real world in significant ways.
I love the Ruby programming language because you don’t need to declare classes unless they’re useful. Functions that are declared outside a class actually extend the base Object class, but that is so smoothly built into the language that you don’t even need to know that it is happening. And the ability to extend classes with mixin modules very elegantly solves the problems of multiple inheritance and interfaces, without the complexity of the former or the non-reusability of the latter. Ruby lets you keep things simple until they need to be more complex. Ruby is a piece of string.