September 2002 Archives
Woman driving, man sleeping.
Wear the suitcase on the rack.
White lines shooting by,
on the pavement like the sky.
Looking straight ahead, into the black.
Woman Driving, Man Sleeping - Eels
Do you realize
That everyone you know someday will die?
And instead of saying all of your good-byes
Let them know you realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
Do You Realize? - The Flaming Lips
Currently listening to: Eels - Woman Driving, Man Sleeping.
This is more of a marker to myself to read this soon, too busy now: Steven Pinker interview
Currently listening to: Tosca - Honey (Kieser Velten Dub).
I allow myself one or two of these links a year: yowza.
Not really work safe. Please enjoy responsibly.
Steven Pinker's newest book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, sounds like it'll be a real corker:
A principal theme of Dr. Pinker's argument is that the blank slaters -- the critics of sociobiology and their many adherents in the social sciences -- have sought to base the political ideals of equal rights and equal opportunity on a false biological premise: that all human minds are equal because they are equally blank, equally free of innate, genetically shaped, abilities and behaviors.
The politics and the science must be disentangled, Dr. Pinker argues. Equal rights and equal opportunities are moral principles, he says, not empirical hypotheses about human nature, and they do not require a biological justification, especially not a false one.
Moreover, the blank slate doctrine has political consequences that have been far from benign, in Dr. Pinker's view. It encourages totalitarian regimes to excesses of social engineering. It perverts education and child-rearing, loading unmerited guilt on parents for their children's failures.
Some of this will likely be familiar to anyone that's read The Tipping Point; he also covered a similar topic, about the significant importance of peer groups, in this article for The New Yorker. What I don't relish is seeing certain conservatives using this as a whammy stick to use on "liberals", something you can bet will happen:
Following in part the economist Thomas Sowell, he distinguishes between a leftist utopian vision of human nature (the mind is a blank slate, man is a Noble Savage, traditional institutions are the problem) and the tragic vision preferred by the right (man is the problem; family, creed and Adam Smith's Invisible Hand are the solutions).
"My own view is that the new sciences of human nature really do vindicate some version of the tragic vision and undermine the utopian outlook that until recently dominated large segments of intellectual life," he writes.
More once I've actually read the book. :-)
Update: I think the genesis for the book can be found in this pdf of a lecture given by Pinker.
Currently listening to: Faith No More - The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies.
The three leading mayoral candidates in Vancouver all agree that the solution to the "East Side problem" is to implement the four pillars plan: prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction. Something I find interesting is that the first step in implementing this plan involves a redesign (pdf link) of the Main & Hastings area.
For those not familiar, Vancouver's East Side is basically the drug capital of Canada (if not North America), with amazingly high rates of AIDS, HIV+ status, Hepatitis, etc.; Main & Hastings is the centre of the drug trade within the East Side. It would be amazing (or, to be more precise, I would be amazed) if a redesign significantly contributed to altering the community dynamic.
Currently listening to: Wilco - I'm the man who loves you.
Cool article on using the golden mean when composing photos. I wonder if I've done this subconciously at any point. I'll have to browse through some photos and find out.
Of course, reading through any threads on photography (like the one where I got this link) makes me realize how little I actually know about taking photos. Or to put it alternatively, how much I still have to learn about taking photos.
Currently listening to: Mogwai - O I Sleep.
I've finally found a news aggregator for linux that I like: straw. It's easy to use and it works. The dependencies (gnome2, the newest gnome-python libraries) were a bit of a bear to get set up properly (read: many wasted hours discovering that debian's packaged pygtk sucks), but now that it's running I think I'm starting to get this whole news aggregation/syndication thing.
Currently listening to: Melvins - Lividity.
Tour dates for Sigur Ros' North American tour have been announced. Last date appears to be in Vancouver, at the Vogue. The Vogue can be a not-good venue for live music, but for hypno artists like Sigur Ros, I think it'll work.
Currently listening to: Tool - Pushit -Live.
A scandal in the world of physics.
Currently listening to: Boards of Canada - Smokes Quantity.
Basically, xclip allows you to interact with the xclipboard via the command line. So, if you want a directory listing in your clipboard, you can just do:
ls -l | xclip
Similarly, you can echo the current contents of the clipboard with
xclip -o, which I've aliased to
Currently listening to: Tool - (-) Ions.
Sexy looking new phone from Nokia, but I think the creative number layout is a bad idea. Dialing blind on it looks like it would be a nightmare, or at the very least take a long time to get used to. Different is not always better.
Currently listening to: Tricky - Black Coffee.
Nearly two years ago to the day, I was thrilled about a new job. Today, I found out after a couple months of uncertainty that I'm keeping my job. I am not as happy.
Funny how things go sometimes.
Many academics (for example Kerka, 2000; Peters and Lankshear, 1996; Knobel and Lankshear, 1998) say that the time has come for us to develop a 'critical literacy' in electronic environments. It will require us to question Internet media with these sorts of queries: How good is the information, can I trust it? What agenda is being served by the originators of the information? How does the text position the reader? What value systems does the information espouse? Who is in the text and who is written out of it? Who is communicating and why? Who would find this information offensive? What type of readers would find this text acceptable? What sort of value and belief systems would they espouse?
A pro-digital reading argument might be that the Internet and electronic information changes the way we assimilate information, in that it is a way of reading text that is dominated by the reader, who utilises hypertext to jump from one piece of textual material to another, and by taking this path the reader encounters the text in a way that allows them to construct a 'version' of the text (i.e. the reader can almost become the writer). However the critically-literate hyper-reader should be asking why am I being led or invited down this path and not another? A thoughtful hyper-reader also recognises and accepts the answer to this question: 'who put the hypertexts into the documents in the first place?' While we may think we are creating our own information, we are merely being led in a direction (hyper-textually) that the author intended.
(Link via aaronland.)
Currently listening to: PJ Harvey - This Mess We're In.