July 2004 Archives
First, on Friday evening, just as you are settling down with a good book at your favorite local coffee shop, your wife should call and let you know she was just rear-ended. She is fine, but the trunk of the car is textbook crumple zone.
Second, Saturday morning, you should find out that your wife's brother is in the hospital with undiagnosed abdominal pains. After much time spent ferrying various loved ones around, you should find out that he has an inflamed appendix that needs to be removed.
Third, by Saturday evening hospital personnel should inform you that there are no spots available to remove the increasingly-likely-to-burst appendix in the Lower Mainland, and that your brother-in-law is being taken via ambulance to Squamish.
Fourth, his appendix should burst on route to Squamish. His operation, once it finally happens, should have complications that will likely result in a lengthened hospital stay.
Fifth, you should get up early Sunday morning and drive to Squamish with your wife, your brother-in-law's wife and your 16 month old nephew, complete with luggage and stroller in your operational but trunkless car. If at all possible, the nephew should throw a temper tantrum that lasts from North Vancouver until you reach the hospital.
Six, you should come home and go out for a well-deserved beer. You should make sure to have the mussels, as you can then throw them up a few hours later.
Decent, if overly fawning, Alan Moore interview.
With reference to my interest over the last 10 years in magic, one of the most useful formulas in alchemy, specifically, is solvae et coagula, where "solvae" is the act of dissolving something, where we take something apart and study how it works -- what in our modern terms would be called analysis. In a scientific framework, it would be called reductionism. The other part of the formula is "coagula," which is synthesis rather than analysis, holism rather than reductionism, the act of putting something back together in a hopefully improved form. Once you take the watch to pieces and see what was making it run slow, you put it back together and hopefully it works better.
I'd say that we've had an awful lot of "solvae" in our culture, but far too little "coagula." There are people who seem daunted by the complexity of our culture to the point that they'll shy away from it rather than try to put those thousands of jigsaw pieces together into some sort of useful, coherent picture
Google's mission is to provide access to all the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible. It turns out that not all the world's information is already on the Internet, so Google has been experimenting with a number of publishers to test their content online. During this trial, publishers' content is hosted by Google and is ranked in our search results according to the same technology we use to evaluate websites.
On Google Print pages, we provide links to some popular book sellers that may offer the full versions of these publications for sale. Book seller links are not paid for by those sites, nor does Google benefit if you make a purchase from one of these retailers. In addition, these pages show contextually-targeted AdWords ads that are served through the Google AdSense program.
Is this new, or have I just not been paying attention?
Ellen Ullman's The Bug was released in paperback today. While I've just started reading it, there've already been some good passages, eg:
And so we waited. Tick-tock, blink-blink, thirty seconds stretched themselves out one by one, a hole in human experience. Waiting for the system: life today is full of such pauses. The soft clacking of computer keys, then the voice on the telephone telling you, "Just a moment, please." The credit-card reader instructing you "Remove card quickly!" then displaying "Processing. Please wait." The little hourglass icon on your computer screen reminding you how time is passing and there is nothing you can do about it. The diddler at the bottom of the browser screen going back and forth, back and forth like a caged crazed animal. All the hours the computer is supposedly saving us--I don't believe it, in the sum of things, I thought as I stood there leaning on my luggage cart. It has filled our lives with little wait states like this one, useless wait states, little slices of time in which you can't do anything at all but stand there, sit there, hold the phone--the sort of unoccupied little slices of time no decent computer operating system would tolerate for itself. A computer, waiting like this, would find something useful to do: check for other processes wanting attention, flush a file buffer, refresh a cache, at least.
I can also heartily recommend Ullman's earlier (non-fiction) book, Close to the Machine. There are few authors that are able to write so well, with such authority, on what an intimate relationship with computing is like while still maintaining a human perspective on things.