~ Archive for %a la mod ~

Manypedia – what WP is best at


I was researching publication of Muhammad cartoons not long ago, to
update the main article about them on Wikipedia.  They had listed
the Daily Illini
as the first US college paper to have republished some of the cartoons
last week, which sounded wrong to me (it turns out they were close
tothe first, but the Salient at least was a day earlier). 

I had momentarily forgotten the best place to find such lists online,
and laughed out loud to see the reference I wanted was another
Wikipedia page.

[[List of newspapers that reprinted Jyllands-Posten’s Muhammad cartoons]]
is just what you might expect; a list, with dates and references and
hyperlinks, of all newspapers that have reprinted some or all of the
cartoons in response to the controversy.  Ordered separately by
publication date and by country. 

As it notes at the start, “This list is probably not complete.”  Surely not.  But with over 120 entries, it is a start…  Two other favorite lists : [[List of interesting or unusual place names]] and the infamous [[List of lists of lists]], which has become something more and less than a list over time… see also [[Controversial newspaper caricatures]].

Qwika rocks the casbah


Everyone who feels that special need to search multiple languages and
projects at once, check this baby out. Oh, and wikiwax is back
up!  Hooray…

Brian Mingus is always right


Brian Mingus, that devilishly cognitive Colorodan, is a remarkable fellow.  Besides which, he is always right.  Or so it seems sometimes… for instance, LibraryThing.  One look is enough to tell you that it is, in fact, the sexiestWeb 10” site around.

I yearn for the day this kind of brilliance turns into a free and globally-editable annotated citation database.    Tim Spalding is my official hero of the week.

The $1,000,000 artwork… Tew style


This just in.  The milliondollar homepage may be finished, but
don’t despair!  Now you can own your piece of [one of a hundred]
similar work[s] of artistic genius, while supporting the world’s finest
knowledge initiative 🙂  Someone pseudonymously named “Clemens”
is kindly fronting the web real-estate and domain.  Consider this
an exercise in good will….

This mailing-list business has gone too far…


“[x]  Yes, sign me up for the latest news and updates about Logan Airport WiFi Connections.”

I would pay good money to see the past list of ‘latest news and updates’, for kicks, but I don’t want to get spammed with them in the future.

The Line (Snowcrash)


Stephenson is a fine author.  Snowcrash was a good book.  But
it has one line that is so telling that, when James and I first
discussed the book, long after reading it, he said “Ohh, Snowcrash is
great.  The
Line!”  And I knew precisely what
he meant. 

The book came up twice today, and I was forced to recall the passage
through the haze of a few years.  I sharpened my memory on chapter
thirty-six; to share with you its unadulterated glory:

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that
under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in
the world. If I moved to a  martial-arts
monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family
was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge.
If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to
wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to
being bad.

Devotion and circumstances.  How could mere facility not pale in comparison?

Forces of nature : entertainment (fun and vice)


Food Force, the recent release from the blockbuster UN Games Division (not its real name), is a ~200MB download (PC/Mac), but it rocks.

Which brings us to the first of a set of forces of nature : entertainment
— just good, clean fun.  There are many real voids in the
entertainment world; there is precious little in the way of pure Fun.
If you compare today’s parched digital / isolated-family-unit
microcosms with the networked social environments of Rio, Barcelona,
Suriname, or Tel Aviv, you’ll understand what I mean.

There is also the ever smirk-inducing world of entertainment via vice.
It tickles a related but quite different set of longings; and while
play was surely the first hobby, back when all forms of entertainment
were the same, vice supposedly gave rise to the first ‘professions’,
once it acquired its own concept and niche. But that is a force of nature for another post, another time…

Expression and censorship : evolutionary theory


Evolution.  A word with
simple origins, narrowed by specific use over time through association
with genes, reproduction, random processes, fitness.  Selection,
even “natural selection“,
likewise.  Research into, or writing about, certain related
‘evolutionary’ theories (for loose definitions of the term) has become
systematically stigmatized — the most insidious form of censorship —
since Morgan’s work in the 1920s. 

It fascinates me that the successful description and study of one
mechanism for key observations about the world often pushes out
supplementary theories, without being fully aware of doing so, like
newborn chicks pushing their siblings out of the nest.  This post
is a brief meditation on how this has happened with evolution; with
links to a few related resources.  I have found myself having
related conversations a few times over the past weeks, thanks to the
often-reductionist debates in the US over
whether to teach the religious doctrine of “creationism
in public schools;

I have no strong feelings about creationism or intelligent design; I am no more or less
bothered by its teaching that by the teaching of any other religious
doctrine in schools.  However, in two conversations recently, I
found that well-read friends of mine,
with some talent and experience in biology, had no idea (and indeed,
were momentarily shocked) that scientists still investigate trait
transmissions other than natural selection.   This bothers me
a great deal.  Both
discussions quickly turned heated at the suggestion that one
might study anything but selection as a mechanism for biological or
genetic change.  [For an interesting an neutral view of that argument, predating modern preconceptions, see JBS Haldane‘s book below, or any writing from the 1880s to the 1920s.]

Back to free expression of ideas
— Stigmatization is a common, unconscious way for groups to settle on
a single set of principles and limit fundamental argument; in science,
evolution may be the subfield in which this has had the most profound
and widely-felt effect.  Unlike, say, Church-sponsored
stigmatization of novel astronomical theories
during the Renaissance, the modern stigmatization of novel evolutionary
theories is happily unconscoius; so research proceeds along other
lines, and finds funding and interest… but it tends to change its
terminology often to avoid being discarded out of hand.

Conrad Waddington was one of
the more prominent researchers pursuing such other lines  of
research in the later 20th century.  His 1975 book “The Evolution of an Evolutionist
says much — in the title he has already begun defending himself from expected attacks on his
position.  In it he describes his changing thoughts about
evolution over time.  Among other things, Waddington studied ‘canalization
– a term for the inclination of different members of a given species
with sidely different genes (often sharing no more than 50% of their
specific genes with one another, according to one quote) to develop
into very similar organisms.

Since the 1930s, when it was still possible
to investigate “Lamarckian” transmission of traits without being deeply
scorned, researchers have regularly changed the terminology used for
such studies.  While the definition of evolution became ever more
specific, the terms used for related concepts were in flux… 
currently, “epigenetic” and “neo-evolutionary” are two terms one might serach for to unearth ongoing research into alternatives to canonical evolutionary theory.

Some brief examples :

Cosmic thread convergence


After Googling for one or two name variations on Wilson Rodri[g|q]ue[s|z], a (pseudonymous?) name made famous by a footnote to Fernando Meirelles‘s remarkable City of God
(3 riveting hours with no moments wasted), I had one of those joyful
black moments one presumably encounters near the Convergence of All
Things.   I stumbled across a number of posts in various fora
asking for more information about him or his photographs, and then in a
deja-vu sequence discovered “CantFinditonGoogle.com“.  A note about my present search was the latest post on the site.

So remember, children : “Live your life with a gentle hand, and be ready to leave it at any time“. 

Marvel stoves and tears


But secretly, while the grandmother

busies herself about the stove,

the little moons fall down like tears

from between the pages of the almanac

into the flower bed the child

has carefully placed in the front of the house.

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