Saturday, October 28th, 2006
Ah yes, we “can’t put it together—it is together.” “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” One of my earliest influences and inspirations in publishing, writing, design, and living is being honored at a Stanford University Library symposium.
From Counterculture to Cyberculture: The Legacy of the Whole Earth Catalog is a panel discussion with Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, Howard Rheingold and others, pioneers all, who led me into the idea that with some Letraset and an IBM composer and some homebaked bran muffins, a batch of well meaning..well, hippies could set out a guide to the resources needed to live healthier, more connected, and more productive lives.
Get that composting system started! Repair your VW bug! Discover 1970s-era contraceptive choices! Make your own yogurt! Find out about these newfangled computer things! Somehow the WEC became a part of my house, along with the Mother Earth News and various other journals we’d order from the Catalog’s pages. Their ‘access to tools’ was a powerful key to a vast world outside Grandview Heights, Ohio, and I wanted to read more, learn more, and explore more—inside and beyond their smudgy newsprint pages.
They published in a cobbled-together, semi-underground manner, and they told us (right down to the minutiae of the process and their balance sheets) how to do it ourselves. They linked the planet (or at least a US-centric version of it) before there was a World Wide Web, and in the earliest days of computer-based communication, their pioneering BBS the WELL brought people crouched behind Apple II screens connected by screeching modems closer together. Brand’s attitude was paternal and big-picture-seeing even from the earliest days…was he ever a young man?
By the way, it looks like much of the contents of Brand’s office is now available to researchers at Stanford. If it ends up completely online, then the Whole Earthers’ legacy will have truly come full circle.
Saturday, October 21st, 2006
Most Mac developers I know tend to talk very little about politics, so when a well-articulated precis of the situation shows up in a blog where where one more usually sees discourse on the idiocies of those who write and sell software, I’m taking it as one more sign that the level of national discontent is higher, higher, ever-higher.
Wil Shipley (co-author of Delicious Library and proprietor of Call Me Fishmeal, says it well: “We have let the fear of violence against us turn us into animals. We’re so frightened by those images of jets crashing into skyscrapers that we’ve forgotten that being the victim of a terrorist attack is, in fact, among the least likely of the bad things that can happen to us. We have to stop.”
And on the way over here (I’m in Chicago), I listened to a couple of Keith Olbermann‘s ‘special comment’ essays in tasty podcast form. The MSNBC anchor is increasingly outraged, increasingly strident, and yet his rage teeters safely on the side of making an intelligent (and yes, often emotional) case. These aren’t rants, but boy, are they passionate, and I can’t help but visualize a hypothetical George Bush’s face, forced to listen to Olbermann’s modern-day Murrow turn at close range, close enough to occasionally catch an errant drop of spittle. Bush, listening as he always does, without comprehending. His moral disconnect countinues to feed our national distress…and it remains our problem to solve.
Excerpts from MSNBC’s Countdown as an RSS feed are here.
Friday, October 20th, 2006
How is Cocoa—the Mac programming language—like the Citroen C4? Well, it’s not. Forget I mentioned it. Hello from Chicago, more specifically, C4, a Mac developer’s conference that is trying its best to inherit the legacy of MacHack and a number of other legendary gatherings of programmers and programmer-like types that I haven’t attended, either.
But I did go to the Drunken Batman ‘Evening at Adler‘ last year about this time and about this locale. And so, a year later, I’ve ponied up actual money to attend this new iteration.
And this year, after Sammy and I have spent most of October on parental hospital support duty in central Michigan, I zipped over here in 3 and a half hours or so and, well, darned if I’m not surrounded by actual famous names in Macdom. Well…famous to people who care where the stuff they run comes from. I’m one floor up off of Chicago’s State street, in a conference center that appears to be above a Panera Bread, and there is a full house of remarkable people.
Take the guy behind it, Jonathan ‘Wolf’ Rentzsch. A Chicagoan who apparently earns his living doing some sort of web objecty high end business custom..uh..well, actually, I have no idea what he does, but he’s up at the podium, trying to demonstrate how to make a program crash in zero lines of code. And doing so in such a way as to invoke chuckles, guffaws, and actual coder laughter.
It’s a vacation from our October for me, and if you asked me why I’m interested in the things they discuss, the languages they hold dear, and the traditions they uphold, I’d have to give you a ‘dunno.’
But I have learned that C4 stands for the Code Culture Conspiracy Community…and apparently I’m part of that collective.
Enjoy your evening.
Monday, October 9th, 2006
Hello from Michigan, where Sammy’s dad continues to mend in the hospital after open heart surgery that is daunting even when you aren’t almost 90 years of age.
Experiencing this process from the edge (I’ve only visited the hospital once or twice; Sam has done the heavy lifting of parent-in-hospital care) I’m struck by how providing information to the patient and his/her family about what’s happening now and what’s going to happen next seems firmly rooted in the last century. It may well be that there’s a tradition of a “need to know basis” that comes out of a similarly hidebound attitude about doctors as elevated priests of knowledge.
This approach has its advantages—if you screw up or change your mind, it’s easier when you don’t have to discuss it—but it also leaves patients confused…in a situation where they’re already befuddled about basic questions (“What day is it again?”) enhanced by the cocktail of drugs and anesthetics that they’ve been asked to down.
In the Intensive Care Unit, the monitor that Nick was hooked up to had streams of data—heart rate, blood pressure, and so on—in clear, colorful, antialiased type…it was one of the nicest displays I’ve seen since Dr. McCoy’s Enterprise bedside. But that readout was located behind the patient’s head—he couldn’t see it. He could, however, turn the TV set onto CNBC and get similar cascading streams of real-time data about Wall Street’s health.
I kept thinking that since they described the process of recovering from significant surgery as a progression, a curve to follow, there ought to be a large colorful real-time screen right in front of the patient that displayed that curve and the mileposts along it, nicely formatted and overlaid. Heart rate: 78 and steady. Next nurse visit coming in 04:12:01. Dinner tonight will be cottage cheese, deal with it. Last urination: 37 minutes ago. You slept 4 hours last night. If your hemo numbers drop below 211, expect to get some whole blood. Your daughter last visited you 45 minutes ago. If all goes well, you’ll be released in 2 days, 1 hour and 32 minutes.
Your son-in-law last cut the grass at your house 2 days ago. Your wife’s stress level: 17% and rising.
And perhaps to quote one of the Enterprise-D‘s descending bedside metrics: medical insurance remaining: 21%.
It’s always nice to know where you stand—even when you’re flat on your back.