Archive for September, 2003
I’m reading Steven Johnson‘s Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate. I’m having trouble pinning these ideas directly to Johnson’s text. (The curse of reading lucid intriguing writing, you don’t want to stop to express your own ideas.)
He spends considerable time examining the computer interface as a metaphor. The dominate computer metaphor is the desktop. While there are a few computer specific innovations we still basically work by placing one document on top and working on it or placing multiple documents side by side.
At this point I’m reminded of my dad’s desk when he used to be a VP of a midsize company with a huge desk that consistently had piles 3 to 4 inches deep. In computer terms he was running an obscene number of different applications. He would of course sort of know where what he needed was and after some flipping through on his desk he could find what he needed. The time it took him to find an item was directly related to the amount of time last elapsed since using it. The more recently he used it the faster he could find it.
Fundamentally this carries over to the computer desktop, as you get more things piled up on the desktop the longer it takes to find something. Computer’s UI’s haven’t changed this much, all UI’s just give us different tools to flip through our stacks of windows. All the different tools essentially equate to an automatically updating list of what is running. If its the MS Windows taskbar or the Alt-tab interface, on Mac OS 9 its the menu in the upper right corner, on Mac OS X it gets visual with the dock, but for all intents and purposes they’re all just differently formatted lists.
This is not to say that these are the only ways to organize a desk. You could get multiple desks and organize each of them, by some predetermined theme. Various XWindows windows managers achieve the same effect by having multiple different workspaces and you can also connect multiple independently driven monitors to one computer and have as many workspaces as monitors.
The recurring concept is the continuance of the faithful persistence to the desktop metaphor over a large number of operating systems. You can get your computer anyway you want it as long as its a digital version of a desk. (At least there are more choices than just black.)
This is not to deny there have ben attempts at other metaphors most notably Microsoft’s Bob, which Johnson convincingly argues is not a metaphor but instead a simulation, he states this as one of the major reasons for its failure.
It is actually quite amazing that our primary computer metaphor is still the desktop. Admittedly there have been a few new ideas here and there, but fundamentally its just a matter of varying the number and size of desks and the way in which the program list is presented and utilized.
Apple’s new feature in Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, Exposé does not fit neatly into a list or a desk size category. AS demonstrated it is similar to a list because it shows all open windows on one screen, it is similar to obtaining a larger desk, but it also arranges everything on the desk one layer deep. In doing this it also creates a visual map or list of the running programs. Steven Johnson wrote that this capitalizes on people’s visual memory, something which none of the other list methods do to the same extent. (the others limit themselves to icons only on lists.)
I cannot wait to get my hands on Panther and try this out. But I’m not thrilled to shell out $129 for it.
Hmm, I wonder how long it’ll take Microsoft to come up with their mediocre version of Exposé.
One of the things I’ve picked up in my direct to consumer arts marketing position at my second job is that there are certain productions, usually musicals, that have achieved this mythical status, they are musicals that everyone goes to see, again and again. They make for great shows to bring into town to get the names and addresses of anyone remotely interested in the arts so we can bombast them with telephone calls in the future for the less popular shows. Some of these fast food productions are Rent, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, The Producers, Les Miserables, and Miss Saigon, just to name a few of the heavy weights.
But what makes these productions fast food productions vs. other theatre? Simple, they fundamentally have only been directed once in the original production. Every subsequent production looks materially similar to the previous production. While of course the set is put together differently, the costumes are resized to fit different actors, and characters are approached from a slightly different acting motivation, the current productions are the same as the original. There has not been a revisioning by an experienced director to recast the production into a different light that speaks to current audiences, instead these productions are left speaking to audiences who walked out of theatres 5, 10 or even 20 years ago, but not to today’s audiences.
This is not to say that these shows don’t serve a purpose but they shouldn’t be the only productions on your theatre diet, just as you should eat a larger variety of food than just McDonald’s you should see more theatre than just Phantom of the Opera or Cats, because there are a lot of great varieties and flavors out there, and just one flavor is pretty bland.
Its that day again, September 11th, the only date that means something than just a reference to a 24 hour period.
The strange thing is I don’t feel any safer or anymore fearful. (Well at least from dying.)
If we were really worried about saving the most lives we wouldn’t fight the “war on terrorism.” We’d be fighting the war against stupid irrational driving or better yet the war against obesity, or apathy, or ignorance, or malnutrition. (Perhaps fat transplants, take it out of the obese and inject it into the malnourished, but I digress.)
Declaring a war on apathy or stupid irrational driving of course is a ludicrous idea. Nobody would last 24 seconds at a west wing lawn podium announcing such an initiative. Why? Because these are attitude adjustments and not battles to be fought. We are not fighting the war on terrorism, instead we are fighting the war against non-security oriented mindsets. Again a ludicrous “war” against attitudes.
The “war on terrorism” will never end; its the nature of the beast. Its not to say that there hasn’t been some good out of this “war”. The fact that we have one department charged with protecting the security of the country is a good thing.
But I think we’ve lost the war. Why? Because when you interview security screeners they’re just looking for a job, states still have insecure ID systems, people are so concerned with themselves and self focused to actually give a damn about national security. They want it to be someone else’s problem, but they don’t want to lose any rights.
So which do you give up? Anyone who does this life calculus comes to one of two binary answers derived from their value of freedoms. Either they value their freedoms and are willing to bear the slight additional risk, or like insurance obsessed freaks feel a need to reduce risk at all costs no matter if it costs more than its worth.
But who is the enemy now? I miss Saddam Hussein because he at least provided a focus, now we’re left with “Dark Actors” to quote a victim of the war on terror.
Last year’s effort was better, read it.
I’m plagued by the continual desire to engage in ceaseless unrelenting composition. The gears turning within my cranium never stop, but instead refocus and occupy themselves by scripting possible conversations that are wholly unlikely to happen. I have my thoughts as to why this is such a recurring idle time activity of mine. While others debate about dinner, I write useless, unneeded, and ethereal scripts in my head of situations which most likely will never have a viewer to collapse the possibility waves that Bohr cheerleaded for.
A second character on which to draft an ethereal script concerning the sister of the core philosophical question does not exist within my character repertoire.
I’ve been trying to come up with a draft edition of an answer to the question “What should I do with my life?” I’ve been unable to figure out who would be a second character upon which to cast my etherescript to allow a full explanation.
(By the way Po Bronson’s book What Should I do with My Life? is pure crap worthy of being served to the finest toilet bowls.)
There are potential companion characters for me for the proposed uncomposed etherescript. Jenni as well as Christy are very attractive potential candidates, but they are so focused on being supportive that they are not critical enough.
I’ve also had to resist casting Brad, my boyfriend for a personal record breaking three weeks and two days. Its not that I wouldn’t like to cast him in my personal etherescript but if I do cast him the question slyly morphs from “What should I do with my life?” to “What should we do with our lives together?” I, of course, would love to be able to explore this question with a fictional Brad, but with less than a month of dating I’ven’t earned the right to ask it. (Not to say I’ven’t tried to ask it, but I’ve been forced to resort to self flagellation when I attempt to answer variants of it, and the concussion I’m getting from my efforts is beginning to require medical attention.)
As much as I hate to admit it I know the answer in broad strokes. I am a creator. Ultimately, I want to take all the ethereal pieces floating and flying around me and gel them into a play, book, eJournal entry, letter to the editor, movie, photograph, video, theatrical production, web page, sculpture, painting, drawing, or combination. Being touched by the muse and transforming the quantum superpositionally held information within my cabeza and shaping it into something concrete and formed is what I do with my life and want to do with my life, but how to work that into something that I can live on this culture?
(Questions to answer questions, never a concrete answer.)
I’ve been reading the Dali Lama’s Ethics for the New Millennium. In general it has not been a thought provoking book. I find myself just nodding and saying, “Uh huh, okay, I agree with that.”
I was struck though by his statement on the environment. Simply and eloquently he states:
[The area in which we have special responsibilities is] … our natural environment. Again, this responsibility has less to do with questions of right or wrong that with the question of survival. The natural world is our home. It is not necessarily sacred or holy, it is simply where we live. It is therefore in our interest to look after it. This is common sense. But only recently have the size of our population and the power of science and technology grown to the point that they can have a direct impact on nature. To put it another way, until now, Mother Earth has been able to tolerate our sloppy house habits. The stage has been reached where she can no longer accept our behavior in silence. The problems caused by environmental degradation can be seen as her response to our irresponsible behavior. She is warning us that there are limits even to her tolerance. (p. 187-188)
There should be no argument on this topic. Just as family members share the same house, we all share the same planet. There is at this point no other viable biosphere.
This argument can also be phrased in several different ways. The argument for universalizability fits as well. While Dr. William Irvine elaborates on the argument in The Politics of Parenting, succinctly it is: while something that one person does does not cause any substantial harm, if many people do the same thing in aggregate those actions are significantly harmful therefore they should be prevented. The logic for protecting the environment follows so clearly for this I shall not elaborate upon it.
A third argument for “environmentalism” is an economic one. Often times given an environmentally destructive and an environmentally non-destructive way to do a task the destructive one will have less direct costs, but instead will have indirect costs born in the form of increased health care needs for the populace, reduction in drinkable water, less breathtaking views, etc. Decision makers should deliberately and consciously consider the environmental impact within their economic analysis. This should be one of the many factors considered in addition to the direct business considerations.
The environmentalism debate however expansive is just a subset of a much larger debate, that of collectivism versus individualism (or Objectivism) This is the major divide behind the Cold War, environmentalism, censorship, tax burden distribution, welfare, social security, school funding, among other ideological, sociological, and political debates.
Which one is right? Both and neither, depending on which topic we’re addressing. The pure objectivists are too individually focused on one aspect of human nature, competitiveness, while the collectivists are ignorant of the same characteristic.
Where do I stand? As William Finn put it “Here I stand in the middle of the road.”
For those of you who don’t pay lots of attention, the look of my Movable Type powered logs has changed recently. I’ve spent quite a bit of time upgrading and getting them to fit into the rest of the site. They now use the templates that my whole site uses, so it make my life so much saner. If you see any strange things or have a suggestion drop me a comment or an email, or just let me know what you think.
In completely unrelated thoughts, I was looking through the eJournal and I read The Shawn Standard again. It’s a nice piece of writing I think. But better yet, Brad fits the Shawn standard very well. There is no compromising on my part (or his as far as I know.)
Well I’ve been working on this thing too long, so its bed time!
I’m finding it interesting.
(Unreferenced pronouns near the beginning of written works are a tool that can be used for drawing the reader into the work.)
I’ve noted an interesting shift in attitudes towards the war in Iraq. Back in March public opinion appeared to be for the war, people believed that it was the right thing to do. They also apparently believed the administration that this war would “pay for itself in oil revenues” and would last “months not years.”
Now people seem to be shifting away from supporting the war, having seen the actual costs. (both human and fiscal) As a whole we seem to have forgotten what my mother tried unsuccessfully to teach me: “Don’t start something you’re not going to finish.”
While I have gotten better at following my mom’s advice, I also recognize its one thing to start cleaning the bathroom, but a totally different task to set about remodeling the whole bathroom. Cleaning the bathroom requires little forethought as to the effort required to finish it; Remodeling the bathroom takes a substantially greater effort, as such requires deliberate and detailed planning.
We were told that we’d have a country to clean, not a country to remodel. But, now that we’re stuck remodeling a country without the explicitly detailed planning needed to do it, as such people are wanting to bail. Anyone who has remodeled the sole bathroom in a house knows the problem is that the bathroom is the only essential room. (You can get takeout and forget about the kitchen, you can watch TV in the bedroom, and sleep in the family room, you cannot take a shower or a crap in any of the other rooms; you need a functioning bathroom.)
So we’re stuck with an gutted non-functioning bathroom and the country is starting to lean against properly completing the remodel. As any handyman of the house knows starting to do something and not completing it will have significant costs, that will likely outweigh the costs of completing the remodel.
We’re stuck in Iraq. While leaving Saddam Hussein in power would at the very least ensured a stable and controlled country, leaving Iraq at this moment would be a significant detriment to world wide security. America has succeeded in producing, nation state in the state of failure, exactly what the administration identified as a breeding ground for terrorism.
We must finish the remodel of Iraq that we have started, even if it requires that we must deploy even more of our young women and men into harm’s way. This includes the possibility of instituting a program of conscription, if absolutely necessary.
I’m not a supporter of military conscription, the war in Iraq, or placing our young men and women in harm’s way; I am a supporter of finishing what we start, unfortunately the costs are quite high.
I’m being a dork. A big clean shaven spiffy dork.
I’m sitting outside Brad’s house waiting for him to arrive. We’re going to Pride Night 2003 at Kings Island tonight.
Its raining a bit, which is bound to be a good thing for the park because it’ll drive the people who were going to do this on the spur of the moment away and reduce the park attendance and make it easier to get on rides. (Not that that was going to be a problem anyway, but it’ll make it even easier)
I wish I could do something to enjoy the rain and make some interesting observations, but honestly, its just that sort of monochromatic dampness, but all in all its a good monochromatic dampness. It provides a nice flavor to the experience nonetheless.
Well he’s here….