MacArthur Mashup

The MacArthur Fellowships were announced today. These are particularly great, as it’s awarded across so many different fields, and I always learn about interesting work going on by reading the synopses at the website. Congratulations to all recipients!! Before I point to the list, I’d like to make a plea that will, of course, go unheeded.

Please please, people of the media, stop calling them “genius grants”. Just stop. By way of explanation, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the term just seems to strike the wrong tone about what these things should be about. It seems to me to push the recipients away as being “other” rather than encouraging us all to embrace the qualities that they are being encouraged to show by getting the fellowships. Ok, that’s the end of my plea.

Here’s a reminder of what the Fellowship is about (extract from their site): […] Click to continue reading this post

So in SEED…

seed august coverMy hand hovered over the August issue of SEED last night in the magazine section of a bookshop. I was not really sure whether I was going to buy it or not, to be honest. Then I glanced through, and two things made me go for it. The first was seeing that there’s something on Chuck Hoberman. I love his designs and constructions, and am dismayed by the fact that they are not just everywhere in our cityscapes. The second was a photograph. There’s some extracts from the collection of photographs of Nobel Prize winners […] Click to continue reading this post

Reading, Writing, and ’Rithmetic

Yesterday (depending upon who’s counting) was the 16th anniversary of that thing we call the World Wide Web becoming a public entity. The Web is not to be confused with the Internet, which is much older, of course1. I’m talking about Tim Berners-Lee’s idea and implementation thereof. (I should not neglect to mention that this was done at CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Europe.) His original posting (on the newsgroup alt.hypertext) proposing the structure can be viewed here, and here’s an extract:

The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups.

Reader view

The WWW world consists of documents, and links. Indexes are special documents which, rather than being read, may be searched. The result of such a search is another (“virtual”) document containing links to the documents found. A simple protocol (“HTTP”) is used to allow a browser program to request a keyword search by a remote information server.

The web contains documents in many formats. Those documents which are hypertext, (real or virtual) contain links to other documents, or places within documents. All documents, whether real, virtual or indexes, look similar to the reader and are contained within the same addressing scheme.

To follow a link, a reader clicks with a mouse (or types in a number if he or she has no mouse). To search and index, a reader gives keywords (or other search criteria). These are the only operations necessary to access the entire world of data.

What am I going to do to celebrate?

letter to anonSince everyday I celebrate the WWW by using it a lot, to commemorate the event I think I’m going to pay a visit to the (real, physical) library, then read a good old-fashioned book for a while, and then hand-write a letter. I used to write so many letters, long ago, and from time to time I try to stop everything and pick up a pen and write one. I got in the mood the other day while in Aspen, and went and found some letter-writing paper and envelopes, curled up on a sofa, and wrote for a […] Click to continue reading this post


I forgot to post this yesterday, when it was more relevant, but here I go anyway. I’m not looking to offend anyone here, I’m just curious, and have been puzzled about this for years. I’m reminded of it every year at about this time. What am I talking about? Wimbledon.

venus williams wimbledon 2007 (AP Photo/Andrew Parsons, PA)Not the event itself (which I have not followed in over a decade or so) but the word, or rather its pronunciation. I’ve noticed that a lot of people in America – from people I encounter day to day to newscasters on NPR – seem to get very confused about the “d” and pronounce it as a “t”. So you get people talking about the “Wimbleton” final a lot at this time of year, especially when someone from the US is in it (see photo at right [credit: AP Photo/Andrew Parsons, PA]). Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just my hearing? (Or worse, perhaps it is pronounced with a “t” and I’ve just not been paying attention all these years, and somehow I just hear it more clearly over here when some people say it.)

I’ve been wondering why this happens. Here’s some additional data, I’ve painstakingly […] Click to continue reading this post

The Cat

The Cat

  by Ryan Alexander

She came to me skittish, wild.
The way you’re meant to be,
surrounded by cruelty.
I did not blame her.
I would do the same.

A pregnant cat, a happy distraction;
some sort of normal thing.
Calico and innocent.

The kittens in her belly said feed me.

And I did.

She crept with careful eye,
Body held low to the dirt,
Snagged a bite,
And carried it just far enough away.

She liked the MREs,
the beef stew, the chicken breast, the barbeque pork,
but she did not like canned sardines.
I do not blame her.
I would do the same.

She came around again and again
finally deciding that I was no threat,
that this big man wasn’t so bad.

I was afraid to touch her as the docs warned us. […]

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