Saturday, November 04, 2000

Somewhat navel-gazing and optimistic history of weblogging from Rebecca's Pocket. If I understand her conclusions, this link fulfills a prediction of hers - and she finds it fascinating...
High weirdness in mirrors? Yep, according to this Linguafranca article. Scroll to bottom for True Mirror source.
"There is nothing very strange about the fact that ordinary mirrors reverse left and right, is there? "Left" and "right" are labels for the two horizontal directions parallel to the mirror. The two vertical directions parallel to the mirror are "up" and "down." But the optics and geometry of reflection are precisely the same for all dimensions parallel to the mirror. So why does a mirror treat the horizontal and vertical axes differently? Why does it reverse left and right but not up and down?"
A very detailed, somewhat mind-blowing, article about fingerprints as evidence from Linguafranca.
"The authority of fingerprint evidence rests on two contested assumptions. Although conventional wisdom since the nineteenth century has accepted the doctrine that no two fingerprints are alike, no one has really proven the proposition's validity. But if the question of the uniqueness of fingerprints seems pedantic, consider a more practical concern: How reliable is fingerprint evidence anyway? Can forensic technicians really match a fragmentary or smudged print taken from a crime scene to one and only one human fingertip, to the exclusion of all others in the world? At a pretrial hearing in the Mitchell case, this important question would receive its first airing in a U.S. courtroom."
Cool optical illusion Count the Black Dots! Found on Sylloge.
Interesting in retrospect June 1999 backgrounder from Salon about Bush campaign.
Donald Evans, Karen Hughes, Joe Allbaugh and Karl Rove are orchestrating Bush's run for the White House. All of them are white, close to Bush in age, Southern-educated and have extensive political résumés.
On a Particle's Trail, Physicists Seek Time: Interesting NY Times article about the Higgs Boson, CERN internal politics, and a $60,000,000 remodeling delay. Requires registration.

Friday, November 03, 2000

If you've ever heard Sturgeon's Law, "90% of everything is crud" and wondered what sturgeons have to do with it, you can read about it here.

Thursday, November 02, 2000

The Sentencing Project Worth reading, if you've been wondering where a ton of your tax money is going, and how you're benefiting...
America has just replaced Russia as the world leader in its rate of incarceration and incarcerates far more prisoners than any other nation -- nearly 2 million. In next week's election, 4 million Americans will be locked out of the voting booth as a result of laws that disenfranchise persons convicted of a felony. In swing states such as Florida, where more than 600,000 persons are disenfranchised, these laws could directly affect the state's electoral outcome. The racial disparities of the criminal justice system have led to 13 percent of African-American males being excluded from the electoral process. Ironically, 50 years after the beginnings of the civil rights movement, an increasing number of African Americans are excluded from the political process each year. We no longer have laws that require literacy tests or poll taxes, but the racially disproportionate results today resemble those of a hundred years ago. MARC MAUER, SENTENCING PROJECT

From the "It's my blog and I'll post what I want" department comes this photo of huge mud catfish pulled from the Rough River in Kentucky, by my grandfather, Harris Walker. The little girl on the right is my mother. Harris once made the local paper for snagging a 50.5 pound mud cat.
Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point is a funny, gracefully written, profound and short book that describes what appear to be the actual mechanisms underlying large-scale social phenomena, like crime statistics going down in big cities. For an introduction to Gladwell's style and themes, check his website which archives all his New Yorker articles and Talk of the Town pieces.

Wednesday, November 01, 2000

Fresh Air: Tuesday - October 31, 2000

Funny, interesting interviews with Al Franken (working for Bush campaign) and Bill Maher (cynical Naderite). Sounds okay on my 48k connection.
Jon Carroll's Halloween column, "Disappearing Trick: No Treats This Year" makes a strong case for non-participation.
"EVERYONE WHINES ABOUT commercialism, but no one does anything about it. Halloween is now a $4 billion holiday in this country, according to NPR, second only to Christmas in money spent. It's ahead of Valentine's Day and Mother's Day and all those other times in which money is pointlessly hurled away to prove the love that should be proved in nonmonetary ways the 364 other days of the year."

Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Thanks very much to all of you sending me email in response to my post yesterday. Comments were generally positive, which I appreciate, and I will be trying to keep this site interesting for anyone who makes it a part of their daily/weekly routine. Thanks again, cheers!
The "Tragedy of the Commons" is a philosophical idea with broad application. I recently saw it cited in an interesting discussion of why Gnutella and other peer-to-peer systems might fail. Here is a not exciting, but thorough, discussion by Garrett Hardin of this idea, which will - tragically - help you to see it everywhere, and here is a page full o' links using Hardin's paper as a starting point.
BuzzWhack: The Buzzword Compliant Dictionary effectively tracks buzzwords currently making the rounds. I seem to be benefiting from "word-of-mouse", lately - funny how a buzzword seems less offensive when it fills a need...

To relate this to the theme of my weblog: if language can help us see, abuse of language can blind us. Certainly, once a buzzzword has been slapped on a company, a concept, a person, etc., there is a certain amount of semantic fog obscuring reality. Kudos to John Walston for a well-organized site.

Monday, October 30, 2000

Good short bio of the neglected genius Mervyn Peake.
"Critics remain divided over Peake's reputation. This is mainly because unlike other major writers of the 20th century, Peake seems to tackle no important or topical themes such as war, sex, politics or marriage. Instead Peake appeared to use his titanic imagination to create a dense, eccentric world of nightmare and nursery rhyme. However, a closer reading of his work as poet, novelist, short story writer and playwright reveals a powerfully insightful mind which transfigured the horrors and joys of the world into a highly controlled satire."

Interested? Then dive into Titus Groan and/or Gormenghast the first two books of the Gormenghast trilogy. For more incentive, read the reviews at amazon in which one reader tries to award a million stars...
I may not be famous, yet, but an article in the Wall Street Journal just mentioned me, and it certainly made my mother proud. If you're visiting here as a result of the article, please drop me a line
"Who hasn't been to a neat site and thought, hey, more people should know about this?" muses Angus Stocking, a 36-year-old land surveyor and novice weblogger in Beaver Dam, Wis. After reading and enjoying other weblogs, or "blogs," he recently decided to create his own, which is now online (

Sunday, October 29, 2000

A pretty good juggler's page by James Jay, but not nearly as many links.
Extremely irritating juggling page with some good links and animations.
An interesting Java applet... if you like juggling.
It seems to me that journalism's mandate to check sources and be verifiers of truth eroded some time ago, if in fact it ever existed. For some hilarious anecdotal evidence of this, read this article, found in The Baffler. Scroll way down to the story about "Teloperator's Rex, Inc."