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So... Apr. 7th, 2011 @ 08:42 pm
It has been way too long since I posted here.
It hasn't been because I abandoned LJ, rather that I've been too busy to post anything longer than a twitter message or so.
So, important points of the last few months.
I started a PhD, currently part time, at Curtin. I'm studying Internet governance issues, mostly to do with ICANN. I also teach at Curtin a fair bit, which is keeping me busy.
Also, I went to San Francisco for ICANN. I was there for a week and a half, but spent most of it arguing about the Internet or watching other people arguing about the Internet. I did see a speech from Bill Clinton.
I am really pretty busy. But mostly in a good way.
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strange aeons Aug. 22nd, 2010 @ 11:08 pm
Yesterday would have been H.P. Lovecrafts 120th birthday. He would have been astonished at the influence his horror stories have had. And even more astonished, and probably deeply disturbed, at the few people who take his work seriously (I'll be covering the influence of Lovecraft in the modern occult world in my 'Sorcerers and Storytellers' presentation at Worldcon, and truth be told I find of it pretty alarming too).
It is tempting to consider how he would react to the internet and fandom. He spent a lot of time writing to his various horror writer friends especially, and a lot of seemed to be a forerunner early fandom, which in turn seemed to be an early experiment with the social mechanisms that have exploded with the internet.
Of course, he was also an insane racist, a crazy racist even by the standards of his own era, so a black president would probably make his head explode. So he'd probably be a Tea Partier today or something. Probably for the best we are spared the spectacle.
Hmmm... now I want to write a story in which a crazy racist blogger inciting racist violence turns out to be H.P. Lovecrafts head in a Mi-Go brain jar.....
Which just goes to show how wonderfully inspiring mad old Howards stories can still be. I think the trick is that his unique brand of horror was based not just on dark fantasy and myth (ghosts, vampires and such) but features so many idea that are much more science fictional, aliens and other dimensions and the cold horror of a universe that is both vast and uncaring and often incomprehensible. Lovecraft's version of horror was not just about our irrational past, but taught us that science has plenty of its own horrors to reveal. He caught on the fundamental, and frightening, idea that just because something is theoretically explainable by some future science does not mean that it is comprehensible, or palatable, to the limited human mind. And for showing us that screaming horror is fully compatible with a scientific worldview, we must thank him.
Plus he taught me words like squamous, glabrous, and rugose. Long may he continue to inspire.
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academic software tools Aug. 6th, 2010 @ 02:11 pm
advice on mac software for academic writing?Collapse )

Jul. 5th, 2010 @ 04:37 pm
I have learnt so much from watching The Wire, some of it potentially useful to know. For example, formal meeting procedure can be useful in coordinating any group activity, but the requirements for taking good minutes laid out in Roberts Rules of Order should be relaxed when engaging in criminal conspiracy.

Gillard and Rudd - thoughts for the future Jun. 30th, 2010 @ 03:11 pm
I have a hope for Julia Gillard that she has the potential to be like Keating without the baggage and the bad timing. Competence, some wit and flair, and maybe a couple of big stands on some issues once she has won an election. She is witty and self-assured. Of course, she is currently very hemmed in on a lot of policy issues, and we won't see a lot of changes prior to the election, but lets hope she opens up a bit afterwards.
And I hope that post election, Kevin Rudd can become the new Gareth Evans. There isn't anywhere to go but down in Australian politics for him now, but it would be nice to see his talents used. He is often compassionate and passionate, smart and articulate. He turned out to be not great at a lot of things required of a national leader, but there is a lot to like about him. And foreign affairs is a great position for a talented and ambitious politician who can go no further domestically, opening up as it does many later opportunities on the world stage. I'd like to see Rudd represent Australia internationally, he is not just able and informed, but we might get to hear him call the Chinese ratfuckers again.
I love Keating! - The Musical. I've seen it twice, and doctor_k_ and I have the soundtrack and listen to it all the time. Probably unintelligible to those not having lived through Australian politics in the 90s, but captures the drama and big personalities of that memorable era brilliantly. I think the Tony vs Julia showdown is going to have plenty of that same sense of drama.
Other entries
» Boxing Clever
Just a little thinking out loud about thinking.
A common refrain in reporting about the internet, and other related social trends, is that it makes us stupider. Google makes us stupider, multi-tasking makes us stupider, using tiny text formats to communicate makes us stupider (or at least erodes our ability to write, etc).
At the same time we keep having computer demonstrations of things that we used to consider really clever. We used to think chess grandmasters were the heights of human cleverness, but computers are very good at chess now, and being a chess expert has lost a little sparkle. IBM has a computer that plays Jeopardy, which is pretty much a classic competition of human cleverness. Right now, this computer is huge and expensive — but we all expect that this decades huge and expensive is next decades affordable and the decade after thats cheap and ubiquitous (if it even takes that long). Once it is ubiquitous, well, it still might be kind of clever, but it is not a kind of clever we value. Multiplying two large in seconds was once considered astonishing, and highly valuable, now it is a curiousity as a human ability (but the foundation of much modern infrastructure as automation) — human being mimics $2 calculator.
In the medieval era, cleverness was all about the sheer amount of information you could keep in your head, and organising and accessing it. They developed intricate clever techniques for it, such as Memory Palaces. And in that era, a very smart man could theoretically master all academic knowledge. The last man reputed to have mastered all the worlds academic knowledge of his era died in 1680, and was already thought a little outdated then, and the idea is now absurd — but we all have wikipedia at our fingertips, and can find out an awful lot about almost anything fairly quickly, and the idea of cleverness being defined mostly by prodigious feats of memory now seems quaint and somewhat pointless. Great feats of memory are something we associated with autistic savants, not the worlds great thinkers.
It is not that the internet is making us smarter or dumber. But the internet is changing what it means to be clever, as each new set of cognitive skills is 'outsourcable' to machines, the cognitive skills that we value changes, our ideas about what is really clever are updated.
» City music
Bruce Sterling (via Chris Arkenberg at boingboing) tells us why to think about cities (which I have been), and gives us his personal urban soundtrack (Ladytron). Here are some parts of my own personal urban soundtrack.

New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down, LCD Soundsystem
Dirty Old Town, The Pogues
Mmm... Skyscraper I Love You, Underworld
The Only Living Boy in New Cross, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine
I'll take New York, Tom Waits
Property is Condemned, The Triffids

Interesting it has two songs about New York, which I've only visited for a couple of weeks a decade ago. New York is one of the great archetypes of the city.
Broght Light, Big City a better choice on pure title/lyrics for Triffids track, but Property Is Condemned is a better song, and its powerful central metaphor both works for me personally and suits the theme.
» (No Subject)
I'm not going to make it back from Sydney in time to attend, unfortunately, but I urge all my Perth foodie friends, especially those who are interested in all the different aspects of the ethics around food (food miles, vegetarian/veganism, self-sufficiency and urban gardening, etc) to attend the Bluestocking Institutes workshop tonight. Info here, Facebook event page here
» (No Subject)
THE PERIODIC TABLE OF WOMEN IN SF MEME (stolen from that community).
list under cutCollapse )
» What I've been reading and viewing
Just a bunch of random stuff I've read or watched lately.

Books
The Magicians, Lew Grossman Collapse )
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest Collapse )
Buried Deep, Kristine Kathryn RuschCollapse )

Pandora's Star, Peter F. HamiltonCollapse )


Burning Man Live: 13 Years of Piss Clear, Black Rock City's alternative newspaperCollapse )


Viewing

The Venture BrothersCollapse )

The InbetweenersCollapse )
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