May 2010 Archives

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I can't seem to catch my stride on this trip. I think it's because a lot of it has revolved around visiting friends. No offense but that tends to alter the disconnect that is so wonderful while traveling. Meeting people who have obligations/schedules is distracts from the freedom of travel. When the deadlines are few and far between, when there are no particular time windows or date ranges to be concerned about, it's just easier to be somewhere. The reminder that life goes on, well, it's distracting. There is visiting, and there is road tripping and the two things are not the same. Visiting is concrete; traveling is abstract (for me, at least).

For quite some time now it has influenced the way that I think. Hitting the road and just watching the white lines go by is mesmerizing. I don't mind the hotels at all, in fact it's liberating to not have to worry about cleaning up after yourself too much. But by the same token, you've got to stay on top of hygiene in the car or it gets to be far too funky for comfort. Living in a metal box can bring out the best and worst in people; I travel best with my wife alone because we know each other well. Even after all this time it never gets boring. We amuse each other.

I'm trying to make a conscious effort to write some this time. She reminded me this morning that you never know which trip will be your last. I think I have a lot more miles in me, but, as she says, you never know.

We passed through the birthplace of Carl Sandburg yesterday. I'm not a fan of his poetry, but I was amused to find out that he was a stereograph salesman for Underwood and Underwood. I didn't know that. I seem to collect trivia while traveling. We're visiting in Iowa just now, but I think I want to run away to Circus World in Wisconsin tonight. We have a few days before the obligations begin again in the Twin Cities.

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Hanging out in Peoria for a moment, I'm surprised with just how, well, civilized it is. I miss the midwest. New York is very different. I knew this was going to happen. After a decade in the Midwest, I feel more at home there than I do in the East. It's on to Iowa today, and I'm pretty sure it won't look like Disneyland (unlike Springfield Illinois).

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The summer travel season is hear again. It's day 2 and we're in West Lafayette, IN at Purdue. As with most trips, there have been a lot of technical issues right out of the gate, such as the new computer unlicensing my copy of Aperture. This has made it interesting trying to deal with photographs. But, luckily I have a copy of Adobe Lightroom to switch to. Now, I just have to figure out how to work it.

Krista figured out that we've been doing this every summer for about seven years now. The more we do it, the less we plan it. I'm not sure where we'll go from here. I know I have to present a paper at RSA in Minneapolis next weekend, and Krista just finished hers at Computers and Writing today. So we're free, for a while now. I just need to finish the damn paper between now and then. It dawned on me this morning when we were talking that writing is always about saying, tentatively, I plan on talking about something but I'm not quite sure what it is. Then, a few pages later you figure out what that thing really is. Then, the hard part-- making what you've already written sound like you knew what you meant to say all along.

I turned on the old version 1 of this blog from 2001-2002, so it looks weird to see the old entries at the bottom of the page. They'll scroll away soon enough.  But it reminds me that, ultimately, I still haven't figured out what I meant to say when I started writing this blog almost ten years ago.

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Okay, so I guess I'm back and ready to party now. The repair bill on the MacBook Pro was $334 with tax, and I can't complain. They replaced my slightly dinged top cover, replaced the logic board (a new computer, basically) and furnished a new battery. It performs like a champ. I really love Apple sometimes.

I'm glad I bought the iPad to figure out, but mostly I think it'll be a reader. I can now waste time gathering information twice as fast now, reading more meaningless Interweb news. Maybe I'll change my mind when the external keyboard dock shows up on my doorstep but I don't think so. I really like my MacBook Pro and dealing with files instead of endless pointers and DRM barriers. You can read, but you can't cut to quote easily from most major news sources. Typing is okay on the touch screen, but it's the inability to manipulate sources and such that is the real deal-breaker for me.

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Perhaps the most overused and abused word in my vocabulary is interesting. I've been thinking about that word a lot lately, mostly trying to figure out what a suitable definition of "interesting" might be. Overuse wears away the surface of common words making it possible for them to slip chameleon-like into just about any situation; it also reduces them to the category of verbal filler.

Obviously, blogging lost its "interest" a while ago for the vast majority of my online friends, and they have moved on to other social media that better suit their needs. I keep trying to sustain an "interest" in it, although my blog has long ceased being "interesting" to anyone (easily established through the paucity of comment on my updates/return). No one has "noticed" because it simply isn't worthy of "note".

So just what is a usable definition of "interesting" beyond the circular invocation of "interest"? I think it reduces to attention. something is "interesting" when it attracts attention; the more sustained and active that attention is, the more "interesting" the something/someone is. This makes "interest" largely subjective, but not entirely so. For example, we would all deem physical threats worthy of attention, and by this definition "interesting". But not everyone would agree that poetry is "interesting". Another criterion should be added-- something that is interesting rewards the attention you give it. Thus, paying attention to things that can harm you rewards you with survival, and attention to poetry rewards those of a certain disposition.

Each added word to the definition increases the complexity. Attention is base, primal. Reward is far more complex. It leads to a certain taxonomic impulse. What sort of reward are we talking about? Mental? Physical? Spiritual?

Ultimately though, a declaration of "interest" is taxonomic even without the complexity of reward. We must decide what is worth paying attention to, sorting out signal from all the noise. Declaring interest is immediately redundant-- why would we bring something up if it wasn't interesting?

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My Macbook Pro died yesterday; it was a peaceful death in its sleep. It was two years old and I can't complain too much. I've had a good run of luck with most of my Macs, and the older models are running smoothly in various rooms, including this five year old macbook I'm typing on in my office just now. The problem is, I'm a bit of a technology junkie and failure usually means that I have a new opportunity to try something new.

I bought an iPad (32g since they were out of the 16) and so far I'm not that crazy about it. I think it's mainly that I miss my notebook. It's not an alternative. The primary reason, which I haven't heard anyone mention yet, is that it lacks finder. You simply can't move or locate a file where you would like-- no uploading or downloading outside each application's interface. Yuck. Now I remember why I resisted macs for so long. Way back in the 80s, I tried to use one at a Kinkos to scan some stuff. The scans would happen, and then the files would be transfered to some mystical place that I couldn't find. Being used to DOS, this was a real nightmare for me. Oh, my mac friends would ask me later-- did you try finder?

Years later, I switched completely mainly because I was tired of looking under the hood of windows to figure out what was crashing, and I've been mostly satisfied. I just use the machines, I don't have to know how to troubleshoot one (very often, at least). Consequently, when it comes to hacking I'm mostly lost. When I found out that the MT 5 rich text editor simply doesn't work with my iPad, my heart sunk. I could write posts in html (I still remember how) but that is simply no fun. The third party blogging app I bought also doesn't support rich text, so no cut and paste from Pages. Yuck again. I can't copy and paste a picture either, or upload one. I can only link to a flickr image or such, which would have to be uploaded via email. Why? No finder— no basic file transfer capability outside the application interfaces.

As a reader, the device is awesome. I knew it wasn't a computer when I bought it, but I really hoped to be able to use it to write. I can, but only in plain text unless I use some third party nonsense that I haven't' located yet. This is very un-apple behavior. I'm used to the devices being, well, complete and ready to use when I buy them. I don't care about multitasking, or the lack of a built in camera, or any of the other complaints leveled against it. I simply want basic file management that doesn't rely on iTunes. Would that be too much to ask?

I'd like to use it with my cameras as well to upload or otherwise store photos. It remains to be seen if it can do that. I avoided the Kindle and Nook because I prefer dead tree books, and was seduced here because of it's potential for web surfing. But web surfers do more than simply read, they tend to interact and move files. That's the missing ingredient for me. I'm lost again.

* Editing this entry on the iPad has required paging through three screens to locate the keys to type in the HTML plus an extra app because the MT editor won't scroll. all I really wanted to add was the thought that the basic unit of the new computer/communication paradigm is the hyperlink rather than the file. This is huge; instead of transferring actual things we are expect to turn them over to the custody of apps/sites and are only allowed to point at them ineffectually. So, this is the new read/write web? More like the read and gesticulate web.

** Editing through the third party app (blogpress) also stripped paragraph tags, ruining the original post. It does, however, place give me the option to send a notification link to Facebook. No wonder the signal to noise ratio on the Internet is getting so bad.

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