Digest 1

This post starts a new type of entry that I hope to make regular here at Babel Krieg. Possibly you’re familiar with blogs that largely serve as aggregators — Boing Boing and to a lesser extent Maud Newton‘s site are two examples. Aggregating is sort of the blog equivalent of anthologizing. Since I already bombard a targeted group of friends with link-excerpt-snark emails, several have encouraged me to replace those emails with blog posts instead. I was reticent to do so because typically when I visit someone’s blog, it’s to read their original content, not to follow a chain of links leading to someone else’s original content. On the other hand, like anthologizing, aggregating is a useful service for many reasons: my idiosyncratic interests might take you down fresh roads, my excerpting might enlighten you or dismay you at my intelligence or lack thereof, etc. As I often do, I sought a compromise solution, and found one: occasional one-post digests of online content I’ve been reading that day, primarily selected from my Google Reader account (RSS FTW), Twitter, emails, etc. Without further prolegomena:

  • Brain Mysteries adapts a University of Pennsylvania news release about research led by Gary Lupyan that demonstrates:

    an image displayed too quickly to be seen by an observer can be detected if the participant first hears the name of the object. [..] “This research speaks to the idea that perception is shaped moment-by-moment by language,” said Lupyan. “Although only English speakers were tested, the results suggest that because words in different languages pick out different things in the environment, learning different languages can shape perception in subtle, but pervasive ways.”

    The single study is part of a greater effort by Lupyan and other Penn psychologists to understand how high-level cognitive expectation can influence low-level sensory processing

    Might go a ways toward explaining hallucinations in psychotics suffering delusions, perhaps if research can, ala Libet, time the latency between the high-level cognitive expectation and the low-level sensory processing.

  • Awesome science fiction writer Nancy Kress mentions on her blog Judith Merril‘s autobiography Better to have Loved which includes a “lengthy chapter” on Merril’s relationship with Theodore Sturgeon.

    “[Pohl] sanitized everything [in his autobiography The Way the Future War]!” [Merril] said [according to Kress]. “I’m going to write those years the way they really happened!”

    I have yet to read Merril’s autobiography, but anything on Theodore Sturgeon, one of my favorite writers, makes my mental radar beep loudly.

  • In Fort Worth a twelve-year-old boy, CBS 11 reports, is not only volunteering for Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White (will I meet the boy?) in this city, but also founding his own political party (The United Party — he’s filing with the Federal Elections Commission soon. Totally awesome.

    “You have to file a statement of organization,” he explained, “That way we’ll be able to raise money, and expand from there.”

    What were you accomplishing at twelve?

  • In the NYT Brian Ladd gives a mixed review of Peter Watson‘s The German Genius, a “lengthy compilation of essential German contributions to philosophy, theology, mathematics, natural and social science and the arts since 1750.” Watson discusses, Ladd says, the great pantheon of creative Germans ranging from Kant to Goethe to Haydn. Two notes from Ladd’s review:

    “German Romanticism and German erudition placed truth and creativity firmly inside the human mind” […] “Germany invented the modern university, combining teaching with research in both humanities and science.”

    Sounds to me like a Babel Krieg.

  • With a NYT article on the young duo behind USA Twitter statecraft, “The Internet will save us” scores a half-point on the scoreboard against its perpetual enemy, “The Internet will ruin us.” (It’ll do both.) The duo discussed gives credit to Hillary Clinton for opening the doors to cyber-statecraft; in the article she reminds us that half of humanity is under 30. One of the duo’s cool ideas is to set up a virtual clearinghouse to help NGOs get a directories of who’s helping with what (education, clean water, etc.) in countries such as Kenya. But when one of the pair — the guy closer to Bush, not the Obama campaigner — comes down on wikileaks, which I suppose makes sense given the duo’s direct employer, they run afoul of me. You, of course, should be following @OpenCongress on Twitter, as well as the @EFF and @wikileaks Don’t miss the quote from NYU’s Clay Shirky in the excerpt below. Meanwhile, Chinese ‘net censorship continues.

    On Twitter, Cohen, who is 28, and Ross, who is 38, are among the most followed of anyone working for the U.S. government, coming in third and fourth after Barack Obama and John McCain. This didn’t happen by chance. Their Twitter posts have become an integral part of a new State Department effort to bring diplomacy into the digital age, by using widely available technologies to reach out to citizens, companies and other nonstate actors. Ross and Cohen’s style of engagement [is] perhaps best described as a cross between social-networking culture and foreign-policy arcana […]

    [Evgeny] Morozov no doubt voiced the concerns of many when he wrote [in the WSJ]: “Diplomacy is, perhaps, one element of the U.S. government that should not be subject to the demands of ‘open government’; whenever it works, it is usually because it is done behind closed doors.” […]

    Clay Shirky, a New York University professor who has engaged in an ongoing debate with Morozov, has given […] advice to members of the State Department. “The loss of control you fear is already in the past.” […] “You do not actually control the message, and if you believe you control the message, it merely means you no longer understand what’s going on.”

    This stuff will continue changing the world like mad, in my opinion, though it’s easy to underestimate the importance of the ‘net’s physicality; the danger the ‘net faces from, say, power grid loss, for example.

  • Has anyone else noticed that Salon.com is growing more and more contrarian? Maybe I’m imagining things.

  • Lifehacker’s Top Ten Tips for Surviving Office Life includes a true-to-my-experience tip:

    Due to social psychology or personal guilt, many work-from-home types end up dishing out more hours from home to clients than they ever would have at the office. It’s still an exciting challenge, but consider what you’re getting to get away with at the office before you curse it too deeply.

    I’ll add that others, however respectful of your work they might say they are, tend to expect you to attend to errands, etc., while you’re working. I think this is partly because they don’t get to see anchoring signals that you’re going to work — no briefcase, no tie — and partly because they see you goofing off a little while working, which people do in offices, but less visibly.

  • Wikileaks tweets that a far-reaching story comes out Monday in the Washington Post that will initiate “real change” by the end of the year. Especially with the midterm elections in November, I’m eager to see what’s revelead about the men behind the curtains. Meanwhile, Boing Boing is curious where WikiJulian — as I call Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks — is, especially in light of Wikileaks tweets that USA federal agents were hunting for him Saturday. The TV show The Good Wife will, TV Fanatic says, soon will feature a guest-star for a season premier:

    Jacob Pitts […] He’ll come aboard as the owner of a Wikileaks-type website who faces a murder charge.

    The guest-starring: Coincidence? Technohip show writer? Disinfo/scare campaign? In a democracy people need to know the truth about the issues they’re voting on. I say we all promise to forgive each other, then show all our cards, and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t think others will agree to that, though, nor might it be beneficial — dunno!

I’ll cap off this post with a note that I’m listening to REM’s “Shiny Happy People” and reading Nancy Kress’s novel Beggars in Spain, which uses the conceit of children who’ve been genetically engineered so as not to need sleep — and therefore, to work later hours — as a way for Kress to explore the contrast between Ayn Rand’s laissez-faire capitalism and Ursula K. Le Guin’s communism.



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