least I can do

Abbas and the 3QuarksDaily team are looking for new columnists:

Here’s your chance to say what you want to the international audience of highly educated readers that 3QD has! Several of our regular columnists have had to cut back, or even completely quit, their columns for 3QD because of other personal and professional commitments, and so we are looking for three new voices for our Monday columns. We cannot pay, but it is a good chance to draw attention to subjects you are interested in, and to get feedback from us and from our readers.

I feel terrible that I was not able to keep up as a regular Monday columnist; the least I can do is advertise this opportunity.
And it is quite a remarkable opportunity. The quality of feedback is excellent, and the opportunities contained within the 3QD audience are enormous. As a result of my handful of columns at 3QD I have been interviewed several times, quoted in Scientific American, reprinted by the American Physical Society, cited in the peer-reviewed literature and invited to attend two small conferences and to join an advisory board at a local liberal arts college. None of these things would have been remotely likely without my brief tenure as a Monday columnist on 3QD.
Fair warning: you will be writing for one of the smartest, most original and most enjoyable websites there is; the company you’ll be keeping is intimidating. Once a month doesn’t sound like much, but it’s harder than it looks when you’re playing at that level. If, however, you really do have something to say to the world, then you would be hard pressed to find a better platform from which to say it than mondays on 3QD.
(Given the likely readership of this blog (hi Mom!), I will just add that Abbas is an engineer by training and has a soft spot for hard science, so aspiring science writers would do well to try out. I can’t think of a better way to launch such a career.)

Respect. (As I hear the kids say.)

Glyn Moody is re-tagging all his old posts, so subscribers to his RSS feed are getting a quick run through his blogging history. If you have any interest in Open Source or Open Science, check him out.
To whet your appetite: today he re-tagged a post pointing to a story that was posted to LWN.net in March, on Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart (wikipedia, Poynder interview, PG about: page, blog of sorts). Hart is quite a character (as seems common among visionaries), and the linked resources make interesting reading (especially Hart’s own writing). What really grabbed my attention was this detail from Glyn’s article:

Even 20 years after Project Gutenberg had begun, Hart had only created 10 ebooks..

That was my “holy crap” moment for the day. Think about it: it’s 1971, what will become the Internet consists of 15 nodes and about 100 people, Sir Tim won’t invent the Web for another 20 years, and you are given an account on one of those nodes. What will you do with it? Well, if you’re Michael Hart, you will see forward more than a quarter of a century and begin Project Gutenberg, and then for well over twenty years you will be virtually its sole proponent and defender. In 1997, PG had 313 ebooks. In 1998, collaboration with the University of Illinois PC User Group finally set the wheels in motion for the creation of the PG we all know and love today; by the end of that year there were 1600 ebooks in the collection, and today there are 20,000. The clarity of that original vision and the tenacity with which Hart made it a reality are simply breathtaking.

HUHO blog carnival #1 is up

Remember this? The first blog carnival is up.

…this project is selfish. I need help. But later, I thought, while this plea that would otherwise be considered blegging began to take shape, maybe other people could use the advice. And hey, maybe people who would otherwise consider themselves apart from this sort of daily worry could help too. Some of us need some help finding those bootstraps, hell, finding boots.
So here we are. These are ways to pinch a life that is already pinched, to beat the system, to get by when getting by is what you’re doing already.

It’s a damn good start: children’s entertainment, clothing, education, money management, food and more.

“I consider humans to be noise.”

Zioluc1.jpg Heh. Me too, for the most part. Richard Akerman, talking about Flickr groups and other very, very special interest online groups (“narrowcasting”):

“There are of course huge Flickr groups devoted to topics of typical photographic interest, like Sunrises and Sunsets (12,453 members).  But there is also the “I didn’t think anyone else was interested in that” sort of groups.  For example, I like to take photos that are empty of people.  I consider humans to be noise that messes up the framing of my shots.  As luck would have it, I can submit my photos to the Flickr group The Last Person on Earth (1,036 members) (or see just my contributions). This isn’t even the only “no people in the photo” group, there’s also No people. Beyond that, in Lonely City, you can’t even have animals in the photos.”

Zioluc2.jpg I usually like to keep people out of my photos, for two good reasons: 1. they are really hard to photograph; seriously, people are some of the most difficult subjects there are; and 2. privacy concerns. I never publish photos with identifiable humans in them, unless I have explicit permission to do so (and since I almost never have the gumption to ask, that means I almost never post people shots). I know that one has a diminished expectation of privacy in a public space, but I am not making a living as a photographer or journalist. I can afford to go a bit further in my consideration of other people’s privacy than the law strictly requires.
I wanted to use Richard’s photos, but he reserves all rights and I’m lazy, so I hunted around the LPOE pool until I found Zioluc, who releases his shots under a Creative Commons licence (attribution/noncommercial/noderivs) that lets me use them. Grazie, signore! Top left: isoletta aspettami; bottom right: welcome.

“Those who believe in dialogue do so for the simple reason that they understand that they might be wrong.”

See, that’s why I read Steve, and you should too. If I’ve learned anything worth knowing in my decade and a half of trying to be a scientist, it’s exactly this: I might be wrong.
No matter how sure I am, no matter how careful I’ve been, no matter how smart I like to think I am, no matter how intellectually and emotionally satisfying I find my position, I might be wrong. And the corollary: if I am in fact wrong, I will be better off knowing about it, and preferably sooner rather than later so that I don’t waste effort on mistakes that will later be pulled down around my ears.
That’s why, when I read that former House majority leader Dick Armey recently said in an interview:

Dialogues are what Democrats do, not what Republicans do. Only liberals think that if you’ve had a dialogue about something, you’ve done something.

it literally makes me want to puke. I feel physically sick at the thought of someone so arrogant, callow and ignorant being in a position of real power.
So my blogroll, that list of links over there on the right, is Pepto-Bismol for the brain. Try it, you’ll like it.
Here’s the full quote from Steve; go read the whole entry, too.

Those who believe in dialogue do so for the simple reason that they understand that they might be wrong. They don’t think they are, but understand that they might be and so seek to test out their ideas against the strongest objections that can be leveled against them. Like a belt holding boxer who refuses to take on legitimate challengers in defense of his title, the only people who run from dialogue are those who are afraid they will lose.

Help Us Help Ourselves

Via Amp, Lauren at Faux Real has had a great idea, and is looking for input and help:

This compilation of how-tos, written by you and me, aims to help people with little in the way of resources and expertise get through unfortunate situations relating to money, finances, and bureaucracy.
It will be an open-source document, likely a Word doc wiki?, that can be edited and added to as the contributors see fit. Not only do I want it to include our stories, but I want it to include details, specifics, the steps in the process, what one can expect, what hurdles one may come against, and suggestions for how to get around them. This should be a pragmatic resource that takes a person in need through all the steps and details of the situation at hand. If you know of websites or other resources that include excellent step-by-step instructions, send them along as well. […]
This thought came to me while reading through the comments on my posts bitching about my lack of insurance and inability to deal with student loans. People were all too willing to share advice that I have actually put into motion. I’m a person with few monetary resources, but women I barely know approach me to ask about legal custody issues and sexual health issues all the time — and I love to share. Wouldn’t it be great if we could offer this kind of help to one another, and to people outside of the blogosphere?

I think a wiki is the perfect format, and a regular blog carnival is the ideal way to keep the resource growing. Lauren is calling now for posts for the first HUHO blog carnival; trackback to the linked post or email Lauren by Tuesday Nov 27.
(Special note: JD, I think you could contribute a lot of content to this.)

Rob on a Roll.

poster for LSU teach-inIn lieu of real content, a pointer to excellent things you’d already know about if you were sensible and had picked up my blogroll.
As if directorship of the North Country Academy for the Excruciatingly Fine Arts were not enough, Rob Helpy-Chalk has been on fire lately. Here’s a backgrounder on the Military Commissions Act (aka the We’ll Torture Anyone We Damn Well Please” Act), followed up with lists of the traitorous swine who voted for it (so you can avoid voting for them) and two posts on absentee voting throughout the country (viz, how to vote the way you want to, instead of the way Diebold wants you to). Here’s another backgrounder, this time on torture methods interrogation techniques, with a particular focus on waterboarding, the adoption of which technique our honorable, humanitarian Puppeteer-in-Chief Vice President calls a “no brainer”.
All of this is part of Rob’s activities with Save Our Constitution, an SLU campus organization devoted to pushing back against the Bush Junta’s efforts to gut the US Constitution, the model and gold standard for representative democracy everywhere and one of the principal reasons I still intend to become a US citizen. Next week they are sponsoring a “teach-in”, a four-hour seminar on The Constitution, Human Rights, and the War on Terrorism:

Schedule of Events
Welcome Remarks
Noon: Natalia Singer (Department of English)
The Military Commissions Act
12:10: Eve Stoddard (Department of Global Studies)
12:25 – 1:10 — Panel 1 — Erosion of the Constitution, Moderator: Eve Stoddard
1:15 – 2:15 — Panel 2 — Torture and International Law, Moderator: Rob Loftis
2:20 – 3:15 — Panel 3 — Language, Rhetoric, Politics of Fear, Moderator: Gus diZerega
3:20 – 4:00 — Wrap-up — What You Can Do, Moderators: Natalia Singer and Jon Cardinal

Damn, people, this is what universities are for! This is what “public intellectual” means — or should mean.