Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Julia read this out Sunday morning before we left for the beginning of her sophomore year at Goucher.
LIFE IS SHORT | Autobiography as Haiku

At ages 90 and 88, and not too spry, my husband and I very carefully made our way from the parking lot into the grocery store.

As we were checking out later, the cashier said, "I saw you two coming in and you looked so cute holding hands like honeymooners."

"Actually," I truthfully replied, "we were holding each other up!"

Sunday, August 28, 2005; Page D01

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Tim Caynes' recent post dont touch anything contains a word, lomo, which is new to me. In the post he hyperlinks to some flickr photos as you can see: lomo.
An A9 search gives me this image and leads me to know that lomo is a camera and also a way of photography. The quick def: logo means "shoot from the hip."

This BBC site Gives the full explanation. "What's Lomo? -- In 1991 a group of Viennese students discovered the Lomo Kompakt Automat when on holiday in Prague. This mass-produced Soviet camera was so cheap and easy to use that they shot rolls of film, ignoring the established rules of "good" photography. The resulting snaps were often odd to look at, out of focus and, due to the character of the Lomo lens, garishly coloured. But they were wonderfully fresh. The craze for Lomo spread so fast that when, in 1996, the St Petersburg manufacturers threatened to stop making the camera, Lomographers stepped in to guarantee all future sales. Today the Lomographic Society has embassies across the globe with as its base. Hundreds participate in international Lomo events and add to the ever-growing LomoWorldArchive."

What else to be said?

Well a search in Google Print suggests that lomo is somewhat of a geek phenomenon, thus likely to be in the Caynes domain. A search in Google Print shows the book Essential Blogging
The lomo presents a different way of looking at life. It can make the ordinary extraordinary. Or, for that matter, really crap. Lomographers make it a part of their everyday life and just take the photo - not worrying about looking through the viewfinder - shooting from the hip (or above the head). They're just playing around, and having some fun. (p.99)
So, lomo is one element of the Flickr phenomenon and must be related to the explosion in use of cell phone cameras, no?

Here's one of Tim Caynes' lomos. I chose it because he shot from the hip and it shows a slice of life in Norwich, UK, his home town.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

England wins fourth test!

Joy and despair … Michael Clarke rues his shot as Matthew Hoggard celebrates having him caught behind for 56 on Sunday.
Photo: Reuters

The English team now leads this year's Ashes two tests to one. They only need to tie the final test to win the Ashes for the first time since 1986/7.
From the PakTribune (Pakistan):

England gains upper hand in Ashes Series with 2-1

TRENT BRIDGE: It went to the wire and a close finish in the fourth test of the Ashes Series with England gaining an upper hand of 2-1 when they reached home with just three wickets remaining in the hand. The noise grew louder in the last session as the Barmy Army fully backing the home side cheered every single run English batsmen scored. It was Ashley Giles and Mathew Hoggard who saw England home with just three wickets to spare but there were very nervous moments in the ground as sweaty palms in the dressing room to take an edge over the World Champions Australia as Shane Warne has his magic work for the Aussies and pace of Bret Lee pushing the English batsman with their backs to the wall. Andrew Flintoff for his all round performance was named man of the match.


Staten Island Ferry
Click this image for info about the book that contains it.

Here's one of our dinner-table poems, a favorite of Julia's:


WE were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

Edna St.Vincent Millay (1892-1951)

Babelfish says recuerdo means memory in Spanish.

It is also a tango and the name of some tango clubs including:

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rampant England

The photo shows a catch for England against Australia.

This morning (it's now 8:30 where I am, but 1:30 where the match is being played), the two cricket teams are in their third day of the fourth "test" (game) in The Ashes.

What is The Ashes? Says the Wikipedia article to which I've linked above: "The Ashes is a biennial Test cricket contest played between England and Australia. The series is named after the trophy, which is a small terracotta urn said to contain the burnt bails from a game played in 1882 at The Oval. An Ashes series typically consists of five Test matches, and the host of the series alternates between the two countries."

What's important about The Ashes this year?

When England has a chance of winning and that's news. In this year's event, they were bludgeoned in the first test, won the second, and tied the third. They lead by a nice margin so far in day three of the fourth. Here's the up-to-the-minute summary from BBC Sport:
FOURTH TEST - MATCH SUMMARY (Trent Bridge, Day 3) -

Australia 218 & 32-0 v England 477. Pace bowler Simon Jones took 5-44 as England dismissed Australia for 218 on the third morning of the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. It left the tourists 259 runs in arrears and England skipper Michael Vaughan enforced the follow-on. Jones had Simon Katich (45) and Shane Warne caught off successive deliveries and finished things when Brett Lee was caught at deep third man for 47. Australia survived four overs to reach 14-0 in their second innings at lunch.
The Beeb provides a guide to cricket for those of us who find this lingo impenetrable.

I was going to call this post "Plucky Little England" after the following finding (located via Google Print).
God Breathed and They Were Scattered
Motto on the Armada medal, 1588

The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 immediately became an emblem of plucky little Protestant England resisting the insolent might of the great Catholic powers of Continental Europe.

However I changed my mind when I saw the phrase: Rampant England in a headline of on an article covering today's action.

The reason for the euphoria is easy to grasp: England and Australia were pretty evenly matched over most of the series, but in the past decade and a half Australia has won every time. This little graphic tells all:

Full-size version of the graphic

Here are some photos from previous Tests in this year's Ashes:

Friday, August 26, 2005

20' of half-inch poly foam tubular insulation

The temperature in my windowless office can be as low as 63 deg f. even when it's pressing 100° outside. This is too cold for me to work effectively. I need temps in the 70's or I have to wear a sweater or jacket. (Even bundled up my fingers get too chilly for efficient typing.). I've put this foam rope around the offending light-fixture vent and brought the temp up to 69° and 70° most of the day. You'd think the government would wish to keep the temp. higher in the summer to save energy, and I suppose you'd be right; they would if they could. However, the local engineers say the system can't be corrected without making the temp too high in the room on the floor below me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Bodleian

It's been a while since I reproduced anything by Tim Bray. As I've said before, his blog, ongoing, is one of the best on the web. He started his career in a library and occasionally writes on topics related to structured metatdata. The most recent post of his in which the Library of Congress is mentioned expresses a mild outrage. Here's a current post about The Bodleian. (I'm cross-posting again from the LC intranet blog.)
The Bodleian

The big library at Oxford is named after its founder Thomas Bodley, whose admirably-short autobiography may be purchased in the gift shop. We had an excellent guided tour; herewith illustrated notes on the colour of fairy tales and the history of cataloging.

Any of the world’s big old research libraries has a story that’s worth hearing, and the Bodleian’s is too but I’m not going to tell it. If you care about such things go read a book; suffice it to say that it’s big, and old, and fanatically well-cared-for. Also, it’s prettier than most other libraries.

Top: The interior court. Bottom: The meeting room behind the Divinity school.

Fairy Stories Our guide, a retired librarian, was something of a showman. Deep in the subterranean stacks, he took one of the sliding shelves, saying it showed that as Britain’s official copyright deposit library, they had to take more or less everything. He pulled it out, and oh wonder, seven by five feet of late-Nineteenth and early-Twentieth-century fairy-tale collections (and a few scholarly monographs on the Grimms). The lilac, robin’s-egg, and goldenrod pastels of their covers were unfaded, and the gold leaf around the pages unmarred; so unlike the way these books look after years in children’s hands. I wept for my camera, forbidden entry to the stacks.

Cataloging The tour party was myself, Lauren, John Chelsom, and Peter Flynn; two Ph.D.’s, a third working on his dissertation, and all of us data-structure geeks. The guide got the idea pretty quick and, in one reading room, said “You’ll like this”, pulling out a facsimile of the library’s first-ever catalog. The shelves had been organized by discipline, with a card on the end of each listing its books, organized by author. The first catalog simply aggregated these cards; but then at the end had a list of all the books by author’s name and shelf number. The alphabetization on author’s name did not extend past the first letter.

The next-generation catalog was more conventional, containing all the books in one sequence. But it was given sparkle by annotations in the first librarian’s hand—accessions mostly. The hand was a tiny graceful copperplate italic; Bill our guide told us that that librarian had himself been large, fat, and loud.

Miscellaneous Wonders The Bodleian has the world’s largest collection of Hebrew manuscripts; its holdings of Arabic, Persian, and various Indian languages are merely excellent. It has Victorian steam-punk machinery for moving books around the stacks. It has miles (probably) of shelves containing the doctoral dissertations, now I suppose mostly lost to memory. One title caught my eye: Books Deposited at the Bodleian for Copyright, 1710-1724. It was from the Seventies, a mighty tome, and I opened it; obviously it had been produced on a Selectric ball typewriter. We walked by shelf after shelf of folio volumes, Chambers’s Dictionary (sic), travelers’ tales, accounts of the doings of the Russian Dukes; my fingers were twitching.

It’s not just a tourist attraction; people were hard at work, everywhere there was room to work. Some year, I’d give my right arm for a Reader’s Card and an undisturbed month. In the meantime, big thanks to John Chelsom and Kerri Poulter for organizing the tour.

Lorcan Dempsey points to this post.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The DC-3 of paper airplanes

Trendalicious provides a link to the best paper airplane in the world. BlogPulse says it was the 27th most popular blog link a week or so ago. Nick made a plane like this for a high school competition and won the long-flight category with it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Power of Plain vs. Aristocracy of Appearance

More on the topic of the aristocracy of appearance. There's an article in The Age (see below) on starlets who are miscast in classic roles. The chief example is selection of acresses to portray Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. I'm most familiar with Jennifer Ehle in the role so it's hard for me to judge others, but I agree with the author of the piece that Keira Knightley seems to have too much glam to play Lizzy well.

Here's a little table I put together from the Internet Movie Database with stills lifted from some Google image searches.

The character 'Elizabeth Bennet' has been played by:

Celia Bannerman . . . Pride and Prejudice (1967) (TV)

Jennifer Ehle . . . "Pride and Prejudice" (1995) (mini) TV Series

Greer Garson . . . Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Elizabeth Garvie . . . "Pride and Prejudice" (1980) (mini) TV Series

Kam Heskin . . . Pride and Prejudice (2003)

Keira Knightley . . . Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Curigwen Lewis . . . Pride and Prejudice (1938) (TV)
She is Desdamona in this photo.

Daphne Slater . . . "Pride and Prejudice" (1952) (mini) TV Series
Daphne Slater is on right; this is not a still from Pride and Prejudice.

Here's the citation for the article in The Age together with some extracts:

The power of plain
August 20, 2005


Can a beautiful female actor do justice to characters who aren't supposed to be beautiful? Can they really channel the power of the plain? In theory, a good actor can convince us of anything, can make us believe them dowdy or ordinary despite their facial geometry, and give us the interior life instead.

But in practice, on the screen, exterior beauty often proves the most effective shorthand for any interior goodness. We all know intuitively what research confirms: the beautiful get the breaks. An overview of beauty research from the past 30 years, published in the Journal of Sex Research in 2004, found that study after study confirmed the "what is beautiful is good" assumption.

Looking at a symmetrical face with large eyes, small nose and high cheekbones attached to an evenly proportioned, slender female body, people would credit the woman in the picture with hidden qualities - the pretty woman was intelligent, socially adept, loveable, successful.

Keira Knightley is a very beautiful young actress, not yet one-and-20, who looks as sweet and skittish as a young filly, right down to the lanky shanks and aristocratic cheekbones. Her career has certainly bolted - since she played the spunky tomboy in 2002's Bend It Like Beckham, she's worked on 16 films. And now she's about to star in what is fast becoming the key role in the classy starlet's rung-climbing repertoire, Elizabeth Bennet, in yet another remake of Pride and Prejudice.

Knightley is yet another actress completely unsuited to the part because she is far too pretty. In the carefully calculated measurements of Jane Austen's socio-economic treatise masquerading as a love story, Lizzie was at best the second prettiest of the five Bennet sisters, and occasionally relegated to third behind the tarty Lydia. She was certainly not a doe-eyed stunner like Knightley, even if the actress is a little undernourished to make a convincing Regency era beauty. No, Lizzie may have been cuter than some of Austen's other heroines, but part of her allure comes from the power of the plain.

It's a power that many of the great women writers have harnessed directly from their own lives, but it's something that has never translated well to the screen. Books link readers directly to the interior lives of their heroines, but the camera needs the beauty out on the surface, where the audience can fall in love with it faster. In novels, other characters are wooed by wonderful minds, and infer beauty from what's within. On film, a plain face has to work so much harder to persuade people. It's so much easier to start with the lovely, but it loses so much. The great women novelists of the 19th century had no great interest in the great looking; among the first to trade on their brains rather than their appearance, they created characters who also had greater interior than exterior worth. And in a world where women still are judged on face value, the power of the plain is a large part of the reason why these characters are still loved.

As a writer, Austen mistrusted beauty as a sign of inner goodness but she respected its worth as a woman's most marketable asset. "To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain for the first 15 years of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive," she notes in Northanger Abbey. Many of her heroines are plain girls: Catherine, Fanny and Anne, the muted creature at the heart of her last novel, Persuasion.

"Her bloom had vanished early; and as even in its height, her father had found little to admire in her (so totally different were her delicate features and mild dark eyes from his own), there could be nothing in them, now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem."

Researchers this year have argued that the beautiful really are smarter because they are the product of pretty women mating with intelligent men and passing on a double dose of genetic goodness.

But in a world, as the man who narrates the trailers would say, where all the women are beautiful, the value of beauty can be strangely devalued. Many films are populated with stunners but the plot demands that nobody notice.

Monday, August 22, 2005

globalful (not G11N) - again

Here are a couple more globalful posts just in case you're not yet hooked on him:

Thursday July 14, 2005

what I'm trying to do is what I'm trying to do

so there's five minutes left and no questions so I'm gonna just fill in to the end of the hour if that's alright with you. I'm hoping that you'll get embarrassed enough to fill in the gaps and you'll start talking rubbish so that I can respond in a way which makes it sound like I really know what I'm talking about, but actually all I'm doing is having a conversation with you while 20 other people on the call are waiting for me to shut up already because they're going to the gym and they want to avoid the rush when all the fat people go an hour early so that people don't see them on the treadmill getting all sweaty especially at the moment when its 30 degrees and actually I have a condition which makes me smell like this.

great, so, thanks everyone. I guess I'll send you though the business requirements so that you can all review them and then we'll make it kind of ad hoc when we get together because I don't want another meeting and I have to go to the shops on friday and get some antibiotics so if we could engage via email that would be the solution I'm working towards if we're all sweet. Yep, I'll probably be ready with the plan right after the thing I'm doing next week which is really important as I'm going away for a long time after that to chatter with seagulls at a staithe and share one-legged experiences over video with a man from knebworth.

any questions?

Monday August 01, 2005

predictive blogs

f u cn rd ths then I've just installed lazyBlog® because I have so much to say but I can't be bothered to say it and anyway I'm waiting for the chelsea one to hoof up here so we can spark off over globalization and decide we probably won't meet in the middle but I'll try and get products out and I'll do press releases in Korea anyway before that vendor goes mad with slash press. I came across lazyBlog® while I was cross referencing the page I made with the online viking office supplies catalogue to see if there was any hidden meanings to my life that could possibly link a thousand nude californians and ink jet cartridges, but there wasn't, unless I looked at them the wrong way round.

it's apparently the first piece of blogging software from the folks responsible for the iBull, which I can see already has you shaking your leg under the desk. it works like predictive txt on cellphones, where you use you enter a 2 letter word with no meaning and you get back a 4 letter word with no meaning which is out of context when you didn't even have one and you can't erase because your head is under a bucket somewhere near the shropshire union canal. except lazyBlog® is much more gooder. it do all ur blog after you've only written one paragraph or so. it apparently uses a patented algorithm that analyses your online behaviour and tracks histories, bookmarks, previous blog entries, email, shopping lists, tampered photoshop files etc., building a unique picture of the person what you are and what you're likely to be thinking at 12 oclock on monday morning after you've just driven from Norwich to Camberley and decided to go home again after you picked up a ream of paper and a couple of bics. so by the time I've got to about this point, everything you see from now on is probably machine generated. It might already be. In fact the fantastic futureheads album has 4 stars and can be found here. The super BBC news site has a interesting feature on baboons in Guatemala that features in Michael Palin's new book 'Baboons in Guatemela' which is a vailable in all good bookshops. I saw a great special offer on ink cartidges today - 2 for 1 at PC World Business Direct. Hurry while stocks last. anyway, I see that there's a lot of conversation about Open Source Software on some people's blogs on some sites somewhere probably. I have something to say about that even though I don't normally link to any software sites or buy it or talk about it, but I did once follow a link of th 19th June what did go to an OpenSolaris page for blogging thing someprobably. Have you seen my cat? I was reconstructing my garden after cycling through Surrey and Doctor Who who came on the TV and I like good wine and here is a picture of me at some event of other taken on my treo. I want to die. Why oh why doesn't she like me? That President Bush...

hmm. it's still beta. perhaps you can actually pay for it to remove the adverts. unless I actually just wrote all that. on my excellent Talin. Oi! stop it!

By the way G11N = globalization

Friday, August 19, 2005

Class of '60

I've been invited to a party celebrating the 45th anniversary of my high school graduation. There's a web page with some photos contributed by Jon, one of my best friends of the time. I can't resist giving a couple in which my juvenile self appears (one with my baritone sax and the other looking (un)tough in football uniform.

Click here for a full-size version of the photo.

Click here for a full-size version of the photo.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Demise of the Book (1894)

Another light-hearted post from the work blog -- put up on a Friday, the traditional day for less serious stuff:

Imagine yourself in 1894. Would it be reasonable then to predict the demise of the printed book? In an article that appeared in Scribner's Magazine that year, Octave Uzanne did just that.

Here's a citation: The End of Books by Octave Uzanne, Illustrations by A. Robida, Scribner's Magazine, Vol. XVI, No. 2. August, 1894, pp. 220-231.

For a little background and brief summary of the article see Engines of Our Ingenuity, No. 2009, a radio program produced by the University of Houston College of Engineering.

Some highlights of the Scribner's article:

At a late-night dinner party, the protagonist, Arthur Blackcross, tells his listeners: "reading, as we practise it today, soon brings on great weariness; for not only does it require of the brain a sustained attention which consumes a large proportion of the cerebral phosphates, but it also forces our bodies into various fatiguing attitudes. Our eyes are made to see and reflect the beauties of nature, and not to wear themselves out in the reading of texts."

Basing his ideas on the miniaturization of the bulky phonographs of his day, he predicts that the printed book, he says, will die, and, after some technical advances have been achieved, "the author will become his own publisher."

He goes on:

"Libraries will be transformed into phonographotecks, or rather, phonostereoteks."

"Fortunate hearers will experience the ineffable delight of reconciling hygiene with instruction; of nourishing their minds while exercising their muscles; for there will be pocket phono-opera-graphs, for use during excursions among Alpine mountains or in the canyons of the Colorado."

Working people and the poor "may intoxicate themselves on literature as on pure water, and as cheaply, too, for there will then be fountains of literature in the streets as there are now hydrants."

With broadcasting or any form of electronic transmission had not yet been foreseen, Blackcross predicts transmission by: "infinite number of small tubes connected with [an author's] auditory shop, by means of which his works may be wafted through the open windows to the ears of such lodgers as may desire amusement in a moment of leisure, or cheer in an hour of solitude."

The same sort of technology will enable dissemination on mass transit and thereby "cause travellers to forget the weariness of the way while leaving their eyes free to admire the landscapes through which they are passing."

All will not be simply text: "illustrations will be abundant and realistic enough to satisfy the most exacting. You perhaps forget the great discovery of to-morrow, that which is soon to amaze us all; I mean the Kinetograph of Thomas Edison, of which I was so happy as to see the first trial at Orange Park, New Jersey, during a recent visit to the great electrician."

He sums up: "books will be forsaken by all the dwellers upon this globe, and printing will absolutely pass out of use except for the service it may still be able to render to commerce and private relations; and even there the writing-machine, by that time fully developed, will probably suffice for all needs."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Who gave the Muj the Stinger?

Juan Cole's Fisking the "War on Terror" is partisan -- he's a partisan writer -- and it seems barely to conceal a passionate disgust. But the content suits the topic, its presentation is unusually concise, and the style surprisingly free of heavy-handed rhetoric.

Cole has a current column in which he says, in essence, that there's no way to implement Iraq's permanent constitution without violating its temporary one: Now They're moving the Goalpost.

Monday, August 15, 2005

An appearance aristocracy

This long essay in the Wilson Quarterly reminds me of a time in my Junior year of high school when I competed in an election for editor of the yearbook. I pretty much insured my defeat by announcing that I favored a book with no photographs, just text. So, here is this very serious discussion of physical attractiveness notable for a complete lack of images. I've supplied some Vanity Fair photos at bottom just to show that I've evolved somewhat since I was 19.

Looks Do Matter
by Daniel Akst


To a bizarre extent, looking good in America has become the province of an appearance aristocracy—an elect we revere for their seemingly unattainable endowment of good looks. Physical attractiveness has become too much associated with affluence and privilege for a country as democratically inclined as ours.

Elle Macpherson

Sunday, August 14, 2005


My RSS aggregator helps me keep up with a couple dozen blogs by librarians and folks who work in the LIS arena. One of my favorites is written by Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC's Chief Strategist (his actual title). He blogs about tech developments and research proejects, but he also ruminates on all kinds of other things. One of the best is on a favorite passage from Robert Musil's Man Without Qualities.

He recently did a post called QOTD containing all of the following: "Kierkegaard: Take away the paradox from a thinker and you have a professor. [Jonathan Rée on Kierkegaard. LRB 4 August 2005]" to which I felt inspired to reply in the following comment:

Posted by Jeff on August 3, 2005

Kierkegaard! I was trying to guess what cultural giant would next appear in a Dempsey blogpost. We've had representatives from the best of geek intelligentsia (Tim Bray), current academia in the US (Tim Burke), the Middle-European literary sphere (Robert Musil), and the high end of British scholarship (Anthony Giddens). Not to mention Marx and Engels, John B Thompson, John S. Rigden, and Manuel Castells, and leaving aside Thomas Friedman since it's hard not to write about him and his work.

I was thinking Gerald Chapman would be appropriate, for his too-little-known work on Edmund Burke, or Burke himself, whose contributions to the history of ideas are too easily distorted and probably not given their full due. Or, maybe Tim Caynes, since he's so tantalizingly allusive he must be profound.

But Kierkegaard will do just fine. Thanks very much. I do appreciate the breadth of your reach, keeping us aware of the noble intellectural context in which our LIS labors repose.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Guns, Germs, Steel, and ..... Friesians

We had a dinnertable discussion of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel the other day. Nick outlined the argument from the PBS series as outlined to him by Chris. We all chipped in with our thoughts on the basic premise:

Diamond presents a materialist view of history based on geography. He says the peoples of the Eurasian continent were lucky in their location, their luck producing a slow accumulation of advantage which by 1500 permitted them to amass an unassailable concentration of wealth and power compared to the rest of the world, and so, in turn, permitted them to overwhelm other peoples across the continents and oceans.

I vaguely recalled a more complex view from my reading of Durkheim and books whose authors and titles don't readily come to mind (note to self: fill in later). This view includes cultural determinants that can't be entirely traced to geography. One of these explains European advantages in terms of the relative difficulty of farming in Northern Europe -- great forests, heavy soil, short growing seasons. Where Diamond would say that's a disadvantage my (unremembered) author said it resulted in relatively small, highly competitive states. The author said the main determinant was thus competition among aristocratic land holders that made Europe the springboard to modernity.

Because competitive, these warlords were more opportunistic than the rulers of large states to the south and east. They glommed onto advances like the stirrup and the breeding of "great horses," tank-like animals that could be armored and could carry armored warriors. They subdued a peasantry (feudal serfs) and developed a (very relatively) advanced intensive agriculture that produced sufficient surplus not only to support the development of towns and trade, but also to support the feeding of the great horses over the long, hard winter. In fact it's arguable that the warlords cared more about keeping the horses alive to fight summer battles than tolerating the trading centers that grew up in their domains.

Whether there's merit in that argument or not, here's to the great horse (alternatively war horse, shire horse, cold blood, and, descending, draft horse). Prince of the breed, of course, is the Friesian:


Notes on this animal

The Friesians are a cold-blooded horse. The original foundation Friesians can be traced back to a cold-blooded native forest horse. The remains of such a horse have been unearthed in the Fries an area of North Holland. During times of war, Friesians were influenced and refined with barb blood. Later, during the crusades, with battle mobility in mind, Andalusian blood was added. The Friesian in its turn has provided the foundation blood for many European breeds. Some samples of which are: The Shire, Gelderlander, Olderburger, Fell ponies, Old English Blacks, Dutch Warmbloods, The Holestiner, to name a few and here in American they are thought to have been the ancestors of the Morgan horse.

Here's an excellent
posting on the Cliopatria blog
in which Ralph Luker points to some good discussions of Diamond's book:

More Noted Things ...

I'm a little hesitant to do this, because the conversations have sprawled all over the place, but as best I can tell the salient discussions of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel take place at:

Cliopatria, cross-posted from Easily Distracted

Crooked Timber

Frog in a Well

Brad DeLong

Political Animal

Savage Minds: One, Two, Three

The debate has been lively and it's good to see two fine, young academic blogs, Frog in a Well and Savage Minds, at the heart of it.

More Friesians (who could resist?):

A bit more from the web page on the Friesian Breed

The Friesians trot with extreme power and action, bending well and deep at the joints. Steps are high and long with lot of "air time'. The walk is straight, forward and springy.the canter is lively with a strong pushing power from the hindquarters this creates a thrusting, jumping canter.

The temperament of the Friesian horse is loyal, Willing, placid and cheerful. Friesians are very people oriented and highly intelligent with an uncanny ability to retain knowledge.

Friesians tend to spook much like a cat, they stand stock-still puffing themselves up the look "big". Friesians do not tend to bolt but they can sometimes spin slowly in a circle always coming back around to face what they are afraid of.

Friesians enjoy shoving you with their nose, this is not a personality fault. This is the way Friesians say I love you, refrain from reprimanding your horse or you may lose his or her loyalty.
(You can however, shove them back.)

Saturday, August 06, 2005


I keep Tim Bray's weblog bookmarked and check it from time to time. I've written about his work before. His interests range wide, his expert knowledge is awesome, and he writes well.

It's time for me to own up that -- more than bookmarking -- I've put in my RSS aggregator the blog of Tim Bray's fellow Sun-worker, Tim Caynes. TC works out of Norwich, UK, while TB works out of Vancouver, CA, and they both work for a company headquartered in Irvine, CA (for California, this time, not Canada).

Tim Caynes' blog has less breadth than Tim Bray's; no interesting photos, no reviews of Isabel Bayrakdarian, no astute political observations, no insider's look at xml. But Tim Caynes has a captivating style. His posts are puzzling and have a breezy slacker charm. Here's a sample:

did you see that?,

that's horrible. I didn't mean to do it, but I just kind of forgot that I'd set up a webcam. I mean, I've done worse things but not captured quite like that before. I really am working, by the way. these phat headphones are for conference calls, I'm not doing a dave doubledecks down here while paul talks about globalization design docs and we check on status. I'm not really hoofing around the gulf of oman in an APC in battlefield2 while you're talking about user-friendliness and reordering things in the authoring temaplates. look, I even sent out some kind of document or other to make it look like I was prepared. admittedly, I put it in the collaboration space so that it will time out before you can load it, but it's there, really. it's got knobs on

I watched 2 guys in space do some repointing on their mobile home on the internet today, which I was quite blasé about really. I mean, they're 224 miles above the coast of france, hovering about on a giant white fork-lift truck contraption, picking out little bits of plastic from between slices of fiber cheesecake with their huge white fingers and I'm seeing this live, as it happens, because they're got helmet-mounted (careful) cameras that are transmitting wirelessly to tracy island or something which is hooked up to some webserver or other that's streaming stuff under the atlantic to the BT infrastructure that's doing better for me today than chris and I'm sat here looking at a 4 inch square streaming video on my monitor in the upstairs office in norwich watching their every move. so that's amazing, right? but am I bovvered? not really. it's sunny outside and I'm leering out the window at 20 year olds on their way to top shop to get a new crop top for saturday cos gary's takin her dahn Lava, innit?

so what I do on the webcam is really not very significant. unless my mum's watching. she'd be horrified.

Incidentally, Sun Microsystems offers blog space to all its employees and many, including the Chief Operating Officer, take advantage.

Anne and Isabel

In another post I observed the breadth of Tim Bray's interests, from software (his home turf) to photography, to politics, to family, and to culture high and low. Click here for the Wikipedia entry on him. There's a 2003 interview with him here, focussing mostly on his work.

In the high-culture area, he writes about classical concerts in his area of the world (Vancouver, BC). In the past couple of years, he's done pieces on both Anne Sofie von Otter and Isabel Bayrakdarian. I mention this, and have written this post, just so I could have an excuse to reproduce these two photos:

Anne Sofie von Otter as Carmen at Glyndebourne in 2002. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

Isabel Bayrakdarian

Friday, August 05, 2005

A knight on two wheels, brief celebration of Tour '05

Just some photos to commemorate this year's Tour de France. Michael Rasmussen was my favorite. He aimed to take a stage if he could and ended up taking the prize as best climber, earning a high place in overall competition, and also winning a stage. At one point commentators thought that he might gain a podium place -- one of the top three finishers after three weeks of racing, but that was never more than a dream.

As you know from a previous post, I also respect Pieter Weening for his stage win.

Lance is deservedly champ. A man who lives up to his cliché of a name. A figurative knight with lance and a (figuratively) strong arm to hold it. (Who knew that there was bicycle jousting?)

Graham Watson photos:

Weening has attacked at the front of the race and is building a steady lead over his ex-escapers...

Michael Rasmussen wins into Mulhouse to take his first-ever Tour de France stage-win - he has been out in front for the entire stage, over 170-kilometres!

Stage 18, Rasmussen is in trouble on the finishing climb and will lose 37-seconds to 4th-place overall, Ullrich

Lance Armstrong rode his last time trial stage in his last Tour de France - and won in convincing style!