Sunday, May 23, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
(C) Fear Note: I was very tempted to include the image of one of the collection's works, maybe Pissarro's SThe Road under Snow at Louveciennes, but our European friends are touchy about copyright, especially in a not necessarily totally positive critical context.
I'm reading Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, and something in it resonated deeply with Ta-Nehishi Coates's writing on the confederate history month. But first, an observation. Everywhere I lived, and just now as I travel through Europe and hear the noise of anti-immigrant sentiment from the recent British election to the anti-minaret law just passed in Switzerland, and most lastingly in my experience growing up under Salazar and his successor: fear is a constant of life — biology rules — that forms an easily manipulable (by those who seek power) self-sustaining feedback with ignorance and lack of imagination. Social and economic instability, or their threat, form a favorable environment for that stable conformation. Now Murakami's character Oshima:
But there's one thing I want you to remember, Kafka. Those are exactly the kind of people who murdered Miss Saeki's childhood sweetheart. Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe. Of course it's important to know what's right and what's wrong. Individual errors in judgment can usually be corrected. As long as you have the courage to admit mistakes, things can be turned around. But intolerant, narrow minds with no imagination are like parasites that transform the host, change form, and continue to thrive. They're a lost cause, and I don't want anyone like that coming in here.
Waiting for my bus to Grenoble at the Lyon airport, just arrived from Zürich. The airport coffee is as bad as I remembered it, unlike the good espresso you can find anywhere in Zürich and its airport (which, for weird reasons that may have to do with the habits of traveling Americans, manages to have a busy Starbucks even though you can find nice Segafredo kiosks everywhere). It's nice to be able to speak and understand the language, unlike in Zürich, even when some of it is an annoyed Ça suffit! from a mother to her screaming youngster.
This is who they are—the proud and ignorant. If you believe that if we still had segregation we wouldn't "have had all these problems," this is the movement for you. If you believe that your president is a Muslim sleeper agent, this is the movement for you. If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you. If you flirt with secession, even now, then this movement is for you. If you are a "Real American" with no demonstrable interest in "Real America" then, by God, this movement of alchemists and creationists, of anti-science and hair tonic, is for you.The whole of it is a moving, empathic, and thereby all the more devastating meditation on memory, pride, shame, racism, heroism, moral courage, myths, the great personalities of the Civil War, and the enduring legacy of one of America's two great founding sins; on just how it is that we can be a country where a month set aside to remember a heritage of treason in defense of slavery is intended as a time of celebration and not of soul-searching. (Via Three-Toed Sloth)
I have nothing to add, as this note and Coates's writing speak my mind much better than I could.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
- I climbed and skied two Tahoe peaks with Johannes, in great weather
- I started reading Rabbit Boss (thanks Rick!)
- I lost my glasses and I've been making do with drugstore reading glasses
- I flew to Edinburgh
- I missed the volcanic cloud by a day
- I attended a reunion of many former and current Edinburgh cog sci people, and gave a talk
- I added another book to my reading list
- I had Scottish pints and and delicious dinners with great company
- I flew to Zürich
- I again forgot to blog until I woke up in the middle of the night
Sunday, May 2, 2010
World’s most excruciatingly ironic conference?: Could this be the world’s most excruciatingly ironic conference? The Second International Symposium on Peer Reviewing (ISPR 2010) is soliciting papers. Their call for papers emphasizes the sorry state of peer-review, calling for ”more research and reflections [that] are urgently needed on research quality assurance and, specifically, on Peer Review.” [...] The conference itself is part of the 14th World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics: WMSCI 2010, and organized by the same institution, the International Institute of Informatics and Systemics (IIIS). Here’s the irony: IIIS and the WMSCI conferences are notorious for their lax standards for paper acceptance, as a cursory web search testifies. (Via The Occasional Pamphlet)
They understand their market exceedingly well: authors who publish in WMSCI must have been pushed there because they couldn't get their papers accepted elsewhere, so they must have complaints about peer review.