Monthly Archives: May 2005

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Becky and I went to see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (IMDb Entry) yesterday, even though we had to drive all the way to Roanoke in order to do so. It has been many, many years since I read the book, and almost as many since Becky read it, so I can’t speak to the authenticity of the movie vis-a-vis the book; I’m sure the fact that Douglas Adams was working on the screenplay before his death helps matters, though. Regardless, though, I really enjoyed the movie, almost enough to inspire me to reread the books. It may the the first movie we’ve been to see in 2005 (by which I’m admitting that we still haven’t seen Episode III), but it was a good pick: funny, unpredictable, action packed, and a cute love story, too. It was worth seeing on the big screen, too. Recommended, if you can find it.

I should add that the stadium seating at the Valley View Grande was nice, too – almost worth the drive to Roanoke. Despite the rise of stadium seating in the last decade, it still hasn’t come to Ithaca or Blacksburg/Christiansburg. Not that I go to the movies often enough to really care, however…

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Democratic Reform in Egypt

For those of you who have not heard, there is a significant probability that Becky and I will be spending about seven weeks in Egypt this Fall. Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering is trying to establish a graduate program in the region. The academic program and the students would be all ours, though the program would be hosted by a local university. So, I would go over and teach two courses over six weeks (summer school style), thereby fulfilling most of my teaching commitment for the whole academic year. It’s a pretty sweet deal, in my estimation.

But, it made me especially interested in this story on Morning Edition this morning. Obviously, I think that democratic reform in the Middle East is a good thing, but I’m a little leery of drastic changes taking place while I’m on the ground in Egypt. Food for thought.

Clay Shirky: Ontology is Overated

Clay Shirky has written about categories, links, and tags in an article called Ontology is Overrated. It’s a nice article. I encourage you to read it.

In my view, part of the article near the conclusion could actually be given a theological spin:

It comes down ultimately to a question of philosophy. Does the world make sense or do we make sense of the world? If you believe the world makes sense, then anyone who tries to make sense of the world differently than you is presenting you with a situation that needs to be reconciled formally, because if you get it wrong, you’re getting it wrong about the real world. If, on the other hand, you believe that we make sense of the world, if we are, from a bunch of different points of view, applying some kind of sense to the world, then you don’t privilege one top level of sense-making over the other. What you do instead is you try to find ways that the individual sense-making can roll up to something which is of value in aggregate, but you do it without an ontological goal. You do it without a goal of explicitly getting to or even closely matching some theoretically perfect view of the world.

The theology in which I have come to believe is actually something of a middle road between these two. I believe that the “world makes sense” in that I believe that ultimate, absolute truth does exist. Unfortunately, I believe (unlike certain fundamentalist groups) that this truth is unknowable. Thus, it is up to us to “make sense of the world” in so far as we are able. And somehow, in the aggregate, this individual truth seeking adds up to something greater than the sum of its parts. In this view, I would never deny the existence of absolute truth, but I believe that a claim to possess it is tantamount to blasphemy.

Organizing Conundrum

I’ve been trying to organize my home office. And I’m currently pondering a problem to which I have no good solution. Hence, I call upon you, LazyWeb.

I have an enormous quantity of software CDs, and I don’t really know how to organize them. Music CDs are basically easy to organize due to the fact that they come in a single basic form factor: the jewel case. With software CDs, though, it is really a mixed bag. Some come in jewel cases, other in relatively sturdy cardboard folders, others in flimsy paper envelopes. Occasionally, you’ll even get one in a DVD-style case or a combo CD-holder/instruction manual thingy. So, for starters we have a mess of different sized objects to organize. Either that or you have to standardize by buying jewel cases for all of them. Or strip them down to bare CDs and put them in a Case Logic style organizer. Or something.

Even worse though, is deciding what to junk and how to organize them all. What about those driver CDs? Surely any needed driver can be downloaded from the internet, right? But what if you are rebuilding a computer from scratch and you need the Ethernet driver in order to connect to the internet? And will I even remember which driver CD goes with which machine when the time comes? And how about major software like Windows or Office? How many outdated versions should I keep? In the days of Windows 98, I junked all of my old Windows CDs, only to find that my Windows 98 was an upgrade-only CD that required you to insert an old version in order to install. I finally had to obtain a pirated Win 95 CD in order to install my legitimately purchased copy of Win 98. Bleh.

And then there are backup CDs from a machine that I used in graduate school. Is there anything on there worth keeping? And would I think to look on this CD if I needed something, anyway?

It is really tempting to just pitch these all in a box and be done with it. Other ideas?

Mac OS X Tiger (10.4)

This article provides an amazingly technical, in depth, and downright geeky review of the technologies at the heart of the latest version of Apple’s Macintosh OS X operating system. I soaked it all up since I just ordered 3 iBooks for my lab. [via NowThis]

We’re going to be playing around with GNU Radio – if for no other reason than to provide cool demos for visitors. So, we were going to be running either Mac OS X or Linux. Based on some previous experience with Linux as a somewhat lame desktop platform and a Mac curiousity that has developed over the last few years, I decided to go with Mac.

Anyway, by not paying close attention to the schedule for the release of a new version of OS X, I submitted my order for 3 iBooks to the university about 2 or 3 weeks before Tiger was released. And it looks like Apple probably shipped my machines before last Friday. So, we’ll see. Fortunately, the University’s Apple license will probably enable me to upgrade for just $10 per machine. And I can wait a few months for them to shake out all the kinks, too.

I think I’ll probably use one of the machines as a playground for the time being. I’m going to try not to make it my main machine, as it will be needed for occasional demos and whatnot, but it should be a fun way to get to know Mac OS X.