Monthly Archives: March 2005

Sand-/Soapbox

Alors que je parlais de blogue comme «carré de sable» (au sens de SandBox sur un Wiki), ça commence déjà à ressembler plus à une estrade… Toujours est-il que jouer seul dans un carré de sable, c’est pas très fort, comme principe.

Yes, as could be expected, this blog already turns into a soapbox. Too bad?
The whole principle isn’t that distinct from what’s happening to television these days, with the dominance of “reality shows.” Everyone has an axe to grind and a blog or “reality show” is an opportunity to do things publicly. Echoes of exhibitionism?

Ça reste intéressant, comme principe.

Alexandre
http://dispar.blogspot.com/


More on Alan Dundes (Berkeley Release)

03.31-2005 – Alan Dundes, professor of folklore and anthropology, dies
With more information on his career and impact.
Personally, I wasn’t directly affected by his work but the discipline of folkloristics would sure have been much different without him.


Les étudiants africains et le mouvement de grève au Québec

Les étudiants africains dans le doute
Le mouvement de grève des étudiants québécois trouve sa place dans une publication camerounaise… Intéressant, comme concept.
Et dommage pour les étudiants africains, victimes, comme les autres d’une situation de tension sociale.

D’ailleurs, puisque les blogues sont souvent bourrés d’opinion… Comme beaucoup d’autres, je suis en faveur des étudiants grévistes. Pas que j’aie l’impression que la grève soit le meilleur moyen d’obtenir un changement politique important. Mais les étudiants ont le droit de s’indigner du fait qu’ils se sont fait flouer.
En fait, j’ai grand espoir en ces étudiants. Pas nécessairement parce qu’ils risquent de faire bouger le gouvernement. Mais parce qu’ils sont réveillés, «conscientisés». Et solidaires. Rien de plus important, pour moi. En tant qu’étudiant québécois (vivant à l’étranger), «j’ai jamais été aussi fier d’être Québécois». Bon, c’est peut-être un peu exagéré et j’ai pas toutes les données en main. Mais je vois les choses d’un bon œil.

Pour les Africains, eh bien, c’est bien entendu une situation difficile. L’Université de Bamako et d’autres ont longtemps été en grève, ce qui a nui à beaucoup de Maliens. Mais, bon, [voix personnage=”Caliméro”]la vie est injuste[/voix]…


Tout vient à point…

Excellent principe. Ça aide, pour attendre. Par exemple, des réponses à des demandes d’emploi, de bourse, etc.
Ça va venir!

Pour les Francophones qui lisent ce blogue (on sait jamais, il peut y en avoir), excusez-moi d’y mettre tant de choses en anglais. Je
travaille et écrit en anglais ces temps-ci alors ça marche mieux comme ça.
Désolé!


“Social Butterfly Effect”: More Than a Silly Pun?

Was talking about the social effects of multilinked nodes with a friend last night. Followed it up today in a private email. Had to blog it.

Simply put, someone who has links with many people is likely to get some wheels moving, socially. Especially if that person’s network is sparse (people in it don’t know each other directly) and not too multiplex (not having many nodes with multiple links between them, like two people doing many things together). Simple enough.
The spark/trigger action on the wheel-moving/domino effect is not oriented (the person doesn’t have an agenda). If there are many such individuals connecting so many links (commonly known as “social butterflies” as they go from one flower to the next), the effect is pseudo-chaotic. To play on a silly pun, let’s call it the “social butterfly effect.” As things go, it’s quite likely that somebody else has had the exact same idea for the phrase (too lazy to google the phrase, though). It’s certainly a well-known effect. And there’s probably a less cheesy name for it somewhere in sociology textbooks. Too lazy to look it up.

Now, as it turns out, I see myself as that kind of social butterfly who does have an effect on some wheels starting to turn. But it’s really not presumptuous on my part. I’m not saying that I’m such a cool guy because I know so many people or that I have such an influence on people. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite of charisma and attraction. I’m the kind of guy who’s relatively insignificant to enough people that what I do or say may just activate the right process at the right moment. And nobody in their right mind would credit me with having done anything in the process. Yeah! Power!

The example I used in communication with my friend was coffee. More on that later. But it does depend on not having a specific agenda. And an incredibly large number of “failures” or errors (in the sense of “trial and error”).
If I mention homeroasting coffee beans to 200 people, chances are that at least 195 of them will be utterly disinterested with the notion, three might be mildly interested, one might think about taking up the “hobby,” and one might get an idea for something completely unrelated to homeroasting but nonetheless incredibly cool. If I did that transmission by “reaching out and touching” all of these people, that’d be an abysmally depressing success rate. (Especially if the measure is new converts to homeroasting.) But if I do it with minimal effort like by mentioning it in passing during a public discussion (say, in class, on a mailing-listl, or, well, on a “buh-lawg”), my effort to success ratio is quite good. The first thing to notice is that the most important effect here isn’t to have turned one person to homeroasting. It might be cool to interact with this person based on our newly shared interest. We might even start exchanging tips and samples. Maybe it’ll develop into some type of genuine friendship. Which might in turn lead to a new network.
All great. But what I appreciate the most here is there might be one person who heard about homeroasting and started to let her mind wonder about coffee prices, World System Theory, the effects of Globalisation, and student strikes. She might end up as a “mover and shaker” character in a grassroots movement to link students internationally. Who knows? I’m not one to spoon-feed conceptual links to people…

So, I see my role (whether or not I’m good at it) as a social butterfly getting things moving by being just “a guy in the crowd.” Fair enough.

The problem with that role is that because it’s based on lack of recognition, it runs counter to a few things which are socially important. The two social measures I think about most directly are “Intellectual Property” and job prospects. The first is definitional, in a way: I want many of my ideas to be “stolen” by those who receive them. Academia is based on that type of generalized exchange where we give it all to everyone else and we receive everything from everybody else. Those who are trying to restrict IP too much are hindering “innovation.” Which might in fact be the effect the want to achieve. In the social “tug o’ war” giving us balance, they have their own rope to pull on.

Job prospects are more problematic for me, personally. At least, I see them as more problematic. I happen to think that my own prospects aren’t too bad but, sadly, academic appointments (as opposed to academic work) are based on recognition and exclusive expertise. I make a point of not being recognized too often and I derive great joy from helping someone achieve a pleasurable state without being credited. Being a pawn is cool. [Just realized that “peon” had another denotation. “Pion” means pawn in French] But academic hiring committees don’t really like pawns. As for expertise, I do have some but it’s disparate enough that it doesn’t play so well in the mono-disciplinary thing. Too bad!
Some of it is a huge cult of personality in Academia. And the whole (ugh!) “Publish or Perish” game. But it’ll all change. It has to. Hopefully, it’ll change soon enough to edge me in.


In Memoriam Alan Dundes

Always sad that a great one would pass away.
He apparently collapsed while teaching. There’s something strong about this. Lasting legacy.


Présentation / Whoami?

To introduce myself…

Right now (30/03/05 17:06:37), I’m a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University Bloomington’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and I’m a visiting lecturer at Indiana University South Bend’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology for the academic year 2004–2005 (which is coming to an end very soon). I got this position from the Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship program from IUB’s University Graduate
School.
A great program. Each of us teaches one or two semesters at one of the “regional” campuses (any of IU campuses besides Bloomington). Our status is that of full-time faculty but we have a lower teaching load than our colleagues because part of our time is devoted to our dissertation. IUB gives us an amount as fellowship and the regional campus (IUSB in my case) gives us a small salary. Not huge amounts of money altogether, but we’re not in there for the money.
We’re there for the experience. In a very real, direct, and efficient way. We get to participate in every aspect of faculty life, from collegial relationships to faculty meetings. “You can’t pay for that kind of experience!” We also get a faculty mentor at the host institution with whom we’re able to discuss pedagogical issues. Our mentors also help quite a bit in adapting to new teaching conditions.
My own experience at IUSB has been ideal/optimal/great. It’s a very interesting campus. Extremely motivating as a teaching environment because people care about actual learning. And despite the emphasis on teaching, faculty members do get a chance to publish, sometimes more than their colleagues at “Research I” universities (like IUB).

Donc, je suis prof. J’enseigne quoi? Anthropologie culturelle, anthropologie linguistique, études africaines. Du moins, cette année. J’ai aussi enseigné en anthropologie symbolique et anthropologie de la
religion. Mes intérêts me portent aussi vers la musique, l’esthétique et la sémiotique aussi bien que vers l’études des systèmes sociaux décentralisés (réseaux sociaux, communautés d’expérience, etc.). Évidemment, l’aspect linguistique implique les productions verbales, la performance, la littérature orale, etc.
Bon, c’est bien d’être prof et tout ça, mais je suis aussi un être humain. Des tas d’intérêts. Oh, bien sûr, les trucs usuels. La bouffe, les voyages, la musique, la littérature, le cinéma, l’informatique…
Mais ça prend des aspects un peu plus spécifiques, que j’élaborerai plus tard. Après tout, un des avantages d’être sur Blogger (plutôt que sur un site professionnel/académique), c’est de pouvoir parler de mes autres passions.

Yes, I’m a passionate guy. Not in the Spanish Romantic Lover with a rose between his teeth. Although, that could work too.
But more of a passion for life, people, meaning, thoughts, and passion itself.

Ça signifie parfois que j’en fais un peu trop. Déjà, ce blogue semble s’orienter dans cette tendance. Mais bon…

My interests, passions, tastes, ideas are oftentimes very “disparate” (again, hence the blog title) and come out in an apparently incoherent manner. But I like to make links between different things. In new ways, if possible. So what’s common between homebrewing beer and iTunes playlists?
This is left as an exercise to the reader.
Yeah, singular.


Morning Has Broken, Deal Hasn’t?

Ya know how I said that the lack of categories in Blogger was a deal breaker? Well, apparently, it hasn’t prevented me from going wild, now, has it?
Thing is, I rather like the lack of categories at this point! Weird, ain’t it?
Well, I like structured stuff. Outlines and such. Apart from Mail.app, OmniOutliner is the main app I use for writing (good thing both work with Cocoa Services). In this case, I’d like to classify things I write. Especially since I think they’re pretty diverse and “disparate” (hence the blog title). But, as it turns out, the lack of categories makes it even more disparate and crazy. I’ll probably hate it soon (after all, I have only blog for a limited number of hours) but at this
point, Life’s Still Good.
[Remember, “That Which Is Said In Title Case Sounds Profound” although, as Vuarra says on the Mead Lover Digest, it’s “Quid quid latine dictum sit altum videtur.” (“That which is said in Latin sounds profound.”)]
At any rate, I might as well stay with Blogger for a while. Convenient.
No need for outside hosting.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to migrate to some other system once I get my very own server space.
Still, I wish Blogger had obvious support for keywords, at the very least. From Google, one would expect…
And this isn’t about getting hits, attracting readers, viewers, eyeballs… I genuinely don’t care. It’s a release thing.
Not that I don’t care about “you” (so far, pretty much my own self) but it’s not my reason to blog, I’m sure…
Already at this point, it’s more of an exercise for my “writing muscles,” so to speak. If you will. In a way. 😉
Speaking of carpal tunnel, shouldn’t blogs be spoken?
[Yeah, yeah, it can be done… Everything can be done. But, remember: convenience!]
[[This thing, blogging, really encourages soliloquy! And weird writing habits…]]
Things to think about, add to this beulogue: some keywordish metadata/tagging, WikiEdit-like syntax, smilies, outline to blog, keyboard shortcuts outside browser…
Now, let’s go and teach!


Post-Busters of the World, Unite!

Generations Around “Generation X”
I really do see myself as a Post-Buster and don’t feel much of a connection with “Baby Busters” who are, apparently, the real “Generation X” according to this demographic model.
Of course, there’s overlap and all sorts of things. But it appeals to me for reasons not so unknown. I identify real GenXer as those who were told there would be jobs and end up in a very difficult job market dominated by Boomers. We (Post-Busters) were told there wouldn’t be jobs anyway so we should really focus our education on something that would give us an edge.
Not a bad advice. An improvement over that is to say that flexibility and the capacity to reinvent oneself are key.
Nowadays, not only can’t we expect to work at the same job for our whole lives but we can in fact expect that we’ll go from one thing to the next. Job stability is a thing of the past? Well, the thing that replaces it isn’t too shabby. It’s a bunch of people who practice multi-/inter-/polydisciplinarity either sequentially or in parallel. What’s “wrong” with that? Probably a lot. But if we decide to surf the wave instead of fighting it (other fights are more likely to give the expected outcome), we might do what pleases us because we are pleased by what we do.

Yeah, well, it all makes sense when the little voice in my head says it… 😉


Ken Burns Spoof: Blackstronaut Cover-Up

The Old Negro Space Program
Very explicit (be warned: some foul language) but well-done. Good use of different speech styles.
Pretty funny. Good anti-racism work.
Plays on many aspects of US culture, including European-American Afrocentrists, moralistic pseudo-tolerance, and emotional manipulation. If you will. 😉
Of course, its main effect is to talk about prejudice and make people think about the impact of discrimination. Johnny Brown, who plays “Suitcase Jefferson,” has done a wonderful job of playing the stereotypical Old African-American storyteller. Many people might still perceive African-Americans in such a stereotypical light.
Some funny comments in the guestbook.


iPod/iTunes Shuffle Mode Really Totally Random?

MSNBC – Does Your iPod Play Favorites?: it’s entirely possible that nothing at all is amiss with the shuffle function. . . .
Life may indeed be random, and the iPod probably is, too. But we humans will always provide our own narratives and patterns to bring chaos under control. The fault, if there is any, lies not in shuffle but in ourselves.

This reminds me of a recent igNobel prize: “when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit.”

In the case of iPod/iTunes randomness, many people fail to see a pattern. Those people all use the same examples (the Birthday “Paradox” is one) to convince themselves that because human beings often misunderstand probabilities, iTunes (and the iPod) must be random. Kind of a reverse argument, ain’t it?
This has been discussed on blogs, on Slashdot, and on two MacSlash threads [1], [2]. Some people even want this thread to “die” (talk about anthropomorphism) yet add nothing of scientific value to the discussion. Many comments are derisive and condescending, coming from self-appointed experts in human cognition (apparently, as they seem to know so much about why we see patterns; they must have all attended the same PSY101 class or, maybe, had the same instructor for statistics in high school).
Thing is, it’s hard to find anyone doing an actual experiment (with null hypotheses) to in fact determine “how random” the algorithm in iTunes and/or the iPod really is.
As we know that no computer algorithm can generate true randomness (but maybeLava Lites can) and as it’s quite likely that the algorithm used in those devices isn’t the most advanced/complex one, it’s safe to assume that the degree of randomness we’re talking about isn’t as high as those deriders assume it is. I’m saying this without knowing whether or not there is such a measure for randomness but, surely, there must be some measure for entropy. That’d work!

What’s infuriating about this series of personal comments (“you see patterns because you don’t know stats!”) is that, assuming those condescending nay-sayers have any scientific background whatever, they should know better than that, just assuming that the algorithm really produces random series of numbers. Pffish! I’d like to be on their dissertation committees…
Why don’t they apply the scientific method? Ya know: observation, hypothesis, test… Kind of thing. It’s taught in some high schools too…
In this case, people observe patterns in a supposedly random series. One hypothesis is that these patterns are artefacts of the human tendency to see patterns everywhere. Fair enough. These people (or people with an experimental bend) could test this hypothesis and show us the results. If you want to do it, don’t test with 100 songs by a few artists. People who see these patterns have thousands of tracks by hundreds of artists in their collections*. Do it with a real world collection. In fact, do it with a collection to which tracks have been added at different times. Here’s why it matters:

The patterns that people see have to do with tracks from the same artist or, more broadly, with tracks that are similar in a more atypical way. Fine. One thing that might be common with these tracks is that they could have been added at the same time. If they have in fact been added at the same time, it’s probable that they reside on the same part of the hard drive, especially on an iPod to which things have been added in a very limited number of “sessions.” When one adds tracks to iTunes, the import process seems not to follow any obvious order so it’s likely that there are specific locations for tracks added in iTunes (on a computer or on the iPod). In this case, because of the way both iTunes and the iPod work, it’s quite possible that it means that they’re in the same folder. Yes, those “Fnn” folders that are supposed to be invisible but from which we can extract files if we want to. Isn’t it possible that tracks in the same folder have a higher probability of being played within a given sequence because of the way the randomization algorithm has been applied to them?

Now, a disclaimer of sorts. I do observe patterns in the way iTunes and my iPod select some tracks. We’re talking about tracks from two albums (out of several hundreds) playing alternatively (a track from album one, a track from album two, another track from album one…) for fifteen tracks. That’s pretty patterned to me. Not “intelligent.” Just patterned, clustered, not-so-random.
In fact, the other day, I noticed that my iPod played one song from one artist, then a song from another artist, then a song from the first artist. I “made myself a bet” (so to speak) that the track after the next would be a track by the first artist. Turns out that it was a song with the same artist involved but listed under another artist (so the “artist” tag wasn’t the same). I believe that I added all those tracks at the same time. Coincidence? Possibly. But it should be proven. “Real scientists don’t believe in coincidence.” Or some such.

It does feel awkward. In a nice way. Another time, I was listening to a song and, for no apparent reason (at least, not apparent to me), I started thinking about a song by a completely different artist. Turns out, that song was the very next song that played after the one to which I was listening. Very strange effect. Now, it’s possible that I always think about many different songs and that I noticed this occurrence because it appeared to “fulfill my prophecy” (the same way people see a conscious hand at play when one connection occurs between different events that have been associated in many different ways). Or it might be that I had heard these two songs in succession before and that hearing one made me think of the other. I tend to lean toward the second hypothesis because, the way my brain works (when it does work), I usually think about “the next song” based on sequences to which I’m used. For instance, if I made myself a specific playlist and I played it (in linear sequence) enough times, chances are that if I hear one of the tracks, I’ll think of the next track in that playlist even if the context is completely different. I’m probably not the only one who does this type of “stream of thought” association. But, you never know.

Anyhoo… I’m not saying the iTunes/iPod “shuffle” algorithm is smart/intelligent/sentient. But I do think that it generates some kind of cluster effect, the result of which sometimes feels spooky…

*My iPod (2G, 20GB) statistics:
101 Genres
644 Artists
703 Albums
3737 Tracks
Tracks by/with the artist of whom I recently had a cluster of songs: 55


Digital Hub

Business 2.0 – Magazine Article – Printable Version – What’s Next for Apple?: ‘The ideal product would be an appliance that Apple positions as a digital hub,’ Enderle says.
So he really didn’t notice that it’s exactly what Apple has called its strategy for several years? Wow! 😉


“Don’t Quit Your Day Job” (Brewing as Hobby)

[Oh, my! I do hope I won't get too hooked to blogging! I'm scared!!! ;->]

Thinking about brewing, as I often do. Responding to a message about a post I sent to the HomeBrew Digest about beer and beliefs.
In relation to my previous post on work and debt. And compartmentalization.

"Don't quit your day job"
I have no intention of doing such a thing. I love my "day job" (insofar as I have one). I see no reason to quit it.

[Yup, blogging in my case encourages the use of first person singular pronouns, a habit I try to kill in many contexts. But if it's supposed to be self-indulgent, let's do it the self-serving way…]

Some homebrewers I've met hate their day job and see brewing as an escape. [It might be something of the same for me (doing a bit of
self-analysis here) as I may use it to procrastinate. Although, brewing needs planning. Procrastination I mostly do with thinking about brewing. Anyhoo…]
Those homebrewers who brew to "get away from it all" are oftentimes the same guys (yeah, mostly guys in homebrewing circles, nowadays) who want to "Go Pro" and open a brewpub. Now, that's not silly and it's kind of easy to expect, but it might be ill-advised.
Going Pro means a huge investment on money. Of course, we all dream of having enough money to invest in brewing. Hey, if I win the lottery, I might go nuts with brewing gear and if I win enough, I might even give the brewpub idea more of a thought. But…
Going Pro also means transforming a cool, relaxing hobby into an obligation to perform. Sure, many small brewpub and microbrewery owners do it their own way and the lottery win should imply that you don't need to turn a profit. But still, professional brewing is bound to be more of a pressure. And many aspects of brewing aren't necessarily so much fun. And these are the ones that become very important in the Pro world. Not to mention the whole business side. Some people enjoy it but
these are few and far between.

A well-known homebrew celebrity (!) who became a brewpub owner is quoted as saying that if he were to start again, he might not go pro. Nowadays, he doesn't brew anymore. And even though his pub is often packed, he still struggles to make ends meet. Not a pleasant feeling.

Then, the ideal solution should be collaboration. One "business-type" to handle the business and one crazy brewer. Well, the crazy brewer won't be so crazy when the business guy talks about minimizing risk.
A big important notion, risk. A hobby is fun because the stakes are low. You scrap a 5-gallon batch, so be it. You lost a bit of time, a bit of money. So be it. That's life. And you learned something. You scrap a batch as a commercial brewer, uh-oh!
So that's one reason even the most adventurous brewers end up making a lot of fairly uncompromising beer. Another reason is that what pleases the brewer might attract a few beer geeks but the beer geek market is incredibly small as compared to the swill drinkers. Lots of talk about that. But brewing capacity (volume) is correlated against risk.


The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Despite the hype, Sony PSP no sellout in debut

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Despite the hype, Sony PSP no sellout in debut
So… Is Sony gambling on the PSP? Maybe Sony should become exclusively a content company… 😉


As the Apple Turns: Best Things In Life Are Free

As the Apple Turns: Best Things In Life Are Free: “My, isn’t it a glorious day? . . . Like we said, life is good.”
‘psolutely!


Good Night!

Piled Higher and Deeper
Hmmmmmm!!!! Sleep!!!!!!
😉


Old British Faculty

HARVARD PRESIDENT AGREES TO WEAR DRESS FOR A YEAR
A fairly funny piece of fake news from the uneven wit of Borowitz. This stands out to me:
But the so-called “Tootsie deal” is receiving mixed reviews from some at Harvard, such as classics professor Croughton Davies, who today said that forcing Mr. Summers to wear a dress for a year “blurs the line between disciplinary action and fraternity hazing.”

“I’m not sure if being president of Harvard is worth a tinker’s dam if it means vamping around Harvard Yard like some sort of Ivy League tranny,” Professor Davies said. “Larry Summers wasn’t a bad-looking man, but he is one absolutely hideous woman.”


The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Despite the hype, Sony PSP no sellout in debut

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Despite the hype, Sony PSP no sellout in debut
So… Is Sony gambling on the PSP? Maybe Sony should become exclusively a content company… 😉

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Deal Breaker

So it doesn’t do categories?
It’s a rather obvious one. It really should be addressed, acknowledged, solved.
Sure, one can do multiple blogs. But how convenient is that? Plus, it defeats the purpose of putting things together.
Oh well… It’s been fun.
Now, let’s look at the other hosted blogs. Eventually, I’ll get my own server-side blog going but I need server space first, of course.


As the Apple Turns: Bringing New Meaning To The Phrase “Psychotic Episodes.”

As the Apple Turns: Bringing New Meaning To The Phrase “Psychotic Episodes.”: “Virginia Tech’s System X, the only Mac-based cluster in the top 400 (UCLA has a small Xserve cluster ranked at #444), recently slid from third to seventh place”
C’est quand même pas mal…