One of the side-effects of using Google+ is that I’m getting exposed to a kind of writing I usually avoid – ponderous divagations on how the Internet should be and the meaning of it all written by people who’ve never gotten their hands dirty actually making it work. No, I’m not talking about users – I don’t mind listening to those. I’m talking about punditry about the Internet, especially the kind full of grand prescriptive visions. The more I see of this, the more it irritates the crap out of me. But I’m not in the habit of writing in public about merely personal complaints; there’s a broader cultural problem here that needs to be aired.
The following rant will not name names. But if you are offended by it, you are probably meant to be.
It’s always one of the high points of my year when I get to go to Michigan and play with the sword geeks. This year my wife and I went out for Summer Weapons Retreat 3, run by our friends at the Polaris Fellowship of Weapons Study, with an unstructured several days afterwards for extra hang time. Some of you may have seen my Google+ microbursts about this trip, but I only posted them to circles distribution; here’s the rest of the story, or as much of it as I think is interesting anyway.
Here’s hoping I’ve figured out how to extract a public permalink this time.
The issue analysis.
Normally I post essay-length stuff here, but I’ve weighed in on a G+ policy dispute and thought this post should be there. Comments there too please.
If style is truly the contrast of expectation and surprise, it’s been a very stylin’ couple of weeks in the smartphone world while I’ve been on vacation.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about Robert Heinlein, but not to their own facts. In a blog post on Heinlein’s novel Beyond This Horizon, David Brin advances a number of claims which are disputable, and one that is utterly bizarre. He alleges that the thought behind Heinlein’s famous quote “An armed society is a polite society” was not Heinlein’s but issued from John W. Campbell, the editor who with Heinlein invented science fiction as we know it.
This claim is not merely wrong, it attempts to traduce a core belief which Heinlein expressed in his fiction and his nonfiction and his personal letters throughout his life. We do not have to speculate about this; as I shall show, it is so amply documented that Brin’s claim passes from being merely tendentious to outright bizarre.
Brin’s error matters to me personally because, as much as I am anything else, I am one of Heinlein’s children. I have closely studied his works and his life, and that study has shaped me. What I have given to the world through my advocacy of open source is directly tied back to what the Old Man taught me about liberty, transparency, and moral courage. And I am never more Heinlein’s child than when I advocate for an armed (and polite) society.
I’ve recently become aware of an entertaining controversy in the world of mathematics. It seems a dissident faction of mathematicians is advocating the replacement of the mathematical constant π with the related constant τ = 2π. T he self-described ‘Tauists’ are conducting their campaign with a form of ha-ha-only-serious dry humor that gently mocks the conventions of the mathematical literature, but if we receive it only as satire, we risk missing some serious and interesting issues in play.
This is a heads-up for all fans of this blog. You probably want to get on Google+ ASAP, because in the future some content I would have shipped as short posts here will be Google+ shared text instead.
Essay-length stuff will remain here with pointers from Google+ updates. Likely I will lock comments on the Google+ updates.
UPDATE: Follow me here. Also, since there seems to be some confusion on this score, let me emphasize that I will continue to use this blog for essay-length content.
Google+ is interesting. I was persuaded to try it by three things: (1) Circles, so I can structure my contacts rather than having an undifferentiated blob of “friends”, (2) I’m fairly confident that Google’s Data Liberation Front won’t let it turn into a jail, and (3) my best geeky friends seem to be joining en masse.
I begin to think Facebook might actually have a fight on its hands. I’m getting the feel of tremendous demand for something that’s full-boat social networking but not Facebook finding an outlet, because it’s not just my geeky friends that are signing up.
This will bear watching.
I’m just back from another session with the Friday night gaming crew, occupied this time with a new game called Alien Frontiers. Summary: It’s Yahtzee — in — spaaace!.
This is a happy story about how, sometimes, you can go home again.
When I was a small child (this would have been a good 45 years or so in the mid-1960s), there was a style of ice cream cone with a sort of top cap of solidified chocolate and chopped peanuts on it. They were sold under the brand name Nutty Buddy, but I think it had imitators as well. I didn’t care; I was barely aware of the brand and I liked them all. Ice cream trucks were more common then than they are now, and when I heard the bell on one of them ringing I knew what I wanted. A Nutty Buddy if I could get one, or an ice-cream sandwich if I couldn’t.
About a year ago my wife and I were out in Michigan for sword training, and one fine day we and Heather the swordmistress rustled up some cold sandwiches and drinks and went for a picnic lunch in a local park. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, and the food was good, and the company was good and – what was that? I heard what could only be the bell of an ice-cream truck! I think it had been literally decades since my last one; I instantly gave chase.
Now, Eric in hot pursuit of an ice cream truck is doubtless a rather comical sight. I have cerebral palsy and don’t run well, tending to galumph across the landscape in what I’m sure looks like a ludicrously slow and inefficient manner. Fortunately, I am fast enough to catch up with an ice-cream truck that doesn’t actually want to outrun its potential clientele. I caught it about a block away.
I have plotted the May 2011 comScore data. There are two conspicuous things to notice about it. One is that recent rumors of an Android stallout seem utterly bogus, and the other is that Apple appears to be actually gaining some share rather than simply bouncing around 25% in a random way.