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Archive for the ‘words’ Category

wikipedia AI wanderings

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Whilst thinking about AI, I went on a bit of a Wikipedia wander and discovered:

  • android is technically masculine. You can also have gynoid.
  • there’s a theory called “uncanny valley” that when robots look/act almost like actual humans, it causes revulsion in the human observers
  • grey goo is an end of the world scenario in which out-of-control robots consume all matter while building more of themselves—a scenario known as ecophagy (“eating the environment”)

I’m sure that will all come in handy one day.

Written by Karen

December 31st, 2008 at 7:17 am

Posted in words

equal access to Harry Potter

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The Right to Read campaign asserts that everyone has the right to read the same book, at the same time, at the same price. The ‘same time’ didn’t initially strike me as particulary significant but I hadn’t considered Harry Potter. Personally I wouldn’t queue at midnight for any book, just to read it as soon as possible, but plenty others would. Kids (and adults) want to be part of that, regardless of the quality of their sight.

One of the RNIB achievements that they are particularly proud of is getting Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince published as the first ever novel to be released simultaneously in Braille, large print and standard print. Apparently the publishers weren’t keen on releasing the novel to be transcribed before publication and needed to be reassured with promises of padlocked transcription rooms.

You can now get the Deathly Hallows in Braille from Amazon. But from the looks of it the same price mission still has a way to go.

Written by Karen

November 10th, 2008 at 6:35 am

Posted in accessibility,books

book: How to be Free by Tom Hodgkinson

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Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson follows up How to be Idle with How to be Free in which he exhorts us to live simpler lives, get off the capitalist hamster wheel and indulge in a bit of anarchism. Jolly medieval peasants seem to feature a lot. As reviewers have pointed out, he does seem to forget an awful lot of the nasty bits about the medieval period.

And for Hodgkinson, governments are responsible for wars and taxes but he conveniently ignores the NHS (which is the bit that vexes me about all this self-sufficiency stuff…. I’d still quite like having highly trained medical staff around and I don’t think they want to be paid in turnips or with a nice tune on the ukelele).

I felt compelled to follow this up with Medieval Lives by Terry Jones, which evened things out a bit with a healthy dose of corruption, pestilance and violence.

Written by Karen

July 2nd, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Posted in books,happiness,past

book: mental models

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Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior is the first book from the Rosenfeld Media stable.

Mental Models is a very detailed step-by-step guide that gives you everything you could need to know to follow Indi Young’s process. The name ‘Mental Models’ doesn’t really convey the most important (in my opinion) aspect of alignment diagrams, the aligning bit.

The original announcement of the book defined Alignment Diagrams as mental models married to proposed features. Indi explains the debate about the title at the Rosenfeld Media site but I do feel the title only refers to half the process.

Here’s how our UX trading card from the IA Summit explains ‘Alignment Models’:

Diagram that breaks down user activities into discrete tasks, arranges these activities in columns, and then uses the same columns to align the product features, functions, and content that support these activities. May also align business objectives.
Provides gap analysis, shows product opportunities, and helps develop task-based information architecture. Serves as a roadmap, and anchors conversations about future features and content in actual user needs instead of individual stakeholder agendas.

In spite of being familiar with the principle of the method I felt that the book launched into the detail of the first step a little too soon without selling the overall methodology. I found it easy to forget the overall point of the method whilst immersed in the (admitedly very helpful) details of participant recruitment and interviewing. Given possible confusion over the title, this might explain the more baffled review on Amazon.

This is a great book if you know you want to get stuck in and start creating one of these diagrams and to do it properly. It could be a bit overwhelming if you hadn’t already come across the concept.

More detailed review to follow for Freepint…

Written by Karen

June 27th, 2008 at 11:17 am

nomen et omen

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How many different ways of saying someone has an apt name are there? Wikipedia plumps for Nominative Determinism but goes on to say:

“Synonyms and/or related concepts include aptronym, apronym, aptonym, jobonymns, namephreaks, onomastic determinism, Perfect Fit Last Names (PFLNs), psychonymics, and classically nomen est omen or όνομα ορίζοντας. ND researchers are comiconomenclaturists.”

And that list isn’t particularly exhaustive, missing out on Tom Stoppard’s “cognomen syndrome”for one.

Written by Karen

June 6th, 2008 at 10:23 am

Posted in words

dr who in a library

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I don’t often watch Dr Who so it was apt that when I did on Saturday (whilst fretting about how Pileswasp’s operation was going) it was set in a library. Or rather a library world:

Silence in the Library

Written by Karen

June 4th, 2008 at 8:22 am

Posted in bbc,books

books are doing fine

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Nice to see a story suggesting that everything isn’t going to the dogs:
books are thriving despite the internet

Written by Karen

May 30th, 2008 at 9:08 am

book: against happiness by Eric G. Wilson

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Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy was not what I expected.

Some quotes:

“what is existence if not an enduring polarity, an endless dance of limping dogs and lilting crocuses, starlings that are spangled and frustrated worms?”

“we wonder, then, if the obsession with happiness, is at the end of the day, a kind of unknowing necrophilia”

“we all know of this,the mind’s winter. No leaves now hide the nakedness of the branches. We stare at the gnarled and exposed limbs. They shiver in the wind. The oak and the elm, the maple and the birch: all these formally regal trees resemble poor souls desperate for clothing. No one meanders through the lanes radiating affection. The trees simply stand there, alone. They are the failed rules of a bleak land. Their domain is one of emptiness. Nothing stirs in the excruciating stillness. We have the feeling that there is room for almost anything to fill this wintry void. Something surely is going to happen out there in the vast spaces drained of all meaning”

I *think* that at least part of his argument is that without melancholy we wouldn’t get great art, poetry etc. I’m not sure his prose makes the point very well.

Written by Karen

May 28th, 2008 at 7:57 am

Posted in books,happiness

old unknowns

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There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

I always liked the stubborn bleakness of Ecclesiastes. And I always liked The Devil’s Dictionary. Surprised I never found this quote before.

He’s good on jealousy too:

Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping

Written by Karen

May 25th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Posted in quotes

the concerns of full-grown men

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“Politics and economics are concerned with power and wealth, neither of which should be the primary, still less the exclusive, concern of full-grown men” – Arthur C Clarke, Profiles of the Future, 1984

Written by Karen

April 20th, 2008 at 10:25 am

Posted in future,quotes