Collateral damage: War is hell

September 2, 2006

“There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.” – Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, from an address to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy, June 19, 1879, known as his “War is hell” speech (Wikipedia entry on Sherman).

(Query: Does anyone have an electronic link to the full text of Sherman’s address that day? Or, do you know where it might be found, even in hard copy?)

Jeff Danziger’s cartoons in The Christian Science Monitor kept me buying that paper for a while. I don’t know who carries his work now, but it’s still good, vital cartooning. I saw the caption to one of his cartoons as a signature line in an e-mail post, and just the caption caused me to pause and pray for an end to war. The whole cartoon is below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

How to create angry [fill in the blank]

September 2, 2006

Ben Franklin’s satire was top notch.  Witty, engaging, well-written, there was always a barb — and the targets of the barbs had to be complete dullards to miss them.  If a pen can be as powerful as a sword, Franklin showed how words can be used to craft scalpels so sharp they can leave no scars, or stilettoes that cut so deep no healing would be possible. 

Franklin wrote a letter to ministers of a “Great Power,” noting the ways by which they might act in order to reduce the power of their nation over its colonies, “Rules by Which a Great Nation May Be Reduce to a Small One.”

It is in that vein that Mr. Angry, at Angry 365 Days a Year, offers “Top Ten Tips for Creating Angry Employees.”  As he explains [please note:  some entries at that site may be unsuitable for children, or contain strong language]:

This is not intended as a how-to guide for wannabe satanic managers. I did briefly consider that this might be akin to distributing a bomb-making recipe (very dangerous information in the wrong hands) but I actually believe most bad managers aren’t deliberately bad. They are far more likely to be ignorant of how destructive their actions are. As Hanlon’s Razor states: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

So please, anyone in doubt, this is top 10 list of things NOT to do.

Without mention of Herzberg, Likert (see here, too), Argyris, MacGregor, Maslow, nor even resort to Frederick Taylor, Mr. Angry lays it out.  He aims for general offices, and especially automated offices — but these rules apply equally well to college departments and faculty at public and parochial schools.  It’s not Franklin, but it’s useful, for non-evil purposes. 

The flood tide of technology

September 2, 2006

When we were setting up the computers for the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors in 1985, Ted the Computer Guy from Interior told us the ITT machines were the latest, greatest, and that the 10 megabyte hard-drives were all that anyone would probably ever need

We used Macs borrowed from staffers’ homes to do serious graphical layouts, and with the cooperation of Commission Vice Chairman Gilbert Grosvenor, then head of the National Geographic Society, much of the serious word-, photo- and chart-crunching was done by NGS employees, as donations.  The report was published in its most-accessible form in 1987 by Island Press, who had better typesetting and editing capabilities than the Government Printing Office (GPO).  My hard drive began to seriously bog down after four months — pre-Windows, it actually limped over the finish line, complete with a 5,000 member database of media contacts and their publications about the commission and it work.  ITT got out of desktop computing shortly after that big government contract.  My current computer strains with just more than 30 times the capacity of that old ITT machine — in RAM alone. 

From the President’s Commission I moved to the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) — one of my charges was a technology demonstration office that had an IBM desktop loaded with amazing features, like a dictionary, and a GUI interface (we couldn’t use such machines in our offices, of course).  Checker Finn was Assistant Secretary of Education for Research — stuck in bed for a few weeks with a back injury, he demonstrated how tyrannical useful e-mail could be, with several dozen e-mails a day between him and those of us with management responsibilities.  We used a 600-baud telephone connection.

Generation gap, hell!  This is revolutionary:  TDK Develops 200 GB Blu-ray Disc.

TDK announced Thursday that it had reached a new milestone in data storage on Blu-ray discs, revealing a prototype that can hold 200GB. The disc doubles TDK’s previous 100GB prototype and is possible by creating six distinct layers of data, each capable of holding 33.6GB.

The prototype, like all Blu-ray media, is single sided. “The ultra-ambitious technology roadmap for Blu-ray has now been confirmed as realistic, with landmarks such as this proving the long-term value of the format against its rivals,” said TD vice president Bruce Youmans. TDK said such high-capacity discs could be commercially available in several months.

The most revolutionary thing about it:  It’s not even small news.  Your newspaper won’t mention it.  Readers of this blog may not even know what Blu-ray is

In my classroom, I have a chalk board.   The eraser is old and works poorly.  I’m supposed to prepare the next generation.  Dick Feynman was a prophet.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

(copyright 1963 and 1991, Bob Dylan)

How much we just don’t know

September 2, 2006

Scientists sometimes say that the more we know, the more questions there are to answer.  Not only do advances in sciences produce new questions, such as working and workable theories in quantum mechanics in physics — there is also a vast trove of stuff to know in other areas.

For example, as humans more carefully explore Earth, we keep finding species previously unknown.  We call them “new” species, but of course, they are not new.  They are living populations which have simply escaped the notice of humans, or of humans who publish in science magazines. 

I found this account of new monkey species at  . . .free your imagination, a blog dedicated to such esoteric and up-to-date knowledge.   (Found it through WordPress’s “tag surfing” feature.)

38 primate species have been described since 1990, and there are at least 20 more, known, but not yet described. This should excite kids who want to be scientific explorers.

And, true to form, anti-conservationists will point to this fact of “new” species, and argue that we have no need for the Endangered Species Act.  Just watch.

What else do we not know?

two primates 

Drawings and caption from National Geographic:  Two new primates, Callicebus stephennashi (above) and C. bernhardi (below), were recently discovered in the Amazon.

Sketches courtesy of Stephen Nash/Conservation International

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