Archive for September, 2006

Wikipedia vs Britannica

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Long before the Web, Lewis Mumford predicted that the explosion of information could “bring about a state of intellectual enervation and depletion hardly to be distinguished from massive ignorance.” Not only would lots of information fail to make us smarter; it would actually make us dumber by overwhelming us. The solution, he thought, was not to be found in technology alone but in “a reassertion of human selectivity and moral-self discipline, leading to continent productivity.” In these days of information incontinence, in order to be part of the solution rather than the problem, I think it is important to remember this.

Jimmy Wales and Dale Hoiberg (editor in chief of the Britannica) debate Encylopediaea.


Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

That, right there, was the sound of my server last night. Cue much panicked copying and redirection of services: hopefully most things (at least so far as you, dear reader) should now be working again. One thing you might notice is the change in domain: this is no longer – on account of being a smouldering pile of hard disc remains. No, this is now, thus rendering my denial of not a blog‘s status as a blog even more absurd than before.

Anyway, if you can read this, that means everything is working: update your bookmarks and be on your way!


Monday, September 11th, 2006

There are certain phrases you never want to hear as the PA operator in church. One of them is:

…and on second keyboard…

Okay, to be fair, it sounded pretty decent this morning – even if I do say so myself – but there is a frightening tendency for worship leaders to put together bands far, far too big for the church they’re playing in – at least, without sitting down and arranging the parts beforehand.

Anyway, the sermon was great – Frank was preaching, which is always good; a new series on Galatians (a book that I suspect most of the Paul-Says-You’re-Not-Allowed-To crowd would prefer to forget exists) and he even touched on a New Perspective view of the Pharisees. Occasionally I think there might be some hope for Ivy, after all…

If there were 100 people in the world

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

If there were 100 people in the world.

Compare and exchange

Friday, September 8th, 2006

The human mind was not designed to cope with the atomic compare-and-exchange instruction:

The compare and exchange instruction compares the value in the second register with the value in memory pointed to by the address in the first register. If they are equal, the value in the destination register is swapped with the value in memory pointed to by the address in the first register. If they are not equal, then the value in memory pointed to by the address in the first register is copied into the destination register, but memory is left unchanged.

Go on, try reading that. I guarantee your eyes will glaze over by about halfway through the second sentence. Now, imagine you’ve got to implement that, but you’ve got to do it in terms of what another processor believes is a compare-and-exchange instruction, which is almost – but not quite – exactly the same. Oh, and it has implicit operands. The stream of logic in my head this morning has been running along the lines of:

Sooo…. if the first subject operand is in EAX and the result is also going to be written to EAX, then in the case where the second register is equal to the value in memory we have to swap the operands around so that the implicit second operand on the target side is in the right place which means that register management will believe the output is in a different place which means… where was I again?

Thankfully, though, I managed to maintain a train of thought for long enough to understand what was going on and make it work. It’s only taken about 2 days. Go me.

Arctic Cockmonkeys

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

So, they won the Mercury Music Prize. If I was actually a man of my word, this would mean that I’m about to leave the country for somewhere with better music. Trouble is, I’m not quite sure where that would be these days, so I’ll probably stay here for a bit. I mean, we still have Muse and the Guillemots (who were robbed, but never really stood a chance) so it’s not all bad.

Two of the judges (Lauren Laverne and some guy with a beard) afterwards, and they said the reason that the Arctic Monkeys won was that, if you look back on 2006 and are asked to pick an album to represent that year, it would be theirs. Well, yes, insofar as 2006 has been the year that godawful MySpace-spawned post-Libertines tedious garage-rock took over the world, and if you want the album that best epitomises godawful MySpace-spawned post-Libertines tedious garage-rock, then the Arctic Monkeys is that album. But it is not not not the best album of the last year. Not by a long way.

Still, at least Sandi Thom wasn’t nominated, so it’s not all bad. But in the meantime, go out and buy a copy of the quite frankly brilliant “Through the Windowpane” by Guillemots and find out what music ought to sound like.


Sunday, September 3rd, 2006

On a thread about hermeneutics, I came across this quote by D.H. Lawrence; I like it a lot:

When it comes to the meaning of anything, even the simplest word, then you must pause. Because there are two great categories of meaning, forever separate. There is mob-meaning, and there is individual meaning. Take even the word ‘bread.’ The mob-meaning is merely: stuff made with white flour into loaves that you eat. But take the individual meaning of the word bread: the white, the brown, the corn-pone, the homemade, the smell of bread just out of the oven, the crust, the crumb, the unleavened bread, the shew-bread, the staff of life, sourdough bread, cottage leaves, French bread, Viennese bread, black bread, a yesterday’s loaf, rye, Graham, barley, rolls, Bretzeln, Kringeln, scones, damper, matsen—there’s no end to it all, and the word bread will take you to the ends of time and space, and far-off down avenues of memory. But this is individual. The word bread will take the individual off on his own journey, and its meaning will be in his own meaning, based on his own genuine imaginative reactions. And when the word comes to us in its individual character, and starts in us the individual responses, it is a great pleasure to us.

A lot of theologians struggle with the tension between exegesis (that is, “reading out” of scripture what was originally intended to be written, seen as being a ‘good’ way to read and study the Bible) and eisegesis (that is, “reading into” scripture one’s own ideas, generally seen as a Bad and Wrong thing to do, given the Bible’s supposed total authority and infallibility). I’m not so convinced eisegesis is such a bad thing, really, so long as we’re aware of what we’re doing. I mean, the original writers of scripture filtered their writings through their own experiences and perceptions – what someone in ancient Israel thought of as bread is quite different to the loaf of sliced whole-grain Hovis sitting on my kitchen sideboard – so even if we do struggle to peel away our own interpretations, we’ve still got theirs to contend with anyway: and that’s assuming, of course, that there is some kind of underlying third truth after you’ve stripped away the both the reader’s context and the writer’s – but now we’re getting into issues of Platonism and that’s something to think about another time.

Sometimes I love this city

Friday, September 1st, 2006

On my way to the bank this lunchtime, I discover Manchester Book Market in St Anne’s Square, and in one corner there’s a transvestite poet called Chloe Poems doing some readings and introducing a bunch of other independent authors and poets reading their poetry and prose; the mix was eclectic, from suburban fantasies about milkmen to tales of Christmas long past spent on the Scottish Islands and an Iraqi film director’s life in Paris.

In the end, I forgot to go to the bank.