Calvin Demmon tells all

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Wednesday, May 21, 2003
"Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." -- John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy, 1981-1987

Monday, May 19, 2003
I could be another Lincoln . . . .

"Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams -- day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing -- are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization. A prominent educator tells me that fairy tales are of untold value in developing imagination in the young. I believe it." -- L. Frank Baum, in his introduction to The Lost Princess of Oz (1917)

Saturday, May 17, 2003
Analogy threatens environment!

"An example of a society that suffered from disastrous consequences of reasoning by false analogy was the society of Norwegian Vikings who immigrated to Iceland beginning in the year AD 871. Their familiar homeland of Norway has heavy clay soils ground up by glaciers. Those soils are sufficiently heavy that, if the vegetation covering them is cut down, they are too heavy to be blown away. Unfortunately for the Viking colonists of Iceland, Icelandic soils are as light as talcum powder. They arose not through glacial grinding, but through winds carrying light ashes blown out in volcanic eruptions. The Vikings cleared the forests over those soils in order to create pasture for their animals. Unfortunately, the ash that was light enough for the wind to blow in was light enough for the wind to blow out again when the covering vegetation had been removed. Within a few generations of the Vikings' arriving in Iceland, half of Iceland's top soil had eroded into the ocean."

-- Jared Diamond, professor of geography, UCLA, in Why do some societies make disastrous decisions?

Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Tracking something

One fine winter's day when Piglet was brushing away the snow in front of his house, he happened to look up, and there was Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh was walking round and round in a circle, thinking of something else, and when Piglet called to him, he just went on walking.

"Hallo!" said Piglet, "what are you doing?"

"Hunting," said Pooh.

"Hunting what?"

"Tracking something," said Winnie-the-Pooh very mysteriously.

"Tracking what?" said Piglet, coming closer.

"That's just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?"

"What do you think you'll answer?"

-- A.A. Milne, 1926

Friday, May 02, 2003
When you Google a spotted hyena

"Most people ask and answer quantity questions now, in part because we have the tools to answer them and the tools' capabilities often drive research.

"I'm glad that there are people asking those quantity questions, because my own questions sometimes grow out of their answers. But my questions [about wildlife] are those of process: What does he like to eat? Who is he anyway? Does she behave differently from those over there, the ones who look like her? What limits the population? What does he do when he gets in a pickle?...Where are they when they aren't here?"

-- Sue Hubbell, Broadsides from the Other Orders, Random House, 1993. (quoted in Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies, )

Thursday, May 01, 2003
Is that a library in your pocket?

"What's information really about? It seems to me there's something direly wrong with the 'Information Economy.' It's not about data, it's about attention. In a few years you may be able to carry the Library of Congress around in your hip pocket. So? You're never gonna read the Library of Congress. You'll die long before you access one tenth of one percent of it. What's important --- increasingly important --- is the process by which you figure out what to look at. This is the beginning of the real and true economics of information. Not who owns the books, who prints the books, who has the holdings. The crux here is access, not holdings. And not even access itself, but the signposts that tell you what to access --- what to pay attention to. In the Information Economy everything is plentiful --- except attention." -- Bruce Sterling's 1992 speech to the Library Information Technology Association, quoted in ex libris


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