What’s Ahead?

On the cusp of 2007, with wishes for happiness and prosperity conveyed to the appropriate persons, with many personal changes lurking in the haze of the near term, and with the optimism that comes from looking ahead rather than behind, herewith a link to one of your scribe’s favorite bloggers, The Futurist, who writes in his last post of 2006:

We are fortunate to live in an age
when a single calendar year will invariably yield multiple
technological breakthroughs, the details of which are easy accessible
to laypeople.  In the 18th century, entire decades would pass without
any observable technological improvements, and people knew that their
children would experience a lifestyle identical to their own.  Today,
we know with certainty that our lives in 2007 will have slight but
distinct and numerous improvements in technological usage over 2006. 

Into the Future we continue, where 2007 awaits..

Of particular interest is the question Are you acceleration aware?  Read and ponder, with the hope, optimism and courage that a New Year brings to us all.

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Top Ten Astronomy Pictues – 2006

Bad Astronomy has compiled his collection of the ten best astronomy pictures for 2006. Your scribe has long been fascinated by the sky, introduced to the notion of astronomy by parents who spent many nights offshore in a variety of sailboats, eyes aimed skyward, wondering at the vastness of the Cosmos and the insignificance of Man. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

335527674_dfeea6ce37_1

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Blogging vs Journalism

OK…still on the subject of the Blogosphere, but a shorter post for the late afternoon cocktail crowd. Dean Barnett puts the finishing touches on the busting of Joe Rago. He manages, in the same post, to put down the entire profession of journalism. I suppose this cycle will end, but the new guys sure have put the hammer to the old guys.

It’s kind of like the mess in Education circles, where teachers are "educators", generalists, if you like, who apparently have mastered the "process" of teaching, irrespective of the content. As we all know, you can’t teach in the public school system if you have a Ph.D and NOT a teaching certificate. So, you can major in education and teach, say, English, but you can’t major in English and, say, teach. Unless you get certified. Everybody wants to control their piece of the pie, without regard to the greater good. We need to wake up.

Sure hope none of the professors in whose classes I will attempt to learn next semester have a dog in this fight.

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The Blog Mob – Part II

Xarker writes:

"It’s time to write a fond epitaph for the Information Age. Like it or
not, we’ve entered the Data Age, the era in which we recognize that a
glut of information doesn’t make us smart, just like buying a
dictionary doesn’t make us Shakespeare….


But here’s a more appropriate analogy: Information Age technologies
have proven instead to be wildly efficient at burying us in the pieces
from millions of jigsaw puzzles, all mixed up and practically
indistinguishable…


And at least the scientists are professionally equipped to deal with
the challenges of the Data Age. The rest of us are struggling.


Example: One explanation for the increasingly harsh tone this election
year is the accelerating fragmentation of political media, a potential
blessing but an enormous test of society’s ability to process
conflicting data. Hate President Bush? Google can provide in seconds
any number of Web sites that will provide you with facts to support
that feeling. Hate anybody who criticizes Bush? Ditto. Just turn on the
radio.


Without functional institutions equipped to integrate the complex data
of 21st-century life, citizens typically wind up just picking sides.
Raw data becomes a cultural Rorschach test, and what we see is
generally what we expected to find in the first place.


So we’re not just disagreeing — we’re speaking in different languages."

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I Feel a Little Full!

Happily for the Agricoli, the return to the comforting environs of the Lowcountry was much less traumatic than the departure. There was a small hitch in the giddy-up on the last leg of the return flight, when we discovered that we had been assigned seats on the wrong flight by the ticket agent in Charleston, lo those many days earlier. Happily, the flight from Charlotte to Charleston was the first flight of our Christmas experience that was not over booked, so we were allowed to take the ride. Small recompense for the earlier troubles, in your scribe’s opinion.

After four days of familial cheer, including an apparently endless supply of home-made cookies, the Swedish in-laws’ smorgasbord, and hours spent playing chess with the nephew and watching combat on the NEW Play Station 3, we are feeling a little like the fellow on the left in this picture:

Pizza2

So, it’s off to the Gym for some solid exercise before the New Year, with my new iPod Nano along to provide some distraction from the pain of the gain. Next on the calendar is the Liberty Bowl, where the Fighting Gamecocks begin their march toward destiny and a National Championship in 2008.

Let the Games Begin!   

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The Grinch is Real!

Reporting from the frozen Midwest, under blue skies and temperatures in the mid forties, a true story of Christmas gone bad…. reported to the Agricoli by a close friend, who was a witness to the particulars.

It seems that the niece of the friend was gathered with her family in a state far away from the Low country. Also in attendance was her boyfriend of several years, in town for a few days of pre-Christmas cheer, and, perhaps, a larger mission. Given that the boyfriend is nearing the end of his time in Business School, and that a job in the successful family business is a distinct possibility, one could assume that there might be some sort of Announcement. Also given is that the boyfriend is a gentleman in the true Southern sense, with a deeply imbued sense of manners and a clear understanding of the Right Way of doing certain things. So, sensing an opportunity, he follows the niece’s father outside on a trip to gather some greens for the family supper.

With a firm voice and honest intentions, he asks the father for permission to marry his daughter. The father, being a low-key kind of dad, and not one to make a scene about such matters, gives his permission is an off-hand way, and does not ask about the particulars of the process. That he approves of the future son-in-law is another given……and the father knows that his only daughter truly loves the fellow. With the permission received, the son-in-law, somewhat taken aback by the low-key response, wanders back to the house, secure in the knowledge that the first hurdle in the matrimonial process has been cleared. Dad continues the gathering of greens.

Upon the father’s return to the manse, arms full of collards, he sees the family gathered in the gathering room. Maintaining his insouciance, he says to his only daughter, the apple of his eye, a truly wonderful daughter, "So, I hear you are getting married." Stunned silence greets his statement. Future son-in-law, a romantic and a planner, has not yet moved to the second phase of the process. Perhaps he was waiting for a romantic opportunity, or perhaps he planned to surprise the future bride with a set-up that included candles, champagne, and the like. The daughter, unaware that the question has been asked and permission received, is shocked. The mother of the bride, also in the dark, bursts into tears. Seeking a way out of the disaster, and trying to make the moment as special as can now be done, the future son-in-law takes the daughter to the basement to properly ask the daughter for her hand.

At that moment, oldest son returns home for the Holiday Season. He enters the gathering room and finds his father upset, his mother crying, his sister ashen and silent, and his future brother-in-law stunned. Assuming the worst, he believes that tragedy has befallen the family. Being a gentle, sensitive soul, he too bursts into tears.

In the end, peace is restored, happiness returns, and joy reenters the household. Dad is revealed, again, as an insensitive lout and a grinch. The wedding is set for August, the ring is beautiful, and all are blissfully happy, basking in the glow of another Christmas with the family gathered, for the last time, under one roof.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Comes Early in the Frozen MidWest

We have arrived in Indianapolis! But not without a LOT of Sturm and Drang. Here are the details, abbreviated.

Good flight from CHS to CLT, with a 60 minute layover. To the gate to board the flight to Indy, right on time. Before we could board, the co-pilot, a most fetching young lady, full of confidence and vigor, emerged and chatted quietly with the gate agent and marched away down the concourse….away from the plane. Your scribe, a veteran of the air-travel battles, knew that we would not be going anywhere anytime soon. Sure enough, a maintenance problem, necessitating a delay of 30 minutes. Which turned into 90 minutes. The next flight scheduled from the gate had to be moved, causing mass confusion in the concourse. Then we were advised that the plane was not repairable, and that we would be leaving on another plane, at another gate. Another 30 minutes of milling around a very congested series of gates, at the end of the concourse, with no place to sit, and crowd frustration building as the chaos mounted from 7 flights trying to depart through 2 gates.

Finally, the announcement. We will board, but first, a small problem. The 74 people booked on the flight are now being moved to Indy on a plane with 50 seats….does anybody want to volunteer to go later? Well, for a pair of free round-trip tickets, the Agricoli are game. The hitch…….all flights to Indy are booked for the next 24 hours. But, they will fly us to Cincinnati and then drive us to Indy in a van. This makes the decision easier. We will NOT take them up on their offer. Nor will most other flyers, so the management announces that they will PICK the 50 lucky travelers….the other 24 are SOL. We make the cut, the first sign that this may well turn into a merry Christmas.

Then, in the long, wet walk to the plane, we mount the steps of the aircraft just as our bags roll OFF the aircraft. This presents us with the opportunity to ask the flight attendant what is happening with the luggage of 74 passengers, only 50 of whom will arrive at the destination. Since some luggage must come off, due to weight restrictions, how will we know that our bags make the trip? The answer, long in coming, is not reassuring but with no recourse we can only shrug. Then we are advised that the weather is bad en route, so the aircraft must be loaded with additional fuel so that we can fly to an alternative airport if we cannot land in Indianapolis. More bags are removed, to make the weight. More shrugs……what can we do?

Airborne at last, a bumpy flight into Indy, including a real gutwrencher of a bump that lasts so long that I am able to determine that we are in an updraft, that the weight pushing me down means the aircraft is being pushed up. The contemplation of that bit of physics makes every following bump and wiggle seem like the initiation of an in-flight breakup of the jet, as we white-knuckle our way down, down into the soup of rain, clouds, wind, and, hopefully, the runway. Just as it seems we cannot descend further into the black without creating a smoking hole, the runway appears, mere feet below my severely puckered……..well, you know.

Finally, the warm lights of sister and brother-in-law. Hugs, cheer, laughs. Then, blessed sleep, encouraged with Ambien, 1/2 each for the Agricoli. Ah….quiet, dark, peace………..shattered by the ringing of the phone, although with an altered ring-tone used by the niece. Not sure whether the noise is a cell-phone, an alarm clock, carbon-monoxide detector, or most likely, an Ambien induced hallucination, we are roused from the stupor to a phone call from the mother-in-law. Come quickly, your father thinks he is having a heart attack. Ten minutes later, another call, this time understand as a ringing phone, with the update that father-in-law has self-diagnosed the episode as tachycardia and that a trip to the emergency room is not necessary. Dimly we perceive that dear father-in-law is not a cardiologist, but a retired oral surgeon, surely not qualified to give, or take away, such a diagnosis.

Into clothes, into the car, across town to the hotel. Fevered entreaties to permit us to take him to the ER, given that their hotel is but 1 mile from the Indiana Heart Center. Raised voices, assent reluctantly given. Two hours later we drop my in-laws back at their hotel, with the episode confirmed as Tachycardia, not a heart attack. Warned that the next event means he must go, immediately, to the ER so that the specialists (not retired oral surgeons) can monitor the event as it unfolds.

Back to house, now 4:00 AM, Ambien still coursing through our veins so that sleep overtakes us instantly.

Today, from behind the blackout curtains of the niece’s room (who can sleep better than teenagers?), we arise to blue sky, warm weather, healthy in-laws, and the sure knowledge that we have received our Christmas presents a few days early. We have all survived!

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Merry Christmas!

Xmas The Agricoli are off to the frozen Mid-West to celebrate the Christmas Holiday with Agricolae’s sister and her family, and the in-laws. Eight people, 2 dogs, cold weather, and a little too much time being extroverted, not exactly the most desired plan, but what must be done every other year. Fact is, we like Indianapolis, where we met, courted, and lived for about 5 years; it’s a city that Charleston would be wise to emulate in terms of consolidated government and infrastructure planning.  We will be in a "wireless" house, with unlimited access to the Blogosphere, but we don’t expect the muse to make the trip, so lurking, rather than posting, will probably be the primary objective.

To all of the denizens of Lowcountry Blog Roll, we extend our wishes for a Happy Holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and much happiness and prosperity in 2007.

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Tagged – 5 Questions

Jason Zwicker (jaz) has tagged me, among others, with the challenge that I reveal 5 things about myself that might not be common knowledge. This presents a dilemma. On the one hand, the comfortable cloak of (relative) anonymity is reassuring. On the other hand, revealing thoughts on a variety of personal topics has a cathartic effect that is at times very therapeutic. So, in trying to balance the two competing forces, here goes…….

1.  I have enrolled as an undergraduate at the College of Charleston for the Spring semester, 2007, with plans to earn a degree in  Discovery Informatics. It will take about 2 years and change to complete the degree requirements, and it is no sure thing that this aged mind will be able to handle the math and computer science courses.  It may work out, and it may not.  Inspirational quotes come to mind in the early hours of the morning as I wonder what the hell I am doing….."Who dares, wins….Nothing ventured, nothing gained…While I breathe, I hope".  You get the drift. Your prayers would be appreciated. The good news is that Agricolae is on board (see #2).

2.  I got married for the first time at 45, and have been happily married for 8 years.  I really thought that I would be a bachelor, and was well down the road before my bride interjected and re-routed the train. To say that I was not looking for a wife would be an understatement, given that my work caused me to move to 8 cities in 12 years. Never underestimate the ability of a determined female to alter the universe. As they say….If Momma’s happy, everybody’s happy.

3.  Although my posts may not reflect it, I am considered by friends to be optimistic, cheerful, and funny.  The quote in my high school yearbook was.."Good nature is the key to many locks."

4.  According to several psychological profiles compiled over the years, I am an extroverted introvert; I enjoy the company of Man but am equally comfortable with solitude. In fact, I need solitude to be sociable. Was the Blogosphere invented for me, or what?

5.  If I had unlimited financial resources (or even enough spare cash), the first thing I would do is learn to fly.  The second thing I would do is buy an airplane.  The third thing I would do is take off, with wife as co-pilot, and see the US.

There you have it. Some, but not too much. More than before, but less than I would really like to reveal.  I tag:

American Entropy

Janet Lee

Pam

New Wars

Janet Edens

Come on Down!!!!!1

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The Blog Mob

Today’s Opinion Journal (on-line Wall Street Journal content) has a piece by Joseph Rago, an assistant editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal. The headline for the article is used as the title for this post, and, as such, probably conveys in a few words the author’s opinion of the Blogosphere.

Rago seems to be of several minds in his column. He first states that:

"Blogs are very important these days." 

In the next paragraph he then provides a counterpoint to his words by saying:

"The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps."

Thus is established the general theme of his story. There seems to be an awareness of the future,  dimly seen through the fog, but the forecast is framed by his notions of what must be the foundation of the new media.  That is, only a "journalist" can define the future of journalism, that journalistic fundamentals which will define the craft as practiced today must be the fundamentals of the future.

"…journalism as practiced via blog appears to be a change for the worse. That is, the inferiority of the medium is rooted in its new, distinctive literary form. Its closest analogue might be the (poorly kept) diary or common-place book, or the note scrawled to oneself on the back of an envelope-though these things are not meant for public consumption. The reason for a blog’s being is: Here’s my opinion, right now."

One wonders how Mr. Rago would have reacted to the first newspapers, made possible by the printing press and a rising class of burgers eager to remove the heel of feudalism from its collective neck. Would he have sided with the those priests entrusted with the transcription of the words of Bishops, Kings, and the Pope?  Surely he must know that revolutionary change, in nature and in technology, is a story of false starts, failure, innovation, and the ingenuity of individual actions embraced by others. In the face of change, it is perfectly natural for the possessors of the "Old" to wish to preserve, and if not that, to control the development of the "New". Since however, the guardians are the product of the "Old", it is very difficult for those guardians to completely transform themselves into guardians of the "New". And if the "New" is perceived as a threat, then it must be destroyed. Thus we read:

"The right now is partially a function of technology, which makes instantaneity possible, and also a function of a culture that valorizes the up-to-the-minute above all else. But there is no inherent virtue to instantaneity. Traditional daily reporting-the news-already rushes ahead at a pretty good clip, breakneck even, and suffers for it. On the Internet, all this is accelerated….

Nobody wants to be an imbecile. Part of it, I think, is that everyone likes shows and entertainments. Mobs are exciting, People also like validation of what they already believe; the Internet, like all free markets, has a way of gratifying the mediocrity of the masses."

The arrogance and condescension in these words is breathtaking, with much to be learned by closer reading. Yet, Rago, again peering through the fog, understands that the Blogosphere did not spring  from a vacuum, that invention generally needs an opportunity and a niche.

"Certainly, the MSM, such as it is, collapsed itself. It was once utterly dominant yet made itself vulnerable by playing on its reputed accuracy and disinterest to pursue adversarial agendas. Still, as far from perfect as that system was, it was and is not wholly imperfect. The technology of ink on paper is highly advanced, and has over centuries accumulated a major institutional culture that screens editorially for originality, expertise, and seriousness."

To which your scribe, no journalist, would only add the concepts of "pack journalism", "gotcha journalism", unintentional and intentional bias, and an insufferable superiority complex.

Rago then concludes with a homily….

"Of course, once a technosocial force like the blog is loosed on the world (does he mean like the printing press, the telegraph/telephone, the automobile, television, and the personal computer?), it does not go away because some find it undesirable. So, grieving over the lost establishment is pointless, and kind of sad. But Democracy does not work well, so to speak, without checks and balances. And in acceding so easily to the imperatives of the Internet, we’ve allowed decay to pass for progress."

Friends, I write because I can, not because I want to destroy an ancient institution. I seek out other bloggers out of curiosity and interest. Locally, we have created a virtual community, filled with many different opinions, interests, and goals. Although we may have differences, we enjoy that we are part of something. The political blogs that Rago thinks are destroying his world are not the whole reason for what we do. In ignoring the majority of bloggers who are looking for their community, he fails to comprehend the real power of the Internet.

 

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