Friday, May 27, 2005

Analects of Management

Verso cmxlviii:
We have objective standards which cannot be expressed in words.

Monday, May 23, 2005

It's a Point of View

Musing on weekend activity in the neighborhood it struck me that, to a realtor, a tree is never a view. Or perhaps it might be a "territorial view", which suggests a need for very tall sight excluding fences to screen your barbe from the gas works next door. To realtors "views" are free value added enhancements to the usual jerry built cottage. Put it next to a mountain and add half again to the price. Since, as a culture, we Americans all take our opinions from experts, this indicates that what you can see beyond your yard is more important than what you can see in your yard.
Contrast this with the Japanese who, when they can afford such luxuries -- space being at a distinct premium -- carefully construct their yard as a garden with near, middle and distant views that do not include the neighbors. If the site lacks a suitable distant view, then a large tree at the fence is used. When needful a completely different view is suggested inside the garden then is available outside the garden. For the Japanese what is in their yard is of concern, while what is beyond is less so. Involvement with the neighbors is nothing but trouble.
Goemon is an incredibly fine restaurant in the Bunkyo-ku section of Tokyo. It is located between the multi-story buildings that line a major downtown arterial and a rock out-cropping as tall as the buildings. On the street all is noise and light and hustle with traffic, pachinko parlors and shoppers. Turn in to the narrow alley that leads to Goemon's and all that diminishes. At the entrance is a large iron ufuro, or bath tub. This is significant of the historical Goemon, a heart of gold bandit who ended his career being boiled to death in one. The tub took its name from the outlaw. The restaurant took its name from the tub. Think of it as "Robin's 'Hood" for a more occidental turn. Past this the brick gives way to the traditional wood materials of a traditional Japanese Inn. This envelops a garden -- complete with carp pond -- on three sides. Diners sit in small rooms, one per party, looking at the garden during the inclement bits of the year. In the al fresco season, they move into the garden. Seated, one may look toward and up the rock out-cropping. The eyes come to rest on a very -- very tall evergreen jutting from the summit which points alertly into the night sky as though guarding a mountain pass. All the noise of the city is absent from this courtyard. The diners have no sight in any direction of city buildings. The night sky reveals stars -- not the city glow that obliterates them elsewhere in the Kanto. It is a superb design which achieves its goals with a minium of apparent effort. The food exceeds the setting. What is it? Your choice of seasonal compilations of tofu or of the same with the addition of thinly sliced raw chicken breast. Superb is too drab a word.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Some Where Not Too Distant

According to my memory of a tidbit handed out by Tom Allen the affable host of CBC Radio Two's morning show: Music and Company this AM: about this week in 1891 one George Hormel opened a butcher shop in the wilds of Minnesota. In 1926, joined by his son Jay Hormel, They unveiled that bane of the cafeteria counter: Spam. This is now marketed the world over dispite its offence to good taste everywhere. Its obloquy led to unwanted e-mail being described in it's honor. Denizens of the internets have dispensation to drown their muttering sorrows in their libation of choice.
-- ml

Tom Unswift and the OS Dragon: Cutting Edge

It only took a week this time. It should be apparent that in most respects I do not reside very near the cutting edge. As a progarammer once remarked: "that's where the bleeding occurs." But once a year or so I get a misbegotten notion to upgrade to the current newest and bestest SuSE. I have done this since SuSE 5.0 and have learned a thing almost or not quite. B-A-C-K-U-P! And then BACKUP SOME MORE. Still I never quite manage to upgrade cleanly. (This is not a criticism of SuSE. The problems invariably turn out to be my inability to accept that my computer is not a mind reader.) This time I choked on passwords. Being an unconnected single user at home I abominate the things as needless keystrokes between me and what I want to do. When you use an OS meant for a business environment they, quite understandably, have a different view. They are right and I am wrong. Wanna make somethin' of it?

Any way, This blog is already in danger of shifting its focus to plain and simple luddism with a large admixture of meshuganah klutz, so suffice it to say that tehnical difficulties have been resolved and the human is mending while the machine sits there emiting a soulful bleep at odd intervals. Not, so to speak, in triumph. Not exactly.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Bread and Butter Notes

Back on Wednesday, my old friend Roy over at Alicublog gave me a blush inducing puff. Many thanks to him. Please note that I am assuming that the bulge in his cheek is bubblegum and not some adjacent adornment of his mandible.
John over at archy tipped his titfer to me on Friday. John and I share a love of Don Marquis' archy & mehitabel. And George Herriman's drawing.
Mention of this brings to mind one of my favorite Herriman illustrations from "archy does his part" By Don Marquis (Doubleday 1935)
By George Herriman
Thanks, again, guys.
-- ml

Saturday, May 07, 2005

McJayCee Architecture

A treatise on:
The Convergence of Religious and Mercantile Architecture in the Early 21th Century.

So every new retail space has a gable over the door or a pyramid in the roof line.
New built churches frequently show the like instead of a steeple.
Does this suggest that modern building practices have eliminated any chance of creativity or even differentiation? Or is it just the symbol of Mammon as a square bell tower is the symbol of Presbyterians?

Friday, May 06, 2005

As Promised

Yes, I can be misunderstood in HTML and particularly the Microsoft dialect. Kind Roy inquires if the previous post is super sized as a bug or a feature. My immediate flip reply is that it is another M$ failure to cooperate. But then I borrow my daughter's machine to look at IE. YYec-h-h-h-h! That is nothing like the smooth view offered by my Firefox. That is a hint folks, click the button and download a real browser. [snort]
Off to cram some more HTML. I shamelessly peer behind the veil at archy, Brad DeLong and The Peking Duck. What's this? "size="2" rather than size:""=small;" Could it be? Could it really be? Yes. Well, not quite. But its better! Back to a life of crime. Try "1".
Quod Erat Demonstrandum.
So all of you who suffer IE can now put up your gargantuan scroll wheel mouse. How is it with Safari? Please.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On Elbow Working

Operating with one's elbows is a frustrating game.

It only took about 9 tries to get the preceeding post up in some vaguely readable shape. I wrote it originally in Open Office. When I copied the first quote into the file. It came, apparently, with its own link and managed to turn the file from text to HTML. Then my elbows flew and among other unintended consequences the link cloned itself on a scale worthy of Star Wars and attached itself to just about every other key stroke. This is in a text file, right? So why would anyone look at the code? Not me. Cut and paste into Blogger's post editor (does it have to be so small you don't need any imagination to think you are posting from your cell phone?) and parts turn bold. This is in addition to all the underlining I didn't put there (did I?) That takes a while to penetrate. Mother always said: "No sense, no feeling." Well, hell, this is supposed to be intuitive, right? So, just in the course of things, I selected the text and made it all bold. Then I unbolded it by hitting the bold key again. That's how word processor's do it. Am I right? Well, not Blogger's posting editor. Nothing much had changed -- that is it still wasn't the way I wanted it to look. Finally I eyed the HTML. What is it with all these 'a href' tags? Where did all these 'strong' tags come from? Do I have to stutter 'span' ten times before each paragraph?

Don't know about the rest of the world but the denizens of Dum Luk's experienced the passage of a severe frustration front, yesterday, with all members reporting major annoyance at the intractability of things.

Well, at last it is up. It is denoted part 1 because my intent was to speak of two other books. But one word led to another, as they are wont to do, resulting in upper word limit infractions as stipulated in the Blogger's Unanimous (ha!) Posting Konstraints (BUPKis).

Now for part 2. *Sigh*

-- ml

Prime Sources 1

One of the books which could claim a lot of responsibility for my auto-didacticness is Guide for the Perplexed by E. F. Schumacher. Fortunately for Mr. Schumacher, who is a reasonable man, I do not hold others accountable for my opinions -- hair-brained or otherwise. I haven't read it in more than a decade. It is however a book like oatmeal: it sticks with you. I particularly recall experiencing an aha moment(tm) when he described the distinction between convergent and divergent problems.

If you are hunting for a light weight, human powered, low cost, transportation system that requires minimal infrastructure, and can carry more than one human plus freight at need, then you will probably come up with a bicycle. It may look as strange as weird can be, still on sight all of us call it a bike. That's a problem with a convergent solution. There is no fun in re-inventing it because it will still be a bike.

Now consider that dinner time approaches and your family is known to be ravenous. There is some ground meat, a variety of forms of starchy carbohydrates, a plentiful bunch of vegetables, a variety of cheeses and an ample collection of herbs and spices. No two of us are going to come up with the same thing even if we both call it spaghetti. Yet all our families will be fed. That's a problem with a divergent solution. Solving it unleashes creativity.

When I researched the book at Barnes & Noble I found that the publisher had another take. Selling books is also a divergent problem.

The author of the world wide best-seller, Small Is Beautiful, now tackles the subject of Man, the World, and the Meaning of Living. Schumacher writes about man's relation to the world. Man has obligations -- to other men, to the earth, to progress and technology, but most importantly himself. If man can fulfill these obligations, then and only then can he enjoy a real relationship with the world, then and only then can he know the meaning of living.

Schumacher says we need maps: a "map of knowledge" and a "map of living." The concern of the mapmaker--in this instance, Schumacher--is to find for everything it's proper place. Things out of place tend to get lost; they become invisible and there proper places end to be filled by other things that ought not be there at all and therefore serve to mislead.

A Guide for the Perplexed teaches us to be our own map makers. This constantly surprising, always stimulating book will be welcomed by a large audience, including the many new fans who believe strongly in what Schumacher has to say.

And then they provided an excerpt which I have excerpted

Chapter One
"On a visit to Leningrad some years ago. I consulted a map to find out where I was, but I could not make it out. From where I stood, I could see several enormous churches, yet there was no trace of them on my map. When finally an interpreter came to help me, he said: "We don't show churches on our maps." Contradicting him, I pointed to one that was very clearly marked. "That is a museum," he said, "not what we call a 'living church.' It is only the 'living churches' we don't show.
It then occurred to me that this was not the first time I had been given a map which failed to show many things I could see right in front of my eyes. All through school and university I had been given maps of life and knowledge on which there was hardly a trace of many of the things that I most cared about and that seemed to me to be of the greatest possible importance to the conduct of my life. I remembered that for many years my perplexity had been complete; and no interpreter had come along to help me. It remained complete until I ceased to suspect the sanity of my perceptions and began, instead, to suspect the, soundness of the maps"

Highly recommend.
-- ml