Wednesday, October 26
Four of us drove something over 400 miles on the Colorado plains today, chasing stilldavid’s third high-altitude balloon.
A lessons-learned list from this round (shorter than last time).
An extra person does make a world of difference. Completely different experience.
I was skeptical, but adding stabilizer rods out the sides of the payload to increase rotational inertia (and reduce spinning) seems to have worked. Caveats: it wasn’t as windy this launch, I’m not sure quite how we’d measure it, and we should have taped the joints on the graphite kite-frame rods.
This 98¢ foam faucet cover: a killer prefab payload box.
I may amend this in the morning when I think of other things. It’s been a long day.
Purchased at Absolute Vinyl today in lieue of records because I don’t have a record player:
Maybe I was just feeling especially in touch with this version of myself who once harbored vague bohemian aspirations while misunderstanding everything and living unhealthily in a plains-state capital.
You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier: I expected to find myself sympathetic to the aims of this one, and to a extent I did, but somewhere around halfway through I decided that I had reached my personal quota for exclaiming “bullshit!”. I do not expect to finish it.
Lanier is clearly a smart guy, and obviously has been around the culture he sets out to criticize for a long time. The problem is that it’s not quite possible to reconcile his understanding of that culture with lived experience. He seems to be generalizing from his corner of elite media-darling nerdery to the whole thing, and the generalizations break: Again and again, some facet of the model will be subtly but substantially wrong, bogged down in mysticism, or just determined to obscure meaningful distinctions.
All of this is too bad, because a lot of his targets – Facebook, the present narrative around “the cloud”, transhumanism, Chris Anderson’s extensive bullshittery – are ripe for a serious conceptual monkeywrenching.
Maybe I’ll come back to this in a month or three and give it another go. I can’t say it didn’t make me think.
REAMDE, Neal Stephenson: This is a less “serious” book than Lanier’s. In fact, it’s pretty ridiculous. Not the kind of intellectual effort that made Anathem (Stephenson’s last) so good. It also has some of that fuzzed-out / flattened effect you’ll get when a writer has been off in distant timeframes for a pile of massive novels and then returns to some more contemporary genre. These things said, it’s so far pretty absorbing, and there are ideas. With Stephenson, there are pretty much always ideas, and you can usually tell that some of them are going to be useful.
The Management Myth: why the “experts” keep getting it wrong, Matthew Stewart: If you’re looking to reinforce a gut-level suspicion that “scientific management” is one giant, hilariously ramified con job, this may be right up your alley.
War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges: 30 or 40 pages in and I’m pretty depressed, so I’m pretty sure it’s working, but so far it’s more in the way of a meandering personal meditation than a coherent argument.
The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake, David V. Erdman (ed.), Harold Bloom (commentary): Realistically, I am never going to read more than a fraction of this. It’s massive, and besides being a visionary genius, Blake was clearly a raving lunatic. Still, I’m glad it’s on my shelf.
At some point in a certain kind of life, you realize that you’ve become unutterably boring. Not that things of consequence have altogether stopped happening, or that you’ve lost interest in what you’re doing, necessarily – just that it all becomes sort of submerged and uncommunicable, where it’s not just static. A friend will get in touch for the first time in a year or two and you’ll realize: I have literally nothing to tell this person about my life.
You, the Internet, are sort of like that friend. Lately I think that I should write something. And then I think, yeah, like, I could talk about how I got up today and thought about databases and felt pretty good about myself ‘cause I made coffee before I left the house. The Internet would find that fascinating.