Blur Circle

Steve Yost's weblog

December 19, 2002
Reading aloud

Last week I was asked to read the scripture in church. I tried to be as conscious as I could of the words I read, and to sense the bodily act of speaking and the presence of all those people (I was momentarily amazed when they all remained expectedly standing until I remembered to say "please be seated" after the hymn). I received from the experience something that came from the words and their meaning, but went beyond the words.

The other day I ran across Aaron Swartz's 'How to Run a Good Conference' blogpiece, especially the remark (from Tufte) 'Speech is a bad medium for communicating information'. This came within a day of reading the wonderful essay 'On the Cult of Books' in Borge's Selected Non-Fictions. The essay starts discussing the early natural predominance of the spoken word, and notes "the exact instant ... when this vast process [of the switch to the written word] began.", as revealed by St. Augustine around AD 384 in Book VI of the Confessions:

When he [Augustine's teacher Ambrose] was reading, his eyes ran over the page and his heart perceived the sense, but his voice and tongue were silent. ... We wondered if he read silently perhaps to protect himself in case he had a hearer ... who might wish to debate some difficult questions [and so he'd] get through fewer books than he wished. Besides, the need to preserve his voice, which used easily to become hoarse, could have been a very fair reason for silent reading.
We have to note that the lack of written punctuation and the scarcity of books both made reading aloud valuable, and reading silently a thing for conjecture and awe. But given my pet subject of the inadequacy of our written words as a substitute for physical presence, I enjoyed the reminder that there was a time when people spent more time talking to each other than reading silently.

Back to Borges: From this milestone -- the advent of silent reading -- Borges goes on to introduce the later notion of the book as an end in itself. Finally he segues to a survey of the attitudes that various religions and philosophers take to the written word, culminating with Scot Carlyle, who said that universal history is a Sacred Scripture that we decipher and write uncertainly, and in which we too are written; and Leon Bloy, who says "History is an immense liturgical text".

From this rambling batch of semi-associated happenings and reading, I find I can glean two things:

  1. To the extent that speech is more than the mere passing on of facts, there's value in reading and speaking aloud.
  2. Existence is writing ourselves into it.

December 17, 2002

Why didn't I notice Eeksy-Peeksy on Sainteros' blogroll before? Sample:

The Dow that can be charted is not the eternal Dow.

The name that can be registered is not the eternal name.

Do without doing.

cotrolled folly

Had an exchange with Sainteros earlier about Castaneda/Don Juan's words regarding "controlled folly". Today Wood s Lot blogs something very similar:

I've learned from the Bhagavad Gita and other teachings of our culture to detach myself from the results of what I do, because those are not in my hands. The context is not in your control, but your commitment is yours to make, and you can make the deepest commitment with a total detachment about where it will take you...
It applies pretty well to my Exerblog experience today too.

December 12, 2002
Old poems

I've been drained by my participation in the rowing challenge (and concomitant posts on ExerBlog). Lacking new inspiration, I gathered a few of my old rec.arts.poems that can still be found at Google Groups, and one other one, and posted them hastily to my wiki.


Add me to the pigpile (#3 on daypop): see this. via Sainteros.

December 07, 2002
happy skinflint

I just bought a new computer keyboard because the $10 one I bought a couple years ago was giving me a feeling of impending carpal tunnel syndrome. This one cost $15. It feels like I upgraded to a $3000 computer. It's kind of like when I add air to my 1991 Ford Escort's tires and it suddenly corners like a Ferrari.

Attention resource

Cody Clark also blogs about the value of paying attention to what we pay attention to, including a link to an interesting NYT article:

And, in a finding that astonishes many people, they found that the brain systems that detect and evaluate such rewards generally operate outside of conscious awareness. In navigating the world and deciding what is rewarding, humans are closer to zombies than sentient beings much of the time.
mmmhmmm. The final paragraph makes me want a bibliography:
Economists and neuroscientists use the same mathematical equations for modeling market behavior and dopamine behavior, Dr. Montague said. Neuroscience may provide an entirely new set of constructs for understanding economic decision making.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria

Why isn't this story getting more mainstream news coverage? Google News search for resistant bacteria Detroit shows only a few matches, but regular Google shows plenty of blog posts about it.

With a quote like the following, it should be getting wide coverage, especially considering it's an issue where changing people's behavior via information can have a great beneficial effect:

"In the scheme of public health threats, this has to rank close to the top," David Ropeik, director of risk communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, said of antibiotic resistance. "It's a serious threat now, and it's getting worse fast. It's dramatically more of a public health threat than pesticides on food."
Note that he's speaking about antibiotic resistance in general, but here's someone closer to the specific event :
"From a scientific point of view, it's probably one of the most remarkable and significant events in my lifetime," said Dr. Steve Lerner, vice chief of infectious diseases at Detroit Medical Center.

Found at Cody Clark's blog. Spread the meme!

December 06, 2002
risky tunes

At the risk of sounding obsessed (ok, I am) with Joe's Poppies music, I'll share this:

I was swooping around my car in the dark office parking lot last evening brushing the snow from my car and singing to myself (I thought) one of the songs that didn't make it onto the Poppies EP. It's got a hook-laden hummable melody like most of these tunes. So I'm singing "I saw your striped pants/drop to the kitchen floor/you need a microscope/to see the threats that keep my pounding heart...", and I look up and there's a woman waiting to open her car door next to mine. Did she hear me? I'll never know, but she kept a safe distance.

go exerblog, go!

Cody Clark blogs hilariously this morning, and ExerBlog is already 10 pounds lighter!

Join us!

December 05, 2002
on Krugman

Good article about Paul Krugman, via A&L Daily (as was the previous post).

The last section 'Pages of Sin', in its description of the dynamics of Washington reporting, is worth the reading alone.

anti-SUV fuel

More fuel for my petty, but visceral loathing of SUVs. A satisfyingly slamming article -- I'll even ignore the misuse of statistics.

They're not even safer for their owners:

The occupant death rate in SUVs is 6 percent higher than it is for cars--8 percent higher in the largest SUVs.

Type A

Whoever coined the term 'type A personality' must have been a type A personality. The term leaves the rest of us feeling like less-than-stellar students.

I can't be the first person to have observed this. But that's OK, I'm not type-A.

December 04, 2002

Only Joe can write a song that leaves you humming lines including the word 'execrable'. All day. Yes, the gig was a real happening. Buy the EP, and hope they play again soon.

December 03, 2002

I started an exercise-related group weblog. Anyone that wants to can participate -- just let me know. I'm hoping that Sainteros will add his insights there.


Poppies at Lizard tonight. Worth the trip, no matter how far you travel.

December 01, 2002
Cool Nav

Just noticed this nice navigation technique at the International Herald Tribune (found via Google News). With a three-column layout, clicking anywhere in the right column takes you to the next page, clicking in the left column takes you to the previous page. A red indicator at the lower left/right is the hint that this is available. Elegant and intuitive.