Updated: 5/1/04; 10:43:52 AM.
A Man with a Ph.D. - Richard Gayle's Weblog
An attempt to use Radio to further my goal for world domination through the study of biology, computing and knowledge management.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Attack of the giant snails. snailFederal health officials are hunting down these Giant African Land Snails that can transmit meningitis, destroy plants, are extremely fruitful and multiplicitous, according to an AP report:
"In 1966, a Miami boy smuggled three Giant African Land Snails into the country. His grandmother eventually released them into a garden, and in seven years there were more than 18,000 of them. The eradication program took 10 years, according to the USDA."
Recently, a parent donated several of the beasties to a Wisconsin school. The US Department of Agriculture was called in after teachers learned that their latest classroom pets were illegal aliens. Link

[Boing Boing]

These are really scary. Like something from a bad 50s sci-fi movie.  comment []11:34:52 PM    

Through the Looking Glass. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS....Can you say "suck" on the radio? As in, say, "George Bush sucks" (just to pull an example from a hat)? Perhaps once upon a time you could, but no longer. NPR's lawyers believe that the FCC's... [Political Animal]

What! Will they re-edit all thse Simpson episodes? If someone says "This government sucks" will the station be fined? How about "blows?" This is getting ridiculous.   comment []11:31:46 PM    

Organisational Story-Telling.

Steve Neiderhauser points to an interview with Steven Denning. Excerpts:

People think in stories, talk in stories, communicate in stories, even dream in stories. If you want to understand what's going on in an organization, you need to listen to the stories. Moreover, if you want to get anything done in an organization, you need to know how to use to story to move people.

A springboard story is a story that can communicate a complex idea and spring people into action? It has an impact not so much through transferring large amounts of information, but through catalyzing understanding. It can enable listeners to visualize from a story in one context what is involved in a large-scale transformation in an analogous context. It can enable them to grasp the idea as a whole not only very simply and quickly, but also in a non-threatening way. It works like a metaphor -- you tell a story about the past where something has already happened and invite the audience to imagine a future where this isolated example happened much more widely.

There is a growing body of case studies, full of facts, about the impact of story. My book, The Springboard, on the World Bank is full of facts about what happened there. More work is under way. For skeptics who ask: why should I try what you recommend? my reply is: if you have something that's working, and you're able to persuade skeptical audiences of transformational ideas with what you're already doing, then go ahead, be my guest, and use what's working for you. I can make this offer without fear because the problem is that the traditional approaches actually don't work at all, when you're dealing with difficult skeptical audiences. Story works in the hard cases, when nothing else works.

People can't absorb data because they don't think in data. They think in stories. If you give people a story, then they can absorb the meaning of large amounts of data very rapidly.

When a speaker simply reads out abstract bullet points [from a Powerpoint presentation], as one hears so often, one doesn't need to look at the audience to know that they're not listening. When that happens, then you get the look that I depict here. If on the other hand, the speaker is thinking in stories, and talking in stories, and telling those stories with feeling and imagination, then PowerPoint images can support and underline the main elements of the story. Images can strongly reinforce the story. Amusing images, if well chosen, can be particularly effective in advancing the story.

The good news is however that we are all storytellers. We've simply been browbeaten into thinking that this is some kind of arcane skill that only a few people have. As Jerome Bruner has documented, we all do it spontaneously from the age of two onwards, and go on doing it throughout our lives. When we get into a formal setting, we succumb to what our teachers have told us and start to spout abstractions. But once we realize that our listeners actually want to hear stories, then we can relax and do what we all do in a social setting and tell stories.

One of the things I have done in some recent presentations is not to use a presentation aid. I have just stood up and talked, trying to weave a tale around the points I want to make. I have found this much more effective personally - I tend to speak with more passion, and the audience is listening to me, rather than looking to the presentation. While this may not work in all settings, this approach is something which definitely needs more thought.

[E M E R G I C . o r g]

We do everything by stories often because we do not have to think. It sometimes helps to simplify a problem in order to solve it. But, with an increasingly complex world. simple stories are not as effective. they lead us to wrong conclusions. Today's stories are not nursery rhymes, although some would try to make it so. They are Shakespearean in nature, from the pen of Tolstoy or even Stephen King. They can not be concentrated into a sound bite, as nursery rhymes can. This is why the modern media will fail at describing the transition we are going through. Their inability to deal with complexity will be their downfall.

The only device humans have devised to deal with complex problems is the social network. A group of creative minds, providing diverse viewpoints, will be the hallmark of the successful group, community, organization, state, nation. This requires rapid dissemination of information amongst the network. Previous administrations have not done this too well. This administration has to be the poorest at moving information around. It appears to have made several important and costly errors simply because the left had did not know what the right hand was doing. In some cases, it was the right pinkie not knowing what the right thumb was doing. (I know, a simple metaphor to explain a complex situation. So sue me.)  comment []11:05:42 PM    

"A Liberal Life in the City by the Bay"

For a Conservative, Life Is Sweet in Sugar Land, Tex.

An excellent series looking at a Red family and a Blue family. One lives in a black and white world where the bad parts of the world are rooted out and removed. The other lives in a gray world where those worse off are helped, because they are human beings also. Both are good people, trying to raise a family in this world and succeeding pretty well. And they will most likely never have a real discussion. For each feels that the other is completely wrong. Unless we can find a way for these two halves of America to function together and make progress, I believe our experiment with Democracy may fail. Red and Blue must find a way to solve the complex problems of the world. If we do not, I am sure someone else will.  comment []10:50:41 PM    

Pizza delivery calls used to nab deadbeats. I love this: the state of Missouri is using pizza delivery lists to track down people that owe court-imposed fines.
David Coplen, the state office's budget director, said he discovered that pizza delivery lists are one of the best sources such companies use to locate people. "There are literally millions of dollars of uncollected fines, fees and court costs out there," Coplen said. [...] Databases compiled by private companies and government agencies are a key tool for firms such as ACS, Coplen said, and "one of the databases they find to be most helpful are pizza delivery databases." "When you call to order a pizza, you usually give them your correct name, your correct address and your correct phone number," he said.
Moral of the story: if you owe money to the court, use a pseudonym when ordering pizza. Link (Via IP) [Boing Boing]

While I am somewhat concernd about what databases the government is allowed to access, it does seem pretty creative to use pizza delivery databases.  comment []12:56:20 PM    

Bush to Press: "You're Assuming That You Represent the Public. I Don't Accept That." [BOPnews]

This Adminstration believes that the press serves no purpose, and is only interested in 'Gotchas.' That is why Bush feels comfortable saying the press does not reperesent the peoples' opinions. But just how close are the opinions of his advisors to what the people want? Not very. The press does not represent the people. What a wonderful tradition to leave the White House? I realize that some of the press does pander, does do gotchas but to feel that all of it can be ignored damages us. And , of course, this Administration has done more to hobble and disrupt the legitimate press than any other in my lifetime.

Compare and contrast with what one of the greats said about the press, why it is important and should not be ignored. The press is how the people can get educated about the government.

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. - Jefferson

Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe. - Jefferson (I guess he is able to read, right.)

Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it. - Jefferson

No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions. - Jefferson (my emphasis)

And finally

The press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood. - Jefferson

Too much of the press has abandoned itself to falsehood, to crass, incompetent journalism. This sort is rightly ignored by most. But to demean the press (and by press I also mean its new surrogates, such as blogs) is to demean the important role it serves to educate us about our government. To forget this invites severe danger to any administration. We WILL find out eventually, if we remain free. Only tyranny will prevent us from finding out. Only tyranny believes the press only serves its purposes and not the purposes of the people. I am not surprised by this Administration's disregard for the press (Seeing how well they diverted attention during the Iran-Contra affair does feed their arrogance regarding the press). If we are to remain a free nation, this disregard will have to disappear.

ADDED 12:30 PM For balance, Jefferson also said "The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." I would disagree with this as an argument but it is a nice, pithy proposition. So, granted, Bush may be better educated than someone who read only newspapers but that is not the only definition of the press.  comment []9:26:41 AM    

On the impermanence of digital images. An interesting post this morning on Engadget asks if we are selling out our memories by locking them up in digital images that could easily be corrupted or lost on media formats that could be unreadable in the future. [Mac Net Journal]

But any picture degrades over time. At least with digital you have the hope of converting them to new formats. As long as Graphics Convertor exists.  comment []9:02:08 AM    

Clouds caused by aircraft exhaust may warm the U.S. climate

Great. Now those pretty contrails from planes appear to be major contributors to the increase in temperatures, at least in the US. We are having one of the driest Aprils on record. Really wonderful weather. Sure to encourage many Californians to move up here. The one thing Seattle had on the West Coast was water. Now it may be disappearing. Time to move to British Columbia.  comment []7:54:17 AM    

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© Copyright 2004 Richard Gayle.
Last update: 5/1/04; 10:43:52 AM.