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You can look at my home page for more information, but the short answer is that I'm a dilettante who likes thinking about a variety of subjects. I like to think of myself as a systems-level thinker, more concerned with the big picture than with the details. Current interests include politics, community formation, and social interface design. Plus books, of course.

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Thu, 11 Mar 2004

More links
I recently found the site AlterNet, a website devoted to alternative media. In particular, I've been regularly reading their election section. Some recent articles that I found interesting include Arianna Huffington's advice to the Kerry campaign, and an article describing the effect that Howard Stern, of all people, could have on the race. Interesting stuff. Another site that alternet often links to is, which has its own interesting set of articles.

As long as I'm doing random links, I just read an interesting speculation on the different sizes that a group can grow through, and in particular where the danger spots are. Things like the Dunbar number, which I first read about in The Tipping Point - the idea that humans can only maintain stable social connections with 150 others at a time. I find that his observations match up pretty well with my experiences in different organizations as they've grown and shrunk. Worth a read. Even if it doesn't display properly in Mozilla.

I also liked this article by Malcolm Gladwell, on the social life of paper. It speculates how we use paper and other aspects of our environment to externalize the contents of our brain, using it as a spark to memory. How many of us leave a pile of papers on our desk each evening to help remind us the next morning what we were working on? However, each of us organizes our stacks differently, and that's a reflection of how our brains are organized differently. I could spend all day looking at your stack of papers and not be able to extract the cognitive connections that you had developed. The documentation alone isn't enough, which is a point well-developed in The Social Life of Information. Gladwell makes the point as well:

The correspondence, notes, and other documents such discussions would produce formed a significant part of the documents buyers kept. These materials therefore supported rather than constituted the expertise of the buyers. In other words, the knowledge existed not so much in the documents as in the heads of the people who owned them -- in their memories of what the documents were, in their knowledge of the history of that supplier relationship, and in the recollections that were prompted whenever they went through the files.
And, yet another link that I'd meant to link to for a while, is an interview with Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of the Division of Aeronautics at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, and historian of the Wright brothers. Interesting discussion of the importance of experimentation to the process.

posted at: 15:34 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /links | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal

Hardcase and Hard Freeze, by Dan Simmons
I picked these up at the same time as Dim Sum Dead, in my failure of self restraint at the used bookstore. I like a lot of the work by Dan Simmons, and am thoroughly impressed by his exploration of so many different literary genres. These two books are apparently his attempts at hard-boiled fiction. They were decent, but not nearly as compelling as, say, Andrew Vachss. The writing wasn't nearly as distinctive, and the protagonist wasn't very well developed; he had an appallingly brutal streak, with little explanation as to the contrast between his cold-bloodedness with his enemies as opposed to his warmth with his friends. Vachss developed the character of Burke, explaining his absolute loyalty to his family, but Simmons's character of Joe Kurtz is a cypher. One of the problems I had with the book was the same problem I had with another book of Simmons that I read recently, Darwin's Blade, where the protagonist, Darwin, was actually too skilled; the book became just a shooting gallery of bad guys getting annihilated by Darwin. Kurtz did much the same thing in these books; it was mildly interesting to see the different methods used by Kurtz, but it never really felt like he was in any danger. I'm not sure I'll pick up the next book, Hard as Nails. Maybe if I see it used.

posted at: 15:28 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/fiction/mystery | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal