Scott Adams’s take on the ludicrous “birther” issue in the USA (is President Obama, in fact, American? – honestly!) made me smile this week: “I think the birther issue is good for the country. A modern republic needs some simple and unimportant issues to keep its citizens invested in the process. The important issues of our time are far too complicated for the average person, and I count myself in that group. We need a few simple issues so we can be part of the political conversation without hurting anything. The last thing our system of government needs is regular citizens getting involved in Middle East strategy, healthcare reform, the budget, climate change, or anything else that might matter.” This point reminds me a little of the referendum in the UK next week, and associated current debate, in which we are to be invited to vote on our electoral system.
I enjoyed this post by James Wilsden, the director Royal Society’s science policy centre, in which he looks at how quickly China might become a world leader in science and innovation, based in part on how quickly the country came from nothing in the sporting sphere. Just look at that graph comparing countries’ projected spending on R&D! (Research and development.)
The Guardian asks its readers to name their favourite literary pseudonyms, the peg being the shortlisting for the Orwell (a pseudonym in itself of course) prize of “Death to the Dictator! Witnessing Iran’s election and the Crippling of the Islamic Republic” by “Afsaneh Moqadam”. Nominations include Benjamin Black, Flann O’Brien/Myles na gCopaleen (both pseudonyms of the same person), Currer Bell (and presumably Ellis and Acton), Lewis Carroll, Richard Bachman, Saki, etc. There are lots of names in the comments field, plus the usual Guardian comment pseudo-(intellectual this time) bickering.
Moving to something a bit more substantial, there’s a fascinating “guest” post at O’Reilly Radar about the use of linked data to examine the US Civil War on its 150th anniversary. By “linked” data they mean connecting data held on individual museums and historic sites, with the aim of making historical data both more discoverable and “interoperable” (the goal of many an open data project). The post is by two of the project organisers and well worth reading.
The latest back-to-front application of Twitter came to my notice – Storify. So you can write lots of 140-word tweets, then use Storify to combine them into a post. Hmm, what is blogging, exactly? A day or two after I read about this application, I saw it used for the first time in my own experience – when Chris Mims Tweeted the story of how he helped to establish the scientific blogging network for Seed Media, Inc. (These tweets were stimulated by the sale of the platform to National Geographic). See more about that here, if you are interested in this storm in a teacup.
A few brief links:
I was so impressed by the sheer magnitude and effort of Michael Sheen’s 72-hour The Passion in the streets and environs of Port Talbot, Wales. Lyn Gardner writes it up.
The Good Library blog has a passionate list of bullet points about what a good nationwide library service “could have done”. Broadly, who could disagree, though some of his points are plain wrong, most notably that people who work in libraries are overpaid whereas the truth is the opposite. Unfortunately, these sorts of incorrect details can undermine the real force of the main argument, as well as alienating many of those who feel the same and who happen to work in libraries!
Amazon is not the publisher’s enemy. A good counter-argument to that made last week by the small publisher Linen Press, whose owner said that every book sold through Amazon cost her more money than it took to produce the book.
Here’s an excellent review of Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen, at Shade Point.
Mrs Peabody Investigates: crime novels that make you want to rant: Field Grey by Philip Kerr.