Monday, January 30, 2012


A slide accompanying Brian Newman's talk this evening at the panel on transmedia storytelling at UnionDocs quoted computer scientist Alan Kay:

The best way to predict the future is to invent it

Mr Newman pronounced Mr Kay's name to rhyme with sky, not stay.

It made me think of so many other names that look one way and are pronounced another--Kean, Deas--or simply words that people pronounce differently, such as Pulitzer, Judaism, Nabokov.

Another UnionDocs panelist, game designer Nick Fortugno, was introduced as if his name is spelled Fortuno and rhymes with uno , (not giugno).

It's interesting that most of the general public in America knows who Steve Jobs is. Fewer people know who Steve Wozniak is. I wonder how many people on the street know who Alan Kay is and where he fits in the picture.

I like Mr Kay's acknowledgment in this 1972 document titled "A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages."

Saturday, January 28, 2012


From Sonia Sotomayor's opinion in United States v. Jones, decided January 23, 2012 (extra paragraphs included):

Nonetheless, as JUSTICE ALITO notes, physical intrusion is now unnecessary to many forms of surveillance. Post, at 9–12. With increasing regularity, the Government will be capable of duplicating the monitoring undertaken in this case by enlisting factory- or owner-installed vehicle tracking devices or GPS-enabled smartphones. See United States v. Pineda-Moreno, 617 F. 3d 1120, 1125 (CA9 2010) (Kozinski, C. J., dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc). In cases of electronic or other novel modes of surveillance that do not depend upon a physical invasion on property, the majority opinion’s trespassory test may provide little guidance. But “[s]ituations involving merely the transmission of electronic signals without trespass would remain subject to Katz analysis.” Ante, at 11. As JUSTICE ALITO incisively observes, the same technological advances that have made possible nontrespassory surveillance techniques will also affect the Katz test by shaping the evolution of societal privacy expectations. Post, at 10–11. Under that rubric, I agree with JUSTICE ALITO that, at the very least, “longer term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses impinges on expectations of privacy.” Post, at 13.

In cases involving even short-term monitoring, some unique attributes of GPS surveillance relevant to the Katz analysis will require particular attention. GPS monitoring generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations. See, e.g., People v. Weaver, 12 N. Y. 3d 433, 441–442, 909 N. E. 2d 1195, 1199 (2009) (“Disclosed in [GPS] data . . . will be trips the indisputably private nature of which takes little imagination to conjure: trips to the psychiatrist, the plastic surgeon, the abortion clinic, the AIDS treatment center, the strip club, the criminal defense attorney, the by-the-hour motel, the union meeting, the mosque, synagogue or church, the gay bar and on and on”). The Government can store such records and efficiently mine them for information years into the future. Pineda-Moreno, 617 F. 3d, at 1124 (opinion of Kozinski, C. J.). And because GPS monitoring is cheap in comparison to conventional surveillance techniques and, by design, proceeds surreptitiously, it evades the ordinary checks that constrain abusive law enforcement practices: “limited police resources and community hostility.” Illinois v. Lidster, 540 U. S. 419, 426 (2004).

Awareness that the Government may be watching chills associational and expressive freedoms. And the Government’s unrestrained power to assemble data that reveal private aspects of identity is susceptible to abuse. The net result is that GPS monitoring—by making available at a relatively low cost such a substantial quantum of intimate information about any person whom the Government, in its unfettered discretion, chooses to track—may “alter the relationship between citizen and government in a way that is inimical to democratic society.” United States v. Cuevas-Perez, 640 F. 3d 272, 285 (CA7 2011) (Flaum, J., concurring).

I would take these attributes of GPS monitoring into account when considering the existence of a reasonable societal expectation of privacy in the sum of one’s public movements. I would ask whether people reasonably expect that their movements will be recorded and aggregated in a manner that enables the Government to ascertain, more or less at will, their political and religious beliefs, sexual habits, and so on. I do not regard as dispositive the fact that the Government might obtain the fruits of GPS monitoring through lawful conventional surveillance techniques. See Kyllo, 533 U. S., at 35, n. 2; ante, at 11 (leaving open the possibility that duplicating traditional surveillance “through electronic means, without an accompanying trespass, is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy”). I would also consider the appropriateness of entrusting to the Executive, in the absence of any oversight from a coordinate branch, a tool so amenable to misuse, especially in light of the Fourth Amendment’s goal to curb arbitrary exercises of police power to and prevent “a too permeating police surveillance,” United States v. Di Re, 332 U. S. 581, 595 (1948).* [* footnote omitted]

Friday, January 20, 2012


A little like Patricia Marx's cleavagey, from March 2010.

From "The Stolen Cloned Mammoth," a short story by Shane Castle in the Winter 2011 issue of Indiana Review:

In blogs, the mammoth's theft was most often attributed to aliens--foreign and intergalactic--or to a stunt hatched at Democratic Party Headquarters intended to make Republicans look archaic and stampedey.

The story has some charm. I'm not sure about how everything brings the reader to the ending to which it brings the reader, but there's some funny Internet language riffs. The ending itself has a nice beginning. And the story does have a mammoth.

There is something going around with mammoths. The cynic says its copycat stuff. The true child says there's something in the collective unconscious making people yearn for woolly mammoths.

A few months ago I saw a play (seemed to me it got lost on its way to West 40-something Street and wound up in New Jersey) called "Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England." The cast included two actors who played diorama people. Frankly, I'd like to see the play again just for the diorama people and those actors. I could see those parts becoming the kind of parts people fight for and rotate into on a regular basis. Definitely an inspired set piece, the diorama.

Stampedey is more stampede-y than is stampedy, which is more stamping.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


From William Finnegan's Letter From Madagascar, "Slow and Steady," in the January 23, 2012, issue of The New Yorker.

Fortunately for the plowshare, the Sakalava people, who inhabit the area, consider eating the tortoise fady (taboo).

The plowshare is a rare species of tortoise. I'm not sure when or how people began using plowshare more than ploughshare; it could be one of those differences between American and British English. Donald G. McNeil Jr.'s July 1996 Times article also had plowshare.

I imagine there was once a more pronounced choice between fady and fadi. Fadi strikes me as further from English.

Monday, January 16, 2012


From After a Funeral, by Diana Athill.

He also spread whitewash and black paint everywhere, so that I couldn't pick up a teaspoon without getting paint on my fingers, and my carpets were tracked with painty footprints.

Ms Athill is writing about Waguih Ghali, who wrote Beer in the Snooker Club. The novel was so satisfying, it made me look forward to Mr Ghali's next (the dust jacket said another was in the works).

I went on a casual hunt, beginning at the stack at Argosy Books. Nothing. Then the Strand. Nothing. showed me many copies of Beer in the Snooker Club. I thought No no no, he can't possibly have written only one novel. The Spidey sense feeling came over me just before I read a note about how Mr Ghali had committed suicide at age 38.

So, wanting more of his something, I necessarily turned to After a Funeral, since Mr Ghali chose to commit suicide in Diana Athill's apartment. I wondered if in his case it was a mutant proposal of sorts, in the other direction.

Friday, January 6, 2012


From Stars Over Hawaiʻ i, by E.H. Bryan, Jr., with 2002 revisions and additions by Richard A. Crowe, Ph.D. and preface by Walter R. Steiger (note, this is not the Hawaiʻi stars book for sale at the top of Mauna Kea, The Sky Tonight: A Guided Tour of the Stars Over Hawaiʻ i, by Samuel E. Rhoads). I purchased Stars Over Hawaiʻ i after a walk (delayed plane) around the Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center at the Kona International Airport at Keahole.

Of Perseus, Mr. Bryan (whose middle name is Horace) writes,

He was returning from an adventure on which he had slain one of the wicked gorgons, Medusa with the snakey locks.

Her locks sound quite approachable when described as snakey.

When in Hawaiʻ i, one can see Canopus, the second brightest star in the night sky [image from the blog A Sky Full of Stars].

Monday, January 2, 2012


I found punty while typing puny.

1964 H. Hodges Artifacts iii. 58 Bowls and drinking glasses may be produced by first sticking the bulb to a solid iron rod, a punty (French pontil).