Monday, February 25, 2002
It seems that we're on the cusp of a new wave of books that posture themselves as a tonic to the 'boys in trouble' phenomenon of 1999 (cf. 'Real Boys', 'Raising Cain', etc.). To usher in this new wave, there's an excellent cover article from the New York Times Magazine all about the ferocity of girls. It's about time.

PS- I can't believe you're wearing that. Did you dress in the dark?

Thursday, February 21, 2002
This is a little love story about Dell UK and me:

I've had more bad luck with service people than just about anyone I know. The worst bunch of cretins was the crowd at (the now defunct-- surprise, surprise) AMSTech, erstwhile makers of the AMS Roadster. When I bought that machine in late 1998, it absolutely flew! But it had this tiny glitch that caused the machine to crash whenever the user dragged items around on the desktop or drew empty selection boxes on the desktop. Very odd, and frankly, very disruptive. To make a very long and painful story short, AMSTech took three tries to get the machine working again (each time trying to force me to pay for shipping the broken machine back to them), twice sending me back the computer, untouched, with a little note from a technician saying that the machine 'works fine to me'.

So imagine my great surprise when my new-ish laptop has a stroke of some sort, refusing to boot up and making me think I've lost months of work and a billion contacts (I'm now dutifully backing up my Outlook mailboxes, thank you), and the folks at Dell UK politely tell me that they're sorry they can't get me a new RAM board... within 24 hours. Yes, they apologised for not fixing my machine instantaneously, and begged me to accept their offer of a courier who would deliver me a new RAM board the next day. If that wasn't the solution, they continued, they'd send someone out to my house to replace the motherboard within one business day! Good lord.

I haven't had such good service

Big sloppy virtual kisses to Dell UK and their Irish "taychnik'l sapparrt staff"!

Saturday, February 16, 2002
As a small rejoinder to a comment made about moral imperatives and 'digestibility' of public knowledge, I thought I'd make this brief point about academic clarity: what I see as important to the debate is not that we make some blanket policy about how much jargon must be included in a piece of writing before it is 'too opaque', but that we encourage people to write in a manner that can be understood. What I viscerally reject is writing that bases its own value on how dense and pitted with the most trendy argot it is-- writing that loses its immediacy because it is encased in layer upon layer of bizarre and ill-defined terminology.

As for the thought that one interpretation of my moral imperative is that others not 'think as much as me', I'd argue that it requires orders of magnitude more thought to explain something lucidly than not. What I'm arguing for, then, is quite honestly much more thought, certainly not less. I'd even suggest that much of the academic writing I rail against is inchoate and revels in its own premature birth. More time in the oven, please Dr. Bhaba?

Friday, February 15, 2002
This might finally explain my reaction to hearing the words: "Andrew Sullivan".

Wednesday, February 13, 2002
UPDATED: **There's an excellent discussion about voice and authenticity going on at JOHO. It's well worth reading.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Two recent articles about completely cryptic academics have made me think about the role of the indecipherable writer in the 21st Century. I think that for a very long time (centuries, perhaps) certain educated people made a cottage industry out of writing and inventing neologisms like it was going out of style. Much of that happened in the very place where I am studying, actually. But what has come of that is the firmly-rooted notion that it is incumbent upon a brilliant thinker to be as confusing as possible. That's not to say that some profound writing hasn't come out of it (Wittgenstein, Baudrillard), but for the most part, it leaves us with an academic legacy that is so esoteric and baffling that people spend their entire careers trying to make sense of it. That seems a horrible waste of thought-time, frankly.

Beyond this, I think that the world is too interconnected today to allow people to create these arcane knowledge objects that must be rationalised and interpreted by an elite few thinkers, only to eventually trickle their influence out over the larger populace. That seems counterproductive to a fault. These days, building an academic reputation on smoke, mirrors, and pulling levers behind a curtain is much easier to see as what it really is-- making a vocation out of crafting confusion. It might have been an adaptive trait at some point, but no longer. Too many people can and do pay attention. Too many people can spot a charlatan for a charlatan, and especially now, we can see that the Emperor is wearing no clothes because there are JPEGs of him all over the Internet.

It's the new academic's duty to be clear and clever at the same time, and not to spend years puttering in the shed, cobbling together fuzzy concepts that nobody (not even they, themselves) seems to be able to explain or understand.

So if it's really that easy to become a bestselling children's author, why isn't the author of this article one? (Warning: Cynical columnist justifying his own sense of intellectual superiority ahead.)

Thursday, February 07, 2002
I've been tossing around the idea of giving the switch to Dvorak a go. I type pretty quickly, on the whole, but I also make a lot of errors and end up using the backspace key several times in every sentence (3 times in that last one you just read). I wonder if my efficiency would go up with the new keyboard layout...

What concerns me though is the fact that I don't only use the computer in my flat; I use four or five computers all around Oxford University, and if mine is the only Dvorak, will my QWERTY typing suffer when I'm in the office?

Wednesday, February 06, 2002
By quite a longshot, the most amazing business website I've ever seen. Choose the 'Flash' option.

? britblogs # DIY Blogs