Those wacky quantum computers

Pretty soon we'll be learning of computing that takes place in another dimension. From ZDNet:

Quantum computing without computing by ZDNet's Roland Piquepaille -- The optical quantum computer designed by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) can find the answer to an algorithm without running it by using "counterfactual computation." Even the leader of the scientists' team thinks it's bizarre: "To my mind, quantum mechanics doesn't get any more mysterious than this."

I first saw this story in the Chronicle's Wired Campus Blog.


Widgets Ahoy

A simple post from Google's new Blogger.com dashboard widget for the Mac.  My Mac.  My new iBook.  Oh, hours of timewasting ahead!


The Persistence of Ephemera

Anyone who's cringed at their own intemperate mid-90s Usenet rants preserved for all eternity via Google Groups knows all about this: how conversational and interactive forms that once felt ephemeral -- or that we continue to want to believe are ephemeral, like IM -- are more and more often recorded and can be retrieved, reviewed, etc. long past the context of their original utterance.

What you may not have known is that there's an Eighth Annual Workshop and Minitrack on Persistent Conversation during the Hawai'i International Conference on Systems Science next January. And they're calling for papers.


Is it Safe?

Jeff Rice writes about the reported dangers of blogging in Inside Higher Ed: the fear that something one writes will offend someone somewhere, and thus damage one's employability.

(It's probably too late for me.)

But Rice encourages us all to take things a little less seriously, pointing to a long history of vigorous and intelligent, yet playful, experimental, and even eccentric writing.

There's nothing really unique about blogging from a writer's perspective, other than its current faddishness. The same things were being said about posting to newsgroups and publishing websites. And the same can be said of casual conversation, if/when overheard by others and taken out of context.

Be brave.


Portal Pages 2.0

Here are two customizable "portal pages" that might even make me want to use them. Both allow you to select existing or new feeds, search features, even embed del.icio.us and flickr data (de rigeur these days to be truly web2.0ish):

I've always disdained pages that asked you to make them your start page -- but these might be worth it.

Springdoo "talking emails"

Springdoo is another Ajaxy web-audio tool (reminds me of Odeo, whose phone-in audio capabilities are free), but with a neat angle: "speak your email" and Springdoo will stream it to a web address contained in an email message you send out. The address is permanent and so can be linked from another web page for repeated access.

Another score from 37signals

Basecamp is a nice lightweight project-management tool from the same folks who brought you Backpack and, more recently, the group chat tool Campfire.

Smart interfaces, thoughtful features, applicable functionality.


I've been swamped by a tidal wave of socialweb tools lately

I'm slowly catching up with what all the cool people know about:

  • Openomy gives you free online storage organized by tag instead of directory
  • Ma.gnolia may be giving del.icio.us a run for its money
  • PXN8 lets you edit images online for free
  • YouTube is yet another free online video locker
  • Surveymonkey gives you free online survey tools
  • Lulu may be the ultimate in vanity publishing (besides any webmonkey with a text editor and an FTP account, of course)


3-D Presurgery with the Dextroscope

"The Dextroscope works by fusing multi-modality images - such as CT and MRI - into 3D volumetric objects that, when viewed through special stereoscopic goggles, are transformed into virtual reality, 3D images. The suspended brain images give surgeons a detailed advance visualization of the complex anatomical relationships and pathology of the patient's brain."

Brain, schmain -- I wonder how much longer it will be before bootleg full-body Dextroscopes of Brad Pitt and Pam Anderson are being bit-torrented to eccentric fabber owners for a little Fifth Element-style de-deconstructionism?

"Uh, hey dude, did you rip the latest dex of Jenna Jameson?"


Agrarian vs. Militaristic Patriotism

I just finished reading an as-yet unpublished paper by Ken Zagacki that approaches the rhetoric surrounding a controversial Navy project in North Carolina, using the ideas of Kenneth Burke. One of the sidelines in Zagacki's treatment highlights something I've often (mostly privately) noted: how War on Terror rhetoric frequently directs American citizens to sacrifice or compromise core American values in the name of expediency ("security") -- and how infrequently the irony seems to be noticed.

It calls to my mind the old saw (usually attributed to Ben Franklin) that a people who too easily give up freedom in the name of security deserve neither. (The counterargument to this, often expressed as "the Constitution is not a suicide pact," doesn't wash with me; I prefer Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death" as a more quintessentially American sentiment).

But on to the empirical question: How does a society that values "liberty" persuade its citizens to give it up in order to preserve it? Are more universal (or more basic) values evoked, such as self-preservation? And if so, how is self-preservation shown to be a distinctive right of one social group (nation, people, culture) over another? What if self-defense requires sacrificing what makes something worth defending -- i.e., the assumed special place of America as beacon of liberty and prosperity? How is that worked out in the language and symbolic acts?

Ken's paper suggests that agrarianism -- perhaps as central a component of the American myth as "freedom" -- can be used by opponents of government actions who wish to remain perceived as patriotic and not "tree huggers". For those with a different agenda, is there a corresponding cultural component that allows sacrificing freedom yet remains both distinctly (ideally, uniquely) American and is as "noble" as Liberty -- i.e., not mere selfish self-preservation? What is that component?

No doubt there's already an entire literature on this. . . .


I've done it now.

Well, the ball is rolling. I just submitted an application for graduate admission at FSU. I'm going for the Ph.D. in Communication, a dream long deferred. Of course Rhetoric continues to interest me, but I'm also very curious about research in Computer-Mediated Communication and -- this one really charges me up -- Environmental Communication.

Wish me luck.

Vimeo stores videos free, too

I've just created a personal account on Vimeo, a free video hosting service. I'm testing it as an alternative to Ourmedia, mentioned in an earlier post.


Tiny Elvis Surfs the Web

Tiny Elvis would love these. First, the Shiira Project, which is out to out-Safari the native web browser for Macs, offers a mini version that operates as a Dashboard Widget in OS X.4+.

But that ain't all, hound dog. Get a load of Bitty Browser, the tiny web browser that can be embedded in a web page.

Something to play with while I wait for Opera Mini to be ported to my Motorola V220.



Places to go, things to do, people to tag

Two more new tools to explore. I signed up for Backpack and 43 Things. The latter has people and places variants as well; you list the places you want to go (Hawaii, Sneads), the things you want to do (lose weight, skydive), and the people you want to meet (Ian Anderson, Paul Reubens), and the software puts you in touch with people who have the same dreams -- as well as those who have BTDT.

Backpack is one of oodles of online storage tools using Ajax tech. I'm already experimenting with online image storage (and have been for almost a year), so I figure why not do this with lists and notes to self?

Both tools seem promising in terms of ready access to information you want at your fingertips. I wish I'd had an online project-management gizmo when I was restoring that 1971 Westfalia Camper a few years ago. Nothing like a PERT chart to help you focus on a million overlapping timelines.

Social computing, podcasts on horizon in pedagogy

Well, you knew this, but the recent New Media Consortium / Educause report (mentioned in the Chronicle's Wired Campus Blog) says social computing and podcasting, and related technologies, are poised for increased adoption over the next year.

One of the respondents to the Chron's article also mentioned a report from last year describing driving factors behind tech change in higher ed.