Archive for January, 2010

Weasel Words

January 26, 2010

Near the tip of the dragon’s tail –literally up the creek a few hundred meters– lives a small black weasel (or is it an ermine?).  You probably could row a racing shell up that far, but no one does:  shallow water, too many sunken logs and such.  Earlier this winter, I’ve spotted this lil’ aquatic creature fishing in the stream, swimming underwater for several yards at a stretch with an intermittent skein of bubbles trailing along at the surface.  When the stream briefly froze over during the first week in January, the weasel swam between small airholes in the ice, popping up to look around and take another breath for the next plunge below.

When I was there looking for the weasel during last week’s January Thaw, I was instead surprised by a large racoon that ambled up from the water’s edge.  S/he was surprised as well, and after brief hesitation headed off in the opposite direction.  I must have been along the path to home, because a while later I heard the ‘coon rustling in the underbrush behind me.

Yesterday we had tremendous rain, from the middle of the night right through to the middle of the afternoon.  The creek level has risen by at least three feet.  Let’s hope both weasel and racoon have temporary quarters on higher ground until the floodwaters subside.

When Government Is Transparent, The View Ain’t Always Pretty

January 26, 2010

Last week I attended a two-day Open Government Workshop at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy.  The workshop’s intent was to:

“… bring together academics, government, advocates and tinkerers to examine a few critical issues in open and transparent government. How can we better conceptualize openness and transparency for government? Are there specific design and architectural needs and requirements placed upon systems by openness and transparency? How can openness and transparency best be sustained? How should we change the provision and access of primary legal materials? Finally, how do we best coordinate the supply of open government projects with the demand from tinkerers?”

Many, many excellent panelists & discussions, most (all?) of which should be available via web video within a week or so, either at CITP‘s website or on Uchannel.  Although I don’t intend to slight any of the other presenters by so doing, I want to single out Silona Bonewald‘s presentation for special praise because her slideshow exhibited many of the characteristics that I myself attempt to employ on those occasions when a slideshow is considered practically obligatory.

  • black-on-white, minimalist, text-centric slides
  • Comic Sans(ish) font
  • concise/categorical/analytical approach
  • deft reference to Princeton’s local hero Bill Bradley — ‘spreading fame’ with a throwaway style

That’s right; no gaudy backgrounds, no animation, no soundtrack, and definitely no video.  Definitely the message rather than the medium.

Form and Formlessness

January 21, 2010

China’s Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei was today quoted as saying that recent dustups involving Google (“alleged” cyberattacks, etc.) should not be “overinterpreted” or linked with Sino-US ties.

“The Google matter is not an issue between the governments of China and the United States,” his ministry said, according to the China Daily.

Here’s the unofficial Putonghua-to-English translation:  “What part of Sun-Tzu don’t you understand?

January Thaw

January 20, 2010

For the past week, we’ve been experiencing our annual January thaw –a period in the second or third week of the month during which temperatures rise above freezing into the 40’s (degrees Farenheit).  This is a relatively reliable climatic phenomenon here in the Eastern US, the only uncertainties being when the thaw will start and how long the (slightly) warmer spell will last.  Our 2010 iteration looks like it will clock in at about seven days:  a return to the low 30’s (with freezing rain/sleet/snow) is forecast for the night of the 21st.

For rowers, this is a welcome hint, a faint harbinger of spring, which is really just about two months away.  Although the lake is now ice-free, it probably won’t be so for long.  February is often the coldest winter month here, and in 2009 the lake refroze long and hard enough to permit skating after St. Valentine’s Day.  Let’s line up the ergs out on the ice and row down to the dam at the north end!

The January Thaw (at least the ‘thaw’ part of it) also has personal significance for me.  Although I didn’t realize it until last year, thawing is a big part of why I began rowing a long time ago, and why I continue to row today.   It all began with the Norse language. . . . .

What I think about when I think about rowing.

January 19, 2010

You can blame Haruki Murakami for this blog. Way-back-when, in the mid-1990’s, I started reading his novels. I started with Dance-Dance-Dance, then went back to read his earlier works. I’ve read every one of his translated books since then.

But that’s a story for another time, another post, another blog. Suffice to say that it’s his latest work –a memoir– that started me on this blog. Murakami is a runner as well as a writer, and he hammered out one hundred-fifty-plus pages about what running means to him, and why. His meditations inspired me to reflect on what my sport –rowing– means to me. And then, to record and inflict those reflections on anyone interested enough to read them.

Like Murakami, I’ve found that a non-sequential, non-linear narrative can sometimes be a more compelling approach to just about any topic. So, this blog is going to loop back and forth from the present to the past and perhaps into the future as well. I hope it will be neither a memoir nor a diary, but something else altogether. We’ll have to wait and see just what that is.

To give a bit of structure to my ramblings, I’ve decided to impose some basic categories on the types of material that will appear here:

  • Things I think about while actually on the water, rowing;
  • Things I think about while training in winter, when the lake is frozen;
  • Things I think about while contemplating bodies of water, from the shore;
  • Things I think about while NOT rowing:
  • — readings

    — events, world and local

    — dreams and visions

    — cultural influences

    — trivial predictions