I just returned from a fascinating lecture on the knowledge economy by Dr. Ismail Serageldin, the director of the new Biblioteca Alexandrina in Egypt, followed by a panel discussion. Some of the comments Dr. Serageldin and the other panelists made that really struck me:
> Probably nothing groundbreaking here, but I really liked the way Serageldin summarized the role of libraries: Libraries "provide access to the common heritage of humanity." Among their major purposes are to "spread the values of rationality, tolerance, diversity, and scientific outlook."
> Serageldin commented on how technology has influenced the way we judge the value of a work. Traditionally, a work has been valued for its self-sufficiency, by how it "hangs together as a whole." In the future, he believes, they will be judged more on how they interlink with other works. More value will be place on the density of hyperlinks.
> Information technology is often touted for its ability to promote democracy by providing more universal access to information. One of the panelists pointed out that we need to draw a distinction between the democratization of opinion and the democratization of knowledge. The Internet has been very successful the former, via tools like blogs. Many would say there has been less success in the latter area.
> At numerous points in his speech, Serageldin discussed the challenges and costs of bringing technology -- and the knowledge and information it conveys -- to people in less developed (i.e. poorer) countries. He mentioned the amount it costs per week for the U.S. to occupy Iraq (don't remember the exact figure, but it was a lot). As we all know, there is no democracy without free flow of information. The amount of connectivity that could be purchased with the money it costs to occupy Iraq for just one week would do more to win the hearts and minds of its citizens than anything the military could accomplish. I wish I could remember exactly how he said it -- he was very eloquent. I'm sure others have made a similar point, but I found him very convincing, probably in part because he was so succinct. It was just an aside, really.
It was too bad the attendance was so disappointing. There were probably only about 40 people there, and the lecture hall was maybe one quarter full. I can't believe there wasn't more interest in the speaker and the topic from the University community, so I can only assume it was poor publicity or the rather cumbersome registration process which was required, even though it was a free lecture.
For over a year now I've been contemplating the idea of starting a blog about Scottish country dancing, which has been my main hobby and the center of my social life for about 15 years now. The problem was, I wasn't really sure what the purpose or point would be. I could use it as a medium for discussing the minutiae of Scottish dance technique, but the Strathspey listserv has long been the established and entirely satisfactory forum for those and many other SCD-related topics. A dancer friend and I toyed with the idea of reviewing Scottish country dance balls we attend, but ultimately rejected it on the grounds that things could easily get rather snarky, and the SCD community is too small and close-knit to withstand much open criticism. A recent posting on the Strathspey listserv finally provided me with the excuse I was looking for. In it, the writer proposed that someone start a web site where people could post Scottish country dances they have devised (i.e. choreographed, for those of you not familiar with SCD jargon), and get feedback on them. With the built-in comments function, search function, and ability to assign categories, the blog seemed a promising format for such a purpose.
I now present to you, Eight by Thirty-Two*, a resource for sharing Scottish country dances. Let's see what happens.
*For those of you new to SCD, " it's called "Eight by Thirty-Two" because most Scottish country dances consist of a 32-bar sequence repeated 8 times. Of course, you'll notice the first dance posted (by yours truly, as you might guess), happens to be 3x40, but as in all things, it's the exception that proves the rule!
So, this morning I am (virtuously) working out on the elliptical machine at the YMCA, when I hear the distinctive pop and hiss of a soda can being opened. I look over towards the recumbant bicycles, and sure enough, there's a guy chugging a can of pop as he pedals away. Mind you, it was barely 7am. There is something very disturbing about this picture.
Yes, I know there are people who like a soda in the morning. The idea of drinking something that sweet in the morning is totally unappealing to me, but hey, whatever. I think it would seem just as weird to me if the guy had been sitting there with a cup of coffee in his hand. I mean, what the heck is wrong with water?