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June 6, 2005

Long time, no see

Hey everyone. Sorry for my extended absence. You know how it goes, though. Between travelling to Baltimore and the nice weather we've been having, it has been hard to sit in front of the computer for too long. Anywho ...

• Nothing to report on the stadium front. There was the Krinkie/Marty attempt to grandstand a little by proposing that the majority of the profits from the new stadium go to the county, but other than that nothing is happening. I must admit I'm getting a little pessimistic. This is even with Shooter reporting yesterday that ,"[c]hances appear favorable for legislative approval of a new ballpark for the Twins before the end of the current special session." I wish he would give more details about why he thinks the chances are still favorable.

It seems that the state budget debate has taken a turn for the worse. The DFL Senate, the governor, and the Republican House appear to be unable to agree on anything. I am beginning to think that by the time they get a budget worked out they will be so sick of seeing each other that they may not want to even deal with the stadium issue. I suppose our best shot is by tagging along with the Gopher's stadium and hoping that after our legislators handle that piece of legislation they'll want to take care of the Twins.

Did you see the poem Dean Johnson's staff wrote after Pawlenty vetoed the state poet laureate bill? It went a little something like this:

"The governor, on promotional tour,
Education is sound-bite du jour.
To govern through press, that is his goal,
But fly-arounds will take their toll."

Why, Dean, oh why do you insist on making this debate even more acrimonious than it has to be? Sigh. If anyone has any news on the budget or the stadium please feel free to share.

• As you probably know, I was in Baltimore this past Thursday and Friday to speak at Johns Hopkins University about UThink. First things first, as I said below, I promised to find out why there is an "S" at the end of "Johns" Hopkins. The trouble with blogs is that sometimes people read them. So, while I was being introduced for my presentation on Friday the gentleman introducing me told the audience that I had written about my desire to get to the bottom of this mystery. Ha! That was a little embarrassing. So, he explained (and as bjhess has already pointed out) that "Johns" is actually a family name that was given first to Johns Hopkins great-grandfather. "Johns" was the maiden name of the benefactor of Johns Hopkins University's great-grandmother. So, there you have it. Truth be told, I was just joking around about my desire to get to the bottom of this "mystery." As CC pointed out already, it is easy to find this out through their website.

Overall, my trip went very well. I got into Baltimore on Thursday afternoon and drove past both Camden Yards and the Raven's stadium on my way to the hotel. Camden Yards is just beautiful. Quite frankly, it is so beautiful I don't even want to talk about it. It made me upset just to look at it. Let's move on.

Thursday evening I went out to to dinner with some of the staff from the Johns Hopkins University libraries, as well as my co-presenter Brewster Kahle, co-founder of the Internet Archive. I guess I wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard of Brewster Kahle, but for a librarian and techy like me he is pretty famous. Kahle is an Internet pioneer and millionaire with offices at the Presidio (neighboring the new offices of George Lucas). The Internet Archive is a bi-monthly snapshot of the entirety of the WWW which allows the user to see what a specific website looked like two months ago, or five years ago. Check it out:

Google, Dec. 2, 1998
Amazon, October 13, 1999
ESPN, Dec 2, 1998
Greet Machine, Dec 25, 2003

You get the picture. As you might imagine, the Internet Archive has a huge storage capacity and currently contains approximately 1 petabyte of data and grows at a rate of 20 terabytes per month. Yikes, that is huge.

Brewster Kahle came to speak about this project and also his new initiative to digitize the entirety of human recorded knowledge ala Google and make it all "universally accessible." His talk was awe-inspiring, important, timely, engaging, and entertaining. The scope that he is dealing with, the higher plane that his thinking currently resides in ... wow. It was awesome to meet him and talk with him. His presentation mainly dealt with different media types such as print, sound/music, video/movies, and graphics and his desire to digitize all of it. He also tried to convince everyone how relatively inexpensive it is to do so and how librairies especially are at a unique point in our history to make a huge impact in this realm. He said more than once something to the effect that right now the technology community is looking to libriaries for advice, help, and assistance in doing all of this. "We are cool to the techies right now" he kept on saying, and we need to do something before we aren't cool anymore. Of course, I'm not doing his talk justice, but needless to say it was very thought provoking and inspiring.

And then there was me. Ha! Actually, I was Brewster Kahle's warm-up band, so to speak. I presented first, and I am happy to report that my presentation on UThink went very well. I spoke about our efforts to record the cultural memory of the University of Minnesota through blogs, and our efforts to use blogs to create community on campus, give instructors another way to engage students in the classroom, and most importantly to promote intellectual freedom. Our efforts to create "communities of interest" and promote intellectual freedom seemed to resonate with the audience the most, as well as the fact that the UThink project was designed without a committee. UThink is basically just me (and the excellent work of a programmer). One audience member labled my efforts "gutsy" and extolled the virtues of taking a chance every once in a while. That was flattering.

So, I think I held my own with Brewster Kahle, and after our presentations were over we both agreed that they dovetailed nicely. Kahle is certainly working on a worldwide scale, but UThink is an example of a local based project with some of the same goals: capturing the cultural memory of a group of people and making it accessible to all. All in all, our two talks worked great together and it was a very enjoyable day.

Anyway, that is about it. If you got this far, thanks for reading. Back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Posted by snackeru at June 6, 2005 8:37 AM | Libraries | Stadiums | UThink


I've actually attended a couple of games at Camden Yards. It's a fantastic experience. Had some of Boog's BarBQ and watched batting practice from the right field SRO area. The entire stadium is absolutely beautiful.

Posted by: SBG at June 6, 2005 10:17 AM

Wow! A real, outdoor baseball stadium! We Twins fans can only dream...

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at June 6, 2005 10:22 AM

Hey, that Internet Archive is outstanding. I can't believe I've never seen it before.

Thanks for spurring on the Johns Hopkins talk. I've always wondered the same thing to be honest and now I know!

Sounds like a great conference. I am truly starting to see the nobility in what you are doing. As I've delved more and more into the blog world it's always interesting to see both the positive and negatives of this form of expression. Writing, like reading, is a vastly important skill for students. Granted in 20 years UThink will house a lot of crap, but there will also be a great wealth of cultural information about where Minnesota (and Minnesota's youth) stood in 2005 (and beyond).

Posted by: bjhess at June 6, 2005 10:29 AM

Thanks for the comment, bjhess. I'm glad you mentioned the fact that writing is a skill worth building in our student population. Do we expect students to come into our university already knowing how to write perfectly? Or could we provide them with a tool that will help them become better at this skill and give other people the chance to comment on these writings? Needless to say, I am in the second camp.

Also, if people were so worried about crap being written then the Internet itself should have never been invented. What is it, like 99% pure crap? Much like the Internet, though, UThink has some very interesting "diamonds in the rough" that make it a very worthwhile tool. And, as you say, even with the crap, it will be a very interesting cultural record of student life in 20 years time.

Well, I'm glad someone gets it! Thanks bjhess!

Posted by: Shane at June 6, 2005 2:23 PM

Speaking of adding acrimony to debate, it's too bad when two legislators make a proposal that should move the official debate towards a reasonable profit-sharing plan for the ballpark revenue streams but instead they're dismissed out of hand and called grandstanders. Marty and Krinkie are right. If the ballpark deal falls through, it's because the Twins insist on playing ultimatum games rather than negotiating in good faith with their majority partners. Carl Pohald and his minions should have only themselves to blame.

Posted by: frightwig at June 6, 2005 7:53 PM

Thanks for the comment, Frightwig. I guess we have a different opinion on what would be a reasonable negotiation strategy. The Twins and Hennepin County negotiated behind closed doors for months, they came up with a plan that they both agreed with, and announced it to the public. That is what I call a successful negotiation: when both parties are satisfied and announce their plan together.

Marty and Krinkie did not negotiate. They slapped a plan together, probably never even called the Twins, but made darn sure they called a press conference to announce their great idea. That is what I call grandstanding.

Having said that, I would love it if the Twins accepted their offer. It makes perfect sense. But as Opat has already said, baseball does not live in a perfect world. It sucks, but that is the way it is.

And you're right, the Twins will shoulder some of the blame if a deal is never reached. However, there is nothing I can do about that. There is, however, something I can do with the idiots in the legislature. And you can be rest assured I will do everything in my power to make sure they pay for their inability to do what over 30 other cities and states have managed to accomplish: build a fricken stadium!!

But that is just me. You do whatever you want.

Posted by: Shane at June 6, 2005 8:42 PM


That is SO cool--you and Brewster Kahle!! I'm excited to say I know you!

Posted by: Laurene at June 6, 2005 9:22 PM

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