Another Saturday morning

Catching up on a little bit of reading this morning. A few interesting bits from around the web:

  • Two good bits from Mark Kleiman today. The first is the best-yet comment on Bush’s to the moon and beyond plan:

    Of course Bush is grateful to the space program: What would he do without his precious Teflon coating? And obviously he can’t afford to be cut off from his supply of ideas that obviously came from anther planet.

    But this is even more disgusting than usual. If you’re going to let your scientifically illiterate political advisor staff a huge science- policy decision, you should at least have the common decency to lie about it.

    In another post, Mark notes that he really likes William Gibson’s latest novel, Pattern Recognition. Like Mark, I really enjoyed the book’s accellerated version of logo-laden style. In both Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition, Gibson gives us protagonists (Case and Cayce, a similarity he says is purely coincidental) who find themselves benefitting from the near-limitless resources of mysterious sponsors, benefactors who, despite their own power, need the particular talents of the books’ characters. Even with such resources (Cayce’s expense account is particularly impressive), the protagonists are still at the mercy of forces they don’t yet understand. In both books, this generates the kind of paranoid, agoraphobic atmosphere that Gibson works very well with. In Pattern Recognition, however, it’s particularly fun to see Gibson working in a more contemporary world than the dystopian cyberpunk realms of his earlier stories.

    Mark didn’t as much of a kick from Gibson’s Idoru, and I have to agree; up until Pattern Recognition, Gibson was somewhat off his stride, perhaps trying to make the transition from the Sprawl to something else. While I think that Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive were great reads, Gibson’s Burning Chrome collection of short stories is an even better introduction to the diverse and imaginative stuff that Gibson was working on at the time.

  • More bad news for efforts to wire Utah’s Wasatch front with a municipally-organized fiber optic network: UtopiaNot is protesting the cost of the project as well as the role of AT&T as the project’s initial service provider, suggesting anti-trust violations in the contract. While I think the UtopiaNot folks have some legitimate concerns with the costs and risks of the project, I remain supportive of municipal projects like this, and I don’t think UtopiaNot’s portayal of the project as a shell game is very honest. That UtopiaNot’s founders are also presidents of competing technology outfits suggests as well that their own interests are not necessarily those of the communities they purport to represent.

  • Grand Text Auto is a nice site for all things related to interactive fiction, other types of computer-mediated communication and artwork, and current scholarship on these and related topics. This morning they link to Jan Rune Holmevik’s long and detailed dissertation [pdf] on the development of multi-user online environments. Although the use of MOOs as general-purpose educational tools is the core of the project, the dissertation includes interesting histories of hacking, open source software, and the communities that emerged to use tools like LambdaMOO. Neat stuff.