So Right

Quick, someone put Yochai’s words into Obama’s ears! He’s so very right, both about building out the Net and about education.
I fully support the idea of rejuvenating the economy by investing in infrastructure; but since we’ve already signed on to rescue the banking industry, and we’re about to salvage the auto industry, why can’t we make a more future-oriented infrastructural investment in the communication medium of tomorrow and the brains of tomorrow?

Arriving Attractions

Three exciting recent developments:
First, Jamie Boyle’s new book The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind has come out from Yale University Press, and YUP has allowed him to offer free downloads of the PDF version of the text at the book’s website. I haven’t read it yet, but having heard his Ars Electronica presentation and having talked with him over breakfast before the conference, I expect this will propose another promising step toward sounder IP policy.
Second, David Isenberg’s annual Freedom to Connect conference has been announced for March 30-31 of next year. I hope I won’t have any conflicting obligations, because (what with the change in administrations) it’s bound to be an exciting year to listen to internet activists, community organizers, and policymakers work out a saner, more vibrant economy of connectivity. F2C is where I met Kevin Werbach and Susan Crawford, who are now shaping the FCC transition; come to this year’s conference and meet the future!
And most important of all, Pippa has started her Flickr account, so now I won’t benefit from people going to my Flickr pages to see any new Pippa art. If you were reading her blog, you’d already know.


Part of the reason I was so miserable for the past few days is that I was suffering the effects of the bug that laid Pippa low Friday night and that has been plaguing Josiah for the past couple of days. I resisted admitting that while we were on the road, partly because I didn’t want to concede the possibility that I might have had the digestive effects that Pippa (and Si, apparently) experienced while I was aboard a plane, partly because the wearying travel provided an adequate explanation for my discomfort, and partly because I’m just a stubborn cuss who refuses to admit that he might be sick until he collapses in his bed at 7:30 in the evening, and doesn’t get up till 7 the next morning.


I used to hear all the time about the manifold ways that postmodernism was tearing apart the fabric of Western civilization, destroying the academy, corrupting the youth — yada yada yada. The day of postmodernism’s efflorescence as the leading cultura bugaboo seems to have faded, but its place has been taken (at least for a season) by the Internet. According to Vatican Radio, His Holiness Benedict XVI worries that, influenced by digital technologies, the younger generation can no longer concentrate on study and deliberation, and they “isolate themselves in an increasingly virtual reality.”
I’ll spot him the question of concentration and attention span; I’m more inclined to think of this as a transition in kinds-of-thinking, but that transition seems to entail a diminution of the sort of meditative deliberation Pope Benedict advocates. But it’s sad to see an exceptionally strong intellectual Pope buying into the bogus danger of replacement panic.
This sort of rhetoric tends mostly to reinforce the distinction between those who participate in digital culture and those who resist it — it reminds me of the lines from “Ballad of a Thin Man”:

Something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

or the sensibility of Bowie’s “Changes.” Whether these children are quite aware of what they’re going through or not, they’re nonetheless immune to His Holiness’s consultation, and when he invests in the flimsy myths of anti-digitalism, he sacrifices the wisdom he might bring to bear on the students’ faith and life.
Oh, and Vatican Radio really ought to spring for a translator/editor to catch mistakes such as “lack of unifying principals” > “unifying principles,” “that cry out the conscience of modern man” > “to the conscience” (and please consider a gender-inclusive term for humanity), “accompanied by a series examination” > “a serious examination,” “the students capacity” > “the students’ capacity.” Papal communications are worth transmitting correctly.

Bad Days

The big travel day yesterday, it turns out, wasn’t already complicated enough. When Pippa and I got to Delta’s check-in kiosks at Logan, we noted that our flight was delayed, and we were instructed to go to Kiosk Assistance. At Kiosk Assistance, the booking agent explained to us that, No, our flight had been cancelled and there were no seats on routes to Raleigh-Durham until Tuesday morning. After some quiet beseeching and some telephonic consultation with other agents, we settled for tickets to La Guardia at 10:30 Monday morning, and from one Delta terminal to another (“My daughter does it all the time, it’s only ten minutes”), thence to RDU departing at 1:15. We were rescued from indigence by the saintly Taylor-Coolmans, who picked us up in the cold rain and dropped us off this morning… in more cold rain.
After Boyd dropped us off, we made our way into the terminal, where we hunkered down till our gate agents announced time to board. Forty-five minutes late.
We landed in La Guardia and scooped up our luggage (can’t check it through), asked the baggage manager to call the other gate to let them know we were racing to get there. She declined, but offered the advice to take a taxi (“It’s just five bucks”) rather than wait for the bus (which bus presumably takes ten minutes terminal-to-terminal — once it gets to you to pick you up). We ran out to see whether the shuttle was there (it wasn’t), and I dashed over to the taxi stand to point to where poor, tired, miserably uncomfortable Pippa was standing with the luggage. “I can’t send a taxi over there,” the taxi agent said; “I’d be responsible, if anything happened.” I staggered back to Pippa, explained, caught my breath, and was about to invite her to head back to the taxi queue with me, when a stray taxi drifted over and gestured that we could have a ride.
The ride did take about ten minutes, maybe a few more because of the traffic, but it cost ten dollars rather than five. We were within a half-hour of scheduled departure. We checked our bags at the curb, ran into the terminal, tried to get boarding passes — and the kiosk directed us to Kiosk Assistance. Pippa stepped up to the line, while I sought out a line agent. He looked over our paperwork and explained that we could get into the security line with what we have, that we’d get full boarding passes at the gate.
The security line at La Guardia. . . (I’ll omit description, for Lovecraftian reasons).
The security line agent gave us a peremptory gesture and pointed off into space. I begged, “Our plane leaves in fifteen minutes; is there any way we can get through faster?” She snapped, “You’re getting in everyone’s way!” Then, as I asked where I ought to go, she steered us into the “Expert Traveler” line. That was not the very slowest, so I was partly grateful.
About sixteen minutes later, Pippa and I got out of the security tangle and sprinted for our gate, me with my sneakers in my hand. We got to the (crowded) gate, and the agent assured us that the plane would be boarding momentarily.
Fifteen or twenty minutes later, we descended to tarmac level, took a bus to the plane, boarded the plane, only to be told that our runway was about a half-hour drive away from our gate, and that the flight would be ninety minutes. Although both Pippa and I were entirely worn out and aching, we regarded this as the best situation we’d been in for more than a day.
Oh, yeah, while we were waiting, I got an email with some unwelcome vocational news.
Our bad luck streak eventually ended; the plane did arrive in Raleigh, and our wonderful friend Sarah came to pick us up so we didn’t have to get a taxi. About an hour and a half ago, we opened the door and greeted Beatrice. I’ve taken a really long, hot, shower. Pippa had a lie-down. I’m counting on feeling better tomorrow.