I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Friday, September 30, 2005

Gorillas and tools

Very excited to hear this morning about gorillas in the wild being observed using tools for a variety of things. One used a stick to test water depth before stepping in (nice photo here). That is not just tool use, it is pretty high level thinking, in my opinion. Once again, we are not alone...

On a side note, not quite as anthropological, I was also excited to learn this week that a live giant squid has been filmed. Don't think they use tools, but a reminder that quite a bit of science fiction is fact if you look below the waterline is a good thing.

Musing on blogging and not blogging.

Yikes. Over two weeks since I posted. Yes, yes plenty of excuses...a training course one week followed by my parents in town (baby's 1st birthday, we survived a year!), followed by a week in the UK at the People Inspired Innovation conference (which was great, by the way, and I think the presentations--mine included--will be posted soon so keep checking back). And then what felt like a nasty case of jet lag (only 5 hours?) in fact turned into a nasty virus--better now, thanks.

Anyway, during this lag I have thought about my blog...but not posted. Is it an obligation that I am not fulfilling when I don't post regularly? Or is is a comfortable chair to come back to and write when I have the chance, just like sometimes I get to curl up with a good book yet too often can't find the time?

Clearly I will not become an uberblogger anytime soon...and yet, I do like my little outlet.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Collaboration and Trust

I have been doing some background research on distance collaboration for the EPIC paper I am writing with Dina. A great deal of what I have been reading talks about the importance of trust in collaborative relationships. I suppose in some ways that is maybe a no-brainer, but I hadn't really thought much about it before and now I am thinking about it a great deal.

I do trust the people who I work with face to face every day because I know them, I know their work, and I know I can count on them (or in some cases I know where the weaknesses are so I can plan for that). And yes, I have at times worked with people who I don't trust, in that I don't have faith in the quality of their work. So how does trust develop in virtual relationships? Does it take more time? Does it take the same amount of baseline experience? Or do we take bigger leaps of faith?

I haven't really worked this out yet, but it is fun to be mulling around on.

More fish

Bought 3 new fish yesterday--a little herd (OK school) of neon tetras. They have survived the night. Fish count is now 5.

Friday, September 09, 2005

What to do?

It is hard not to feel helpless in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, especially from up here in the Northeast--the donations of money and goods I have made will make a difference, but it barely feels like it. Fortunately, all of my family (cousins) left New Orleans before the storm and are now all convened down in Texas. And, fortunately, though they too have lost much, they have means and connections to have apartments, etc...not part of the huge mass of people with nowhere to go.

It is interesting though because two different colleagues have asked me whether I would take people in to my house (because they themselves were considering whether it was the right thing to do, since they both have extra rooms). Obviously, I would take in family, or friends of family--I think anyone who had a connection to someone I know. I don't think I would take in a stranger (and of course the people who really need housing right now are strangers). Is this selfish or wrong?

I can't imagine what it must be like to lose everything (and I hope I never have to). And on top of that, people who have never left their home towns are being put on busses and planes to totally different parts of the country. I am glad we are all doing what we can to help, but the culture change will be yet another thing for many people to deal with.

There is a temptation to take an intellectual view of it--the National Science Foundation is already awarding grants for research on the aftermath of the hurricane. A long view is important, so we can handle such catastrophes better next time, but in the meantime there are so many people that need help now.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans

I am left without really knowing what to say here. I have family in New Orleans, who fortunately, all got out before the storm...of course we have no idea what, if anything, they have to go back to. And I guess personally the best word I can find is that I am unsettled--though somehow that word isn't strong enough. It is not like 9/11, where my world changed in a flash, but it is such a close to home reminder of our fragility. Not to downplay in any way last year's tsunami or the recent monsoon flooding in Mumbai, but yes the mental impact of a disaster in a place I know and on people I know is greater...distance does matter I guess.

As I watch the news come in, it is also just such a stark example of the best and worst. My sister lives in Houston (and once lived in New Orleans) and is one of the thousands of people there volunteering to get things set up and comfortable for refugees. And I have no idea how the Texas schools will in fact accomodate all the children, but it is something that they will find a way to do, because it has to be done...but at the same time I look at New Orleans itself and shots are being fired at rescue workers. Is it inevitable that we degenerate under such circumstances? I am fortunate in that I am not there experiencing that mental stress to find out, and I want all the best for the people who are there, though I know things will not be Ok for them for quite some time.