Ahab’s Wife – Naslund / Spenser’s Una

Ahab’s Wife or The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund
Pub Oct. 1999. 688p. illus. Morrow, $28 (0-688-17187-7).

Ahab’s wife, Una (nee Spencer), named by her mother after the personification of Truth in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, is so vividly portrayed that she seems more real than fictional in Naslund’s fanciful opus. (ref Booklist) “Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.” This is destined to be remembered as one of the most-recognized first sentences in literature – along with “Call me Ishmael.” Naslund has created an entirely new universe with a transcendent heroine at its center who will be every bit as memorable as Captain Ahab. (ref Reading Group Guides) The result is 668 pages of an interesting tale that focuses squarely on Una Spencer. The narrative traces the young woman?s childhood in Kentucky and her adolescence in Nantucket. Author Naslund has composed her book in a style that emulates Melville?s, with long scenes bearing a quiet dignity. Despite some interesting developments and the occasional appearance of the enigmatic Captain Ahab, Ahab?s Wife demands reading, but disappoints at the end, because it doesn?t seem to have a reason for having been written, other than as a lightweight piece of entertainment. (ref Unit101)

Fiction more real than “reality” – hold that thought (again).

[Post Note : the above was just copied off the page where I found the original reference. Since then, I have read and reviewed the book here, and had the conversation in the comments below.]

Renascence Editions
A (massive) Online Repository of Works Printed in English Between the Years 1477 and 1799
Francis Bacon (Advancement of Learning, et al)
George Berkeley (A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge)
Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan)
Joseph Hall (Charaters of Virtues and Vices)
David Hume (Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding )
Samuel Johnson (The Vanitie of Human Wishes)
John Milton (Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained et al)
Thomas Paine (Age of Reason )
Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations)
Edmund Spenser (The Faerie Queene),
Jonathan Swift (Gullivers Travels, complete)
Thomas Wilson (The Arte of Rhetorique)
and many more.

Pepperone Postcards – Fractal DOM

Semantic WebLog / Pepperone Postcards – Danny Ayers blogs.
RDF techie (must learn what RSS is / does)
but anyway some key tidbits, not least links to …

Orchard – “Data Manipulation Framework . Sounds familiar. Appears to be DOM grove based”.
See my Manifesto – Orchard, Grove, and Jorn’s Fractal Thicket.
Daniel Rivers-Moore had it right already with Grove-based DOM.

WIKI – Post-it Notes for the Web.

Dupuy’s History of Cognitive Sciences

Started – Mechanisation of the Mind – the History of Cognitive Sciences by Dupuy (See below)
Actually only read the 6-page preface so far and looking very promising. Not only do we encounter Poincare’s “dazzling intuitions” and self-organising systems in the first page – (the latter concept apparently pre-dating the intended scope of CogSci / Cybernetics from day#1 in 1976) – but we have a long quote from a Stanford lecture entitled “Beyond the Dualism between Cultured Ignorami and Hidebound Savants” in which he describes the schizophrenia …

between American Neo-Positivism
and French Post-Structuralism

between Hidebound Savants
and Cultured Ignorami (or Foggie Froggies)

between the philosophies of science, mathematics and logic
and the philosophies of the human and social “sciences”

between the analytic, rigorous, democratic, shallow and tedious
and the rich and meaningful on the other

between knowing everything about almost nothing
and knowing almost nothing about everything

between the need for formal models
and his nevertheless deeply held belief that ….
literature is a superior form of knowledge to science.

Wow, all this from a book on cybernetics. I can’t wait.
Must stop gathering and start organising threads of thought.

Bumped in to Michael and friend Gaylon in the Pick last night. Discover Gaylon taught ZAMM at Stanford (or was it Berkeley ?), but strangely didn’t know Lila. Must talk sometime, maybe next week.

Moby Dick turns out to be an excellent conversation piece with waiters, barmen and barflies, most seem to wish they’d read, or to be planning to read it. Few have, but everyone seems to have an opinion.

Need Meta-tagging capability in Blog (Klog) publishing.
Tools for meta-tag “library” selection / creation / management.
Then bingo, self-organising knowledge (well peer-organising anyway)

[Oh yeah, and half an hour ago, England lost to Brazil – life goes on.]

Melville’s Moby Dick

Finished Moby Dick.
If it wasn’t obvious, from the helpful map provided on the route of the Pequod, that the voyage ended in disaster, the final chapters could be quite suspense filled. A bit of a spoiler that. Apart from the late chapters when Ahab, soliloquises (to Starbuck mainly) about his career widow (yes the “Ahab’s Wife”) and his motivations to spend so many years of his life continuously at sea, (and of course the dramatic revelation earlier about the puspose of the mission) I don’t find Ahab and his much quoted “monomania” the main hero / subject of the book. The life and the characters are the story. Ahab is but one.

The competition for the dubloon provides an interesting parable on team motivation. In the initial part of the final chase Ahab (who put up the prize) – claims it over his crew, and creates the aweful anticipation of team demotivation. The second day Ahab changes the rules greatly in favour of the crew individually and as a team, and it shows in the way the entire crew follows his quest to their mutual terminal fate – with only Starbuck silently voicing “give it up now Ahab, for all our sakes”. Moby is not just real, but the real hero.

(Picky details – like the earlier rescue from the wreck in the first foray into the whaling boats, where the crew rescue is easy to miss, in the final fate of the Pequod itself, it is not clear when she sinks what has actually caused her to founder, and finally, the postscript about Ishmael surviving to tell the tale is a somewhat weak afterthought, though poignant in that Queeqeg’s coffin is the liferaft, and in fact only served to remind me that I’d lost any sense of where “I” was in the final scenes.)

Excellent read for so many reasons. Just the language is enough, varied though tough in some passages. The heroic historical adventure is a gripping and involving documentary too. Great stuff.

Irrational Knowledge Value Models

Irrational Knowledge Value Models in Practice
At a knowledge interest group meeting today I experienced a microcosm of so many of the issues here.

(1) The “General Motors / DeLorean effect” A failure of formal project teams to achieve scope execution and objectives desired and understood by the individual members, despite admissions that each member individually knew the process was wrong. “We’re creating a monster”. Committees of highly competent people often make incompetent decisions – fact.

(2) Recognition that the bits of the group’s activities that do work and represent “value” are those based on mutual trust and communication links between the members, not any formally planned activities / projects.

(3) Recognition that the “intangible” value of the loose / collaborative activities is real, but very difficult if not impossible to reflect in project budget cost-benefit justifications – yet still agree valuable enough for members to continue to work to achieve.

(4) “Darwinian” nature of the current state of development of semantic web ideas – memetic no doubt. Almost random which mutations occur and which find an immediate local environment to prosper, compared to any objective analysis of which ideas are “better” in any broader sense. (Just look at some of the trivial projects which achieve IST funding !)

Conclusion : Knowledge is organic. Processes which create and manage it must be organic too. Models which characterise and value it must recognise this. Objective rationalisation destroys knowledge. (Another one of those inescapable, but unfortunately currently useless, facts – like the emperor’s suit of clothes.)

SWAP – Semantic Web And Peer-to-Peer

SWAP – Semantic Web & Peer to Peer
I knew it. The power of peer to peer thinking fits so well with exploiting relationships between ontologies embedded in “knowledge” at each user in a peer to peer network. (Reference from Graham Moore of Empolis. Of course Empolis is part of Bertelsmann group who acquired Napster technologies over a year ago ! Guess what that technology is going to be used for.)
See earlier logs below eg “We Enterprise ?” (3:57 Sunday May 26, 2002) and the Corporate Klogger thread below too ….
Still need a “shared” ontology which is sensitive to the context and behaviour of the peers (individually). Where so much of the semantic is in relationships between peers and their activities, RDF is the obvious candidate for modelling those resource links. (Could RDF type XML Meta-Data actually be arranged so that it grows adapts organically / memetically according to the behaviour / usages of the peers, without a centrally managed ontology for the knowledge – a killer concept.)
Amsterdam Univ Presentation on IST Projects incl SWAP
Amsterdam Uni Knowledge Representation and Reasoning Page
Balearics Technology Innovation abstract on SWAP
Ontoprise SWAP presentation at CNEC