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Things and Stuff: The Weekend

Saturday brought with it a very interesting reinforcement of what is arguably the overriding, and most important, lesson of living in a post-industrial society:

In a world spanned by an instantaneous communication network of global scope, in a nation whose most powerful and most influential sectors are not involved with the digging of ditches or the making of things but rather with the moving of information, it doesn't matter what you know. What matters most is how you can find what you need to know. The ability to memorize skills or information matters less than the ability to find the skills or information you need, when you need it.

Seriously. On Friday, I did not know how to set up a database, how to add or retrieve information from a database, or how to pass information from a Web browser to a database. Today, I do. Just like that.

We take for granted many things that for 99.9% of human history would seem strange and unfathomable, and I'm not just talking about heavier-than-air powered flight and iPods. I'm talking about the way we learn, catalog, disseminate, and transmit information and knowledge. Google became a billion-dollar company on the basis of a single insight: when the sum total of readily available human knowledge reaches a certain point, the index into that knowledge is worth more than the knowledge itself. If you can't find it, you might as well not have it, as any good librarian knows.

Sunday was a bird of a whole different feather. The entire day, beginning to end, was spent playing World of Warcraft (which is, really, nothing but a gigantic database of immense proportions that's accessed through a very specific type of real-time graphical interface). Ran Hyjal Summit, ended up with a new ring and new wrist piece (which are, for some strange reason, still not showing up on Wowarmory...hmm). Finally replaced the Horseman's Signet Ring I got off the Headless Horseman event last year, which means that I wore that ring for exactly a year and a day.


Now if we could get our collective asses in gear and kill Kael and Lady Vashj, I could complete the quest for Keepers of Time and get another new ring. Plus Kael drops the Tier 6 chest piece, and that'd be pretty sweet.

I got my Onyxia key just three days before they removed the attunement requirement for Onyxia. Dammit.

It's growing cold. joreth is coming up this evening; she'll be here for the rest of the week, and on Saturday i fly to Chicago to see dayo. I'll be in Chicago until Tuesday, if any of the Chitown peeps want to get together. We're probably going to be at GD on Saturday, at least. cunningminx? scathedobsidian? Anyone?

Got some wood for the fireplace yesterday, then realized that I have no poker, or little shovel thingie, or any of the other accoutrements one normally associates with fires and fireplaces. Got to remember to go shopping for those things tonight before joreth arrives; I hope to do a photo shoot with her and the fireplace at some point this week.

Mmm, fire. I live in a place that has a fireplace!


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 20th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
Your fireplace is big enough to put joreth in? Admittedly, she's pretty thin and bendy but she's LONG.
Plus all the hair burning would smell awful.
Oct. 20th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
You and joreth are both among the top 5 people I know who don't need to be told this advice, but because experience has made me a worrywart about such things I'll say it anyway for my own comfort: please be especially careful and aware around fire when playing with someone who has exceptionally long hair.

Yes, I know you already know it, so much so in fact I'd probably have no concerns with you doing fireplay with femetal, but thanks for letting me indulge my psychological tic anyway. :-)
Oct. 21st, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, the long hair & fire issue! Believe me, I'm quite paranoid about it. Thanks for the concern!
Oct. 21st, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
The idea is to take pictures by firelight, not to put her in the fireplace. I like her, and would rather keep her--unsinged, if at all possible.
Oct. 20th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
Ooh! But on a silly note, any such scene with joreth should start with you determining if she weighs the same as a duck!

I'm betting the scale can be rigged so she does... ;-)
Oct. 20th, 2008 09:12 pm (UTC)
Does anyone know if she floats???
Oct. 21st, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, I float. I was a competition swimmer in my youth.
Oct. 20th, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC)
where did you find them, coconuts are a tropical plant, this is a temperate zone
Oct. 20th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)

it sounds like a really cool weekend. :) And you're right about the dissemination of information. On the flip side of pushing data around, I think we've sacrificed a lot of our physcial ability to do things. Like the Morlocks. sorry - random brain function ahead.

Enjoy your fireplace. It's getting cooler here in Michigan too. We have an outdoor fire pit which I think I'll start up this evening. ^_^ But boy do I miss a fireplace.
Oct. 21st, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
In modern society, the IT people and the Web programmers and the guys who make all the back-end infrastructure work are the Morlocks! (I often describe my primary job function here as "Web Morlock.")
Oct. 20th, 2008 09:35 pm (UTC)
FYI... scathedobsidian doesn't really have time to check his LJ anymore, so you're best off emailing if you want to get in touch. (Just a note from his social secretary/girlfriend).
Oct. 21st, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
I have his email around here somewhere...lemme see if I can find it.
Oct. 21st, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
scathedobsidian at livejournal will get his attention.
Oct. 20th, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC)
Got the ring on my rogue from HH on the weekend, and typically, the caster ring kept dropping (the one my elemental shaman needs). Also the pumpkin pet and hat so I got the achievement. Achievements are like crack cocaine at our house now. I wasn’t as excited about Wrath until I saw the cinematic, but then, mmmmmmm! I want it out now. Organised days off so I can have a four day weekend of wow. I plan to enjoy it without rushing, as if I am discovering a whole new world.
Oct. 21st, 2008 08:05 pm (UTC)
Wrath is going to be SUCH fun. Too bad you cn't use a flying mount in Northrend 'til you hit level 77.
Oct. 21st, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
I maxed out inscription the other day. Didn't take long. Will spend the next couple of days getting exalted with Argent Dawn, so I can get the double with the Northrend equivalent. This means soloing Strat and scholo on the rogue.

The pvp in Northrend looks a total hoot!

Also, the girlfriend waves at you and says hi, as she reads over my shoulder.
Oct. 21st, 2008 04:05 am (UTC)
"the index into that knowledge is worth more than the knowledge itself."

I like this summation. It captures the point rather nicely :)

It has rather fascinated me how things like the internet and Google have rapidly changed what it takes to gain a skill. It's interesting noticing that we still place a LOT of societal emphasis on experience and what skills people have.
Oct. 21st, 2008 12:40 pm (UTC)
Along with the importance of knowing how to find what you need to know, I'll argue that much success rides on knowing what you need to know--and what to do with that information and those answers when you find them.

Of course, that latter stuff's nothing new. Problem-solving, being able to take action, figuring out if you're even asking a useful question or pursuing a relevant direction, those are not modern skills. Thankfully some schools are taking this to heart and are focusing more on teaching interpretation than the old set of "basic knowledge" our American parents/grandparents got taught in youth schools.

Even with the bloom of information, I wonder if there will always be more questions than answers.
Oct. 21st, 2008 08:23 pm (UTC)
I suspect the answer is "yes," and will continue to be "yes" for so long as we're recognizably human.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)
Heh. You hit on the conclusion of the long story I decided I didn't have time to add on to my remarks! My father is a philosophical man, and I don't know if he realizes how remarkable it was for me how he gave me such permission as a child to be in awe and wonderment. Human experience indeed.
Oct. 21st, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
I have often said the superpower I'd like most to have is... the ability to know the correct person to ask any question, to receive the correct answer.
Oct. 21st, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
But what if you learn that the answer is Vladimir Putin? Or Genghis Khan? If you want a superpower, shoot for the moon...wish for the superpower that the answer would magically flit into your head on a chorus of angel song, or something. :)
Oct. 21st, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
My very first film lighting teacher told us on the first day, that the most important thing was not what you know, but that you know how to find it. To that effect, all his tests were open-book.

I have lived by this philosophy ever since.

Einstein was rumored to have never memorized his address because it was written down. Why bother cluttering up your mind with that if you know where to find the information?

Although, I was actually pretty good at keeping numbers stored in my head. I really ought to work at memorizing better, since I don't always have access to Google when I get into science, religion, or relationship debates at work and I can't remember my references off the top of my head.
Oct. 24th, 2008 03:27 am (UTC)
That's rather insightful, and -- if you'll allow me to geek out for a moment -- it brings up an interesting point about private data.

The filesystem in your laptop, tower, workstation, or blade server (depending on sophistication and use case) is, frankly, pretty dumb. The store/retrieve operations are very fast and very clever for what they do -- but they have the disadvantage of you needing an index before you can pull a file. "Find" operations have existed ever since Apple's Finder, but they're all just linear searches -- slow, computationally intensive, and requiring an exact match.

Now, the structure of the bits of my personal storage directories that I actually use is pretty flat right now, but that isn't the case for everybody and it won't always be the case for me. I create and compile new data all the time, and I can only store so many indices in my head. And as I use more and more sophisticated programs (and build more complicated projects), it'll just get worse.

I think the kind of people that get paid ridiculous amounts of money to think about these problems know this, but they're taking the wrong approach. Vista's filesystem is basically a dumbish source-control system, which solves some revision-related problems but completely ignores the indexing problem you're talking about. What I'd like to see is some kind of associational search method for my own filesystem -- kind of like what Google does, but more limited in scope.

It's not an easy problem. Google can do what it does because it mines ludicrous amounts of data to get its matches, and it doesn't have a 100% hit rate by any means. All a personal search system would have to work with is your behavior -- although it wouldn't have to worry about exploits, which would make things a bit easier. And, unfortunately, data mining is not my strong point.

What do you think?
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )