Thursday, May 27, 2010

Max Ufer

I have received a book in pristine condition.  Why should that trigger a blog post? Because the book comes to me through the inter-library loan service of the Minneapolis Hennepin County Library - the loan is extended by the Wilson Library of the University of Minnesota.

The book is Ernst Klee's 2001 Deutsche Medizin im Dritten Reich.

The better school districts in Minneapolis teach German, if only at the high school.  Like America in general, this area is ethnically German. In the years after the Civil War, disease in Memphis drove the inhabitants of Germantown as far up the Mississippi River as one could then travel: to the St Anthony falls.

The book is pristine, untouched. The bookmark ribbon was folded double across a small inner signature: it is otherwise also pristine.  How could such a book stand untouched at a university with a Holocaust document center?

The book lacks a subject index, but has an index of persons. It opens with a photo and a quote from the closing chapter on Max Ufer and the Max Planck Society.

Here is a PDF on The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute under the Third Reich.

Many years have passed since I stood before the photos at the Dachau memorial: somehow one photo in the Ernst Klee volume seems now to burn in my memory: the ulcerated face of a child.

Ordinarily I would have posted this under my blog on the quaint tourist town of Marburg.  It is not, after all, the first time that I have found a book surprisingly pristine - or with uncut pages - in a university library. But not a book such as this.

German remains one of the languages of science at a great university such as that of Minnesota.  Surely there is a simple explanation.

The book has no review at Google books.

Here is the amazon link for this book.

Here is the Ernst Klee author link at amazon.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Squeak Smalltalk 4.1

Could this be a Squeak right out of the box?

That is a menu bar with Projects, Tools, Extras, Windows, Help and a Search entry field. And where are the Fi$her-Price colours? (They are an option now.)

This is the influence of Gilad Bracha's Newspeak.  The release comes not long after Pharo Smalltalk went 1.0 (although I don't know the politics.)

The good news for Squeak and Smalltalk is that 4.1 has so many important changes which are not cosmetic. These include updated closures, even greater modularity (unload, reload), a new implementation of Traits from the folks who gave us traits. And a great many changes in the class hierarchy.  All of these listed when you click the green or the orange buttons on that "Welcome to Squeak 4.1" pane.

If you have wanted to learn Smalltalk, there are even more resources online now, including Pharo By Example. The first thing to know in Squeak or Pharo is to left or right click in that workarea background (the brushed aluminum-looking main window area.)

There will be other Smalltalk news coming when Vision Smalltalk appears (also known as DNG or Dolphin Next-Generation Smalltalk.)

It remains an oddity to me that Smalltalkers are still using Adobe PDF for their e-books .... see FotB.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cincom VisualWorks Smalltalk 7.7 and Seaside 3.0

About a week ago James Robertson began re-doing the >tutorial for Seaside 3.0 and Cincom VisualWorks Smalltalk 7.7.

An immediate problem arises if you installed an >NC image from Cincom without selecting "Preview" components for install: you will not have WriteBarriers.

Just connect Store to the Cincom repository, select Published and load WriteBarriers from down near the bottom of the list - I took the version at the top of the pile.

After that, the Package Manager loaded Seaside-All 3.0-3 with no complaint.

Now to see how often contentType is defaulting to 'text/html' ... (my interest in Seaside at the moment is for generating non-HTML content as Curl markup or 'text/vnd.curl')

  Smalltalk Daily has a post on WriteBarriers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mugabe and Kim: the baby elephants

As a Canadian I remain troubled by the admiration of long-time Prime Minister Trudeau for both Castro and Mugabe.  I also remember educated North Africans in Montreal with their admiration of Gaddafi.

It is also troubling to see that public outrage about Mugabe only becomes international and widespread when reports emerge of baby elephants being sent to North Korea's dictator, Kim.

I say "baby elephants" and not "elephant calves" because we now know more of the extent of elephant self-awareness and the relationships among elephants.  The elephant is now known to pass the "mirror" self-recognition test.

The plight of these two little pachyderms is very sad, but pales beyond any comparison with the plight of the populations of both peoples living under these dictators.

The great irony may be the recent reports that tigers are doing well in the Korean DMZ: perhaps this can be a model for many "thick" or "thicker" borders between some nations and states.

An downside to the increase in human life-expectancy is that any tyrant who gets an early start can now look forward to 50 years or more of power.  We appear to have nothing more to hope for than the demise of both Mugabe and Kim.  There likely will be no "velvet revolution" for North Korea.

The last time I listened to a Canadian admirer of Mugabe was also in Montreal - an educated and well-travelled Québecoise sang his praises.

Puzzle: the disgraced opposition leader in Turkey had been in his role for more than 20 years.

Gays, Evangelicals and Malawi

Up until the recent report of a male gay couple being convicted in Malawi, I had seen most reports on Evangelicals and politics as of concern in Uganda.

When the judge in the Malawi case spoke of "acts against nature" he did not mention the acts "in keeping with nature" such as the prevalence of rape and slavery in Africa.  The prosecutor is reported as saying that the crowd outside the courthouse agrees.

Here in America, laws on the books are often not the cause of prosecutions: laws against adultery have been repealed so as to leave recourse to the civil courts as more appropriate than criminalization.

Acts which are very "natural" among displaced labourers and prostitutes in Africa contribute enormously to the spread of Aids: there is no reason to think that a gay relationship is even related to this immense public health issue - except in the minds of Evangelicals.

The proposed legal changes to prohibit polygamy in Muslim marriage may also be a symptom of growing influence of Evangelicals.  Unlike indentured labor, forced prostitution and slavery, a Muslim male is at least supposed to demonstrate that he has the means to support another wife.  Even though we may object to such arranged marriages, it is not clear that criminalization is what is required to reduce the exploitation and degradation of women, children, minorities and the poor in Africa.

From the events in Rwanda, there is no reason to think that Christian religion has any place in resolving conflict in Africa or in advancing human rights and protecting human dignity in Africa.  There is no reason to think that the Christian religion will contribute to the protection of species and habitat in Africa.  There is every reason to think that Evangelicals exploit both the ignorance and the hopes of the poor and downtrodden and also justify the political and economic aspirations of other converts and preachers.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Michael Hamburger on Hugo Friedrich

Over at there should soon be pages allowing an easy comparison of Michael Hamburger and Hugo Friedrich.

In The Truth of Poetry (1969) I find these quotations, which I have somewhat abridged for the 'post' format:
Friedrich does tend to concentrate on a single line of development - that towards 'pure,' 'absolute' or hermetic poetry - and his academic specialization is in the Romance languages, in which that line of development has been much stronger than in the Anglo-Saxon, Slavic or Scandinavian language areas.[...]

Yet Baudelaire ... was a moralist as well as an aesthete; and it is the moral concerns of the non-hermeticists that have brought them back again and again to modes of poetic utterance that diverge from the line of development traced by Hugo Friedrich.
Hugo Friedrich puts all the stress on what he calls the "destruction of reality" in modern poetry, at least in as much as the lyrical word no longer proceeds from the unity of the poetry of the empirical self.

[...] I Rimbaud, too, Friedrich finds evidence of 'a process of dehumanization' characteristic of the development of modern poetry - but, one must object, only of that line of development which Friedrich chooses to pursue.
[p 29]
Friedrich himself quotes ... that 'poems are made not of ideas but words.' Ture, Friedrich also quotes ... 'After I had found nothingness I found beauty'; and there is no denying that a profound nihilism underlies the extreme aestheticism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

   It is the one-sidedness of Friedrich's view [that] 'To call a thing by name means to spoil three quarters of one's pleasure in a poem ...'
[...] or: "The modern poem avoids acknowledging the objective existence of the objective world (including the inner one) by descriptive or narrative elements.'
[p 38]
Contrary to what Hugo Friedrich has asserted, a very good case could be made for the special humanity of much modern poetry, a concern with humankind as a whole all the more intense for being
[p 59]
Although this unity was not necessarily one of what Hugo Friedrich calls the empirical self - he seems to assume that the confessional "I" of Romantic poetry was always identical with the poet's 'empirical self' and that this is identity is a norm from [...]
An internet presentation would be much more effective with the poets scrollable on  one screen and the two critics scrollable side-by-side or one above the other.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hubris and nested markup for text in the humanities

My attention is usually directed to alternative markup for the humanities, specifically poems and their alternative translations as presented on the internet in a web browser.

Consider a simple case: a poem of two stanzas or verses of 6 lines each.  The first four lines of verse ONE satisfy some criterion A and the last 4 lines of verse TWO satisfy some criterion C. Lines 5 through 8 satisfy some criterion B.  Proceed to markup using HTML, LML, XML or my preferred Curl.

One solution in markup such as Curl which has no "closing tag", e.g.,
rather than
might be this:
line 1
line 2
line 3
line 4
|{B line 5
line 6
} || end of A (a comment starts with dbl-bars )

line 7
line 8 |} || end of DOUBLE_BRACED  B  (a comment only)
line 9
line 10
line 11
line 12
} || end of C comment
Note that such a double-brace solution as |{  and |} is not available in Curl.  In mathematics, such bracketing would be nonsense.  But two stanzas are not two equations.

In zoology, the existence of the species Lupus canis (wolf) and Lupus latrans (coyote) yields to the fact that wolves and coyotes hybridize in nature. In the northeastern United States the question is what should journalists call these hybrid animals.  In the case of common tree species which readily hybridize, the challenge for botany is far greater.  Classification always cedes ground to the facts of genetics.

But in the simple case of a mere translation of a difficult two stanza poem from German to English, markup falters.  This would not be the case with simple paint programs, where one "markup range" or "marginal note" translates readily into over-lapping graphical figures.  Some are less effective than others: think of the reach of A above as red, C as blue and B as some shade of violet.  Over-lapping transparent coloured rectangles, if you like.  But the "markup" on the page risks being unreadable.  Text has been abandoned to graphics.  Font triumphs over content, if you will.

The awkward XML solution is
which you may detect above as the overlapping Bold-Italic-Bold of a sentence above.  It is awkward because you must now parse with specialized software to extract that of A which satisfied B.

Consider this alternative:
What is now lost is the continuity of B.

Visiting any major poetry or philosophy web site will reveal that very little is available to compare translations - because the problems of markup are daunting.  Arguably philosophy students are more penalized by attempts to markup premises and suppressed premises relevant to an argument when the text is itself a challenge.  One example would be the limited efforts of philosopher Jonathon Bennett to make Early Modern philosophy texts more accessible to students.

For an example of from poetry, take the poem by Werfel and the "translation" by Robert Lowell.
The solution which I find frightful is that of "lines" in poetry and "sentences" in philosophy.  Here is the two stanza poem as lines:
{line num=1,stnza=1,feature="A", line 1 here} 
{line num=2,stnza=1,feature="A", line 2 here}
{line num=3,stnza=1,feature="A", line 3 here}
{line num=4,stnza=1,feature="A", line 4 here}
{line num=5,stnza=1,feature="B", line 5 here}
{line num=6,stnza=1,feature="B", line 6 here}
{line num=7,stnza=2,feature="B", line 7 here}

{line num=8,stnza=2,feature="B", line 8 here}
{line num=9,stnza=2,feature="A", line 9 here}
{line num=10,stnza=2,feature="A", line 10 here}
{line num=11,stnza=2,feature="A", line 11 here}
{line num=12,stnza=2,feature="A", line 12 here}
for now I have lost the elegant markup

in which each stanza had its lines - with or without line markup.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hawking and the TOE DVD

Stephen Hawking is not a philosopher and he is as given to foolish remarks as any other physicist. He is not a philosopher of physics nor is he a philosopher of religion.

Those who make DVD's to popularize his views are often journalists - but not necessarily science journalists. Science journalism is demanding.

The first episode of the 2009 DVD Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything makes remarkable gaffes: the low-orbit space shuttle escapes earth's gravity (someone should tell the moon - and why haven't the earth and planets escaped the sun's gravity well? So we have not reached Kepler and Newton ... but we are shown a penny spiralling on a rubber sheet: the props are ready but the script is not.)

Next we are told that in the quantum foam of space, atoms go in and out of existence. Atoms. Well, that brings us almost to 1905.

Did they not think of having a high scholl physics teacher review their final cut?  Listen to it - not "watch it".

Of course the real problem is that even in 2009 we are portraying the "man" Hawking and not "the science". There is no one single authority on the current state theory of quantum gravity, dark matter and cosmology. But it is possible to get something of a balanced view by stepping back from the sycophants. Perhaps not as much a step back as Lee Smolin would suggest, but something more like an effort at objectivity.

Hawking likes to talk the God of Einstein, and while that may have been fine in 1950, the case against the God of the physicists is not much more conclusive than the case against larger stellar clusters at the hearts of spiral galaxies.

The case against an omniscient and omnipotent being who "decreed' the laws of this universe and then let it spin along has been made very well by philosopher Colin McGinn, to mention one.

If Hawking saw a resurgence of "constant state" cosmology based on the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" he would be right to be concerned. And we are right to be concerned about physics served as pablum. The universe is not porridge.

An interesting comparison might have been Hawking to Penrose - as seen by a mathematical physicist.  Or the popularization successes of Hawking and Greene - as seen by a critic.  Both Penrose and Green are somewhat troubling figures fro other reasons - interesting reasons.  But for that you would need BBC, PBS are a large grant.

Cp: Hubert Reeves or Davies or Gribbon

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Curl International to merge with Sumisho (SCS)

A news item in Japanese at reports that at their April 28, 2010 annual meeting, Sumisho Computer Systems Corporation (SCS) announced that Curl International, their wholly owned Tokyo-based subsidiary, would merge into SCS.

Curl International was formed in 2004 following the Sumisho acquisition of the MIT spin-off Curl.

While tech journalists have been noting the issues between Apple and Adobe over the use of Flash, there tends to be little mention in the press of Curl as an alternative to Flash + HTML + Javascript + CSS.

Curl was developed at MIT as a web content language and is now used almost exclusively by Japanese corporate clients of Sumisho. An exception is the widespread use of Curl by corporate clients of Paisley, now owned by Reuters.

Curl Corporation in the USA will not be affected.
In 2009, Curl Corporation in Cambridge MA had relocated from the square at MIT to few blocks away and then had down-sized further late in the year.

Curl 7.0 was the last release of the Curl environment; several open-source Curl projects are hosted at

As an alternative to HTML + Javascript + CSS, the notable requirement for Curl, like Flash, Air or Silverlight, is the Curl runtime environment - either for desktop or as a web browser plugin. Curl had not developed a server-side solution and had failed to protect their trademark (Curl is often confused with cURL.)

In the USA the corporate office of SCS in New York.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Susanne Langer and insight

It is thought that the chapter on "insight" in The Practice of Philosphy influenced Bernard Lonergan.

There is a curiousity in the chapter: she seems to suggest that a map in a plane is a better approximation to the earth than a spherical orange.

Perhaps not so if the skin of a large orange were proportional to its radius as is the earth's crust to its radius.  Not if the orange is at a distance from some giant balloon with sizes and distances proportional to those of sun and earth.  Not if peeled to show lines of longitude. Not if peeled and that peel retrieved and used to suggest techtonic plates. Not if squashed slightly and set an angle of some 24 degrees upon a circle on a large table top with a flashlight at the center of that plane.

And what if the proportions were quite wrong?  Could not an astronomer in Spain have held up an orange?

The sextant, the orange and the map.  A man at sea.