Drooling on the Pillow

Friday, May 05, 2006

Power Corrupts, PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely 

Edward R. Tufte is professor emeritus of political science, computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale.

He sounds like just the guy to take on the PowerPointification of argument, which is designed to insulate positions from rebuttal by simulating consecutive thought and actually presenting discrete chunks of self-evident twaddle.

He's especially horrified by the inroads PowerPoint has made in schools, where instead of writing essays, "children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials".

The title of this post and the graphic are taken from his article in Wired.

H/T Alex Singleton, at Samizdata.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Jackie and Me 

I offer this picture as evidence (as if any were needed) of the antediluvian nature of the Slugster. Yes that's me, having gotten the walking thing down solid, strolling up and down the sidewalk outside my grandparents' house in suburban Philadelphia. I appear to be giving instructions to my Aunt Eve. I don't recall the specific occasion, but I'm sure she ignored my recommendations. She passed away a couple years ago, but she was strong minded to the end, was Aunt Eve.

The cars! They look like set dressing for a Harold Lloyd movie. I have another picture taken at almost the same spot of my sister communing with an ice wagon horse. The horse is wearing a straw hat. Oh, my stars and garters. If I dig around enough I may be able to find a shot of my mother and the butter churn. I kid, but barely.

I entered this tail spin of memories with a stray thought of my close personal friend, Jacqueline Kennedy. She was my best friend when I was about eight and scuffling around Tarentum, PA. Her name was unremarkable since the other Jackie Kennedy wasn't yet known outside the state of Massachusets. Undoubtedly there are many young adults today who don't know who she was, but at that time we didn't know who she would be.

Here's how we amused ourselves in that pre-Sponge Bob era. When the fire whistle went off I would get on my bike and Jackie would get on hers and we would meet at the fire house just as the volunteer firemen were arriving. When the trucks took off we were close behind and always had a front row seat for the fire. They were usually brush fires or shaft fires, but I do recall a small hill of old tires going up and the stunning image of one of our classmates being carried out of a burning house.

We became familiar with the firemen and one, in particular, with a hand in a cast would usually stand with us and chat about what was going on. It never occurred to us that he was assigned or took it upon himself to keep us out of trouble while his hand was healing. He was the one who one day at a store fire suddenly grabbed us by the arms threw us in a truck, threw our bikes in the back and drove us back to the firehouse. We were outraged, naturally, since we had the sense to know we were missing something, but looking back, I think I can trust his judgement.

We did that all summer long that year, two or three times a week, sometimes several times in a day. My family moved at the end of the summer and that was it for Jackie and me. I don't know if she remembers me -- it would have helped if I had a name like Lyndon Johnson. I don't hear fire whistles much any more, but when I do I still feel the urge to get up and go.
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