Posts Tagged ‘random’

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unsuggester

February 2, 2009

one of the joys of the internet now is the massive growth of recommendations functions – “people who liked this, also liked this”. It’s led to me so many new things I may never have uncovered had I not been able to tap into other people’s tastes in music, books, TV and blogs.

But I came across a lovely piece in the papers at the weekend highlighting the Unsuggester service – a library service that turns up books that are least likely to be associated with the title you type in. Super stuff.

Of course, there’s a theory behind it. The psychologist Henry Allport argued back in the 1950s that contact between different groups was key to breeding understanding, which in turn was key to reducing conflict. Sometimes it’s surely good for us to follow unexpected leads and to engage with stuff beyond our usual sphere of influence. So here’s to the Unsuggester service growing more. I could do with some new music.

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failure and imagination

January 9, 2009

here’s a beautiful speech from J K Rowling on failure and imagination, given to Harvard students on their graduation. I love this text so much.

On failure, JK talks about the significance of hitting rock bottom for her – as she says, it became the solid foundation upon which she rebuilt her life. For her, finding that she was still alive, even though, to her mind, her worst fears had been realised, set her free to strip away everything but the essentials, and to stop pretending to be someone she wasn’t. Perhaps a little romanticised, and she is pretty candid about the fact it didn’t necessarily feel like that at the time, but there’s something in what she says that resonates for me.

However it’s what she says about imagination that I think is even more pertinent:

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

Talking of her experiences of working at Amnesty during her 20s, she argues that it is imagination that enables humans to put themselves in other people’s places. As I watch with growing depression and horror about what’s happening in Gaza and Israel, her words ring particularly true: those who choose not to imagine risk enabling monsters. Denying our connection to the outside world, refusing to see the impact of our action on others, is in her view a form of collusion and denial that is potentially as significant as committing an act of evil in the first place.

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in search of free wifi

November 12, 2008

what not to do with a nice cup of coffeeI love the freelance life, I really do, but it does require a decent coffee budget, and a pretty exhaustive knowledge of free wifi spots around London (well it did until I discovered this very helpful mapping site this morning). So far this month I’ve found myself setting up camp in Leon (endless wifi, great coffee, and halloumi is just back on the menu hurrah), the British Library, St Pancras station, the RSA’s library (though I’ve always thought it was a little on the poky side despite being a complete treasure trove of books), Le Pain Quotidien, and most excitingly so far, the Transport Museum’s new cafe. Super cool. And a nice change from my most regular and enduring favourite haunt, the RFH members’ bar.

I note with interest that even my gym now offers free wifi (who came up with that as a useful gym-based service??). Not sure that I can ever see myself using it, but frankly, I’d do anything – anything at all – to avoid having to use the heartbreakingly expensive Starbucks/T-mobile ‘deal’ that I used to rely on.

I think wifi should be a public good. So too, do the people of the Niue island in Polynesia, apparently.