End of quarter thesaurusoidal nothings

(I wish I could take credit for thesaurusoidal, but alas I cannot)

I’ve got one end-of-quarter class project in the can and one more to go. Woo!

540, the retrieval class, is pretty much done. I have some journal updates I should make an effort at completing, but that’s really it for that one. I think I enjoyed myself in that class, and more importantly felt challenged in ways I’ve generally been sly about avoiding in my educational endeavors: actively being accountable for everything I read/learn/produce, and also not achieving absolute greatness publicly (at least, in front of my instructor and fellow colleagues). I’ve got some honor roll student mentality to get over. ;)

Unfortunately there was some animosity in the class, and I am happy to be leaving that. The Santa Cruz hippie in me is coming out, and I want to get to a place of love, kindness, and always looking for the best in people, which is hard when I’m in a tense and frustrated group. I’ve done snobbery and cynicism, and while it has its place it’s just not as pleasant a way to live.

Last project is for the thesaurus class, and I built my part of our alpha index last night. I really like it; I liked seeing our work and our terms come together that way. We’re working off of a spreadsheet and a classified schedule, and I liked the classified schedule, but seeing the relationships marked up for the preferred and non-preferred, figuring out what needed notes and what didn’t, that was just nice. I know we’ve been working on this all quarter, but I think this felt like the first real deliverable. Maybe because I alone produced my part, while for everything else I’ve been working with others? In any case, it was fun to do the alpha and partially watch Numb3rs in the background.

When I was working on my 540 group’s final paper the other day, I wandered around the library for a mental breather and found this book–The Nothing That Is–totally at random. Subtitle: A Natural History of Zero. I just love this stuff! Socializing objects, historicizing concepts, it’s just gorgeous. I listened to about half of Salt a year ago on the iPod while traveling to and from work, and that was great until I realized I really wanted to see some maps. I wonder if I can convince my anthro/archy friends to produce this kind of work in their professional careers. The process these stories go through is kind of Dervin-y, very sense-making. (And this touches on another post rattling around in my head. But later!)

So I’m lounging around on this fine Saturday morning, tea and oatmeal at the ready, and I run across this passage in Zero that I think I’d like to use to kick off writing the introduction to our thesaurus. Kaplan writes

A way to calculate yet keep a clear record: this is where body and mind diverge.

It isn’t until [automatic, mundane actions] make their way, however shyly, into speech that we can abstract from them and so bring them into the theater of thought.

Intellectually this seems a fine way to begin an introduction to our thesaurus, in terms of informing people in comfortable, common language what it is you mean to do, and I suppose going along with the theme of my book, what you actively mean not to do (and what is absent). But I think the last time I began a written work with a quote was during the first quarter of my first year of undergrad, and it just felt icky and cliche. But there’s some juice there. (Wait, how can there be juice in a pithy quote?)

And finally I just need to document this bit of mental perversity for posterity. I’ve been working on notation for our thesaurus, and (naturally) trying to think about all the little details and consequences. Oddly, it was when I was told to relax that I started imagining notation in terms of color, as a set of three values (RGB) combined to produce some color which served as the notation for a term. And then I thought about distinguishing facets as a factor of saturation. Then (naturally) I tried to break my little ordinal “notation” scheme and came up with the problem of color blindness; that is to say, there are people who won’t read the “notation” the way most others do because they switch colors or some colors become indistinguishable from others. And then I thought, “I’ll make all our polyhierarchical terms the color blind colors.”

And then I watched junky tv for a while to bring my brain back to earth.


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