Funky six-degrees thing

The alumni association at Dartmouth College, where I attended as an undergrad, has set up a web application called “incircle” which lets alumni list their friends and then look up profiles, and see who their friends’ friends are. It’s interesting, as is the fact that it uses full middle names – it’s sort of odd seeing them for a lot of people who I knew in college but didn’t know their middle names.

In any case, if you’ve found my blog via the Dartmouth listings, hello and welcome and sorry that posts are so sporadic – we’re in a big deadline at work, and I just have not had the time to procrastinate that I usually do.

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “R”

The word for the day is “reification”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Reification, also called hypostatisation, is treating an abstract concept as if it were a real, concrete thing. The term is often used pejoratively by epistemological realists as a criticism of epistemological idealists. Epistemological realists often regard reification as a logical fallacy.

Wikipedia rocks. As a word and as a concept worth knowing, so does “reification”; see for example Stephen Jay Gould‘s discussion of the reification of “intelligence” in The Mismeasure of Man.

What’s the relevance of the word? Well, I’ve been in some arguments on rec.arts.sf.fandom on “intellectual property” and why I think subsuming copyright, patents, and other related rights into a single reified concept of “intellectual property” is a bad thing, and the concept of reification is key to my sense of the argument – although they’re critical to the functioning of modern society and a modern economy, these rights are specific and of limited duration – and granted by society for the mutual benefits of creators and of society as a matter of social contract.

Property rights, on the other hand, are a legal recognition of an existing natural state of material objects (and in some ways, places) insofar as most material objects that we care about can only be in one place at a time, and thus usually only in one person’s physical possession. Or, in the case of space, only one person can occupy a given precise location, although clearly this is not enough to justify the complex legalities of land ownership.

This is not an area I know enough about to really get through the argument fully, but this is kind of a hot button for me and figure it’s better to try to think through it here – on my own soapbox – than to end up in public and all-too-likely vituperative arguments about it on rassf.

A final thought, from the U.S. Constitution:
Article I, Section 8 (enumarating the powers of Congress), clause 8: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”

If you need it, this is the coolest tool ever

We had a partition table wiped at work last night, and I had a hell of a time finding a tool to recover it.

Well, TestDisk does it, and it’s free/GPL. The commercial tool I sometimes use for partition stuff DID have the ability to recover deleted partitions or reconstruct the whole table but didn’t support ReiserFS.

The only downside is that the first version I tried (4.0) while it came on Knoppix (which was very handy) didn’t support current ReiserFS either (it did support Reiser 1 and 2). But the current version (5.5) does, along with a plethora of other file systems (but not XFS, at least not yet.)

Very much worth adding to your toolkit.

A quick technical note

The system was down for upgrades for a couple of hours tonight. Hopefully the memory issues I’ve been having will be fixed, and things won’t be any slower for you folks out there (if anyone’s reading *lol*). Since this is running over a DSL line, I doubt the changes will be noticeable, but there may be some lower performance in the Apache set-up. Let me know if it bugs any of you, and I can try to tweak them up instead.

Good old Yankee ingenuity…

A site for bidding on coding projects can’t be that bad, can it?

Yes, it can, if the coding projects are for classes, as pointed out in an email sent out to my former research group at UCSC.

I can’t decide if this is ingenious of the students in question, or a sign that the end is nigh.

(Link sent out in an email from Darrell Long)

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