Monday, April 25, 2022

Postblogging Technology, January 1952, I: We'll Be a Petrostate Some Day Again, Just You Wait

R_. C_.,
Vancouver, Canada

Dear Father:

It is January and cold here in the Bay and I am back to school and Second Year isn't quite as easy as they promised. At least the trip back from Santa Clara wasn't in a C-46 trying to slip through the Appalachians at treetop height, although there was some black ice that had my heart in my mouth for a moment. 

And why do I say that school is harder than expected? Because I am on the Law Review and am looking for even the slightest excuse to slip a mention into my casual conversation. Look forward to my article about licensing secret patents! You will like it or you will get SUCH a glare from me!!!

Your Loving Daughter,

Friday, April 15, 2022

Postblogging Technology, December 1951: So. Watching Severance. You?


So I guess the story of the cubicle is that the Greatest Generation, Silents and early Boomers grew up and went to work in a paradise of grand corner offices; but by the time of the late Boomers/Gen X, a new business culture shoved everyone into cubicle farms where everyone has dwelled ever since. Dilbert premiered in 1989, so I guess it checks out. At some level. There's just not enough space to give everyone the Daylight Walls experience.

So, anyway, true story: The University of British Columbia's Automated Storage Retrieval System went into operation in 2005, and has been showing signs of wear and tear for years. At some point during the pandemic shutdown, it failed entirely, leaving the university's main library collection and its high-demand storage collection buried in a hole in the ground with no means of access. (Newsweek was sent to the low demand PARC storage facility when it was culled from the open shelves, which is why I still have access to it.) 

All ASRS collections will continue to be inaccessible for the foreseeable future, and since there is still some residual demand for "books" in the educational process, UBC has begun rebuilding its undergraduate collection. 

Unfortunately, all the library shelf space that was liberated by the ASRS has been repurposed for administrative offices.

Since the pandemic, and again with no end in sight, most university administrative personal have been working from home, and all of those offices are vacant. 

I'm not going to try to draw a moral here, although I'm really tempted.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Iron Age Revival of the State, XXIV: Revelations of St. John of the Cross

My employer is serving fresh, hot turnover again, so if you tuned in this week to hear about the prehistory of the cubicle, I'm sorry. That would take too much organising time. Instead, we're going to go up on Mount Carmel and receive a revelation from St. John. Not the author of Revelations, notwithstanding my link, the other one. St/ John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila's disciple in the  Camelites Without Hats movement. Okay, okay, "Discalced Carmelites," which turns out to be a reference to footwear, hence "barefoot at the head," for those into New Wave science fiction. 

The story, as I have it, is that the Carmelites were one of a number of mendicant orders founded in obscurity in the 1100s, or, more likely, early 1200s. Claiming to be descended from eremitical monks living in isolation on Mount Carmel and preserving pre-Christian traditions going back to the Prophet Elijah, they plugged into a line of thinking in Christian natural philosophy that traced Plato back through the Seven Sages, some of whom studied in "the East," taken for these purposes to be Mount Carmel, and linking Greek philosophy -okay, okay, Neo-Platonism-- to the wisdom passed down from God to Adam and so on through the Hebrew tradition.

Hardly content within themselves as between raging debates over how much masochism to allow in the order, the Carmelites were thus possessed of one the weaker and more outrageous origin stories of a major Catholic institution in the age of intense controversy that followed on Luther. Cesare Baroni, one of the great names in ecclesiastical history, ruthlessly cut the cord, freeing Catholic apologists of the liability of defending the Carmelite account, at the expense of leaving the order without a history, and natural philosophy short one Christianity-friendly epistemology in the bargain.  He also, unintentionally, engaged the ongoing dispute within the community. The upshot is that a Calched Carmelite named Paolo Foscarini took indirect aim at Baroni via his colleague, Roberto Bellarmino, in an arcane, ostensibly natural philosophical debate over the nature of the solar system, but, in fact, about possession of a Carmelite church in Rome, and a clause in the Tridentine reforms pertaining to the amount of plate a church was allowed to have. The dispute then drew in a Tuscan courtier, himself no stranger to artfully fanned pseudo-controversies bridging politics, Holy Writ, and natural philosophy, named Galileo Galilei, which is where yours truly, wearing his old historian of science, came on the scene, arriving via Biagioli's Galileo, Courtier, on the slopes of Mount Carmel, the 525m high, 39km-long, 7km wide "mountain range"  along the north coast of Israel, cradling the city of Haifa and also the archaic site of Tel Dor.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Postblogging Technology, December 1951, II: Home for the Holidays


San Jose,

Dear Father:

It was good to see you, thank you for everything, everyone was fine, and I would spend all day chatting with you if I did not have to be out the door to see and be seen at Bill and Dave's New Year's shindig half an hour ago. Happy New Year!

Your Loving Daughter,