iPaq and Freedom Keyboard

Posted by jerry on March 18th, 2006 — Posted in Journal

Some time ago I mentioned that I had finally succumbed to the lure of wifi and bluetooth in my travel technology with the purchase of a Hewlett-Packard iPaq2750 and a Freedom Keyboard – as a replacement for the trusty Psion 5mx. A few weeks ago I was about to head off to Darwin and dragged out the iPaq which I hadn’t used since the trip on which I bought it. Hmmm – I had let the battery completely drain – bad move… the machine had reset itself to factory settings – which did not include the drivers for the keyboard. What about the CD? That’s fine if you have a PC, but I’m a mac user and so .exe files are useless to me.

Next stop the Freedom keyboard site – no problem, they have a downloads area – including of the .cab files for those like myself who use macs. Loaded up, pressed the soft reset and set about establishing a bluetooth connection with the keyboard: “cannot connect to this keyboard, please check the power status and try again”. I tried – new batteries to no avail. So back to the Freedom site and put in a ticket to their service centre. I had a response very quickly to say that the .cab file on the site was an old one, and that the new one was in the .exe file – but they would extract it and send it that afternoon. Wow, I thought – that’s good service. A week passed and with no further response I put in another ticket.

Another fast response apologised for the delay, and then said a new driver was being written and would be available in about two weeks. Well this was more like it – an honest reason for the delay. And sure enough almost a month to the day since I found the problem, I got an email with the new .cab file as an attachement – and it worked perfectly!

Well done Freedom Keyboard! I understand that programming drivers can take time, and I appreciate the fact that I was not just given a story and palmed off – and that your service department provided genuine service. I shall now feel more confident in taking the iPaq and keyboard away on trips – albeit with a copy of the driver on a CF card.

As for the Psion 5mx? Yes I took that instead and despite its age (made in 2000) it worked perfectly to take notes and write up the trip. It also will continue to travel with me as a backup to the iPaq.

So now they are working, how do they compare? That will be my next blog post


Deconstruction revisited

Posted by jerry on March 7th, 2006 — Posted in Journal

Sharon pointed out a delightful post by The Embroideress titled “Deconstruction Run Amok“, on the work of Stephen Sollins and I would have to agree with her that there is still a dominant tendency to cast ‘high art’ as somehow ‘superior’ to craft. I also agree with her statement that:

“It would have been far more interesting to me if he [Sollins] had reversed this order and examined the issue of craft as a greater value than art.”

In some ways I think this is what Australian artist and entertainer Rolf Harris aimed at in his ‘painting by numbers’ community art project in Trafalgar Square in London last year – Rolf on Art.

Rolf on Art

In some ways, what Rolf did was a playful reworking of the traditional painter as workshop concept – in this case taking an iconic ‘fine art’ image of Holbein and rendering it as community art. This is a far reaching and more philosophically interesting version of the operation of deconstruction than that of Solens – who seeks to somehow reassert the dominant vision of high art.

Rolf’s project sets out to make high art accessible in a way that throws a spotlight on the techniques of the old masters – but less about that actual painting techniques, but rather the workshop system that made such paintings possible.


Visconti fountain pen and Moleskine notebook

Posted by jerry on March 4th, 2006 — Posted in Journal, Writing

With my birthday came a wonderful gift from Sharon – a Visconti Van Gogh (vanilla colour) fountain pen and three of my favourite Moleskine squared paper notebooks 🙂 The pen came with an ink converter so I was eager to test this pen, with its broader medium nib as against the Waterman Apostrophe’s fine nib to see what the difference would be on Moleskine paper – especially given the extended discussion on the use of fountain pens with Moleskine notebooks.

Visconti Van Gogh fountain pen
Visconti pen and Moleskine notebook

I filled the Visconti with Parker Quink blue-black and gave it a try:

Visconti with Quink ink
Visconti with Quink ink on Moleskine paper

And the Moleskine soaked it up like blotting paper! Noting that the Waterman has never had problems, I thought perhaps the issue might be the type of ink, or the ink flow. So I removed the converter by gently unscrewing it, and inserted a Ryman cartridge – same as I use on the Waterman.

Visconti pen with Ryman cartridge
Visconti pen with Ryman ink cartridge on Moleskine paper

What a difference! Yes there are still a couple of minor whiskers, but nothing like the quink! The rest I guess is down to the greater ink flow of the medium nib – I have the fine nib on order and hopefully it should arrive in a week or two.

The funny thing is that the young lass in Pepe’s Paperie gave me a stern warning: “For heaven’s sake don’t take it on an aircraft” I astonished her by saying that I have never had leakage problems using the Waterman pen – are Visconti pens so vulnerable? or is it just the ink they have been using?

Anyhow, the pen is beautifully balanced, fairly light (only slightly thicker and heavier than the Waterman Apostrophe) and has a very smooth glide over the paper – it is a real delight to use!

Visconti fountain pen with Moleskine notebook


What is deconstruction?

Posted by jerry on March 2nd, 2006 — Posted in Journal, Writing

I can barely count the number of times that the term ‘deconstruction’ has been used – perjoratively – as a synonym for ‘destruction’. Such writers immediately mark themselves out as having not read the primary literature, or they have willfully miscast the term, or merely aped some of the poorer secondary literature.

Like energy, deconstruction is not about destruction, but rather, reconstrual (see my cheat-sheet on Derrida here). Deconstruction offers a tool that is more sophisticated than just reversing seemingly ‘natural’ binary hierarchies. It offers a way of making explicit the conditions under which such hierarchies seem to be natural, and does so without simplistic oppositional tactics that leave themselves open to the criticism that the assumptions remain the same, just the players have changed.

The value of deconstruction is that it provides a tool with which to genuinely rethink a ‘given’ order of things. And it really isn’t that difficult.

Warren Hedges provides an accessible guide to deconstruction which offers in part:
“deconstruction works “within an opposition,” but “upsets [its] hierarchy by producing an exchange of properties.” This disrupts not only the hierarchy, but the opposition itself.

For any given set of binary terms:

  • good/evil;
  • man/woman;
  • democracy/totalitarianism, and so on,

one could reverse the hierarchies to show that:

  • evil is stronger than good;
  • or women are smarter than men;
  • or that totalitarianism shows strength and resolve against the lowest common denominator of the popular vote.

But to do so leaves the binary in place, merely reversing the power structure.

One could instead deconstruct the binaries:

  • good and evil are interdependent and relative terms which cannot be defined without reference to each other and in relation to the context in which they are defined, and depending on a subjective perspective;
  • cultural differences in the way men and women are educated can lead to assumptions about intelligence being gender-based;
  • democracy and totalitarianism are two kinds of political organisation that each have strengths in different contexts.

Each of these statements addresses the opposition that it depends on, by neither reversing the opposition, nor destroying it, but instead deconstruction reveals the inherent instability of the basis on which the opposition rests.

There is a mistaken view that this approach leads to pure relativism, and that therefore there is no basis for judgement, or values. It is true that deconstruction is an aspect of contemporary sceptical philosophy, but it is relativistic only insofar as it is anti-foundationalist – that is, it rests on the assertion that there can be no absolute universal position on which to base truth claims. Deconstruction and other anti-foundationalist approaches deal with the mess of human culture here and now – embedded in history and in context.

Deconstruction sees absolute values as an abdication of human responsibility – a recourse to religious faith for absolute values is a way of not taking responsibility for one’s behaviour, but rather of deflecting responsibility to a set of ‘god-given’ rules. It avoids the need for thought and for responsible judgement. Deconstruction takes the view that values are historically and culturally determined – and essentially contested – so growth and change is possible in accordance with changes in human circumstances: the operation of historical processes. Ethics depends therefore on what is culturally appropriate at that time and in that context. But it allows for differences between cultures, and differences across time and in different contexts.

The basis for ethics and values for a deconstructionist (one who practices deconstruction) therefore lies in the sedimentation of human history and cultural circumstances. It is essentially political insofar as each person at each decision point decides to reinforce the dominant cultural practice, or to resist it – so it requires people to take responsibility for their own actions, rather than claim ‘it is written’ or ‘it is God’s will’. It also avoids the excuse some offer for not taking action, or for not taking a particular course, that ‘it is only natural’ – sorry mate: it’s only cultural and we don’t all have to agree.


Thread winder – in a bottle!

Posted by jerry on February 26th, 2006 — Posted in History, Journal, Woodwork

I was looking at designs of thread winders on the net, and came across this site – Folk Art in a Bottle and found pages of extraordinary wooden devices somehow inserted into a bottle. Many of these are intricately carved and turned and many have working mechanisms, sometimes rotated by cranks inserted into the bottle stopper. A fascinating look at some of the ingenious devices used by textile artists, quilters and embroiderers.

Thread winder in a bottle
Thread winder in a bottle