mm327: Of encyclopedias, child-men and more non-men

MUDGE’s Musings

Yes, faithful reader has undoubtedly guessed that it’s time for another installment of…

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… wherein we are even more eclectic than is our habit (a frequent self-criticism: what’s this blog about, anyway? Ouch! It’s about what interests yr (justifiably) humble svt: a little bit of this, a smidgen of that.)

Of encyclopedias…

I was thinking of encyclopedias the other day, and so was the NYTimes.


Start Writing the Eulogies for Print Encyclopedias

By NOAM COHEN | Published: March 16, 2008

It has never been easier to read up on a favorite topic, whether it’s an obscure philosophy, a tiny insect or an overexposed pop star. Just don’t count on being able to thumb through the printed pages of an encyclopedia to do it.

A series of announcements from publishers across the globe in the last few weeks suggests that the long migration to the Internet has picked up pace, and that ahead of other books, magazines and even newspapers, the classic multivolume encyclopedia is well on its way to becoming the first casualty in the end of print.

Back in the 1990s, Encyclopaedia Britannica led the pack in coming to terms with the idea that the public no longer viewed ownership of the multivolume compendium of information as a ticket to be punched on the way to the upper middle class — or at least as the oracle of first resort for copying a book report.

Sales of Britannica’s 32 volumes peaked in 1990, but in the next six years, they dropped 60 percent, and the company moved quickly to reinvent itself online. In 1996, Britannica eliminated its legendary staff of 1,000 door-to-door salesmen, already down from a high of 2,000 in the 1970s, in the face of competition from Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia for home computers.

As the Times story goes on to say, a set of encyclopedias was an aspirational possession in the 1950’s when I was growing up, and Britannica was the Cadillac — er, Rolls Royce, of encyclopedias.

Britannica was famously sold door-to-door by clever salesmen who didn’t sell 21 leather-bound volumes (in those years), they sold success for one’s children in school, and thus in life. My parents, always informed and cagey consumers, knew well that they were outlandishly overpriced, but purchased Britannica anyway, and for many years also subscribed to the annual single-volume update.

The extent of the scam was fully revealed when our college preparatory school system frowned on the practice of submitting assignments sourced from encyclopedias. Our teachers rightly wanted us to work a bit harder for information. But that shelf of red leather sure looked important.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Start Writing the Eulogies for Print Encyclopedias – New York Times

My second job as a computer systems analyst/programmer, beginning in 1970, was in the Chicago headquarters of Encyclopaedia Britannica (long since transplanted from London), finally popped Britannica’s prestige balloon for me, and that’s a tale I’ll spin another day., and their own electronic incarnations have supplanted Britannica, Americana and their print brethren, and, while Wikipedia has plenty of oddities, having democratized the process as it did, I wouldn’t go back.

Things change in this world way too quickly. Britannica’s annual update, several hundred leather-bound pages, would be required daily, perhaps hourly today.

I’ll stick with the Wik’.

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Of child-men…

Here’s a story that cut a little close to the bone…


Child-Man in the Promised Land

Kay S. Hymowitz

It’s 1965 and you’re a 26-year-old white guy. You have a factory job, or maybe you work for an insurance broker. Either way, you’re married, probably have been for a few years now; you met your wife in high school, where she was in your sister’s class. You’ve already got one kid, with another on the way. For now, you’re renting an apartment in your parents’ two-family house, but you’re saving up for a three-bedroom ranch house in the next town. Yup, you’re an adult!

Now meet the twenty-first-century you, also 26. You’ve finished college and work in a cubicle in a large Chicago financial-services firm. You live in an apartment with a few single guy friends. In your spare time, you play basketball with your buddies, download the latest indie songs from iTunes, have some fun with the Xbox 360, take a leisurely shower, massage some product into your hair and face—and then it’s off to bars and parties, where you meet, and often bed, girls of widely varied hues and sizes. They come from everywhere: California, Tokyo, Alaska, Australia. Wife? Kids? House? Are you kidding?

“Emerging adulthood?” “Extended adolescence?” “Odyssey Years?”

But while we grapple with the name, it’s time to state what is now obvious to legions of frustrated young women: the limbo doesn’t bring out the best in young men. With women, you could argue that adulthood is in fact emergent. Single women in their twenties and early thirties are joining an international New Girl Order, hyperachieving in both school and an increasingly female-friendly workplace, while packing leisure hours with shopping, traveling, and dining with friends [see “The New Girl Order,” Autumn 2007]. Single Young Males, or SYMs, by contrast, often seem to hang out in a playground of drinking, hooking up, playing Halo 3, and, in many cases, underachieving. With them, adulthood looks as though it’s receding.

The article is not for those of short attention span, but worth the time.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Child-Man in the Promised Land by Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal Winter 2008

MUDGElet No. 3 is precisely 26 years old (hasn’t hit the prototype’s income yet, because of an extended, but ultimately successful undergraduate odyssey, and because his values are artistic rather than economic), but one can’t help but recognize him in every paragraph of this City Journal analysis.

Billions of people in the world, and when you get right down to it, not necessarily billions of stories, just a few, each told a million times.

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Of more non-men

So your reward for reading so long, and carefully, is a video.

While looking over one of the growing number of nanotechnology reviews (always of interest in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©), found this piece, explained as not nano at all, but simply stunning technology.

We wrote yesterday of one of our favorite topics: UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles. We are reminded that not all of the robots under development for the military are flying.


Amazing advance in robotics: see video

Normally this blog focuses on nanotechnology, but it’s also important to stay on top of major advances in related fields such as robotics; the fields will interact in interesting ways.

This video of a DARPA-funded project from Boston Dynamics is a must-see:

Not much more to the page than what you’ve just read.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Nanodot: Nanotechnology News and Discussion » Blog Archive » Amazing advance in robotics: see video

Courtesy, as usual, of YouTube, here we go. Hope you’re sitting down, and are belted in… Say hello to “BigDog.”

Wow! Admit it, you thought that there was something in there (or two someones) dressed up in a robot suit, didn’t you. Creepy and breathtaking.

Well, that’s it for today’s installment of

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Congratulations! If you got this far, your attention span isn’t that short.

It’s it for now. Thanks,


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2 Responses to mm327: Of encyclopedias, child-men and more non-men

  1. Rose Oil says:

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  2. Jesus Belluz says:

    Thanks for this mate. Is there any way to subscribe to just certain categories on the RSS feed? All of your stuff is good but there are some things that particularly interest me!

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