Neverending Stories

Prospect Magazine • September 2012

Magical thinking. The history of fairy tales reflects humans' earliest efforts to confront fears, explore fantasies and explain the world around them. According to author Jack Zipes (The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Culture and Social History of a Genre), "the fairy tale was first a simple, imaginative oral tale containing magical and miraculous elements and was related to the belief systems, values, rites and experiences of pagan peoples." Read on for a brief history tracing the genre's origins and the reasons behind its current revival in print and film.

This is a very nice history that acknowledges and helps explain the current plethora of "fairy tale" novels (The Night Circus) and movies (Snow White and the Huntsmen). I saw the latter film not long ago and was pleased with the original menace it restored to the story. Snow White as warrior princess. (Michalko)

In Defense of the Power of Paper

The New York Times • September 9, 2012

Paper matters. Despite the decades-long push for paperless offices, there's a physical substance to paper printouts that is "in your face," says productivity expert David Allen. Just as a book on a nightstand projects a compelling "to-do," paper planners and calendars serve as constant reminders even when the computer is shut down. And while the jury's still out on whether reading hardcopy results in superior comprehension or retention, reading a complex document on paper helps people "better understand the geography of the argument contained within," says Microsoft researcher Richard H.R. Harper. No argument there.

I liked the argument made here for paper. It helped me understand my own recent decision to continue using a 6"x9" ruled paper notebook rather than switch to EverNote (which is a very well done app) on my iPad. Plus that notebook is 12 ounces versus 18 for the iPad with cover. (Michalko)

Poachers' Paradise

Times Higher Education • August 22, 2012

Brain drain. As U.S. public universities struggle to staunch red ink, private institutions are on a cherry-picking binge. California has been a major target, but all public schools are at risk, says Ronald Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute. "Faculty at top private universities are doing well in the U.S., faculty in top publics are not—and they are prime targets for raids. This is a long-term trend that the great recession has exacerbated, and it is not likely to get better." To hang on to top personnel, public university systems need to invest in and maintain the infrastructure that sustains them—and that includes academic collections.

Most of the movement seems to be around the highly-valued STEM stars who bring the money, equipment and students along with them as they travel. My former boss, Vartan Gregorian, while Provost at the University of Pennsylvania, once remarked when a superstar professor from Arts and Humanities moved on, "Maybe he should have to take all the library books we bought for him with him so we don't have to take care of them forever." (Michalko)

In the Sinai, a Global Team Is Revolutionizing the Preservation of Ancient Manuscripts

The Washington Post • September 6, 2012

What lies beneath. Advanced imaging technologies are shedding new light on palimpsests—ancient texts that were overwritten during the Middle Ages to maximize use of precious parchment. Read on for a heartening tale that blends science, history and modern political realities into an adventure story of ongoing discovery.

It's always good to read about experts in other disciplines who have become so enthusiastic about these kinds of humanistic scholarly challenges that they've crossed over and invested themselves in solving them. Some techniques similar to the ones mentioned in this article have been nicely packaged by a group at the University of Utah. A beta website called retroReveal facilitates the collaborative discovery of hidden content in documents, manuscripts, music, and artifacts. Check it out. (Michalko)

Big Data's Management Revolution

HBR Blog Network • September 11, 2012

You can count on it. Check out this excerpt from an upcoming article for examples of two companies that successfully leveraged Big Data to make big changes in their business processes. The authors deliberately chose established firms located far from Silicon Valley to illustrate their point that data-driven decisions are better decisions.

There's a shout-out to Hadoop in this article. Check out my colleague, Roy Tennant's blog posts about his early experience in using this family of software. (Michalko)

An Event Apart: Designing Meetings to Work

LukeW: Ideation and Design • August 28, 2012

Quick take. Meetings and conference calls can morph quickly into black holes that derail an organization's productivity. Check out these suggestions on meeting dos and don'ts—visual aids are important, as are collaborative opportunities, note-taking and numbers.

Some good ideas here and some that are a bit specific to meetings about design like "sketch during meetings." The best thing was the reference to the Marshmallow Challenge which was unfamiliar to me but seems well known to architecture and engineering folks. One proponent of the test says "Design is a contact sport." Watch Tom Wujec's 7 minute TED talk about the Marshmallow Challenge. It's fascinating and funny. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, there is real value in being active online and developing a visible online profile around your what?

Get the answer.