Tuesday, April 12, 2005


It seems that I'm slowing down in some of my writing; I'm starting to get distracted from my main task: completing my dissertation. Of course, finishing revisions on papers is never an inspiring process. Regardless, my brain is starting to feel crowded. I'm thinking of other projects before completing the ones in front of me. By creating a list, hopefully I can get back to the task at hand.

1. Day in the life of the Russell 3000. I've got the data; now I just have to write the papers. I'm thinking of two different papers. The first may be an explication of predictive models for inlinks i.e., for industry x, how many inlinks should the site have. This analysis would be most appropriate for an online journal since it would of interest to a a number of different non-academic audiences. A second paper--more academic in tone--could discuss the performative and predictive implications of the correlations between inlink and market performance.

2. The history of the numbered works of mechanical movements. While exploring the TM and AGS I've come across another interesting chapter in the history of handbooks. The numbered books of mechanical movements (e.g., Gardner D. Hiscox's 1800 Mechanical Movements and Devices and 970 Mechanical Appliances and Novelties of Construction; and Henry T. Brown's 507 Mechanical Movements). These books seem to have been quite popular and have undergone a number of editions. Unfortunately, their history is almost completely lost. Hiscox has a brief entry in The Dictionary of Authors Who Died Before 1950 while Brown seems to have disappeared completely. Some quick searches through old stand-bys like Proquest's Historical New York Times has yielded very little. The story of these funny little books remains to be told.

3. Work behaviour as represented in cartoons. While browsing through the shelves of my favourite retail establishment (Lee Valley Tools) I came across a remarkable series of reprints. The Bull of the Woods was a daily cartoon about life in a machine shop. It was the Dilbert of its day. Indeed, such an anlysis is just begging to be completed.

4. Bentham's head. The final little project niggling in the back of my mind relates to the remarkable story of Jeremy Bentham's embalmed head. Unfortunately, the story of the macabre circumstances of Bentham's demise, dissection, embalment, stuffing, and display seems to have faded as the import of his panopticon has grown in stature. He apparently laid out the reasons for his, er... unique... last will and testament in a manuscript entitled Auto-Icon; or, Farther uses of the dead to the living. Many claim that this work is actually a forgery and was never actually written by Bentham. It looks like it's time for a bit of semantic analysis! Of course, the problem probably isn't as vital as say, demonstrating that Shakespeare authored parts of the King James Bible, or that Shakespeare was actually Francis Bacon, or that Marlowe actually wrote works attributed to Shakespeare, or anything else related to the Bard. But hey! I'm talking about the embalmed head of the guy who gave us utilitarian ethics, the panopticon, and Greek/Latin port-manteaus like "international", "maximise", and "codification." What could be more important?

My dissertation, I suppose.


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