August 31st, 2007


An odd one ...

Every now and again I run across a book that makes me wonder just how it managed to find its way into print, and this was an example of that type. In many ways, this seems to be the author wanting to show off his hobby of making funny drawings ... but how does one convince a major publisher to come out with a large-format hardcover based on that desire? I suppose to have the author/artist being (to quote from the dust jacket) "one of the twentieth century's great psychologists of perception and cognition" who holds a chair at Stanford and has a long list of technical publications would help a lot at getting a "vanity" book out, but the suspicion that this is a "vanity" project hovers heavily over Roger N. Shepard's Mind Sights: Original Visual Illusions, Ambiguities, and Other Anomalies, With a Commentary on the Play of Mind in Perception and Art.

There is certainly enough content here to justify a book on the subject, but the fact that the examples always come back to the author's own sketches (when other examples from art and advertising might have better illustrated the points being made) drags the book away from achieving its goals. Of course, this is also described (again from the dust jacket) as "part autobiography, part artists' portfolio", so I guess the "see how clever I am" (also carried into the text, with stories of "pranks" by the author, such as arranging for his daughter to publish a paper on a subject that he had previously published, partnered with a researcher having the same last name as his co-publisher, so that there would be two papers on the same subject by the same last-name researchers, just a few decades apart ... ensuring, no doubt, that hilarity would ensue) theme is actually more the point than the putative subject itself.

Mind Sights is in three sections, the first discussing "visual tricks" in general, and the author's life story, a section devoted to reproducing various drawings, broken into thematic groups, and, finally, an analysis of what is going on psychologically in the perception of the "tricks" involved. Needless to say, this last bit is the "meat" of the book but one needs to plow through a whole lot of Jack Horner-esqe "what a good smart boy am I!" posturing to get there.

Now, this is one of those books that has been languishing in my to-be-read boxes for a long time (selected to be easy to finish up on my recent road trip), and is currently out-of-print, so were you dying to find out what a bright and creative fellow Mr. Shepard is, you'll have to make some extra effort than dropping by your local bookstore. New/used copies are available, but not for particularly cheap, the lowest is currently $2.78 (plus shipping, of course) for a "good" copy of the paperback edition, but you can have a "like new" copy of the hardcover for only $7.99 which, considering this came out at $24.95 in 1990, isn't a bad deal ... were you interested in this, that is.

Oh, and for those of you keeping track of my "review backlog", this is the last of the books finished up on the road trip, and I got done with this one in the five hour delay we endured sitting on some distant patch of tarmac at the Indianapolis airport waiting to find some way to return to (tornado-harried) Chicago last Thursday (8/23).

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OK ... I'm stumped.

I'm hoping that somebody might be able to help me out with a little Windows issue.

I've been trying to harvest data from various old computers, eventually hoping to have backed up their various small HDs onto a big honking USB external HD that I can then access via my main system. Most of the old computers are of marginal useablilty at this point, but my most recently past "main system" I am thinking of holding on to as it has an internal Zip drive, and I'm thinking of adding (from its predecessor) a 5.25" floppy, so that I will have one thing which will read all my old data.

However, I would very much like to upgrade its OS from W98 to W98se ... and I have obtained an upgrade CD for this purpose. However, I can't get it to do the upgrade as it keeps wanting the key code. I got a utility off the web that supposedly reads the key from the file on the system, but for some reason this is not "taking". Could this possibly be wanting the key code associated with the upgrade disc? I bought this a while back on eBay and there was (not surprisingly) none associated with it.

I've scoured various message boards on this topic and most claim that one key code is pretty much as good as another, but I'm quite surprised that the one that I got via that utility is NOT working.

As this system does have USB connectors, I'm assuming that I can, if need be, just pull stuff off to the external HD, but I was sort of hoping to be able to get this hooked back up to the Internet, and I understand that if I'm going to try to make it talk to our high-speed wireless network, I'm going to need to bump it up to SE.

Anybody have any clues for me why (assuming that this utility is actually giving me the right key code) I can't coerce the system into doing the W98 to W98se upgrade?

I was messing with this all afternoon ... on the good side, having the upgrade CD in there did allow the system to fix itself in terms of recognizing that there was a mouse attached ... over the past several months, those drivers had been corrupted and I was having to try to use keyboard commands for everything!

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