[sc34wg3] Topic Maps Reference Model posted (new draft)

Martin Bryan sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Wed, 2 Mar 2005 21:04:44 -0000

OK guys, I can't resist the challenge, though I know I should :-)

> > Thirty years ago, before I began the study of Zen,
> > I said, 'Mountains are mountains, waters are waters.'
> > After I got insight into the truth of Zen
> > through the instructions of a good master,
> > I said, 'Mountains are not mountains, waters are not waters.'
> > But now, having attained the abode of final rest,
> > I say, 'Mountains are really mountains, waters are really waters.'

Being British I have an insight to offer on this. We have three "mountains"
in mainland Britain, Snowdon (1085m) in Wales, Ben Nevis (1343m) in Scotland
and Skafell (978m) in England. None of these pimples has a height above sea
level that exceeds the height of some of the ridges that occur between
adjacent side streams as you approach Annapurna in the Himalayas (I climbed
one that I was assured was 1500m high one morning!). Yet Snowdon must be a
"mountain" because it has a "mountain railway" to take tourists to the top!

The point of mountains is not their "maximum height above sea level" as
everyone seems to supposes, but the relative position of their heights
against other heights in the nearby vicinity. Most of Colorado and all of
Tibet are much higher above sea level than anything in the UK, yet
significant parts of them would be called valleys by locals. Valleys are
simply depressions between high points. You can't have a valley without
something higher on at least two sides. Mountains are, I believe, better
defined as a) "things you can see from a long distance" or b) "things from
which you can see a long distance". ("Peaks" are things you can see from
close to if you peek closely enough!)

>From a mountaineer's point of view the key thing is how far you have to use
ropes to climb to reach the top of a peak. If you can take a train to the
top, or simply stroll up on foot, as you can on Snowdon (on a fine day, but
certainly not in today's blizzard) a mountaineer would laugh at the
definition of our Welsh hillock as a mountain. But by these criteria
sea-stacks such as the Old Man of Hoy are mountains in that they have
hundreds of feet of shear rock surface that must be climbed to reach the
top. (There was an interesting live broadcast when this was attempted a few
years back by a leading moutaineer.) It depends on your perspective: i.e.
where you start from and its relative position with respect to your

Having said that I am no believer in "subject identity". Having struggled
all day with trying to reconcile the differing views of Europe's leading car
manufacturers as to what subsystems are required to make a car I can assure
you there is no single view of what constitutes a car. You might think you
know, but try telling me what the boundary between 4x4s, SUVs (or SAVs as
they are now referred to in Europe), Jeeps, MVPs and Minibuses are, and in
what significant ways they differ from a stretched limo or a mini... Answers
on a postcard please to ....

Context is the key to subject identification. The problem is defining what
constitutes context. Is it, as I believe, the set of relationships that
refer to the subject, or just the set of things that are related to the
subject, or a combination of both? Murray, Bernard and I will need quite a
few nights down at that bar to sort that one out.

Martin Bryan