All posts for the month January, 2004

Unversal Church of the Interactive Network. John Ireland, blogger and supplier of “bloggerheads” services to several British MP’s has this whacky sideline – can’t see any catches, and definitely no references to gods, false or otherwise. Magic stuff, couldn’t resist linking when I saw that Saint Douglas of the Whooshing Deadline was regarded as the top saint in this church.

[Quote] The average bible has 2000 pages. The web has over 2 billion. We win.[Unquote]

Think I was already a 100% member in spirit. Possibly my first act may be to campaign to sanctify Saint Robert of Zen, though possibly he may be excluded on the grounds of being alive and well unlike St Douglas and St Alan of the Enigma.

I dropped the inklings line of research a couple of months ago when I noted the JRR Tolkien / CS Lewis / GK Chesterton angle leading off down a strongly theistic / catholic path, despite the interesting connection with Owen Barfield, and the Cambridge connections of Lewis / Barfield and (non-inkling) McLuhan.

In response to a question in the Pickerell last night I checked this out. No doubt Tolkien would have visited CS Lewis in the latter’s time at Cambridge (Magdelene), and conceivably visited the Pickerell haunt of Lewis, but the Tolkien Society’s biography includes not a single mention of Cambridge at all. Oxford all the way.

Teflon Tony Rides Again. How did they do it ? How did they get at Lord Hutton ? Breathtaking in British politics.
Tony Blair grinning like a Cheshire cat, Alastair Campbell straight faced talking to Jeremy Paxman.

More to the point who is they. Not usually a conspiracy theorist, but can Hutton really just be a monumental cock-up ? Could they be Murdoch ? Look out for all sorts of rational reasons to “better control” the BBC. Classical reason is the conspiracy and the BBC could be its victim here.

Mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was re-evaluating blog software going forward – basically I need something to organise my myriad of thoughts – one per index card, in Pirsigian fashion – into potential categories, in order to synthesise something from it. Think I’m going to go with MT TypePad.

At the same time, I happen to be particularly busy with the day job, although one benefit is that the travelling is giving me a great opportunity to read – so I’ve been re-reading stuff.

Since the new year, I’ve re-read all five books of Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide to the Universe “trilogy” – found myself annotating it like an academic text. Makes you think (and laugh).

Also re-reading for the umpteenth time Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and “Lila”. Still finding that common sense epiphany of “Aha, of course, that’s what the problem really is” – perhaps a little naive with the benefit of more hindsight and wider philosophical reading. Haven’t got there yet, but I can already see that the metaphysics of Lila is going to go one step too far. Also re-read Maggie Hettinger’s summary of MoQ, and discussion of the various static / dynamic tensions. Maggie quotes key pieces from Pirsig ….

[Quote] (Pirsig, 1991, Lila)
This last, the Dynamic-static code, says what’s good in life isn’t defined by society or intellect or biology. What’s good is freedom from domination by any static pattern, but that freedom doesn’t have to be obtained by the destruction of the patterns themselves.

Less threatening than revolutionary “creative destruction”.
Seeing the baby, for the bathwater.
[This chapter I shall mostly be mixing my metaphors - working title ?]
A basis for evolutionary change.

[Quote] (Pirsig, 1997 letter to the Lila Squad)
The material for the MOQ is not something I invented out of thin air. It has been lying dormant within the culture for centuries. I have mined probably less than one per cent of what is there. The best readers will pay minimal attention to what I have found and maximal attention to what I have missed. That’s where the excitement is.

Nothing new under the sun – agreed many times here.
Tip of an iceberg – visible evidence of an underlying reality, not necessarily a metaphysical foundation of that reality.

Now where was I ?

Backlog of blogs to do …

Link Rot Extraordinaire – OK so Jorn has gone off-line seeking privacy, but what about all those links to material of interest. Blogs should certify their commitment to maintain their not for profit / hobby sites, and if circumstances mean this is no longer possible, advise all linkers and give them sufficient time to preserve off-line copies of linked material.

UK University Fees – Current debate is throwing up fairly obvious sponsorship opportunities. Institute of Physics is offerring prospective undergrads 1K, 2K or 3K contribution to their fees. Making the fees so visible makes the opportunity more real. Philosophy – for real life – Hmm ?

Typhoon – Doomed to be a plane for an outdated role, this project is years behind schedule and massively over budget. Generic (ie multi-role in military hardware terms) is surely the name of any large development project these days – even software ;-)

MoQ as Pragmatic Tool. Corresponding with Matt Kundert on the MoQ Discussion Board concerning Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality, as a (the best I know) pragmatic framework for value-judgements / decision-making, despite not necessarily being worth thinking of as a “Metaphysics”, and despite not being entirely new or original – nothing new under the sun I may have said.

My last MoQ-Discuss response to Matt was a little rushed as usual, and I’ve subsequently noticed several of my themes at play here.

Firstly MoQ is a “useful framework” – nuff said surely ? When using it, it remains important to remember it’s still just a model (an approximation, a metaphor) not a fundamentally “ahistorically” real thing – if there were such a thing (See my Manifesto, point C.4). It’s something that must be allowed to evolve with circumstances. The main danger with such useful models is that familiarity and use leads to reification (the metaphor dies) and it becomes some absolute or end in itself. Is it not pragmatically preferable to have a world view reify around a generally good framework (MoQ) than a poor one (Logical Positivism / mis-placed Scientific Rationality). In an ideal world we should all caveat metaphor, but in the real world perhaps the better metaphor is at least preferable, dead or alive. (I hope my business information blogging readers are seeing the similarity with the fixed organisation / ontology vs self-organising networked community model.)

Secondly nothing new under the sun. I’ve said this many times before (Google my blog). MoQ is mirrored in Maslow’s Hierarchy (don’t just take my word for it, see Heylighen) and the general pattern is clear since Dewey et al picked up on Darwin. The basic idea was there since Socrates / Plato / Aristotle if not before. Plato and Kant have a lot to answer for – the pseudo-scientific philosophical blind-turn. Lack of originality doesn’t make it wrong though. I expressed this view in earlier MoQ threads [here], [here] and [here, point(3)]

Perhaps Pirsig shoud have stopped at ZMM and avoided Lila ? Matt expresses quite strongly the view that Pirsig misfires when he picks up the metaphysical baggage that goes with his MoQ. Matt also says [Quote] in Pirsig’s attempt to be systematic in Lila, I think he got trapped by some of the disease he was trying to cure. [Unquote] This is my Cath22 again – I’ve also expressed a view on this [here, in RANT], [here] and [Northorp version here].

The Quantum Dot. A small P-N-P semiconductor sandwich at meso-scale in all three dimensions; (meso – mid-way between micro and nano). A Laser waveguide of negligible length within which captive electrons can be arranged in standing waves, to create “progammable materials” made of “atoms without nuclei” capable of behaving chemically with adjacent “atoms”. Will McCarthy’s book Hacking Matter [from Wired] [via John Udell] Applications ?

Interesting techie news I’d not noticed before – probably no relevance to QIP – my only legitimate reason to have quantum interests ?

Constant Change. Picked this up from Geoff Cohen’s Coherence Engine. [Quote] From Lewis Hyde’s amazing book, Trickster Makes This World: “There is no way to suppress change … there is only a choice between a way of living that allows constant, if gradual, alterations and a way of living that combines great control and cataclysmic upheavals.” [Unquote]

Reminds me of Charles Handy’s “Change is the only constant”.[My Dissertation]

Actually by counterintuitively citing “control” as the cause of “cataclysm” it also picks up on the Catch22 theme – particularly as stated by Northrop. [Quote] the basic paradox of our time [is that] “sound” theory tends to destroy the state of affairs it aims to achieve [Unquote] (His scare quotes, not mine). In this case control is bound to lead to loss of control; Implicitly laissez faire is bound to lead to gradual evolution.

Coincidentally I was just commenting on a Knowledge Board post by Chris Macrae on the subject of organisational hierarchy which he sees as counter to “self-organisation”. I disagree – the trick is to remember what the organisation is for (hierarchical or otherwise) – control is not even the half of it.

Lewis Hyde’s book looks worth investigating.

As I posted earlier I’ve been exploring Userland’s Radio tools and Six Apart’s Moveable Type TypePad offering.

Both offer multiple categorisation and both seem to work in that respect.
(Neither offers any categorisation of the categories themselves.)

Radio is a software license fee, with no service hosting – the software runs on your own machine.
TypePad (Pro) is a more expensive service fee , inlcuding hosting of the blogging service as well as the public blog pages.
TypePad (Plus) is cheaper, but has no html editing of your pages – so is much more limited format-and-content-wise.
TypePad has successfully migrated across all my existing blogger content.
(All existing internal permalinks still point to the blogger site unfortunately.)
(Radio has no tools to perform the same trick so far as I can see.)
Radio is infinitely flexible because all the files and s/w are on your own machine.
Radio has few wysiwyg tools so you need to be confident in using XML / RSS / CSS etc.
Radio also means you take on all the web server operation reliability and security yourself.
The point of TypePad (as opposed to full blown MoveableType) is to avoid this server overhead

The remaining problem with either is the fact that I must keep the domain active since there are so many existing links and a great coverage established in search engines, impressive indexing by Google included. My current ISP / Web-site Hosting combination (NTL and Tiscali) works fine and supports much more web-page content under the psybertron domain than just the blog, so it’s not simply a matter of domain mapping to the new blog location. It means publishing to the existing location, and maintaining that subscription too.

I need to think about the pros and cons, not just of Radio vs TypePad, but of staying put and waiting for Blogger (now part of Google of course, see above) to provide categorisation. What would swing the latter, would be if Blogger were to provide some additional features for organising and categorising the categories themselves. Come on Blogger / Google.

Decisions, decisions !

Just read Yann Martel’s “The Story of Pi” in one sitting on one day. The essence is about how “good” a story needs to be to be considered true or, expressed in reverse, there is no truth, only a good story. A recommended read whatever – an unputdownably good story as you “suspend disbelief”.

I had a comment from LanguageHat the other day, in response to my Aryans / Barfield post, (the comment was against the preceeding post in error) and by a strange coincidence I had already blogged a link to languagehat earlier. I picked-up today on a post from that blog about the etymology of the word Caviar. Anyway the gist is LanguageHat’s disapproval of someone who saw a good story as the more convincing etymology for the word. The irony for me is that the more convincing “version” of the truth does in fact turn out to be the better story too. Again, the OED disappoints, despite being essentially correct, whereas the AHD tells the same story so much more convincingly. The original erroneous (but good) story was just badly motivated – a greek bearing gifts.

I think I may have said before that “intent” is a key dimension of any good knowledge model.

Grauniad Survey of Blogging & Tools. I agree with this comment on Blogger [Quote] …. grounds enough to recommend Blogger over all others – and we did. But the last year has seen some interesting developments in the blog space, and after a lengthy spell of stagnation, with no new features being rolled out, Blogger no longer holds all the ace cards. [Unquote]

I have had “categorisation” on my Blogger wish-list for some time.
I’m currently experimenting with a Radio Userland Blog and an MT TypePad Blog too.