All posts for the month May, 2008

Struck in this story initially by the reference to nursing in contrast to health-care-management. Sometimes people are robbed of any intrinsic “job satisfaction” by their management systems. This medical example is the Dr James WillisFriends in Low Places” agenda. Engagement with the task skills and their primary objectives is a key factor as Richard Sennett’s “The Craftsman” would suggest in the news story. Of course for some jobs such aspects may be hard to find or value, so perhaps not everyone should expect to find that kind of happiness in their work, but I’m not so sure.

Chris Wilson’s new book “Healing The Unhappy Caveman” would suggest that evolving human minds should not expect to find happiness in daily life anyway. He may be right, but again I’m not so sure after the intro and one chapter so far. I think the key we will find is in understanding where that satisfaction arises, and why it is valuable to pursue it the right way. I shall read on and report back.

Perhaps I’m the eternal optimist as one commenter on the news story suggests.

Excellent edition of “In Our Time” today, on the subject of the ancient library at Nineveh. Another example of the “enthusiastic scholar” in Karen Radner, but all good contributions.

As well as the general Assyrian / Babylonian cultural history, including Gilgamesh and the even older myth of the Great Flood, it was fascinating to hear the myth of the fish (long-lived human-sized Tigris carp) as wise advisers to the even-longer-lived and disease-free humans in the times before the flood.

After the flood, all had changed for humankind. So many allusions. A fall from grace. Babel-fish, and so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the … Douglas Adams references. [And how could I forget the “Salmon of Wisdom / Knowledge” and DNA’s “Salmon of Doubt” – Comment from Dermot below.]  Also another specific interest for me in Nineveh / Carchemish / Leonard Woolley and T E Lawrence. Libraries destroyed by fire; Nineveh, Alexandria, “Name of the Rose”, oh, and Guisborough my original home town. Must add links to all those referenced allusions …

[Post Note : The recycling of mythology in cultural undestanding of real knowledge is fundamental to the defining moment of “Arrive Without Travelling“.]

[Post Note : Conversation with DMB on MoQ.Discuss – The programme also mentions that ironically, if the library at Nineveh had not been torched, then future archeologists may never have found the Gilgamesh / flood tablets. Here’s a thought; how many of us would have known of the Afgan Buddha’s if they had NOT been parttially destroyed by the Taleban; how many US citizens would have known that Bablyon was the cradle of their civilized world if they had not been plundered in tthe course of their “war on whatever”. Perhaps myth has more lasting value than the contents of libraries and museums, however outrageous their deliberate destruction ? Perhaps they benefit from being converted back into myth ocasionally.]

Interesting that this case was successful. If MySpace can be protected by the law what about every other social network or e-mail service. My WordPress Blog gets 100’s a day, 1000’s a month, and my GMail e-mail accounts get 1000 and 3000 apiece each month.

The (free) spam filters are 99% effective, but it’s a criminal drain on resources. I really believe in the idea of charging for all e-mails, posts and comments – just a very small marginal cost would raise significant money for some worthwhile cause, but would price the malicious timewasters and freeloaders out of business

“Arrive Without Travelling” is the first in a series of documentary films by Anthony McWatt about the work of Robert M Pirsig. Ant is to be congratulated on achieving his debut film-making milestone, the culmination of his own determined journey down a long and winding road, paved with intentions of many kinds.

The major content of AWT was filmed at and around the 2005 Liverpool Conference, about which I reported at the time. If it achieves nothing else, the film nails any lingering suggestion that Bob’s relationship with his “fans” is anything remotely close to being a celebrity guru with his acolytes. And that’s not just in the relaxed participation and conversation recorded, but also in the fact that Bob makes it abundantly clear that despite his own creation of the rhetoric represented by his two books (ZMM & Lila), the philosophical ideas originated with “his mentor” F S C Northrop, and no-one, not even Bob can teach or define the dynamic quality at the core of that Metaphysics of Quality. That requires enlightened and enlightening participation in real life. “Ideas have their own evolution.” as Bob says.

As well as a large part of the papers presented and a number of interviews with Bob and the participants, perhaps the most important content is that informal footage and recording of discussion and free conversation, with the shy and reclusive Bob as simply one of the participants, relaxed amongst friends. Participation again is the key component. The publication as a film allows more more people to participate, albeit once removed from the original.

A few caveats about this review, in the interests of balance, before I proceed. Firstly, as a participant at the conference myself, I am an interested party, but I have to say that I find my own recorded contribution almost excruciating to watch, even edited down by about one third. Secondly as a matter of taste, the use of the psychedelic Beatles clips as links and overlays, has obvious relevance to the Liverpool location and the hippy age in which much of the thesis was developed, but I’m not entirely sure the effect will prove net positive. Thirdly, it was a surprise to find that this first in a series of documentary films, is in fact a full 100 minutes feature length, with extended recordings of the conference proceedings. As a record of the event and contributions, it is invaluable, but time will tell if the format can attract and educate new interest in the subject matter.

Extracts from the talks by Mati Palm-Leis, and Khoo Hock Aun are included, and Gavin Gee-Clough’s paper is included almost in full. [Conference Papers]

The highlight of the film, as it was at the conference, is David Buchanan’s paper “Fun With Blasphemy”, and Bob’s emotional reaction to it. Although David’s paper is published, it would still feel like a spoiler to divulge the punchline here. As I reported at the time, we were all fortunate that Dave’s delivery was recorded for posterity, and here is the proof, presented in full. Dave analyses perennial myths across many cultures, drawing on the work of Joseph Campbell, settles on the myth of Orpheus, and speculates on a possible Orphic screenplay and players to exemplify the MoQ messages, in contrast to earlier proposals to film narrative’s of the ZMM or Lila stories. The idea is genius in itself, reinforced by the specific Liverpool connection in his choice of creative muse. Go watch.

What moved Bob to label Dave as “cool” – in acknowledgement of a “cool” thread in the paper – was that Dave had struck upon something central to Pirsig’s own story. Enlightenment; Christ you know it ain’t easy, and most readers will know that Pirsig went through the occupational hazard of a serious mental breakdown en-route to creating his own enlightened work. [Timeline 1961] It transpires that Bob saw Cocteau’s film “Orpheus” during his descent into madness, just before he left Bozeman and moved to Chicago (featured coincidentally as locations in “Orpheus”) where he suffered his breakdown. In Bob’s emotional words “I entered that film and never really came out.” Dave had of course selected the Orphic myth, of entering an otherworld and returning enlightened for the very reason that it mirrored Pirsig’s own life journey. But little did we know [*].

As Dave says, it’s “the coolest thing that ever happened me.”
Electric moments of dynamic quality captured on film.
Get a copy from and enlighten yourself.

[*][Post Note – Though the parallel between Bob’s personal journey of enlightenment and the Orphic myth, and Dave’s “Mythos” agenda are well known, you would need to be a close reader of MoQ.Discuss back in 1999 to note that Bob had mentioned the Cocteau film before.
But, little did we know how significant to Bob.]

I relegated my manifesto from the blog header to a subsidiary page just last weekend; it includes that phrase “seemingly irrational”, which this letter also uses ….

Your article (How did no-win, no-fee change things?, 7 May) bears out the fact that the “rise” of no-win, no-fee is more of a perception than a reality. But it’s a powerful perception, and one that is often the root cause of seemingly irrational decisions to require schoolchildren to wear goggles to play conkers, but not to wear them in the swimming pool when the chlorinated water irritates their eyes! My profession, health and safety, then gets saddled with the blame. But the reality is that it’s not a result of advice given by health and safety professionals – rather officials seeking an easy way out of a difficult decision or racked with unrealistic fears that they might be sued should something go wrong. Modern health and safety practice is about striking a sensible balance. Unfortunately, it’s a powerful and believable excuse for some in positions of authority. Health and safety professionals are not interested in preventing people from doing activities that have gone ahead without serious harm for generations. We want people to have good fun – in a safe and healthy way.
Ray Hurst, IOSH President, Wigston, Leicestershire.

Healthy balance being destroyed by “enforced” choices … enforced by the decision-making psychology, not by any reality or necessity to do so.  Perception is the root cause.

Hate to blog about the knowledge angle of this, but it was interesting at the Christmas 2004 Tsunami that wreaked havoc in Thailand and Aceh / Indonesia, that hundreds were also killed in Myanmar, but the closed-to-media environment meant that this barely registered in international news for some time.

This cyclone seems to have killed thousands (three days ago) 4,000 some said, more than 10,000 now according to official statements. A real tragedy. At least Myanmar is prepared to share it with us.

[Post Note – Wow – what a disaster – now 22,000 dead and further 41,000 missing. And by the by, I notice we’ve reverted to “Burma” again – same word phoenetically of course as “Myanmar” – but the BBC is usually pretty pernicketty about such things. Nay a catastrophe 100,000 dead estimate by US diplomat. I notice the US press are using “Myanmar”.]

You may have noticed a change of format of the blog pages, starting with the header ? Same theme / style, but much re-organized.

MOST IMPORTANT – for users of my “Pirsig Pages” – notice the updated note on the old Pirsig Pages redirecting you manually to the entry point for my new Pirsig Pages. Any existing links to and within the blog pages (including the new header links) are automatically updated. If you switch your Pirsig Pages link to the new “PHP” page – any future changes will be automatic too.

So, if you link directly or via “favourites” to my Pirsig Pages,
Please switch your link

The link to the Pirsig Biographical Timeline is unchanged, and will remain so.

Further changes are taking place to add new blog capabilities, whilst simplifying the overloaded side-bar; to create some new pages to help organise and orientate through the subject matter; oh, and a new project – can you tell what it is yet ?

Yesterday I noticed yet another web 15th birthday story.

The usual Tim Berners-Lee / CERN story proposing and then releasing URL / HTML / HTTP freely. The precise birth of that “web” depends on which point in that process you consider significant – the proposal to do it (1989), the agreement to do it, the doing of it, or the agreement to let it go free (1993).

The point that always confuses me is the DARPA TCP/IP story – I’m guessing that’s the invention of the internet – network of interconnected communications – (as opposed to the web of information on the internet).

From memory that packet-based redundant / multi-route connectivity was invented for reasons of secure (US) military communications so that messages broken into packets on multiple, random network routes could never be (easily) intercepted, and a receiver could always know if a packet had been lost, since the message could not be rebuilt without it – secure as in reliable.

Let me check. Yep, that’s it – ARPANet in 1967/68. I guess the perspective that agitates W3C people is the “free” collaborative standard aspect as opposed to the earlier military need aspect of ISoc. 20 years between the internet and the web, but it “took off” when the web information standards were set free, since the important internet comms standards were already free to use.

[Post Note : Even spam pre-dates the web; almost as old as the Arpanet itself, 30 years.]

A poll of the top 100 public intellectuals, in Prospect Magazine, with an interesting take on not just voting but also suggesting an alternative; plus a blog-meme that I picked-up from Sam, to list:

(1) those with whom you could carry on a conversation.
(2) those with whom you’ve actually had any contact.
(3) those who are must-read and those who are unworthy of the listing.
(4) those you have read some, and intend to read more before confirming an opinion.
(5) those you would add to the list.

As Sam says, the number unread or unrecognized just adds to your reading list. I see Zizek appearing again – not read yet. Anyway, coming soon … my lists: