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All posts for the month November, 2009

Excellent post from Kevin Kelly. Lessons of why a fee-based – but free at point of use – model works in valuing the intangibles, and “products” that are perceived as “staples”.

Flat or monthly fixed pricing is one way of pricing “as if free.” ….. Subscriptions tend to emphasize and charge for intangible values: regularity, reliability, first to be served, and authenticity, and work well in the arena of “as if free.”

Interesting series recently on white-collar crime from Laurie Taylor on “Thinking Allowed”. This week’s program was on social software communications in the post-Obama party-political election environment, and it was interesting that Laurie joined up the two subjects, in the intent and honesty of communication in these channels. Bingo.

The inventors of the internet didn’t overlook the fact that “trust” was top of the stack of priorities when communicating meaningfully, but the more un-mediated open social software communications are the norm, the less trust is explicit in the process – the medium inexorably becomes the message – “everybody’s doing it”.

Misguided  expectations – in any objective truth or value in the content of messages are unmet – and since no-one can admit to being a gullible soft-touch, scepticism tends to the downright cynical end of the trust spectrum. One aspect of such misguided expectation for objective truth is the process of justifying decisions in organizations, and the reality that in order to make decisions, much of the formal justification – eg in systems and procedures – has to be “fiddled” if the organization is to function (organizational hypocrisy). The greater the unmediated public communication, the more facts are seen to be “fiddled” and the less the uninvolved trust the involved, the greater the demand for more formal justification, the greater the demand to “fiddle” …. etc. Information is more and more mis-information.

The problem is the misguided expectation of ever greater objectivity in communications, rather than recognition that trust is above such things – almost literally.

Excellent marketing for “Tactical Nuclear Penguin“, and at £30 a pop, clearly not a contribution to binge-drinking – 20x the price for 5x to 10x the alcohol – so that’s a complete red-herring.

Their previous brew “Tokyo” at 18% was apparently genuinely brewed to that level using Champagne yeast, but how do you create 32% alcohol beer, and still call it beer, that’s what I want to know ?

(Incidentally, I’m not a fan of beers over about 4.5% anyway, so drinking the stuff would be another thing altogether. Nothing to do with “Nanny State”.)

“What are all these expense claims from the night club ?”
“I say. I say, what … ”
“Sorry I’m still a bit deaf. They’re all part of our research project, professor.”

This actually doesn’t sound like good research … too many other left / right dominance possibilities here, besides the hearing, surely … but this is science-reporting, not science.

This looks credible though. Not sure why the focus on the aspirates, but clearly the senses combine; ear drum sound with other physical clues.

I have a pet hate which is people starting a conversation with a sentence that is a question, and starting that sentence with the most significant word – like the subject of the question, or the W word – and expecting  a valid response. Sorry, what ? Was that when or why  or who ? Was that even a question? No attention focussing pre-amble. (And OK, maybe I am a bit deaf in the right ear, and yes being male I can’t walk, talk and think all at the same time. OK, OK, it’s just me.)

Sorry, I wasn’t listening.
OK, so that was a question ?
OK, so what was the question ?

Recently read Khaled Hosseni, both “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. Both powerful stories of recent Afghan history, across three family generations, across the Russian occupation and the Taliban (and refuge / emigration in Pakistan and USA). The former already well known as a film (which I’ve not seen). The latter even more powerful, conveying the deadening oppression of women in particular, but somehow undermined by slightly too “Hollywood” dramatic timings of key events. Good writing, recommended reading.

(I have a particular interest, having worked for two periods in Baluchistan, Pakistan, near the Afghan border just after the Russians had departed, and Kalashnikov’s appeared to be compulsory fashion accessories amongst the locals.)

Between the two, by way of light relief, I read John Le Carre’s latest (2008) “A Most Wanted Man”. I have mixed experience of Le Carre, but this was very good. Very much “of our time” mix of international banking, 9/11 Hamburg connections, US/European politics, ex-Soviet Moslem terror and the war on funding. Who needs any conspiracy when life’s motivations are this complicated ?

Perhaps prompted by Arabic / Moslem / geographic / tribal / linguistic distinctions of these modern reads, I felt compelled to pick up T E Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” for a fourth or fifth read. Gets even better with every read in each different light. Beautiful witty prose as well as a razor sharp study of people, peoples and places – physically and psychologically. An “agile” management textbook in a wartime historical narrative. Unsurpassable, and I’m only a little over a third of the way through, though hooked to a finish, again.

Talking of healthy debate, the AGW debate is a debate – a debate about what to do for the best hopefully, rather than a debate about whether it’s “science” and whether it’s “proven” – I refer to my previous post – what a waste.

George Monbiot has been blogging on the recent backlash, so I’m sure George is probably one contribution to Clive James’s impression that there are more sceptical scientific views of AGW than there were. Unfair to chide Clive for suggesting that no one could claim the “the science is in” – as George suggests it is only ever in so far as it is … ever in. And that from someone who claims to be a serious defender of sceptical science as opposed to the writer of a light-hearted mgazine essay. Lighten up George – oh wait a minute – satire is OK when it’s on the other foot.

This is mostly not about science, it’s about conspiracy paranoia. Belief and scepticism can both lead to unwise acts of hypocrisy when dealing with paranoia.
(redcar.ac.uk …. I like it.)

A new post from Chris Locke after a 6 month hiatus at Mystic Bourgeoisie.

I think Chris is getting closer to his agenda – the “but I’m not new-age” meme – is a meme defined by new-ageism. He’s right there, the problem of “Numinous Lunacy and Sanctimonious Narcissism” as he calls it, is memetic. Not surprising “following” purveyors of such stuff on twitter captures plenty of content – like accepting spam comments in blogs and wikis, except in twitter you are pre-accepting it – in the interests of research, naturally, with his sceptical wits about him. The “difficult times” tweet from James Arthur Ray is a peach.

I agree with Chris that it is dangerous to delve into the paradoxical morass between objective reality and … err … faith-based religion, that is, there are risks in being misled by what you perceive, confusing metaphor with any kind of empiricism. Proceed with caution, with scepticism, yes, clearly. But where I part with Chris is in somehow seeing the whole idea (of even considering those uncertainties) as part of some evil conspiracy, off limits. It’s  a problem meme / memeplex. We agree it is a big timeless and perennially relevant problem. And a problem that is getting worse, paradoxically, as unmediated publication gets ever easier in our global village.

Genuinely interested to see what the outcome of the deeper right wing “Indian” research throws up. Keep on blogging MB.

Another one to add to the list of brain lesions / malfunctions as clues to the workings of mind. Faced with an otherwise fully functioning brain and the total inability to communicate Belgian Rom Houben, simply had to dream to fill his time – for 23 years !

[Today - Sat 28th - apparently scientific scepticism about his actual state & recovery. And I have to say listening to the interview with another PVS / Locked-in patient (Martin ?) - via the communication system - I'm sceptical if the description is representative of the Houben case.]

Latest Edge has an interesting piece on “36 Arguments for the Existence of God” .. interesting because it is clearly about debunking those arguments, but seems to recognize the ills of the extreme scientific fundamentalist front of “the new atheists”. Naturally, I like the idea that Harris and Dennett are acknowledged ahead of the current baying crowd … also named.

Published in January. Seems like the kind of writing I would do (if I could) not least for the “Joining Dots” motif – already in my header links. More to the point, it’s a fiction – and the extract published at the Edge link above reads OK – but the 36 key arguments are listed and systematically structured in a separate appendix, so that the fictional text, can simply refer to them – by number (!). An alternative trick to putting the chautauqua’s of convoluted arguments into the characters’ or narrator’s mouths directly.

I wonder if the readability can be sustained ? And, I wonder if the net message is indeed more subtle than the fundamentalists ? One to order.