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All posts for the month November, 2010

This business problem at Woodside Pluto LNG in Western Australia caught my eye. A major cause of the delay is inadequate flare towers needing to be replaced by contractor Foster-Wheeler / Worley-Parsons. Takes me back to my first ever project in this business BP Sullom Voe Shetland Oil Terminal back in 1978/79 – where there was  major project delay and dispute – due to inadequately designed flare towers where coincidentally Foster-Wheeler were the contractor. Ironically too, their inadequate design only came to light because of a dockside offloading accident that damaged the flare tower, and the analysis of the repair work showed they were under-designed to begin with.

Posted on MD by John Carl, after Barbara Kingsolver.

I believe in trees and that heaven has something to do with how dead trees gentle themselves into long, mossy columns of bright-smelling, crumbling earth, lively inside with sprouting seeds and black beetles.  I can not make myself believe in a loud-voiced, bearded God on his throne in the clouds, but I am moved to tears by the compost pile.

Said it beforeabout brew dog, but I only came to this site thanks to a hit on yellow-line-painting-over-road-kill being not only a meme, but in general a hoax too. I can believe that.

Talking of which, ludicrously strong beer, but without the marketing, some of the most interesting stuff I’ve come across in the past year is from Nøgne Ø in Grimstad, Norway. Their Red Horizon, Sweet Horizon and Dark Horizon; very strong, very sweet and very different. Think of it less as beer more as dessert wine, … or dessert even, as their marketing says.

In the last week of four here in Brisbane, and I think I’ve blogged only once about the music.

In the three bars on/off Brunswick and Ann in “the valley”, that is Step Inn, Ric’s and Zoo, I must have seen 35 bands. Apart from Friday before last at Step Inn which had three separate stages until 2am, the standard seems to be 2 or 3 acts per night, but short sets, all over by 10:30 / 11:00 pm. Mixed genres, and mixed quality, naturally, but refreshingly young, live and original on the whole.

The best had to be experienced and from outta town; The Toot Toot Toots, from Melbourne last Wednesday supported by The Sulphur Lights. The latter three-piece had a guitarist I’d seen with another band the previous week (?). Twangy reverb guitar a la Shadows meets thrash punk a la Ramones, fun even if the earnest vocals were lost in the mix. Fun and a little not-taking-ourselves-too-seriously experience was the name of the Toot Toot Toots game. Understated but important guitar a la Chilli Peppers in a 6 piece featuring additional percussion, trombone and melodica, and a manic front man. They were the only band that I saw get an encore out of the crowd / management. Worth seeing for the guitar / trombone duets alone, but a lot of fun besides.

[Post Note - last Sunday in town I saw Floating Bridges at Ric's Bar - funky fun 6 piece, back in 2011.]

Disappointed listening to Melvyn Bragg’s recent In Our Time on Metaphor. Makes the introduction referring to metaphor being as old as story telling – earliest writings in Gilgamesh we hear – as well as being a topic of interest to modern “thinkers”, promising.

The contributors give us the benefit of their literary knowledge, though fail to make any distinction between simile (explicitly signalled as “like”), metaphor (metaphorically implicit), allegory (extended metaphor across a whole narrative), and meta-metaphor (counter-metaphor for dramatic effect within the extended allegory) … though they stumble across all of these in the process. And continuing the literary angle, take us into metaphorical treatise which enable politically incorrect (or unthinkable) narrative to be disguised for publication – Spenser, Swift etc … and later metaphysical and romantic poets, up to say, Blake.

But. Science as real truth, rejecting the metaphors of the romantics ! Pot and kettle. Dickens non-self-conscious reinvention (improvisation) of metaphor (eg in Bleak House). Reality as cliche, but no mention of memes ? Mythology as a “disease” of language – forgotten metaphor. In fact metaphor is fundamental to the relation between language and the world, not an embellishment of language. Only get to close the point in their closing remarks … the silo-ed literary view looking out at the rest of the thinking world.

Another massive opportunity missed to join up some dots Melvyn. Reality and truth the victims again.

I remembered noting this before driving through south Texas, the irony of seeing large wind-farms in the centre of the world of oil. (In memory only those around Bakersfield California seemed bigger.)

I mentioned the irony here, seeing the huge wind farm at Sinton when I visited Port Aransas on Mustang Island, near Corpus Christi, TX. (Oh and there’s a meme, I mentioned the nodding donkeys in my diary blog, and the BBC piece includes an image of one.)

Not a new concept, but a very interesting NYT piece by Andy Martin. (Thanks to Steve Peterson on MD for the link).

Thank you, gentlemen, for raising the issue of understanding here. The fact is, I don’t expect people in general to understand what I have written. And it is not just because I have written something, in places, particularly cryptic and elliptical and therefore hard to understand, or even because it is largely a meta-discourse and therefore senseless, but rather because, in my view, it is not given to us to achieve full understanding of what another person says. Therefore I don’t expect you to understand this problem of misunderstanding either. (Paraphrase of Wittgenstein).

Having read The Philosophical Investigations as well as Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, I have no doubt Wittgenstein knew what he was doing in his earlier work aimed primarily at inveterate logician Bertrand Russell.

I therefore believe myself to have found, on all essential points, the final solution of the problems [of philosophy]. And if I am not mistaken in this belief … it shows how little is achieved when these problems are solved.

Wittgenstein and the Art of Car Maintenance.

Love it. Wittgenstein and the Allusion to Robert Pirsig.
Priceless comment also, from Alan Lamb in the comment thread, hilarious, hopefully tongue firmly in cheek:

Autism as a topic is an interesting launching pad for a discussion of philosphical questioning as you have introduced it but your thesis is certainly not either necessary nor sufficient to conclude that current medical theory explains philosophy away.

Hofstadter would love the strange loop. (And the comment thread is full of people defending Wittgenstein and those with autism … talk about missing the point, being autistic.)

(And thanks to JC also on MD for this link to LogiComix – comic book story of the life of Russell and the failure of logic.)

Linked to Karen Armstrong previously – her “Charter for Compassion” campaign was the subject of her TED talk. She ends up pretty campaigning and preachy in that piece, but she shows a sophisticated position in the God vs Science wars. Not surprising given her history and the enormous number of books she has written on religious history. The History of God and The War for God amongst them.

I started reading her The Case for God at least a month ago, but had a chance to finish it today after a break in which, ironically, I had also read The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Can’t do a review justice here, but The Case for God is excellent. Dense with research, quotes and references. Starting out with Joe Campbell and George Steiner, she ends on a Buddhist koan, taking in every philosophical and scientific source I’m aware of (Socrates to Wittgenstein, Tillich and Toulmin to the PoMos and the new-Atheists, too many to mention.)

Just finished The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Mohsin Hamid), so was taken with this perspective on the British PM visit to China. The east has been the dominant economic culture for 18 of the last 20 centuries.

Lots of irony in the book, and the core metaphor is a bit thin / naive, a young author I guess, but a page-turning story about Eastern rejection of Western presumption and Western paranoia of the motives for such rejection. Won’t spoil the ending. 9/11 was the wake-up call / turning point for many.

Why did nobody ever mention the hills ? Brisbane is a new location for me. Culturally and architecturally reminded me of Melbourne meets Perth meets Alabama with a tasteless church on every corner, except everywhere is uphill to/from everywhere else. I’ll either get fit or ….

After three consecutive nights in the air, my first night in town, last night, was 12 hours solid sleep, but tonight was a recce of Fortitude Valley.

Ric’s Bar had genuinely live music, others had karaoke despite the “live” billings on the Wednesday night. But a very full gig guide to look out for,

Openers at Ric’s were Udays Tiger. Guitar and Drums, with loops of both under control of the guitarist’s feet. Interesting, creative and rough, but very effective – had me in mind of QOTSA. Vocals a bit low in the mix, and a bit strained for my taste, but I will look out for them again.

First it giveth, then in taketh away. The “headline” were At Sea. Equally interesting but less satisfying 5 piece. Bass, lead and rhythm guitarists need to get in sharper tune, if their layered textures are going to work without discord. Rhythm guy seemed want to be at 11 to everyone elses’ 9 and the vocals – interesting goth female – suffered again. Same drummer in both acts. A version of Morning Dew had me singing along (only non-original I noticed), but sadly only the trad two-verse version. The point of the cold-war version is that after the flash in the sky there is no more morning dew.

Such short sets. All over by 10:30pm.

Must look up Gav whilst I’m in town.

From David Morey via Horse at MoQ Discuss, an NPR blog from Marcelo Gleiser with an interesting little quote from Robert Pirsig’s ZMM.

The cause of our current social crises is a genetic defect within the nature of reason itself. And until this genetic defect is cleared, the crises will continue. Our current modes of rationality are not moving society forward into a better world. They are taking it further and further from that better world. Since the Renaissance these modes have worked. As long as the need for food, clothing and shelter is dominant they will continue to work. But now that for huge masses of people these needs no longer overwhelm everything else, the whole structure of reason, handed down to us from ancient times, is no longer adequate. It begins to be seen for what it really is—emotionally hollow, esthetically meaningless and spiritually empty. That, today, is where it is at, and will continue to be at for a long time to come.

Reason has a genetic defect. Got it ?

Not sure I agree that the major reputable news organizations are necessarily a-political, but nevertheless interesting look at the politically biased reporting of numbers at the recent John Stewart and Stephen Colbert “Sanity” event.

I’ve been in crowds of a quarter of a million a couple of times, and that’s quite an event. Restores your faith, etc. (Hat tip to Clive Andrews / Mark Whitaker / Peter Owen on Facebook.)