An underused word (like the word “grace”). Nice piece from Hugh McLeod at Gaping Void (hat tip to tweet from Dave Gurteen). Message to the next generation to notice the difference between a life’s work and a career in a day job. In this case, based on the advertising business, but good for bringing in this Joe Campbell quote too:

“Follow your bliss.
Find where it is,
and don’t be afraid to follow it.”

Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth

A common message from the wise to those starting out. Here my favourite plea from Richard Russo in his 2004 commencement address.

“While you search for this work, you’ll need a job. [It’s] a fine thing to be good at your job, as long as you don’t confuse it with your work, which it’s hard not to do.”


Too Much Communication

This is surreal and ironic on many levels.

Sam is probably my second favourite amongst the four horsemen, a real moral philosopher. No prize for guessing my least favourite, but it was he who tweeted the link picked-up by Ricky. (Dan, Sam, Hitch and the Dawk in that order in case you’re interested.)

Fact : internet enabled comment on blogs directly and via social media is a major source of miscommunication – an insidious spread of misinformed ideas. (aka The Memetic Problem). Apart from comic entertainment value – most are without value or with meta-value only or, more importantly, with negative content value, unless they can be editorially moderated. Life’s too short.

Weird : Sam reckons PZ Myers “shepherd of trolls” (Pharyngula Blog) to be odious. PZ is clearly on the side of (evolutionary) science in the god debates, so you might think an ally of Harris, along with the other three horsemen. But I’ve noted before the “baying mob” mentality of PZ and his commenters (similar to Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science and many Guardian “Comment is Free” contributors.) Makes intelligent debate hopeless. The baying mob is odious – see the memetic problem.

As I say, I have a lot of respect for Sam, but I have taken exception to some of his “narrow” rationality – a recent example here. I am really intrigued as to the reality of Sam’s take on PZ. Must have missed a significant spat or irony here?

The Memetic Problem ? Sam says:

The Internet powerfully enables the spread of good ideas, but it works the same magic for bad ones—and it allows distortions of fact and opinion to become permanent features of our intellectual landscape.

I say, it’s even worse than that, because the ideas that spread more easily tend to be the inferior ones. Too simplistic, too reductionist, too comfortable fit with existing prejudice and fashion, etc. all make such ideas easier to communicate and receive and re-communicate, and “stickier” when received. Evolutionary fidelity and fecundity both benefit from simplistication of the message and its fitness.

Fine Example

A marvellous episode of Melvyn Bragg’s BBC R4 In Our Time; in this case discussing James Joyce Ulysses. Bloomsday this coming Saturday, 16th June. (*)

Not just the content of the programme – Ulysses itself and the life and work of Joyce contributing to it – but the enthusiastic scholarly interaction of the participants. (Yes, I did read it cover to cover and enjoy it, but you can never cease to get more out of it, if you’re motivated to give it the attention. Ulysses and Nietzsche, Nietzsche and Joyce.)

The throwaway story about “throw it away” is a classic example of a story you could never get from just reading it.

[(*) Post Note : Not just Bloomsday, but the BBC has several special Joyce / Ulysses programmes over the weekend including a dramatisation of the book – I was going to say “hard to imagine”, but thinking about it I have the film “Bloom” on DVD. And another dramatization next weekend, 23rd, of Pirsig”s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I remember now why I had to consciously give up reading for a while.]

Wisdom of Age

A recurring theme that age is part of wisdom (yes I would say that) but here a great example.

Ayn Rand always was atrocious, but it’s often necessary to grow up to appreciate the fact. I was already mid-40’s before coming across her, so I was OK 😉

[, as a college freshman] was very intimate with her ideas, but that just gave [her] more insight into their outright dysfunctionality, and the strength to say “sayonara!”

What’s scary is that so many Americans have not grown out of that mentally puerile phase. Instead, this contingent – now largely comprised of Tea Party radicals – remains mired in her pop philosophy.

Hat tip to David Morey on FB for the Guardian link.

[Post Note : As if to prove the point. Rand 1, 2, 7 & 8 on this top 100 list!!! Hat tip to Michael Brown on MD.)

Reading Quickie

Reading Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” after enjoying his “Happiness Hypothesis“. (Also just finished Umberto Eco’s “The Prague Cemetery“)

Given the current high profile of the #Breivik case, Haidt’s work is a very important piece on the rationalist delusion, being 100% rational is absolutely not sane for a human – in fact it’s a good definition of a psychopath – the same mental illness the scientistic suffer from. (Haidt is a good read, a balance between Plato and Hume, much of his intro refers to his recent Happiness Hypothesis. Yet again, I can’t believe Haidt doesn’t refer to Ian McGilchrist’s “Master and Emissary” view of evolved brain functioning – both halves are intelligent and capable, the balance of power is a complex interplay, one gives the illusion of being in charge, the rider on the elephant, but neither is in fact slave to the other. Haidt’s equivalent is effectively Lawyer and Diplomat. Intuitions and emotions are not some “bugs” in an otherwise rational system, etc …)

Eco’s latest prize-nominated piece is very similar in based-on-historical-fact-style to Foucault’s Pendulum and The Name of The Rose before that. Not just a Knights Templar (#Breivik again) conspiracy this time, but the conspiracy of conspiracy theories – Jews, Catholics, Jews, Masons, Jews, Protestants, Jews, Antichristians & Devil worshippers, Jews, Black-magicians, Jews, Pagans, Jews, Virgin-sex cultists, Jews, Jesuits, and more Jews from The Prague Cemetery, but no Islamists oddly ? Witty and erudite enough to pull off what could be offensive to many.

Managing Complexity

Been a trend in the day job to look at complexity as a subject in itself. Whether Oil&Gas or Nuclear Power, the systems view seems to acknowledge complexity as an explicit variable to be addressed. Thanks to David Gurteen for the link to this piece by Nick Milton – knowledge management, whatever you believe that is (*), is part of the solution. Topical on the scale of human generations, in the post-Macondo, Post-Fukushima context.

(Agree with David Gurteen’s observation that it would be interesting to hear Dave Snowden’s take – in the light of the simple BCG Grid, given his extrapolation of the grid concept into the world of complexity.)

Sadly the New Scientist link appears broken – looking into that.

(* The Ron Young version, or the Euan Semple version. Being too well defined is counter-productive.)

Time In

I’ve become rather lazy with blogging recently, a whole month since I last posted and a low rate of posting for several months now. Partly because the day-job work-load has become focussed and intense, so I feel more guilty just browsing and commenting in the blogosphere, partly because the smaller trivial titbits fit more directly into Facebook bypassing the blog entirely, and partly because even when I see interesting things to comment on, they seem to be repeating messages I’ve already done to death (in my mind at least).

As, I’ve said before I need to switch from browse and comment mode into new creative writing mode, it’s just that the day-job-project is consuming most brain cells for the foreseeable year or two, and needs must.

I keep an eye on Johnny Moore, who links most of his blog posts via Twitter to Facebook and /or LinkedIn. Johnny is moving the core of his business-consulting subject area closer to psychology, and even taking in Buddhism and “non-rational” thinking sources. I identify with so much of his link-collecting and commentary. In that sense, he’s part of the “repetition” – the nothing new under the sun – that’s caused me to tire of posting such things, but he is maintaining a great and growing collection of relevant links and anecdotes. Someone has to do it. Thanks Johnnie.

Talking of balancing time between day-job and other “projects” here is one example link from Johnny. I think I may be stuck with “Time In”.

And this creepy “I am not a number” plea, is a reaction to the relentless objectification of quality. So well established – nothing new under the sun – that the old Oscar Wilde quote “a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing” remains hard to improve upon as a distinction between (objective/rational) price and (subjective/psychological) value. Graven images – religiously cast in stone tablets – the epitome of mis-placed objectification.

Even this link to Susan Weinschenk leads to the conclusion that even serious academic psychology basically reinforces folk-psychology. The science of brain functioning will be complete when we can agree reality IS folk psychology. Reality is already clear, it’s just the rationalizing process of evidence and argumentation that lags behind. Qu’elle surprise.

Real life’s a game and the game is called psychology – game theory in practice.

Anyway, talking of Johnnies, to change the subject, saw John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon last week with PIL at Rockefeller in Oslo. Greatly exceeded expectations – keeping it real with real passion, a real eccentric connection with the audience and real quality musicians in the band. Best gig for a couple of years, and I’ve seen quite a few – busy obtaining the overlooked back collection in MP3’s.

Go Johnny Go. Go, Johnny B Goode.

PS – Also read Mark Radcliffe’s “Reeling in the Years“. Mark’s 2 years younger than me, but his musical journey through life hits so many of the same spots as mine – the full text that is, not just the chapter head-liners. Mark (he’s a drummer as well as a DJ / Musicographer) told the same Coldplay drummer anecdote back-stage at Glastonbury that appears in his book.

Q. Since you don’t actually own a drumkit, how do you practice drumming ?
A. With 200 gigs a year, how hard can it be ?