Threatening to Podcast

I kept threatening to podcast my stuff since dynamic-visual beats written words for on-line attention. Early attempts suffered production quality, but more importantly made it obvious I wasn’t the most photogenic presenter. At that time, 4 or 5 years ago, I let myself conclude that podcasting was already old-hat anyway.

Anyway this new Anchor tool from Spotify has me threatening again.

Good Fences Maybe?

I’ve been threatening to finally edit and publish my Good Fences article for a while now, but keep coming across other published pieces that could almost be the same thing in different words, or the same words in a different order, maybe. The latest I’ve had bookmarked for a week or two is this:

There Is Nothing More Philosophical Than Diversity
by Simon Fokt in TPM 29th May 2021.

[Incidentally TPM seems refreshed anew in recent months … and this piece is an introduction to their new “Diversity Reading List” – intriguing.]

Simply parsing the title – I’m just about to read it – I already see:

    • Most Philosophical – something fundamental, general, at the metaphysical underpinnings of the whole of reality?
    • Difference – information – being that most fundamental element?

I agree already. And yet whilst being meta/physically fundamental, diversity is at the root of so much current, real-life bio- and neuro-atypical identity politics? That’s why it’s quite scary, important to get right.

[Damn. Where’s that kindred quote about the most important thing being the hardest thing I’ve failed to communicate?]

[I’ll be back when I’ve actually read it.]

Galen Strawson – Mistaken Identity

Somewhere in my recent past, since this 2011 post, I have conflated Ray Tallis with Galen Strawson in my mind, not having read the original work of either other than their reviews / opinions of others. Doubly weirdly, I’d completely forgotten Jack Klaff had been the host / chair, someone I follow closely on Twitter these days, and probably conflation of Wolpert (in the audience) with Tallis (on the stage) that led to the original confusion.

I’ve been correcting my mistaken impression of Strawson recently – in his sympathy for pan-psychist views – and notice his book “Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism?” was published as long ago as before the 2006 paperback. And I realise now my poor impression of Strawson was tangled up in the negative response of MoQ’ers to his negative review of Pirsig’s “Lila” – calling the Subject-Object view a straw-man – also back in 2006. (The negative impression of Strawson no doubt further conflated with that of rhyming with “Struan”, a different beast altogether in the Pirsig/MoQ context. Word association memes are dangerous.)

Part of properly connecting with Strawson was to find an early 2011 reference to his appearance on In Our Time on Free Will, my first blogged reference to him in fact, an episode I re-listened to again recently for quite unconnected reasons. Anyway apart from the book reference, as I noted in a recent link dump, I have some Strawson / Panpsychism articles bookmarked:

Managed not to notice his association with UoT at Austin, Tx – somewhere I’ve crossed paths more than once in person. Weird. Anyway impressions corrected.

Sensible Mask Wearing?

There’s really no mystery about mask-wearing sense. Mask wearing is not about you it’s about the population, so the question is:

Q – Is it selfish not to wear a mask?
A – It depends:


We should adopt (in fact were gradually adopting before the Covid pandemic in my experience) the Eastern SARS / respiratory infection mentality.

If you know you have a relevant infection, you should self-isolate for the benefit of others. The main downside to this is people whose income and job-security suffers from missing attendance at work, and that should be addressed directly.

If you must attend workplace and/or public transport / spaces when you know you are infected, you should (at least) wear a mask and “socially distance” so far as possible to (a) minimise infection of others and (b) signal to others that you are a risk, so they can socially-distance too.

If you don’t know you’re infected but suspect the risk of infection – eg you’re out at work or in public and detect that you’re maybe  “coming down with” something, as you do, or you recognise a risky context – in crowded sweaty, poorly ventilated public transport or event with infection being notably prevalent in public – you should take steps to isolate and/or mask-up. Even visible improvised efforts have value in signalling to others at risk.


f your workplace involves vulnerable people or makes you more vulnerable, it doesn’t change these rules, just makes the risks and the rules more important to respect. Specific additional, detailed occupational rules may apply.

Everyone should avail themselves of public-health-provided vaccines unless they have good reasons of personal risk – including minors if practical & available. We shouldn’t be obsessed with exactly who has or hasn’t been vaccinated provided high adult population numbers are achieved. Minors – schoolkids – are not generally vulnerable to illness from SARS infections.

And note, wearing a mask is not about you it’s about others. Even if you think you’re wearing it to reduce catching the infection yourself, you’re doing so in order to avoid the spread.

Travelling between different public-health jurisdictions is a separate matter. The suspected risk end of the above common sense should apply until such time as both jurisdictions have agreed the same steady-state context.

The default should not be to wear a mask outside such risk-based contexts. The human face is a large part of social communication, and our freedoms are restricted physically and psychologically by the wearing. No surprise that idiot activists choose masks and hoods to disguise (or is that signal) their true anti-social-establishment motives.

Other things like hand-washing between contexts or capturing sneezes and coughs, even in a non-infectious context, are just basic good manners.

How hard can it be to be “sensible”?


[Aside: I am constantly amazed how moronic Jeremy Vine is – whether it’s Eggheads or his Radio 2 show, but I sometimes I listen in hope of detecting it’s some kind of double-bluff journalistic “act”: something like: – when it comes to asking questions, there’s no such thing as a dumb question – but man! his inane comments just give him away. As public morons go, he is a fascinating case study.]

The Architecture of the Brain

I’m reading Adam Zeman’s “A Portrait of the Brain” (2008).

I’ve previously read his “Consciousness: A Users Guide” (2002) after seeing him give a talk in Cambridge in 2003. He’s become short-hand for me as the “Z” in from Austin to Zeman in listing all the various neuroscientists who have investigated “abnormal” behaviours in real individual patients with brain “defects” – all the way from the over-used Phineas Gage example from 1848 to the late 20th C “Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat”.

[Aside – I notice in that reference to hearing Zeman talk in 2003 it was organised in conjunction with Cambridge Centre for Quantum Computing. A connection I’ve made in spades since, but not sure I noticed the significance at the time.]

Mark Solms, who I’m also reading at the moment and is added to that list, points out that sceptical colleagues referred unkindly to Oliver Sacks as “The Man who Mistook Science for a Literary Career”. I’d not heard of Solms before the link above, and I’d not seen anyone else cite Zeman since I originally came across him above. Solms also credits much collaboration with Damasio. These people are a fantastic resource of content and thinking on empirical brain-mind studies. (Roughly – Austin, Damasio, Gazzaniga, McGilchrist, Sperry, Sacks, Ramchandran, Solms, Zeman – from memory.)

Having obtained Zeman’s later work whilst reading Solms, I diverted to reading the former because of the index of contents:

It screams out a layered architecture from the fundamental physical to the highest consciousness. Like Solms book, Zeman’s content is mostly familiar to me in kind, popular science explanations, but is constructed and presented in a wonderfully transparent way. [All we’re missing is some brain topology diagrams that can show the whole story – with science expanding fast in this area in the 21st C, there are so many variations on a theme as new information is “added” to different pictures … a job to be done.]


Watched all 6 parts of Ken Burns “Hemingway” documentary. Despite finding his legend intriguing and having previously noticed his crossing of paths with Pirsig via Northrop here in Finca Vigia, Cuba, I think I’ve only read first hand his “Old Man and the Sea”. And I say that as someone who has visited the Key West house and Sloppy Joe’s more than once.

Like Edna O’Brien in the documentary, I have to say I found it pretty trivial and transparent metaphorically so despite its enormous acclaim leading up to his Nobel prize, having read it I’ve never bothered to pick-up and read any other Hemingway. May have to fix that.

Even discounting legend and mythology, that was some amazing life his larger than life person had led. I didn’t realise how little I actually knew. The two plane crashes on consecutive days in Africa!?

Masses vs Elites?

Lots of “rule-breaking” stories keep cropping up (in connection with Covid obvs) where “elite” politicians or business people appear to hypocritically allowed to “get away with” breaking rules the rest of us must obey. One rule for them, etc.

Where we are talking population statistics, as we are with a pandemic, I really don’t subscribe to these. Hypocrisy is always moot between time, space and context anyway, but we need small numbers to break rules, that’s how evolution progresses. Better well-bounded, manageable  minorities are “encouraged” to break rules for good reasons provided the statistical masses comply in good faith with the intent and spirit.

    • eg Hancock resigning for hypocrisy (in social distancing rules) was the worst outcome – the hypocrisy rule – whereas the sheer incompetence in flouting insider dealing with public money has been criminal throughout. [This whole Tory government has been an accident (not) waiting to happen since Brexit was a twinkle in Cameron’s eye anyway. Totally useless incompetents left accidentally in charge of the brewery piss-up. Cummings has been a megalomaniac, narcissistic ego-trip since day one. etc. “Leaks” of information for political “optics”. Irrelevances.]
    • eg Business people getting exceptions to break Covid travel rules. Where’s the problem?
    • eg Special case family circumstances for caring visits – case by case exceptions should have been in the mix, limited by small numbers only. Fairness is not about everyone being the same. The point of rules is managing exceptions.
    • Private email accounts? Again exceptions are fine – needs must to shift content between contexts, we’ve all done it in good faith. But routinely conducting business in private domains – just not on.