November 30, 2007
All citizens should live in glass houses.
So says Ibsen in Pillars of the Community. It is, he says, all about freedom and truth. Well he’s right, of course, that’s just it. Like it or not more and more of what we do and say is recorded. And we’re getting better at storing this data, organising it, making it available. Even where I am at any one time is ascertainable, GPS, mobile cells. Your ability to watch my every public move, at will, is not far away. It’s a good thing. It would militate against trivialism. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Of course, who’s going to watch me?
Were gonna get in smoke up
And were starting to unturn your label
And everybody who got a record deal
And everybody wants to be naked and famous
Everybodys got a record deal
And everybody wants to be naked and famous
“Tricky Kid” - Tricky
Verily, the happy-slapping youtube generation is in the ascendency.
November 28, 2007
My name is Christopher John Francis Boone. I know all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,507.
Eight years ago, when I first met Siobhan, she showed me this picture
and I knew that it meant ’sad’, which is what I felt when I found the dead dog.
Then she showed me this picture
and I knew that it meant ‘happy’, like when I’m reading about the Apollo space missions, or when I am still awake at three or four in the morning and I can walk up and down the street and pretend that I am the only person in the whole world.
Then she drew some other pictures
but I was unable to say what these meant.
I got Siobhan to draw lots of these faces and then write down next to them exactly what they meant. I kept the piece of paper in my pocket and took it out when I didn’t understand what someone was saying. But it was very difficult to decide which of the diagrams was most like the face they were making because people’s faces move very quickly.
When I told Siobhan that I was doing this, she got out a pencil and another piece of paper and said it probably made people feel very
and then she laughed. So I tore the original piece of paper up and threw it away. And Siobhan apologised. And now if I don’t know what someone is saying I ask them what they mean or I walk away.
I’ve been reading Zac “The curious incident of the dog in the night time” by Mark Haddon. I read it when it came out and gave a copy to Olivia who loved it. Zac is no less enthusiastic. He spotted that the chapter numbers were all primes, laughs loudly every couple of pages and is bemused often by the turns of phrase. They narrator is an autistic child, but we’re never told this. Zac asked whether it was a robot or a computer.
it is about the best book for kids i can think of. pretty high up there for adults, too. the chapter where the narrator tries to negotiate the london underground is extraordinary.
if you haven’t read it, then you should.
November 27, 2007
britain has undergone a quite sizeable change of late. the official numbers declare 1.1 million immigrants in the last couple of years. i’m amazed that this was allowed to happen. happy about it, but surprised. it’s another example of the hanging conundrum. democracy is good, majority rules - ah, but they all want to vote for hanging, so let’s ignore the majority when it’s obviously wrong. a popular vote of the uk in which the population was asked to vote for uber-strict immigration control would be absolutely decisive, yet . . .
i can only suppose it was an accident, that no one actually thought the EU common border proposals through. this kind of immigration was inevitable. what was, of old, the journey from the country to the town has become the country to the other country. reasons don’t matter, if you let people travel, they will. i have a secret alternate universe in which britain never imposed passport controls, and no one else had to follow suit. they let that early greek experiment wither on the vine. i think this alternate universe would have yielded a present that may have been preferable. let common interests group together in whatever fashion they desire. self-organisation has got to be better than self-interested direction.
the town of slough is, let’s face it, not particularly desirable. John Bentjamen, in a truly wonderful poem, called on the german bombers to raise it to the ground:
Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough
It isn’t fit for humans now,
There isn’t grass to graze a cow
Swarm over, Death!
Come, bombs, and blow to smithereens
Those air-conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans
Tinned minds, tinned breath.
Mess up the mess they call a town —
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week for half-a-crown
For twenty years,
And get that man with double chin
Who’ll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women’s tears,
And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.
But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It’s not their fault that they are mad,
They’ve tasted Hell.
It’s not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It’s not their fault they often go
And talk of sports and makes of cars
In various bogus Tudor bars
And daren’t look up and see the stars
But belch instead.
In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.
Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.
in slough, eastern european make up more than 10% of school children. in some classes more than 40% of kids have arrived in the last three years as non-english speakers. the coat-hooks are tagged ‘tomasz’, not thomas. the schools employ polish teaching assistants to help them in class. ponds around the uk have signs specifically designed for eastern europeans, pointing out that you can’t take out the carp and eat them, that, please, catch it, then throw it back.
british thugs have a helluva job working out, on sight, who the immigrants might be, the bastards look like us. much easier with the pakis and the blacks. but, of course, they’re us now. it’s all to the good, i’m just not sure how it happened.
November 26, 2007
i used to describe the outfit i worked for as a zero-bullshit environment. that was probably not true, but was close enough. that company was highly successful and got bought by a very large company.
back then we used to have meetings for a purpose. people who had things to say said them. those that could add nothing said nothing. the point, sometimes, of attending a meeting is to listen.
meetings now are attended by people whose role in the matter under discussion is not clear. they talk to no end, with little knowledge, and to largely no effect. they regularly pontificate on matters outside of their experience or knowledge, take up valuable time with no upside, and actually camouflage any real contributions from others. point is, they got to say something.
i ask myself all the time why large companies cannot function like smaller ones. one part of the answer lies in delegation / decentralisation. another is in a more robust hiring and firing regime.
btw I now link all the images i put up. I think it’s only fair since i’m using their bandwidth. some are relevant to what i’m writing about, some, like this one, not.
November 22, 2007
jason calacanis is a smart guy. his human search company, mahalo, now returns a selection of pages, using tabs, when making a search. no specific page on mahalo? then check out google, yahoo, youtube or flickr all neatly just one click away. i checked it out with the first thing that came to mind: habit.
the mahalo tab returned the same items as the google page, which is to say nothing interesting. mahalo does not, then, have a human scripted page for habits. flickr produces some nice pics, delicious some handy linux hacking guides, and wikipedia a barely begun nothingness. I’m disappointed all round. I thought that i’d search my own machine using google desktop. much more interesting.
here’s charles sanders peirce:
And what, then, is belief? It is the demi-cadence which closes a musical phrase in the symphony of our intellectual life. We have seen that it has just three properties: First, it is something that we are aware of; second, it appeases the irritation of doubt; and, third, it involves the establishment in our nature of a rule of action, or, say for short, a habit.
From all these sophisms we shall be perfectly safe so long as we reflect that the whole function of thought is to produce habits of action; and that whatever there is connected with a thought, but irrelevant to its purpose, is an accretion to it, but no part of it.
and william james:
Extending the work of Bain and the British associationists on ideo-motor activity, he articulated a biologically grounded theory of instincts and linked these with the psychological development of emotion and habit. Going beyond the psychophysics of Helmholtz and Wundt, he linked the physiological understanding of perception to realms of symbolic meaning when he claimed from an evolutionary standpoint that when we are confronted with the blooming, buzzing mass of confusion before us, attention to outward stimuli is largely a function of personal interest.
It happens also sometimes, that not only they that are asleep, but also they that are watchfull do with a kind of instigation of minde, Divine, which Divination Aristotle cals ravishment, or a kind of madness, and teacheth that it proceeds from a melancholy humor, saying in his Treatise of divination: Melancholy men, by reason of their earnestness, do far better conjecture, and quickly conceive a habit, and most easily receive an impression of the Celestials.
of course this is all about habits. calacanis wants to change yours. someone, somewhere is going to create the page you go to by default. who’s it going to be? terry said mahalo was really angling for wikipedia. i think this shows that there’s more to this. why not tilt at the windmills of wikipedia and google, and whoever else.
but you won’t see my habits there. i think you should, if you wish, and i were to let you. one day, maybe.
November 20, 2007
what is the world’s most printed book? why, the ikea catalogue, of course. the bible is toast. the reaction most people give me to this fact-et is one of dismay as well of surprise. none of these people are religious. odd. well, i guess you could look at this as being a further indication of the preeminence of the material over the spiritual, the tangible over the intangible. my immediate reaction was that the world is a better place for it. sure nick cave would struggle to make a career out of lyrics based on the catalogue, but we could take that loss.
i’ve been reading some of spinoza’s letters. it’s fascinating how his correspondents just can’t quite get their heads around his non-belief in the christian god. your work seems to make sense, they say, but where does god come into it? poor guy. 340 years ago there was no other paradigm.
here’s to the strange vowels, traffic queues, and the flat-pack chip-board altar-piece.
November 19, 2007
there is a periodic bbc show involving people at home taking an IQ test, together with a bunch of people in the studio. after the results are in, they compare results, firemen with bakers, women and men, northerners and southerners. it always struck me as interesting that they never used race or religion. it’s too controversial, of course. but i don’t like that they didn’t. it seems to suggest that people are too dumb to understand what these comparisons would show.
james watson, he of the structure of DNA fame, was recently lambasted for commenting on the subject. he even got fired from his sinecure.
i thought of this when reading this on metafilter.
Among white Americans, the average IQ, as of a decade or so ago, was 103. Among Asian-Americans, it was 106. Among Jewish Americans, it was 113. Among Latino Americans, it was 89. Among African-Americans, it was 85. Was Watson right?
the comments are interesting, funny even. there are many, many of them. a few:
One of the few brilliant things Ayn Rand ever said:
“A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race - and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin.”
I know it’s not politically correct to point this out, but people who equate IQ test results with intelligence tend to be, like Mensa members, self-absorbed social retards. Go ahead, villify me for speaking truth to power.
There is no scientific evidence for a racial difference in intelligence. There is no scientific evidence for race, really.
IQ tests are not scientific.
As empath says, these statistics are worthless, because the differences are cultural.
I have an IQ of 180, yet I have done fuck-all with my life except sit around and be a loser, smoke dope and drink myself into alcoholism. So much for high IQ.
November 18, 2007
terry just posted on mahalo. it’s so good it hurts.
Ask yourself again: does Mahalo look more like Google or more like Wikipedia?
The idea of Mahalo-as-search-alternative-to-Google is just Jason operating Mahalo in stealth mode in broad daylight. “Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a search engine out of my hat! Oops! That’s not a search engine. I swear there was a search engine in there somewhere.”
comment left by jason calacanis -
November 16, 2007
i’m increasingly coming across references to the death of email recently. a number of blogs i read have talked about alternatives. that’s interesting in itself since most of the blogs i’m referring to are by people that know each other. ie people that don’t know me, people that wouldn’t send me messages. but i read them anyway, they allow me to. it’s not just structured blog posts, thought, presentation, consideration etc. but other forms, like twitter, where there’s an sms to the world, anyone that might be interested. little thought, no presentation.
what i don’t understand is why this is such a big point of discussion. text is text. i can pick all this stuff up from my handheld device, post in many ways using it also. whether it’s sms, email, im, blogs, twitter, it all comes through on the same devices. ok, that’s sounds easier than it is right now, but the point is that this is not an issue of modes of delivery.
what is more important - an email or an sms? there are times, surely, when a twitter is more important than either. you might send me an email, thinking that this is not urgent, isn’t intrusive etc. but i may want to know the moment it arrives, this should be my choice.
i want to access all these things in one place. i want to decide for myself how this should be organised. it’s not that hard.
November 15, 2007
i got another mail from wayn today, yes wayn, not wayne. “where are you now”. it’s a site that keeps track of where you are, where you’ve been, where you’re going. only no one talks about it anymore, it’s all dopplr. anybody who’s anybody uses dopplr. just another micro-movement in the countless individual micro-value-added services that are around nowadays. more annoying than most because you get mail telling you
My name is Annika and I am the Marketing Manager at WAYN.com - we’ve noticed that you haven’t returned to the WAYN service for some time and wanted to make sure that everything was okay. If there is any aspect of the service that you’re not happy with, please let us know (mailto:email@example.com) and we will do our best to help.
We have made many improvements to the site over the past few months and, as a gesture of goodwill, I would like to offer you a complimentary VIP pass for one month. To activate your pass, please click here
but in their own way each of these things is annoying. nothing is joined up, not properly. sure if you look hard enough there’s some other dubious service that promises it can make use of a for b, but really it’s just adding a c, or a d, or an e. enough already, let’s join the dots. when i spend any amount of time creating information, i want that data to belong to me, to be able to use it when and for what i want. do we want to join the dots serially, one additional service at a time, all fighting for page impressions to provide enough revenue to leverage funding? who is going to know what I want? it just can’t work this way. we need a common back end where data is usable by many web applications, or to anyone that cares to write a query. we need a syntax. we’re chasing butterflies as google gradually subsumes anything that matters.