Thursday, June 30, 2011

Asymmetric Warfare

In the past, it was known that irregular forces in small numbers and wide dispersion could tie down much larger regular forces. In the present day, this holds true for individuals empowered by the internet; such individuals, widely dispersed across the globe, can hold large institutions or even state-sized entities to ransom.

This is why the hammer-blows of state apparatus in any nation, or even the weaker hammer-blows of smaller institutions, are about as effective as using a hammer to defeat a cloud of gnats. You might get some, but in doing so, he who wields the hammer exposes his arm (or as that lovely archaic phrase has it, "chances his arm"). While he attempts to smash the few gnats who are not smart enough to manoeuvre out of the way, the rest will bite.

By tortuous and perambulatory ways, this leads to my thesis conclusion. It's all about governance. Who runs the show? Is it global trends, nation-building policy, state apparatus, or local authority? Is it the customer who is always right and yet often wrong? Is it the economy or is it stupid? Is it principals or principles?

The answers are all very interesting.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Work of Time

Time is not just time, a dimension, a quantity, in units. Time is also the medium that carries the associated burdens of increasing entropy and the other unwindings of the tapestry. Time, like a river, carries sediment until its weak unfolding carries it no more. Then things fall and are dumped. Or dump and are fallen.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Clarity and Clarification

One should always write clearly. It's not necessarily true that a simple sentence is clear. But the intent should be there. If something is meant to be ambiguous, it should be obviously so. If it is saying something, let it say that thing.

There are two sins to be considered:
1) is there complexity without clarity?
2) is there confusion without clarification?

These things, like the poisons of the classical past, can be made as clear as water. Stir with a unicorn's horn, or take up the pen that is mightier than the sword and strike the errors down.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Watching the White Wheat

As the Welsh say, "Bugeilio'r gwenith gwyn." A watchman watches. The wheat unfolds, silver in the light. The fields are full, and the harvest ripens after a harsh winter, which started early and ended late.

I was reminded of this by an ancient post that a former student quoted. It so happened by coincidence that I was reading from a prophet whose complaints were answered.
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

And the LORD answered me, and said, "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry."
The rest of the passage is powerful and disturbing in its historical context, and you can seek it out if you need to be disturbed. But the watchman sees in the gloom, and realises — the night has come, but the sunrise will follow. That is promised, and the future is aflame with eternal promises.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Day Before...

I think tomorrow is the local TOK essay deadline. It must be. People are all over the place, and I feel a great sadness and a great burden. How can there be so many badly-prepared students?? Something is greatly wrong.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three Hours

Yesterday, I had a three-hour discussion. I have about 25 days to do everything. It will take more than three hours. I have maps to draw, to lead people through the labyrinth I have devised. Yet, I feel I need a labris in order to negotiate that labyrinth. And probably, at the end of it all, my labris will become a libris of its own. Ho ho. Insanity beckons. I find myself at the Royal Bethlehem Hotel in a state of some confusion.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Word of the Day: Gurgitation

Most of us are familiar with the word 'regurgitation', and most of us would think of its meaning as 'to throw up' (technically) or 'to reproduce uncritically wholesale' (educationally). That isn't very far away from its original meaning, but there are some lost nuances.

The word 'regurgitate' is an offshoot of Latin gurgitare, which means 'engulf'; this in turn comes from gurges = "whirlpool" or "abyss", from which we get the English words 'gorge' and 'gurgle'. To be gurgitated, I suppose, would mean to be swallowed down. Gurgitation would then be the act of swallowing down (technically) or 'absorbing uncritically wholesale' (educationally).

Somehow, though, I am always reminded of this character named Gurgi, the curious creature from Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011


Gold and glow. Not all that glisters is gold, or glistens, for that matter. The only difference between one state and the other is the idea of quality. Yesterday, I asked a student: "What is the difference between the intrinsic value of gold and its extrinsic value?"

It took quite some time to figure it out, and even then, nobody was satisfied.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Ora et labora, says the old motto. Pray and work. Orate and elaborate, maybe. Or sodium tetraborate. My mind is going, Dave.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011


"[A] whole series of key concepts for the understanding of society derive their power from appearing to be just what they always were and derive their instrumentality from taking on quite different forms," said Smith.

I nodded sagely. There were theological and political implications. We both understood this. And the books just kept on coming.

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Monday, June 20, 2011


In the days of my youth did I hear the words of Chesterton, and they have never left me.
Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half-heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.

The cross, it comes to the hill. And there, among thieves, it rests for a while. In the morning, a few days later, the white flowers bloom in the grey dawn.

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Hrrm. I have to admit I am trying to do too many things with too little. This is not good in many ways, but it does make for greater humility. That is always an asset.


Update: See, I said it would be a win-win situation. *grin*


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Taking a Pounding

Woke up in the early hours of the morning conscious of great trauma. I'd dreamt a death. At high speeds, under high pressure, with a flurry of action and a sudden descent of doom. My own death, I think. My heart was pounding; heart rate up, lips dry, sudden fatigue.

And then I slept the sleep of the righteous for a time.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Old Badges

There is a little metal box. In this box are badges, signs of the past, items worn by people I used to know, or not at all. I was a very young person once.

Now, not so much.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Sounding Silence

And then there was silence, so heavy that it was a symphony. For the sound of silence is the burden of years and old dust, the mass of expectation and longing, the weight of loss descending into the gloom of age.

Yet, still I have written.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tenement Block

There are too many stories, as someone once pointed out. As another person told me, I'm supposed to be writing a thesis, not a novel. Yes, there are indeed too many bits for a single narrative.

So it was that the Uncle told me to submit my dissertation and save the rest for the book. That's interesting advice. It makes a lot of sense.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Dynamics of a City State

Moriarty, J. (1886). The Dynamics of an Asteroid. Self-published. Cited almost 300 times in surviving publications. Most famous citation is found in Watson (1914), The Valley of Fear, London: The Strand Magazine. [LINK]

I am aiming a good deal lower. I intend to write a paper on The Dynamics of a City-State, in which the theoretical city-state aims at an intended target and misses. Why does it do that? And how? What wonderful questions!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Historical Events

An event is something that erupts, that vents like a gust of wind. That is the Latin sense.

Meanwhile, I have been writing history, conscientiously sifting through 125 years of records and clippings, pictures and books. And yet, there always seems to be a new and interesting chapter in view. Sometimes, you marvel at what is yet to come; always, you trust that the best is yet to be.

There have been times though when, with the Psalmist, one cries out, "How long, O Lord?"

And yet, one must be an historian, and chronicle events and try to interpret them as best as one can. Life is not as bad as it seems; sometimes it can be very good.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

For The Win

I am intrigued, and amused, and full of other sentiments that are beginning to boil over because I have been harbouring them for too many weeks. I can only say that as events stand, everything is full of win. Hopefully, everything will look good for the win too. A win-win situation, if you like.


Sunday, June 12, 2011


Is it all there, or mostly there? I am almost there.

Sigh. I have one and a half more chapters to finish compiling and editing. In about 3 days or so. Arrgh.


Saturday, June 11, 2011


It was many years ago that I first came across this particular term. It is Sanskrit in origin, and I encountered it because I had a friend who bore it as a name.

Dharma, of course, is a concept of that which is right and hence supports what ought to be the nature of things. It is duty, devotion, discipline; it comes from the Sanskrit root dhri, 'to uphold or sustain'. Ratna means 'jewel' or 'gem' — it is something that is crystalline and bears its essence in the most exact and excellent way.

The idea of dharmaratna, then, is the idea of 'the essence of universal law'. It is that in which we live and move and have our being. Some things never change.

This is one such thing.

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Friday, June 10, 2011


I was looking a the word 'stub'. And then I realised that it was like one of those random permutations of letters. Like an overturned 'bust', or scattered 'tubs'. Pseudorandom. But why should pseudorandom not look non-random?

That question bugged me through dinner. Why 'curry'? And are the two rs in curry interchangeable? Or are they like the Greek double r in 'diarrhoea' and 'catarrh'? At least the pirate 'arr' is easier.

And then I knew what I was thinking. The system doesn't work. It is desperately trying to permutate itself to viability, but it no longer can. It has gone -bsut-.


Thursday, June 09, 2011


More than a decade ago, I submitted my Master's thesis on a mission school. At that time, the scope of my study was small, and it was possible to anonymise the data enough to avoid criticism. Since then, as my investigations have grown, the detail has reached such a level that anonymity is impossible to maintain.

Hence, returning to Faithlight, the pseudonymous school of my earlier endeavour, has been a perilous undertaking. Many have asked questions about it, and I have answered. As the answers accumulate, so do the questions. And investigation has been made even more difficult by the usual foes of investigations.

At times like this, I always have absurdly colonialist images and sounds passing through my head. In this case, for some reason, it's A. E. Housman, with his grand poem 1887 being read out loud by Ted Hughes. The last verse of that poem reads:
Oh, God will save her, fear you not:
Be you the men you've been,
Get you the sons your fathers got,
And God will save the Queen.
I've quoted this poem in this blog before, but for very different reasons, I think.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Is there only one meta-educational path? No doubt, there are many ways forward and even sideways. The question is not whether there is only one path despite these many ways, but whether these many ways are in reality a single approach guided by an overarching principle. If it is, what is that principle?

The Gnome said that the duty of the State to its citizens was "to provide opportunities to make the best they can of their available talents and energies." Is this the purpose of education? Or must we define 'best' more exactly and acutely — best for the State, for the citizens, for the intrinsic benefits that such talents and energies can bring, by quantitative measures?

As it is written, "What is good? To do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

Perhaps, this is the path that has to be walked.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Real and Ideal

Well, here we are again. After several rounds of explaining to people that both 'ideal' and 'real' don't mean what they thought, I am moved to etymologise once more.

'Ideal', from Greek eidos = 'form' and then idea = 'archetype', refers to things that are not real. An ideal gas does not exist, and ideal option doesn't either. If you say something is 'Platonic', then it is archetypal, and hence ideal and not real.

Which brings us to 'real', from Latin res = 'thing' and then realis = 'actual'. This refers to things done or objects to which you can do things. A real gas is something you can trap and manipulate, a real option is something you can see and exercise.

You can think of 'ideal' as describing something that ought to be. As 'archetype' or 'first among forms', it is the desired shape of things. You can think of 'real' as that which is.

True contentment comes when you accept the real as something as close to ideal as you can get, or feel empowered to make it so.

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Monday, June 06, 2011


Prose and poetry are not opposites. Poetry, the art of the maker, is all there is — Greek or Latin, poesis is what is made, it is.

Prose is one kind, it is straight like plucking a strand of hair and pulling it taut. Prose is poetry without the verse or meter, or at least, without the conscious framework of such. Some people say, "O your prose is so poetic!" and I thank them and I think they miss the point, for all prose is poetry, just pulled straight.

Remember that poetry is making, prose is just poetry sans ornamentation and artifice. We are all poets, and we sleep and dream, we rise and speak and write, and all things we make new.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011


It may not be poetry, but it is engraved beautifully on a jade tablet. Everything here is green; I squat on a mossy rock, next to a cool green brook. In this forest are fish, and deer, and foxes, but most of all, green.

I have chosen not to write poetry, but prose. Look at the mineral complexity, the crystal clarity of the stone! Look at how it suppresses reflection but glows in the light! It is like water locked in time, but not frozen.

Brightness and levity, held down by gravity. Why do we not see such things when they are passing by? Are we so old now?

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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Sorcerers' Creeds

When I think of sorcerers, I do not think at once of wizards or practitioners of the black arts. I think first of the man who wrote, "If I cannot influence the higher powers, I will move the infernal regions." And then I think of he who wrote, "To make way for the motions of the planets, it is necessary to empty the heavens of all matter."

This is religion, and science, and poetry.

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Friday, June 03, 2011


Excessive stress and all its causes, these are the things that are bad for you. Fear, as Herbert said, is the mindkiller.

But in what sense is the mind killed?

The mind is the phenomenon of perceived cognition that operates out of the body. The body is overly stressed, it becomes dysfunctional. Since emotion is the physiological response to circumstance as mediated by biochemistry, it also manifests abnormally.

So the mind becomes a phenomenon of perceived dyscognition, and thus is seen as disabled, and in the ultimate extrapolation, killed.

Haha. All this, from the phenomenon of perceived personal experience.

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Pilgrim's Infinite Regress

Here is the argument, whose latest champion is Sam Harris. Everything is atomic, said Demokritos. There is no spark of the divine. Each thing I have written, it comes from the inevitable working of brain, upon which the universe worked. The universe led inevitably to this argument, whose latest champion is Sam Harris. I had no choice but to believe him.

And so it is meaningless whether I believed him or not. And because it was meaningless, I was under the illusion that I chose not to believe him just to spite him. But that too was meaningless, a striving after the wind. And then I realised or was made to realise that I was sounding like Ecclesiastes, the Preacher, King in Jerusalem.

He too was wise, wise as Sam Harris, or at least under the determined illusion that he was so. And what he said was that there is nothing new under the sun, and the wiser he got, the more he realised that free will was an illusion and hey, the chief end of man is to fear God and obey His commandments, for you have no free will, is that right?

And all the people, they said Amen. Sam Harris, Sam Harris, God loves you and He sits on His glorious throne above all universes and He laughs, and each spark of divine laughter affirms there is but one Will, and that Will creates by its ineffable Majesty the capacity for the tiny wills it creates to be free. And so I am free, or at least...

I am under the meaningless illusion that I am free, and what a nice illusion it is, to me.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011


What connects the muscles of the economy to the bones of labour? It must be the tendons provided by financial structures.

But all this seems terribly mechanical. Locomotion and work.

Where is the brain in all of this? And in the brain, is there a mind?

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