Sunday, July 31, 2011

Off to See the Wizard

Tomorrow afternoon I am off to see the Wizard in the Palace. I hear that we are launching a book which is already in the bookstores. This is the 'lite', coffee-table-ish, version of the story of the Gnome. And it will, I suppose, have a 'lite', coffee-table-ish, launch at tea in the Palace.

It amazes me, thinking about the story behind this story's publication, that we have survived as long as we have while evolving as a state through such peculiar and unnatural processes. And the people involved! Oh dear, the people involved...

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Coleridge on Science

In the long 19th century, technë in all its forms still was the common ground containing science and the arts. And here is Sam Coleridge, the friend of Humphry Davy, William Wordsworth, et al.:
All speaks of change: the renovated forms
Of long-forgotten things arise again;
The light of suns, the breath of angry storms,
The everlasting motions of the main.

These are but engines of the eternal will,
The One intelligence, whose potent sway
Has ever acted, and is acting still
While stars, and worlds and systems all obey.

Without whose power, the whole of mortal things
Were dull, inert, an unharmonious band.
Silent as are the harp’s untuned strings
Without the touches of the poet’s hand.

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Friday, July 29, 2011


It seems like such a long time ago. A quarter-century has passed since I wrote, "Time, pass us by, pick on some other pair of lovers." Last night, watching Captain America, I remembered those lines. Sometimes, two people are meant to only ever be passers-by.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lacking Tension

Without dramatic tension, one tends to vegetate. A vegetable is propped up mainly by its own internal turgor. It is full of fluid, it is rigid, upright; it is running low, it wilts. It is all about fluid balance, going with the flow one way or another.

However, strung up by external tension, one learns to be both marionette and puppeteer, both created and creator. One is in a world where thought and feeling are one; in a place where if will and power are one then things will be.

One can be in a lacking tension, or one can be in a surfeiting tension. A lacking tension draws one in by the absence of substance; a need is felt, a hollowness gnaws. A surfeiting tension forces the impulse outwards; something must be done, but what?

I am momentarily in a lacking tension.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This morning I spent a few hours doing something I've not done for ages. I went over to my library in the west and did some curating. The physical and intellectual effort of moving books around until they were in the right places was a great sensation. Unused muscles all round. Mice had built nests in my physiognomy.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Social Networking

Not the online kind, but the kind in which you catch up with old friends and share joys and burdens. And also, you get to see sunlight, the dappling of shadow on café walls, and move amongst real people going about real business in the real world of forest green, concrete grey, and steel blue.

Whether you are sociocultural, sociopolitical, socioeconomic, or sociohistorical, there is something for everyone not totally sociopathic (or socioapathetic). Ah, life! Thanks be to God.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Meritocracy, Graciousness & Success

Today we were treated to a fireside chat on the topic of three virtues sadly misinterpreted by modern society (so the speaker said). This is nothing new, but the speaker invested this sad state with urgency. We do not want a meritocracy based on false and soulless merit, nor success based on selfish endeavour.

What we do want is to be people who have found mastery, and growth, and service. Especially the last, or else how can the best that is yet to be ever be?

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Sunday, July 24, 2011


I had a dream early this morning, and it took me some time to respond to it. In that dream, some higher power said to me, "Say it." And I said, "What shall I say?"

The voice said, "It does not matter who does My work as long as it is done. But to delay My work because you do not like the people I choose that you should do it with, that is evil."

And after thinking a long time about my dream, here it is. And I would add, if you think I have not spoken the truth, it is good to tell me where I have not, so that I will not offend for no reason. But if I have spoken the truth, perhaps it is good that all men come to know the truth. For the truth shall set you free.

Tomorrow, I shall be amongst the blue and gold again.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011


My supervisor said to me, "So, what is controversial or unexpected about your account?"

I surprised both him and myself when I told him the truth. It was controversial and unexpected too.

For my story contained the narrative of the Diaspora, and the sons of China's plains, and what they did at the Celestial Reasoning Association. And it was the story of the Gnome, and of the Citadel of the Wyverns, and how the two-faced gryphon betrayed them all.

At the end of it, my supervisor nodded. "That will do," he said.


Friday, July 22, 2011


And it came to pass, on the twenty-first day of the seventh month in the eighth year of the Dragon's rule over Atlantis, that the historians and scribes came together. And one among them said, "It is with sadness that we remember the Gnome and all he did." Then the people said, "Amen," although for diverse reasons both good and ill.

But it was at the third hour of the day that the scriptorium echoed with the sound of many voices, and the book that the Wolf had been writing was complete. And the title of that book was Atlantean Responses to the System of the World as Shown in the Case of the Wyvern Citadel. Then the people said, "Selah," although for diverse reasons both good and ill.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011


Here's an old linguist's joke:
Beautiful Þrymr, wake unto me
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee.
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,
Lulled by the moonlight have all passed away.
Of course, Þrymr in Norse means 'uproar', and it is also the name of the king of the giants whom Thor slew in his quest to regain his hammer. For now, Thursday favours me, and I am happy for it.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Wednesday's child is full of woe. I am not Wednesday's child, but Wednesday's child seemed to be woe as my day stretched to 29 hours and 10,000 words miraculously materialised from the dozing deeps of my coral brain. It is now done. I shall enshrine this post in its rightful day.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Girdling round the world. That is what a zone does, but not a zoon. Or maybe not.


Monday, July 18, 2011


Something's got to give. Or somebody's got to give. Am I in a giving mood, or am I in a forgiving mood? Am I for giving or forgiving? If there are gifts, are there forgifts? Is forgivery like forgery with an IV stuck in it? These are the questions that one thinks about when one has thought too much.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011


A Sunday night seems so oxymoronic. It's just like a Monday morning. Both these things are the low points of the week, in some subconscious way. It must be the misnomerism of it all.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011


Sometimes, there are absolute positions. Sometimes, we have continua or spectra. It's good to see which model works best.

Take, for example, the conceptual leap from 0 to 1. If you were thinking in binary, this is a huge difference. But if you're not, it isn't.

Atheists think of themselves as very different from theists. But the difference is only one small axiom: either you have free will or you don't. By all naturalistic accounts, you cannot have free will, no matter how many intellectual contortions you perform — or what kind. And if you don't have free will, you cannot and should not be held to account for anything. And that includes being an atheist, which then becomes meaningless.

That only leaves supernatural accounts. Now, you need to decide in the realm of positive numbers — any number greater than zero. For some people, any non-zero number will do, including complex numbers.

At this point, some people may receive the epiphany that to hold an inflexibly 'zero' position is the easiest to conceptualise and the hardest to defend. Why should there be a universe at all? Why not nothing, if simplicity and parsimony are universal principles?

These are fun things to think about, to be sure.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Fried Eggs

If all the eggs are fried, there will be neither birds nor fish. If they are fried earlier, neither will there be any other thing that creeps or crawls or walks. Reptiles, of course, are just birds with flattened feathers. And thus endeth the egg meditation of the week.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Billions of Blue Blistering Barnacles

Two trailers later, I have been transported back to an earlier, more innocent time. It was a time before Indiana Jones, and yet one which partook of the very same mystique. The same agonised expressions. The same kinds of enemies. And yet, a much less toxic atmosphere.

What is the secret of the Unicorn? We will find out soon.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Onomatopoeia. The quick flick of a second hand, the tic of a talking clock. Or a second-hand clock. It sucks the life out of you, a second per second, time for time.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Time Unreeling

It's on a spool, and it unwinds. It unreels itself, like an undance, or something fishy.

I am running out of it; it is running out on me. All my yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. That is life, reel life.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Parrot Island

Parrot Island is a former protectorate of West Iberia. According to the morris-man, it is characterised by extreme conflict-avoiding and self-protective behaviour when it comes to providing information to educational researchers. This, he puts down to Sinical tendencies, that curious oriental blend of the sinister and the cynical.

It is an interesting case-study and factor analysis he carried out nigh on five years ago. It is quite applicable to the case of Atlantis, and he would find the same things — on a tiny island, everyone knows everyone or everyone's everyone. This makes it impractical to hew to the ethical ideals of anonymity, untraceability and confidentiality. Sooner or later, if X is doing research in Y, it will be figured out exactly what X is doing and how dangerous it is to the institutions involved.

To prevent all hell from breaking loose, it is therefore necessary for all to indulge in face-saving, face-hiding, and face-gaining behaviours. And likewise, the interrogator or researcher should allow for these behaviours when doing legitimate research. It is all very interesting, although it is also a great pain.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Word of the Day: Legato

It flows, says the Italian, as if it is tied together, so smoothly that the joins cannot be detected. In that sense, legato has much more in common with the not-so-obvious 'ligature' than it has with the word 'legate'. Both, however, have common roots in some ancient Indo-European word which meant 'to bind' — a word, that however it might have sounded, has descendants in 'legal', 'ligament', 'ligature', 'delegate', 'legislate', 'league', 'allege' and 'allegiance'.

Strangely enough, if you hear the phrase a legato spoken aloud in public these days, it's more likely to be someone pretending to be Japanese — arigato means 'thanks' in that language, and is unlikely to have Italian or Latin antecedents.


Saturday, July 09, 2011

Word of the Day: Lachrymatory

As an adjective, it means 'tear-inducing', 'of or related to tears' (i.e. something to do with crying). As a noun, it means a small vessel designed to keep human tears (like a reliquary).

My first encounter with the lachrymose was my exposure to 2-bromobenzyl bromide. This substance is a real tear-jerker. It is a simple lachrymator, a starter component for the making of "tear gases" of various kinds. I was using gloves and goggles, I had been pretty careful — or so I thought. A droplet of the stuff got somewhere near my eyes, and I was out in the corridor crying a river.

The word 'lachrymatory' and other related words (like the more common 'lachrymose', meaning 'weepy') have their basis in the Latin lacrima, a sort of bastardised offspring of the Greek dakryma, which means 'tear'  (cf. δακρυσμένος, tearful). This accounts for the transcription and subsequent alternative spellings beginning with lacryma-.

What is really interesting to me as an amateur linguist is the change from d- to l- when going from Greek to Latin. The same fate was suffered by daphne, the Greek word for the Latin lavrus, or laurel tree. It is, however, a different change (with a different significance) from the one when d- compounds (dextro) in organic chemistry are changed to l- compounds (laevo).

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Friday, July 08, 2011


Lightning and enlightenment, thought the Crooked Man to himself, these are the things that prove the balance of the foundations. As if to answer him, the sunlit glade boomed with thunder and white light streaked across the sky shedding rain.

He looked up, shaking his head at the impropriety of the younger generation of weatherlings, and flicking drops of water away from his mismatched eyes. It was time to visit the Wolff again.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011


Human vocabulary is always less than sufficient to describe what it has to describe. The degree to which it is less than sufficient varies from 'greatly insufficient' to 'only by torturing logic can you see the narrow margin of insufficiency'.

We get around this problem of the insufficient subset by defining things so big (or defining so broadly) that they are actually no longer clearly defined or paradoxical to define. This is what Bertrand Russell discovered.

It leads to truths such as 'no scientists can be moral'.

For example, we can define scientists either objectively or subjectively — a scientist is someone who believes in X, Y and Z and behaves as such (where X, Y and Z are objective phenomena), or a scientist is someone who is observed by people who are qualified to observe scientists (i.e. they have to be scientists too) to act as in the former case. In the latter definition, we have scientists defining scientists, which leads to essentially a subjective situation.

But what is morality? Heh. Go through the same definitional process and you will see that morality eventually also turns upon itself and devours itself. Both 'scientist' and 'moral' are social constructs. But we have constructed 'scientist' to be 'reductionist' and 'moral reductionist' to be 'fundamentalist', and 'scientist' to be not 'fundamentalist'. So the only way out is for scientists to assert they are 'moral relativists'.

In which case, a single definition of 'moral' fails unless 'moral' is defined so broadly as to be meaningless to scientists. So... oh dear. I must be amoral. Or no longer a scientist. Haha...


Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Argonite is a 50/50 mixture of argon and nitrogen. It's one of those names you wish you had thought to make part of your intellectual property early in life. What I wish I had done, however, was take the Argonaut's advice earlier.

If I had done so, there would have been many things I would not have had to do. Most of all, I would not have been involved in all kinds of miasmic balderdash. But I remain convinced that all things are intended for good purpose. It is an ontological position.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Before we think about how we know, we must know what it is we think we know. And so begins the spiral into madness that is the irrelevant little sidetrack of most TOK students these days.

The solution is simple. Ontology precedes epistemology. Something is. As a knower, at the very least you exist. Very likely also, whatever it is, that allows you to have existed and to continue to exist, also exists.

The question of whatever that -it- is which must necessarily exist is ontology. The question of what you claim to know is epistemology. But before all your claims, you must first be.

And here is where worldviews come in. There are only two worldviews. One is that the knower is all that is needed, and everything is derived from what the knower thinks the knower knows. One is that there is something supernatural, something beyond natural observation and which can never be proven to exist. Some people have listed up to seven or eight different possible worldviews, but they all come down to this.


This: either you can explain everything from nothing, or you can explain nothing from everything.

We shun the latter, because then the underpinnings of what we know must necessarily be accidental, revelatory, matters of faith. We love the former, because it is the ultimate reductionism. In the beginning, nothing. Then symmetry. Then symmetry-breaking which isn't quite so. And everything comes from nothing.

But we would then be part of the everything that came from nothing. We would be prisoners of our world. Why is that more acceptable? It's called 'pride of life'.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Dawn's Early Light

In the fitful waking period, I remembered missing verses. I remembered, in particular, this old post. Missing verses are the casualties of revision — that is, seeing things anew and casting old visions aside.

Unfortunately, revisioning and revisionism just remind me further of the old Stalinist delete-people-from-photos trick. It looks so much better if you just call it 'revising' because then people don't see the vision thing.

So it is that by dawn's early light, a star spangled banner may yet wave, but the stars are hid by cloud and smoke. So it is that wise men may keep silent while the laughter of children fades to dust.

Dawn's early light comes too early for some, too late for others. By midday, only the high-flying vultures remain above the battlefield.

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

See What Has Become Of Me

This is not the first time, nor should I imagine it will be the last time, that I am quoting from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. I have a noted affinity for songs like The Sound of Silence and Scarborough Fair/Canticle; I've used them in lessons before.

But one song which always hit too close to the bone (in a subtle way, like a stiletto, not the rock-hard clout of I am a Rock) was A Hazy Shade of Winter.

Time, time, time, see what's become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities...
I was so hard to please.
But look around
Leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Hear the Salvation Army band.
Down by the riverside,
It's bound to be a better ride
Than what you've got planned...

Carry your cup in your hand.
And look around,
Leaves are brown,
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Hang on to your hopes, my friend.
That's an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again.
Look around
The grass is high
The fields are ripe
It's the springtime of my life.

Weaving time in a tapestry.
Won't you stop and remember me
At any convenient time?
Funny how my memory skips
While looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme...

Drinking my vodka and lime,
I look around
Leaves are brown now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.
Look around
Leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground

Indeed, what has become of me? It's been an interesting journey; it looks set to continue being interesting. I await Mondays with a fierce joy, knowing that they WILL be interesting. *grin*

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Cloud of Unknowing

The world is badly broken. The problem is a simple one: humanity has begun to assume that all difficulties can be overcome, all answers can be found, given enough cerebration and enough data. This is why we invest huge amounts of land, money, energy and hardware in storing enormous archives of data, most of which will be redundant, out of date, trivial, or impossible to convert into information.

The reality is sobering. We will be expending all of those resources because we think we should keep our stuff, our work, the unblessed fruit of our hands and minds, the debris of our data transactions and online interactions. We have overvalued the products of our thinking despite the fact that they have create problems we cannot solve, or created answers insufficient to those problems.

When London grew too crowded and too corrupt, the only solution for its chaotic and filthy tangle was the unthinkable Great Fire of 1666. Totally gutting the medieval Roman inner city, it destroyed the homes of seven-eighths of all London's inhabitants. It was this destruction of existing constructs that instructed the development of modern London and the architecture of Sir Christopher Wren.

Imagine this: what if ALL humanity's electronic data stores, in all forms and formats, media and mediating devices, were destroyed at one blow? A tragedy? A disaster?

I would say not. I would say it would be a golden opportunity to discover exactly what humanity is really made of, and to rebuild anew. However, I am not so sanguine as to think humanity will do better. Rather, I am inclined to believe that we will do worse.

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Friday, July 01, 2011


Here we go into the second half of 2011. It will be so much more interesting than most of the last few years. That, in itself, is also interesting. I love my life.

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