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Thursday, December 31, 2009

the myth of sisyphus

I recently read an older copy of Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus. Some quotes I found noteworthy:

[An Absurd Reasoning]

Great feelings take with them their own universe, splendid or abject. They light up with their passion an exclusive world in which they recognize their climate. There is a universe of jealousy, of ambition, of selfishness, or of generosity. A universe--in other words, a metaphysic and an attitude of mind. p.8

There is thus a lower key of feelings, inaccessible in the heart but partially disclosed by the acts they imply and the attitudes of mind they assume. It is clear that in this way I am defining a method. But it is also evident that that method is one of analysis and not of knowledge. For methods imply metaphysics; unconsciously they disclose conclusions that they often claim not to know yet. Similarly, the last pages of a book are already contained in the first pages. Such a link is inevitable. p.9

Kierkegaard wants to be cured. To be cured is his frenzied wish, and it runs throughout his whole journal. The entire effort of his intelligence is to escape the antinomy of the human condition. An all the more desperate effort since he intermittently perceives its vanity when he speaks of himself, as if neither fear of God nor piety were capable of bringing him to peace. Thus it is that, through a strained subterfuge, he gives the irrational the appearance and God the attributes of the absurd: unjust, incoherent, and incomprehensible. Intelligence alone in him strives to stifle the underlying demands of the human heart. Since nothing is proved, everything can be proved. p. 29

I am told again that here the intelligence must sacrifice its pride and the reason bow down. But if I recognize the limits of reason I do not therefore negate it, recognizing its relative powers. I merely want to remain in this middle path where the intelligence can stay clear. If that is its pride, I see no sufficient reason for giving it up. p. 30

Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable. p.31

I am taking the liberty at this point of calling the existential attitude philosophical suicide. But this does not imply a judgement. It is a convenient way of indicating the movement by which a thought negates itself and tends to transcend itself in its very negation. For the existentials negation is their God. To be precise, that god is maintained only through the negation of human reason. But, like suicides, gods change with men. p. 31

[The Absurd Man]

The certainty of a God giving a meaning to life far surpasses in attractiveness the ability to behave badly with impunity. The choice would not be hard to make. But there is no choice, and that is where the bitterness comes in. p. 50

A sub-clerk in the post office is the equal of a conqueror if consciousness is common to them. p. 51

Conscious that I cannot stand aloof from my time, I have decided to be an integral part of it. This is why I esteem the individual only because he strikes me as ridiculous and humiliated. Knowing that there are no victorious causes, I have a liking for lost causes: they require an uncontaminated soul, equal to its defeat as to its temporary victories. For anyone who feels bound up with this world's fate, the clash of civilizations has something agonizing about it. I have made that anguish mine at the same time that I wanted to join in. Between history and the eternal I have chosen history because I like certainties. Of it, at least, I am certain, and how can I deny this force crushing me? p. 63,64

[Appendix: Franz Kafka]

The more exciting life is, the more absurd is the idea of losing it. This is perhaps the secret of that proud aridity felt in Nietzsche's work. In this connection, Nietzsche appears to be the only artist to have derived the extreme consequences of an aesthetic of the Absurd, inasmuch as his final message lies in a sterile and conquering lucidity and an obstinate negation of any supernatural consolation. p. 101

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The World Is Too Much With Us

    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This sea, that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not--Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan, suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus, rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.


h/t Carl Johnson

Friday, December 11, 2009


An old "Jesus and Mo":
Naive bar maid or naive religious figureheads?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I never intended to live by the ocean but hey, it was hard to complain when the fates threw it my way. But yes, I still live primarily in my head, externalities be damned (at least until they impose themselves on me, then I attend to them).

A couple things surprised me with the change of context. One, the mountains and the beach have a similar appeal, both push their expansiveness in a way that holds me in awe. Two, the warm glow of the internets make me feel at home. When everything is in flux around, apparently internet based community provides some stability and associated comfort (a sure sign I've spent too much of my life in front of a computer).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Epicurean "fourfold remedy"

The gods are not to be feared,
Death is not to be dreaded;
What is good is easy to acquire
What is bad is easy to bear.

h/t Pierre Hadot

Friday, November 27, 2009

google's voice recognition software

So it appears google's voice to text software has matured to the point they're adding captions to youtube videos and automatically transcribing voicemail.

I, for one, breathe a big sigh of relief knowing all audio communications/recordings are easily text searchable.

In other personal communication security related news, someone gave pager intercepts from 9/11 to Wikileaks. The more interesting part:
"someone, possibly not even a government, was routinely intercepting most (all?) of the pager data in lower Manhattan as far back as 2001. Who was doing it? For that purpose?"

Schneier on Security

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

elberry is dead, long live elberry

Elberry is blogging again as Elberry's Ghost. I was sad to see the original blog vanish but at least we have the consolations of his spectre.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pliny the Elder

The man. The beer.

discussion of biblical inspiration and the character of God

Huenemanniac has a recent discussion that may be of interest to some readers of this blog. Rob Sica also provides a link to these interesting lectures from a philosophy of religion conference that are worth watching.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Newport, OR

We're finally done moving. Still unpacking boxes. From our walk down to the beach yesterday-

The weather forecast-

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


an imperative?
the modern predicament is one in which God’s call is “interrupted.” The orthodox solution to this dilemma is to act as though she can still hear the word of God with complete clarity, while the atheist’s solution is to clap her ears against the ever-quieter echoes of past revelation. The Jewish intellectuals discussed by Lazier present us with a third option: to open our ears to nature, and to one another. The skeptic would argue that a circuitous route through heresy is hardly necessary to arrive at such a banal conclusion; in response, Lazier’s modern heretics would wonder why such a simple resolution was ignored in the tragedies of the twentieth century. As Scholem put it in a devastating formulation, whose simplicity belies the heretical complexity required to truly defend it: “Develop peacefully, and don’t destroy the world.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Little Giantess

The Berlin Reunion is part of celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin wall. That is street theatre.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon

Sarah has been reading this book, a favorite of a friend of ours. It's set in a tiny town in Idaho. I've been enjoying a second hand reading.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sullivan asks Bush to own up to torture

so the US can move forward. His open letter to GWB covers a lot of the specifics in regard to torture during the Cheney/Bush years alongside historical analogues. Not for the faint of heart but definitely worth reading.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

an untimely encounter

Either he had seen God too soon or he had seen him too late. In any case, it had done him no good at all in terms of survival. Encountering the living God had not helped to equip him for the tasks of ordinary endurance, which ordinary men, not so favored, handle.

Philip K. Dick - Valis

Thursday, September 17, 2009

pictures by Tolkien

Sarah sent me this link to pictures by Tolkien. I've been reading LoTR recently just because it's so therapeutic reading books like that again and again. I don't think I'll finish it this time but it's still been a nice break.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Britain's first co-operatively owned pub

When we were in England a few years ago we had the chance to go to the Old Crown Pub. Now that we have some connections and a brew store maybe we'll be able to import some beers from them.

invisibility and ignosticism

Short somewhat funny TED talk by John Lloyd.

He mentions being an ignostic. Seems appealing: Ignosticism (wikipedia).

Monday, September 14, 2009

a theory consistent with the facts

Who decided to print trillions of dollars and give them to banks? The Bush Administration. Who decided to print hundreds of billions of dollars and give them to AIG? The Bush Administration. Who decided not to tell General Motors and Chrysler to work out their problems in bankruptcy court like any other company not smart enough to recognize the implications of pension and health care guarantees (see While America Aged)? The Bush Administration started with the Detroit bailout.

A theory consistent with the facts is that King Bush II knew that the next president would be a Democrat, due to the endless depressing Iraq/Afghanistan war. He therefore intentionally wrecked the economy and then took over much of it in order to make the next administration look like socialists.

Going by the numbers and facts, an economic historian would have little choice but to classify the U.S. circa 2009 as a socialist nation. Government at all levels spends a greater percentage of GDP than does China’s (source), for example, and the government either directly owns or assumes financial risks for a lot of our largest enterprises. How did we get here? It was a Republican plot to make Obama look like a socialist, by the clever strategy of converting the U.S. into a fully socialist economy prior to January 20, 2009.

Republican Plot to Make Obama Look Like a Socialist Philip Greenspun
Republicons: the other socialist party in the US.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

health care reform

Philip Greenspun wrote an essay on health care reform. Of course ideas that make sense will likely be shot down in congress since our elected officials are incapable of reasonable discourse and behavior (their constituencies aren't much better) but it's fun to dream. He's looking for feedback.

It's time to vote third party in all national elections. Democrats and Republicons are just subsidiaries.

And if you get cancer in the US, before buying in to the "best healthcare in the world" nonsense and going bankrupt, look into getting treatment in India or maybe even Mexico.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


We've moved out of the aves and are now living in Sandy temporarily. We'll likely be in Newport, OR within the year. I'm building my company, working with a number of clients and doing more strategy and product design and less coding than previously. The upside is that I'm getting paid to think and write a lot more. The downside is that I'm not putting much energy into philosophy (or politics, thank the gods).

I'll get back to posting more regularly as things settle.

another strange book on Wittgenstein

"Wittgenstein and Theology" (NDPR)

Sounds pretty bizarre. h/t Methods of Projection

Monday, August 24, 2009

random Tillich quote

We'll likely be moving soon so we've been going through our stuff and throwing junk out. I have Paul Tillich's A History of Christian Thought in paperback and it's literally falling apart. A random quote someone had underlined before it goes:
The churches were the representatives of the ideologies which kept the ruling classes in power over against the working masses. This was the tragic situation. It is a great thing that in America this tragedy has happened on a much smaller scale. But in Europe it has led to the radical antireligious and anti-Christian attitudes of all labor movements, not only of the Communists but also of the social democrats. It was not the "bad athiests" --as propagandists call them-- who were responsible for this; it was the fact that the European churches, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Episcopalian, were without social sensitivity and direction. They were directed toward their own actualization; they were directed toward liturgical or dogmatic efforts and refinements, but the social problem was left to divine providence.

p. 483 - ISBN: 0-671-21426-8

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

google books integrating with creative commons

Here. One of the books recently made available is a quirky graphic novel written by a friend's former prof at UC Davis--

Monday, August 10, 2009

on love

Love can sweep you off your feet and carry you along in a way you've never known before. But the ride always ends, and you end up feeling lonely and bitter.

Wait. . .

It's not love I'm describing. I'm thinking of a monorail.

Jack Handey
In case you need more Jack.

Friday, August 7, 2009

the mystical Wittgenstein

Another scathing NDPR review here. The small audience that reads contemporary academic philosophy is difficult to please.

h/t Methods of Projection

Update: more discussion at Strange Doctrines

Monday, August 3, 2009

what i've been reading

Project Management: Scrum, Timeboxing (wikipedia)

How to Start a Startup by Paul Graham (2005)

I'll get back to philosophy at some point. In the meantime, here's Paul Graham's take on philosophy (2007).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

great article on computer security

A french hacker collected a lot of information about Twitter from Twitter employee accounts and sent it to TechCrunch. I especially liked the hacker's extreme but appropriate advice (in an apology letter translated from French):
I did not do this to profit from the information. Security is an area that fascinated me for many years and I want to do my job. In my everyday life, I help people to guard against the dangers of the Internet. I learned the basic rules .. For example: Be careful where you click the files that you download and what you type on the keyboard. Ensure that the computer is equipped with effective protection against viruses, external attacks, spam, phishing … Upgrading the operating system, software commonly used … Remember to use passwords without any similarity between them. Remember to change them regularly … Never store confidential information on the computer

The Anatomy of the Twitter Attack (h/t Schneier)
There's a takeaway at the end of the article that's good advice too. I'm not sure this guy shares the hacker ethic but TechCrunch also has to deal with the ethical question.

surprising cure for whooping cough

I was looking for 3 letter names of supernatural entities that I could use for server hostnames. I like to keep my hostnames under 5 characters wherever possible. Anyhow, I came across a Hob (a type of small household spirit) on wikipedia. Apparently one particular hob (that lives near Runswick Bay) can cure whooping cough. Good to know.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

in case you missed it

Amazon goes all big brothery on Orwell's books for Kindle.
This morning [July 17, 2009], hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

Some E-Books Are More Equal Than Others
Here's what the FSF recommends people do in response.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Emerson on skepticism (Montaigne)

Skepticism is the attitude assumed by the student in relation to the particulars which society adores, but which he sees to be reverend only in their tendency and spirit. The ground occupied by the skeptic is the vestibule of the temple. Society does not like to have any breath of question blown on the existing order. But the interrogation of custom at all points is an inevitable stage in the growth of every superior mind, and is the evidence of its perception of the flowing power which remains itself in all changes.

The superior mind will find itself equally at odds with the evils of society and with the projects that are offered to relieve them. The wise skeptic is a bad citizen; no conservative, he sees the selfishness of property and the drowsiness of institutions. But neither is he fit to work with any democratic party that ever was constituted; for parties wish every one committed, and he penetrates the popular patriotism. His politics are those of the "Soul's Errand" of Sir Walter Raleigh; or of Krishna, in the Bhagavat, "There is none who is worthy of my love or hatred"; whilst he sentences law, physic, divinity, commerce and custom. He is a reformer; yet he is no better member of the philanthropic association. It turns out that he is not the champion of the operative, the pauper, the prisoner, the slave. It stands in his mind that our life in this world is not of quite so easy interpretation as churches and schoolbooks say. He does not wish to take ground against these benevolences, to play the part of devil's attorney, and blazon every doubt and sneer that darkens the sun for him. But he says, There are doubts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Montaigne; or, the Skeptic

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

starting my own company

Today I quit my job in order to start my own company. It sounds like I'll have two clients on board to begin with. I'll mostly be building web applications and helping determine internet strategies for small businesses.

I would start writing about becoming an entrepreneur but I think Paul Graham has already taken care of that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nietzsche on sympathy

Not that I'm ready to tackle his discussions of pity and generosity of spirit but Kaufmann's note in The Gay Science (p. 249) was really intriguing to me.
Nietzsche's letter to Gast, August 20, 1880: "... To this day, my whole philosophy totters after an hour's conversation with total strangers: it seems so foolish to me to wish to be right at the price of love, and not be able to communicate what one considers most valuable lest one destroy the sympathy. Hinc meae lacrimae [hence my tears]."

Monday, July 13, 2009

the legitimate purposes of philosophy

  • the pursuit of truth - too boring/exhaustive for one person's lifetime, delegated to the sciences as a collective enterprise
  • unearthing prejudices - especially by looking at the prevailing wisdom of our time and tracing its development but also by carefully attempting to understand other disciplines, people, cultures and ages (ways of being)
  • delineating between phenomenal and epiphenomenal beliefs - to better target beliefs that need changing and also to better determine how to change oneself (specifically I think it's best to target/understand beliefs that impact your MO and even at times to work backwards from behavior to understand beliefs)
  • untying a knotted understanding - personal therapy to avoid spending mental energy on things that don't really matter
  • reframing - tweaking our perceptions and stories to achieve different ends, gaining new eyes
  • "know thyself" "become who you are"
  • means to explore an arbitrary literary/artistic drive
Anything I'm missing?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Jaspers' short take on "God is Dead"

Nietzsche does not say, "There is no God," or "I do not believe in God," but "God is dead." He believes that he is ascertaining a fact of present-day reality when he peers clairvoyantly into his age and his own nature.
In other words, "we're all atheists now". Or as Nz puts it "atheism is the only honest air we breathe, we more spiritual men of today"*.

I've been dipping in and out of Karl Jaspers' book on Nietzsche. Why God died is a more difficult question and Jaspers takes a number of pages to explore it.

true generosity

True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the "rejects of life," to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands--whether of individuals or of entire peoples--need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, working, transform the world.

Paulo Freire - Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Friday, July 10, 2009

interesting aside on "God is Dead"

Nz was here
One occasionally sees the following graffiti: "'God is dead.' Nietzsche. 'Nietzsche is dead.' God." Rarely, someone adds a third line; e.g., "'Nietsche is spelled wrong.' Kaufmann." The best third line I have seen is: "'Some are born posthumously.' Nietzsche."
That's Kaufmann in reference to The Gay Science §364 --
The last is the trick of posthumous people par excellence. ("What did you think?" one of them once asked impatiently; "would we feel like enduring the estrangement, the cold and quiet of the grave around us--this whole subterranean, concealed, mute, undiscovered solitude that among us is called life but might just as well be called death--if we did not know what will become of us, and that it is only after death that we shall enter our life and become alive, oh, very much alive, we posthumous people!") [bold emphasis mine]

the philosopher as traveler - Nietzsche

These go along with my other philosopher as traveler posts.
Always at home.— One day we reach our goal and now point with pride to the long travels we undertook to reach it. In fact, we were not even aware of traveling. But we got so far because we fancied at every point that we were at home.

Brief habits.— I love brief habits and consider them an inestimable means for getting to know many things and states, down to the bottom of their sweetness and bitternesses; my nature is designed entirely for brief habits, even in the needs of my physical health and altogether as far as I can see at all— from the lowest to the highest. I always believe that here is something that will give me lasting satisfaction—brief habits, too, have this faith of passion, this faith in eternity—and that I am to be envied for having found and recognized it; and now it nourishes me at noon and in the evening and spreads a deep contentment all around itself and deep into me so that I desire nothing else, without having any need for comparisons, contempt or hatred. But one day its time is up; the good things part from me, not as something that has come to nauseate me but peacefully and sated with me as I am with it—as if we had reason to be grateful to each other as we shook hands to say farewell. Even then something new is waiting at the door, along with my faith—this indestructible fool and sage!—that this new discovery will be just right, and that this will be the last time. That is what happens to me with dishes, ideas, human beings, cities, poems, music, doctrines, ways of arranging the day, and life styles.

Enduring habits I hate, and I feel as if a tyrant had come near me and as if the air I breathe had thickened when events take such a turn that it appears that they will inevitably give rise to enduring habits; for example, owing to an official position, constant association with the same people, a permanent domicile, or unique good health. Yes, at the very bottom of my soul I feel grateful to all my misery and bouts of sickness and everything about me that is imperfect, because this sort of thing leaves me with a hundred backdoors through which I can escape from enduring habits.

Most intolerable, to be sure, and the terrible par excellence would be for me a life entirely devoid of habits, a life that would demand perpetual improvisation. That would be my exile and my Siberia.

Nietzsche The Gay Science §253, §295
I also like Kaufmann's note on §295
This conclusion qualifies the resolve to live dangerously. But some stability and temporary equilibrium are needed to permit the concentration of all mental and emotional resources on the most important problems. One simply cannot question everything at once. The most one can do is to grant nothing permanent immunity.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nz with Dumas on happiness

[T]here is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death, Maximilien, in order to know how good it is to live.

Alexander Dumas (Edmund Dantés - The Count of Monte Cristo)
How little you know of human happiness you comfortable and benevolent people, for happiness and unhappiness are sisters and even twins that either grow up together or, as in your case, remain small together.

Nietzsche The Gay Science §270

blues guy in DC

We saw this guy playing the blues on the National Mall.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

back from DC

While walking up to the Washington monument,

we came upon a street preacher.

He had a translator.

I made sure to get a copy of their tract. The guy who handed me the pamphlet asked me, "Are you from around here?" I answered "I'm an American if that's what you mean" and we walked away.

The tract tells an interesting story about Johnny.

The tract had a destiny.

I have a new bookmark.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

shared history

Talking with others who share our personal history provides respite. It allows for saying more with less.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Nz defends Church of Mike

Too Jewish.-- If God wished to become an object of love, he should have given up on judging and justice first of all; a judge, even a merciful judge, is no object of love. The founder of Christianity was not refined enough in his feelings at this point --being a Jew.

Nietzsche GS §140
Indeed. Luckily, the founder of Church of Mike dodged that bullet.

a question of taste

Against Christianity.-- What is now decisive against Christianity is our taste, no longer our reasons.

Nietzsche GS §132
I don't generally like wheat beers but once in a while a wheat beer comes along that's exceptional and my taste is won over.

Christianity, an ideal, does not exist. There are only this and that instantiation of the ideal which are often contradictory with each other, sometimes with themselves.

It would be odd to survey the breadth of Christian (mis)interpretations and existences and not find a few exceptions that were pleasing to one's taste. Especially for one with such a sublime taste for error.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

what troubles Nietzsche

Only as creators!— This has given me the greatest trouble and still does: to realize that what things are called is incomparably more important than what they are. The reputation, name, and appearance, the usual measure and weight of a thing, what it counts for—originally almost always wrong and arbitrary, thrown over things like a dress and altogether foreign to their nature and even to their skin—all this grows from generation unto generation, merely because people believe in it, until it gradually grows to be part of the thing and turns into its very body: what at first was appearance becomes in the end, almost invariably, the essence and is effective as such! How foolish it would be to suppose that one only needs to point out this origin and this misty shroud of delusion in order to destroy the world that counts for real, so-called "reality"! We can destroy only as creators!— But let us not forget this either: it is enough to create new names and estimations and probabilities in order to create in the long run new "things."

Nietzsche The Gay Science §58

This aphorism and other similar thoughts (like GS §76, §55) are what inspired the name for this blog. My own take varies in emphasis but if anything is required of philosophy it's reframing. I agree with Nietzsche in this context that we can only create (we don't simply uncover "truth" by destroying idols). But also, our creations are deeply situated; our options are limited. Newton and Leibniz "discovered" calculus around the same time.* The historical moment provided the context for what they could discover/create.

Perhaps this is so troubling to Nietzsche because while we can uncover this or that individual prejudice we're fairly bound by the others and by our time. So even as we attempt to gain these small bits of freedom by recreating the world in our own image we remain inevitably bound to the cliché reality.

Or maybe that's just what troubles me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pleasure and Pleasure

If work becomes pleasure, will pleasure still be pleasing?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

work and pleasure

This aphorism has been oddly apt for the past couple weeks. I took a spur of the moment trip (driving) to and from the coast of Oregon over the weekend. If things work out we may be taking over a business there and moving. We'll see...
Work and boredom.--Looking for work in order to be paid: in civilized countries today almost all men are at one in doing that. For all of them work is a means and not an end in itself. Hence they are not very refined in their choice of work, if only it pays well. But there are, if only rarely, men who would rather perish than work without any pleasure in their work. They are choosy, hard to satisfy, and do not care for ample rewards, if the work itself is not the reward of rewards. Artists and contemplative men of all kinds belong to this rare breed, but so do even those men of leisure who spend their lives hunting, traveling, or in love affairs and adventures. All of these desire work and misery if only it is associated with pleasure, and the hardest, most difficult work if necessary. Otherwise, their idleness is resolute, even if it spells impoverishment, dishonor, and danger to life and limb. They do not fear boredom as much as work without pleasure; they actually require a lot of boredom if their work is to succeed. For thinkers and all sensitive spirits, boredom is that disagreeable "windless calm" of the soul that precedes a happy voyage and cheerful winds. They have to bear it and must wait for its effect on them. Precisely this is what lesser natures cannot achieve by any means. To ward off boredom at any cost is vulgar, no less than work without pleasure. Perhaps Asians are distinguished above Europeans by a capacity for longer, deeper calm; even their opiates have a slow effect and require patience, as opposed to the disgusting suddenness of the European poison, alcohol.

Nietzsche The Gay Science §42
It's an alcohol related business. The irony, it burns.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Believing that they possess consciousness, men have not exerted themselves very much to acquire it; and things haven't changed much in this respect. To this day the task of incorporating knowledge and making it instinctive is only beginning to dawn on the human eye and is not yet clearly discernible; it is a task that is seen only by those who have comprehended that so far we have incorporated only our errors and that all our consciousness relates to errors.

Nietzsche The Gay Science §11

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

on being an introvert

At this new job I recently had to tell my boss that I'm an introvert. He kept giving me tasks that were too people oriented. The confusion comes in because I can communicate clearly and get along well with people. That doesn't mean I'm any less of an introvert, I just spent some time working on my people skills. Anyhow, it reminded me of this article on introversion in the Atlantic from a while ago.

Friday, June 5, 2009


a duel - Source:wikimedia commons
I could go for a good duel about now.

Why did it take the death of Alexander Hamilton to outlaw dueling?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dumbo's surprising responsibility


It's not a genuine choice unless it's presented by our context. If I believe in a flying Elephant that's in charge of the rotation of Pluto, it isn't a personal (genuine?) belief for me. I could hold that belief or try to hold that belief if that's what I mean by "choose" a belief but what would that mean, what would it look like in life? (e.g. is it just a thought or something that comes up in passing conversation or does the belief actually demand something substantial?)


RE: 7/2/2007 (Which still seems unclear.)

marketing and the genuine choice

A lot of marketing attempts to create a need and then meet it. Christianity is often presented in this way.

questionable questions

Some philosophical problems are artificial. When I work on unearthing prejudices I ask myself, "am I working on an area that's adequately personal? Does this question really matter?"

philosophical turn

For most students of philosophy a moment comes when a perspective or prejudice they've held for quite a while gets overturned. Like Hume's problem of induction hits you just right and you think, "oh great, so logic can't even help with my belief in the uniformity of nature?"

In any case, which belief gets changed isn't the point. The point is, from there on you have to face the personal fact that along with the expression I know is the expression I thought I knew (Wittgenstein). What separates philosophers from others is that they live in the perpetual possibility of the turn.

Q: And what of so-called philosophers?


I'm just relieved I didn't limit the set to only those who perpetually pursue the turn.

the thick of calamity

Cliché Reality mottos (so far):
Facts, no matter how convincing, rarely trump a good solid dose of repetition.

Ask Better Questions. Get Better Answers.

“The wise man can pick up a grain of sand and envision a whole universe. But the stupid man will just lie down on some seaweed and roll around until he’s completely draped in it. Then he’ll stand up and go, ‘Hey, I’m Vine Man.’” -Jack Handey

"You are in quest of what is. Why on earth do you set out to walk that road with a man who has neither pace nor style?" -Michel de Montaigne

"I will unravel things as best I may. What I shall say is neither fixed nor certain: I am no Pythian Apollo; I am a little man seeking the probable through conjecture." -Montaigne

"A lot of people were opposed to it. A lot of people were for it. I myself think about it as little as possible." -Kurt Vonnegut

"No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately." -Montaigne

"There is no possible salvation for the man who feels real compassion." -Albert Camus

"Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons, It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Whitman

"The longing for rest and peace must itself be thrust aside; it coincides with the acceptance of iniquity." -Camus

"I believe more and more, that God must not be judged on this earth. It is one of His sketches that has turned out badly." -Van Gogh

Wisdom is just the ability to recognize how stupid you are a bit faster.

Everything in moderation, especially ideologies.

"It is in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth—in other words, to silence." -Albert Camus

"It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane." -Philip K. Dick

Truth is counterintuitive.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

new job

So my new job has been pretty stressful and it will certainly be an uphill climb. It's got me reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

Friday, May 22, 2009

the wanderer and his shadow

In Charlie's new book he takes a stab at interpreting the intro and outro to Nz's The Wanderer and His Shadow. Does anyone else out there care to share their take on it? I've thought about it a few times before but I'm fairly baffled. My guess is it's one way of interpreting Nz, and not "the shallow reading" and maybe a different type of false reading but somehow he comes to grips and agreement with it and promotes a collective effort with the help of the shadow.

But really I know nothing and even that I don't know well (I'm more of a dime store nihilist). Any insights would be welcome.

on Orwell writing 1984

Just came across this interesting short biographical piece on Orwell in the Guardian.
The circumstances surrounding the writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four make a haunting narrative that helps to explain the bleakness of Orwell's dystopia. Here was an English writer, desperately sick, grappling alone with the demons of his imagination in a bleak Scottish outpost in the desolate aftermath of the second world war. The idea for Nineteen Eighty-Four, alternatively, "The Last Man in Europe", had been incubating in Orwell's mind since the Spanish civil war. His novel, which owes something to Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopian fiction We, probably began to acquire a definitive shape during 1943-44, around the time he and his wife, Eileen adopted their only son, Richard. Orwell himself claimed that he was partly inspired by the meeting of the Allied leaders at the Tehran Conference of 1944. Isaac Deutscher, an Observer colleague, reported that Orwell was "convinced that Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt consciously plotted to divide the world" at Tehran.
(emphasis mine) h/t Arts and Letters Daily

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

turning the skeptical gaze inward

hospital room
Elberry has a couple recent posts worth reading (again).

First, he got sick and ended up in the hospital. I hope he feels better.

Second, he wrote this short critique of old Bertrand. I really like this sentiment:
His cowardice again – he would risk prison to attack social problems (as he saw them) but he refused to discipline himself; so he acted on his lusts without hesitation or remorse. He would have done better to turn that skeptical gaze on himself, his own behavior. But then i suspect he felt his great social conscience excused him from such scrutiny.
I'm not sure the extent to which this genuinely applies to Russell but I agree that even the noblest pursuits can be devices we use to hide from ourselves.

Monday, May 18, 2009

crazy guy on the bus

There were three crazy guys on the bus with us yesterday but one was exceptional. When we got on the bus he was already talking out loud (to nobody?). He seemed intent on telling us the world is going to end with a tinge of "praise Jesus and pass the ammunition". I'll try to give a feeling for it:
The world is going to end.
Oil and gas.
The world is going to end.
Jesus is coming back soon.
The world is going to end.
I'm looking for Jesus.
See the signs; the world is going to end!
Why not start world war three? Might as well.
The world is going to end.
You probably think I need a doctor; I've already seen the doctors.
The world is going to end.
He went on and on like that for a while. He got off the bus where we did and once he got off he was looking at the sky and talked about looking for Jesus. I asked Sarah about it shortly after we passed him, "When did his world end?"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Charlie's book

I just finished reading Charlie Huenemann's recently self-published book Nietzsche: Genius of the Heart. This little book is excellent for a number of reasons not the least of which being: it is readable and "therapeutically treats human suffering" (Epicurus). It provides a human introduction to Nietzsche and incorporates current Nietzsche research without losing a non-academic reader. For those of us who have read a bit of Nietzsche it provides a unique biographic angle which emphasizes Nz's physical and spiritual illnesses (especially loneliness) and Nz's philosophical treatments. The book explores approaches we can take from Nietzsche and evokes a number of the crucial issues his philosophy forces us to face.

Friday, May 15, 2009

vigilante justice from the internets

If you've gotten a call to renew your auto warranty (and don't have an auto, like me) you may know what this wsj article is talking about. I've gotten a few calls from these asshats. I don't always condone vigilante justice but ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

on happiness

From David Brooks' commentary on this interesting Atlantic essay on happiness:
The men were the subject of one of the century’s most fascinating longitudinal studies. They were selected when they were sophomores, and they have been probed, poked and measured ever since. Researchers visited their homes and investigated everything from early bed-wetting episodes to their body dimensions.
[I]t’s the baffling variety of their lives that strikes one the most. It is as if we all contain a multitude of characters and patterns of behavior, and these characters and patterns are bidden by cues we don’t even hear. They take center stage in consciousness and decision-making in ways we can’t even fathom. The man who is careful and meticulous in one stage of life is unrecognizable in another context.

Shenk’s treatment is superb because he weaves in the life of George Vaillant, the man who for 42 years has overseen this work. Vaillant’s overall conclusion is familiar and profound. Relationships are the key to happiness. “Happiness is love. Full Stop,” he says in a video.
Brooks strikes a surprisingly Nietzschean tone in that second paragraph.

there are no educators

There are no educators.— As a thinker one should speak only of self-education. The education of youth by others is either an experiment carried out on an as yet unknown and unknowable subject, or a leveling on principle with the object of making a new being, whatever it may be, conform to the customs and habits then prevailing: in both cases therefore something unworthy of the thinker, the work of those elders and teachers whom a man of rash honesty once described as nos ennemis naturels.— One day, when one has long since been educated as the world understands it, one discovers oneself: here begins the task of the thinker; now the time has come to call on him for assistance—not as an educator but as one who has educated himself and thus knows how it is done.

Nietzsche - The Wanderer and His Shadow §267

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

passive-agressive book review

Methods of Projection notes this NDPR review of David Kishik's Wittgenstein's Form of Life. I'm glad Newton Garver points out some of the flaws with the text so I don't need to spend my time reading it but it felt like I was reading something off the passive-agressive (and just plain agressive) blog. Garver uses phrases like "touches none of the critical issues", "It is absurd to think", "Ignoring this powerful insight", and "thoroughly inadequate". The bottom line:
In spite of its sometimes apt and erudite citation of Wittgenstein's texts, and its inclusion in the prestigious Continuum Studies in British Philosophy, Kishik's volume will be of little value to students of Wittgenstein.

conversations at work

C1: It looks like someone just ordered materials but specified zero quantity. What's that supposed to mean?

C2: Oh, I can't remember, ask the DBA. I know it has some special significance.

M: Nihilism shows up where you least expect it.

C1: I don't read much. I've never really liked to read.

M: That's like someone telling me they don't really like to breathe.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

more Tolkien news

Christopher Tolkien is publishing another of his father's poems.

The 500-stanza poem is closely modelled on the Elder Edda, a collection of Norse myths preserved in a 13th-century manuscript, a pedigree Christopher Tolkien described as "unknown territory" for most people.

"I dare say that a good many will be instantly put off by the very idea of 'long narrative poems in verse' and pursue it no further," he said. It was equally possible that their form will lend them an "unexpected impact," he continued.

"My hope is that some of those who appreciate and admire the works of my father will find it illuminating in respect of Old Norse poetry in general, in his own treatment of the fierce, passionate and mysterious legend, and in this further and little known aspect of him as both philologist and poet. Above all I hope they will take pleasure in this poetry."

Tolkien's Sigrun Gudrun (the guardian)
btw, the hunt for gollum is really well done.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

on Paul, Christianity, marketing and globalization

Rob Sica pointed out this somewhat rambley but interesting article in the April issue of The Atlantic. It's titled One World, One God (by Robert Wright) but it could also be called "Paul the apostle-marketer". Paul the apostle-marketer has a bit to teach us about how to thrive in an increasingly connected (globalized) world. Apparently the situation he (and others) faced is not so different from our own.
When people open a local franchise—a McDonald’s, a Pizza Hut—they do so because they expect to get something in return. What did people get in return for making their homes Christian franchises? In some cases, no doubt, it was mainly the benefit of the gospel; Lydia presumably found Paul’s initial teachings gratifying, and what additional benefits she got—social, economic, whatever—from hosting a church, we’ll never know. But as the franchising continued, and the church expanded to more and more cities, it offered new benefits to church leaders.

In particular: reliable lodging. Tents were adequate for overnight stays on the road, but when you reached the big city, nicer accommodations were desirable—especially if you planned to stay awhile and do business. Paul’s letters to Christian congregations often include requests that they extend hospitality to traveling church leaders. Such privileges, as the scholar E.A. Judge put it, were increasingly “extended to the whole household of faith, who [were] accepted on trust, though complete strangers.” This extension was a revolution of sorts, since “security and hospitality when traveling had traditionally been the privilege of the powerful.” The Roman Empire had made distant travel easier than at any time in history, and Christianity exploited this fact. The young church was, among other things, the Holiday Inn of its day.
[H]istory expands the range of non-zero-sum relationships—relationships in which two parties can both win if they collaborate, or lose if they don’t. Technological evolution (wheels, roads, cuneiform, alphabets, trains, microchips) has placed more and more people in non-zero-sum relationship with more and more other people at greater and greater distances—and often across ethnic, national, and religious bounds.
[E]ither people of different faiths, ethnicities, and nationalities get better at seeing the perspective of one another, and acknowledging the moral worth of one another, or chaos ensues

The main trick seems to be the extension of familial hospitality to any inside the church. I find the arbitrary trust in Christian communities both warm and unsettling. Warm because I like to give people (especially strangers) the benefit of the doubt. Unsettling when I see people manipulated by someone they trust because s/he claims to be Christian (they don't often become aware of the manipulation). For Paul that whole familial-trust thing was very useful. A distrust of people because they aren't exactly like us isn't warranted. Beyond that though, trust still needs to be earned.

the hunt for gollum

A short independently made film based on LOTR and the Hobbit. Should be released shortly. ETA 1600 GMT.

The Hunt for Gollum

(h/t 10 Zen Monkeys)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


It seems to me that one of the jobs of a philosopher is to remind people about death and the shortness of life once in a while. And since I like to play a philospher on the internets here's a reminder courtesy of the offbeat sub:

There's also this article on obituaries (via Arts and Letters Daily).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

learning to "fail better"

Nice little post by elberry:
It is difficult to grasp your own stupidity: it’s as if our minds inherently believe they have no limits, that anything they can’t understand isn’t worth understanding. You try to get a sense of your own mind, of its capacity, its weakness, but it is elusive. It pretends to be coterminous with reality - where my mind ends, the world ends, there is nothing else. It is extremely tricky to provoke useful friction between the mind and the world, the telltale grinding or stuttering of the mind’s failure; but it is only at this point that you can do any real thinking. To do philosophy you have to repeatedly provoke your own failure, and then contemplate that moment where your mind collapsed; and then you may “fail better” next time. There is nothing wrong with this kind of failure; if a test pilot’s plane explodes or falls into a lethal spin, that itself yields useful data. But it does no good to pretend you are adequate.

feeling stupid - The Lumber Room
Elberry likes to talk about past lives. I prefer to think in terms of the past lives I've lived in this life. If your life is completely congruent it may mean you haven't really been living. Some existentialists focus too much on one point, one moment life turns on to shape the rest. But life turns on myriad moments and valuing one too highly comes at the expense of what life offers at each.

From there we just get to "fail better" in different contexts.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London"

George Packer has a nice short piece on Orwell's first book (which I have yet to read).
Orwell began “tramping” and staying in shelters in 1928, when he was twenty-four years old and had just returned from five years as a colonial policeman in Burma. This period (which the critic V. S. Pritchett described as “going native in his own country”) continued—including the year and a half Orwell spent as a dishwasher and English tutor in Paris—for the better part of four years.
I was conscious of an immense weight of guilt that I had got to expiate. I suppose that sounds exaggerated; but if you do for five years a job that you thoroughly disapprove of, you will probably feel the same…I felt that I had got to escape not merely from imperialism but from every form of man’s dominion over man. I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed; to be one of them and on their side against their tyrants.
Sometimes the self demands penance.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Montaigne : essay :: Andrew Sullivan : blog ?

Is Andrew Sullivan to blogging what Montaigne was to the essay? Story here at

I've been reading the Daily Dish for a while now and I enjoy it but the sheer quantity of posts is overwhelming. I digest thoughts better when they're peppered with a bit more silence.

via The Arts and Letters Daily RSS feed

Thursday, April 9, 2009

JT on Avicenna

It looks like my favorite medievalist-retrohero is now reading Avicenna.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

a question concerning early philosophical education

Along with building educational software, part of my new job is to put together short online educational resources. Mostly I'm doing this to make sure the software works well and to see where it needs improvement but also to help less tech savvy educators get their printed material into more interactive forms.

My new boss knows of my interest in philosophy so he recommended I build a couple short philosophical educational resources (content equivalent to maybe 10 pages in a textbook). So I'm looking for short topics that profs use for 101 type courses that every philosophy major gets to know fairly early.

The main subject I could think of was Hume's problem of induction. Can any of you think of others that might be interesting? Some epistemological ones might be fun, maybe color skepticism.

Another way to put this-- what early philosophical question had a big impact on you?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I've been working at a new job since Monday of last week. It will be a while before I come up for air.

My cousin and I were trying to diagnose the personality disorder of all the people in my extended family the other day. This personality disorder seems to match me most closely though I don't fit all the criteria. According to "ICD-10" (whatever that is) on that wikipedia entry, I need to match "at least three" of the characteristics.

Friday, March 13, 2009

so should I "strive for clarity" or ...

Being deep and appearing deep.— Whoever knows he is deep, strives for clarity; whoever would like to appear deep to the crowd, strives for obscurity. For the crowd considers anything deep if only it cannot see to the bottom: the crowd is so timid and afraid of going into the water.

Nietzsche (GS §173)

On the question of being understandable.— One does not only wish to be understood when one writes; one wishes just as surely not to be understood. It is not by any means necessarily an objection to a book when anyone finds it impossible to understand: perhaps that was part of the author's intention—he did not want to be understood by just "anybody". Every more noble spirit and taste selects its audience when it wishes to communicate itself; and choosing them, one at the same time erects barriers against "the others". All the more subtle laws of any style have their origin at this point: they at the same time keep away, create a distance, forbid "entrance," understanding, as said above—while they open the ears of those whose ears are related to ours.

Nietzsche (GS §381)
Maybe it's just a targeted clarity.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the curse that feeds on all life

“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.” -Philip K. Dick

More PKD quotes

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I'd heard of some technology a few years back that was working to allow you to wear special glasses (probably with GPS) that would allow you to walk down say, a street in NYC and have it show you full menus of restaurants as you looked at the buildings on the street. But this technology seems to be able to accommodate something like that and a whole lot more:

hundred most influential books since WWII

Here -- from the Times Literary Supplement (1995). Another sign that I haven't read nearly enough (and probably haven't earned the right to pontificate on much of anything though that doesn't seem likely to stop me). The books from the list that I've read (at least in part):
14. George Orwell: Animal Farm
15. George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four
17. Karl Popper: The Open Society and Its Enemies
19. Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism and Humanism
47. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Philosophical Investigations
64. Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
77. Hans Küng: On Being a Christian
79. John Rawls: A Theory of Justice
84. Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
93. Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time
98. Richard Rorty: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-philosophicus
Maybe the books which have proved to be important has changed since 1995. Anyone have a good updated list?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

old paperbacks (and Montaigne)

"I'll gladly come back from the other world to give the lie to anyone who will shape me other than I was, even though to honor me." -Michel De Montaigne

The Vintage 1956 back cover of the Lowenthal's (auto)biography of Montaigne:

autobio of Montaigne (back cover)

I've taken to reading old paperbacks. I'm sure they aren't the best translations but it's just nice to read an old book and they're usually cheap. I also realize ebooks are all the rage and I'm sure they save trees or something but they just don't allow for the same kind of relationship.

"Old books? The devil take them!" Goby said.
"Fresh every day must be my books and bread."
Nature herself approves the Goby rule
And gives us every moment a fresh fool.

Harley Shum

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Wendell Berry in SLC

I went to see Wendell Berry read in SLC on Thursday night at the Masonic Temple in SLC (fun location). He was in town as part of the 14th Annual Stegner Symposium. If I heard him correctly, he hasn't been in Utah in 40 years.

He read from an unfinished essay on the economy, a short piece of fiction, and then took some questions. [I'll post a link to the essay when/if I can find it.]

At some point he was asked about education and he emphasized the need to get students:
  1. asking "what is this place we live in?" and educated about the local habitat
  2. figuring out what the local environment can sustain
  3. working across disciplines to find solutions that are mutually beneficial for man and the environment
He also talked about encouraging students to go back to their homes to bring the information they learn to bear on their communities. This commitment to place is a common theme in his writing.

He had a number of choice comments about how terrible a "healthy economy" is in an ecological sense. Not the best quote of the night but the only thing I wrote down verbatim--he diagnosed our political and economic troubles as related to a lack of skepticism:

"Skepticism ought to be native to us. Our ancestors survived because they were a little skeptical."


Related: Salt Lake Tribune article

Thursday, March 5, 2009

how language impacts thought

This article (pdf) is a discussion of the research of cognitive scientists on how our languages impact our thought. I'm especially fascinated by how languages with words that have gender place such seemingly arbitrary preconceptions on all sorts of things.
To test how this affects the way people think, she presented Spanish and German-speaking volunteers with nouns that happened to have opposite genders in their native tongues. "Key", for instance, is feminine in Spanish and masculine in German, and "bridge" is masculine in Spanish and feminine in German. Boroditsky asked the volunteers to come up with adjectives -in English- to describe these items. German speakers described keys as "awkward", "worn", "jagged", and "serrated", while Spanish speakers saw them as "little", "lovely", "magic", and "intricate". To Germans, bridges were "awesome", "beautiful", "fragile" and "elegant", whereas Spanish speakers considered them "big", "dangerous", "solid", "strong", and "sturdy".

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe is an archeological dig in Turkey that, according to this article, may be the site of the Garden of Eden. The location now seems symbolic for the shift from hunter-gatherer to agriculture based societies. So, metaphorically, the knowledge of good and evil was knowledge of agricultural techniques and animal husbandry and something like overgrazing forced man out of the garden.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

LDS revaluation

"Elders" who are children.
LDS missionaries (not the ones I met today)
As I walked out of my house this afternoon to read a few philosophy essays at the coffee shop, I ran into a couple LDS missionaries. I stopped and talked to them for a few minutes. One of them was from Canada and the other from Wisconsin (I think). I was struck by just how young these missionaries really are (usually 19-21*) as I spoke with them. I mentioned what I was studying and that I like to study religion but that I just really don't want to join any clubs.

I'm not really a club person.

They assured me it wasn't really a club but I couldn't be convinced. As I walked away they said, "well, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us". I said "Thanks, if you have any questions feel free to contact me, I may have done the relevant study."

Monday, February 23, 2009

wisdom through experience

Not to wish to see too soon.— As long as one lives through the experience, one must surrender to the experience and shut one's eyes instead of becoming an observer immediately. For that would disturb the good digestion of the experience: instead of wisdom one would acquire indigestion.

From the practice of wise men.— To become wise, one must wish to have certain experiences and run, as it were, into their gaping jaws. This, of course, is very dangerous; many a wise guy has been swallowed.

from Nietzsche's The Wanderer and His Shadow §297-298

Saturday, February 21, 2009

more tools from our googly overlords

Some friends passed along a few google projects of note.

Google Powermeter helps people measure their power consumption. It isn't ready for consumers yet but looks promising (although, like many googly things, I'm conflicted about giving them so much data).

Understudy is a tool for those of us who use Apple computers to use FrontRow with NetFlix instant and Hulu.

Friday, February 20, 2009

chewing on The Plague

It is in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth—in other words, to silence. (p. 116)

His face still in shadow, Rieux said that he'd already answered: that if he believed in an all-powerful God he would cease curing the sick and leave that to Him. But no one in the world believed in a God of that sort; no, not even Paneloux, who believed that he believed in such a God. And this was proved by the fact that no one ever threw himself on Providence completely. Anyhow, in this respect Rieux believed himself to be on the right road—in fighting against creation as he found it.

"Ah," Tarrou remarked. "So that's the idea you have of your profession?"

"More or less." The doctor came back into the light. (p. 127)

[T]he narrator is inclined to think that by attributing overimportance to praiseworthy actions one may, by implication, be paying homage to the worse side of human nature. For this attitude implies that such actions shine out as rare exceptions, while callousness and apathy are the general rule. The narrator does not share this view. The evil that is in the world always comes from ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however isn't the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clearsightedness. (p. 131)

"Forgive me, Rambert, only—well, I simply don't know. But stay with us if you want to." A swerve of the car made him break off. Then, looking straight in front of him, he said: "For nothing in the world is it worth turning one's back on what one loves. Yet that is what I'm doing, though why, I do not know." He sank back on the cushion. "That's how it is," he added wearily, "and there's nothing to be done about it. So let's recognize the fact and draw the conclusions."

"What conclusions?"

"Ah," Rieux said, "a man can't cure and know at the same time. So let's cure as quickly as we can. That's the more urgent job." (p. 210)

from The Plague by Camus

"Any philosopher's argument which does not therapeutically treat human suffering is worthless. For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either if it does not expel the suffering of the mind." -Epicurus

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

the philosopher-comedian

Every animal—therefore la bête philosophe [The philosophical animal], too—instinctively strives for an optimum of favorable conditions under which it can expend all its strength and achieve its maximal feeling of power; every animal abhors, just as instinctively and with a subtlety of discernment that is "higher than all reason," every kind of intrusion or hinderance that obstructs or could obstruct this path to the optimum (I am not speaking of its path to happiness, but its path to power, to action, to the most powerful activity, and in most cases its path to unhappiness). Thus the philosopher abhors marriage, together with that which might persuade to it—marriage being a hindrance and calamity on his path to the optimum. What great philosopher hitherto has been married? Heraclitus, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Schopenhauer—they were not; more, one cannot even imagine them married. A married philosopher belongs in comedy, that is my proposition—and as for that exception, Socrates—the malicious Socrates*, it would seem, married ironically, just to demonstrate this proposition.

Nietzsche GM 3.7 (Kaufmann *Socrates appears in Aristophanes' comedy The Clouds)

All I have been concerned to indicate here is this: in the most spiritual sphere too, the ascetic ideal has at present only one kind of real enemy capable of harming it: the comedians of this ideal—for they arouse mistrust of it. Everywhere else that the spirit is strong, mighty, and at work without counterfeit today, it does without ideals of any kind—the popular expression for this abstinence is "atheism"—except for its will to truth. But this will, this remnant of an ideal, is, if you will believe me, this ideal itself in its strictest, most spiritual forumlation, esoteric through and through, with all external additions abolished, and thus not so much its remnant as its kernel. Unconditional honest atheism (and its is the only air we breathe, we more spiritual men of this age!) is therefore not the antithesis of that ideal, as it appears to be; it is rather only one of the latest phases of its evolution, one of its terminal forms and inner consequences--it is the awe-inspiring catastrophe of two thousand years of training in truthfulness that finally forbids itself the lie involved in belief in God.

(The same evolutionary course in India, completely independent of ours, should prove something: the decisive point is reached five centuries before the beginning of the European calendar, with Buddha; more exactly, with the Sankhya philosophy, subsequently popularized by Buddha and made into a religion.)

Nietzsche GM 3.27 (Kaufmann)
All philosophers are single unless they're comedians.
I'm married. I'm a philosopher.
Ergo, I'm a comedian.

Mike (of Church of Mike) is a comedian of the latter variety.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

variety, the spice of the afterlife

When author David Eagleman thinks about the afterlife, he sees endless possibilities. In his book, Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives, he imagines a variety of scenarios.

Eagleman's imagined afterlives range from the perfectly mundane — an "infinite airport waiting area" — to the fantastic, like a visit with the "big face" of this universe's creator.

'Afterlives': 40 Stories Of What Follows Death
I heard Eagleman interviewed on NPR today. I've wanted to do a similar project because so much thinking about religion is reductive and unimaginative.

One of my favorite afterlives he talks about is one in which only bad people get immortality. The idea being that God is so tired of time that he sees temporal existence as a gift and living eternally as a punishment. So God spends eternity with the bad people and the good people get an end.

brilliant sermon

The best sermon I've heard in years.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bon Iver

It wasn't planned. The goal was to hibernate.

Justin Vernon moved to a remote cabin in the woods of Northwestern Wisconsin at the onset of winter. Tailing from the swirling breakup of his long time band, he escaped to the property and surrounded himself with simple work, quiet, and space. He lived there alone for three months, filling his days with wood splitting and other chores around the land. This special time slowly began feeding a bold, uninhibited new musical focus.

This slowly evolved into days filled with twelve-hour recording blocks, breaking only for trips on the tractor into the pines to saw and haul firewood, or for frozen sunrises high up a deer stand. All of his personal trouble, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss and guilt that had been stock piled over the course of the past six years, was suddenly purged into the form of song. The end result is, For Emma, Forever Ago, a nine-song album comprised of what's been dubbed a striking debut by critics and fans alike.

Bon Iver bio
A few different friends have recommended I listen to Bon Iver. Good stuff. There's also an abc interview and a couple higher quality versions of songs (the ones he recorded at the cabin) to play from his site. I must be late to hearing about him, there are already a number of youtube covers.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I have a new ringtone

This might be a little juvenile, but Mike's not on gChat and I need to show him this.

Barack Obama is tired of your motherfucking shit

Oh black Jesus you make me proud.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a tactic of rhetoric and fallacy used in sales, marketing, public relations, politics and propaganda. FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence public perception by disseminating negative information designed to undermine the credibility of their beliefs. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor's product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival. FUD techniques may be crude and simple. Alternatively they may be very subtle, employing an indirect approach.

The term originated to describe disinformation tactics in the computer hardware industry and has since been used more broadly. FUD is a manifestation of the appeal to fear.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt (

FUD /fuhd/ n. Defined by Gene Amdahl after he left IBM to found his own company: "FUD is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential customers who might be considering [Amdahl] products." The idea, of course, was to persuade them to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors' equipment. This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors' equipment or software. See IBM. After 1990 the term FUD was associated increasingly frequently with Microsoft, and has become generalized to refer to any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.

From The Jargon File circa 2001 ( latest


Some old monopoly card illustrations.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Camus on soccer (football)

When he was asked, in the fifties, by an alumni sports magazine to write a few words about his time with the RUA [Racing Universitaire Algerios] his piece included the following words:
After many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport and learned it in the RUA.
People have read more into these words than, perhaps, Camus would want them to. He was referring to a kind of simple morality he wrote about in his early essays, an ethic of sticking up for your friends, of valuing courage and fair-play. Camus believed that the people of politics and religion try to confuse us with convoluted moral systems to make things appear more complicated than they really are, possibly to suit their own agendas. People may do better to look to the simple morality of the football field than to politicians and philosophers.

Albert Camus and football (