motto lotto

Thursday, April 30, 2009

conversion story

A commercial database practitioner sees the light.

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).

Monday, April 27, 2009

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

truth vs. falsehood

Looks like truth is still in the lead. Whew.

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

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

JT on Avicenna

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

the perils of social networking

Schneier has a couple recent posts on the insecurity of social networking that are worth taking a look at.

Identifying People using Anonymous Social Networking Data
Social Networking Identity Theft Scams

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?