The Weblog

Home for the heteronomous

Summer Book Club

A few years ago, The Weblog hosted a summer book club to read 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. Pat has volunteered to host the proceedings once again, and a small group of us, including Big Josh* who was here last time decided to read Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet followed by Tom McCarthy’s C. Please join in! We aim to kick things off on June 1st or thereabouts.

*Big Josh and I are really about the same size, but that’s how we told each other apart when we were cob-loggers.

May 17, 2015 Posted by | C, The Flame Alphabet | , , | Leave a comment

Friday Afternoon Confessional: Hello Again!

I confess I made some decisions in the past year which seemed – to me – pretty heroic. Maybe they were the reason why I followed with interest the discovery of Miguel de Cervantes’ remains. I left a highly paid job to chase a – maybe forever – unpaid dream. I further confess that, 9 months into the chase, I’m left wondering whether I’m up to it. It’s not about the money: I have a beautiful wife which brings in the dough and, after 22 years of loyal service, I negotiated a fine settlement which bought me 2 years of relative safety.

I confess it’s entirely about (not) being needed.

I realized I wasn’t blogging anymore, a practice I maintained for years regardless of time pressure. I hate being busy. I confess I felt busy for 9 months without ‘having’ to do anything. So, Puck Ip!, here I go again.

So the guy asks: “Why do you speak of this grand vision of changing the education system?”

Damn, why indeed?

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March 22, 2015 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 4 Comments

Good Bye

It’s not my place, this place. But I feel responsible somehow, as I always do. It seems it came to an end. So I think a tribute needs to top this page. I could talk about the splendid people who contributed here. The fact of the matter is, I don’t know any of them. From 2 or 3 I know approximately where they live and what they do. That’s it and that it is part of the heteronomous wonder of this place.

Instead let me talk about myself. I am a lucky bastard with the inborn capacity to feel out of luck. I am like most lucky bastards, that is. Things came easy to me, mainly because I settled for what comes easy. Kind of at least. Is that a crime? Just because it feels like one? Because the received opinion is that worthwhile is in association with  making a tremendous effort? With pain and trembling?

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December 7, 2014 Posted by | innovative technologies that shape our lives, shameless self-promotion, Sunday Stories | , | 2 Comments

Friday Afternoon Confessional: the fallacy of conservatism

This is the fallacy:

“If this tradition was good for the parents then it will be good for the kids as well.”

There’s not a lot more to conservatism and – as much hatred this fallacy deserves – it is also by far the best conservatism has to offer. Because, at least, it looks like it might make sense as some kid of a default rule. “Why change something that isn’t broken?”, is the most offered conservative response to, well, anything. And it should give pause (including the middle and all that) because what we share is valuable because it is what binds us. It should not be changed just because somebody feels like it, that’s dictatorial. The fact is that change is the one tradition that binds every single culture together. So, in conserving, conservatism degenerates so quickly in dictatorial behavior precisely because conservatism strives to abolish the very change that makes us uniquely capable to cope with the unexpected. It’s no coincidence that the outer edges of conservatism are plagued with convictions such as creationism. As it isn’t coincidence that the outer edges of revolutionary progressives are plagued with totalitarians. And that the next generations of those revolutionary people quickly converge to conserve (showing how evolutionarily stable conservatism is).

So I confess to not merely hating conservatism.

Still, it is a fallacy so let’s inspect in some detail the fallacy of conservative conflation:

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September 20, 2014 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional, language, language acquisition, shameless self-promotion | , , , | Comments Off on Friday Afternoon Confessional: the fallacy of conservatism

Tuesday Hatred of a whole Internet of Things

I hated people who have time to do this:

Now I am one of them.

And not particularly good at it either. With advance apologies to all fine people putting their passion into this IoT thing, at least they’re taking action in something and it’s taking action that counts.

Still, all this talk about fridges talking to cars on where they are located such that the car can summon the phone of a repair guy who can hold the phone in the right way for the troubleshooting SW to tell the fridge to reset (and if that doesn’t work tell the phone to get repair guy to push the reboot button) is kind of lame. Not that it wouldn’t be cool (except maybe if you are the kind of repair guy who wouldn’t take advantage of being let into a home because his phone tells someone’s door to open on account of the fridge telling the door that: “It’s O-Kay” on some fancy super-secretly encrypted protocol). It just seems a lot of fuzz over manipulating things where in principle one would think that it’s somewhat more interesting to work with what actual people do.

At the very least what I got out of this post is that I managed to write a paragraph where a majority of words are bracketed (but there is more on the core of the issue, for those who still practice the slowly disappearing art of suspending judgment). Continue reading

September 9, 2014 Posted by | innovative technologies that shape our lives, shameless self-promotion, torture, Tuesday Hatred | , , | Comments Off on Tuesday Hatred of a whole Internet of Things

Tuesday Hatred of Targets

If you’re not working in a big organization you might not know, but the rest of us are being managed by objectives. The people so managing us are convinced they are being SMART about it. The fact is that they are smarter than we are, as is clear from the fact that we have been stupid enough to put up with it for so long. They sell it to us like diet pills are sold to those addicted to sugar: as a replacement addiction. Suddenly we should feel liberated from micro-management when the only ones liberated are those managing us: liberated from caring about the actual human beings that do the actual day-by-day work.

If you are working in a big organization (and you’re a bit of an a***hole) you may find this amusing: the rest of them are being targeted as well. As politicians increasingly see themselves as entrepreneurs (mostly forgetting the adjective ‘failed’), they want in on the magic. This means they want all of the control and none of the taking-an-interest. They want to be liberal and eat our cake too. Above all they want us to feel different from the others who haven’t achieved independence. Divide …

Let me use my newly found independence to say something about managing for performance: it’s inhuman because it sets out to eliminate the specifically human uncertainties from the process. That is enough to stop doing it. More than enough to start questioning it. Forget about it not working. Forget about the appeal to intuition (diet pill ads appeal to your intuition as well). It is anti-human and we should not put up with it. Out of principle. Full stop.

I’m not the first to say this, see Geert Hofstede (1978):

Schermafbeelding 2014-08-18 om 20.14.55

In other words: the sole reason for reducing us to targets is Continue reading

August 19, 2014 Posted by | economics, innovative technologies that shape our lives, politics, Tuesday Hatred, waking up in a cold sweat | 2 Comments

Tuesday Hatred of The Excluded Middle

Ever since Aristotle phrased something like either it is or it isn’t, stupid people the world over have it ready to stop any discussion dead in its tracks. History knows no justice, or so it seems, because, in fact, history knows both justice and injustice. That’s just the way it is. Logic may always hold but it never applies.

My hatred is not for the law. Laws are fine even if they tend to grow like weed. My hatred is not for logic. Logic is actually quite interesting although pretty destructive in the hands of the irrational. My hatred is reserved for the exclusion bit. Of anything but specifically of the middle. The middle is nice. It’s where all of us loved to be when kids in our parents’ bed. 

Let’s establish the law of The Included Middle.

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July 29, 2014 Posted by | Tuesday Hatred | Comments Off on Tuesday Hatred of The Excluded Middle

Friday Afternoon Confessional: back on track or backtrack?

I confess some things should be as they were. Traditions provide comfort. I confess that this confession is provoked by a day struggling to be – I think this is a sufficiently universal term for it – independent. After today it strikes me that being (an?) independent involves being dependent, a lot, on the ability to chase practical and administrative things.

Gathering all of my courage (and a bunch of paperwork prepared by my accountant) I traveled  to the court. Well, the office of the clerk of some court. The building was the same as the one in which criminals are convicted. The people were nice. I handed over the paperwork expecting this or that stamp as a permanent testimony of me having faced the administrative music. Fat chance. A nice lady told me that my nice accountant – whom I hold no grudge – forgot a not so unimportant detail: to establish a partnership there has to be more than one partner.

Now I need to ask my partner to become my partner, my accountant to adapt the paperwork such that my partner is described as my partner & return to the court’s clerks to stamp me and my partner into partner-hood. If my partner in life is allowed by her boss to become my partner in business.

I confess after that doing the grocery shopping felt like the pinnacle of efficiency and effectivity combined (I see that the word “effectivity” gets a red wavy underlining from wordpress thesaurus. WordPress thesaurus should definitely be mandatory in corporate circles).

To remain on the topic of dependency, I further confess I’m on twitter now.

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June 20, 2014 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 2 Comments

Sunday Stories: Anti-political politicians

“I will not allow anybody to destroy the education that allowed me to become who I am.”, said a politician in response to the question whether it was possible for him to agree on reforming an education system reported to increase inequalities. A sentence which he knew to appeal mostly to the unfortunately many with unfortunate experiences with schools. As he knew whom the sentence “I am the living example that you can make it also if you’re born from working class parents.” would appeal to. Sentences hovering like drones above the heads of voters which believe there is only one bigger enemy than politics: statistics. Sentences that will fire their charge with surgical precision on any politician daring to rely on a statistical finding.

Some politicians like to focus on the ever increasing gap between politicians and their electorate. From another politician: “I earn only a modest income so I know what life is like for an average voter.” The anti-political politician is not monopolized by the right. Politics by hysteria replaces politics. Nobody even tries to explain what we know about the facts. If somebody tries she’s set aside as a naive nobody, the real politicians who hate politicians smile wearily and that’s that. I know who stands to gain from this type of politics although I don’t know whether it’s by design or by invisible hand that our politicians get converted into a selectorate of one-lining sons of bitches which glorify and praise science as long as it is not applied in the social sphere.

It matters: if it’s by design we can only fight it. If we fight it we need to use weapons even more powerful than theirs. Which means we will lose. If by invisible hand we can educate and apply some real politics to cancel out the bias and move on.

I’m naive but the question is: how naive are you?

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May 18, 2014 Posted by | media, politics, Sunday Stories | , | Comments Off on Sunday Stories: Anti-political politicians

Friday Afternoon Confessional: Reading List

I confess I put my life on hold for the last 12 months chasing a ghost. It took me more than a month just to start to remember how life was. Was it worth it? I confess I have no idea. Am I done chasing ghosts? I confess my best answer is: time will tell.

The piles of books which have amassed to the left and right of me do suggest I kept on reading though. I confess I want to boast about that.

To my left, pile n°1: Kripke, Naming & Necessity; Bolaño, Amberes, El Tercer Reich & Estrella Distante; Zweig, Schachnovelle.

Across older piles lying open on pp. 150-151 for reasons I confess I forgot entirely: Gadamar, Elogio de la teoría. Which brings me to the piles to my right featuring more Gadamer, On Education, Poetry And History as well as Wer bin Ich und wer bist Du. The latter sits on top of Fitch, Saul Kripke and Peinado, Futbolistas de izquierdas. Further down in that pile: Gass, Middle C and the almost most recent one: Piketty, Le capital au XXIe siècle.

To my left, pile n° 2: Jaeger, Paideia: los ideales de la cultura griega & Aristoteles; Grundlegung einer Geschichte seiner Entwicklung.

I confess all this name dropping leaves me feeling I really have something to confess about. I am unsure however whether it is arrogance or lack of reading quality/quantity (certainly as far as fiction goes). In order not to have to dwell on that issue I’ll just mention what I’m reading now (& only talk about that one below the fold): Steven Johnson, Everything Bad is Good for You. As you can tell from the Capital letters in the title I’m turning to vulgarized science from time to time (I blame Dawkins for that) but I’m not addicted to it, yet (I might add now I’m at it that I quit smoking if, I confess, without quitting nicotine given I just have put an “e-” before my cigarettes).

I confess it was not my plan to write that many words before I got to this pink book by (the maybe venerable) Steven Johnson and the Flynn effect.

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May 3, 2014 Posted by | bookstores, economics, Friday Afternoon Confessional, shameless self-promotion, teaching | , | Comments Off on Friday Afternoon Confessional: Reading List

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