Archives for category: thoughts

I wrote this draft nearly a year ago (2009-11-28) and just unearthed it. So, I’m going to post it without edits. And add some new thoughts below.

For nearly a decade now I have wanted a PhD. I know this sounds strange, I mean wanting a PhD like I crave a favorite food dish or a particularly lovely new piece of technology. The point is however, that I thought the PhD was really important, it meant that I could reach a particular point in my intellectual travels. The PhD had specific conntations of who I wanted to be and where I would be. Now I don’t think the same way. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to study and receive a PhD, but it does mean that I have changed how and where I place importance in my work/research. Let me Explain.

I saw a film recently, it was called Tum Mile, it was a bollywood piece and it wasn’t too briliant. The film did however feature at least one interesting line and it was spoken by the male protagonist, a self confessed artist: “I make my art for the common person”. Now, while I hate the words ‘common person’, I can see what the character means, in his context he is speaking of making art that isn’t for fellow artists, art critics of gallery people, who think of art as a business or as ‘high’ culture, he wants his art to speak to everybody else. In this way I am the same, I want to transform and change myself and others, which also feature in magic, but we’re not going there, yet. I have moved from caring about the needs and interests of academia, which is loosely thought of as the lecturers, professors and students in a high tower separated from the rest of the world, only talking to each other about how their work changes the world but never actually getting involved in changing the world, or trying to live in it. These reasons also seem to be why academia hasn’t been badly effected by any economic downturns but we can get into that later, and in another piece.

Now, where was I? I place meaning, and direct my research to something academia calls the ‘public’ outside  the tower .

The Philosopher, A C Graying has said numerous times that philosophers have to communicate their ideas and views to a wider public if they are to ave any importance. He even takes it further, he thinks that it is the philosopher’s role to communicate, share and educate everybody they can, breaking the barriers of academia and not, which only disadvantage all concerned.

I am currently finishing my MPhil, and do not want to pursue a PHD right now. In the year since I’ve written the above, my thoughts on life have changed, resulting in the fact that most of what I want to do now is not myopically limited by the PhD. I want to venture into other things, and other realms without thinking that my life and career don’t start until I have a PhD. Maybe in the future I will find something I really want to dedicate to a PhD. We’ll see. For now though, look forward to me annoucing and doing other things.

I’d like to say the Future’s bright…

The pursuit of a good place to turn thoughts into writing is a continuing process. I need cleaness, simpleness and, usually, coffee nearby. Below are three recent homes to my creative sparks.

1) The most usual, the humble coffee shop, and English tradition, although in this case an Italian chain, where most of the Enlightenment was put together. Now of course people think of tea.

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2) Then of course there is the out of the ordinary cafe. In this case it is the St. Martins in the field (church) Crypt cafe, which has an awe-some ambiance and acoustic quality.

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3) Recently the most glorious place and way to write…Outside!

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(Yes that lady is hula-hooping, she was there for an hour, serious work out, and it must be said anybody who hula-hoops in public is showing off)

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(If Redbull gave you wings I am sure I would write in the sky as well)

The place I do my writing is becoming specific and I am thinking through what works and how. Once upon a time I could write anywhere. Now life is not so simple. On I go. As we all do.

All in one digital capture systems like DevonThink are a hoarder’s wet dream. They allow the user to capture, tag and organise any scrap of potential information they think may one day be important, hence hoarding. The problem however, is that even if a user is good at organising their information, there needs to be a path, even a potential one, to follow, and allow meaning to arise.

The age we currently inhabit is called the ‘Information’ Age, which reflects the importance we now all put on ‘information’. I should clarify that by ‘ we all’ I mean people inhabiting a ‘western’ tradition. Information is not meaning, or so the saying goes. And no I’m not commenting on whether it’s true or not, not yet anyway.


This post is a little late, namely due to my forgetting it was in this notebook. I realise that this actually makes sense in relation to how i treat notebooks. Something I go into further below.

(Originally written 09/04/02009)

For the last nine months or so I have carried around and scribbled in a black, hardback, slightly larger than A5 size notebook. Instead of keeping separate notebooks for separate projects, writing in pads which i could detach the individual pages and keep all related pieces together, I kept this one notebook so that I didn’t have the chance of losing or destroying bits of paper as I have often done in the past.

Now of course If had lost or destroyed this notebook I was using I would have lost everything, but luckily I didn’t, I filled each page and now it is full and time to move onto scribbling ink into in to a new, different notebook.

I started my new book, a week ago, and as the now filled notebook had all my project(s) notes in it I kept it on me along with my new notebook so that I could flick through it and find pieces that I need to back to and consult.

Today I only took my new notebook as the plan was to only scribble down what had been dancing around my thoughts since i woke up this morning.

However, as it always goes, as I was in the cafe I had need to consult my, now filled, old notebook, and go over a few sections I had scribbled down mainly in the recent past. The problem of course was that it really was the past I couldn’t remember anything I had written on the subject beyond the general theme. So, alas, I realised perhaps for the first time, that my notebook was not simply a place that I scribbled down thoughts, to ‘exorcise’ them from me, but, instead, the notebook acted as some sort of external record for what I have been working on for the last nine months, a much more faithful residue than my memories perhaps.

- Now the point of this piece, I have become very attached to my notebooks and rely on them more than I realised. I wouldn’t function or research in the same way if I didn’t carry one around with me. And, as I have shown it is not simply the carrying of a notebook that is important, but the collection of notes and observations that goes along with carrying one.

- Now I just need to honour my notebook properly by going through it and ‘excavating’ and ‘rescuing’ the pieces that I have fully forgotten about. I did this recently with an even older notebook and found pieces I had no recollection of ever writing. Finding such pieces brought back ideas of the time and places I had written the pieces, and in some cases the people I had been writing with.

I have been meaning to post these for a few days but I have been busy, and now I notice that Boing Boing have another post up about the new police posters turning up around Britain. Boing Boing’s previous posts are here and here . The reason I am posting about this is because the posters seem so poorly designed. The big words on the posters are the words you really don’t want to pay attention to. If you do, they come across as very authoritarian and scary. However, what you have to pay attention to is the small print. These posters are part of the police’s attempt to become more transparent in society. Take for example the poster below.

Police poster 01

The large text of this poster is scary, like everybody it is addressing is guilty of something. However, the small text is the bottom is the one to read. It says ” The Police now pledge to keep you informed on how they’re tackling neighbourhood crime. To find out more go to directgov.gov.uk/policingpledge or text PLEDGE to 66101″. Below this text is the title “The Policing Pledge”. Therefore, the poster is not meant to be part of the anti-terror posters that have crept in to the UK (here ,and here for fun remixes of the posters , noticed how all the links are to Boing Boing?)

The point I am trying to make is that this is the police is trying to make itself more personable and transparent yet they seem to be hiding the meaningful information behind intimidating wording and fonting. If you don’t spend the time reading the posters top to bottom, then you won’t get the message, which in advertising is a major problem i would think.

How about another poster to illustrate my point:

Police poster 02

Here the text underneath reads ” The police pledge to listen and respond to residents’ concerns about neighbourhood crime, To find out more go to directgov.gov.uk/policingpledge or text PLEDGE to 66101″. Again the big, bold type and words don’t help matters, and you have to spend time stopping and reading the small print.

Oh I should add that I am in Sheffield as are these posters.

Dupre’s book ‘Darwin’s Legacy’ is a short (around 124 pages, large type) book dealing with evolution, and what it means today. Dupre even notes in the beginning that he is looking at evolution from a phlosopher who studies biology. While largely a general overview of prevlent themes within evlutionary theory, the trademark opinionated, measured analytical postions of Dupre shine through. Dupre is at home explaining why social biology, and evolutionary pyschology are incorrect. He also seems genuinely positive about the meaning of evolution to people today, largely in the form of systematic treatments of race, sex and gender (the fact that they are not completely biologically meaningful). The passages are a culmination of the book and they work well.

This book isn’t a general, attemtpt at objective, history of evolution, and what it means. This book is a position text for what Dupre thinks evolution should/could be.

Dan Hill, writer of the blog City of Sound, has a recent piece up on his site about Sheffield. The piece is interesting, especially the bits that dwell on the music that has come out of the city, concentrating on pulp who I have never really known much about. As I now call this city one of homes, the piece is a good way for me to interact with the city on multiple levels. The first is that I can gleam a little history of the city, both in terms of architecture and in music. I also get some insights of someone who grew up within Sheffield, and how Hill now feels returning, if even for a brief trip.

Much of what Hill sys is interesting and new. I am not sure that I agree with his characterisation of the the Sheffield and the north as monotomous and bleak, and rather uninteresting, but that is something I will address another time when I have the words (and images).

Part the way into the piece Hill says:

Now an almost hollow city, cruelly mined of the manufacturing, trade and resources industries that were its raison d’etre, urban regeneration is pretty much the only strategy in town, leaving a centre defined by cafe bars, galleries and retail, and its edges pitted with vacant development sites next to sheds containing Matalan and Wickes.

It is exactly this city I see when i roam around it, however, it is in this way that I see a sheffield that is becoming and is in many ways a post-industrial sprawl. The city isn’t planned, or organised, neither does all the projects and constant building and converting appear to be.

I even see construction workers, and council maitenance people at work at weekends, and most days before 8am. This, for someone from London, is astonishing, especially if it wakes you up in the morning.However, it the appearance of change and investment of time and money. A city that is not hanging it head to a death bell ringing in its ears. The city is stead moving forward.

One of the things that grabs me as I move about the city is that is feels like itis changing and moving forward, there may be no destination in plain view but that doesn’t matter so much to me.

The ful article is: CITYOFSOUND: Sheffield and the North

College and university essays are prime examples of situated educational praxis and an element of learning how to live. This view however, is in stark contrast with the more popular, wide spread and understood view that essays are important as far as the student gaining a grade that either passes or fails them in a given class. The college and university essay however, is a preface to future work, and life. That is, a training that sees the student honing their skills and raising their abilities ready for jobs that require specific skills and abilities. Therefore, the aim of this short piece is to discuss the meaning and place of college and university essays by situating them as important social, life living phenomena and not something separate to or removed from life.

University is an apprenticeship which trains the student in the necessary skills of their life to come. In this way then college and university essays are situated ‘outside’ or ‘before’, but instead they exist as a specific important, in many ways a necessary, way and part of the life of the student. This view does not simply apply to the young student who is the stereotypical writer of college and university essays, but for anybody who is embarking on education. In fact these view and the other viewpoints depicted here dealing with college essays could easily be transcribed into education and training at all levels. The difficult area is making the work relevant the showing the student its importance.

Learning how to discuss, reason and argue in a sophisticated way is important to writing, specifically, and in life, generally. These are skills that must be demonstrated sufficiently well within the confines of an essay for a good grade to be conveyed.

Chambers online dictionary cites the root/route of ‘essay’ as a sixteenth century French word meaning ‘to try’. This meaning is exactly what students wishing to demonstrate their knowledge, through learning, do. Students try, they attempt, they make a go at laying down, writing down, an understanding of something they have been taught. The other beauty of the essay is that it is short form prose, and most usually consists of a sole thesis which is introduced in the first paragraph and elaborated upon for the length the essay.
The fact that essays are also prominant in academic journals, as well as newpapers and mainstream magazines, books are also most usually composed of a collection of essay length chapters. Thus, this makes the teaching method of essay writing relevent when one is learning their trade. After all, when one is learning how to make a brick and mortar wall, the ultimate test is whether they are able to build the wall correctly.

The old adage ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ is one to be mindful of. This is because the most powerful of non-fiction, in some cases even fiction (see 1984), are the pieces that demonstrate learning not simply as an esoteric academic study, but as something important and necessary in the world. A piece of writing that discloses to the reader something that changes them.

“Last week I watched the most frightening horror movie I’ve ever seen.
It was about three hours long, and, incredibly, it all unfolded live.
I’m talking, of course, about the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Yes it was inspiring, yes it was uplifting … but it was also
genuinely terrifying on a very human level, because just like you I was
watching it with the terrible nagging suspicion that he might get shot
at any moment.”
Is how Charlie Brooker’s article detailing Obama’s inauguration begins. An articles which is ineresting and raises the point:

“Because, quite frankly, the vast majority of people on this planet
would be far happier if, for the remainder of his presidency, Obama
only makes public appearances encased within a gigantic
iron-and-concrete ball, addressing crowds via a Wi-Fi link to a nearby
tannoy.”

Which for me goes against the reason that Obama becoming president can appear to be so great. Yes, people may fear for his safety, but the current times allows for Obama to stand where he does and do the job he does, safely. It is the ability for Obama to appear in public, to interact with the country that elected him to the Presidential office, that makes the figure head of being President even more potent. If everybody, thought or knew, that Obama was hiding in a bunker, then it would appear to the world that Obama was not safe and that he was not what people wanted in the President.

Brooker’s original article is here

The Rosetta disc,designed and manufactured by the Long Now Foundation is so impressive I will let the post about it being made a reality speak for itself.

[The] problem of long-term digital storage seemed a crucial hurdle for any civilization trying to act generationaly. How could a society think in terms of centuries unless there was a reliable way to transmit and store its knowledge over centuries? This puzzle was the focus of a conference hosted by Long Now in 1998, dedicated to technical solutions for Managing Digital Continuity. At this meeting Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive suggested a new technology developed by Los Alamos labs, and commercialized by the Norsam company, as a solution for long term digital storage. Norsam promised to micro-etch 350,000 pages of information onto a 3-inch nickel disk with an estimated lifespan of 2,000 -10,000 years.

This business side of the disk is pure nickel. Picking it up you would not be aware there were 13,500 pages of linguistic gold hiding on it. The nickel is deposited on an etched silicon disk. In effect the Rosetta disk is a nickel cast of a micro-etch silicon mold. When the disk is held at the right angle the grid array of the pages form a slight diffraction rainbow. You need a 750-power optical microscope to read the pages.

The Rosetta disk is not digital. The pages are analog “human-readable” scans of scripts, text, and diagrams. Among the 13,500 scanned pages are 1,500 different language versions of Genesis 1-3, a universal list of the words common for each language, pronunciation guides and so on. Some of the key indexing meta-data for each language section (such as the standard linguistic code number for that language) are displayed in a machine-readable font (OCRb) so that a smart microscope could guide you through this analog trove.

Our hope is that at least one of the eight headline languages can be recovered in 1,000 years. But even without reading, a person might guess there are small things to see in this disk.

A Rosetta Disc was also sent up in the European Space agency’s Rosetta Space probe launched in 2004.

The rest of the post is here

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