27 February 2007



Light and darkness, life and death, on the right and left,
these are children, they are inseperably together.
But the good are not good, the wicked not wicked,
life not life, death not death.
Each element fades to an original source.
But those who live above the world cannot fade.
They are eternal.


The names of earthly things are illusory.
We stray from the real to the unreal.
If you hear the word “god,” you miss the real
and hear the unreal.
Father, son, holy spirit, life, light, resurrection, church.
These words are not real. They are unreal
but refer to the real, and are heard in the world.
They fool us. If those names were in the eternal realm,
they would never be heard on earth.
They were not assigned to us here.
Their end dwells in the eternal realm.


Only one name is not uttered in the world:
the name the father gave the son.
Above the name of all others is the father’s name.
The son would not be father without wearing
the father’s name.
Those with his name know it but do not speak it.
Those without his name do not think it.


Truth made names in the world,
and without them we can’t think.
Truth is one and is many,
teaching one thing through the many.


The rulers [Archons] wanted to fool us,
since they saw we were connected with the good.
They took the names of the good
and gave them to the not good
so with names they could trick
and rope us to the not good.
As though doing us a favour,
they took the names from the not good
and placed them on the good.
They knew what they were doing.
They wanted to grab those of us who were free
and make us eternal slaves.

The Gospel of Philip:
Nag Hammadi Codex II, 3, pp. 52,29 to 86,19
taken from The Gnostic Bible, pp. 261–2

21 February 2007

Congratulations Brandi & Darrin!

Work like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ve never been hurt
Dance like no one’s watching
Live like it’s heaven on earth!
Lova ya both! xo —Don

Islamic father killed family for being too western

A father killed his wife and four daughters in their sleep because he could not bear them adopting a more westernised lifestyle, an inquest heard yesterday.

Mohammed Riaz, 49, found it abhorrent that his eldest daughter wanted to be a fashion designer, and that she and her sisters were likely to reject the Muslim tradition of arranged marriages.

On Hallowe'en last year he sprayed petrol throughout their terraced home in Accrington, Lancs, and set it alight.

Caneze Riaz, 39, woke and tried to protect her three-year-old child, Hannah, who was sleeping with her, but was overcome by fumes. Her other daughters, Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 13, and Alisha, 10, died elsewhere in the house.

Riaz, who had spent the evening drinking, set himself on fire and died two days later.

Relatives broke the news to the couple's son, Adam, 17, as he lay terminally ill with cancer at the Christie Hospital, Manchester. He died six weeks later.

Michael Singleton, the coroner, recorded verdicts that Riaz killed himself and that his victims were unlawfully killed.

Riaz, who had spent all but the last 17 years of his life in the North West Frontier region of Pakistan, met his Anglo-Pakistani wife when her father sent her to the sub-continent to find a husband.

After an arranged marriage, she developed a career as a community leader in Accrington while he, handicapped by a lack of English, took on a series of low-paid jobs.

After Mrs Riaz's father died she "suddenly felt less beholden to Mohammed", a friend said. "She started to develop her own circle of friends and allowed the girls to express themselves in a more western way."

She began to work with women who felt suppressed by Asian culture and many saw her as a role model for young Asian women.

via the Telegraph

19 February 2007

My brother at Ayres Rock

He didn't find any aliens.

13 February 2007

The growth of a culture

I read a lot of design sites, particularly those dealing with word-of-mouth marketing, branding, experience design, and the like. It’s interesting watching firms make attempts to engineer cultures around their brands. Some of the silliest flops in marketing history have been because some group of marketers and/or execs thought they could sell a manufactured myth. While not entirely impossible, many people seem to miss the spirit of the brand, the soul of a community or culture.

I found this recent piece from New York Magazine interesting. One quote in particular, on the development of language from necessity to full-fledged, living, breathing thing, really caught my eye:

Younger people […] are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who behave as if privacy doesn’t exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones. For someone like me, who grew up sealing my diary with a literal lock, this may be tough to accept. But under current circumstances, a defiant belief in holding things close to your chest might not be high-minded. It might be an artifact—quaint and naïve, like a determined faith that virginity keeps ladies pure. Or at least that might be true for someone who has grown up “putting themselves out there” and found that the benefits of being transparent make the risks worth it.

Shirky describes this generational shift in terms of pidgin versus Creole. “Do you know that distinction? Pidgin is what gets spoken when people patch things together from different languages, so it serves well enough to communicate. But Creole is what the children speak, the children of pidgin speakers. They impose rules and structure, which makes the Creole language completely coherent and expressive, on par with any language. What we are witnessing is the Creolization of media.”

That’s a cool metaphor, I respond. “I actually don’t think it’s a metaphor,” he says. “I think there may actually be real neurological changes involved.”

It reminds me of a couple quotes I like:

“Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.”
—Benjamin Lee Whorf

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”

“All men dream, but not equally.”

The article is about the new internet generation and their embracing the lack of privacy the people over 30 tend to convince themselves doesn’t exist (yet). They’ve embraced internet slang, mashups, and even rendered proper sentence structure to emotives and more intuitive communication structures akin to the personal interpretation prevalent in languages such as ancient Hebrew and Japanese. I think this return back to intuitive, subjective use of language is of particular importance, as it harkens back to more magical interactions with one another through a shared language — not a language predicated by the blacks and white of English grammar where our tools are defined for us, not by us so that we have a wisdom (knowledge + experience = wisdom) of what we're communicating to one another.

Of course, contemporary adults fear this. Adults fear almost everything they don't understand. I don't need to expound too much on this, but I wanted to make this post for posterity’s sake so I can refer back to it.

12 February 2007

California as a nation-state?

Quoted in its entirety from the New York Times:

Something interesting is happening in California. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to have grasped the essential truth that no nation — not even the United States — can be managed successfully from the center once it reaches a certain scale. Moreover, the bold proposals that Mr. Schwarzenegger is now making for everything from universal health care to global warming point to the kind of decentralization of power which, once started, could easily shake up America’s fundamental political structure.

Governor Schwarzenegger is quite clear that California is not simply another state. “We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta,” he recently declared. “We have the economic strength, we have the population and the technological force of a nation-state.” In his inaugural address, Mr. Schwarzenegger proclaimed, “We are a good and global commonwealth.”

Political rhetoric? Maybe. But California’s governor has also put his finger on a little discussed flaw in America’s constitutional formula. The United States is almost certainly too big to be a meaningful democracy. What does “participatory democracy” mean in a continent? Sooner or later, a profound, probably regional, decentralization of the federal system may be all but inevitable.

A recent study by the economists Alberto Alesina of Harvard and Enrico Spolaore of Tufts demonstrates that the bigger the nation, the harder it becomes for the government to meet the needs of its dispersed population. Regions that don’t feel well served by the government’s distribution of goods and services then have an incentive to take independent action, the economists note.

Scale also determines who has privileged access to the country’s news media and who can shape its political discourse. In very large nations, television and other forms of political communication are extremely costly. President Bush alone spent $345 million in his 2004 election campaign. This gives added leverage to elites, who have better corporate connections and greater resources than non-elites. The priorities of those elites often differ from state and regional priorities.

James Madison, the architect of the United States Constitution, understood these problems all too well. Madison is usually viewed as favoring constructing the nation on a large scale. What he urged, in fact, was that a nation of reasonable size had advantages over a very small one. But writing to Jefferson at a time when the population of the United States was a mere four million, Madison expressed concern that if the nation grew too big, elites at the center would divide and conquer a widely dispersed population, producing “tyranny.”

Few Americans realize just how huge this nation is. Germany could fit within the borders of Montana. France is smaller than Texas. Leaving aside three nations with large, unpopulated land masses (Russia, Canada and Australia), the United States is geographically larger than all the other advanced industrial countries taken together. Critically, the American population, now roughly 300 million, is projected to reach more than 400 million by the middle of this century. A high Census Bureau estimate suggests it could reach 1.2 billion by 2100.

If the scale of a country renders it unmanageable, there are two possible responses. One is a breakup of the nation; the other is a radical decentralization of power. More than half of the world’s 200 nations formed as breakaways after 1946. These days, many nations — including Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Italy and Spain, just to name a few — are devolving power to regions in various ways.

Decades before President Bush decided to teach Iraq a lesson, George F. Kennan worried that what he called our “monster country” would, through the “hubris of inordinate size,” inevitably become a menace, intervening all too often in other nations’ affairs: “There is a real question as to whether ‘bigness’ in a body politic is not an evil in itself, quite aside from the policies pursued in its name.”

Kennan proposed that devolution, “while retaining certain of the rudiments of a federal government,” might yield a “dozen constituent republics, absorbing not only the powers of the existing states but a considerable part of those of the present federal establishment.”

Regional devolution would most likely be initiated by a very large state with a distinct sense of itself and aspirations greater than Washington can handle. The obvious candidate is California, a state that has the eighth-largest economy in the world.

If such a state decided to get serious about determining its own fate, other states would have little choice but to act, too. One response might be for an area like New England, which already has many regional interstate arrangements, to follow California’s initiative — as it already has on some environmental measures. And if one or two large regions began to take action, other state groupings in the Northwest, Southwest and elsewhere would be likely to follow.

A new wave of regional devolution could also build on the more than 200 compacts that now allow groups of states to cooperate on environmental, economic, transportation and other problems. Most likely, regional empowerment would be popular: when the Appalachian Regional Commission was established in 1965, senators from across the country rushed to demand commissions to help the economies and constituencies of their regions, too.

Governor Schwarzenegger may not have thought through the implications of continuing to assert forcefully his “nation-state” ambitions. But he appears to have an expansive sense of the possibilities: this is the governor, after all, who brought Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain to the Port of Long Beach last year to sign an accord between California and Britain on global warming. And he may be closer to the mark than he knows with his dream that “California, the nation-state, the harmonious state, the prosperous state, the cutting-edge state, becomes a model, not just for the 21st-century American society, but for the larger world.”

Gar Alperovitz, a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland, College Park, is the author of “America Beyond Capitalism.”

10 February 2007

Fantastic CF Recruiting commercial

Every time this Canadian Forces Recruiting commercial comes on, I stop what I'm doing to watch it. I watch every clip in earnest, listening to the music, and capture every word as it comes up on the screen. Canada is a funny place, as part of the little bit of culture we can call our own is embracing and supporting our troops and peacekeepers, here and abroad.

I remember as a child, my friends and I never understood the implications of war. It was history, separate from us. I hope I'll never see the face of war. But after seeing films like Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, and the excellent Tae Guk Gi, I've been able to frame the pain and suffering.

I know little of the Canadian Forces aside from the respect they command from my perception of them. This commercial (its branding) nicely sums up how I believe they ought to be perceived. Bravo to the firm that produced it.

It also reminds me of cultural artefacts from the Canadian government which we Canadians are presented with every Remembrance Day:
Vignette: Canada Remembers

"A Pittance of Time"

08 February 2007

Shine on ’em

I watched Blood Diamond last night, and it reminded me a lot of Hotel Rwanda and an older post I made on the the disturbing reality of the Chinese fur trade (warning, disturbing imagery).

Aside from enjoying the film, though some of the literary devices were easily contrived, it brought me back to wondering about how people can relate further outside of their 3° of separation. I read somewhere that most people (Westerners) can't often put anything outside of 2° or 3° of separation into context, so it rarely affects their life choices. This is unless it reflects a lifestyle choice, which in turn is a reflection of them expressing themselves through actions. For example, you buy dolphin-safe tuna because it makes you better, not because you know much about the symbol on the tuna label, or the processes taken, whether or not it's really dolphin-safe or how they define that, et cetera. It just reflects the notion that you would think it bad to hurt dolphins (though they're the only animals aside from humans that rape for pleasure).

One of the most powerful lines I've ever heard was in Hotel Rwanda: Colonel Oliver, explaining why the world will not intervene in the Tutsis genocide, "You're black. You're not even a nigger. You're an African."

And it was true. Even while watching Blood Diamond, I couldn't help but feel a little exasperated at the African condition. (Not just through film, but through other media, too. And stories of friends that have been located in Africa. The best I can get without having travelled there myself.)

Why does the West donate so charitably to the tsunami relief fund a couple years ago, but neglect Africa? And if it's natural for us to embrace our 3°-wide environ, where is the broken link in our social fence that's preventing us from taking care of one another. Or does it start with many of us, are we broken links? Do we only make decisions based on how they make us feel? I guess this is the difference between knowledge and experience.

Our past resident asshole-in-office, Ralph Klien, made that abundantly clear when he, drunk, threw loose change at homeless people in a shelter back in 2001. Of course, I don't know if the homeless people threw loose change at Klein first, prompting the ordeal, but it's an example how one can view their case as so separate from the conditions that surround us.

I don't know where I am going with any of this. It's thoughts on why we lack the capacity to embrace a holistic civilisation.

06 February 2007

Bev Oda, I strongly dislike you

We live in a wondrous age of communications, new arts and media, and new social experimentation. But the behemoths of antiquity loom over us, every-present and perpetuating their own existence. When will it be okay for us to publicly execute politicians again? Really.

I've written two letters to Bev Oda (I highly doubt she reads them herself), expressing my distaste for her efforts to bring Canadian copyright law around to reflect the interests of corporate America. But now she's among the many federal politicians to be outed for abusing public dollars on personal, frivolous fluff, like limousines:

Documents obtained by the Liberals under Access to Information show that Oda and her staff used a private limo company 11 times in four days, ordering several cars each day and paying drivers to stand by for as long as seven hours at a stretch.

The bill, dated April 8, totalled $5,476. Documents show Oda wrote a cheque reimbursing the government for $2,226 on May 19.

"When people started asking questions, the minister’s conscience apparently got the better of her and she cut a cheque for $2,200, but when will the minister cough up another $3,200 to cover the rest of the cost of her Juno joyride?" Liberal MP Michael Savage asked in the House of Commons.

Makes me wonder, from a design standpoint, how to reprimand politicians without actually beheading them. (It's a fabulous idea, but just not savvy with the times.) It all reminds me of this Agnes Repplier quote: "The clearsighted do not rule the world, but they sustain and console it."

Read more on the excellent Bev Oda via Boing Boing:
Canadian Heritage Minister Oda in the pocket of recording execs

Canada's about to have a copyright disaster

Can. Heritage Minister's election was funded by entertainment co's

Canadian copyright czar forced to turn away industry bribes

Hollywood's Canadian Member of Parliament

Canadian copyright minister caught lining pockets

Hello Kitty Tarot

“The cutest tarot deck you will ever own”

Click the GIFs to visit site

‘The Machine is Us,’ by Michael Wesch

Absolutely superb.

via Wonderland

05 February 2007

‘Hardwired’ to home in on six focal colours

The Economist gets all misty eyed over colours, the emotions they evoke, and how this fundamental response crosses linguistic barriers. All in highly scientific and technical terms of course.
If humans really are hardwired to home in on six focal colours, then all languages should assign words around those six. Dr Regier, however, tests a subtler concept. He thinks that useful languages should allot words in order to minimise the perceptual difference between colours of the same category, and maximise it between colours in different categories. Unlike national boundaries, linguistic boundaries should form only in the valleys of his colour globe, never over the hills.

via Readymade News

03 February 2007

Career planning may be a waste of time

Since people are "poor at predicting what will make us happy in the future" (the term of art is miswanting), perhaps careful career planning is a waste of time. "The best strategy for career planning is this: make your best guess, try it out and don't be surprised if you don't like it." I've done 0 minutes of career planning and I'm happy with the results. See also The Chaos Theory of Career Development.

via kottke.org

If your parents never had children, chances are you won’t either

People who are social, religious, or political conservatives tend to have more children, and that fact has profound implications for culture, for politics, and for business. In the United States, for example, fertility rates are 12% higher in states that voted for George W. Bush in the most recent presidential election than in the more liberal and secular states that supported his opponent. Indeed, if the John Kerry states seceded and formed a new nation, its fertility rate would be just 1.8 children per woman—13% below the level needed to replace the population.

This link between fertility and conservatism is found not only in the United States but in Europe, Israel, the rest of the Middle East, and elsewhere. There is a strong correlation between adherence to traditional Christian, Judaic, or Islamic values and high fertility. And as an increasing share of all children is descended from people whose conservative values have led them to raise large families, we see the emergence of societies in which the patriarchal and highly pro-natal values of the Abrahamic religions are dominant.

So what caused the rise of liberal secularism in the first place? Patriarchy, as it has traditionally manifested itself, requires a man to marry a “respectable” wife and to take responsibility for the children she bears him. In part because of these obligations, traditional patriarchy is unappealing to many men. Similarly, many women take issue with the roles a patriarchal society prescribes for them. When broad swaths of the population come from something other than a conservative upbringing—as they did in the 1960s and 1970s—patriarchy’s constraints on personal freedom can seem excessive to men and women alike. Then gender roles relax, birthrates fall, and patriarchy goes into retreat.

But patriarchy always makes a comeback, because its adherents put more genes and ideas into the future than do their secular counterparts. This process is already well under way in the United States. For example, among American women just now passing beyond reproductive age, nearly 20% are childless and almost as many have only one child. Consequently, a relatively large share of the next generation is descended from a comparatively narrow and socially conservative segment of society that places a high value on reproduction. Today we see a culture in which social conservatives and the religious-minded play a far greater role than they did forty years ago.

…continued via the Harvard Business Review

What is confidence?

This is what the collective genius of Wikipedia has come up with: "Confidence: When the anxiety is at an optimum level, you are at your best. You know that negative outcomes are possible, but rather than exaggerating or minimizing it, you give it the due attention necessary (What can I do if this happens…). So perhaps a better definition of confidence is the state of balanced perceptions and preparation."

And I wrote this some time ago and continue coming back to it:

Power is how one utilises their roster of wisdoms (knowledge + experience = wisdom) to maintain their order and interpretation of reality held over any others.

Because reality requires two or more persons to define it, I want to define confidence as the state of defining the boundaries by which you establish your sovereign understanding of context(s) and your resident power over them. (Power as defined above.)

Watching managers work with their staff is often an eloquent dance of establishing limits by the manager(s) to keep staff working within expected parametres. Or when someone uses their wisdom/power to infringe themselves on an area of someone else's life, but the victim has no abstract or concept of just what this area of their life is or how it works. (Lots of poeple fear marketing for just this reason.)

So is this one of the real keys to occult power? Building up ontologies of perceptions and simply being able to impose your perceived orders — metaphysical scaffolding of understanding that one person may have over their world — over others because they haven't the experience and/or knowledge to defend themselves. In other words, the one-eyed may be the king of the blind.

Which brings me back to this quote by Daniel Goleman:

The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice
there is little we can do
to change
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds.

Always be at least aware: there are those others out there that notice, and they can experiment with your own personal boundaries by imposing themselves upon your will to find where it's most malleable and open to influence. How can you protect yourself if you're not willing to explore yourself spiritually, your own depths to know how you've defined yourself?

Indeed, in the kingdom of the blind, the man with one eye is king.

01 February 2007

Crazy smart

I know Nerdshit posted this a while back, but I never got around to reading it. The BPS Digest has an entry on "crazy" experiences and being a genius. Lots of people walk around trying to pretend their hardcore crazy or rebels to the bone, but really… it's not as easy as you think. I long ago realised, with the aid of a background in chaos magic, that paradigms were my friends. I learned to shift perspectives — paradigm management, I called it — and in my early twenties I sometimes wanted to kill myself because I couldn't find one reality to settle on. It's hard being one's own Devil's advocate on every issue in life.

It's the people that may be a bit out in leftfield that strive to claim their normalcy, trust me. But establishing an ordered view of the world and one's reality from outside of that social norm is an achievement of no little value. I mean, really, you've wandered off the beaten path of social mores and risked your sanity and social niceties to explore — what? — reality from a ways off the beaten path? So what's the point?

Poets and artists have as many ‘unusual experiences’ as people with schizophrenia

The idea that creative geniuses might not be entirely sane isn't exactly new. But just how much do creative types have in common with people suffering from psychosis? Well, according to Daniel Nettle at the University of Newcastle, serious poets and artists have just as many ‘unusual experiences’ as people diagnosed with schizophrenia. What saves them from the disabling effects of schizophrenia is that they don’t suffer from the lack of emotion and motivation – known as ‘introvertive anhedonia’ – also associated with the illness.

Nettle asked artists and poets, mental health patients and ‘non-creative’, healthy controls to fill out a questionnaire that’s designed to detect schizophrenic-like symptoms in healthy people. Participants seriously involved in poetry or art (as opposed to mere hobbyists, or non-creative controls) reported having just as many unusual experiences as did patients diagnosed with schizophrenia – that is they tended to answer yes to questions like “Do you think you could learn to read others’ minds if you wanted to?” or “Are the sounds you hear in your daydreams really clear and distinct?”. However, in contrast, they scored lower than both patients and healthy controls on measures of lack of emotion and motivation.

“What factors moderate the development of introvertive anhedonia, and whether they can be modified during life, is yet to be determined”, Nettle said, “but is obviously of the greatest interest in terms of the prevention of suffering and the enhancement of creativity”.

Nettle also asked professional mathematicians to complete the same questionnaire. He found they reported even fewer unusual experiences than the healthy controls, but that they tended to score highly on lack of emotion and motivation – the opposite pattern to artists and poets. “The constellation of autism, systemising and science appears to be in many respects the opposite tail of the distribution to the constellation of arts, unusual experiences and affective and psychotic disorders explored in the present study”, Nettle said.

And on that note, to any naysayers who worship the stability of the status quo, Nobel Prize genius Crick was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced thedouble-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.

Being out in leftfield is fine as long as you maintain regular experience interacting with your fellow peers. No man is an island, unless you're on that Zen path.

Crazy needs to be harnesses and utilised. The problem is the social checks and balances that believe that the ego — as structured by standard institutions such as family, school, and whatever else — is a unique and special thing. If we can temporarily create environs and conditions which do away with that belief, we can design experiences which will draw the mind away from its normal precepts and into uncharted waters. Here, we can build new analogies and bridges to answer more of the world's design problems. It can be done faster and more effectively, too, if semantic and social relationships are maintained without fear, censure, or prejudice. The translators have to maintain an understanding of how the psychonaut gets to where they're going so they can translate the results back to the norms of the "everyday" world.

Speaking of which, I should get around to reading The Ten Faces of Innovation. It's been just sitting here, staring at me for months now. I am sure it'll expound on some of these thoughts…

Philip Worthington’s Shadow Monsters

Old news to some, I know, but I just came across this project again via the Processing site. Processing was used to code it, I presume.

Free money? What’s the catch?

It’s a funny state of affairs when you think about the state of society in which we live. I found this amusing post on John Maeda’s The Laws of Simplicity website:
When I saw Google yesterday offering a free 10 dollars for the taking, it reminded me of an experiment on trust by my wacky friend Prof. Dan Ariely. He did an experiment where he set up a table in a public space with a bowl containing cash and a sign that said, “Free Money.” Dan found that with a pile of one-dollar bills, 10% of the passerbys would stop and take the cash; with fifty-dollar bills, only 22% took him up on his offer. His point was that “If someone is offering me something free, there must be a trick to it.”

We can be cynical in life, and assume that there really is no thing as a totally “free lunch.” To complete mis-trust everything around you can probably lead to a lonely state of being. Well, in another browser window there I am about to “Sign up to earn [my] $10 bonus.” Free money is only a click away.