Corfu Channel. July 2013
Inezgane, Morocco. December 2013
Corfu Channel. July 2013
Inezgane, Morocco. December 2013
Last Friday, the latest Brian’s Last Friday came and went, very satisfactorily. Thank you Preston Byrne. Turnout was encouraging and included a couple of new young faces.
Over the summer, it was a bit of an effort rounding up a sufficiency of attenders. In the summer, people are doing other things, outside, away. But I have other thoughts about why this enterprise has been a bit of a struggle to get cranked up again, which is that new (even revived (maybe especially revived)) enterprises do tend to be a bit of a struggle.
Sometimes a new enterprise will catch fire immediately, in a good way I mean. But most require a period of, as it were, rubbing sticks together. Even overnight success seldom happens overnight.
Quite aside from all the particular difficulties associated with your particular enterprise, there is, when you start something new, another process that cuts in, which is that although all the human targets whom you want to be paying attention may want you and your new thing to do well, they will also fear that you and it won’t do well and that you will give up on it and very soon be enthusing about something else entirely, or about nothing at all. So, meanwhile, the best thing for them to do about your new thing, to begin with, is to ignore it.
It’s not that they hope that your thing will die when only a few weeks or months old, merely that they need to be sure that it probably won’t, and that if it does die it does so quickly and without fuss, like a very early rather than a later abortion. They need to know that you are serious about it, before they start contributing, even with such a small thing as showing up for a meeting every month or three. They need to know that you are irrationally committed to the venture, before, rationally, they join in. (Similar processes apply, I note, in the way that animal mating behaviour evolves. Often only what looks like a crazy amount of investment in display will attract commitment. Much of commerce also consists of seemingly excessive displays and commitments.)
Sometimes people put all of the above in the form of the claim that it takes time for your target consumers, attenders, investors, whatever, to hear about your new project or product. That’s often true, of course, but that’s not quite it. What really takes time is for them to start taking it seriously.
With many enterprises, the key question is: Are you willing to do all the work yourself? And to go on doing it? For an irrationally long time? Unless it’s yes across that board, others will fear to join in, because they will fear that they will be depended upon. If they even suspect that the plan is to dump most of the work onto them, as soon as they start joining in in numbers, then they’ll never join in the first place.
I call it the Time of the Folded Arms.
Oh yes, Brian’s Last Fridays. He’s doing them again, is he? Yes I think I heard. Mmm. Ask me about that in a year’s time, if it’s still happening.
All enterprises involve more effort, to start with, than you might think, even tiny enterprises like these meetings of mine. And since my meetings are so tiny, and so twentieth century, might I not soon reckon that the not-so-tiny effort involved in making them work well is excessive, and give up? I have to show that this isn’t so, for success to materialise.
Luckily, I had a very good speaker to kick things off in January, who pulled in a crowd big enough to crowd my small living room. And luckily, a core group of already quite regular attenders straight away found the meetings appealing, although happily it has never been exactly the same people every time. So, it has never been embarrassing. But there have times when I feared that it was about to be. For one particular evening, I called in some favours to ensure non-embarrassment. It turned out that I needn’t have worried about that night either, but I did.
By such means do I demonstrate my irrational commitment to success.
See also this posting from a while back, which proclaims that, following an entirely rational Brian’s Last Friday on November 29th, there will, somewhat irrationally, be another one on December 27th.
I don’t agree with all of what Charles Stross says here (I detect more than just a whiff of leftist nonsense when he refers to “neoliberalism”), but this article is worth a read, as it pertains to how attitudes towards issues such as national security and the role of the state are changing. Excerpt:
The point that Stross misses, in his foolish line about “dog-eat-dog economic liberalism”, is that the older, more statist idea of people being forced to join big trade unions and having “jobs for life” was based on a zero-sum idea that the way to get ahead was through political pull and the coercive reach of the state, not through the voluntary exchange of the market and entrepreneurship. Sure, it is is the case that the liberalism associated with a more individualised economic situation (hooray!) is one in which ideas of loyalty to a company for life find it harder to take root. But is that such a bad thing? In other words, is what Stross is describing a feature or a bug?
Once upon a time there was a wise princess. She lived in a magic castle together with her friends, who were also wise. One day, the princess, taking pity on the ignorance of the common folk, decided to go among them and teach them.
Alas! Some rough people said rude and nasty things to the princess. She had to run back to her castle and issue a proclamation. This what it said: Anthea Butler: Conservatives bashed me for speaking out about the Zimmerman verdict.
The princess was very sad. She even wondered if the people were worthy to go on being allowed to hear her wise words.
The princess felt that she had to choose between sharing her wisdom and keeping a record of all the bad things the rough people had said to her. Why she felt that way, we do not know, but we know the reason was wise.
Ian Bennett made an interesting comment on an article published the other day that is worth making a discussion point. It actually makes two points… firstly that politicians will say whatever they think they need to say to stay in power… I regard this as a truism and so not really worth discussing other than to say “indeed”. The second point however was more contentious:
I sort of agree… which is to say, yes but no but…
I think the nature of what “God tells you to do” is a non-trivial distinction between religions and whilst even Buddhism has gone through militant phases, some religions default suppositions are broadly positive (i.e. if you are actually being ‘consistent’ you really cannot justify slaughtering the Cathars based on anything Jesus said), whilst others have clearly negative default suppositions (i.e. yes you really can justify slaughtering apostates based on what Mohammed said and there really is not a lot of wiggle room if you are being consistent).
As a atheist myself, I regard God as nothing more than a psychological artifice, but it also seems demonstrably true that many believers are nevertheless entirely capable of rational moral judgement that is not of any practical difference to my God-free moral theory based way of going about things. Indeed many of the writers for Samizdata are people with religious beliefs.
Is this simply what Ian describes as the difference between consistent versus inconsistent believers? Not so sure. If a religion can include “God says be rational because you are responsible for your actions due to having free will and are not merely God’s meat puppet” and also says “you will roast in eternal hellfire if you murder anyone, so put that gun down dude!”… well I think a ‘consistent’ follower of that particular God will find it rather harder to say “Kill ‘em all for God will know his own”. Indeed it seems rather inconsistent even if slaughtering Cathars is very much The Done Thing these days.
So I think maybe religions are conditionally dangerous rather than unconditionally so. When following “the word of God”, it is fairly important what that particular God has to say… and clearly contrary to what many adherents claim, the God Jesus was referring to and the one Mohammed was referring to have about as much in common as Freyja and Shiva.
The first is a picture of my first proper computer (I do not count the Sinclair Spectrum), purchased in about … 1981? This computer, an Osborne 1, consisted of a very small screen, a keyboard, and about half a ton of electrical gubbins, including two disk drives, each accommodating disks that were, I seem to recall, 256kb in capacity. 256kb was a lot of kb in those days.
For me, the killer app of all computers has always been word processing, the ability to type a piece of writing into a machine, and then to modify and expand the piece at will, and only when it’s nearly finished have it automatically printed out. And then printed out again if you need that, as you almost certainly will. Amazing. (This being the twenty first century, you may want to read “print out” as “publish”.)
My first “word processor” (the inverted commas because word processing as we now use that phrase was exactly what it couldn’t do), which I used for about a decade, was an Olivetti typewriter. For this I paid twenty five quid, which is about the same as what I recently paid for the Google Nexus 4 after you include inflation. For those who do not know what a “typewriter” is, the basic rule was that the only way you could store the words you had thought of, in the order you wanted them in, was to print them all out, one letter at a time, as you thought of them. The switch from that to the Osborne 1 remains the single most exciting technological leap of my life, although the arrival of blogs runs this a close second.
As for the smallness of the screens of both these computers, well, each to his own, and I entirely get why many would hate to process words on such a tiny thing as the Google Nexus 4 or with a screen as tiny as that of the Osborne 1. But I loved the small Osborne screen. There was something very appealing to me about those tiny little letters, so much more so than the big clunky letters on other computers of that era. Me being short-sighted, the distinction that really matters to me is not big-screen-versus-small-screen; it is screen (however big) far away: bad, versus screen (however small) near: good. And if the Osborne was not in any very meaningful way “portable”, it was at least, to use a word from those days, “luggable”, from one work top to another, as and when the need arose, which for me, then, it often did.
And just as I loved the tiny old Osborne screen, I now rather like the Google Nexus 4 screen. But of course what I really like about the Google Nexus 4 screen is that, since a tiny screen is all that it is, it is so light and so small that I am happy to carry it around in case I need it to process any words, even if I never actually do, on that particular expedition. For me, in my present aging and physically weakened state, the difference between a computer too heavy to carry around without being irritated by it unless I use it, and a computer so light that its weight is not a problem even if I don’t touch it all day long, is a big difference. Even today’s small laptops – minute compared to the Osborne – fail this test, for me, now.
The beginnings of this posting were mostly typed into the second of the two computers pictured above, before being transferred into my regular non-portable computer, the one that resides permanently in my kitchen. I am still amazed at how well this transfer worked, the very first time I tried it. While I was doing the transfer, it looked as if all the paragraphing would be lost, but when I pasted everything into a text file on the kitchen computer, there it all was, just as it began. Magic.
In addition to being a word processor, the Google Nexus 4 is also, as already noted, a telephone. And like all mobile telephones these days, it can also send what used to be called telegrams. It is also an A-Z Guide to London, and a map of the Underground. The map even works, unlike an A-Z of London, when I venture outside of London. It tells me when the London bus I await will reach me. It is a mini web-browser, a mini-Kindle, and a means of posting relatively straightforward postings to my blog or (when I have worked that out) to this blog. It is a gadget for identifying music recordings just by it listening to them, being just as good at identifying classical recordings as it is a identifying pop. It is even a rudimentary camera. All of which makes it that much more likely that I will use my Google Nexus 4 for something during just about every expedition I go on. The old Osborne 1 could do none of these things. But you knew all that, and much else besides which I have yet to discover. You get the pictures.
I am, of course, not the only one who has noticed how well technology is doing these days compared to politics. If you look for this particular meme, you see it everywhere. Here is a whole book with that notion as its starting point, linked to recently by Instapundit. (Who, by the way, also linked to and recycled that SQotD. I thought he might like that one.) Says the author of this book, Kevin Williamson:
He thinks there is, as do I. More from and about Williamson here.
LATER: Instapundit quotes Williamson again:
Among the many newspaper reports from Connecticut on the massacre of children in Sandy Hook is one in the Times by David Taylor, remembering an earlier crime:
From what abyss does such a crime come? I was searching on the internet for the words of the 130th Psalm, De profundis clamo ad te, domine – Out of the depths I cry unto thee, O Lord – and found the letter written from prison by Oscar Wilde which was later given the title De Profundis by his literary executor. I have not yet read it all but the opening words resonated for me because of the contrast between the depths of grief (Wilde describes hearing the news of his mother’s death while in prison) and a happy season:
Inevitably on a blog such as this in a world such as this there will, and should, be discussion of motives, diagnoses, policies; debate about what should and should not be done. For us outside, motion will begin again.
What have you failed to find on the internet that you expected to be there?
As I do tire of pointing out, belief in the free market no more obliges you to approve of every single transaction than belief in free speech obliges you to approve of every word spoken.
The eBay account of our very small business was hacked into recently and a bunch of non-existent stuff sold in our name. The direct results of this have been sorted out and the victims of the scam repaid. However at some point eBay and/or Paypal (Paypal is a subsidiary of eBay) wrongly compensated us for some of these “purchases”. Our Paypal account currently has coming up to a thousand pounds more in it than it should have. Do Paypal want to know? No they do not. There is something wrong with a company so complacent that it cannot even rouse itself to take back its own. To be fair, the young Irish people I talk to when I ring up Paypal try to help. If my customer service experience stopped there it would still be ghastly because all possible customer service experiences in all possible worlds are ghastly but it would be ghastly in a comparatively good way. Unfortunately they do not have the authority to relieve me of the burden (it is a burden) of nearly a thousand quid, so they pass the buck to eBay central, over in one of the lesser circles of Hell staffed by resentful demons who failed to qualify as incubi and succubi. Their task is to choose whichever of six formulaic replies bears least resemblance to the actual situation and email it to me overnight.
eBay and Paypal could do with some competition.
There is an article by David V. Johnson, which is an interview with American leftist Martha Nussbaum, during which she conflates ‘respect’ with ‘tolerance’ and that is a telling category error. Nussbaum at least accepts (I sense rather grudgingly) that many ‘bad’ views must be accepted within civil society but…
Am I willing to tolerate Muslims? Certainly… at least the ones who will reciprocate and tolerate an atheist like me. And those who will not? Well no, I will not tolerate them either. For much the same reason I will happily tolerate any communist or socialist who wants to go live on a kibbutz, because I do not have to join them. And fascist socialists who want to live in judenfrei whites-only retreats on private property in the back of beyond somewhere, well knock yourself out guys, the farther away you are from me, well, lets just say it is a win-win for all concerned.
However the ones who wish to impose their oppressive views on me via the state? The ones whose views move them to do politics (which is what we call the struggle to control and use the means of collective coercion)? No, they will not tolerate me so I will reciprocate and try to use the force of the state, or whatever other means are available, to suppress them too. Tolerating those who will not tolerate you is more correctly know as “cowardice”.
But that is it. Tolerance. That is all that anyone can expect, provided they reciprocate it. Never respect.
Do I have ‘equal respect’ for Islam? Or socialism in all its ‘left’ and ‘right’ forms? Or racism? Hell no. I do not respect them at all as I do not respect any religion or any intrusive collectivist political order. But I will tolerate adherents of things I think are wrong if they tolerate me, which means not imposing their wishes on me by force. Several contributors to this blog are religious and I respect them, because they earned it, and their religious views do not require them to impose their beliefs on me by force. Tolerance.
Oh and another annoying thing in this article is the use of the term ‘liberalism’ to mean the exact opposite of the term as understood by classical liberals.
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