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 My Diary 

 Part 1  Autumn -Winter [Oz] 2003


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   The Start: Sunday 18 May 2003 

 Why keep a diary?   

 19 May  20 May 

 Ships passing in the night  

 26 May  29 May 31 May 

 In and out of the Matrix.  
Young people act as if they will live forever.

 1st June  3rd June  7 June 8 June 
 11 June  18 June  21 June 

 the tyranny of junk  obsessive compulsive behaviour  how brains work - the importance of inhibition. reminiscence about Wales  
problems with bureaucracy  public transport problems  

  1 July  5 July  6 July  9 July 14 July  15 July 
 19 July 23 July 

 DAYTIME - more about bureacracy  
Capitalism as religion  

  7 Aug  9 Aug  13 Aug  19 Aug  22 Aug  

 Dick Smith drops our TV!

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 to Part 2 - Spring in WA   

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Updates made to correct Sciam article page ref, and formatting of footnotes. 


 The Start   Autumn in Oz

Sunday 18 May 2003  Navigate page

 Why keep a diary?

Well what kicked me into it was a combination of two things.
This morning on ABC Radio National's Occam's Razor program I heard a recording of Dr Jim Leavesly [sp?] talking about Samuel Pepys's diary. Pepys[1633-1703] kept a diary for much of his adult life which provides much insight into day to day life as well as into English politics of the time - that much I knew from school history lessons - but apparently he also included lots of lascivious details encrypted in Latin which most scholars have failed to make available to us, the benighted and undisciplined riff raff of the world.
[An example of the self defeating nature of most attempts at censorship. Sure, we schoolboys in England remained ignorant of naughty Mr Pepys' moral meanders but we missed out on a sure-fire source of motivation to learn both Latin and 17C history.  If I had known of this trove of hidden treasure I would have got more than 36 percent for Latin in form 2A at Hereford High School for Boys!  - I have no time for latin now so make do with having Pepys's diary set as the "home" page for my browser.]
Then this afternoon I watched my eldest daughter walking across Walcott Street with her cousin Chloe, my older sister's daughter whom Gwyneth had not seen for many years. Chloe is booked to go back to Tasmania on Tuesday, probably to stay for a long time because she has not been happy studying here in Perth. Just the sight of them walking and their animated talking was for me very poignant. Something about the situation struck a deep chord in me - my life has been characterised by separations - and I was moved to tears as I sat there waiting for the lights to change. The girls are related by blood but this actual contact was a chance that needed to be taken. Without it they might have remained almost total strangers to each other for the rest of their lives because Tasmania is 4000 km away from here. If and how they maintain contact from now on is of course another issue.

As you can see from other pages of this website, I am deeply interested in how and why we humans 'tick'. I want to understand why I and we do what we do and how I and we can do things better. I am no poet and was, at least as far as I can see, not a musician worth much listening to. So how to express and understand these feelings of love and care and wonder? At least if I practice putting the feelings into prose I will stand a chance of tying them down [....... wrong image there?]  I want to see them for what they are because our emotions are what sustain and direct us and yet they are - for me at least I think - mostly unconscious, or at least very much unrecognised, and unrefined.  These are not the best words to express exactly what I am wanting.

I think my feelings in the car as I watched the two girls were uncovered by the music that was playing at the time. I can't remember what it was except that it was rhythm and blues on a local FM station and at least half way to being my sort of music. For me now, music on the radio must pass the '30 second test". If it hasn't spoken to me within 30 seconds, I flip the channel.
Music has always been important to me, ever since I was young. I don't remember singing at home, I don't think we did any group singing as a family. I do remember singing at school in Llandrindod Wells.  I think we sang songs in each class or grade as they are now called, but Harvey Lewis who took the sixth grade was the chief piano player and singing teacher. [He had us singing in Welsh look-you!]

A while ago I came across an article in Scientific American Magazine on the subject of how the brain judges time intervals and allows preparedness and correct anticipation for change events which made me think about how it is that some music induces in me a feeling of timelessness - a sense of the eternal now. I began writing some notes to clarify the ideas.

 Monday 19 May 2003  Navigate page

 I wrote this during lunch time at work.  

Ships passing in the night - I think this idiom comes from the writings of a Chinese scholar many centuries ago. [must try and find the reference] I seem to remember it actually speaks of boats passing in the night on a large lake [ 'Lake Tai'? ] and the occupants hearing only the dim and indistinct sounds of voices from the other boat. The deeper meaning can be taken as something 'esoteric' or something much more mundane and practical but it turns out none the less to be just as important and and just as poignant. I see it - and feel it - as practical and poignant.

The key issue is how much people assume they know when communicating with others. There are many times when a person who is making important decisions about or on behalf of others has just no idea at all of the real circumstances and wishes of the people he or she is deciding for or about, and just as little idea of the real consequences of the decisions. There is of course an infinitely graduated continuum of instances ranging from the case of relatively benign ignorance through careless indifference to deliberate, reckless and potentially lethal neglect. And that is all without assuming intentional harm - if we leave aside the possibility of unconscious intentions. [Is that oxymoronic? Can any intention be unconscious? If we allow Koestler's sleepwalker theory then it is possible for a self to want something and work towards resolution of the desire without being conscious of the intention]

I tend to think this is possible but the unconscious process must actually show up in people's dreams and projections. That is, if something really is going on in the brain there will be manifestations of its influence. [I dig out my screed on the unconscious evolution of constructs within the brain. I think I will use footnotes on this page as a place to work out/through new ideas. So the footnotes will change whereas the 'diary' will not change but only grow.]

Meanwhile, we talk past each other.  What we see is the world our brains have constructed, we see what we believe and things are what we believe them to be until we discover otherwise. Is this trite or tragic? Piss weak or profound?  Answer: Both! Ships passing in the night; machos passing judgement in the daylight. How poignant it is to think that each of the rough and ready encounters, the quick dismissals of others, could have been the start of an enduring and productive relationship.

Note: Need to start work on the Psychology of Bureaucratic Incompetence.

 Tuesday 20 May  Navigate page

 Back with thoughts of music. Music gains and holds our attention because it stirs emotions directly, bypassing our self talk and verbal world description. I have given this a fair bit of thought [as below in f10] and I now incline to agree with Howard Gardner in his Frames of Mind that music is the product of a particular facility, an 'intelligence', which has evolved out of but away from the same roots as spoken language. Tempos and timing resonate with implicit rhythms of regular skeletal/muscle movements, and patterns of changes in pitch and timbre 'talk to' the systems which hear and utter our instinctive emotional cries. This access is direct in the way that smells are direct. The associations evoked are not constrained by our personal history monologue.

Hmmm, maybe this is the key to 'good art'. As I have written elsewhere [ref?] I think art is the process of translating constructs within the mind of an individual into some public form - often, presumably, with the intention of inducing corresponding constructs within the minds of observers. So successful, that is to say powerful, art is that which makes public in some medium the structures and movements which encode the kind of essential features the brain relies on to relate emotionally and instinctively to people and things. So good art is not just imitating nature but recognising and presenting those aspects of the world that the human brain relies on at its deepest instinctive levels of operation.

My colleague Bob was back at work today after an depth inspection of his cardiac plumbing this time last week. Contrary to the original plan they didn't put any stents in, for reasons I found obscure. Bob said he was doped with valium but conscious, so the surgeon could get him to do things during the procedure. This allowed him to hear the one word he really didn't want to hear while the boss Dr was busy slicing and inserting things in his right thigh near his groin:


Bob said also that both times he was seeing the surgeon in pre operational appointments, the good Doctor took a phone call in which he was informed that one of his patients had just died.
 They were both "..On the way out anyway.." apparently. .....  Just past their use by dates I suppose. Well I laughed like a drain, primarily because I am quite squeamish about surgery type details - I identify far to easily - and was quite light headed for a while. I think if it had been me there in the second appointment I would have been trucking for the door before Mr Surgeon had put the phone down!

Essentially for Bob the upshot of all this is that he must give up smoking or next time he will wake up in a box, so to speak.

  21 May  Navigate page

Nothing unusual today. Work is its normal bureaucratically stupid miss mash. For example, today P. wanted to listen to recordings of calls she had answered recently. P coaches other CSRs when she is acting at a higher level. I myself had had the same thought whilst riding to work: why not listen to my own calls, which are few and far between, to see how I sound? Well P brought the subject up and J, currently acting in charge of coaching, training and so forth, got all hot under the collar: "You can't do that! It's against the rules!" Of course P's and my question is: What is the problem? We are not contemplating listening to anybody else's calls, except those of people we are assigned to coach of course. As we would have already spoken to the client in question, and have no intentions of sharing the experience with anyone else,there is not a question of further invasion of privacy.
We know that all accesses to recorded calls are monitored by the audit system, so there is no chance of surreptitious browsing going unnoticed. The clients have all heard the warning that calls may be recorded for the purposes of quality assurance and all had the opportunity to not be recorded if they so wished.  So what is the problem?
My guess is this issue will be raised at the highest levels, learned Counsel will be consulted and as like as not some reason concocted as to why the concept infringes privacy and secrecy provisions. I mean it would be nice is this is not the outcome but I am not sanguine about common sense prevailing.

My son is chafing at his bit concerning ADSL. When are we going to get it? Glenda is not so happy about the idea, due to the cost, although she is now realising that the 6pm to 9pm time slot is turning more and more into Lewis's dial up time. This is not fair for anyone else who is relying on the phone for calls in or out at this prime time.  I guess this is becoming a problem all over the western world. Glenda has said she thinks she will lose customers for her Day Care activities if people cannot get through in the evenings. I think she is right and it is inevitable that we get it. Questions abound however: which ISP and what pricing arrangement? Router or modem? What kind of firewall and other security will we need.
What a pity the world has so many shithead spammers and hackers trying to get a free ride! They will never understand how their actions are wasting enormous amounts of resources and harming others. Ships passing in the night.

I must chase up G E  to find out how her researches into Derrida are going. I don't envy her the task because I think his whole spiel, so far as she has explained it, is far too abstract and intellectual to constitute real wisdom, but wisdom is what people need.

  Mon 26 May  Navigate page

Yesterday I took my son and a couple of his friends to see the Matrix Reloaded. It was fun. It's a clever movie, not deep but very clever in its own terms. As long as one keeps one's disbelief in check, the special effects are very good and, along with the fast pace of much of the action, make it easy to be engrossed. It even has some humour, unlike the first one and a certain amount of sex, some explicit, some implicit and some salacious innuendo. It also does have a plot, contrary to the pronouncements of certain critics, and there is a degree of cleverness in the nesting of schemes within schemes, plots within plots, deceptions within apparent truths, and so forth. It also has a certain richness of themes: who or what controls the matrix?, the question of causality, the power of love and love's potential to create conflict with duty. This is all relatively clever, but not deep.

The movie lacks depth because it relies on the exciting spectacle of action and conundrums of plot within the matrix but does not engage with the real problems of us in the real world. Sure there are tangential mentions and occasional discussions of environmental damage caused by industrialisation, the dependence of people upon machines, and the potential to create machines which may usurp us. The deeper questions about what it means to be a human, why we believe ourselves to be conscious, the paradoxes of causation, control and freedom in the real world, the poignancy of relationships and their potential destruction through separation or due to deception and manipulation, are not properly addressed.

  Thur 29 May  Navigate page

More thoughts inspired by the Matrix and its unreality. Today I went back to thinking about the character of Don Juan who stars in the books by Carlos Castenada - The Teachings of Don Juan [A Yaqui way of knowledge], Tales of Power, and others whose names I forget. I used to be much impressed by that stuff when I was a hippy, so many years ago.  I still think there are some quite profound insights to be found in the reported words of 'Don Juan' and I really do think there was an old man involved. Today in particular I was thinking of the ideas of tonal and nugual - at least I think those are the spellings.

As I remember it Don Juan said the world is divided into 2 parts or domains, whatever, and he used a table in the cafe where they were sitting at the time as an illustration of what he meant. The table at the time held some cups, sugar bowl, and the like. He said something like: everything on the table is the tonal, it is what people talk about, it is ordinary life, and the invaders - meaning first the Spanish, then the Gringos - had taken control of all that. They had taken everything and the Indians had nothing, pretty much nothing anyway, I think with the implication that their culture and control had been taken. He said the men of power, the sorcerers, lived with the nugual which is everything else, everything not on the table, and most people don't know of its existence let alone the subtle power it affords to men of knowledge

So my thinking today is that maybe Don Juan's tonal is what some western philosophers call the phenomenal world, the world as experience which we are constantly talking about. The nugual may be what the philosophers call the nuomenal world, which some of us like to call the 'real' world. An alternative distinction, which is still congruent in large measure, may be that between consciousness and unconsciousness. I'll stick with the first idea for the moment.

From my perspective, the phenomenal world is what the brain makes of its experience. Sensation and perception are aspects of the process in which the brain deals with the real world which is mostly external to the individual. It constructs representations, or models if you like, and these are the experience. Qualia are what happens when the brain's model of self [that is the body image and social self] is effectively related to and contrasted with the current active model of the rest of the world. As the philosophers point out, we do not know the world in some direct and immediate way. The Great It is ultimately mysterious but it is not reasonable to deny its existence. 

 Sat 31 May   Navigate page

I've been thinking about how young people seem to believe they are going to live forever. It seems to me that the evolution of memes in the creation of personality structures entails several influences
Creation of a self - a 'me', referred to as myself - involves in each case the discovery of the idea of one's own death and the suppression of thoughts about it. The motivating emotion is fear and the repeating process of suppression of ideas of one's own death must become a stable structure.
There will be a Darwinian genetic payoff for genes which become somehow allied with meme complexes [memeplexes?] which facilitate eradication of thoughts of death from consciousness. The reason for this is that the individual involved will be less encumbered by thoughts of possible negative consequences so will tend to take more risks and will tend to be more certain about what he or she is doing. This is a question of the individual's belief rather than knowledge however.
The genetic side of the alliance is made up of whatever genes are involved in the manifestation of extrovertion and strong mental [conceptual and perceptual] boundaries. The memetic side is composed of whatever local memes are available to rationalise assertive, confident, competitive behaviour and hide or channel off any thoughts of death and other bad things which might otherwise be reasonably expected to occur.
As long as this alliance results in more copulations with more partners the strategy will pay off. A paradigmatic example is what I have heard to be the practice amongst some native American tribes before the 20C which was that before going on the warpath, those young braves who committed themselves to fight to the death had sex with as many of the young women as were willing, and most of the women were willing because they wanted to give strength to their warriors. Probably the women's beliefs and understandings of what was involved varied from person to person and tribe to tribe, presumably there was a degree of self interest in that they hoped that whichever braves did come back would remember them favourably. Being the wife of a successful warrior would carry great cudos, while being the widow or ex lover of a brave who died valiantly would be good in terms of remarriage prospects which should result in enhanced survival for the offspring of these braves. From the memetic viewpoint, the whole tribe would benefit from its being represented in battle by warriors who were single minded and convinced that fighting fearlessly and dying gloriously was absolutely the best thing they could do. This is because they would use all their strength in fighting and overcoming the enemy - holding nothing back - and would present themselves to the best possible psychological advantage by appearing fearless and indomitable thus having more chance of overwhelming the enemy. The tribe would thus maintain a reputation for strength and prowess which facilitated the defence of a large territory for foraging and hunting and the maintenance of strong strategic relationships with other tribes. All these things would contribute to the overall Darwinian selective advantages of the genes and memes in alliance.
It should be noted that the beliefs of the people involved do not matter so much as the behaviours. Beliefs about how things are can be wrong so long as the behaviour they rationalise leads to the beliefs being copied and does not lead to the believers dying before they procreate. [Remember this is a discussion about young people acting as if they are going to live forever, not about the survival of a purportedly celibate priesthood! ]

 I speculate that the entrenchment of beliefs which deny the reality of death must empower a person's shadow, the unconscious side of the personality which incorporates all the elements spontaneously arising within which the social construction of self requires to be suppressed. It seems to me that the more strongly is death denied in youth and young adulthood then the deeper must be the crisis which arises later when mortality starts to become real to the individual.


  Sun 1st June  Navigate page

 Stuff. Today we held a garage sale to help out a friend. More specifically a friend of my wife's who has separated from her husband of many years. He is afflicted with a compulsion to acquire and hoard things, to the extent of it being a deeply dysfunctional obsession. It is several years now since I visited the rented house which he alone now lives in which was their family home for a decade or more. When I was there that last time, the piles of newspapers, old magazines and supermarket advert type junk mail were stacked up shoulder high around all the inside walls of every room and passageway in the house. There was junk, like old bicycles, suitcases, broken old gadgets of all sorts, stacked in the front porch and leaning against the house walls and trees of the backyard.

My wife informs me that since then all the piles of newspapers, etc. have grown higher and encroached yet further into the space of every room and passageway to the extent that normal small people such as us have to turn side on to move through the house. As well as that the back yard and shed are strewn with supermarket plastic bags containing all manner of things: apparently new, battery powered gadgets of every kind, old kitchen bowls, cutlery, crockery obtained from other people's garage sales, as well as all manner of discarded household living and recreational equipment which he must have picked up from dumpsters and residential verges. In that end of town the local councils sometimes organise 'bring out your dead' type community clean ups so as to avoid residents casually leaving things on their verges 'in case somebody might want it'. [Our council includes the provision of 3 'blue bins', ie small dumpsters, in the rates each year so we are strongly discouraged from decorating our verges.] Well, anyway, my wife and her friend retrieved a couple of van loads of the more presentable items from the man's do it yourself land fill site and Glenda cleaned up most of them, delegating to me the task of testing - after first identifying - the electrical gadgets. Well it turned out that a lot of the things suffered from some flaw which rendered them useless even if they still made a noise or their lights flashed. Most of the non electrical stuff was similarly derelict.

I guess the umbrella with one broken spoke is emblematic of this kind of pre--loved liability: it can work enough to keep off the rain if need be but it looks daggy, doesn't fold up right and tries to poke the user in the eye. There is usually a reason why people throw things out. Perhaps it is a sad fact about our society that it is now very often cheaper to throw something out than to try and get it repaired. This is not a reason for turning your own backyard into a junk yard with at least three examples of every kind of broken thing.

If it weren't so tragic, for his kids in particular, the whole situation would be comical. The owners of the house this man still rents have been trying to evict him for several years on and off. The house is owned by one of Perth's more august places of higher learning where the man has worked for a couple of decades. Most recently the agents have been working steadily through all the stages of eviction as set out in the Landlord and Tenants Act and it has reached the point where they have obtained an order from a magistrate authorising them to change the locks and physically remove his belongings. He has talked the managing agents into giving him a stay of execution several times in the past and even this last week he managed to convince them that he had a lock up storage place on hire to which he is about to remove his belongings. This is almost certainly untrue but they backed off and gave him grace none the less. They probably figure that the hassle of justifying more precipitate action to a magistrate, again, wasn't worth it.

The wife moved out a few years ago, taking the younger son who was still living at home. She figured that the dangers of conflagration or contagion from fleas, mice or other vermin were too much of a risk and I think also there was little of value left in the relationship. The guy is in dire need of psychiatric assistance but is either too stupid or too stubborn to accept this fact. Given that he has been involved with evangelical and charismatic churches for many years, I take this situation as yet another demonstration that Christian faith is usually not associated with psychological insight. Sometimes I think the too are mutually exclusive but then I meet a Christian who seems to know what she is talking about. Such is not true of the church in question though, a place now called Riverside I believe which used to be called Rhema, that the man and his wife attended. Apparently a posse from that congregation turned up not long ago at her flat wanting her to accompany them to a casting out of the Devil from him. They had no idea about the impending eviction, and were largely ignorant of the facts of the situation anyway.

3rd June   Navigate page

ARRRRGGG!!! More bloody STUFF!!! Our van is chock-a-block with more junk from Robert's back yard! Glenda brought it back yesterday which was a public holiday in WA. I thought she and the kids would have unloaded the stuff by the time I got home. It was bad enough when I had to drop Gwyneth off at the station this morning - there was a sort of bad odour. Last night I had sprayed long and hard with fly spray in through the rear window so we were not obviously troubled by spiders or worse. This evening however, when I went to pick up same daughter from Tai Kwon Do in Bassendean, the inside of the car smelled of cat vomit or the like. Putrid! How Gross!!! It is bad enough having the front veranda look for weeks like part of the set from Steptoe and Son [anybody remember them?], but half a hundred plastic Coles bags holding God knows what just festering away in the van...... how long will it take to get rid of that smell? Gwyneth said Robert's house smelled like that. [What morbid curiosity drew her in?]. And at least two weeks before the next garage sale.    Oh dear.

Checked out some other people's on-line diaries last night at two diary sites: one is The Open Diary at  http://www.opendiary.com/  another is called Free Open Diary. I haven't sussed out all about their management systems, just browsed around. I was a bit shocked to find several diarists were self mutilators. 'SI' the short term stands for Self Inflicted pain or whatever. I found it sad and quite confronting. It made me think though. I have bitten my nails for as long as I can remember and sometimes the compulsion to nibble off a piece of nail entails a modicum of pain. It reminded me of an article in Scientific American years ago which looked at obsessive compulsive disorders [thinks of bloody Robert again]. The authors reckoned that OC disorders originate in some form of short circuiting and continuous looping in those parts of the basal ganglia which mediate instinctive behaviour patterns like self cleaning, responses to archetypal danger zones [such as potential ambush sites like gate ways and doors, and dark holes that could harbour venomous creatures, and so forth], feeding, awakening and going to sleep. Apparently OC behaviours can be found based on each of these. I guess Robert's disorder is a variation of the basic carry-it-back-to-camp behaviour.

 I don't think there is a simple neurological explanation for all OC behaviours though. There is probably also a component of memetic copying in early childhood [my Dad bites his nails - always has as far as I know], and also the effect of stress either as an initiating factor in early childhood and as a precipitating factor triggering the behaviour later in life. One of the diarists mentioned 'triggers' and avoiding them if she could.

This made me think of suppressed impulses which I keep mentioning as a significant component of people's psyches. [The shadow!] I notice one in myself at work whenever I am next to one of the big blue, classified waste, wheelie bins. If there is something placed on top of one of these, like for example today there was a cardboard box containing a phone handset extension cable [with RJ12 or somethings on each end] and I thought about dropping the wire thing through the slot into the bin. Stupid but true. Every time I have something narrow or small in my hand when I walk past one of these bins, part of me wants to stuff it through the opening. Is this the naughty child within? Yep! I have resisted the tempatation so far, but it is quite real - within my own personal virtual reality anyway.

Friday 6 June Navigate page  

Somebody at work told me a story yesterday, concerning a time recently - within the last few months - when he was working for the Navy as a contractor. Apparently the Westralia, that ship of tragic distinction, was being refurbished to some extent and one part of the process was to replace the crew's sleeping mattresses. Replacement mattresses were obtained and installed in the crew's bunks, or at least the process must have been well under way, when it was noticed that the new mattresses were all a bit shorter than expected. The order was then given to remove all these new mattresses so they were taken and stacked in the open against the side of some building and simply left there to be rained on and ruined. He reckoned there were at least a hundred. My wife reckons they could have been worth about Aus$100 each so we are looking at least at $10,000 just thrown away. My work colleague told me that this is fairly normal for the Navy. He said the way stores were handled, namely the maintaining of inventories and the ordering of parts, was quite mind blowing. For example low pressure 'O' rings for use in submarines were over ordered due to a human or a computer program converting an integer number of parts in an order into the same number to 2 decimal places. Then the decimal point was lost and the order was a hundred times greater! [ White man's magic! ].

Various features of Defence Force procurement agravate the situation. One is a general [no pun intended] rule that once items of value have entered Defence Force premises, they cannot be removed. Another is that parts like the O rings, even though in a normal commercial operation they might have an almost indefinite shelf life, will not be retained indefinitely by the Navy unless they are regularly tested. As not enough resources are available to test these types of parts, they have to be given a very safe arbitrary 'effective life' and thrown out as soon as that time has passed.   Now, while I understand that no person and no system can be perfect, all us taxpayers are funding this sort of wastage. Surely it doesn't take a rocket scientist to develop effective and auditable procedures for correcting mistakes of ordering and so forth.  

There is obviously a dire absence of transparency and accountability in the Defence Force burearcracy. As I understand it the fatal fire in the engine room of the Westralia was caused at least in part by the wrong sort of piping being used for the fuel lines. Seemingly another example of a system in need of radical overhaul. I certainly do not wish to denigrate our armed services, because it is absolutely essential that this country, like every other, must have a credible defence capability. It does seem pretty clear however that armies, navies, etc., do not constitute good economic organisations. I think all of modern history shows that armies cannot run countries; if not properly controlled through democratic processes they can destroy their own society.

 Sat 7 June  Navigate page

Well Glenda had another garage sale today. All proceeds to go towards P's replacement fridge. All the stuff came from R's back yard. He has got so much junk! It is quite unsettling to see how long people are willing to spend fossicking around in all the old stuff, presumably looking for bargains. Glenda has discovered a very good trick to stop dealers from knocking on your door at 7 am: Don't include the street number in the newspaper advert. How simple! Until you put up your signs on the verge and at the nearest intersections, etc., they can't be sure which house is having the garage sale. It is really annoying to have some pestiferous dealer banging on the front door at first light when you are trying to have breakfast and organise everything. They seem to think they have a right to start poking around as soon as they like, because they feel driven to get to as many sales as possible in the day.

I have been thinking more about how brains work - global work space and all that - and I am thinking that inhibition within the system is as important as stimulation for the creation of mental events. I read something about this long ago, probably an exposition of the ideas of Vernon B Mountcastle, that down at the reasonably small level - the mini columns - those columns which are successfully stimulated into action, or enhanced action perhaps, tend to inhibit the mini columns around them thus fixing and making clear the structure of the repertoires or cell assemblies of the representation. I think some thing similar must happen within all the sub cortical ganglia and the effect is probably temporal as well as spacial. So the process of association is what allows perceptual and cognitive searching, matching and the evocation of the right memories to occur but it requires active inhibition of competing cell assemblies [ 'winner takes all' ] in order for a construct to gain control of the system. This process of self stimulation through the exceeding of an associational threshold and The suppression of competing cell assemblies probably has a two fold benefit in that as well as clarifying the precise structure of the representation it also constitutes a damper on the whole system so that there is no catastrophic chain reaction leading to total overload and wipe out. Presumably epilepsy and convulsions are what happens when the system does run wild.

This is an elaboration of the fine structure rather than the chemical tide way of looking at things. Whilst one could say that it is the maintenance of a sufficient amount of GABA within the system at any given moment which assures that things do not get out of hand, in fact it is very much a question of exactly where the inhibition is occurring and in what sequence and only secondarily how much in gross terms.

 Sun 8 June  Navigate page  The Matrix Reloaded and revisited - so to speak - [It's all in the mind you know.]

 Austin Cline at About.com has an atheism/agnosticism site. There is now a series of short article there discussing Matrix Reloaded from several angles: namely is it a Skeptical film, a 'Christian' film, atheistic, or Buddhist in orientation. I found the  'Is it skeptical' article reasonably interesting. I am not realy interested about whether the Wachowski brothers have some secret religious agenda, I don't think they do actually, they just ran with a way-out and wacky 'what it' type plot. Anyway, the article in brief comes to a conclussion that maybe the basic plot is the connundrum of how can one tell if this "Reality" one believes in is not itself a simulation. In the context of the film this means: Is Zion and all that is experienced by those who believe[d] they are [were] there just another level of deception? Keannu Reeves's dealings with the squid machines which chased them outside of the ship does seem to imply this. [I am assuming here that anybody who has bothered to read me this far will already have seen the movie or couldn't care less if I reveal parts of the plot.]

As I said before, I think the movie is clever but not deep.  The writer of the article takes the movie to be relatively deep, and by Hollywood standards I suppose it is. The movie ignores the fundamental materialist criticism however which is that a simulation of something must itself be somewhere and be made out of something. Admittedly we are, as yet anyway, allowed an out by saying that the massive installation we saw when Neo was being unplugged - the battery hen type place with the hundreds of thousands of naked humans in transparent cocoons - is the reality and that his experience of escape to meet Morpheus & Co. is just another level of dream.

Come to think of it, this idea is not realy new at all.  George Gurdjieff told of a Sufi tale about an evil shepherd who hypnotised all his sheep to keep them under control.

  11 June  My brother Tristan died 11 June 1996 

18 June  Very early AM

Web surfing, with ADSL now set up, is heaps better than with the 56K dial up access. Navigate page

The last few days I have been looking at maps on-line and discovered Streetmap.co.uk and used it it to find maps of Llandrindod Wells in Wales where I was born. Streetmap.co uses a nine square grid to display maps from various sources for example the Ordnance Survey for fairly large scale close ups and can scroll east-west, north-south, of diagonally across the country. They also seem to print out quite well. What sparked me off was talking to one of the new people at work. One of the people taken on for the lodgment season. Whatever,  we got to talking, probably about all Welshman being mad or something, and I mentioned my origins in the wonderfully obscure location of 'Landod' as we kids called it.  He must have thought about this at home and found an old UK road map which he then brought in to work. I thought of scanning it, which I have done, but then tried out Google to find maps and found Streetmap.co. There is another outfit called Multimaps which is also quite good but you have to enter your details to register with them.

I also looked up sites about Llandrindod and found some photos - it was really photos that I wanted to see most - but they were mostly nineteenth century pics from the time when Llandrindod Wells was a famous spa town, the most prolific source of these seems to be some kind of schools history project about the Victorian era. Whatever. It brought back a few memories for me. [Like: 'I wonder what happened to Roy Jones?' and 'Does Gareth Lewis still live there?'] I have never been back there.
After quite a bit a browsing, looking for pictures of places in Llandrindod, I came across 'The Nowhere Guide' which is an alternative - very alternative- source of local information about places. Its main contributors are local people from and for each place. Those attracted to the Nowhere Guide seem to be the more disaffected amongst the population, and their comments under the various categories are usually very informal and to the point!  For example under the heading 'Best thing about this place' more than one has put 'The road to Builth!' [that being a bigger town due south of Landod.]

I also found maps of Bodenham and Bowley in Herefordshire, not far north of Hereford where we lived for about three years. [We moved around quite a bit actually. I don't think the effect on me was all that good.]  Navigate page

 Sat 21 June 2003 0020 hours, very early.    

ADSL line is down. The support guy at Arachnet reckons the problem is a 'port lock' in Telstra's software for our line at the local exchange. Hmmm, Murphy's Law again.

The last two weeks at work have been very hectic. I was acting as team manager whilst T. was working on a selection committee. One needs a refined sensitivity to the juxtaposition of sublime and ridiculous to work in ** deleted **,  well at least if you want to maintain a philosophical outlook on life. The sublime is in the good intentions of our ** deleted ** in the east which is a traditional direction from which to expect the arrival of wisdom. The ridiculous inheres in the snowballing accumulation of errors and the counter productive double handling of clients' queries which occurs when the plans of the great ones encounter the tyranny of the unexpected. None of the wise ones appears to understand that Murphy's Law is far more powerful than any Brave New World management theory or hubris-borne technological dreaming. The people who run **del** are lawyers and accountants by profession, obsessively gung ho in outlook and seemingly devoid of any appreciation of scientific method. I was writing a week or so ago about the "Can do" slogan and the systematic bias towards selection of the gung ho. **del*

Don't get me wrong.  Of course we need to think positively and maintain an optimistic attitude - "My cup is at least half full!" and my thoughtfully made plans have a reasonable chance of success. But we have to maintain contact with reality; theory, even management theory, must be in dialectical development with practice or it will rapidly become self defeating.

Sunday 22 June   This would have been my mother's birthday. Navigate page 

Now is this sublime, ridiculous or both? Eric who is Arachnet's after hours tech support person reported our 'port lock' problem to Telstra, the Australian monopoly supplier of telephone lines [the physical architecture anyway] and they responded that our home phone line is not ADSL enabled. And this after we have been on ADSL for almost a fortnight!

Today and tomorrow are the shortest days. Hurrah!!  The weather has turned wet again after last week being clear all day and night with temperatures getting down to 5ºC or less. Bob who lives at Gidgeganup reckons he drove through patches of hoar frost on the way to work some mornings last week, which he says means at least minus 4º.Navigate page

Tue 1 July 2003  Happy New Financial Year! 


Tomorrow I go for a testicular ultrasound. Hopefully the disomfort is a hernia or the like and not some kind of cyst.

I must query Don Herbison-Evans about who might know about predators of the Cape Lilac caterpillars [Leptocneria reducta]. I occurs to me that in fact wherever it is they originally come from, the larvae will probably be even less obvious than they become around here because the predator wasps - as I surmise them to be - will successfully remove any strays still about in daylight. In this case it will only be people who happen to have the trees right next to their house or hut who would be aware of them.

I should also contact John Makeham. He looks like he has done very well for himself. He might conceivably know the whereabouts of other people from my Canberra days. I wonder if he has anything to do with Kevin Rudd? Navigate page 

 2 July  

Had the ultrasound today. The radiologist was a chinese woman, very serious and professional [and good looking]. She looked a fair bit like Lucy Liu of Charlies Angels and Ally McBeal fame. I guess that is the closest I will ever get to having my balls fondled by Lucy Liu! She was not forthcoming about whether she saw anything abnormal but I sort of got the impression that she didn't. Let's hope so anyway!

Made an interesting observation about the twigs of the Cape Lilac tree today.

 Sat 5 July  

Did overtime today. Fortunately Bob picked me up on his way in and dropped me home again. That saved me about 45 minutes or more, much appreciated!  
Public transport in Perth is woeful. I didn't ride my bike in because it was an 8 o'clock start which for me is very early. Also the weather is bad. Good if it means the resevoirs fill with water and good if the rain goes right inland to the wheat belt. But bad for a sap like me to go into a headwind with the real prospect of heavy rain and too early out of bed to boot. Perhaps I'm just lazy.  But back to public transport in Perth. State Labor governments seem obsessed with commuter trains whilst the Liberals are obsessed with private cars. Neither side seems to understand the necessity for bicycle transport. I guess it is going to take a few billions of dollars in health care costs arising from an epidemic of obesity before the short sighted clowns we call "politicians" come to recognise the gravity of the situation. [No pun intended :-]

It would really have been much better if, about 15 years ago, the then Labor government had opted for ripping up the iron rails of the suburban train system and made the railway road beds into dedicated bus and taxi ways. This is because the great advantage buses have over trains is that buses can turn aside and service suburbs of any shape and layout whereas railways rely on people getting themselves to their nearest station. As it is it is only certain suburbs through which the railways pass that are well serviced. Everywhere else people have to struggle with hopelessly inadequate bus time tables. Gwyneth's experience in Bassendean last night was a classic example: the time table said the bus would leave the terminus at Wilson St at 8:18 PM. She got there at 8:15 PM and waited. The 55 bus should have been there at that time having recently arived from Perth. After waiting a few minutes, a friend from Tai Kwon Do who had waited with her, offered to drive her home. This was very kind of the friend who had to drive several Km in the opposite direction,but what could they do? They did not know if the bus was late or had gone early and as the next bus was not due until 10:18 PM - two hours later - Gwyneth certainly did not want to hang around for that long in the dark on a Friday night!

I keep thinking about 'Being the model of self' as the explanation for conscious experience and keep coming back to the realisation that this really is the best, most succinct and generally most useful way to think about it. Navigate page 

 Sun 6 July  

Was listening to 'All in the Mind' on ABC Radio National today and came across the name of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, a French philosopher born in 1908. What I am reading of his approach to consciousness seems to make sense to me, eg: Maurice Merleau-Ponty  I need to read some of his own writing rather than merely what his academic fans and critics say though.  I was lead also to the German philosopher Husserl, but I don't feel any particular afinity to what I see of his ideas. [This could of course be a mistake of gigantic dimensions caused by terrible ignorance on my part but the world will just have to live with that for a little longer. :-]

I'm coming also to see more clearly the serious need to develop my theme of:
The human university is always potentially infinite, so long as it exists and we believe it so.

I am coming to see that this is a distinctly modern thought. It is true because we have scientific method available. It was not a particularly reasonable thought to have in the pre scientific era. It is true now because we have the means available to understand and overcome the practical problems which confront us, in particular we can utilise natural energy and resources in far more ways than ever was possible before the advent of science. What this means is that our enemy now is not scarcity but greed. I think this is a fundamental point about which economists are leading us astray. As far as I understand it, modern economic theory holds as sacred dictum that scarcity is what gives things their value, but it seems to me this idea is a form of insanity because what is truly valuable is that which enhances the quality of human existence. The economists' dictum is just a description of capitalism, which ultimately is the process of valuing things in terms of money and money profit and this may well be the default state of human kind from now on if we don't make the effort to be different, but life on Earth for us humans is not just about consumption and display of material wealth.

If our species survives, which I think all reasonable people desire, then this age we are in will not be seen as an age of scarcity but rather as a time characterised by lack of compassion and ethics. Navigate page 

  9 July  very, very early

Seems like 'Lucy Liu' found nothing particularly wrong with my testicles. That's a relief! Next comes the urologist. Apparently these are in short supply in Perth so first available appointment is second week of August.  

And I think I just saw a mouse out of the corner of my eye, out in the dining room. Hmmmmm, time to set the traps again. Peanut butter seems to do the trick. Allison showed me where mice seem to be getting into the bird cage out in the garden. That will need poison baits, no way around that unfortunately. The large bird cage provides a perfect, cat-free environment for mice and last time they invaded we ended up with literally dozens running round eating the bird seed which fell from the feeding dish and burrowing their nests under the slabs. Come to think of it, none of us have ever questioned the need for having the corrugated iron and bird wire cage rest on concrete slabs. Why is that necessary? Without the slabs there would be nowhere for the mice to live in the cage.

We couldn't allow the mice to continue living in the cage last time because they were climbing the wire to get at the perches and thence to the feeding dish suspended from its roof. The birds - budgies and a cockatiel - were always very disturbed when the mice became active. Bob reckons that mice will eat into the legs of roosting birds and eat bits of baby birds so that the latter die of wounds. Sounds disgusting! It makes me very much not regret all the various rodents I have poisoned, trapped, stomped and clobbered to death.

I must start a new web page with a list of projects for inclusion in the site. Examples of projects I want to work on are
a CDES critique of John Howard and various other Oz politician,
a 'Science in the South West' directory and suggestion board,
my SF novel, 'Short Cut to Imadjinning'
a revamp of my genealogy pages, using the Mormon's PAF application to generate the web pages rather than Gendesigner which is really hard to maintain, especially as the creator of Gendesigner appears to have given up on his brain child. Navigate page  

 Monday 14 July   

Other items to work on are:
'Just so stories' - my potted surmises about how certain things have evolved, eg music. I already have a spiel about certain aspects of human female sexuality.  
"DAYTIME' or "Do As Your Told In My Empire!" - the paradoxes of bureaucracy in public and private organisations.

Things appear to be settling down a bit at work. This is partly due to the Gods over east getting their act together in fixing the major glitches of the global routing settup.  I tend to think that a major part also is that the new people are starting to get the hang of some areas of the work so their call times are starting to reduce a bit. What a pity the whole system is so intractibly knobbled by politics! The so-called 'Whole of Government' system of Family Assistance Office, best understood by removing the letter w from the word 'whole'. In reality it should be completely a Centrelink project as should the 'Baby Bonus'.

 Navigate page  

  15 July   continuing yesterday's theme:

Medicare, our potentially brilliant universal health insurance system, can never be made to work until the true cost of running it is reflected in a realistic Medicare Levy. If it takes 9 or 10 percent of GDP to be spent on protecting and restoring the health of Australians, then why the hell don't we make the Medicare Levy reflect this?

 Sat 19 July  Capitalism as religion.

The true religion of 'The West' is capitalism. Maybe I am reading too much into this but how about this: there is a Trinity -
Capital is God the Father
Money, in the form of Holy Dollar Bill, is the Son, and
Market, the unseen hand, is the Holy Spirit.
Banks, which give birth to Money through what amounts to creation out of nothing - a form of immaculate conception - fulfill the role of Mary "Mother of God". Banks are induced to do this by the presence of Capital.
[Just see what happens if you or I try to screw with a bank though! ]
See also my page on Capitalist Fundamentalism

As should be obvious from so much of what I have written on this web site, I ain't no Christian, far from it. But I do think Jesus of Nazareth was right in the saying that a man cannot serve two masters, because he will surely love the one and hate the other. This applies to all of us in our work and waking thoughts. We have to work, and work is what fulfills us to great extent, giving meaning to much of our lives. But just what is it that allows us to feel good about ourselves? This is obviously a very personal question for most of us, and it turns up a deep paradox in modern life: are we working for the sake of doing whatever it is, creating goods and services as our contribution to society and the furthering of life on Earth, or are we doing it for money?

I guess the followers of Adam Smith would say that it is both and cannot be otherwise which may very well be true, but this does not remove the question or resolve the terrible tension between the two aspects. In this day and age the rich and powerful do not stand out as examples of ethical leadership. It used to be the case that a person learned a trade or profession and this activity was seen as important in its own right. Nowadays the accelerating pace of change in the methods and location of production means that very few people can identify themselves with their work because the nature of the work itself keeps changing. The fact of this change is pretty much universally recognised but the reason for much of this change is not to improve the quality of what is produced but simply because those who own the means of production have found a way of doing things more cheaply. The living needs of those who must sell their labour are considered irrelevant to the question of how much they should be paid, as, by and large, are any problems they [that is we] may have in organising our lives around our work. Work has become just something one does for money.

Whenever there is a major question of whether something should be done to protect consumers and the environment from the adverse effects of manufacturing and use of consumables and equipment, there is always money and lawyers ready to defend the rights of manufacturers to do what they want as cheaply as possible, but usually very little resources available to enforce the rights of the rest of us to live in a viable ecosystem. Navigate page  

 Wed 23 July  

I have had a cold for the last 5 days or so. Choosing the right kind of drugs helps hide most of the symptoms. I suppose this is all well and good so long as one doesn't mask potentially severe progressions of things like the wrong bacteria growing in the lungs and so forth. How mad that in Western Australia pseudoephidrine [Sudaphed] can only be sold in 30 tab packets and you have to show photo ID to get it. Either that or you have to buy some kind of proprietory concoction with paracetamol and codeine in it. All because a bunch of half baked morons want to use the stuff for making speed to be bought by other half baked morons who don't care what they put into their bodies and brains.

Lewis also has the aftermath of a cold, which can drag on for ages with him, particularly as he doesn't get out of his room enough, never mind getting out of the house! He will fade away. Emma seems to be almost over hers, thank heavens. No drugs for her; she throws up at the smell of real strawberries, never mind the 'child friendly' flavours of patent medicines. We all sound like a bunch of old crocs. Lewis had his wisdom teeth out on Saturday in preparation for the marvels of orthodontic science to straighten out the rest of his pearlies. God only knows what that is all going to cost!  And Gwyneth now needs hers out by the sound of it. Weird pains and movements in her jaws are giving her hell. She should have gone to see someone about it a month or more ago when obvious signs of this were starting. Now she has to wait a month at least to see a specialist and live on codeine for the duration probably. Not a happy prospect.

It was Suzanne's b'day yesterday [when I started writing this!] I'll have to ring her as soon as I get home from work. No chance to ring her from work.

Trying out yet another cordless phone to replace the one destroyed by lightning 3 months ago. I have been advised that it needs to be digital to cope properly with the ADSL connection but the digital phones don't seem to have enough speaker volume, the ringers are loud enough but not the sound of the other person's voice.  Why should this be? Completely avoidable design failures if you ask me! Navigate page 

 Sat 26 July  Culture - the worlds of memes

I have been thinking about how culture constist of different kinds and classes of replicators, that is the memes. This current train of thought was set off by reading an article in the Winter 2003 edition of the skeptic - a journal of fact and opinion - Vol 23, No. 2.
The article, 'If it Sounds Like a Duck' by Peter Bowditch, is a very round and sound criticism of so-called alternative medicine. I loved it. The phrase that hit me in particular was "anecdote land" contained, for your edification, in this sentence: 'When the scientific absurdity of homeopathy is pointed out, for example, the response is often that the wonderful results achieved in anecdote land come from the amazingly powerful placebo effect, where the mind tells you to get better.'

Leaving aside, for the time being anyway, the excellent message of that article I was drawn to thinking about 'anecdote land' as being a very useful term for the great crowd of undocumented and untested beliefs held implicitely to be true by vast numbers of people. Digressing further I started thinking about the world of memes, the cultural replicators, and how we can see them as emanating from different realms of the meme world [the memiverse? or 'Memia' perhaps]. I have come to a collection of names denoting both the memes themselves as examples and the collection or realm they come from - their provenance as it were. The boundaries are not always clear and in fact many domains have inhabitants in common. The collection is still growing:
Anecdotia - the domain of reported stories; undocumented, second hand information which can be indications of something or other but proof of nothing,
Behavia - [like it?] - the domain of copied skills manifest in the actions of their exponents; this is the oldest domain of Memia,
Documentia - written reports, the incarnations of which can be traced back, which may be sourced ultimately from any of the other domains,
Engineering - if it ain't bust don't fix it!
Genetica - the biological universe - this is Not a domain of Memia!
Genomica - this is the domain of thoeries, descriptions and patents describing genes, DNA and so forth,
Humour -
Mathematica - the domain of mathematical objects, proofs, conjectures, and so forth,
Music - an autonomous domain of Behavia
Mythica - the domain of beliefs tranmitted within cultures and subcultures which have taken on a life of their own which often embody deep seated emotional attitudes, aspirations, fears and so forth,
Observatia - first hand reports whose originators can be traced and vouched for,
Poetica - poetry, lyrics and all the good, bad and indifferent examples of these
Psychologica - manifestations of Theoretica based on observations and assumptions about how human minds work
Scientia - descriptions and predictions of events which have been tested and found not to be falsified so far,
Theoretica - descriptions and predictions in general - it is always a question of fact in each case whether they are parts of Scientia, Anecdotia,

Some of this might look rather gratuitous, and it is, but the theoretical question to be asked about any instance of communication is: What is being replicated here? The kind of thing I am talking about can be a quite unconscious process on the part of either, both or all participants. Navigate page 

 7 Aug, very early. Some bad news at work.

 Heard today at work that Mervyn, one of my colleagues, has a tumor in his chest requiring immediate chemo therapy. I was quite disturbed when I heard the news. It made me think of my brother, Tristan, who died from melanoma in 1996. I am sure however that Merv would not want us all to get morose. Best to be of good cheer and hope for his sake that the specialists can do something effective to get rid of it. Merve had been feeling a bit strange for the past couple weeks: very tired at times, he had fainted at home more than once, his face had been looking a bit puffy. A typical story, the first GP had said originally that he couldn't see any particular problem, so presumably thought Merve was just over worked. A second GP had ordered some tests for something or other, but the results were not conclusive of anything. I think he had a CAT scan of his torso early this week and that, combined with some other tests he had yesterday morning, had pinned down the diagnosis. Merve is not yet 40 as far as I know and doesn't smoke. He always seemed very robust, rather fit and well excised.
More clear evidence that you can't take anything for granted. Navigate page 

 Sat 9 Aug the ADSL has not been working

ASDSL has been out of action since Wednesday.  Lewis doesn't feel confident about ringing up Arachnet about these things so I didn't find out about it all until v. late Wed night. Arachnet's after hours help guy couldn't shed light on it so logged a fault with Telstra. Presuming it to be a port lockup same as last time. Nothing fixed by Saturday so chased up with Arachnet. Took the Billion modem in for a checkup and it turns out the user details had disappeared. That is weird because neither Lewis or I did anything to it. The tech guy on duty said it was as if the reset button had been pressed. Well I didn't even know it had one, the thin is buried in a deep little hole in the back of the mdem. . Whilst there Telstra rang A. to say they had finally rebuilt our connection at the local exchange. I am suspicious of Telstra's equipment. I am wondering if it is possible for a pulse of some kind coming through the exchange to reset the modem. I will be logging things fairly carefully for a while.

The people at Arachnet are suspicious of what cordless phones can do to ADSL. I tend to think it is the other way around, ie ADSL or the line filter cuts down the performance of the cordless phone. Anyway, we have had the Panasonic cordless running sweetly for about a fortnight, and that includes over a week in parallel with the ADSL running sweetly too. That said, it does seem the ADSL has temporary glitches on occasion, dropping out for no apparent reason, but restarting after few minutes.

It seems that our work colleague Mervyn has Hodgkin's lymphoma, the same as the singer Delta Gudren [sp?]. What a shit of a thing! That explains his face being all puffy for the last few weeks, and would tie in with the loss of balance and fainting spells. Well, I just looked up some info on the subject at http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/hodgkins#4 and it seems like there is well established treatment available. The fact that they pulled him in straight away for chemotherapy seems to indicate that the disease is beyond the initial stages. The screed indicates that treatments can control the disease and should prolong his life for a good while or even back to normal expectations. Wait and see. Navigate page

  13 Aug  v early AM

Well, I learned today that the cause of my horrible pain in the groin at the end of June was a burst tube in the epididemus. Apparently this can happen to men who have had a vasectomy.  Now they tell me! Dr [Mr!] Jes Judge informs me that it can happen within weeks of a vasectomy or after 30 years. The cause is that the production of new sperm exceeds the rate at which old sperm are reabsorbed. Apparently the epididimus is made of lots of little tubes which function as a storage place for sperm and as the sperm can no longer escape up the vas deferens they bank up in the little tubes and one of them can swell up and burst. When this happens the nerves which register the damage are 'deep' nerves which communicate the intensity of pain but are rather vague as to location, hence the diffuse nature of the experience.

While he was about it, Mr Judge introduced me to the rigours of tactile inspection of the prostate gland: the old cold latex glove and digit into nearest orifice trick. ..... Ho boy! Not to my liking at all! Hopefully that won't be necessary for another 18 months if not more. Still, if I remember that prostate cancer is what killed Frank Zappa at age 50, I guess I can put up with it.

Saw program on ABC TV, Foreign Correspondant, which had an item on the "fence" the Israelis are putting up to protect themselves from Palestinian terrorists. "Iron Curtain" was the term that came to my mind. The size of it, and the fact that whenever a bend is necessary the variation from straight line is always made into Palestinian territory - ie well inside the 'Green Line" - makes me see it as a version of apartheit. It looks like the hard liners in control of the country are using the issue to extend Israeli territory and to subjugate the Palestinian. 'The Fence' is clearly costing millions of dollars and the question I ask is how come Israel can afford to do this but cannot afford to spend money helping the Palestinians to build basic infrastructure. Have the Israelis ever paid any compensation to the Palestinians for the land they seized in 1948? I somehow doubt it. I don't support any kind of terrorism but I think the way the Israelis are going about colonising Palestinian territory and attempting to control all aspects of Palestinian life pretty much makes it look like the Israelis are seeking revenge against the rest of the world for what happened to European Jews in the 1930s and 40s and the Palestinians are copping the projections. If this isn't the case, how come the Israelis can't see that so much of what they are doing is dysfunctional, productive of no more than short term gain and ultimately self-defeating? Navigate page

 Tuesday 19 Aug  Disaster at Dick Smith's -

This first bit is somewhat verbose but it is a record of an incident which happened today which I may need to rely on.

Lewis and I returned his TV to Dick Smith Electronics in Walter Road, Morley today. The problem seemed to be that something went 'fizz' inside the device a week or so ago and from then on it would not respond to the remote, but still functioned OK in all other respects. We took the TV into the shop and I placed it on the counter. We were then served by a girl called Tammy who took advice occasionally from a Chinese looking guy whose badge identified him as Dau. Tammy confirm that the TV was covered by warranty which was for 12 months from the date of purchase on 15/3/2003. The paperwork took quite a while with major entries into their computer system and then entries into a lever arch file which I had to sign. Tammy then gave me a docket for their receipt of the TV and remote and Lewis and I wondered off in the shop to look at scrolling mice, because his birthday is coming up and he wants a new mouse.

While we were looking at the mice on display we heard a significant plasticky crash and rattle sound and when we looked towards the source it became apparent that it could only have been made by the dropping of Lewis's TV. I went to the counter and confirmed that this is what happened. Dau had been taking it down from the counter and it had slipped from his hands. He said: 'My fingers just gave out!' There was a roughly triangular piece of plastic about 3cm on a side which had broken off the bottom right hand side at the back, presumably this was the part that hit the ground first and took the main force. The manager, Kris, was called and he agreed that the obvious damage would be repaired, and he mentioned replacement of the cabinet. God only knows how long that will take. Their and my copies of the docket have been notated by Dau to the effect that the TV has been 'damaged during transit, DSE cover repair' and I got Dau to initial my copy.

Here's hoping they come good with a full repair, and in good time too!

As for good things which happened today: We bought a garden shed and had it installed! Because of my back I couldn't do all the work involved with laying slabs, plus don't have all the tools necessary for fixing the sheeting and stuff together. We got a 3m x 2.16m shed in cream Colorbond with a fibreglass roof panel so I can shut the door if necessary and still see what is there. [This might well be needed if Allison is asking too many questions or just babbling on as usual.] Now I can put all the poisons, flammables, sharp tools, mower and spray bottles well out of harm's way. It has taken us all of nine months in getting around to do this. We bought it from The Shed Man in Hector St West in Osborne Park. I had to get a 1m3 of sand from Beechboro which meant borrowing a trailer. That worked out OK - the van pulled it reasonably well. The only real problem was that the van couldn't pull the trailer back up the driveway because a wheel kept spinning, so I had to disconnect the thing, drive the van out and reverse it into the down hill side of the D shaped driveway, then pull the trailer around by hand to hitch it up again. If only Lewis had been out of bed by that time! [12 noon by that stage!].

 Thur 22 Aug  Dick Smith comes good  

One thing I neglected to mention in the last entry was Glenda's reaction to hearing about Dau dropping the TV at DSE. She was livid. Her immediate assertion was that they should give us our money back. Well today she rang them and spoke in her sweetest angelic voice, the one she uses with ruthless persistence in her 'non haggling' negotiations with sellers of things at garage sales to knock prices down by half, and suggested we should have our money back. As it happened the real manager of the place was there this time who readily agreed to complete replacement of the TV. This has now been done, me going to pick it up in the midst of a very heavy rain storm because I have to go back to work tomorrow, and it is now set up in Lewis's room where he and I watched Stargate this evening.

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 Sunday 24 Aug  

I surely need to start working on putting my website into a hardcopy format. I think I have enough for a small book which I might call: The Great It and other stories.

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  The model of an interval timing system in the brain as recounted in an article ‘Times of Our Lives’ by Karen Wright in Scientific American, September 2002 at p 59, provides me with a framework for understanding some aspects of why music feels like it does. I have often wondered over the years why it is that some pieces of music in particular have the power to take me out of my everyday time sense into a feeling of ‘eternal now’. I am sure most people have something similar happen to them but the music will vary due to culture, personal history and inherited temperament. For me the effect comes most often whilst listening to tunes with some kind of continuo such as songs by Pink Floyd [remember them?], Jean Michel Jarre, or ethnic Indian, Indonesian, Chinese and Irish [with the 'indoor' pipes], or various rock [eg. Motown], pop [Heart of Glass], classical [Philip Glass ], slow Blues, and so forth.

If we leave aside for the moment the emotional associations, theoretically speaking anyway, then it seems to me that each sustained note or chord in a piece of music becomes the stimulus for a timing measurement sequence. The Sciam article deals with the general case of cortical oscillator cells providing a unique and repeatable time stamp for the start and finish of events. These oscillators are single cells which spontaneously and independently emit impulses at a rate which is different for each cell respectively and which project to spiky target cells in a/the striate nucleus[iae]. The spiky cells each appear to receive these signals from many thousands of oscillators and it is the unique pattern of stimulation from the set of oscillators at the start and end of a process which is remembered. Once a particular, repeatable event has become associated with a particular set of such oscillators, the brain is able to anticipate the stages of the process in question. In the case of musical events, the onset of a note or chord which is recognised as such - by dint of evoking a cell assembly which encodes the salient features of the sound - also provides a stimulus to a set of cortical oscillators which will be characteristically associated with that sound.. These will be entrained by the set of cortical cells [cell assembly] which constitutes the representation of the sound and the end of the note or chord is recognised and encoded in the spikey cells the same way as any other kind of event. Obviously within music there are many levels of time sequence: notes [and rests], bars, phrases, lines of melody [tune and turn, chorus], verse, song and so forth, and the interplay of explicit and implicit durations is a major part of what music is all about.  

In the case of the 'timeless' music, the presence of continuo of some sort which has a start but no explicit finish, creates an ambiguity which is not resolved. The emotional pull of other features of the music is enough to keep the mind away from focus on other, non musical, events so the mind is not drawn back into the everyday time sense. This allows associations to occur which would otherwise be censored or suppressed. This is a powerful process!



 Long term unconscious development or "evolution" of constructs within the brain  Navigate page

It is possible for ideas to develop unconsciously in the mind. In fact, if I push my view of how the brain works to a logical conclusion, *all* ideas develop unconsciously. What registers in consciousness is the experience of stages in the development of ideas where pieces of the puzzle come together and are related to the current self model.

A key concept is that of pattern recognition. As a chap named John Ball said on ABC Radio National once, the main function of the brain is the recognition, processing and production of patterns. He used the term 'pattom' to designate what he assumes to be the underlying brain activity feature which embodies this. [I don't think anybody has adopted his word.] Others use terms like cell assembly or repertoire but the underlying idea is the same: groups of neurons learn to act together in such a way as to embody the essential features of things in the external world or habits of thought and activity.


 'On the Psychology of Bureaucratic Incompetence' Navigate page 
or: "Do As You're Told In My Empire" [DAYTIME] 
[actually this subject area deserves a page of its own.  Must get down to that soon.] 

Well one school of thought would hold that this has already been covered in the "Peter Principle" i.e. the people are promoted up the hierarchy on the basis of ambition, history and apparent further potential until the last promotion takes them beyond their ability. Then, because organisations rarely demote people who have gone up through the ranks, indeed most bureaucracies function best with tenured positions, the officer in question rises no further but remains in an inappropriate position for the rest of his/her career.

My take on all this is that another tendency is also well established which is the ideology of gung-ho "I can do!". What this means is that selection committees and personnel supply agencies are always impressed by confidence and the appearance of ambition in candidates. Selection committees and agencies are not so concerned with honesty and truth in statements written and spoken by candidates nor are they in much of a position to check for the truth. The general upshot of this is that candidates more prone to blowing their own trumpet, exuding an air of confidence and bending the truth will always have an edge on others who are more concerned with truth and attention to detail. For one thing it makes it easier for committees to make a decision, after all the whole process comes down eventually to a line drawing exercise, and candidates who in effect give the selection committee words that sound good which can be used to justify their line drawing decisions are more likely to get the job.

The long term consequences of this bias in the processes of selection and promotion are that organisations are lead by people who are less inclined to deal with details and more inclined to believe in their own broad-sweep viewpoints. They are not inclined to want to hear about any problems inherent in their own brain child projects, preferring to leave the details of implementation and repair of defects to those who work under them. There will thus always be an over estimation of what is achievable and an underestimation of the true costs. I think the current situation in Iraq after the second Gulf War is an example of this. All the Can Do generals and bigwigs in the USA's army and current administration were incapable of foreseeing the devastation to Iraqi infrastructure - the looting, the destruction of hospitals, museums, schools and universities. This failure to forsee the collapse of civil order and then the failure to act promptly to curtail it, may turn out in the long run to be as bad for Iraq as Bush senior's failure to support the Shia rebels in southern Iraq in the latter stages of the first Gulf War.  God knows how many people lost their lives in Saddam Hussein's purge then. Why the hell couldn't Bush senior and the US army have at least occupied the southern area then?  ....... Bastards!


My solution to the problem of bias in the promotional selection systems within organisations is that selection should be on the basis of compulsory, secret, limited preferential ballot. That is, all the people who are going to be affected by the decision, and all those with more than a certain minimum time working with at least two of the candidates, should be required to vote preferentially, providing preferences for at least as many candidates as there are vacancies to be filled. Thus if there were 3 positions vacant then each voter must list a first, second and third preference.

The votes would be counted and instantly tallied as follows: 1st is equal to 1 vote, 2nd is equal to half a vote, and 3rd is equal to a third of a vote and so on.
This method of counting is a happy compromise between simple first-past-the-post voting, which I think is a bit bone headed, and the complicated preferential system adopted for Australian State and Federal elections which forces people to give a whole vote for people they find utterly detestable and which sometimes takes a very long time to finalise when there is no clear first preference leader and the second and third preferences of some voters are used.

There are several good points about this system:

  • As can readily be seen, the values of 1st, second, third, etc. preferences could be tallied immediately and thus the outcome decided with alacrity, 
  • there is a clear distinction between the value of different preferences so there is little prospect of ambiguity or confusion in the results,
  • voters are not required to make fatuous and basically random distinctions between people they don't know [which is a stupid feature of current Australian compulsory preferential voting],
  • because voting is compulsory both for people who know the candidates and those who will be significantly affected by the result, the process will extract and use real knowledge implicit in the minds of the voters so the result is very likely to reflect a true and insightful consensus of the abilities of the candidates.

As a concession to the status quo it could be allowed that voters holding positions at a higher level in the organisation than the vacancy would be allowed a double value for their votes, ie 1st equals 2, 2nd equals 1 and so forth.

NB: this item to be removed and included in a new page: ch5 More Paradox 

The Parable of the Evil Shepherd

George Gurdjieff, a teacher of 'esoteric' religion and philosophy, passed on a tale which goes something like this.

Once upon a time there lived a very rich shepherd-king who was also a wizard. He possessed an enormous flock of sheep which should have brought him great satisfaction, yet he had a problem. His sheep were woolly but wild. They were also intelligent and wily. These sheep would often run away for, when he came to kill and skin one from his flock, some of them at least understood what was happening and determined not to allow the same fate to befall themselves. Others of the flock just liked to have adventures and often got into difficulties in the gullies and ravines of the rocky mountainsides. This caused endless bother for the shepherd-king and some danger to himself when he rescued them. Added to this was the presence of wolves in the hills, always ready to sneak up and attack a stray. Because of all this he was at his wits end to find some method of controlling the animals.

He hired men to guard his sheep and to lead the animals from pasture to pasture in the mountains but the men felt no great personal involvement in their work, after all - they did not own the sheep - it was just a job. The men often went to sleep on the job or, when wolves came near, they ran away rather than risk the danger of injury from the wolves' sharp teeth. He then hired other men, at even greater cost, to go around keeping watch over the first lot, waking them up if they found anyone asleep on the job. The trouble was that, after a while, these men also tended to fall asleep on the job for the same reason.

The rich shepherd, who had studied wizardry for many years, knew that there was no easy magic available to keep the hired hands awake so he determined to try and find a method of directly changing the restless, adventurous and suspicious disposition of the sheep. After much meditation and experimentation he hit upon the solution. He was overjoyed to find that it was quite easy and ridiculously cheap! The answer was.....to hypnotise them!

Some he persuaded into believing that they were great leaders, others he persuaded that they were brave soldiers, others merchants, others artisans, yet others became philosophers. All of them were persuaded that they would live forever and that the shepherd was invisible; if they heard him coming they interpreted the sound as the blessed presence of a divine being. If they happened to notice the skin of one of their recently slaughtered fellows laid out on a rock to dry, they took it as a happy omen - the spirit of a departed one come back to reassure them of eternal bliss in higher pastures.

From that time on the sheep spent so much time telling each other stories of how great they were and how important was the task they were engaged in (or simply arguing about who was the most important!), they never had time to even think about running away. They grew fat and contented, their minds filled with visions of their own splendour and cleverness. The shepherd never had a moment's bother with them after that, apart from the occasional individual who imagined himself to be an explorer or something and accidentally slid into a ditch. He directed the hired men to build a stone wall around his pastures after which he sacked them all.



Continuous Development

I am developing this page and this site. 
If you see something that needs improving and you want to tell me, please drop me a line or two at: 

   How to contact me   
 If you just click on the image of my email address here the 'mailto:' address which appears in your mail program will have an extra bit at the right hand end. You need to remove it. This has been added to try and foil automated webcrawling address harvesters working for spammers who keep sending me pornographic junk email. Just delete the second dot and 'nospam'  

Many pages on this site are unfinished, some are only just started.
They are none the less here because it is the ideas that are important.
You don't have to believe what I say about things, but if you come across a new way of seeing your world as a consequence of reading something here then your ability to think and act freely has been enhanced.
If that be so then my efforts have been worthwhile.


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