Strange Days

The Hizb Allah leadership must be rubbing their hands with glee. Like well schooled stooges the Israelis have been suckered in to waging war on Lebanon, egged on by the useful idiots in the US administration and their apologists around the world. Effectively this means that Hizb Allah has already won:
1 They have got Israel to do their dirty work for them by snuffing out the development of the greatest threat to their long term existence, the hospitable, fun-loving, entrepreneurial Lebanon that was emerging after decades of invasion, bloodshed and civil war.
2 In the eyes of those whose hearts and minds must be won if the death cults like Hizb Allah are to wither away, the killing of babies, children and civilians in Lebanon will be seen as justification for the war crimes of indiscriminately bombarding civilians in Israeli cities and thus a legitimate form of resistance.
3 As we have already seen, as the Israelis carry out their ground war in Southern Lebanon they will sustain losses, which will be perceived as losses in Israel, whereas every Hizb Allah fighter who dies becomes another glorious martyr and another reason for others to take up their cause.
4 Whatever the final outcome of this phase, members of Hizb Allah will be able to fade away into the background with their arms intact and will be able to demonstrate from time to time that the primary aim and justification for this war, disarming Hizb Allah has failed. Thus increasing their prestige and influence.
Strange days indeed, when the death cult leaders seem smarter than our own.

Thackara’s Power Laws

Power Law 1: Don’t think “new product” – think social value.
Power Law 2: Think social value before “tech”.
Power Law 3: Enable human agency. Design people into situations, not out of them.
Power Law 4: Use, not own. Possession is old paradigm.
Power Law 5: Think P2P, not point-to-mass.
Power Law 6: Don’t think faster, think closer.
Power Law 7: Don’t start from zero. Re-mix what’s already out there.
Power Law 8: Connect the big and the small.
Power Law 9: Think whole systems (and new business models, too).
Power Law 10: Think open systems, not closed ones.

The Smuggies have finally flipped

“Smokers driving company cars, vans, lorries and enclosed tractors in England could be fined £50 for lighting up at the wheel if the vehicle might be handed over to a colleague from work later in the day, the Department of Health said yesterday.
Under regulations it wants to enforce when smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public places next summer, company vehicles would be treated as workplaces if they could be used by more than one employee. Drivers would not be allowed to smoke at the wheel if there was a risk that colleagues might later inhale their smoke, the draft regulations said.
Employees who get a company car for their sole use will be allowed to smoke while giving a non-smoking colleague a lift to work, because the journey will count as private use. But employees sharing a pool car will not be allowed to light up, even if they are all heavy smokers.”

So very purposive drift

I recently read an article by Geoff Dyer in the New Statesman where he describes how some years ago he went to Paris for a couple of months to write a novel based on Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night”. (Incidentally one of my favourite novels)
Anyway, he had a thoroughly miserable time and got no where with his novel. Shortly before he was to leave Paris, he made a trip to the scene of the Battle of the Somme, ostensibly to do some research for his failing novel. When he arrived at Thiepval, site of a memorial to the British dead he was so moved that as he said:
“To cut a long story short: I abandoned my Paris novel and ended up writing a book about what the Great War meant to me, to us.”
He concludes by pondering;
“… What would have happened if I hadn’t gone that afternoon? I could, theoretically, have gone another day, and maybe the weather wouldn’t have been perfect, but the question actually misses the point: this wasn’t just a visit, it was a meeting (“only this moment and only me”), a rendezvous. The other possibility – what if I hadn’t gone at all? (not so unlikely; my time in Paris was running out ) – scarcely bears thinking about. I went to the Somme in the midst of a period of complete stagnation and frustration. From that moment on I was revitalised. I had a new interest, a purpose, something to do, something to live for. There was a place for me again.”
After I had finished reading it, I felt this is quite purposive drift, may be I should write something about this here. Imagine my surprise and delight when during some background research I discovered that, to a much greater extent than I had suspected, here was a man who lived purposive drift.
In an article in the Guardian he talks about his life as writer giving as an example a book he wrote about Jazz:
“… I didn’t know much about jazz. Certainly not enough to write a book about it – that, precisely, was the motivation for doing so. I loved jazz but it was infinitely mysterious to me. I wanted to know more – and the best way to find out about anything is to write about it. If I’d known what I needed to know before writing the book I would have had no interest in doing so. Instead of being a journey of discovery, writing the book would have been a tedious clerical task, a transcription of the known.”

and going on to say:
“The jazz book was the beginning of my life as a literary and scholarly gatecrasher, turning up uninvited at an area of expertise, making myself at home, having a high old time for a year or two, and then moving on. This, it goes without saying, is no way to make a career (a word which, for anyone seriously committed to a life of writing, should never be spoken, only spat).”
and concluding with the glorious statement:
“… although we live in a time that sets great store by measuring progress (“research” in academic parlance) in precisely demarcated areas of knowledge, real advances are often made by people happy to muddle along within the splendidly vague job description advanced by Susan Sontag, whose “idea of a writer [was] someone interested in ‘everything'”. Why, realistically, would one settle for anything less?”

Maybe the tide is turning

The other day I posted a link to Ken Robinson’s brilliant talk at TED, about how our schools are educating out the creativity of our children. Today I came across this piece by Maurice Holt on what he calls Slow Schooling. The whole piece is well worth reading. This extract gives a feel of what he is talking about:
“Since education is essentially about equipping our children with the ability to act responsibly in a complex society, the idea of a Slow School follows very readily from the metaphor of Slow. It brings to mind an institution where students have time to discuss, argue, and reflect upon knowledge and ideas, and so come to understand themselves and the culture they will inherit. It would be a school that esteems the professional judgment of teachers, that recognizes the differing interests and talents of its pupils, and works with its community to provide a rich variety of learning experiences.
This is a far cry from schools that measure their success by the ability of students to pass tests and meet numerical targets defined by obscure “standards” – where you get a good grade, as W.E. Deming remarked, “By feeding back to the teacher the same marbles that the teacher gave out to the class.” Ticking boxes on multiple-choice tests has very little to do with education, yet this is the basic driving force behind the No Child Left Behind Act in the United States, and in England as the result of policies established by Conservative governments and reinforced by Mr Blair’s New Labour administrations. Public education in these two democracies has taken as its model not the moral character of slow food but the commercial character of fast food.”