CW Stoneking

Wednesday, December 3rd 2014

The splendid CW Stoneking's Bad Luck Everywhere You Go:

And here's the man himself explaining how to play it:

And here's a great version of his Jailhouse Blues:

Great audience, too - listen for the mouth organ from an audience member at one point.

Goin the Country from the same gig:

The Handyman Blues:

One of his new tunes, Zombie:

YouVote - Partial Demarchy Hack for Australia

Tuesday, December 2nd 2014

Imagine this.

A vote on, say, a "Data Retention" bill comes before the parliament.

You get a notification.

"YouVote: Mandatory Data Retention - have your say!".

You read the summary of the bill translated from the legalese. (With an option to read it in detail.)

Here's a rough wireframe:

Then you vote:

I'm assuming you can:

  • Change your vote at any time up until the final vote in the parliament;
  • if there's a clear majority (say, 60%), the bill passes.

To be viable, people have to think direct voting is possible and desirable. So, before all technical considerations, the project has to be about getting people to see:

  • That it's possible for them to have a bigger say on bills;
  • that's this is worthwhile;
  • and that it could work.

The Problem of Religious Dogma, Rationality and Disguised Belief

Monday, December 1st 2014

I am sympathetic to people who are disgusted by the stupidity of religious dogma. Most bodies of religious ideas, taken as a read, are ridiculous (and sometimes quite barbaric, or at the very least inflexible and unkind). But the power of religion is not in its ideas. (Otherwise the ideas would be a lot more convincing!)

The power of religion is in the emotions that bolster those ideas. Those emotions are some of the most ineffable thoughts people have. They are linked to experience; they go back to peoples' childhoods, to their parents, experiences, subtle emotional conditioning, to moments of contemplation of the numinous, and so on. They are not rational propositions: they are mental states unique to the individual.

For rhetorical purposes, critics of religion sometimes compare an extant religious belief to a mostly dead, historical religious belief. They try to place the extant belief in its historical context. "You don't believe in Odin, do you? If you were born a long time ago as a Norseman you probably would! You believe in the Catholic God because that's how you were brought up."

To the critic of religious belief, Odin and the Catholic God are equally arbitrary and silly. Why can't Catholics see that the ideas are equally silly? Are they being obtuse? To a Catholic right now, the Catholic God is considered "true" and Odin is considered "false". It doesn't make sense to compare them.

For the Catholic, the difference between Odin and the Catholic God is emotional. The Catholic God feels true (it links into childhood, parents, life events, social belonging, etc). The Odin feels as a true as Iron Man 2 - a mish-mash of mythic symbolism with little emotional resonance. The Catholic God symbol is linked to strong, emotional mental states. Odin is just a symbol and some imagery from a book or a movie.

Then the critic becomes frustrated. She discovers the Catholic's mental states are often very personal and beyond easy categorisation. The language and imagery the Catholic uses to describe his mental states seem irreducible, circular, untestable, unprovable. The critic finds the rationale for the Catholics belief abstruse, contradictory, irrational.

Religious symbolism takes many forms of course. The believer miught be rigidly parroting the catechism. Or indulging in the imprecise loquacity of New Age thinking. They're all attempts to describe (and control) memories and feelings in a a set of symbols that lacks the degree of exactness required for the purpose. For the New Age person, the resulting ideas (often a mix of buzzwords, scientific terminology, mythic symbolism, and so on) looks like a set of arbitrary ideas linked randomly together. But the gibberish starts to a make a strange kind of sense if you pay attention to the emotional context and the person's personality and life experiences. If you see it is a poetry rather then technical exposition. But the ideas are very, very hard to pin down; the gibberish is to rationality what a poem is to a technical manual. The confusion is that the poet thinks it's a technical manual and critic doesn't realise its poetry.

Whatever form the symbols take, and however they are delivered -- as rigid, emotional dogmatism, the preternatural and vague, etc -- it is hard to argue with, hard to understand in material or physical terms or in the abstractions derived from those forms.

Nerd-rage ensues!


Saturday, November 29th 2014



Friday, November 28th 2014



Thursday, November 27th 2014

Skeletor's alcoholic brother.


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