Category Archives: ideas

A math lover’s post

I knew that Paris had streets named after politicians and historical figures, but I didn’t know how many Paris streets are named after mathmaticians. Apparently quite a few! Amazing. One more reason to love Paris.

Dover publishers have the best books when it comes to math. If you want to see some of their better ones, see this list.

Good stuff.

Published on 9/29 at 9:29 🙂

 

Advertisements

Some good philosophy links for amateur thinkers

The word Philosophy
These are all links I’ve come across recently and thought worthwhile:

If you are not used to reading philosophy, the first one is a must read. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to read philosophy in a way that leaves you frustrated.

I’ve seen references to virtue ethics (as well as stoicism) frequently these days: if you aren’t familiar with it, that link is a good starting point to get to know it.

Finally, the last link is useful if you are new to philosophy and want to know it better but find it hard to get started.

(Image from http://uucch.org/morning-philosophy-group)

On being alone

What does it mean to be lonely? Here are two good pieces exploring the aspect of being lonely. First up, a review of the book, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, which is something of a memoir, but a memoir focused on exploring the idea of loneliness. The second piece, The future of loneliness | Olivia Laing | Society | The Guardian, examines the idea of loneliness in the context of our current technology and our current society.

How you think of aloneness and being alone depends on your own personal experiences and context. For some, it can be a terrifying idea, being alone, while others find it liberating and exciting. To some, being alone is a foreign place, to others, the state of aloneness is the place they call home.

One of the best things, and hopeful things, ever made about being alone, is this video:

Enjoy.

On statues and awards and the naming of things

The Edmund Pettus Bridge
Statues and awards and the naming of things (schools, hospitals, museums) are about many things, but first they are about power. Those with political or organizational or financial power decide what names go on things, what statues and monuments go where, and who should get awards. Sometimes it is simple, and an award or a thing gets named after someone or something powerful as a direct result of their power. Other times it is subtle, and the award or the statue or the naming of a thing reflects the values of those with power.

When people want to tear down statues or rename things or revoke awards, there is an outcry. That outcry is because of a group fearing their loss of power. You won’t hear people talk of it in those terms: you will hear people talk about values instead. But the change is the result of a shift in power. History isn’t erased because something is renamed or revoked or torn down: anyone who wants to know the history can know it in other ways. And history isn’t changed by putting up more statues or naming things differently.

Of all the ways of understanding history, objects are the worst. They are a crude reminder that a history exists, and they are put in place by powers that be or powers that were. As a place changes, the statues should change, the awards should be redistributed, and the things should be renamed. And this will indeed happen, and it will happen due to the new people in power.

Some thoughts on HBO’s Confederate, some pro but mostly con

There seems to be many opponents and few supporters of the new series planned on HBO, Confederate. It’s easy to see why. This piece by Bree Newsome is a good example of what many think of the upcoming series:

HBO’s Confederate is just a fantasy — unless you’re black – The Washington Post

In some ways, though, I think this piece can be an argument FOR the series, though it argues the opposite. That’s not just me being Devil’s Advocate. My belief is that science fiction has a way of presenting ideas in a way that gets people to think about them and think about them unlike any other form of fiction. From Star Trek to the Handmaid’s Tale, science fiction (especially on TV)  has gotten people to think about ideas that they might normally avoid. Ideas that people might escape from in real life get in front of them when they escape into science fiction. Newsome cites a number of facts about the current suffering black Americans undergo now, facts that many white Americans would just as soon avoid or ignore. The series Confederate could be a forum to bring those ideas and facts to the foreground in a way news editorials or regular TV news cannot. The series could lead to changes in a way other media cannot.

That’s a potential pro for Confederate. I don’t believe it is enough of one. There are many alternative timelines that the producers of the show could have chosen: they seem to have chosen a terrible one. An alternative history that went in a utopian direction would have had issues of its own, but instead they seem to have gone with a dystopian vision. This is certain to cause more pain for black Americans now and likely encourage racists to interpret the series in a way to support their racism.

As artists, the makers of Confederate might argue that a dystopian view is the best way to emphasize the themes and ideas they want the show to carry. However, the makers of Confederate and HBO are in the entertainment business. Alot of money is going into the show, and no doubt they expect to make alot of money from it.  To make all that money by causing pain and encouraging racists is wrong.

This is a key thing: big TV series, like big movies, are not just a forum for ideas. They are big business, and you can’t separate the two. I think artists should have a lot of freedom to present ideas, including ideas that cause suffering and including ideas that are wrong. But artists that make big films and TV shows are artists-capitalists. And that means they need to expect not just people debating their ideas, but people pushing back on their ability to make money from their ideas, including people organizing strikes and boycotts and promoting competition for your show.

HBO and the makers of Confederate have a choice: they can communicate that the show will have good ideas and that the artistry and intelligence of the show will be of a benefit, even if it is dystopian. Or they can just ignore the obvious problems they are causing and proceed. If they chose that route, they should expect to lose both the battle of ideas and the battle of the marketplace. Let’s hope they choose for the best.

 

Some somewhat objective thoughts on the new Trudeaumania

Lots of chatter on this recently, Justin Trudeau: Canadian Prime Minister, Free World’s Best Hope? – Rolling Stone.

It’s good that the world thinks highly of our leaders, whomever they are. Canada is a significant nation in the world with the ability to influence other nations, and having a leader that is looked up to makes a positive difference.

As a Canadian citizen, I’m more interested in the substance than the PR. And I’m more interested in what the government is doing, not just the Prime Minister. I try to look at the government’s policies, competency in executing on those policies (either through legislation or direction to federal agencies), and how the government supports democracy (through actions to make our country more democratic) or hinders it (by making the country less democratic or by being corrupt).

That means I spend less and less time reading pieces like this, which are along the lines of “if you people were as smart as me you’d realize how bad Trudeau is” . Instead, I look to sites like this which track the government’s progress. For example, this site, TrudeauMeter, has ongoing ratings of the government. Other commentators, like John Ibbitson, provide periodic ratings: Video: Opinion: John Ibbitson rates the Trudeau government as Ottawa wraps up for the summer – The Globe and Mail. Finding sources of information you find comprehensive and objective are always your best bet.

If you don’t support the Liberal government’s policies, then I can see why you would not want the government in place.  Likewise there will be times when you do support the government’s policies but you feel the level of corruption or incompetence is so high you want to turn to a different group. If you are going to rate the Prime Minister and his government, those are good criteria to evaluate them on, not PR like the Rolling Stone magazine, or any other specific good or bad focus pieces on them. The government works for you, and if you are a good boss, you evaluate them mainly on the entirety of their efforts, not just things here and there.

Some other thoughts on Trudeau:

From what I can see so far, his government is starting off unsurprisingly: being successful over things the government has control over (like spending) and having less success over things that requires working with other groups. I suspect they will make no progress on electoral reform unless there is a major push from Canadians. Likewise, there are so many issues and problems with regards to Aboriginal peoples that any progress there will be modest, at best. I wish neither of them were true, but I am not optimistic on those fronts.

I suspect that as long as the economy is doing fine, the government does not appear corrupt or incompetent, and people aren’t tired of his government, then Trudeau and his team will be in power for some time to come. The first one, the economy, will be the one that is most likely to hit him. Corruption takes time to seep in (although major scandals can occur at any time and make the government appear corrupt), and government fatigue takes longer still. Whatever you thought of Chretien or Harper, that was true for them and I suspect it will be true for Trudeau as well.

I will continue to ignore articles that underestimate Trudeau (like the one above). He’s flashy and sometimes appears smarmy, but he’s smart, he has a good team, and politics is in his DNA.  If you oppose Trudeau, underestimating him only works to his advantage and not yours. In addition,  he is as much his mom’s son as his Dad’s. The combination makes him much more effective than his Dad could ever be. His Dad may have had a higher IQ than him, but he has a higher EQ than his Dad ever had and that will make him more challenging to defeat than people who approach politics intellectually realize.

Likewise, I will continue to ignore articles that compare Trudeau to Trump. There is little if anything to be gained by them. Trump is an anomaly. Almost any leader looks good in comparison to the 45th President of the United States.

I like Trudeau for alot of reasons.  That said, it doesn’t matter if I like him or not, anymore than it matters that you dislike him or not. What matters is his ability to do the job. He’s not an entertainer: he’s an elected official. When the next election comes, it won’t matter how good or bad Trudeau’s PR is. What matters is that in comparison to other politicians looking to lead the country, is the government he proposes to lead the best one for the job based on the criteria I have.  That’s the only thing that matters.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc MĂ©lenchon, a candidate right out of a Philip K Dick Novel

Melenchon hologram
In France, politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon plans to be in seven places at once using  something similar to a hologram. According to Le Parisien:

Strictly speaking, these are not holograms. Jean-Luc MĂ©lenchon will be present in seven different places thanks to … an optical illusion discovered for the first time half a century ago by an Italian physicist

Virtual MĂ©lenchon reminds me of the politician Yance in Philip K Dick’s novel, The Penultimate Truth. We may not be far off where we get virtual candidate that look like people but behind the scenes we have AI or some combination of AI and people.

For more on the technology, see the article in Le Parisien. For more on Dick’s novel, see Wikipedia. Read up now: I think we can expect to see more of this technology in use soon.