Monday, October 01, 2007


Clare picked up a bug - she thinks it was on the flight home from Athens. Jetliners are notorious for not keeping the cabin air-filters clean, so that they become a repository for the bacterial load of passenger coughs and sneezes.

She claims the fever broke at 6 a.m. this morning. To tell you the truth, I was asleep at the time and couldn’t possibly comment. As we know, horses sweat, men perspire and women glow - I rather gather that someone was glowing like a pig here this morning.

Just in passing, what a delight to read the diary (here) of John Baez, who works in mathematical physics and category theory. His latest posting includes:

  • Comments on the reintroduction of Pleistocene megafauna into North America (here) - this has been extensively discussed in recent issues of Scientific American.

  • A Google video of a young lady talking about Monads (here) which I could follow for the first twenty seconds.

  • Some cute cat pictures (scroll to the bottom of the page here).

A few other random thoughts. Pretty impressive to see the Buddhist monks in action in Burma. I occasionally discover that various leading academics turn out to be Buddhists, which always seems to strike their colleagues as faintly exotic. There’s much which is admirable about the Buddha’s teaching, so it’s a shame there is so much baggage as well: reincarnation; the six realms with their hungry ghosts, the Asuras (jealous gods) etc.

I have previously waved the flag for Taoism - philosophical Taoism that is - cf. the Tao Te Ching - not the magical, god-riven debasements. The Chinese communists used to denounce Taoism as fatalism. I suppose it is fatalism to try to learn how to play a musical instrument rather than smash it, or to work with a group of people to creatively find a consensual solution rather than simply order them to do what you want on pain of violence. I guess effective Taoism requires its practitioners to be alert, intelligent, empathic, creative and persuasive: but you are allowed to use lethal force when all of the above falls completely on deaf ears.

The problem of Taoism is that it lacks the symbols, dogmatic doctrine, organisational hierarchy and processes which lesser philosophies rely upon to organise their adherents. I don’t know if the concept of a “Taoist monk” (in the correctly understood sense of Taoism) is even possible. An educated Taoist community certainly.

And just a final thought. So much political theory is based around the model of the idealised rational citizen. This may have worked great post-enlightenment, but in the era of evolutionary psychology, with the relevant traits (intelligence, personality-factors) normally-distributed across the population, treating “citizens” as political and moral clones is a very poor approach. Is anyone out there thinking of better models which don’t fall straight into the trap of elitism, eugenics and all the rest?

Anyway, back to work mode. All this is very interesting, but it’s a well-recognised diversion from getting down to write my white paper on lessons learned from the recent WiFi deployment I was involved with!