(These are entries from my blog from 2000 and early 2001. They were originally hosted on a small server at Macquarie University. Most of the links are dead now, but I have kept them as they are here, for nostalgia’s sake.)

Wednesday, January 31, 2001

3:19 PM ~ keaggy.com/30/ is another regular photography project, this time from Bill Keaggy. He's posting a photo of himself for each day of his 30th year. (His birthday is one day after mine, curiously enough.)
9:58 AM ~ [Petersham Station]It's been pouring since 2am, with only an occasional break of 10 minutes or so. Erasmus woke me up, moaning about the rain, and asking me why it was so noisy on the corrugated iron roof. She then took a look out the front door, decided that it didn't look inviting out there, and decided to check if it was fine if she exited out the back door instead. Strangely enough, it was raining there too.

Keeping up the Phil Agre theme from yesterday, his Networking on the Network is a mine of useful information for anyone working in academia. It's geared for graduate students, starting off in the wild and exciting prospect of finding their own voice and creating their own projects. However, it's worthwhile for any of us in the game: there's nothing like making the techniques and rules of the project explicit for reflecting on them. Rummage around in the references for more to read and inwardly digest.

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

6:34 PM ~ [Stanmore Station]On Monday morning we suffered continuous network outages. It's a bit crippling if what you'd planned to do relied on being online. On Monday afternoon, we were out completely, and connectivity was only restored late Tuesday. Anyway, I must remember: if there is a storm, there will be network outages at Macquarie. If there has been rain, there will be a network outage at Macquarie. In fact, if there is any inclement weather at all, expect network outages. This might explain your hassles in getting to this page too, as I seem to be able to browse around Macquarie at will, but it's our connection to the outside world which is as dead as a doornail.

Anyway, I'm becoming interested in the role of reason and rhetoric (or the lack thereof) in public discourse. This has been on my mind for some time (do you know how depressing it is, looking up the newspapers for articles reporting extended reasoning? This is a regular job, digging up source materials for our Critical Thinking unit) but the proximate cause is a neat little article by Todd Gitlin in this weekend's Herald. Phil Agre's material on the RRE list is usually helpful, but I'd like more. If any of you know of a good place to start reading up on this, please let me know. Thanks.

On a different note, get lost (or found) in an online labyrinth. (Actually, it's very difficult to get lost in a labyrinth, as you will probably notice if you explore this one.)

Saturday, January 27, 2001

12:28 PM ~ Busy morning pram shopping, and a more relaxed afternoon at the Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged).

Friday, January 26, 2001

8:13 AM ~ [The Wall at Newtown Station]Happy Australia Day, or Survival Day, to everyone. It's one of those mixed-up sorts of days, where we remember the English conquest of our continent, and all of the good and bad consequences that has. I've written about the unfinished business between indigenous Australians and the rest of us elsewhere on these pages.

Let me mark this day by pointing to interesting Australians of times past who helped us fly in one way or another.

  • Countless unnamed indigenous Australians refined the boomerang making it a hi-tech aerofoil by years of experimentation and innovation. Seeing (and hearing!) these things in flight is an incredible experience. I have very many happy memories of experimenting with 30cm rulers and rubber bands as a youth, attempting to construct my own approximations.
  • Lawrence Hargrave experimented with flight in countless crazy ways, at Stanwell Tops, just a few hours south of here in Sydney. He never managed truly powered flight, but he helped others on the way. (He appeared on our old paper 20 dollar note, too.)

Thursday, January 25, 2001

9:17 AM ~ [Train at Macdonaldtown Station]Some bits and pieces before I plunge into a rather busy day.

Wednesday, January 24, 2001

2:07 PM ~ The University of Australia Online? I think it's great that education is an issue in this year's election compaign. I'm not sure that setting up a separate institution focussed on net-based education is the way to go. (Though more jobs in the higher education sector are welcome in almost any shape or form.) I'll be interested to find out more about this, and I look forward to seeing how the debate develops.
11:17 AM ~ [Redfern Station]It's hot, hot, hot. Way too hot to do any thinking or writing, and way too hot to sit in front of a hot little computer. It's a pity that at the moment, thinking, writing and sitting in front of a hot little computer is mostly what my job involves. Any time I attempt to actually do any of this results in the feeling that my skull is filled with thick porridge. Perhaps some tactical deferral of strenuous effert, involving lying down, reading and merely sneaking up on thinking will do the trick.

Tuesday, January 23, 2001

8:04 PM ~ Well that has the potential to ruin our hoped-for relaxing Saturday in Brisbane in a few weeks time.
6:07 PM ~ Try to think of a context in which this makes sense
Forget a firm butt; I want my spouse to have long thumbs, because my kids will not be disadvantaged!
Then (and only then) read this. (Actually, skip to the end, where the quote is found.)
1:41 PM ~ Harriet Baber: an interesting mix of philosophy, logic, feminism and theology.
9:56 AM ~ [Central Station]The Interactive Hackett is a well presented site centred on an online publication of Stuart Hackett's Rediscovery of the Highest Good, a monograph on moral philosophy (defending a cognitivist ethical theism, if you must know). What might have more general interest is the collection of quotes found on the site. Let me ask you: why does a cult of personality develop around some academics and not others?

(I'd certainly be flattered if someone made a list of the in-class jokes I told, but more to the point, I would have a burning desire take them out the back and shoot them.)

Monday, January 22, 2001

10:12 PM ~ From Scott Raymond: A voicemail from the offices of the just-departed US Vice President:
"Hi, this is Mike Feldman in the office of the Vice President. Due to a small but significant clause in the United States Constitution, I will be out of the office from Jan. 20, 2001 until Jan. 20, 2005. If you need to reach me..."
8:58 PM ~ Mother and Son is another example of what I mean about creative use of photography on the web.
9:15 AM ~ [Building W6A at Macquarie]As you might have guessed, I've acquired a digital camera. (A birthday present). I've been enjoying taking pictures with it in the last few days. I was never a great picture-taker with my little autofocus 35mm camera. I think I know why I enjoy the digital camera much more: it's the near instant feedback. I never shot a roll of film and got it developed within the week. It was at least a month between the first shot in a roll of film and when I eventually saw the result. Now I can see the result in minutes. I can shoot at will, whatever I feel like, knowing that the only cost is the battery driving the camera. If it is a botched shot, I won't even save it on my disk. If it's passable, I'll save it.

Now I'm getting inspired by other weblogs that use photography regularly. There's heaps to learn, and many interesting ways to be creative with it.

Saturday, January 20, 2001

8:15 AM ~ Shop Mandiberg is a piece of performance art like nothing else I've seen. Michael Mandiberg is offering his personal possessions for sale. It lends a new meaning to selling out.

Friday, January 19, 2001

10:06 PM ~ These are a few of my favourite things.
Raindrops and temporal slices of kittens,
Every third stitch in a pair of red mittens,
Mereological bundles of string:
These are all perfectly reasonable things.
An exposition of nominalism, in verse, composed by Henry Fitzgerald.
3:25 PM ~ If you're going to juice lemons, soak them in warm water for half an hour first. Then you'll be able to juice them easily, and get all of the juice out.

This has been a public service anouncement from Stephanie Alexandar to you, via me.

8:12 AM ~ [NSW Police
Card]Please forgive me for a small cricket-related rant. Take reading this as an exercise in cultural anthropology if you don't have the right background to understand what follows.

So, Peter Roebuck thinks, as I do, that one day cricket is boring. OK, he didn't just say that it's boring, he said:

... it was a little bloodless. Spectators want red meat not desiccated chicken. They want to see intemperate Vikings striding around the field in search of blood and mayhem. They want to see danger and risk and surprises.
He points out that the middle of the game is completely predictable:
Everyone knows the path an innings will take, especially between overs 15 and 40. And the solution is simple. Cut them out. Scriptwriters reject patches that hang heavy on an audience, a composer crosses out movements that fall flat, a songster prunes verses that fail to ignite, except in national anthems. Cricket must follow suit.
Let's see this happen. Roebuck's solution is to get one-day games over in half a day. 25 overs for each side.

I say, let's take things even further. Why not make it seven-a-side? (That would give the fielding team rather more to do, and scoring would be easier. It would also make thowing away a wicket less appealing in a 25 over game.) And then limit bowlers to 5 overs each. (Yes, that means that at least 5 out of 7 in your team would have to bowl. How about that?) That would make selecting the team rather more difficult, and would certainly force selectors, captains and teams to be a bit more creative. We all know that one-day cricket is a game for all-rounders, so let's take this to an extreme. It's not Test cricket, so let's make it an interesting game in its own right.

There. I feel better now. To quote another sporting/marketing phrase. I'd like to see that.

Thursday, January 18, 2001

12:57 PM ~ Have a look at ECM at Amazon for both jazz and innovative 20th Century art music. (I suppose that should be 21st Century too, sometime soon.) You can browse ECM's catalogue at their own site (and I've done so for the last three years or so), but the tie-in with Amazon gives you the additional insight of listener reviews. Go and explore at your leisure. ECM music is consistently enjoyable. My way in has been through Pärt and Jarrett, but I'll be exploring their catalogue a lot more in the future.
8:37 AM ~ Ask a Philosopher. Just please don't ask me, because I'm busy today.

Wednesday, January 17, 2001

9:37 AM ~ Hey-la hey-la hey-la WOO!
8:31 AM ~ [A Gaggle of Philosophers, after a good meal]Heard on the radio this morning: an interview with Tim Winton. I hadn't thought of him for quite a while, but reading some of his early work on love and loss and pain and growth was a formative part of my growing up, leaving home and finding my own identity. His short stories are a very direct, very Australian experience. Here are more Winton things scrounged from a quick search with Google.

Tuesday, January 16, 2001

11:40 AM ~ Seen in The Register: "The average child sees an estimated 200,000 violent acts on TV by the time they reach 18-years-old."

According to the study referred to in that article,

An intervention to reduce television, videotape, and video game use decreases aggressive behavior in elementary schoolchildren. These findings support the causal influences of these media on aggression and the potential benefits of reducing children's media use.
That's an interesting finding. I'd be more interested if there were a more comprehensive story indicating how exposure to media influences violent behaviour. After all, there could be many different causal stories to tell, just as there are many different kinds of violence: there is violence as imitation; violence as a part of acquiring or defending scarce resources; violence as a factor in bullying or scapegoating; violence as a show of strength; violence simply as a part of sport or play (some of the football I played as a youth was undoubtedly violent but it wasn't any of the other kinds of violence I've described, for the most part). For each different kind of violent act, media consumption could conceivably have a different role to play. It's not a trivial issue at all, and it's one I'd love to know more about.

On this topic: I've found Gil Bailie's Violence Unveiled and Rene Girard's work useful and thought provoking. But they're just a start to understanding how violence works.

8:40 AM ~ To be sure, this is not a philosophy to be undertaken on my own power. That power has already been abandoned in despair. It is rather a philosophy to be practiced by Other-power, which has turned me in a completely new direction through metanoesis [repentance of thought], and has induced me to make a fresh start from the realisation of my utter helplessness... This Other-power brings about a conversion in me that heads me in a new direction along a path hitherto unknown to me... This is what I am calling 'metanoetics', the philosophy of Other-power. I have died to philosophy and been resurrected by zange [repentance]. It is not a question of simply carrying on the same philosophy I had abandoned in my despair, as if resuming a journey after a temporary interruption. It cannot be a mere repetition without negation and change. In the life of the spirit, 'repetition' must mean self-transcendence; 'resurrection' must mean regeneration to a new life.

The Japanese philosopher Tanabe Hajime in Philosophy as Metanoetics (1946).

Monday, January 15, 2001

4:43 PM ~ Here's an interesting interview with Charles Taylor, the Canadian social/political/moral philosopher and author of the tome Sources of the Self which I ought have read.
9:12 AM ~ [Sydney's Parsley Thieves Revealed]Searching for the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia website, I simple mindedly type in http://www.nmaa.org.au.

That's not exactly what I expected to find.

Saturday, January 13, 2001

5:21 PM ~ I'm having too much fun pruning, planting, reading and relaxing to spend much time here today.

Friday, January 12, 2001

12:18 PM ~ Scratch that plan for reading on the way home. My birthday present from the nice people at CUP arrived just one day late. Now I will have lots to read. I even got a neat Royal Mail bag. I've always been jealous of the other academics who get big mail bags of stuff. Now I can retire fulfilled!

How did I benefit from such corporate largesse? It's payment for reviewing a book. Given a choice of US$150 or double that in books from an academic publiser, I'll go with the books.

10:31 AM ~ [A Canine Nose]Here's a bunch of educational/research issues: That should keep me going for on-the-train reading on the way home.
8:22 AM ~ Each time I take a trip to or from the train station, the corner shop, the post office or the local café, my walk is punctuated by loud barking when I pass a particular door at the house on the corner of my street and the next road. This is not just any barking. It is not the affectionate "hi-I'm-here-play-with-me-do-you-have-any-food-I-want-to-be-your-friend" barking of a well-adjusted canine. No, this is aggravated barking. The kind of barking which can come only from a seriously agitated dog. An inordinately disturbed dog. A dog who lives locked up in a tiny backyard behind a terrace house. A dog whose only opportunity for contact with the outside world is the one centimetre gap betwen the ever-locked gate and the footpath.

What does this dog look like? I have no idea. What does this dog's nose look like? It looks like this.

Thursday, January 11, 2001

10:50 AM ~ [A Cat]Today I've turned 25. Here's Erasmus stretching and on the lookout for something to for the rest of the morning. I took the shot as I left for work a couple of hours ago.

Wednesday, January 10, 2001

12:55 PM ~ Tomorrow, I turn a power of two (in years) again. Last time was 16 years ago. Next time will hopefully be 32 years hence. Then my first child will hopefully be the age I am now, and the world will be a different place. Powers of two poingant like that.
from the flash of conception
to the flowers on the grave
from the joy of a birth to the coming of age
from the freedom of the schoolyard
to the man at his work
from the safety of a mother's arms
to the ends of the earth
we walk on

we walk on through the darkness
we walk on toward the light
through the confusion and illusion
through the floods and the fire
we walk back to the future
walk away from the flame
we walk back to the beginning
where we're given a new name
we walk on

That's from Olé by Tonio K. Randomly, but appropriately, chosen for me this minute by this.
10:35 AM ~ Dip into some philosophy of x, where x is any of:
alcoholism animal consciousness asian values boredom bruce lee cathedrals dance encyclical eskimoes firearms football gambling gardens genetic engineering horror hunting jeet kune do jewish morality jokes kabbalah kerouac logan's run music online notebook orwell parliamentary debate peaceful slumber possible worlds public life quantum mechanics rudeness running soccer sport star trek tragedy umberto eco volcanoes wagner xanthippe zen zero
That should keep you philosophising for a while.

Tuesday, January 09, 2001

2:05 PM ~ Declaring Independence: A manifesto and a how-to for academics considering disengaging scholarly journal publication from mainstream publishers.
11:42 AM ~ Philosophy Football: T-Shirts From Sporting Outfitters of Intellectual Distinction. You too can wear a jersey with a pearl of wisdom like this:
The unhappy individual is forever quite close to the goal, and, at the same moment, some distance from it.
from Kierkegaard. (The Umberto Eco, Rosa Luxemburg and Ludwig Wittgenstein shirts are telling, too.)
9:50 AM ~ [A Brick Wall]Sometimes you hit a brick wall, and you have to stop for a while. And that's OK.

Monday, January 08, 2001

11:25 AM ~ Before descending into the depths of sleep, most nights I've been reading short slabs of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel. Diamond argues that historical differences between "development" of human societies in Eurasia, Africa, the Americas, Australia and Oceania is to be explained by a combination of factors: geography, and the availability of different plant and animal species. The point is that these factors explain differential human social structures better than positing an undiscovered genetic difference between so called "races". It's good reading and quite thought provoking (though I agree with Danny Yee that the discussion of religion is unsatisfactory). Why did the human culture of intense food production and cultural diversification arise earliest in the aptly-named fertile crescent, and then reach north to Europe and Asia? Why did the descendents of those cultures spread across the globe? Read the book to get a hint of how the story might have gone, and why.

I'm reminded of the best in that other tradition of historical materialism: pay close attention to the stuff of history, the very stuff of the means of production upon which a society is based. After all, if we don't eat we don't contribute to most of the other beautiful and terrible things a human culture can create.

P.S. Since when does describing something as politically correct count as a reasoned criticism of it? (Reading the Amazon Reviews of the book is an insight into a lot of disaffection in middle America and similar cultures.)

Friday, January 05, 2001

4:53 PM ~ With the West Indian revival (for you outsiders: they've taken the Sydney Test into the fifth day with an outside chance of an Australian batting collapse giving them victory) perhaps we can see other formerly weak cricketing nations blossoming soon. Fancy a tour from the Austrian team? Australia vs Austria. I'd like to see that.
12:19 PM ~ 'tis the season to be seeing friends. Lots of them.

Thursday, January 04, 2001

9:38 PM ~ It's surprisingly easy to burn a hole in reinforced concrete. Sounds messy, though.
6:09 PM ~ Well, that didn't go according to plan. I should have known that I'm not temprementally suited to going down a list of things to do. No, simply avoiding the worst of the niggly jobs I've done rather more than I expected. I've booked tradesmen, I've washed floors, I've cooked a lovely lunch, I've wrangled with a bank on the telephone, I've sorted files, I've talked to a new Ph.D. student, and I've written a budget.

No, I haven't done the niggly things I planned to do. But upon reflection, I've done quite a few other niggly things too.

10:06 AM ~ Today is a day for avoiding avoidance. For putting off procrastination until tomorrow. In other words, for getting all of those little niggly jobs which need doing, done. This is not particularly enjoyable in the prospect, but upon reflection, it will be good to be over it once this batch is done.

Wednesday, January 03, 2001

1:06 PM ~ I'm now up to 13 pages. That was all yesterday's work, as this morning I've been advising.
9:03 AM ~ [A Defeated Knight]In Hyde Park, yesterday, I saw a hard-fought battle of wits. Here are some of the vanquished.

Monday, January 01, 2001

2:08 PM ~ My piece I mentioned before is on its way. It's currently 7 pages, out of around 100 or so, so I'm going OK. It would be better if a more of those pages were text as opposed to bibliography, but it's a start.

I'll post regular "length" updates to keep me honest with how much writing I get done.

8:51 AM ~ Happy 100th Birthday, Australia!

See the list of birthday wishes people have sent us. Most of them are rather generic, diplomat-speak. The best I've found was from The Captains-Regent of the Republic of San Marino:

The Captains-Regent of the Republic of San Marino send warmest wishes to Australia for the Centenary of the Federation celebrations and hope that Australia will long continue to enjoy peace, democracy and justice.

The Regency joins the unanimous chorus of countries that recognise the primacy of law and the principles of tolerance and commitment as the foundations of the most modern societies and conveys to the Australian people the deepest gratitude of the people of San Marino for the clear example the Federation of Australia has set as a model of peaceful development.

Notable omissions are Indonesia, Iraq and Israel (but there's a nice note from Iran) and as far as I can see, none of the Carribean nations sent a greeting card. Perhaps they're smarting from the recent cricket results.

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I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. ¶ I am the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews.



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