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Showing posts from October, 2016

mandatory personal development module blues

After these sessions, we often see people start to notice their Myers-Briggs type coming into play in everyday life, and being more analytic about the types of those around them. Really using it, really thinking about it.
(The birth of tragedy.)

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So, what do you think of your test results?"
"I would prefer not to."
"Pardon?"
"I don't agree with it."
"Ah sure - people often find something a bit off with it, at first. Have you added in your epicycles?"
"Yes, but twenty more badly conceptualised variables don't really help matters. It's not the particular type that's the problem, but the typology. Two ofthe dichotomies are simply false; they do not trade-off in my mind, nor in the population's minds; they feign the use of a single interval scale without actually picking out a single real variable; and you forc…

notable nonjargon jargon

Technical books often use seemingly nontechnical, apparently normative terms: you're marching through your dense and spidery notation, and suddenly you tread in a gob of ordinary language. Some of the most important concepts in the formal sciences are of this sort, in fact:


well-behaved. "not weird; having all properties suitable for the present study; not in violation of any of the assumptions we just made". One of the big offenders, used everywhere and never defined truly, only by context. Usually "well-behaved compared to an unrestricted superset we don't want to handle right now".

well-defined. "unambiguous; blessed with just one interpretation". One of the core differences between the formal sciences and other enquiry. Terminology in other fields is nowhere near as clear as this (not even ones which seem highly formalised, like Spinoza's Ethics or Wittgenstein's Tractatus or half of Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form*).

Why is well-def…

Strangers Drowning (2015) by Larissa MacFarquhar

"Optikaa" (c) Zaky Arifin (2015)

I don’t know whether there are any moral saints. But if there are, I am glad that neither I nor those about whom I care most are among them... The moral virtues, present... to an extreme degree, are apt to crowd out the non-moral virtues, as well as many of the interests and personal characteristics that we generally think contribute to a healthy, well-rounded, richly developed character... there seems to be a limit to how much morality we can stand.– Susan Wolf
...the moral narcissist’s extreme humility masked a dreadful pride. Ordinary people could accept that they had faults; the moral narcissist could not. To [André] Green this moral straining was sinister, for the moral narcissist would do anything to preserve his purity, even when doing so carried a terrible price... new qualifiers appeared: there was "pseudo-altruism", a defensive cloak for sadomasochism; and there was "psychotic altruism", bizarre care-taking behavio…

Highlighted passages from MacFarquhar's Strangers Drowning

Some people try to help one person at a time, and other people try to change the whole world. There's a seductive intimacy in the first kind of work, but it can also be messy and unpredictable. People may resent help that is so intimate, and if it goes badly, the blunder is personal. Even when the help succeeds, the victories are small and don't really change anything. The second kind of work is more ambitious, and also cleaner, more abstract. But success is distant and unlikely, so it’s helpful to have a taste for noble failure, and for the camaraderie of the angry few...

[Dorothy]: "They were people you did not want to be around. They were so sharp. Everything was a matter of life and death: we've got to do this action because the world depends on it."



In 1967, a long-term study of living, unrelated kidney donors was initiated, with the aim of helping transplant centers form policies on these confounding individuals. The study subjected the donors to free-as…

notable words of all seasons

to curry (equestrian v.): to groom, firmly brush all over. (Don't freak out if someone tells you they're off to curry a horse.) See also "to decompose into univariate functions" and "shout at". People really like this word.
GLEE (adj.): "Gay, Lesbian, and Everyone Else". I like this; the current bien-pensant name has grown to "LGBTQIA"; not pronounceable, nor even anagrammable. But GLEE probably can't catch on, since people will see abstraction as erasure, and also won't like it tacitly including majority people.
septentrional (poncey adj.): Northern. Used in the clumsy retroactive Latin for the US, "Civitatibus Foederatis Americae septentrionalis".
boodles (adj.): Butternut squash noodles.
avi (n.): Profile picture ("avatar"). Annoying; optimised for tweeting, not speaking.
OC (adj.): Original character; in fanfiction, a new protagonist added to the existing cast. Pejorative?
procursive (adj.): forward-running. Use…