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Showing posts from 2019

Non-digital parents, digital native children

It's not all doom and gloom, after all. Or is it?
Kids no longer play by themselves on the streets of most western cities, lovers spend time copious amounts of time looking at their phone instead of gazing at each other adoringly, emoticons and gifs have replaced a lot of emotional exchange of words. Families and friends, united by devices.

So what? Digital natives have not been left with a huge void in their lives and the non-digital generation should not fear their offspring is going to grow into some mutated half-VR creature.

If anything, there is currently too much choice, a sure source of neurosis. Shall I do this or shall I do that? Go on Twitter or Reddit? Post something on Facebook or Instagram? Actually the latter dilemma has been solved, as you can post on both at the same time.

It is true that parenting is now much harder than it used to be 30 years ago, when the framework of daily life was pretty fixed. There was no escape from the physical confines, so any venturing o…

Summer break over, now what?

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Absence of writing makes the blogger go rusty. It dissolves whatever crystals of an idea were around in the first place and it turns the writer back into a reader. A reader only, must add.
I don't know much about the origins of consumerism in the wider society, I can only bear witness to the straight path that leads to culture consumerism.
Having intelligent, creative, funny or plain well-educated thoughts for breakfast, lunch and dinner is great.
The problem is that they are always someone else's thoughts, in one format or another. If you don't like analogies, stop reading now.
Reading and watching TV or videos is like eating other people's food, all the time, in select restaurants.

Delicious food, combined with lack of effort, in preparing it, is almost impossible to resist.  It is a wonderful past time and it empowers anyone to have delightful conversations.
The would-be writer can get tempted like everyone else. It's only human, after all, to go after pleasure,…

If you can't explain it to a 6-year old...

Definitions are the mind's comfort food. Why bother going on a rigorous diet of learning in detail how things work when you can pluck a definition out of a dictionary and ride with it?
It's a rhetorical question, definitions never solve the immense task of explaining the world and its various bits to a 6-year old.  Unless the knowledge has been ingurgitated and digested properly, until it's become part of oneself, there is no way any child would accept a packaged explanation. Is that why the best sites on astronomy topics are those tailored for kids?

Old photos series

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1. Proud and stripey...




The 4th wall is down, we just don't know it (part 1)

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Linguists, not in your sweetest dreams has such a golden opportunity come your way.  Owners of PhD in social sciences, rejoice. This is your time, so if you want to advance your research, stop procrastinating.

If you have not done it already, sign up to as many social media platforms as possible and watch the world go by.  Up to now, if you wanted you investigate how people truly communicate when they are angry or upset, you'd have had to carry out an experiment, recruit volunteers, set-up the environment and then pray that they act genuinely. Otherwise, it's been listening to individual stories and trying to identify a version closer to truth.

Trading insults between four walls has always been part of domestic life. Insults directed towards strangers, out in the open world, have been around for ages too, and at times there were some consequences.  Remember the Three Musketeers' famous duels?  Generally, the human mouth is not always emitting nice and pleasing sounds. On …

Artificially emotional intelligence

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A blog post by Shelly Palmer, I've Talked to the Future and it Talked back, set me thinking a couple of years ago, so I wrote a blog post. I am re-publishing it because nothing seems to have changed since. His questions were not purely rhetorical.

Indeed, how are we going to distinguish between human and machine? Will a new code of conduct be invented and become part of product instructions,  same as the ‘do not immerse in water’ one?
Imagine how many future legal departments could be scratching their collective heads over a certain feature that may open the door to litigation.
The anthropological aspect is a bit trickier, I agree, but has it ever been otherwise?  Children turn out well-behaved or not as a result of at least two factors: genetics and environment.
From a certain age onward, peer pressure displaces parental influence. Add to this chance (yes, goddess Fortuna, that one) and the concoction is almost ready.
I am not worried about kids talking to devices. Kids have alw…

A dog's life

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This is going to outrage dog lovers, but I think that humans’ tyrannical nature is revealed not just when it enslaves other humans, but also when it enslaves dogs.

We never say 'free as a dog", do we? Just 'free as a bird'.


Dogs and humans, not all what it seems.
We take a wolf at heart and spend lots of time and energy teaching it to obey and react to commands. 
(To be more historically accurate, the 'taking' happened a long time ago, and it succeeded, so very different from cats.)
We are prepared to downsize our vocabulary to a few words in order to achieve that. 
We literally put up with shit. 
All in the name of training, while the true purpose looks more like having a totally obedient living being under our control, one emitting apparent devotion. 
In humans it’s called the Stockholm syndrome. 
Even the basic freedoms of sniffing and running are restricted anywhere near human habitat. It takes a trip back to the wild to allow the dog to be itself. 
At lea…

Trust, what’s that?

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Prologue - This is the very first ever post written on a mobile phone. It feels like walking in very tight clothes while trying to be graceful and not miss the train at the same time.
Squeezed between the rush of inspiration and the small screen, what a terrible situation.
 Better get this out before an attack of RSI or an unwelcome interruption.

The idea of trust and trustworthiness has been undermining the reality of human connections forever, or  so it seems. It is viewed as an essential element of any emotional architecture, something that could make the whole edifice of a relationship go down.

The premise is that as soon as talking to someone goes beyond the shallow end of trivialities and into ‘soul’ territory, a new feeling is being born. If we did not trust someone, why would we share so much of the unseen self? I am not talking here about heartbreak stories. The unveiling is part of a ritual that new friends-in-the-making like going through. I tell you this and you reciprocat…

Inside the spreadsheet - the real time travel

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Version 1.1. of this blog post, rewritten at  the suggestion of someone who keeps pushing me to write and knows a thing or two about good prose.
Spreadsheets must have been around since Egyptian scribes started organising the pharaohs' worldly possessions. I somehow feel they inspired just as much awe to Upper Nile's neophytes as they do to today's untrained users of such tables.
They certainly throw me into a very deep hole of despair. The more I look, the faster all those numbers in their tiny cages are whirling before my eyes.
I never thought there was a name for it, but hey, there is one: dyscalculia. The weird thing is that mental arithmetic is piece of cake, but working with a spreadsheet just makes me nauseous.
It's not a joke. I was so thrilled to discover that there is no such thing as ruining a spreadsheet forever and ever. There is always a way of going back one or two or three steps and start all over again moving the little number monsters around.
I though…

Question of the morning

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There is a lake of ink, both physical and digital, somewhere, filled by everything that has been written on mind, body and soul and their holistic union.  Empirical observation seems to show that each of the three varies in size as life unfolds.
Question: is the sum of the parts kept the same by some inner mysterious workings or can it be influenced by a particular conscious action?
An old sarcastic reply to someone boasting of having given up a bad habit was “Remember that the sum of our vices stays the same”.
Does this apply to the sum of mind, body and soul?

On audiobooks

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How were people able to survive in the past without audiobooks? It is a ridiculous question, I know. Just by looking around I can see that the human species is still thriving, so lack of audiobooks has not in any way endangered it



Should I have rather expressed my total devotion towards audiobooks, tinged with a bit of sadness?
Print copies of the same books anguish on dusty shelves. I no longer read them.
Instead of listening to  the voice in my head while the eyes move from left to right again and again, I listen to a stranger's voice (the author or a professional reader) telling the story.
Eyes get a rest, ears get a bit of a battering. Legs get exercised, as audiobooks are the ideal walking aid, the literary equivalent of a Zimmer frame.
The only inconvenience is battery life. Still, in the great scheme of walking, it's really minor. After all, one has to return home at some point.



The pleasures of being judgemental

Come on, don't recoil in disgust, as if you have just been the victim of a selfish dog-owner. You know the type, walking the dog and not picking up the poo.
We all like being judgemental. The more we deny it, the more we do it.

The art of making grand pronouncements about our fellow human beings must have been born in the depths of the cave, where everyone was a rival, someone to compete with for the best place near the fire.

Backbiting, I can only imagine, could become quite literal. It's so understandable, with few resources and a constant danger lurking as soon as you stepped outside. This is to say nothing of the dangers that sneaked inside, as everyone is hungry at some point, from fleas to lions.

If you believe in epigenetics  (big word, I know, so big that the auto-correct puts many red dots under it, just through sheer ignorance), so if you do know a thing or two about epigenetics, you can only conclude that human temperament had to incorporate the 'judgemental'…