Endless Curiosity

June 3, 2011

The Anthropocene Era

Filed under: Climate Change, Life — Alec @ 2:04 pm

We are no longer living in the Holocene age, but in a new Anthropocene age, a time when the earth is being transformed by humans. As a fascinating article in the Economist says,

In 2000 Paul Crutzen, an eminent atmospheric chemist, realised he no longer believed he was living in the Holocene. He was living in some other age, one shaped primarily by people. From their trawlers scraping the floors of the seas to their dams impounding sediment by the gigatonne, from their stripping of forests to their irrigation of farms, from their mile-deep mines to their melting of glaciers, humans were bringing about an age of planetary change. With a colleague, Eugene Stoermer, Dr Crutzen suggested this age be called the Anthropocene—“the recent age of man”.

If you don’t believe we are having a real impact, consider this from another page at the Economist:

Humans have become a force of nature reshaping the planet on a geological scale—but at a far-faster-than-geological speed. A single engineering project, the Syncrude mine in the Athabasca tar sands, involves moving 30 billion tonnes of earth—twice the amount of sediment that flows down all the rivers in the world in a year. That sediment flow itself, meanwhile, is shrinking; almost 50,000 large dams have over the past half- century cut the flow by nearly a fifth. That is one reason why the Earth’s deltas, home to hundreds of millions of people, are eroding away faster than they can be replenished.

The first article is well worth reading, and gives a very interesting perspective on the long-term impacts of climate change, one that reminds me of the better science fiction. Of course, the changes are interesting from a human race perspective; the lives of hundreds of millions of people will probably suck.

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April 29, 2011

A God of Manageable Size

Filed under: God, Life, Psychology — Alec @ 3:06 pm

My philosophical novel, A God of Manageable Size, is now available on Amazon. It looks lovely.  I’ve priced the book such that I will  make $0.00 on each copy sold – but I hope to make up for that in volume 🙂 . Tell all your family and friends and co-workers. Then buy the book – you won’t be making me rich, just happy.

Also, that’s it, I’m done, finished – no more work on The Happiness Dance – unless I change my mind. Read it, enjoy it, share it – or not.

I started on the Happiness project when books on happiness were all the rage and I joined the herd. Not being a professor or researcher in the field I needed something to differentiate The Happiness Dance, so I decided to go with a graphic-based approach rather than straight text. It’s been fun, I’ve done a lot of reading, learned a lot, changed a little, but now, if I never read another blog about happiness or life hacking again, it will be too soon.

Reading about people’s search for happiness simply gets depressing. Enough already. Just get on with life. As Eric Hoffer says, “the search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness“.

Or, as Eric Weiner says is his fun book, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World, “Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.

If you are not convinced and want to read more books, here are some I recommend. In the meantime, I’m done with this book. No, I’m not going to try and get it published – it needs a lot more work for that – and I want to move onto other things.

July 20, 2010

Pleasure and Happiness

Filed under: Life, Psychology — Alec @ 6:08 am

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone to learn that pleasure and happiness are not synonymous. Certainly eating delicious food, having a relaxing massage, or sensual lovemaking can leave one happy, but it’s only temporary, and anyway, we get used to it, we habituate.

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May 23, 2010

Religion and Morality

Filed under: God, Life, Psychology — Alec @ 5:34 am

I was reading an article called The New War Between Science and Religion, which starts with:

There is a new war between science and religion, rising from the ashes of the old one, which ended with the defeat of the anti-evolution forces in the 2005 “intelligent design” trial. …. The new war pits those who argue that science and “moderate” forms of religion are compatible worldviews against those who think they are not.

The former group, known as accommodationists…. suggest that there are deeply mysterious, spiritual domains of human experience, such as morality, mind, and consciousness, for which only religion can provide deep insights.

I don’t want to address the domains of mind and consciousness because I think that science will eventually give us answers. Morality is much more interesting because there’s no agreement on what is moral and immoral, and certainly religion (at least the Bible) doesn’t seem to provide good answers.

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May 9, 2010

More about Writing

Filed under: Life, Psychology — Alec @ 7:05 am

Following on from yesterday’s post, Out of Sheer Rage, the second thing I remember from the panel, Writing-The Process, was Michael Stoff talking about how he liked to have two books or articles to work on because then he could procrastinate on the “most important” one by working on the other one. A lovely trick to help him avoid total procrastination. Writing is hard, and it helps to have tricks.

That reminds me, there was a third thing that I remember from the panel. One of the panelists quoted Gene Fowler: “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Ha!

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May 3, 2010

The world’s first third world first world country

Filed under: Economics, Life, Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 8:52 pm

These days it seems that we are slowly on the way to becoming the world’s first third world first world country. As I drive I notice more and more potholes in the roads, signs of a slow slide into the third world.

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November 24, 2009

Something to think about

Filed under: Life — Alec @ 6:06 pm

Here’s a little passage from an article by Rebecca Solnit. The whole article is interesting, but this little passage is worth spending some time thinking about.

American life as it is now lived is poor in security, confidence, connectedness, agency, contemplation, calm, leisure, and other things that you aren’t going to buy at Wal-Mart, or at Neiman Marcus for that matter. If we can see what’s poor about the way we are, we can see what would be enriching rather than impoverishing about change.

November 20, 2009

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Filed under: Life, Psychology — Alec @ 7:23 am

I’ve recently be learning about the stories we tell ourselves, and how we can throw away the stories that don’t work and create new stories that serve us better. As Srikumar Rao says, “What you don’t realize is that the life you are living is a reality. The mistake you are making is that you think it is the reality.”

Here’s a story:

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Palin’s People

Filed under: God, Life, Republicans — Alec @ 6:27 am

The fascination with Sarah Palin is fascinating. On a superficial level she’s a phycially attractive woman that lots of male voters probably fantatize about having sex with. But on a deeper level the fascinating reality is that a woman so incoherent, so hypocritical, so lacking in knowledge about the world, and so lacking in curiousity to learn more can be a national phenomenon.

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November 4, 2009

Carnage Often Ensues

Filed under: Life, Psychology, The Brain — Alec @ 8:38 am

Have you ever been in a situation where you or someone else seems to behave completely irrationally, making mountains out of molehills, logic and facts thrown to the winds? Sorry, of course you would never behave like this, but perhaps someone you know? Or if not, you only have to look at the political scene to see lots of such behavior. Here’s Kluge, page 156.

What occasionally allows normal people to spiral out of control is a witch’s brew of cognitive kluges: (1) the clumsy apparatus of self-control (which in the heat of the moment all too often gives the upper hand to our reflexive system); (2) the lunacy of confirmation bial (which convinces us that we are always right, or nearly so); (3) its evil twin, motivated reasoning (which leads us to protect our beliefs, even those beliefs that are dubious); and (4) the contextually driven nature of memory (such that when we’re angry at someone, we tend to remember other things about them that have made us angry in the past). In short, this leaves “hot” systems dominating cool reason; carnage often ensues.

October 11, 2009

Our messy lives

Filed under: Life, Psychology, The Brain — Alec @ 6:45 am

There are only two things that can destroy a healthy man: love trouble, ambition, and financial catastrophe. And that’s already three things, and there are a lot more. — Peter Altenberg

I read that lovely quote in Clive James’ monumental Cultural Amnesia, and I liked it because it ties in so nicely with the paragraph from The Accidental Mind in my previous post, and it illustrates how messy life can be. After all, with a kludgy, cobbled-together brain, why would we think that life would be logical and easy? Anyone who has actually lived a life knows that it is messy and that we spend much of our time wading through the shades of gray, rarely finding clear answers and right ways to do things. Or, as Mencken said, “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem-neat, plausible, and wrong.

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