Tag Archives: Writing

No Boundary

What is the word for the breeze
between the tree and me
That carries the scent of its leaves
Connecting the leaf to my nose
How many leaves?
How many other noses?
How many breezes?


Twenty Boomeritis Blunders… or is it Four?

In Twenty Boomeritis Blunders, Jim Andrews accuses Ken Wilber of twenty blunders ranging from mild to serious in his novel, _Boomeritis_. Matt Dallman lauds this as “funny and intellectually rigorous” and talks about the necessity of skeptical investigation of Wilber’s work.

Matt also tries head off a “poor argument” against Andrews essay, by noting that:
>”… of course Wilber’s book is an attempt at fiction. But the same intellectual framework that undergirds that books undergirds the last five or so non-fiction books from him.”

So, I started this essay with some hope of some reasonable argument. I encourage you to read Andrews’ essay and make up your own mind if it’s valid, especially if you’ve read _Boomeritis_ and especially if it irritated you.

Basically, the “blunders” Andrews enumerates fall into X groups:
**Slack writing**: the typo in #0, calling reviewers “critics” in #5 and Wilber’s repetitiveness in #1
**Bad fact checking**: the bogus legal cases in #2, #3, #4, incorrect naming in #6, #8, dumb statements about Vietnam in #7, incorrect attribution in #10
**Lack of evidence**: for physical transformation in #14, for paranormal phenomena in #15, for meditation as a transformative practice in #18, for most growth being in the young and the old in #20
**Bad arithmetic**: #16, #17 (although it isn’t clear that apples are even being added to oranges in these passages)
**Disagreements in emphasis**: not mentioning the politicization of literary criticism in #9, not spending enough time talking about the negative effects of tofu in #11, not spending enough time talking about feminism, and leaving it to one character to dismiss it in #12, talking about sex too much in #13
**Writing fiction in a novel:** … in #19.

To take any of this seriously, you have to set aside, as Matthew suggests, that Andrews has strangely chosen to critique a novel rather than non-fiction writing – if you don’t you’re struck with the fact that he’s criticising statements made by fictional characters (rather than Wilber). Even accounting for that, it seems to me you could take the slack writing, bad fact checking and bad arithmetic charges and either lay them at the feet of Wilber’s editors or simply recommend he stick to non-fiction. I can’t really take the disagreements in emphasis or #19 seriously (too. many. sexual. fantasies!?) – they all just boil down to saying, essentially, “I didn’t like the guy’s book, I would have written it differently”. It’s by no means clear that Andrews’ rewrite would have made it any better as a novel.

That all leaves us with, in my opinion, four “blunders” out of twenty that aren’t sort of… silly; and they’re all lack of evidence (which in this context means peer-reviewed publications) for four things presented as facts:

– physical changes in ITP,
– paranormal phenomena,
– the efficacy of meditation in mental growth and
– developmental growth being restricted to mostly the young and the elderly.

I agree that it would be preferable if these things were either presented a lot more conditionally or someone found or published some evidence for them. Burying them in amongst typos, writing critique and your issues about people expressing their sexuality (however puerile you might find it) hides an important point, I think.

But what would I know?

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On the topic of why some postmodern folk have problems with the notion of hierarchies of societies

From RACE – The Power of an Illusion . Background Readings | PBS:

From here we see the structuring of the ideological
components of “race.” The term “race,” which had been a classificatory
term like “type,” or “kind,” but with ambiguous meaning, became
more widely used in the eighteenth century, and crystallized into
a distinct reference for Africans, Indians and Europeans. By focusing
on the physical and status differences between the conquered and
enslaved peoples, and Europeans, the emerging ideology linked
the socio-political status and physical traits together and created
a new form of social identity. Proslavery leaders among the colonists
formulated a new ideology that merged all Europeans together,
rich and poor, and fashioned a social system of ranked physically
distinct groups. The model for “race” and “races” was the Great
Chain of Being or Scale of Nature (Scala Naturae), a semi-scientific
theory of a natural hierarchy of all living things, derived from
classical Greek writings. The physical features of different groups
became markers or symbols of their status on this scale, and thus
justified their positions within the social system. Race ideology
proclaimed that the social, spiritual, moral, and intellectual
inequality of different groups was, like their physical traits,
natural, innate, inherited, and unalterable.

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Rolled over

So, I just put in a little effort to roll all my blog posts from prior blogs over to this one. You’ll notice a hole in 2003-2004 where I just didn’t post anything. Also, I omitted any post whose only topic was about how little I blog or that I’m not blogging. Didn’t seem that useful…

What I might do next is post some entries that link to some other writing I’ve put up on timbomb.net and maybe to other sites that I run. That should keep me busy for a little…

“reading and then writing”

In “Blogs in Postgrad Studies (DMT)“, Grant Matthews writes:

I’ve been using Social Software (Blogs) in my own teaching practice for a year now with mixed success. You can’t force students to be “sociable” and even the best student bloggers’ posts seem forced. Many of them don’t blog weekly and even more are unsure of what to write about. Using blogs as an assessment task (and reporting function) would appear to be counter productive.

I want to try again (Sem 2, 2005) with a class blog (participation voluntary, but as an alternative to a reflective essay), topics based around the students own research interests. The emphasis also shifts to reading and then writing.

… which makes a metric tonne of sense to me. That’s how open source development works. You read quite a lot of code before you start writing. Maybe you fix a few bugs, add a little feature. In teaching programming to late high school kids, this worked well too. It’s also how we usually teach postgrads. If we buy the idea that blogging is a new form, it makes sense that we ask them to read a first and then write when they “get it”.

Bernstein on notes

“things don’t start out organised and they don’t stay organised because we’re moving all the time. If you know what order your notes should be when you start, you’re not doing research any more and you should sit down and start writing!” – Mark Bernstein at Blogtalk Downunder today.

Trial run of “embodied scheduling”

… as I’ve dubbed my new scheduling technique (which by the way is unstoppable).

So we had an all-hands group meeting last week during which The Schedule needed to be discussed. I’d let people know that I wanted to try working with the schedule in a new way.

Cards are great for tasks (done in the style of Story Cards from Extreme Programming), but for a good planning discussion, we needed a calendar reference. I just printed out a stack of week calendars from iCal and laid them out on the conference table in a long strip.

Then I grabbed the task cards for each person in the team and got them to talk about each card in turn, what the dependencies were, how long they might take to do and finally got them to put the card on the big calendar within the week it might get done.

We focussed on better accuracy for the coming week or two and let things get a little less formal further out. We’ll come back to this exercise every couple of weeks to maintain a sense of where things are and what people need to keep moving forward.

Some Preliminary Results

  • People seemed to enjoy walking around and handling the schedule better than working with a printed Gantt
  • When a task is wrong (too fine, too coarse, just wrong) on The Beautiful Gantt Chart (TBGC) it’s annoying, necessitating a negotiation with the project manager, scribbling on TBGC, later updates to the project file, regenerate TBGC, etc… By contrast, when a task card is wrong you get the satisfaction of tearing in two yourself and then rewriting the canonical card yourself. Much more satisfying.
  • Once the whole thing was done I needed to capture the layout… quickly accomplished by spending five minutes writing the week’s date on each card so I know where to put them next time.

Now, I need to work out how to send things to people. Might just type out a list, might put stuff in Basecamp… Optimal solution is really just to photocopy the cards and hand the photocopies out.

Have to do this sometime today, so I’ll let folk know what I do. I should have snapped a picture of the big calendar. Next time.